I was once again on the horns of a dilemma. On one hand I could look out of the window and see a mostly blue sky but on the other hand I had just finished reading the dire predictions of the weather forecasters. What was I to do? Finally I did what all other leaders of significence do when faced with a problem – I compromised. I figured that if we just started from Woori Yallock instead of Mt Evelyn, even if the weather really did go pear shaped, we would only be out in the open for a short amount of time.
Once the decison was made I updated the web site so that everyone else would know what was happening. Since I had a delivery to make to Warburton I decided to leave my car there and ride back to Woori Yallock to meet the rest of the peloton at 1 pm. Pedallin g down Settlement Rd on a solitary sprint I tried to ignore the rain that had begun trickling down my back and soaking through my brand new knicks. A quick look to the skies suggested that the rain was likely to be with us for the rest of the afternoon.
About halfway between Launching Place and Woori Yallock I noticed that the trail ahead was blocked by a white delivery van which was slowly reversing towards me. As I approached the van it stopped to let me squeeze past, but almost immediately my attention was gained by a loud voice asking me to stop. When I turned back I saw a small Indian guy beckoning for me to come to him. “How can I get back onto the Warburton Highway?” he pleaded,”I seem to have become quite lost”.
I looked at him seriously, thought for a moment and replied. “Oh goodness gracious me, there is no way you can get out of here with that truck. You had better abandon it and try walking for help before the wild dogs get you”. He looked a little panic stricken as I got back on my bike and pedalled off again. ( I think we saw the van again on the way back, this time in a ditch and half covered over with dead branches and leaves).
When I arrived at Woori Yallock I could see that there were some Ghost Riders already assembled for the ride. Mal, Garry and Little John were huddled together in the icy rain, trying hard to pretend that they were looking forward to the ride. It was at about this time that I received a phone call from Lex. Apparently he had NOT checked the web site and had ridden all the way from Emerald to Mt Evelyn. He was now wondering what had happened to all the others.
After quickly informing Lex that we had a “small start” on him we headed off towards Warburton, the main thought on our mind was HOT COFFEE. Within a few minutes we were all liberally adorned with a muddy stripe up the centre of our backs. I sadly looked down at my new Ghost Rider Knicks – now covered in mud and horse manure from the trail. And to think that I had been so excited to put them on for their first ride.
The rain settled down to a steady drizzle and the temperature also dropped to about 8C. The wind picked up and blew strongly in our faces. Although it was a short ride, it obviously was not going to be an easy one. Just to add to the occasion, my right pedal decided to disintegrate, leaving me to pedal the remaning distance with only my left foot. Sometimes the fun just never stops.
Somehow we managed to stay on our bikes long enough to reach Warburton where we quickly sought shelter in the inside of the coffee shop and scanned for any remnants of remaining HOT food in the pie warmer. When we settled down with our pies and coffees we started to imagine poor old Lex battling away on a long, cold, solo transit of the trail. That thought kept us laughing for some time.
It was about this time that an extremely old man strode into the shop. Wearing a long overcoat and a pork pie hat and sporting a well trimmed white moustache he looked like Cpl Jones from Dad’s Army. He looked at us with a mischievous smirk and then asked “Did you ride all the way on THOSE bikes?” I pulled in my stomach and informed him “all the way from Mt Evelyn”. (It wasn’t a complete lie). He seemed impressed.
Our sporting appearance obviously emboldened him to come over to our table and regail us with a politically incorrect and highly risque joke. We sat there dumbounded. After all, here was a guy almost as old as Bob behaving in a disgraceful manner. We could only be grateful that Lex had not yet arrived. A glance up at the clock indicated that Lex had been making one of his slowest ever trail transits – rather disappointing for someone who rides at least 800 km a week.
He eventually came in the door at about 3 pm. He was covered from head to foot in mud and manure and appeared to be suffering from advanced hyperthermia as he shuffled to the counter. “C-C-Could I h–h-h-ave a-a-a c c cup of ccofffee?’ he stuttered to the lady. “Sorry Bud the coffee machine’s stuffed” was the sickening reply.
Fortunately for Lex (and for the shopkeeper) she was only following the instructions we had supplied her earlier and soon Lex was enjoying his well-earned cuppa. It really must have been cold because Celia also came in the door and told us that Lex had asked her to come and rescue him. We spent another leisurely 20 minutes in the warmth before heading off into the arctic air again.
Since I only had a couple of km to ride I was very relieved to be able to crawl into my car and turn up the heater, while Mal and John had to ride all the way back to Woori Yallock. It was not a moment too soon, because as I started to drive back down the Highway, the rain really set in with a vengeance. The thought of Mal and John in that maelstrom was enough to make me chuckle most of the way back home.