There's a hill between our house and my mum's. A hill that was once a stomping ground for me and my best friend, often alongside other kids in the neighbourhood. Today, out on our most successful family ride in recent times (no punctures), we made it to the peak and gathered ourselves for the downhill. Although unexpected, the trip I took back in time as we raced down the hill was easily as refreshing as the wind in my hair.
First, the "S"s. A winding pathway from the gully at the top, weaving through rocks and overgrown grass, switching back and forth five or six times before finally straightening out. The challenge set by my five older brothers was to make it through the "S"s without touching your brakes. We would sit alongside the path on the rocky outcrops, cheering each other on to incredibly unsafe speeds on such tight turns, not a helmet in sight. I'm not sure I ever made it through without pushing back on my pedal brakes, and today my knuckles were white after the second bend.
I call the story to my family behind, as I notice the bushes with the clearing on the right that once served as our best cubby ever. It had dual two entrances plus a sneaky back pathway to escape should we come under attack and need to make a run for it. Mighty acorn battles were fought on that hillside with the boys from the other side of the path, the rear exit being our only escape on more than one occasion.
Next, we round "the bars" where countless hours of twirling and dangling took place, on a handrail bar perched along the top of a steep rock wall. The wall itself once housed our fairy kingdoms, filled with moss and imagination. I recall with a shiver one friend coming off a skateboard as she belted down the hill alongside the bars. Over thirty years later I still look for a sign of the blood trail. I tell my son about Spaghetti Head, the dreadlocked dog that struck fear into our hearts and sent us fleeing in every direction, including up a tree if there was no other option. Then you'd wait, hoping the owner would call the dog or one of your friends were brave enough to mount a counter attack.
As we park the bikes at Mum's and head around the back, another waft of nostalgia hits me, right in the nostrils. We are greeted by the smell of my Nonna's pizza, freshly made by my mum, full of tomato, basil and garlic goodness. It's the perfect way to end this ride into my childhood, and much needed fuel to get back up that hill home. I remember all too well at this point, that part was never much fun.
Spaghetti Head. Still terrifying.