I had no idea where to go. The 20km bike route from Manly to Glebe was scribbled in a notebook in Barret’s backpack and he had just disappeared.
When I finally reached the apex of the hill, the corner of Sydney Road and the A8, I hopped off my bike and scanned the intersection. Because he and our friend John had disappeared so quickly, my best guess was that they had turned left. However there were two routes in that direction- the sidewalk which went uphill and a steep road which went downhill. The road had no shoulder to ride down, was six lanes wide and crammed with traffic. A yellow sign near the intersection read pedestrians prohibited.
I waited a few minutes and when no one showed up I thought, stupid boys- they would take the most sketchy route possible. It wouldn’t be easy to cross six lanes of traffic and ride back up, so that must be the reason why they hadn’t reappeared. I slowly nosed my bike into the turn lane and waited for the light to turn green.
There’s a video I once saw of a break dancer spinning upside down in the middle of a large crowd. Halfway through his performance a small toddler walked into his path and was swept across the room by the break dancer’s helicopter move. That’s kind of how I felt skirting alongside the highway traffic, like a kid on a tricycle who had accidentally wound up on an F1 race circuit.
I pulled over as soon as I could and suddenly remembered my phone.
Where are you guys?
A response came within a minute.
Barret is heading back up the hill to find you.
Ten minutes later I still hadn’t seen Barret; it must have been a very long ride down. Realizing this made me feel both generous (if I head down now, it will save Barret having to go further uphill) and vindictive (if I wait a little longer Barret will have to retrace his steps even further). Either way, after seeing a couple of solo cyclists roar past, I decided that I should give it another go on my own.
When there was a break in traffic I rushed out into the far left lane and furiously peddled to pick up speed. Out of the right corner of my eye I saw Barret pushing his bike uphill. He stopped to wave his arms and then pointed downhill.
I was glad to see him, but exceptionally irritated that he had left me alone at the entrance to a highway. I also felt completely exhilarated because I was flying downhill. There was really only one way to express the duality of my feelings. I let go of the right hand grip and from across six lanes of traffic I showed Barret my best finger.
Thanks for waiting, look what I can do on my own!
Eventually Barret made it back down and found me and John resting under a shady tree at the bottom of the hill. I was worried he might be mad at me, but he rolled to a stop with a smile on his face.
“Good thing the rear break is on the left.”