As I pulled into the car park at Mt Evelyn I was pleased to see a group of yellow shirts already gathered at the tables outside COGS. I hastily unpacked the bike and made my way over to see who had arrived so early. Also seated at the outdoor tables was an elderly lady with a snarling yap dog at her heels. As I walked past, her ugly dog bared its teeth and growled menacingly. The female owner made no attempt to silence her dog and I could easily see where the canine had acquired its evil personality. This process was repeated as each successive rider arrived at the start.
Once past the gauntlet of the growling dog, I was able to meet our latest new recruit. He turned out to be a friend of Phil Wallens and introduced himself as “Tom”. He went on to say that he rides the Warby Trail at least 5 or 6 times every week, clocking up a massive 400 or more kilometres. I could have said something like “It’s not quantity that counts – it’s quality”, but I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. This guy sounded like he might actually be able to ride, although his next statement had me wondering. “The wind was so strong”, he explained “that three times it blew me right off the trail into the trees”. In the short history of the Warbies I have heard some massive “blow offs” on the trail (usually after eating too many egg sandwiches), but I have never actually been blown off into the bushes.
Mind you, back in the days when that little Italian leprechaun Bruno used to ride with us, I can remember that sometimes when he was riding into a full blown headwind, he would have to ride the same section of trail two or three times over because the wind kept picking up both him and his 2 kg bike and throwing them back where they had already come from. Of course, for those of us with real bikes and bodies this is not such a real problem.
By 1 pm we had quite a sizeable group ready to start, although there was no sign of Crasher. I expected that he might be hidden in the bushes waiting for us to start so that he would have a moving target to chase down. We were soon making good progress through the forest but the darkening skies and the smell of rain gave portent that we could be heading into a wet ride. I soon began to worry that my short sleeved jersey and knicks would not be adequate to ward off hypothermia in the event of an impending downpour.
As it turned out the rain failed to materialise and the skies cleared to a completely sunny afternoon. It was only the maniacal gale force winds that stayed behind to accompany us all the way to Milgrove.
On the outskirts of Woori Yallock we noticed a strange apparition on the trail a few hundred metres in front of us. There were two riders approaching in bright pink polka dotted jerseys. I immediately assumed that they were a couple of attractive young female cyclists that would provide a welcome dose of eye candy for us as they rode past. To our surprise they slowed to a stop and did a U turn, indicating that they would be joining our group. My hopes rose, then fell when I got close enough to see that at least one of them was sporting a grey beard. If it was a young girl, I could only feel sorry for her.
Once we joined with these two mysterious pink cyclists they turned out to be Phil Hessian and a mate that he had brought with him. The pink jerseys were Phil’s latest idea (folly?) that he had ordered from Body Torque and were proudly bedecked with the Paternoster Wines label. The debate raged on throughout the afternoon as to whether the pink jerseys were brilliant or a cycling eyesore, but love them or loathe them, I had to admit that they were certainly conspicuous. They reminded me of the pink polar bear in the TV ad, perhaps Phil had washed his new jerseys with his red socks.
In spite of the raging winds we all managed to make it safely to Milgrove. Crasher failed to arrive but Glenda arrived instead. In fact she had driven all the way from Belgrave South just for the pleasure of our company! While some might call that insanity I called it dedication. If only all the Ghost Riders were as committed as her….
The next 30 minutes was spent eating and discussing jerseys. I was beginning to suspect that, instead of designing new jerseys, we should have chosen something much simpler to do – like building a couple of giant stone pyramids. We might have been able to get them completed sooner.
After an extended lunch break we turned back towards Melbourne and rode into the late afternoon sunshine. To our relief the wind seemed to have abated considerably and allowed us to enjoy a delightful ride in the most pleasant part of the day. With the verdant green paddocks, rolling hills, grazing cattle and blue skies this really must be one of the best places you could possibly ever have for a bike trail. Although I have now ridden it about 250 times I can never get tired of it.
Our two new riders seemed to enjoy the experience and I trust that we will see a lot more of them in the weeks ahead. It was also good to see Terry Drummy back from his long holiday and back in the peloton.