Parramatta Valley Cycleway

The Parramatta Valley Cycleway first captured my imagination almost two decades ago. I was living in Armidale, with a clan of children younger than 12. And during an icy, windy winter in the highlands, I read of the Parramatta Valley Cycleway. I was captured, hoping that Australia was finally recovering that buried history of bicycle enthusiasm from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ensconced in an isolated town in northern NSW, I began dreaming of riding that cycleway with the entrancing name, of pedalling my way along the waterway, from Parramatta to the harbour, that defined the heart of the city and was its first major transport route.

Twenty years later I still ride it. Refurbished, resurfaced, extended and well sign-posted, it is a heavily-used arterial bicycle route, but it cannot erase the layers and layers of memory I have of the ride. There I would sprint into the setting sun, loaded with second-hand books from Gleebooks, on my way home to Parramatta. There is a good spot for a quick and quiet piss. There goes the old, bumpy and narrow bitumen track, overgrown by mangroves and now relocated with a wide cement path. There I would turn and feel the full force of the westerly wind on the ride home. There a 12 year old Tom, my second son, slipped on gravel on a corner as we rode a section in the early 90s. There is a new section, cutting out a loop or filling in a missing link. There Stephanie, my eldest daughter, wanted to turn around and go home as the rain came down. There is the new sign, with clear directions, destinations and distances, overshadowing the arcane older one, with a simple bicycle silhouette, that required an insider’s knowledge. There is the park (Putney) where I would play as a child. There we would turn off to go to Olympic Park for the Easter Show or perhaps to a lead-up event for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. There we – my children in various combinations and I – would stop for a drink and an energy hit during Cycle Sydney (now Spring Cycle). There I would race to catch the last of the Kissing Point ferries across the river for the morning. There is the turn if I missed the ferry, taking me over the Ryde bridge. There is the public toilet that is also a gay beat. There the quiet corner in which I dreamed of living during the turmoil of life. There the older layer of urban growth begins as I draw nearer to the harbour. There was the rich smell of spices from the warehouse on the odd corner. There goes the Rivercat as I glide past, on its way to Parramatta in a way that the old steamers used to do…

I never quite know when I will ride it next, but I am sure to do so.

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