“Could I please ride with you this Thursday?”, the mystery emailer implored me. He also went on to explain that, although he was from Essendon, he was a regular reader of the web site and had been wanting to ride with us ever since he saw a picture of Crasher Lewis on the Geriatric Cycling website. Of course I said that he would be most welcome, but as we were all elite athletes, he would need to be able to keep up a very brisk pace on the trail.
After my warm invitation to the potential new rider I was rather disappointed when the weather on Thursday threatened to be unbroken heavy rain. By the same token, in these drought afflicted times of global warming, we have learned to welcome every sodden downpour with a smile. Under normal circumstances I would have been sorely tempted to stay home, but the thought of the poor visitor driving all that way to find the trail deserted was enough of a guilt trip for me to strap the sodden bike to the back of the car and head off to Mt Evelyn.
I really expected that no one else would be silly enough to front in such conditions but discovered that our Essendonian web site fan was already there unpacking his bike. This placed me on the horns of a dilemma (a very uncomfortable place to be I can assure you). He was looking to me for guidance so I said “I think it’s too wet to ride”, probably not the response he was looking for. The only trouble was that within a few minutes we were joined by a motley collection of other Ghostriders who had turned up at COGS. At least the new rider (Martin Lewis by name) would not be riding alone.
I was getting ready to climb back into the safety and dryness of my car when I looked up and saw a sight I had not witnessed since returning from China. Climbing from his massive Jaguar was none other than the one and only Hooters. Although he had allowed his membership status to lapse through lack of attendance or interest for almost a year, he had decided to reappear on the worst day we have had for many months.
After having a brief look around he announced that he would be riding from Woori Yallock. I picked myself up off the ground and tried to get my heart beating again. At my age such shocks are almost always fatal, but somehow I managed to survive. If Hooters was going to ride, how could I possibly now withdraw ? That would incur a loss of all credibility. I decided to follow Hooters, just to see if he remembered the way and to make sure that he was actually going to deliver on his promise.
About 15 minutes later we were both parked at Woori Yallock, where the rain had stopped falling but the car park was still amply filled with large muddy puddles. Hooters made straight for the largest puddle, about 2 metres away from where I was standing and drove his massive car straight through the middle of it at high speed. The resulting cascade of muddy water managed to miss me by at least 5 cm.
I climbed on the bike and rode back in the direction of Killara and met up with the main (sodden, filthy, mud spattered) group of riders. Even with the rain stopped the trail had numerous muddy sections which ensured that all our bikes were encrusted with mud and the backs of our jerseys imprinted with an unsightly layer of filth flung off from the rear wheel. By that time it didn’t really seem to matter much as we quickly reached the point where we could not get any dirtier.
At Woori Yallock we stopped to take stock of the situation and for Hooters to yell “Why do we do this ?” for the 32,453rd time. That certainly proved that it really WAS John and not just someone looking like him. By this time the peloton had swollen to about 12 riders. Also joining us was another strong looking rider answering to the name Daryl and Helen Riethoff, back on the bike after her extended absence due to a torn Achilles tendon. She explained that she had been so keen to get back on the bike that no mere cloudburst would stop her from riding to Milgrove.
The conditions between Woori & Milgrove were rather damp but fortunately the worst of the rain had passed by. Most riders decided to go straight to the coffee shop and forget the final section up to Warburton, leaving only Martin and me to keep going to the summit. The pace gradually increased to over 35 kph – so much for this guy saying that he was only an “occasional rider”. I suspect he still had plenty in reserve, as we turned and rolled back down to Milgrove for lunch.
Since the tables were all wet, we ate under the veranda instead. A little like old times. After an extended lunch break it was back on the bikes for the somewhat more leisurely ride back to Woori Yallock. Although it had been a rather trying ride I was glad that I had confronted my mud demons and decided to ride after all. I think everyone else thought the same thing. The next day I received another message from Martin saying how much he had enjoyed the ride and saying what a great bunch of riders we have. But then I could have told him that!