In Which All Were Cold But I was Frozen

The past couple of Winters have proven to be what we could refer to as “Claytons’s Winters”, in other words “the winter you have when you are not having a winter”. The early indications would seem to suggest that this year we are seeing somewhat of a return to a “real man’s winter”. With almost continuous cold and rain it has been a difficult exercise to pick the best day each week for our ride.

Although a forecast of somewhere around 11C does not usually suggest perfect riding weather, I decided to take the chance on the only dry day in the outlook period. With Bob home in bed suffering from extreme old age and John (Hooters) home in bed suffering from exhaustion (sic) I was not sure how many would brave the chill to keep me company. It was hard not be envious of Peter, still lazing on some tropical beach surrounded by bikini clad admirers (or so he would have us believe).

When I arrived at Mt Evelyn I was pleased to see that Lex and Little John were ready for the ride. After Little John’s Herculean effort last weekend I was not surethat he would be still talking to me, but he seemed recovered enough for enough tilt at the familar trail.

The copious amounts of recent rain had helped to consolidate the fresh toppings on the surface but had done nothing to smooth out the corrugations. With my bike bouncing and my teeth chattering we rode off into the frigid afternoon air. Somewhere near Wandin we were met by Cheryl, who had ridden back from Woori Yallock to join us.

One advantage of riding in near zero temperatures is that the trail was almost deserted, although we did pass one large group of teenage riders, presumably escaping from one of the local high schools. Without the traditional competitive sprinters the ride up Settlement Rd looked like it would prove to be a sedate affair – that was until we encountered one of the local driving dimwits.

As the still air was rudely punctuated by a repetitive series of horn blasts from behind I could guess that we were being approached by a driver who was a few litres short of a full tank (metaphorically speaking). When the white station wagon roared past about 10 cm from Lex’s right side we could see that the driver really was as stupid as we had already guessed he was. A pity we did not have the time to get his license plate – but just wait till next time!

By the time we arrived at Warburton the air temperature was hovering somewhere near 6C and I made the decision to have our coffees inside the coffee shop. This was a first for us, but I have to admit that the warmth was welcome. Warren was already there enjoying his pot of hot tea, and ready to entertain us with another of his (politically incorrect) jokes.

On the return ride we noticed that the Elderly Citizens’ Centre was packed full of silver haired women. What a pity that Peter and Bob were not present with us! We could have sent them in the door for a free cup of tea and a lamington. I bet the dear old ladies would have gone into a swoon seeing legs like those two have. They might never have been able to escape.

I took the opportunity for some cross training on the way home – while I was riding my nose was running furiously. On top of this my toes were rapidly losing all sensation. It seemed hard to generate much body heat at all. No wonder Cheryl was so glad to see her car waiting for her at Woori Yallock. “I’ll think of you guys while I drive home with the heater turned up” she cheerily said as she bid farewell.

With the Winter solstice only a couple of days away, the sun was already near the horizon at 4 pm as the three remaining intrepid cyclists headed back to Mt Evelyn. The exertions of the previous weekend started to take its toll on Little John as he did not seem to relish the long climb back to Wandin. “Come on John”, I shouted, “there’s not much further to go to reach the base”. He looked back at me with dull eyes and replied “I am stopping here and I may be some time”. I started to feel an immediate empathy for famous Scott of the Antarctic and his illfated attempt to reach the South Pole. Would we ever see John again ? Who knows ? All Lex and I could think of was getting back to our cars (and safety). “Maybe see you sometime around then”, I encouraged I we left John floundering behind in the icy blast.

Fortunately the story did have a happy ending and we DID all arrive safely back at Mt Evelyn, albeit a little in the dark. I was sure glad to have a strong heater in the car, but I was also glad that we had beaten the odds and successfully completed another ride. At least from now on the days will be getting longer again. (How many sleeps until Springtime I wonder?)