Caloundra. Friday, 9.45am
I haven’t lost my scooter skills. No way. Even my dodgy knee is keeping up. Yeah, I was born for two wheels.
I’m scooting around the end of the suburban street, as smug as a pollie, as I lean into a tight right-hander, right foot grazing the bitumen. Cool.
‘Follow me, Grandpa,’ says Granddaughter and does a neat figure eight on her new scooter, swerving elegantly. I can do that, and I follow her on her brother’s scooter, swerving maybe a tad more elephantly than elegantly.
We are a gang, we two. Scooter rebels. But as we are in Queensland, she has a brother posted on the corner as a lookout for cops, and I have a lawyer’s phone number in my pocket.
These scooters are different to the ones of my youth. They are smaller and seem more flimsy. The smallness is a reality – the wheels are tiny, like runners on a shower screen – but the flimsiness may be illusory due to the high-tech construction material. Or maybe they’re just flimsy due to the profit imperative.
I’ve always loved being on two wheels.
I had a scooter as a kid. It was made from Australian metal and its wheels were big. I also had a pushbike, a birthday gift from my parents. It had 28″ wheels, three gears and red plastic streamers attached to the ends of the handlebars. Living in hilly Gympie, gears were a good idea. But, as I found out, the streamers were a bad idea.
On my first ride, I was surrounded by a gang of cool boys on their bikes. A lot of them had ape-hanger handlebars; some had smaller front wheels for that chopper look; but the very coolest of them rode Dragstars. They laughed at my new bike, pointing at the red streamers.
In the 60s, Malvern Star produced the Dragstar which had smaller wheels, a banana seat, ape-hanger handlebars, and floor-shift gears set on the centre bar (right where maximum damage could be done to boys). Dragstars were the epitome of cool – but I had a regular bike with handlebar streamers.
Later that day, I cut the streamers off.
‘Follow me, Grandpa,’ says Granddaughter and flicks her scooter up a concrete walking track between two wooden posts. I follow her up the incline.
Interestingly, I discovered a Dragstar at the Uki markets recently. It has a glitter seat and white stars on purple paintwork. I bought it. Not for the kids, but for me. I finally get to own a cool bicycle.
‘Now let’s go down, Grandpa,’ Granddaughter says, flipping her scooter about and facing it down the hill, where the concrete walking track passes between the two wooden posts and back onto bitumen.
Sure. I’m up for challenges. I’ve ridden motorcycles along mountain tracks in Sa Pa. I’ve zipped through peak hour traffic in Ha Noi. I’ve skidded up impossible switchbacks to a golden stupa near Mandalay.
I can do this.
Granddaughter pushes off, places both feet on the scooter, and slips between the posts. She’s got style. She’d appreciate a Dragstar.
‘Come on, Grandpa!’ she shouts over her shoulder.
I push off. I develop a speed wobble as I approach the posts. Stay cool. I clip the right post with my dodgy knee, but I’m safely through. Hooray!
The wheels on modern scooters are very small.
Just past the posts, the front wheel catches in a crack in the concrete. More like a hairline fracture than a crack… and suddenly I’m lying face down on the concrete, looking very closely at a newly religious ant, and checking my teeth with my tongue.
‘Is that a trick, Grandpa?’