Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Ride to Recall

Well this morning marks my last 5am start. Even if I keep coming in early next week (which at this point is unlikely) the eternal mystery that is the end of Daylight Savings in N.S.W. means that I'll at least get an extra hour's sleep in. So with this final early morning at the front of my brain I decided last night that I'd take the long way to work; down through Tennyson, along the river, across the Indooroopilly Bridge then Swann Rd to Toowong. It turned out to be a nice ride so I figured I'd give it a bit of pseudo-permanence here, now that things at work have slowed down a bit this morning.

3:55 am. It's still dark, the "darkness before the dawn" so famed in proverb. I've already sat on the edge of the bed wishing for another hour of sleep but I can't fight it any longer. Another day of work awaits.

4:40 Summer's been holding on into the first month of Autumn but at this time of the morning you need to do up the jacket. I live in a block of four townhouses so, being the good neighbour I am, I roll the bike down the driveway so the ignition of the engine doesn't wake anyone. All you can hear is the slight click of the spokes rubbing against the leather of the panniers, the rubber tyres on treated concrete and a slight whir as the clutch bypasses the engine. Turn the key, flick the ignition and I'm off in a burst of headlight and horsepower.

Ipswich Road is dead at this time of the morning. I'd have at least expected a few trucks dragging their early loads out to the Western Suburbs but I guess for now I've got it to myself. The predawn cool feels good across my face as I feel the engine start to warm up. I come across my first traffic as I need to turn right, slowing down to time the gap between two cars climbing the hill from Moorooka to Chardon's Corner. A quick burst through second and third, a left into Cardross St past Helga's and I'm crossing the train line.

For all my bitching and moaning about getting up early, it really is nice to be up and moving at this time of the day. Everything's so quiet and cool, completely different to earlier in the night. It helps that the only people about are ones that need to be there. For instance, there goes a "Wanless Wastecorp" garbage truck, heading to its next block of pickups.

I was also going to comment on how much nicer the air smells at this time of the morning, but turning on to Fairfield Road maybe I won't. There's a strange smell in the air here and I can't figure if it's the passing garbage truck, the train line or just the area. As I move south towards Rocklea the smell becomes stronger; agricultural, blood and bone. It's industrial area and not surprising. Unpleasant, but not surprising. The temperature drops as I move into the lower ground, past a picture of the head of a huge Fire Ant lit up on a giant billboard.

A right, a sweeping left and I'm heading down Tennyson Memorial Avenue, Brisbane Golf Club on the left, train service line on the right. Tennyson is a strange area. In just a few short streets you go from one of the most prestigious golf courses in the city to a rail yard to impossibly priced riverside mansions to cheap student rentals. I keep thinking of the "Land Value" map in Sim City and expect varying topographic regions of blue to be overlayed across the ground. On the right in the gloom is the abandoned power station, huge glass panels reflecting the ambient light. The whole thing looks like some great gothic-industrial cathedral, like the ghost of some piece of Soviet architecture left to decay. The power plant has always played a large part in my imagined mythology of Brisbane. It quite readily adapts itself to "the Dark Place" in any adventure or story needing horrific overtones and I've used it myself a number of times for just that.

Tennyson Memorial Avenue/King Arthur Drive is a great ride. A sharp right over the train line followed by a sharp left, a nice section of left and right curves then down the straight past those mansions I mentioned earlier, each one blocking any view of the river from the street behind high walls and shrubs, as if hoarding it for themselves. Once over Oxley Creek it's a nice right turn into Nadine Street and I'm riding past the river. The street is full of curves and bumps; traffic calming devices to stop people (like me) from rat running past these expensive houses. I pass my first people out for an early morning walk with the dog. Then a cyclist. Then a jogger. Then another cyclist. It seems that I'm not the only one who has a liking for this time of the morning after all.

From this side of the river there's only one way to get across from this part of town and that's Indooroopilly Bridge. I love that bridge. It holds so many wonderful memories from my early twenties and it's just so full of character. I ride the long, sweeping, 360 degree curve down under the bridge then back up and around to get on to it. The last part of the curve jumps up at me quicker than I'd anticipated, forcing me onto the brakes.

Over the bridge, past the El Dorado cinema, then a right turn over the Ipswich train line and in to Clarence Street, up the hill, past Alex's old place and the location of the house from John Birmingham's "He Died with a Falafel in his Hand," to the intersection with Swann Rd. This intersection is a real bitch. You're already heading up a fairly steep hill and need to turn right onto another steep hill. You can barely see what's coming up from the left and just over the crest on the right it curves sharply. I've had more than a few close shaves on this hill. Why bother coming this way? I could have just continued along Coonan Street and Moggill Road through Taringa and into Toowong from the south west. I start to edge onto Swann Road and the reason comes into view across the crest of the hill. Swann Road runs along a fairly distinct ridge to the south west of the city and from it you get an uninterrupted view of the city skyline, fine dots of light in the distance. Unfortunately it doesn't last long. The length of the ridge is lined with apartments and houses, each one grabbing their own piece of the view. Just when you think you're going to get another glimpse, a tree or shrub jumps up and blocks it, or another sweeping high speed curve forces your attention back to the road. But that initial glimpse is enough for now.

Through the roundabout, down Gailey Rd (which becomes Brisbane Street, which becomes Benson Street, which becomes Coronation Drive, all in the space of a few hundred metres), turn off Benson Street into Glenn Road and on to Archer Street and I'm there. That's when I realise I'm running a bit ahead of myself. I'm still coming down Gailley Street past Sir Fred Schonell Drive. Anything can happen between now and when I get there. Look! That concrete construction in the middle of the Glenn Street intersection. When did that get put there? Obviously designed to stop people like me from cutting the corner. I duck to the left to avoid it giving me a short burst of adrenaline to wake me up before arrival. A quick twist of the throttle up Glenn Rd, right up around the hill on to Archer Street and the ABC studio comes into view.

Welcome to another day at work. At least this one started the right way (even if it didn't continue that way for very long). Now I get to look forward to the ride home.


Colin Smith said...

Nice. :)

Y'know, that dread feeling you get from Tennyson may be in part from the Vampire game that we regularly had there all those years ago...

Leonard King said...

Dread's probably not the right way of looking at it, but the place definitely holds a special, somewhat mythical place between that and my locating the main insect hive in the old power station for the Bug City game. The night spent sneaking into the train depot, Jo's un-birthday throwing baloons and cake off the bridge, it's all good. It's just that kind of place to me.

Colin Smith said...

Holy crap, I remember that. Wow.