In Which We Encounter Miss December and the Voodoo Dofunny

During the solar enriched annual period of daylight savings it has become customary to schedule one or two of our Thursday rides as “Twilight Rides”. Instead of starting the ride at the normal time of 1.00 pm we linger longer in our houses and start the ride at 4.00 pm. This allows us the rare privilege of being able to ride the trail in the late afternoon, at a time of lengthening shadows and setting sun. Past experience has shown us that this can indeed be a magical time to explore the beautiful countryside of the Yarra Valley.

Although the first twilight ride for 2008 had originally been planned for last Thursday, when the weather wallas predicted a top temperature of 41C we had no alternative other than to postpone the ride and rest at home instead. With a much more pleasant top temperature of 24C predicted for today I felt confident that we would be in for a memorable ride.

Although the ride was planned to start at COGS, I had previously decided to leave a little earlier and begin my ride at Woori Yallock instead. This would give me time to ride back to Mt Evelyn and meet the others at the start. When I arrived at Woori Yallock it was obvious that several others had shared the same idea. Already Jon, Little John and Lothar were just about to leave. I caught up to them near the big Woori Yallock bridge and we all continued up to COGS together.

As has become customary over the past couple of weeks, the conversation soon turned to Lothar’s new bike and how much it really cost. As we watched him effortlessly gliding up the hill to Killara we pondered what it must be like to ride a bike that weighs almost nothing. For us mere mortals who could never aspire to such a lovely machine we could only look on in wonder. While we were thus involved in lustful longings, Lothar’s bike picked up a large twig which immediately (and mysteriously) lodged itself in the rear derailleur and threatened to throw the chain and cause widespread damage. Lothar struggled to a stop and surveyed the situation. Fortunately no permanent harm had been done and we were soon on our way again.

The afternoon was still and mild, providing ideal conditions for cycling. As we still had plenty of time before the start, we were able to ride along at a social able pace and enjoy a good chat. When we arrived at COGS there were already several others gathered waiting to start, including Garth, Werner & Paul. We had enough time to have a short rest before heading back down the hill.

At 4.00 pm we set off back towards Warburton. Everything went well until we reached the Warburton Hwy at Wandin. We crossed the road and met with Ross “Wayward” Hayward at the car park. Since it had been many months since we had seen Ross out on a ride we were keen to catch up with what he had been up to. I had just started to chat with Ross when I heard an ominous sound from behind me (and no, it WASN’T flatulence). It was the sound of a bike meeting gravel !

I turned around to see Lothar and his (very expensive) new bike sprawled in the dirt at the side of the road – obviously providing much unexpected merriment to the passing motorists. Since this was the SECOND time that a mishap had befallen him on this ride I started to suspect that he may have been the victim of some unearthly plot. I had visions of some envious person armed with a miniature replica of Lothar’s bike performing some sort of evil ceremony, sticking pins into his wheels and needles into his derailleurs. I now had a good idea of why Peter had not been on the ride – claiming he had “work” to do in his shop.

While we were looking at the aftermath of Lothar’s smash we heard another crash, this time from the car park behind us. We discovered that Paul had also fallen over in a dramatic fashion. While this might not seem such a significant event, when you consider that he was standing still at the time, it does take on some sinister overtones. The effects of the voodoo dofunny seemed to be spiraling out of control. I decided that it was time we got going before something even worse befell us in this “Bermuda Triangle of Bicycling”.

We had only travelled a short distance before we spied Glenda and Gael resting beside the platform at the old Wandin station. With her was our latest new recruit. Claire had already made something of a splash as the mysterious Miss December on our 2008 calendar but this was to be her first ride with us on her brand new Avanti bike (the 127th bike Peter has sold to the Ghostriders group). As she stood up to meet us she immediately fell right over again. This really was getting weird. Brushing herself off she climbed aboard her new Avanti and the enlarged peloton started off once again.

It was at this point that yet another paranormal phenomenon occurred. “My gears keep changing all by themselves”, Claire exclaimed. While this might normally be considered a strange occurrence, on this occasion it did have a simple explanation. “That’s because Peter set it up”, we all explained, “all his bikes work that way”.

Finally we were underway, all hoping that we would soon be well out of range of the voodoo curse, and looking forward to coffee at Warburton. Although this was Claire’s first ride with us, she had already ridden all the way from Woori Yallock to Wandin and would be completing almost 60 km before the afternoon was over. A fantastic effort for a first time rider!

The final addition to the peloton was in the form of Bob Patterson, obviously rapidly recovering from his broken leg and looking forward to regaining some bike fitness again. It did not take long for a couple of the bolters to race off the front of the group and disappear into the distance, while the rest of us were content to roll along at a much more sedate pace.

After a protracted rest break at Woori Yallock gave me a chance to catch up on the cricket scores, we were finally underway once again. By the time we reached Launching Place, Claire was starting to feel the effects of her efforts and threatened to not ride any further. Fortunately a combination of counter threats and bare faced lies convinced her that we were almost at Warburton and she agreed to continue on.

She repeated the process at Milgrove but finally climbed back on her bike for the remaining section to Warburton. We stopped feeling sorry for her when she explained that she used to ride with a road racing team. I suspect that once she gets a few more kilometres under her chain, she will become a force to be reckoned with.

A few minutes later we were all happily ensconced at Poppy’s cafe, down near the river. When it took about 25 minutes for our drinks to appear we were starting to get a little nervous, but they did finally arrive and we were back on the trail again by about 6.50 pm. This is the most magical time of the day and we were refreshed by the cooler air starting to flow down from the surrounding hills. What a joy it was to ride through glorious surroundings in such fantastic riding conditions.

Our return ride to Woori Yallock was accomplished without further untoward mishaps and with plenty of daylight still remaining. Ross realised that his riding had dropped back a few notches since his halcyon days of riding in China earlier in the year and asked John to give him a lift back to Wandin. Claire seemed happy with her achievement and everyone else had shared a most enjoyable twilight ride.

Watch out for our next twilight ride on Thursday Feb 14th…………….