Dogs take on a special significance when you are riding a bike. No matter how big or small they may look, and no matter how much their owners might insist that they “would not hurt a fly”, all bike riders know only too well that inside every dog lurks a maelstrom of pure evil.
Over the course of the past 18 months or so we have had dozens of dog encounters along the Warby Trail. Who can ever forget the day when we were set upon by a pack of pony sized maneaters in the depth of the forests near Wandin? What about the time when we were chased by a German Shepherd from Killara to Woori Yallock? It was only our enormous strength and courage that saved us.
Even last week we had an “interesting” encounter when we met a guy walking the meanest looking cross between a pitbull terrier and a purebred bulldog that you are ever likely to see. As we drew closer John remarked “That dog looks just like Warren, except with only one eye”. It was just at that moment, however, that the dog turned around to face us and we could no longer see the resemblance.
As Bob and I set out from Mt Evelyn we did not know that the ride would later bring us one of the strangest dog encounters we had yet experienced. Following a call from Mal to say that he would be available to join us in a ride, providing we rode on Tuesday, it was decided to change our regular ride day just to allow our erstwhile companion a chance to regain some of his former glory. When the time for the ride came, the ever elusive Mal rang again to say that he would be starting from Woori Yallock. He also said he would be bringing along a good friend to ride with us.
Although we were a little disappointed that Mal was not able to ride the full distance with us (but when has he EVER completed a full ride?), Bob and I headed off in good spirits. The day was warm and there was very little wind – just about perfect weather for riding.
Unfortunately my elation was short lived as, within a few hundred metres from the start, I had the familiar sinking feeling that accompanies a rear wheel puncture. It had been several months since our last puncture and I guess some wicked statistical law of averages was due to enforce another compulsory punctural event for me. After 10 minutes spend replacing the tube we were back on our way again.
Everything went smoothly until we reached Woori Yallock and met Mal and his likely looking riding companion. The only problem was there was only one bike between the two of them. Surely Mal was not going to dink his friend all the way to Warburton? The friend opened his mouth to speak but we could not understand a word he was saying. The strange dialect sounded like some kind of mixture of Dutch, German and Pig Latin.
We looked at him and nodded, trying to look intelligent, while he spoke. At least he looked friendly, a pity we couldn’t understand him. It was only later when we reached Warburton that we realised that he was actually from South Africa, and the language he was speaking was apparently some sort of wierdly corrupted English.
Apparently the friend was not feeling well and so only Mal would be riding with us. The friend with the strange tongue would meet us at Warburton. The only problem with this arrangement was that it left me alone to contend with Bob and Mal. They immediately seemed to think that they were riding the final stage of the Tour de France and disappeared into the distance. And thus it continued all the way to Warburton – Bob and Mal pumping away furiously in the lead and me trying to stay tucked in their slipstream.
It was in this fashion that I was able to take out the first intermediate sprint, but my tactic did not work in Warburton where Mal was ready for me and burned me off along the Main Rd. Well at least I only finished about 10 metres or so behind.
While we were enjoying a leisurely lunch, Mal announced that he would not be able to complete the return ride, but that he would be rejoining his friend from Cape Town for the return ride IN THE CAR. Surely by now Mal’s inept ability to ever complete any ride must have made him eligible for some special entry in the Guiness Book of Records (The Only Rider NEVER to have actually Completed Any Ride???)
We had no choice but to bid yet another adieu to Mal and his friend, while we prepared for the ride back to Mt Evelyn. The only consolation I had was that, without Mal, it would at least be completed at a more sensible pace. In fact the return ride was most enjoyable. With the lengthening days and the warmer weather the kilometres seemed to fly by all too quickly and before we knew it we were heading up the slope towards Killara station.
It was at this point that we noticed a potential threat on the trail ahead. A dog was waiting for us, no doubt with evil intent on its canine mind. We approached carefully until we could see that the poor thing was one leg short of a full quota. I guess we did not have to fear being chased by that particular beast. When I commented on the dog’s handicap to Bob, he turned to remind me that he had already ridden almost 50 km with only ONE leg. After all, the dog had two more good legs than he had.
A few kilometres further on we stopped at the drinking trough to inspect the steep track we had often seen in the adjoining property. It was at this point that we started a conversation with the farmer who was busy distributing feed to his cows. “I guess you’ve had plenty of rain this Winter” I said, trying to sound informed. He kicked the ground with his old boot and replied “It’s dry as chips”. “We need another 10 inches or so”. I guess some farmers are not happy unless their entire property is under 6 feet of water. Judging by the enormous beer belly bulging out from under his blue singlet I guessed that, although he had lived by the side of the bike trail for 29 years, it had been a long time since he was last on a bike.
While we completed the final leg of the ride, Bob and I looked back over the afternoon’s events and started to plan ahead for the upcoming Donna Buang Challenge. With 8 or 9 likely starters, this ride is shaping up as one of our best ever. All we need is a fine day, and no wind, no rain, no punctures, no crashes, no breakdowns, ……. and NO DOGS (no 4 legged ones at least).