This has been my favourite bike trail for as long as I can remember. It is about thirty-five kilometres, the entire route, and it takes me about two hours to cover on a good day. I am a slow cyclist, but in my endurance lies my strength.
As kids, we'd be panting by the time we reached the area with the grasslands and the beach. In our teens, we'd usually make it past the jungle but would return after a little picnic at the pier. It was only on my seventeenth birthday that we made it as far as the airfield, and since then I have never taken a shorter route.
But it was only as an adult that I first noticed the cyclists. The incredibly fast ones. Well actually, Annie pointed them out to me the first few times. We used to think there were five in all, we could not be precise though. They'd zap past us like a swarm of irate bees; it was impossible to tell how many they were.
We'd see them twice. The first time was always at the start of the grassland where they'd race past from behind us, leaving a vortex of buff-coloured air in their wake. Our second encounter with them was always somewhere in the thick of the jungle. They'd come hurtling towards us like a tornado. We would hear the whirring gears of their race bikes from afar. It was hardly sufficient warning. We would barely have time enough to dismount and step away from the path for safety, and they would have whizzed past us, leaving everything shuddering behind them.
"Amazing!" exclaimed a breathless Annie one day. "They are incredibly fast."
Her observation was accurate. The gang covered the entire route of thirty-five kilometres in the time it took us to cover two kilometres, which was about seven minutes on average. Which was more than twice the world record. You could always argue there was no certainty they went the entire way to and fro, and that we may simply have been beguiled into believing they were the swiftest. Back then I had no doubt in my mind; the cyclists hurtled at such breakneck speeds, it was impossible for them to stop or slow down before they had reached the very end.
Our hearts and minds, free of the nagging doubts that age brings, we cycled in the East Coast Park as often as we could. As we grew older, we were not always able to go as far as the airfield, but we always crossed the grassland into the forest and waited for our winged cyclists to race past. They never disappointed us.
I married Annie when I was twenty-four and she, twenty-six. We had twin daughters a year later. Little darlings they were, they took to cycles like moths to a flame, much to the delight of Annie and me.
We moved away from the East Coast when the girls were two. We moved up north, real estate was arguably more affordable there. So it was a good fifteen years before Annie and I decided to move back to the East Coast. By then, the girls had flown the nest. I was forty and disillusioned with life. So was Annie. And because wisdom and good sense tend to dawn upon us only after we have indulged in a bit of foolishness and labelled it as mid-life crisis, Annie and I decided to plunge our life savings into setting up a bicycle shop in the East Coast.
Business got off to a rocky start. Things had changed in the past decade and a half. We soon discovered that too few people took to cycles anymore. But the ones that did loved bikes with an ardent passion. This was the lot we catered to. A handful of avid bikers.
They were a delightful lot. They regaled us with tales of their rides, many having scooted past the airfield (we were euphoric to learn that the bike trail there had survived the onslaught of urban development) to discover many more bike trails, all paths leading them to regions of surreal beauty.
We wondered if the supersonic bikers still stormed the East Coast Park but none of our clients seemed to have a clue. But that was not altogether surprising; not everyone's paths led them through grasslands and forests and bridges. But even so, none of our customers had bikes that could propel them to inhuman speeds. So when business affairs had settled to a comfortable routine, having grown mostly by word of mouth - the delightfully old-fashioned way - Annie and I decided to set forth on our Kona Entourages to rediscover our path.