In Which Smokin Joe Turns 83

Our 2009 Cycling year has certainly got off to a roaring start. Not only have we had large numbers present on each of our Thursday rides but we also seem to have been unbelievably lucky with the weather. Although there have been regular heat waves so far we have been able to score perfect conditions for every one of our rides. What a relief it was to find that, once again, we had been blessed with a lovely fine and cool day. In fact it would have been hard to imagine a better day for cycling.

As has become my habit I started at Woori Yalllock where a respectable group was already unpacking their bikes for the outward leg to Mt Evelyn. I decided to start off at a slow pace and see if the others would overtake me along the way. It did not take long for me to appreciate just what a perfect day it was. With the air fresh and cool in the shade it really made the endorphins flow. But just as I began to feel that I had been transported to cycling heaven, things suddenly took a turn for the worse.

Not far from the Seville water trough as I was working my way up the hill a group of about a dozen riders came down the hill towards me. This would not normally be a cause for concern, except for the fact that this group was obviously out of control. Riders were all over the trail, riding three and four abreast and most seemed to be deaf as well. As I shouted for them to keep left I was horrified to find that at least half of them had not mastered the difference between right and left. I found myself with riders flying past me on BOTH SIDES. This was bad enough but I started to panic when a stout fellow was riding directly at me ! In spite of my frantic shouts for him to “watch out” the inevitable happened and we collided head on. The only bright spot in this unfolding drama was the fact that somehow we managed to avoid locking handlebars and the contact was limited to a forceful mutual “shirt front”. My adversary pulled up and tried to apolgise. “My bike was out of control” was his excuse – as if the bike was riding him and not the other way round. I won’t repeat what I said in reply, but I must admit that I was feeling rather angry at the thought that we both could have been badly injured. As it was, I suspect that I was bigger than the other guy and he probably got as big a shock as I had.

I continued on up the hill to Mt Evelyn and met up with the group that had already formed there. A few minutes later we were joined by the group that had started from Woori Yallock. They made a very impressive sight as they rode up the final hill, not only in perfect formation, but also all kittted out in their official yellow jerseys.

Just before we were due to start the ride another unexpected turn of events took place. Hooters pulled into the car park in his massive Jaguar and announced that he would be riding today. Well not actually riding his bike, but riding in his car all the way to Woori Yallock. By then doing a token ride from Woori to Milgroave he would manage to keep his membership status “active” for a few more months.

As we headed off from COGS there was one rider who was even more excited than the rest of the bunch. “Smokin Joe” Kenwright was completing his fourth ride today and therefore elegible to be considered a real Ghostrider. Since he started with us just a couple of weeks ago this guy had really thrown himself into every ride and has foreshadowed that he looks set to become a future “pillar of the peloton”.

Another change that has become evident this year is the vast improvement in our pelotonic discipline. Whereas in the past we would often be stretched from one end of the trail to the other, it was encouraging to see that we were finally starting to get the hang of riding together. This meant that we all arrived at Woori Yallock together. Hooters was there waiting for us with a reminder that he was only a “weckweational wider” and would not tolerate any speed over 18 kph (nor any hills or headwinds either).

Since the bakery at Milgrove had been closed since Christmas we did not know whether we would, once again, have to ride all the way to Warburton for our coffee. It was a relief to find that the old familar door was unlocked and open for business. I stocked up with a large coffee,sandwich and cake and settled in for a long, lazy lunch.

When everybody had gathered we conducted Smokin Joe’s induction and he probably had more handshakes to perform than any previous inductee. He thus takes on the mantle as “Ghostrider number 83”. Maybe one day we will work out a way to put the numbers on the backs of the jerseys, in the meantime we will just have to remember what our numbers are. We have a number of riders partway through their probationary periods so it will be interesting to see who the next inductee will be.

After lunch we were content to roll back to Woori at a lovely leisurely pace. This is a delightful time of the day, especially when the late afternoon air is still and cool. It is hard to imagine how one could ever tire of this ride, such is the undoubted beauty of the surroundings.