“I can’t possibly ride this afternoon” John explained. “I checked on the Internet and there is a small cloud hovering somewhere over Port Augusta. It’s just too much of a risk.” I took another look out of my window. The view revealed a fine day, with little or no wind. Since this was to be our penultimate weekday ride of the year, I had decided that only a force 10 hurricane should stop us from hitting the trail.
Fortunately the remainder of the Warbies have backbones, and by the time I had driven about halfway down to our starting point at Mulgrave I noticed Lothar pedalling strongly down Wellington Rd. Now THAT is what I call dedication. A few minutes after pulling into the Mulgrave Reserve I was met by Mal Wilkinson. Although not yet an official Ghost Rider, this guy has participated in a number of previous rides (including the summiting of Donna Buang a couple of months back).
Within 15 minutes we were joined by Peter, Little John, JCL and also by Lothar (who had already clocked up over 30 km in his ride from Emerald). Although there was no sign of Bob, we decided to head off and enjoy the warm summer sunshine. We looked in more danger of sunburn than being caught in a surprise storm.
The first section of the bike path to Dandenong was undertaken at a brisk pace, and although we had a moderate head wind for some of the way, we knew that this wind would be a welcome assist on our return journey in a couple of hours.
As we pulled up at the traffic lights at Princes Highway we were met by a group of “20 something” riders who announced that they were also heading to Carrum. These guys were less than half our ages and looked like they were going to present something of a threat to our dominance of the trail. All semblance of pelotonic disclipline was quickly jettisoned as Peter and Lothar charged into the lead. JCL gave chase, closely followed by Mal. I was caught somewhat by surprise and, although I tried to catch up, the small gap of about 20m loomed like the Grand Canyon.
After a few minutes of pursuit I decided to slacken off and continue at my normal pace and also keep sight of Little John who was a short distance behind. And what had happened to the bunch of “Warby wannabes” ??? They were so far behind to be completely out of sight. I guess it was just another example of IQ triumphing over youth and a spectacular win for the (real) Warbies.
Apart from the massive onslaught on our olfactory nerves originating from the nearby garbage depots and sewage farm, the ride along the river is very pleasant. I eventually caught up with the breakaway group about 3 km from Carrum and we all rode together to the coffee shop. It had developed into a warm and humid afternoon and, after our brisk ride, we were all sweating freely.
At about this time my mobile phone rang. It was Bob. “Where are you guys? I have been chasing you for the past 45 minutes”, he gasped. I informed him that we couldn’t wait for stragglers and wannebes and were already happily settled in for afternoon tea. As we sat down to replenish our spent calories I noticed that Peter had excelled by ordering, not one, but TWO giant cream cakes. I suspected that the combined energy content would be easily sufficient to lift a Saturn V rocket into Earth orbit.
While we were eating and drinking we were belatedly joined by Crasher who came riding up on a brand new bike. Not just any bike, but a bright red mountain bike with huge tyres and massive front suspension. He went on to explain that he had just bought it on EBAY for the princely sum of $140. It was certainly worthy of closer inspection and I had to admit that it had been some time since I had seen a genuine “CRAPPER” brand cycle. Apparently it had just been smuggled into the country from Shanghai in a shipping container with a load of miniature motorised monkey bikes and ten million joss sticks.
The colour scheme on the bike certainly looked like a promo for the Chinese Communist Party – all it needed was a bright red flag. Or maybe Bob had bought it specially for next week’s Christmas ride. With a little imagination he could soon have it decorated better than a Pakistani Peshawa bus. Maybe John could fit it out with a pair of decorated hooters? That’s a sight I would like to see.
As we gathered around studying Bob’s bike, a glance at the sky revealed that there were some ominous colour changes taking place. There were now some nasty looking black clouds gathering – obviously time for us to set sail for home.
We made it safely back to Dandenong before the skies opened up. JCL and I decided to wait under the shelter of the nearby shop verandah, but the rest of the peloton decided to ride on regardless. A few minutes later as we watched the heavy rain, I was sure we had made the right decision. It also gave us time to examine the row of shiny new monkey bikes displayed outside the printer shop. I guess they probably came in with Bob’s new bike and looked impressive from a distance, but when you have a close-up inspection you can see why they are so cheap.
Ten minutes later the rain had passed and we set off on the final section back to the cars. After the rain, the trail was covered in surface water and mud and within a few km, so were we. At least the humidity was lower and the air was cool and fresh.
It was about this time that disaster almost struck. I turned into a tight corner on the slippery concrete path and felt my rear wheel start to slide outwards. I had no alternative but to steer into the skid and head off the side of the path – straight into a cyclone wire fence. The good news is that I was able to stop myself without falling off the bike. Not so good was the fact that I had stopped myself by dragging my right arm along the wire fence. I suppose a fresh change of skin every so often is not an entirely bad thing.
The remaining distance was covered at a very circumspect pace and we soon rejoined our comrades who had ridden ahead through the rain. It was amusing to find them still wringing out their clothes and towelling themselves off. John and I might have been dirty, but at least we were dry. I was pleased to see that Lex had made alternative plans for his return to Emerald.
Next week is our Christmas ride and ALL riders are expected to enter into the Christmas Spirit by decorating their bikes and wearing their best Christmas gear. A charity fine will be levied on anyone turning up unprepared.