The final Thursday ride for each year is always an event of some significance. Not only does this mark our Christmas Breakup but it also gives us an opportunity to help spread some Christmas smiles along the Waburton Trail. This is the time for all true Ghostriders to cast aside their inhibitions and common sense and decorate themselves and their bikes with some Christmas finery.
Of course the best laid plans of both mice and men are prone to go astray, and the predicted deluge of foul weather and heavy rain did not auger well for a big attendance. Since I had already missed the previous week I had made the mental decision that not even hell or high water wouyld keep me from this ride. I prepared by stuffing my rain jacket into the rear of my jersey and arriving about 20 minutes earlier than schedule. There was not a single other car in the Woori Yallock car park. Could it be that I was going to be the only Ghostrider on the trail ? I had even taken a few moments to adorn my helmet with some prickly holly branches and strapped a terrified looking santa into the middle of the shrubbery.
Since there were no other riders to share this insanity with I decided to leave early and make my way up to Mt Evelyn. Although the sky was very dark, to my relief the rain was holding off and I was soon pleased to find that a steady tailwind was assisting me along the way. Such benign conditions conspired to allow me to reach COGS at about 12.25 pm, giving me ample time to continue the ride up to the top of the hill in the middle of Mt Evelyn.
When I reached the coffee shop near the rotunda I noticed that a lot of the patrons were looking at me and laughing. At first I was a little confused as to what all the fun was about and then I remembered the Christmas pot pouri that was balancing on the top of my head. I suspect that I looked more like a cycling Carmen Miranda than an elite sportsman and quickly turned around and returned back to COGS.
By 1 pm we had gathered a small starting peloton of 7 riders. Not only were we small in numbers but I was a little disappointed to find that only about half had actually decorated themselves for the ride. It really was looking like our Christmas ride was going to be somewhat of a fizzer. In fact it was not until we reached Woori Yallock and I saw a whole collection of highly embellished riders waiting to begin, that I could see that the Ghostriders had once again risen to the occasion.
Our start was delayed a little by an untimely puncture but soon we were underway and looking for unsuspecting oncomers to cheer up with a hearty “Ho ho ho”. It was great to see how all those we did meet along the way greeted our arrival with smiles and Christmas cheers. By the time we reached Launching Place the predicted rain had arrived, although it was more of a drizzle than a downpour.
About 2 km from Milgrove my mobile phone rang. To my surprise it turned out to be none other than Fran Lewis (Crasher Lewis’ wife). “It’s pouring down in Lilydale”, she said. “Can you warn Bob that it will wash off all the spray tan he put on his legs this morning ?” The president has many varied tasks to perform but this certainly was something new (and something I had no intention of doing).
Since it was our final Thursday ride for 2009 our plan was to ride all the way through to Warburton. In spite of the rain we al arrived in good spirits (and only half soaked). The large peloton split into two groups – those obviously in the higher income bracket went to the Three Sugars, while the rest of us of more modest means enjoyed the much cheaper fare at the Valley Bakery. I would have to say that the pies and cakes at the Valley Bakery are some of the freshest that I have had in a long while and we had a most delightful chat while we watched the brooding clouds with some degree of concern.
After a longer than normal break we climbed back on the bikes and commenced the ride back to Woori Yallock. By this time the drizzle was persistent, although the temperature was still quite mild. In such conditions it is best to just ignore the rain and make a conscious decision to enjoy yourself regardless – and this we did.
In spite of the mud caking my bike like soggy stalectites, it really had been a fun ride and a perfect way to complete our Christmas celebrations. May all our riders and their families have a Very Merry Christmas and a safe and enjoyable New Year. Let’s join together to make 2010 our best year ever.