Monday, May 12, 2008

Bypass: The Story of a Road

I’m heading to Canberra tomorrow to check out the Dreams on Wheels exhibition. I am lucky enough to convince myself that this activity is part of my ‘research’ when I should be cranking out the next paper or another interview transcript. To even further delude myself of scholarly productivity, I’ve taken to reading a novel called Bypass: The Story of a Road. Written by Michael McGirr, Bypass is the story about the Hume Highway as it runs from Sydney to Melbourne. McGirr, a 40yo washed out ex-priest, decides to ride his bike along the entirety of the Hume. As he goes from town to town, he weaves together a biography of the road with its history, local folk-law, personal observations and his own story of the journey. McGirr makes a lot of humorous comments. For instance:

Roads are political. Building them is a sign that somebody is the boss. Hitler built the autobahn to impress underlings. Osama Bin Laden built roads in Sudan in the early nineties after he had been exiled there, to let the people know he was a force to be reckoned with. There are men who concrete the driveway every time the daughter brings home a new boyfriend.

Furthermore, as McGirr rode through my old suburb of Ashfield, I had to crack up with laughter at the astuteness of his observations:

[I] had reached Ashfield where I turned onto the Hume Highway itself. There is a point in every city where the number of coffee shops and cafes is suddenly exceeded by the number of automotive businesses, a point where latte land gives a way to a fantasy of wheels. This is what delineates city from the suburbs and every year in Sydney the place moves a little further west. At the time I was riding it was easy to locate. It was marked by a hybrid business in Enfield where you could get your vehicle washed while you had a cappuccino.

So far, I’ve just rolled through Picton in the book and have learned the history of the Truckers blockade at the top of Razorback in 1979, which nearly bought Sydney to a standstill. I hope to read my way to Goulburn before my bus takes the Federal Hwy turn off to Canberra.


Anonymous said...

I'm reading it too.

RoZ said...

I've driven on that road so often I feel as though its my back yard. See some of my experiences here and there in my blog