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Temazepam is a drug prescribed for insomnia and anxiety disorders. I took some a few years ago when my fear of flying was at it’s most abject and I needed to get to Christchurch. It worked perfectly. I assumed that there would be side-effects – drowsiness or incontinence or something. But there was none of that, it was just as if the part of my brain that worried about the plane crashing had been surgically removed. These days I’ve managed to get my terror under control, but I can still do with a little help. So wandering through Sydney airport on my way back to Auckland the other day I was very pleased to be offered a shot of ‘spiced’ Wild Turkey. While not as efficient as Temazepam, it did help take the edge (of fear) off.
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I was at least a couple of hours early for my flight, having left The Glenferrie Lodge (on Sydney’s glamorous North Shore) at about 11am with the vague plan of riding across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, along a nice cycleway to Darling Harbour, on to Cheeky Transport in Newtown and then out to the airport.
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The first thing I discovered was that the nice cycleway that appears on the map, seems to have been buried under an enormous building site. Darling Harbour was nice though. The second thing I discovered was that like Auckland, how pleasant your cycling experience is, depends very much on the route you take.
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Let me start from the beginning – the Off-Roadrat and I arrived in Sydney on a Monday afternoon, I was there for a work-thing, the bike was there to provide transport and entertainment. I had travelled in Air New Zealand economy, the ‘Rat had flown (fairly) safely packed in a Ground Effect ‘Tardis‘ bike bag. After retrieving my bike from the ‘fragile and oversize items’ baggage claim, I took it to a quiet spot outside the terminal and reassembled it.
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The bag is pretty minimalist – no wheels, not much padding, only just enough space for the bike. It took me about half an hour to put it back together, that is – to put the wheels, pedals, saddle, front-rack and handlebars back on. To minimise mess, I had removed all oil from the chain and waxed it.
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The Roadrat survived the flight ok, thanks I suspect to it’s robust chromoly steel frame. The wheels are also tough – they’re both 36 spokes on touring rims (the fat Bruce Gordon tyres probably help protect the wheels too). I used the remaining spaces in the bag to put things I didn’t want to take on the plane with me. Obviously one of the upsides to a minimalist bag, is that you can fold it up and carry it with you – which is what I did.
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I had done a little bit of research to see if there was a nice route from the airport to the city. I found one, and tried to follow it (I printed out the pages and stuffed them in to the clear sleeve on top of my front bag). It was indeed quite bike friendly, with some nice separated paths and was a good introduction to Sydney.
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I got lost a few times, and eventually made it to the waterfront. But then I couldn’t see how to get over to the North Shore where I was staying. So I asked a couple of locals, they told me to carry my bike up some nearby steps, ride through the Botanic Gardens, along the waterfront and then over the bridge. I couldn’t ride along the waterfront because it was closed due to some event, so I rode in circles trying to find a way to the bridge, until I eventually followed some signs that took me to the walkway that is attached to the side of it. It was super nice riding over the Sydney Harbour Bridge at night. There were people out running, and tourists taking pictures, and then a couple of German backpackers flagged me down and told me I shouldn’t be riding and that “ya it’s better for your life you know – if you get off and walk”. I said “yeah ok thanks” and then kept riding wondering what the hell they were talking about. But I later discovered they were totally right. One side of the bridge is only for cyclists and the other side is only for pedestrians and I was on the wrong one.
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Over the next few days I rode to and from the office I was visiting on the North Shore. Over there the roads are mostly nice and quiet, except where they’re really busy, and I found a brilliant cycleway next to a motorway. I rode around central Sydney which was mostly ok, and I took the ferry to Manly. Which I didn’t like so much – there are lots of bikes over there, but the official attitude seems very prescriptive. There were signs that pointed me to ride on the footpath in some places, and then signs in other places threatening to prosecute me if I rode on the footpaths. The best thing about going to Manly, was that it resolved something I’d been wondering about for at least 20 years – what the hell is the lead singer of Australian Crawl, saying in that line from ‘Reckless‘? “As the Manly ferry cuts it’s way to..” Sub Gillard bee? Sad killer knee? It hit me when I was buying my ferry ticket – “circular quay”! Hurrah, finally sorted that out.
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It wasn’t all city riding though – I spent one day doing a great ride outside of Sydney, which will be described in Auckland Bike Slob vs Sydney Part 2.