It certainly was an horrific sight. Not only was the trail covered in protruding cobblestones, but the uphill gradient was surely at least 8% and increasing. In spite of the difficulties we had been making good progress until we turned the corner and found the path covered by numerous vicious spitting snakes of various colours and sizes. To make matters even worse, my bike had been stolen when we stopped in the small village a couple of km back and therefore I had been reduced to riding on ‘shank’s pony’ instead of my beloved HASA. This was the sort of challenge that even Indiana Jones would have been daunted by – only time would tell whether Dennis and the Ghostriders would prevail or fail in their search for the Holy Trail.
Just as I was about to tackle the biggest of the snakes I became conscious that something was choking my throat and the scene rapidly started to dissolve before my eyes. Instead of the cobblestones and snakes I found myself doing battle with the doona with the voice of Red Symons blaring from my clock radio. I slowly came to the realisation that the past few hours had been nothing but a dream. I was almost sorry to wake up as I was quite keen to find out what was going to happen next, but reluctatntly had to focus my attention on the much more mundane challenges that real life was likely to throw at me during the coming 24 hours.
In the cold light of day I started to piece together the fading fragments of my dream and I could see where most of the major elements had come from. The steep cobblestoned trail was certainly based on our recent experiences in the China Ride, the stolen bike probably connected in some Freudian way to the temporary loss of my Cannondale when the frame broke. The vicious attacking snakes – that’s another story much closer to the present time………..
With no fewer than 18 riders in the group it certainly was an impressive collection of cycling elite that gathered outside the Trail Blazers Cafe on Thursday 26th October. Although I was still fighting the lingering effects of the flu it still felt good to be out on the trail in such perfect riding conditions. Starting at Woori Yallock ahead of the main peloton I did have a chance to get to meet a new rider called Terry. He told me that this was actually his second ride with the Ghost Riders and he was looking forward to building up his riding stamina in the weeks and months ahead.
After riding up to Warburton I arrived back at Milgrove just as the peloton was arriving from Mt Evelyn. It was a fanatstic sight to see so many yellow clad cyclists making their way across the highway. It is little wonder that we are starting to really get well know throughout the area. It was not that long ago that we were excited to achieve our first peloton of 10, now we are almost reaching 20 each week.
When the riders had returned from Warburton they wasted no time in rubbishing me for, once again, only completing a reduced ride and even tried to blame for for the tardy start from Mt Evelyn. It seems that when the President is absent the group quickly degenerates into a leaderless rabble. A quick head count of riders showed that Hooters had maintained his recent apalling run of absences from the Thursday ride to stay at home and rest instead.
We finally swallowed the last mouthful of coffee and remounted for the return transit of the trail. As usual, this was undertaken at a significantly slower pace than the outward ride and allowed the peloton to keep good tight formation. Little did we know that this tight formation would almost lead us into disaster of biblical proportions.
After crossing the highway at Launching Place we were travelling along in high spirits, merrily enjoying the ride and chatting noisily among ourselves. I was following closely behind Glenda who had moved into the lead position when she suddenly let out a cry of warning. It only took a fraction of a second to see what the cause of her alarm was – a large black snake was making its way across the path directly in front of us! Although we have seen several other snakes in the past, none of them were as big as this monster.
Glenda swerved and I frantically followed her lead and somehow managed to avoid the snake’s head by a few centimetres. I could only imagine what havoc would reign behind me as the rest of riders blindly rode into the reptillian Valley of Death. It did not take long before the air was filled with the sound of skidding wheels, shouts of horror, riders cascading off the path and assorted other sounds of pelotonic mayhem. I had visions of a massive pile up of cyclists with the big black snake underneath the lot of them.
It was only by some miraculous deliverence (and some pretty fancy pedalwork) that somehow we all managed to escape without fatal consequences. Although several riders apparently succeeded in riding right over the snake, nobody fell off and the reptile slithered off into the long grass just as shaken as we were.
When we arrived at Woori Yallock it gave us a valuable opportunity to compare our recollections of the incident. At first we agreed that the snake was ‘at least 6 foot’ long, but as we started to recall with more accuracy, the length steadily increased to ‘nearly 20 foot long and at least 6 inches diameter’. We were certainly lucky to have escaped with our lives and our memories intact. It will give us something to tell our grandchildren about.
For me the ride was over but for many of the others they still had the final section to Mt Evelyn to complete. I have to admit that I am rapidly getting frustrated with only completing half a proper ride, and I am really looking forward to getting back to riding the full trail next week. After all, I can see how much I am needed.