Once or twice a year we swap the familiar territory of the Warburton Trail for the more wide open spaces of the Dandenong Creek Trail. Although this trail is nowhere near as scenic as our home trail (and sometimes a lot more smelly) at least it is not covered in horse manure and does offer a change of surroundings. This is quite essential for a group of middle aged people who are all rapidly approaching their dotage. I figure that a change of habitat might help forestall some further mental deterioration.
Obviously for some of our riders any sort of change is just a “bridge too far”. Not surprisingly Hooters and the Spanner fell into this category, ringing me before the ride to tell me that they would both be staying home and drinking cups of tea instead of riding. Bruno also apparently had great difficulty in finding an obscure through fare with the name of “Wellington Rd”. He somehow ended up near Knox City instead. (It really isn’t easy being a leader of this troup.)
Although we had been faithfully promised a fine and sunny afternoon I was a little disappointed to find the sky a menacing shade of dark purple and the air temperature hovering around 9C when the ride was due to start. Also disappointing was the fact that the entrance to the Mulgrave Reserve car park was blocked by a boom gate. This was sure to throw more confusion into the minds of our riders.
Somehow, in spite of the obstacles we still had a reasonable starting group with Mal, 2 Bob, Lex, Bruno, Neville, Andrew, Phil, Al, Paul and myself forming the peloton. Paul had decided to increase the level of difficulty of the ride by leaving his cycling shoes at home. He was therefore faced with the prospect of riding almost 60km wearing only sneakers – not so good when your bike is fitted with clipless pedals. He didn’t seem too worried and seemed confident that his recently acquired official police flat feet would be more than adequate for the task in hand. Thus we all headed off into the afternoon chill.
Bruno soon demonstrated that he absolutely no idea on how to maintain a steady rhythm on his bike and soon splinted the peloton with an erratic series of speed changes and rapid accelerations. Those behind him were alternately faced with the twin dangers of being left behind and then running into his rear wheel. We had not gone far before we encountered the first imposing evidence of the vast scale of the new Easter Link Freeway. The amount of earth being moved about was certainly quite amazing and we were faced with a couple of short detours to get us safely past the work sites. Maybe in a few years time when all the oil has run out, we will be able to ride bicycles along some of these massive freeways.
At Dandenong I rang Peter to see where he was and learned that he had already set out a few minutes earlier with Glenda. They had decided to ride from the Stud Rd Leisure Centre down to Carrum and back. This is a commendable effort for someone only out on her second ride. We caught up with them a couple of km further down the trail.
One of the other hazards of riding this trail is the vicious attacks on the olfactory nerves provided by the rich odors rising from the nearby tip and sewage treatment plant. Sometimes it is best to just try holding your breath while you ride. I am not sure how people who live in this area put up with it, but maybe you just don’t notice it after a while.
The last couple of times we have ridden down this trail we have been less than impressed with the coffee shop we visited, so this time we decided to try another place a little further along the shopping centre. I was pleased that the service was better and the food quite good. After lunch Peter and Glenda headed back while the rest of us continued down to Nepean Hwy to visit the UNO factory outlet.
I had seen some of the prominent UNO ads in cycling magazines and was keen to see just how the prices in the shop were. I found that they did have a well stocked inventory with some impressive gear, but I was not so impressed when they could not offer any form of discount whatsoever, even though we probably gave them more business that they were likely to get all day. Under the circumstances I reckon if they had offered a 10% discount they would have sold twice as much stuff. I even offered to give them a free plug on the web site. Some businesses are very shortsighted.
After the visit to UNO we had a long ride back to Mulgrave with only one and a half hours of daylight remaining. So it was back on the bikes and put the pedal to the metal. Fortunately the rain that threatened earlier in the afternoon had not eventuated and we even had breaks of sunshine to keep our spirits high.
Since I last rode this trail they have now upgraded further sections to a smooth wide concrete surface. This does make for fast smooth riding (I wonder if this will ever happen to the Warburton Trail ???) By 5 pm everyone was safely back at Mulgrave and ready for the long drive home.
Unfortunately we still had to run the gauntlet of peak hour traffic on Wellington Rd.