Following the wettest few months we have experienced for some years I think some of us were starting to feel that we would have to start looking at taking up some sort of indoor sport instead. Maybe ten pin bowling was not such a stupid idea after all. When yet another planned ride had to be postponed I was ready to clutch at any straw at all. The weather bureau’s forecast had been somewhat ambiguous – something like “mainly fine with chance of frequent heavy rain at times”. What the blazes did that mean?
I decided to resort to more reliable means of forecasting the weather. When Bob informed me that his haemorrhoids were giving him almost no discomfort at all I figured that the odds of a rain-free ride were in our favour at last. The plans were laid to start at Mt Evelyn at 1.15 pm for a ride to Warburton and back.
The first part of the ride went without serious incident, although the trail was bearing ample evidence of yesterday’s heavy rains. There were numerous slippery muddy sections and even more fallen trees. In spite of these minor irritations I was at least pleased to find that there was no appreciable wind. With John still resting in the warm highlands of New Guinea, it loked like it was going to be a quick ride (or so we thought).
We made it as far as Woori Yallock station in good time and the conversation was flowing freely as the familiar car park came into view. It was at this time that everything started to go askew. Out of the sky from behind us came a huge swooping magpie, determined to inflict serious bodily injury on both Bob and me. Time and time again it roared down and pecked at our helmets, all the while we were yelling and waving one hand over our heads in a vain attempt to fend off the menace. It reminded me all over again why I could NEVER barack for Collingwood. We knew that they had been disgraced in the Grand Final but that was no excuse to take out their insanity on innocent bicycle riders.
With feathers flying, fists waving and bikes wobbling we eventually made it out of the danger zone (about 1 km further along the trail) and stopped to lick our wounds. In all our rides along this trail we had never encountered such a crazy menace. A pack of rabid dogs or a fierce BDOH are both an order of magnitude less in ferocity than this new type of peril. And, worst of all, we both knew that we would have to face it all over again on the way back.
For the rest of the ride to Warburton we planned and schemed as to how we might best be able to tackle this new hazard that we would now have to add to the ever increasing cornucopia of cyclists worst nightmares. Along with punctures, lycra splits, head winds, hills, bent wheels, smelly gloves, hairy legs, busted chains and broken glass, we would now have to add the latest entry – demented Magpies.
About 3 km from Warburton I was reminded of another hazard that I had temporarily forgotten. As I pedalled along I became increasingly aware of that once familiar wobbling motion that always accompanies a loose crank. Sure enough my left crank had decided to “throw a wobbly”. We were able to complete the remaining distance to Warburton at a reduced pace and I went in search of a friendly mechanic with a good set of spanners.
With the crank tightened we spent some time over a lazy lunch plotting our survival strategy for the return bout with the Magpie. Eventually we could procrastinate no longer and turned our treadlys back towards the foe. As we headed back down the hill each km brought us closer to the inevitable encounter and our anxiety rose accordingly.
As we had considered various possible strageties, including the manufacture of a magpie trap from Bob’s lycra leggings, we came to the conclusion that when all was said and done, it would be sheer courage alone that would have to carry us through. The once friendly sight of Woori Yallock station soon came into view and we dismounted our bikes to look out for the feathered fiend. Sure enough there it was in the tree, just waiting for us.
Bob went ferreting in the bush and produced a large piece of wood, while I armed myself with my bicycle pump. Then off we went into battle, waving our weapons over our heads and shouting at the tops of our voices. You can just imagine the startled expressions on the two old ladies watching from a safe distance as we charged down the trail like two crazed loons. The bird swooped and swooped again but seemed more reluctant to come as close as he had on our previous encounter.
We decided to whirl our weapons over our heads like some sort of hideous cross between a helicopter and a whirling dervish. We were determined that if the magpie was going to strike again it would not be without serious consequences to its feather collection. This ridiculous farce was enacted for about 10 mins until we were well clear of the battle zone. But we had survived without disaster, the only damage done was to the pride of the Warbies.
As we completed the remainder of the ride back to Mt Evelyn we discussed the vicious encounter and considered various ways to eradicate the menace. The most promising suggestion was to cover our helmets with pieces of poison meat. It could stink a bit on a warm day however.
Oh well, I suppose the encounter did add a bit of colour to an otherwise grey day. I wonder what our next ride will bring?