ARM­CHAIR TRAV­ELLER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

This 2007 ro­man­tic com­edy trots out that well-worn theme of the grass is al­ways greener any­where but home. Mon­day, 8.30pm, Movie One.

Po­lit­i­cal satirist and ace im­pres­sion­ist Rory Brem­ner is the sub­ject tonight of this ex­cel­lent se­ries that jour­neys into gen­er­a­tions past. Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, BBC Knowl­edge. Su­san Kuro­sawa other end, pad­dling softly around the shore­line’s reeds. Such slow and lazy move­ment, while on the road it­self the con­crete stretches on and on, click­ety-clack, as I ride steadily north­west and the hot sun slips across the sky.

At the side of the road up ahead there’s a dead an­i­mal, well picked over by preda­tors and no longer recog­nis­able for what­ever it used to be. The road may be hot and sul­try, but it is not kind. It’s hard and noisy and can kill any­thing in a blink if it’s not un­der­stood and treated with re­spect.

Back in Wis­con­sin a cou­ple of days ago, rid­ing to Min­neapo­lis to start this jour­ney, I passed through a na­tional for­est, and there, ly­ing be­side the road, was a bald ea­gle, huge and glassy eyed, its neck twisted. The bird’s feathers were scat­tered across the lane: a ve­hi­cle must have struck it as it swooped down for prey. I rode past, then dou­bled back and looked more closely, peer­ing into its unsee­ing eyes and study­ing its sharp talons and per­fect beak. Even in death it was in­tim­i­dat­ing.

A few miles on, as I was half watch­ing wake­board­ers on a river that flowed along­side the high­way and was head­ing into the curves a lit­tle faster than usual, the tyres hit a se­ries of ex­pan­sion joints filled with lines of slip­pery black bi­tu­men. The lean­ing bike slid into the on­com­ing lane be­fore I could cor­rect it. Whoa! There was no one else on the high­way and it was no big deal, but this anony­mous road­kill here in Min­nesota is a re­minder of the road’s po­ten­tial treach­ery.

Af­ter a while there are rail­way tracks on the left and a train up ahead. The bike’s mov­ing at maybe 60 miles an hour (95km/h) while the train is press­ing along at 10 less than that, so in a few min­utes I catch up with it and be­gin to pass.

The box­cars are cov­ered in graf­fiti, and it’s tempt­ing to watch ev­ery car­riage as it slides by, read­ing the graf­fiti artists’ names. Even­tu­ally I reach the front and look across to the driver, who’s looking across at me. We wave to each other. Looking back, I see a black­bird fly­ing along­side on the right. Its red-tipped wings blur against the blue sky.

I take my feet off the pegs and skim them along the road, stretch­ing my stiff legs. Hold­ing the han­dle­bars for bal­ance, I lean into the wind, and it’s as if the bike is fly­ing. The bird soon goes away and the train soon drops be­hind, but the feel­ing stays there as the miles roll on, click­ety-clack, re­luc­tant to fade. This is an edited ex­tract from (UWA Press, $29.95). Su­san Kuro­sawa’s later this month.

by Mark Richardson

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