In Which we Meet Rocky the Raccoon

Being a community minded group, the Ghost Riders always do their best to support local businesses wherever possible. When I noticed that the new coffee shop on the side of the trail at Mt Evelyn had finally opened, I encouraged all our riders to avail themselves of the facilities and make use of the tables and chairs they had provided for our convenience. The new proprietors had certainly tried hard to make the shop more welcoming, with new landscaped gardens carefully planted out with expensive new native plants. Although we didn’t actually spend any money at the shop we did support the owners by testing their new chairs and finding that they were in good working order.

When Little John arrived he also did his best to assist local nurseries by walking straight across the new garden bed and trampling half a dozen plants into oblivion. He then proceeded to drop his bike and smash a few more. He was obviously keen to meet us and recount some of his recent Vietnamese Adventures. Apparently his hill climbing technique was so powerful in the Vietnamese mountains that he succeeded in breaking the touring company’s best bike. Apart from that he had no complaints about the trip.

It was also exciting to be met by a potential new recruit for the Ghost Riders. Michael had apparently often watched us ride past on the trail and had been smitten with our amazing riding prowess. Listening to his account reminded me of the immortal words of Robert Menzies extolling the virtues of the young Queen Elizabeth (“I did but see her passing by, yet will I love her till I die”) Having been another closet web site reader for some time he had finally mustered up the courage to have a ride with us. The only problem was that Michael looked about 20 years too young to be a true Ghost Rider.

As we were sitting at the tables (and trampling a few more plants under our feet) we were met by Paul “Tubby” Clarke. Paul has been missing from our peloton for the past few weeks due to work commitments but celebrated his return to the trail by presenting us with a collection of professional stick on signs that he had prepared for our bikes. What a touching gesture. (I suspect he was trying to curry some favour with the President and make sure that his pending application for membership would be successful).

Gary, Lex, Warby Phil, Crasher and Trish had also trampled their way across the new garden bed and were waiting for the action to start. About this time we heard another rider approaching us along the trail from the direction of Wandin. We were not prepared for the sight that greeted us. There was Peter with a big smile on his face and something that resembled a dead raccoon sitting proudly on his head ! After he rode across the garden bed and trampled one of only three remaining plants, he explained the reason for his disgraceful attire.

Peter, proudly sporting his latest road kill

Apparently he had forgotten to bring his helmet and had to resort to ingenious improvisation to come up with a suitable substitute. After racking his brains for a few minutes he ripped the sheepskin seat cover off his bike seat and stretched it over his head, thus proving that his head has exactly the same shape and size as a large Toyworld bike saddle. Although he looked completely insane, he seemed quite pleased with himself and insisted on wearing this absurd head-dress for the remainder of the ride.

It was finally time to get underway and within a few minutes we were joined by Ben. Although Ben had managed to remember NOT to lock his keys in the car, the extra strain had resulted in his also forgetting to bring along his helmet. When we suggested that he, like Peter, could use his bike seat for an “emergency helmet” he said something that I could not understand.

After the rather ragged start to proceedings we needed to make up for lost time. The pace increased as we headed down to Waoori Yallock, and since there were no riders waiting at the car park, was sustained all the way to Warburton. A nice plate of sandwiches provided enjoyable sustenance for us to prepare for the return ride. We were, once again, blessed with warm sunshine while we chatted and drank our coffee, but all too soon it was time to head back to reality.

A completely misstimed Settlement Sprint saw a mad confusion of riders cross the line with Crasher, once again, emerging the victor. Once the peloton had reformed we maintained a healthy speed back to Woori Yallock where we bade farewell to Peter (and his raccoon) and Lex, leaving Tubby, Bob, Ben, Michael, Little John and Trish to accompany me back to Mt Evelyn. Michael soon demonstrated the advantages of being a generation younger than the rest of us by throwing down the gauntlet on the final climb to Mt Evelyn. The resultant sprint up the hill saw us arrive back at the cars about 25 minutes earlier than usual.

We used some of the time we had saved to try out some of Paul’s new stickers. By proudly attaching a couple to Bob’s bike we not only covered over some of it’s unsightly dents and scratches, but also converted it into a true collector’s item at the same time. Maybe we could use some of them to cover over some of Bob’s riding injuries. That’s food for thought.