Once upon a time the decision would have been simple. Way back in the Ghostrider Dreamtime I saw everything in black or white (or should I say Wet or Dry?) Now that a few years have passed by nothing is ever as simple as it once was. Back in the early days when the Ghost Riders just consisted of Hooters, Crasher and myself if the weather was less than perfect we simply cancelled the ride. Easy.
Now that we have legions of committed followers I feel that I have a huge responsibility to turn up for every ride, even when there is ice on the trail and weariness in my bones. Such is the heavy yoke of seniority that I can no longer just make decisions based solely on whether the sun is shining or not. It was in such a tormented state of mind that I headed off towards Mt Evelyn. I had been observing the weather radar for the past hour or so and it did little to instill any confidence in the prospect of a dry afternoon. By the time I was driving through Monbulk the sky had taken on an evil indigo hue and the rain was heavy and persistent on my windscreen. I seriously doubted that anyone else would have turned up in such conditions. A little voice (possibly called “Common Sense”) started whispering in my ear “turn back, turn back, you’re crazy”.
Somehow I did continue through the downpour and was staggered to see that a group of yellow shirted cyclists was already gathered in the muddy car park. I got out of the car and suggested that an alternate “Plan B” might be worth considering. They seemed shocked. “We came to ride”, they all insisted. For a fleeting moment I almost felt guilty as I retreated back to my car. “I’ll see you further up the trail”, I yelled as I turned up the heater and headed off up the road towards Woori Yallock.
At Woori Yallock the huge puddles in the station car park indicated that it had been pouring for some time. Hooters had also decided to start from this point, but that wasn’t surprising since that was where he always starts. I looked back towards Mt Evelyn, where the sky had darkened to a shade of inky black and wondered whether the stalwarts would actually make it through. It certainly is a hard way to get to have a cappucino.
With the temperature hovering around 6C and my nose running faster than Ben Johnson I decided to get on the bike and plough through the mud towards Warburton. It I stayed still any longer I suspected that my chain would freeze. What a bedraggled small group we made as we splashed and sloshed our way up the trail. At least I could be thankful that the large panier I had on the rear of my bike was serving as an obstacle to block the worst of the flying mud from distributing itself up my back. The other riders in our small group were not as well protected.
At Launching Place I was glad to leave the mud and ride up the bitumen for the next few kilometres. For some obscure reason the others decided to continue up the trail. Since I was the first to arrive at Milgrove I set off to ride up the slope to Warburton. It was on this section that I came across a group of about 50 Japanese students walking up the path. I tooted my horn to alert them of my approach, but they obviously did not understand Australian warning sounds and seemed oblivious to my shouts and abuse. When they finally parted to let me pass through they looked at me with what appeared to be a combination of amazement and pity. Covered in mud, soaking wet and with snot streaming from my nose I guess I was not a pretty sight. Of course once I reached the summit and turned around I had to repeat this process all over again, but this time I had the advantage that I was approaching them head on.
Once back at Milgrove it did not take long for the rest of the riders to start arriving. Amongst the motly collection of filthy, mud covered cycling morons there was one rider that did not appear to have any mud on herself at all. I cannot understand how Glenda had managed to stay clean all the way from Wandin, but I suppose that must be some mysterious aspect of secret womens business. It brought back memories of that famous pie fight in the film “The Great Race” where Tony Curtis somehow managed to avoid getting any mess on his snow white suit while all around him chaos reigned supreme.
There were some cruel (and entirely unecessary) comments made about the President not completing the full ride, tempting me to pull out my official attendance record and reminding them that I had completed more rides than anyone over the past 6 months. Instead I shrugged and ordered a second cappucino.
At the coffee shop we also had a chance to get to get to meet our newest cycling recruit. Although I am sad to say that I cannot remember his name (probably because of the cold), he had ridden all the way from Mt Evelyn in some of the worst conditions we have ever experienced on this ride. I guess that means he has earned a great deal of respect.
The return ride turned out to be something of a dog’s breakfast with sad and sorry riders spread out all along the trail. I was thankful I only had to ride back to Woori Yallock as the mud was starting to make my chain crunch. Could it be that I am becoming another “weckweational wider” after all?