Iain Treloar reflects on a lifetime spent riding up the same hill.
Up at the reservoir, the golden hills roll down to the sea. The air is hot and arid, and other than the distant howl of a truck’s engine brakes as it descends the Main South Road, it’s peaceful. A breeze sends a shiver through the stalks of the long grass, rattling them like cicada shells in a lunchbox.
It’s hard-earned, the climb to this point – the kind of incline that’s always a challenge, no matter how many times you ride it. As long as I’ve had a road bike, it’s been my little summer holiday fitness test. Some years I’ve felt my heart yammering against my ribcage, and seen black dots swimming through my vision. Some years it’s more restful, a meditative ascension of a straight steep road rearing to the sky. The road deviates just a little toward the top; you aim for that, but then there’s more. It burns the legs every time.
Once you finally reach the crest, the narrow strip of tarmac inexactly follows the ridge, occasionally diving through cuttings, before a stunning, twisty descent to the dam wall. No one seems to live up here other than surprised dairy cows. It’s rare to see any cars; the sprawl of holiday homes down the peninsula from Adelaide hasn’t quite reached this far yet. To Myponga Beach it’s a gravel road in and a gravel road out, with a gently lapping sea in the middle.
I’m not going that far this day– I’ve been out to Second Valley so my legs are tired, I’m running low on water, and I know that Marie will be waiting for me at Grandma’s place. But there’s something that holds me there a while longer. I think about the ride I’ve been on, but also the steps that have led me here. The stresses of work and life. The ways I could – should – improve myself. I resolve to sort my shit out; to be a better friend, son and partner, or at least try.
Far down the coast, Adelaide glistens through the shimmering heat. It’s time I keep moving. I pull a U-turn across the narrow road, point downhill and in a matter of seconds, without pedalling, I’m at 60km/h. I drop into a tuck and slice through the air, until life’s worries fade to murky background noise again.
It’s a cold clear winter morning, and I’m on my way to Adelaide for a funeral. The rising sun turns the farm dams below into little pools of liquid silver as the plane banks over the Fleurieu Peninsula to begin the approach. If I squint, I think I can just about make out the road to the reservoir, nestled in the folds of the rolling hills.
It’s a flying visit and I haven’t brought my bike, but I think back to that morning up at the reservoir, three years and a lifetime ago. Like the Radiohead song goes, I’m fitter, happier, more productive, comfortable, not drinking too much. I count out the ways my life has changed – three houses, five bikes, four trips overseas and two lines on a pregnancy test. The plane straightens its course and the hills above Sellicks slide out of view. It suddenly occurs to me that next time I’m here, Marie and I won’t be travelling solo, and I know with the clearest certainty that the steps and missteps I’ve taken to this point were the right ones. How much joy that brings me – to imagine the day I’ll be able to ride up that hill with my child, look over this landscape and tell the stories of a lifetime of summers here.