explained they ' d been lost for a while and were trying to get home .
" Is this the road to Gravel City ?" he asked . " It just seems a little unfamiliar that ' s all ."
The old guy nodded and pointed this thumb over his shoulder . " Yep , just keep heading that way ." The relief among the lads was audible . It was Bert who asked where the folks were heading . " That way ," the woman in the car said , pointing to where the lads had come from .
" Ahh , well there ' s a great little diner at the crossroads along that way . They do a fine burger , although it ' s kind of a weird place ," Max said .
The old bloke looked puzzled and gave a little laugh . " The Crossroads Diner ?" he asked . " Yeah that ' s it ," Bert chipped in . The old bloke shook his head and said he didn ' t think so . " The Crossroads Diner burned down in
1969 ... people died there . Hell of a thing ."
Max looked at Lenny and Lenny looked at Bert . Bert looked at the couple and noticed the woman had her head in her hands . " My wife was there ," the old guy said quietly . " And we were there a matter of hours ago ,"
Max said , his voice trailing off .
" I don ' t think much of your joke mister ," the old guy said . " Considering what happened at the diner back then ."
Max was shaking his head and apologised , but was insistent . It was Lenny who broke the strange ice . " There was an old black guy playing guitar and talking to a strange crazy-looking dude , he said ."
Upon hearing this , the woman gave a startled gasp .
" And the strange group of bikers and the two outlaw boys and the bloke in the suit with them . And there were hippies ." The woman ' s gasps became sobs . " No way ... no way ," her husband said as he shook his head .
Lenny ' s eyes widened , and he reached into his pocket . He pulled out a small sheet of notepaper which was adorned with flowers and pixies and fairies . On it there was the name Rosemary and a phone number .
" A girl there gave me this . She was really pretty ," Lenny said , showing the couple the note . " It proves we were there ." The woman in the car looked closely at the note and went pale . " I ' m Rosemary ," she said . " You never called ." Her husband stopped shaking his head and had also gone pale .
He gently touched his shaking wife ' s hand and asked if this is the ' Lenny ' she often talked about ? She nodded . No one said anything for a minute or two after that . " I escaped the fire ," Rosemary finally said . " A lot of my friends weren ' t so lucky ." Max asked about the strange riders . " They ' d gone by the time the fire came ,"
Rosemary said quietly .
" It was the crazy guy you saw with the old black guitar player ... he started it . It ' s like a nightmare now . Every year I go back to see the
spot where the diner stood to say a prayer for my friends who never got to grow old ."
The lads were stunned . Especially Lenny who could think of no way to explain why he had not called the young woman , now old enough to be his mother or even grandmother .
" I never got the chance ... I only met you a couple of hours ago ," he said quietly .
Rosemary got out of the car , walked around to Lenny and gave him a hug , then handed him another piece of note paper . It too had flowers and pixies and fairies around the edge . She had written a number on it . " Call it when you get home ," she said . Lenny pocketed it without a word , and could only manage a weak smile as Rosemary returned to the car and asked her husband to drive off .
" Don ' t ask me ," was all Max could say as the lads walked in a daze back to the Stuka . Max took a hard look at the last raw seed pod he found in his pocket and threw it into the dirt ... squashing it flat . They rode off , and within minutes were battling a dust storm which mysteriously erupted from nowhere and cut visibility close to zero .
It cleared as quickly as it had whipped up , and Max gave a yell .
The road sign he spotted declared ' Gravel City 12 km .'
" Now I know where we are !" he cried out over the sound of the thundering engine .
Bert , who was riding pillion , yelled into Max ' s
ear . He asked if he could ride the final few kilometres .
" With the shitty luck I ' ve always had in races , being able to be the one to get us home would mean a lot mate !'" Max grinned and pulled over . At the same time a news helicopter circled overhead . Cameras were upon them . News was going out that the lost lads were coming home . People began pouring into the central city , many carrying hastily made banners of welcome home . Their families and mates were among the throng as word spread that the missing riders were on their way .
And Nod was there , chewing a steak sandwich as reporters pressed him for more details about what had happened out in the wilderness .
Bert took the controls and cruised the now misfiring sidecar outfit along the highway and into the city environs . People , waving and shouting , lined the way . Through the rapidly filling streets the lads rumbled their way toward the city square .
In sight of the massed throng Bert gave the Stuka a little more power and was then overcome by an inexplicable emotion .
He was convinced he ' d left the gas on before they ' d left home ... and promptly crashed the outfit just 50 metres from where their mates had strung a sort of finish line . Happy Bert Day had brought closure to their amazing adventure in the way only he could .
EPILOGUE : While recovering in hospital after being thrown out of the sidechair , Lenny unfolded the note Rosemary had given him and called the number . A young girl ' s voice answered . He explained how he got the number and who he was . There was silence for a moment before the girl replied her name was Rosemary . Same as my gran , she said , before adding solemnly that gran had died a couple of years earlier . Lenny was stunned . " A couple of years ago ? But I saw her a couple of days ago ... I ' ve got the note to prove it ." Young Rosemary sighed . " She told me two years ago that a boy called Lenny would one day call and now you have . I feel I already know you ... can I come and see you ?" Lenny smiled and said that yeah , that ' d be cool . Bert Day , so long psychologically crippled by the fear of having left the gas on , to his continual cost on the racetracks he loved so much , would go on to become World Moto GP champion . He achieved this remarkable feat by overcoming the fear of gas-fuelled fire consuming his home ( the way it did the Crossroads Diner ) by selling the gas oven and getting an electric stove on hire purchase . With the chequered flag beckoning , his mind at ease , he never faltered again . Nod McNab found himself something of an unintentional celebrity , due to his constant harping on about his lust for a decent steak . He was offered a contract by the local meat board and became a celebrity chef ... first doing appearances in malls and supermarkets and then getting a spot on an infomercials television channel . But the bad dreams continued to plague him . Dreams of the pilot scratching his way out of the shallow grave ... covered in sliced onions and garlic and medium well done . Max Chubb went on the speaking circuit and actually made a record called ' Flight For Your Life .' It sold 11 copies .
70 KIWI RIDER