There can be little doubt that Port Elizabeth offers some superb opportunities for the ill-advised youths in Port Elizabeth to partake in speed related challenges. Needless to say, my brother Blaine has finally revealed some incidents in his ill-spent youth in which he might have met his maker long before his allotted three score and ten years.
Main picture: Blaine’s Yamaha which was the crux of Blaine’s follies
These stories are from the horse’s mouth, so to speak:
Brickmakers Kloof: Nearly Bust
Brickmakers Kloof was one of my favourite roads. It’s a steep downhill from Rink Street to the Baakens River. At the bottom is a left handed corner just made for boys with too much testosterone and not enough opportunities for release. I always used to test myself on the bike, a DT175cc Yammie. I was no foot peg scraper (quite hard to do on a high trail bike) but, just like when I was a kid, I pretended I was Superman, or at least Evil Knieval. I could do a respectable 105kph through the corner if I had had my oats that morning. Luckily that corner was nowhere near my normal drinking holes so I never attempted it drunk or I might not have been here to write this story.
It was a Saturday afternoon in 1976 and I was on my way to play hockey at UPE. (As an aside, hockey matches were played on Sundays mornings, except for those involving UPE which gives you an indication of how conservative it was.) It was a beautiful day as I roared downhill pretending I was Agostini. I was doing about 100 kph when I moved to the centre of the road and started canting it over judging to hit the apex when a bus coming from the opposite direction didn’t see me and started turning across the road just after the apex. He was coming to park the bus for the day at the bus sheds situated on the apex, on the inside of the corner – great city planning that. They were had a mirror on the side of the road so that they could check around the corner up the hill. Probably because of the convex nature of the mirror his image of a bike would have been very small and the driver hadn’t noticed me.
Being canted hard over, I gently tried the brakes. I was easy on the fronts as I would be lost if the front slid out but I could always control a speedway style back wheel slide. But being canted over, every time I hit the rear brakes, the back stepped out of line as expected while this huge bus kept coming inexorably across the road. Things were now beyond critical and I decided to go for broke. It was not time for prayers but resolute action. I was going to drop the bike and attempt to slide under the bus, aiming between the front and back wheels. I was just about to implement this desperate strategy when the bus eventually stopped halfway across the road. Since I had already passed the apex and was drifting to the outside of the corner again, it was a tight squeeze to wiggle around his front.
That was a serious sphincter tightening moment and I was never so gung ho around that corner again. Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be my last confrontation with a bus on Lower Valley Road but that would have to wait for another year, another vehicle and another story.
It should be noted that this is an aerial shot of the alteration of the bottom of Brickmaker’s Kloof after floods damaged the roads yet again. That sweeping bend does not exist anymore and Brickmakers Kloof Road has been permanently split into two and that is why Google earth view was not used.
Injudicious adolescent on White’s Road
It is worthwhile noting that bicycles were not allowed down Whites Road. The reason was that a kid (I think it was a little girl, but I am not sure) was killed when she couldn’t stop. This occurred sometime in our childhood I think.
Personally, I had an embarrassing moment at the bottom of the road. I was bombing down the road on my Yammie on my way to varsity. Due to the steepness on the hill, the tar was rippled at the bottom where heavy vehicles struggled to stop in the summer heat. The robots turned red at one of those delectably inconvenient times where one is not sure whether to brake or to go through. (Note that there is a circle around the Mayor’s Garden at the bottom of Whites Road and in front of the City Hall which is no more.)
I elected to brake which turned out not to be a good idea with the knobbly tyres that my bike was shod with. The bumps caused my rear wheel to lock. The result was that I ended up skidding through a red robot across two lanes directly at the Mayor’s Garden. In an attempt to avoid the fast approaching curb I tried to simultaneously go to the left around the circle. The result was a glorious speedway style skid with me propping the bike up with my left foot. Somehow the speed scrubbed off enough so that as I was about to hit the vertical curb of the Mayor’s Garden I could straighten up and accelerate around the Garden away from the scene of my embarrassment.
Again I was suitably chastened so I judiciously kept a low profile all the way to varsity.
Blaine did promise to provide me with an article on a near miss with a bus but it will have to wait for another day. This time he must be more specific as to the make and model of the bus.
I have already related my story with Port Elizabeth’s notorious downhills. That blog recounts an incident on the “dip” at Third Avenue Newton Park whilst on my bike [bike as on bicycle and not on a Yamaha trail bike as in Blaine’s case]
Be that as it may.
These stories all add credence to the adage of the follies of youth, most of which we survive, perhaps scarred physically but hopefully only mentally, and if one is really unfortunate, with one’s life.