As another (lesser known) writer once said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Over the previous few days Melbourne had been lashed by a wicked succession of fierce electrical storms which had wrought havoc in the form of giant hailstones, flooding rains, lightning strikes and the like. When the forecast for today predicted even more “thunderstorms and possibility of heavy rain” it did not sound too promising for our first twilight ride of the season.
On the other hand the temperature was about 25C and there was no wind, there was also the prospect of a relaxing tea by the Yarra at Warburton. What were we going to do – risk the storm or play it safe and stay at home to read old bicycle magazines? After about 10 seconds careful deliberation I made a decision – “Let’s ride anyway, and to hell with the consequences”. After all, if the Warby Riders don’t ride, who will?
The plan had been made to start at Mt Evelyn at 3.30 pm instead of the usual 1 pm and when I awoke Bob at about 2 pm in the afternoon he at first seemed a little unsure of whether to ride or not. He eventually agreed to start with me at Wandin at 4 pm. Peter “Ironbark” Warren had already told me he would be riding from Emerald and would meet us at Woori Yallock.
At 4 pm Bob and I were just about to leave Wandin when who should pull in but Warren. This guy is getting really keen and is a real example to other riders (such as John). Hastily pulling his new mountain bike from the car he trundled down the hill to join us.
As we accelerated down the long Wandin Hill we could soon see the damage done by the recent storms. The track was covered by a liberal dressing of twigs, leaves, sticks and other detritus in the form of horse manure and cow dung (no doubt deposited by terrified equines and bovines). The sky above was dark and forboding, although so far there was no actual sign of lightning.
While we rode on we discussed the possibilities of cyclists being struck by lightning. Do bikes really act like lightning rods, or would the charge safely pass down to earth? Would the news broadcasts tomorrow carry fateful news of the three riders who rode off onto the Warburton Trail, never to be seen or heard of again? While we pondered such thoughts we soon noticed a familiar sight coming towards us from the direction of Killara. It was soon distinguishable as old “ironbark” Warren, who had pedalled about 40 km or so to join us.
The increased peloton proceeded on to Warburton at a respectable pace and soon we were cruising down the Main St in the direction of the Coffee Shop. The only problem was that the familar shop was closed, sending us in search of an alternative venue for our tea with the support crew. After a short search we located a most attractive place at the rear of the shops, where we were joined by Val and her mother, and also Maggie.
Soon we were enjoying ample servings of iced coffee, milk shakes, cakes, cream and other assorted health food (especially developed for cyclists). Although the sky was still threatening, we still had not seen any rain, and it really was very enjoyable sharing our meal and light hearted bike talk by the river. After tea Warren announced that he had completed his quota of km (about 28 or so), and we had to agree that he really has been the great improver of the past few months.
The remaining three riders kitted up again for the return ride and soon we were heading back towards Melbourne under a clearing sky and feeling great. This time of day is really magic for riding under these conditions – the cows are looking sleepy in the paddocks, the wind drops and everything looks well with the world. Well it did look well until Bob announced that he had scored another flat tyre!
Fortunately we now have a resident expert bike mechanic in the peloton and so Bob and I watched while Peter had the tyre fixed in a jiffy. The remaining distance to Wandin was covered without further mishap and here it was that Peter proudly announced that he was feeling so good he would be riding all the way back to Monbulk (where he actually arrived at 6.30 am the next morning).
Bob and I could see that we had unleashed the competitive monster that was hiding inside Peter’s mild mannered exterior and we knew it would only be a matter of time before he would be rocketing along the bitumen on his new Avanti road bike. (I wonder if Bob will be able to keep up???)
Our first twilight ride of the season had been completed successfully and we looked forward to a bigger attendance next time.