It had been a busy week and it was finally a relief to be back on the bicycle again and making my way back along the old familiar trail. Unfortunately I had been late getting away from the office and had to resort to starting at Woori Yallock, instead of Mt Evelyn. At least the weather was perfect as I rode back towards Killara looking forward to meeting the rest of the peloton. In fact it was positively balmy, probably about 24C with dappled sunshine breaking out at regular intervals.
As my legs started to warm up I could feel my spirits rising. There is no doubt that spending a couple of hours on a bike always makes you feel good. I looked ahead into the distance, trying to see any early sign of the main peloton, but all I could make out were a couple of unsteady wobblers trying to make their way up to hill to Killara.
Within a few minutes of starting I began to experience that enjoyable feeling of well being that is always part of being at “one with the bike”. With the warmth, the solitude and the silence the only thing to disturb the peace was the gentle creaking of the cranks as they propelled me along the trail. It was then that my phone rang. It was Hooters ringing in to say that he was altogether too scared to ride that afternoon. Apparently he was hiding under his bed worrying about a small cloud on the horizon, while at the same time squirting his water pistol at the Warburton page of his Melways. I could only think that some people live very sad lives.
Fortunately we only have one Hooters in the Ghost Riders and I felt reassured when I was soon met by a sizeable peloton of Ghost Riders that had started from Mt Evelyn. We soon had ten riders and, even more surprisingly, we somehow managed to maintain great pelotonic discipline for the majority of the ride to Warburton. Lothar had only just returned from his Tasmanian holiday that morning but had been determined not to miss a ride with his mates. That’s what true dedication is all about.
Bob managed to produce one of his superhuman accelerations to again take out the outward sprint, but slowed down to quickly allow the group to reform for the remainder of the ride. I had to admit that so far the ride had been pretty close to perfect. When we met up with the Spanner at Warburton, we reached our final group size of 11 riders. Since I had not ordered the sandwiches we forced ourselves to engorge on cream cakes and sugar instead.
About this time an ominous meteorological change started to take place. The temperature started to drop. The sky darkened. We felt a few drops of rain. I began to wonder whether Hooters’ efforts with the water pistol had started to have some evil effect. Crasher Lewis started to look worried. “I don’t like the look of this”, he moaned. Within minutes the rain had begun in ernest and riders started reaching for their waterproof jackets. Of course, being the President, I did not feel it would be a good example to deck myself in unsightly plastic, so I decided to jump on the bike and bolt instead. Maybe it would be finer a little further down the trail.
We made is as far as a clump of trees behind the Warburton Hotel and sheltered from the (now torrential) rain. Bob kept looking at his legs with a concerned look on his face. “I don’t like getting wet” , he reiterated for the second time, before jumping on his bike and charging off. The rest of the rather soggy riders followed in his wake.
In my childhood I had heard of the story of Hansel and Gretel following the trail of bread crumbs to find their way in the forest. As I looked down at the trail ahead I noticed a regular trail of dark brown spots ahead of me, seeming to beckon me to follow. With the rain dripping from my chin I focused on this weird phenomenon and pedalled on in the growing chill. I wondered how things could change so quickly.
It was only when we regrouped at the Launching Place traffic lights that I discovered the source of the “thin brown line” along the trail – it was Bob’s instant tan washing off his legs. No wonder he was so worried about getting his legs wet. Doc Mackay was so fascinated by this unusual sight that she forgot to decleat before stopping and managed to stage a spectacular sideways crash at the lights (in full view of about 4 stopped cars). Just as well she was NOT wearing her official jersey at the time. Such events can only bring disrepute to the formerly noble escutcheon of the Ghost Riders.
Bob was obviously upset that the secret of his dark brown legs was divulged and pedalled franticaly into the distance, followed by Johnny Magoo. We never saw them again. Fortunately I had left my car at Woori Yallock and was thankful that I only had a few more km to ride. The rain had not diminished but had actually got harder, leading me to suspect that Hooters had replaced his water pistol with his garden hose and was now performing some sort of primeval rain dance in his back yard.
In spite of all the obstacles we did all safely make it back to the cars, with no punctures or further falls in the mud. I was sure that in weeks to come we would look back on this ride and laugh that we had persevered in spite of the conditions. I have learnt that sometimes it is far better to confront your demons and overcome them, than spend your whole life trying to run away from them. Although the conditions in the second half of the ride were poor, I was certainly glad that so many of us had participated and thereby earned another panel in life’s rich tapestry.