Since we always start our Thursday rides from COGS in Mt Evelyn I suppose one could be excused for thinking that the Warburton Trail only runs between Mt Evelyn and Warburton. Of course this is not correct. In fact the trail runs all the way from Lilydale through to Warburton – a total length of approx 38 km. For some time I had suspected that many of our riders have never experienced the first section of the trail and, when the weather conditions looked ideal, I made the suggestion on the web site that we should ride the WHOLE trail.
I decided that I would start at Woori Yallock at about 10.45 am and ride all the way down to Lilydale, before heading back up the hill to meet the main group at COGS. Since I often have doubts as to whether anyone ever actually reads the web site I was not sure if I would be doing the ride by myself or with company. I was relieved to pull into the car park and find Geoff, Terry and Russell already unpacking their bikes. We were soon joined by Bill and the five of us happily headed off to explore the unknown frontiers beyond Mt Evelyn.
One thing was obvious, and that was the weather was perfect. On such a day I could not imagine any better way to pass the time. We made good progress up to COGS, arriving at about 11.30 am. After a short drinks break we continued on our way over the crest of the hill and down to Lilydale. The succession of new sights elicited exclamations of wonder from the peloton. “Look there’s a coffee shop”, “Is it time for a cake yet ?”, “I’m hungry”, etc, etc
To our delight the long downhill to Lilydale only took about 10 minutes of high speed rolling, although a couple were heard to mutter that they weren’t looking forward to having ride back up the hill again. After managing to stay upright in the soft gravel in the tunnel we were soon safely gathered at Maroondah Highway in the sunshine, pondering just how fast you would have to be riding in order to be able to safely jump the bike over the highway and land on the other side. While we were thus seriously engaged, John Dawson came down the hill to join us. I was pleased that we had at least 6 riders who had taken up my challenge to do the “Full Monty”.
We enjoyed the warm sunshine for some time before turning the bikes and beginning the return ride back up the hill. Actually this section is not really that hard and I am sure that all of our riders could achieve it without too much trouble. Since we were still running ahead of schedule we decided that we would all stop at COGS for a coffee before the main ride. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived back at the top of the hill, COGS was all locked and bolted. I cannot understand why the proprietor is not open at this time of the year. Our group alone would probably have spent a considerable sum and, while we were waiting, another couple of prospective customers arrived and also went away with their money still in their pockets.
Over the next 30 minutes we were joined by a succession of other riders and finally set off with approx 17 riders in the group. Buoyed by the sunshine and our fine achievement in conquering the trail, we rode along in high spirits and were soon gathered at Woori Yallock where we stopped for a drink and chat. It was at this juncture that a most unexpected turn of events took place. As we looked back along the trail behind us we could see a couple of riders making their way towards us. One of them was Peter, but who was the other one ? Numerous elderly eyes peered in their direction but it was not until they were within a couple of metres that we realised that the other rider was none other than Crasher Lewis.
Crasher Lewis had been missing from the peloton ever since he suffered a mysterious injury on the eve of the Lungbuster. It was either a “corked hammy”, “a herniated hiatus”, “a twisted tonsil” or something else even more obscure. Whatever the reason, it had been sufficient to keep Crasher home in bed and in front of the TV for the past two months. Without him the peloton was in danger of becoming far too politically correct and Gary had nothing to inspire him to produce cartoon masterpieces. It was great to see him back in his familar National Sprint Champion (1943 over 60s) jersey.
Crasher proceeded to explain that he was still very weak and would only be able to “roll along slowly” and would be “lucky to make it to Milgrove”. As soon as we started to move he bolted out of sight clearly demonstrating that, in a world of change. there are still some things that can always be counted on.
Not far out of Woori Yallock we came across an unfamilar hazard. While we are used to fighting against marauding magpies and loose dogs we are not so experienced in tackling loose sheep. Obviously some sort of breakout had occured and several sheep we making their way to freedom along the trail. We carefully avoided crashing into them and continued on our way towards Magpie Alley. The magpie menace did not materialise and we all made our way safely through the danger zone and on to Warburton.
After lunch it was hard to rouse the riders for the return ride. Most seemed content to sit, eat and chat in the sunshine but finally I managed to get the peloton moving again. We even tried to maintain some semblance of pelotonic discipline – not much but a little.
When we arrived back at the site of the Great Sheep Escape I was appalled to see that even more opportunistic sheep had discovered the exit strategy and we busy making their way to freedom. I looked around the paddocks and could almost swear I saw a blonde haired sheep on a trail bike leaping over a barbed wire fence ! Perhaps the late afternoon sun was hotter than I thought. Fortunately I was back at the car park with the bike computer indicating that we had ridden about 76 km. Once again the Ghostriders had pitted their exceptional cycling skills against the Warburton Trail and had prevailed.