The sky was full of dark and foreboding. Huge dark blue clouds swirled overhead, threatening to unleash a deluge at any moment. Although I am well aware that we in the middle of a very serious drought, I did not really want the drought to end right in the middle of our Annual Christmas Ride. After all this was a special day – the one day of the year when we decorate our bikes and ourselves with all the trappings of Christmas and try to spread some Christmas cheer along the trail. It would be such a shame if the ride had to be cancelled due to bad weather.
A few minutes later my worst fears were realised when the first fat drops of water started splattering on my windscreen. Within moments the skies opened in ernest and I was caught in the middle of a veritable cloudburst of biblical proportions. Even on high speed the windscreen wipers could not keep pace with the heavenly deluge. Soon the sides of the road were awash with running streams and our prospects of a Christmas ride were seemingly disappearing before my eyes.
Fortunately I was not far from Woori Yallock and was soon able to pull up in the station car park. The scene that presented itself was not one to instill confidence in any would be cyclist. The car park was rapidly looking like an inland sea and the rain was showing no signs of abating. There was nothing I could do other than sit in the car, listen to the radio and hope that the rain would stop soon.
After about five minutes the deluge did diminish enough for me to emerge from the car and survey the damage. It certainly looked like it was going to be a VERY WET AND MUDDY ride, but I decided that I would give it a go anyway and proceeded to unpack the bike. There were no signs of any other riders as I donned my wet weather gear and sloshed my way along the Kakoda (sorry Warby) Trail, feeling more like a drowned rat than a Christmas Ghostrider.
To my pleasant surprise and amazement the rain quickly stopped and, as I approached the big Woori Yallock Bridge, it looked as if the surface was almost dry. Apparently the downpour had been very localised and centred right over Woori Yallock. The further I rode the drier the track became. I was even more surprised when the clouds parted allowing short bursts of warm sunshine to break through. My concern was that the prospect of rain may have deterred some of the other riders from coming out for the Christmas ride.
By the time I wobbled my way to the top of the hill at Mt Evelyn I was relieved to find a couple of familiar faces already gathered for the ride. Chook Vandendool’s bike was looking resplendent – liberally decked out in Christmas tinsel and with a large Christmas wreath on the handlebars. Phil Wallens, on the other hand, was looking ridiculous decked out in some old red rugby jumper that had obviously seen better days. Over the next 15 minutes an assortment of other Ghostriders in various stages of decoration joined the assembled throng, until it was time for the “Christmas Peloton” to finally get underway. Then with bells tinkling, tinsel fluttering, arms waving and a few loud “Ho Ho Ho”s we were on our way for the final time in 2008.
Although the size of the initial group was a little smaller than I hoped for, I was pleased to find that we steadily gained extra riders as we went along. Soon we had an impressive group and an even more impressive display of pelotonic discipline. For perhaps the first time in living memory we managed to keep the entire group together all the way to Woori Yallock where another sizeable group of riders was waiting to join the fun. The deluge that had been drowning the area a mere 90 minutes earlier was nothing more than a fading memory (at my age anything that happened more than 5 minutes ago is a fading memory) and the afternoon had developed into another perfect day for riding.
One of the riders joining us at Woori Yallock was a friend of Helen. She introduced herself as another Karen and she quickly demonstrated that she know how to ride. A short time later I was riding alongside her and chatting away I learned that she was about to embark on a 17000 km bike ride around Australia. Now that WAS impressive. It made out 65 km rides along the trail sound puny by comparison. When I passed this news on to other riders it certainly gained the new Karen an immediate degree of respect. As we rode past the rear of the Primary School a number of excited kids spied us passing by and greeted us with loud shouts and waves. A herd of friendly cows in an adjoining paddock bade us a Very Mooey Christmas as we rode past..
Instead of stopping at Milgrove most of the group continued on to the very end of the trail in Warburton and then rode back along the main street in formation. The few people that happened to be on the street at that time seemed happy to see us pass by. At least we might have helped to brighten a few people’s days.
Back at Milgrove the coffee shop helped maintain a tradition by treating us all to free coffees. It may be a small gesture but it does help to say “thank you” for all the business we have bought their way over the past 12 months. The chat continued for longer than usual as no one seemed to be in too much of a hurry for the day to draw to a close. It was also good to see that Lothar and Celia had joined us for lunch, Lothar still wearing some of the recent scars from his bad crash on the last night ride. With his bruised and battered face he looked like he had gone 15 rounds with Anthony Mundine.
All that remained of our Christmas ride was to complete the relatively easy section back to Woori Yallock and then to farewell each other with a final Christmas Greeting.
Merry Christmas One and All.