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Doctors Orders

May 19, 2011

Rare Moment: Jeremy and I at Rest (LDC photo)

Today was the first day of 2011 to get over 70 degrees (3/11/11), so Dr Jeremy and I met up early afternoon to ride.  The Bonnie’s new front sneaks only got 70 miles yesterday, and I want them thoroughly broken in for our run up to Henry’s next weekend with Racergirl, so more corners were in order. 

It was J’s turn to lead, and somehow I ended up directing our trip anyway.  Did I mention I have control issues?  We headed south along 25A, hooked left onto Mills Gap, then a quick left onto Pinner’s Cove Rd.  Just after Killer Corner, I took us right onto Merrill Cove. 

Killer Corner is my pet name for a short stretch of Pinners Cove, that appears during a long downhill with pretty evenly spaced corners of consistent radius.  You’re in for it when you notice that you’re pretty comfortable until this one right sweeper gets suddenly tighter.  This radical reduction in radius demands all your attention, so you are unprepared for what comes next: 50-100’ of straight road that suddenly dives into a 180 degree downhill left…and there’s a drop-off if you run wide. 

Once on Merrill Cove, the road relaxes into fewer hills and more valleys.  The day was exquisitely bright yet no trees have leafed out.  The underbrush is starting that green haze down low, but overhead the barren branches turn the midday sun into a strobe light against my face shield.  Spring was everywhere, and it was the first time since Oct 2010 that the skin of my neck between helmet and jacket was enjoying the rush of wind.  Without leaves, you can see well down the road which allows for great awareness of the terrain ahead.  This is a magical time of year to ride.  Warm, but no trees to obscure corners…yet. 

Merrill dumps onto Concord, and Meriwether Lewis (that’s me) takes a right instead of left.  This quickly dumps us back onto Mills Gap, less than ½ mile from where we got onto Pinners Cove.  Realizing that I’ve led us into a circle on what was supposed to be a ‘medium length ride’, I relinquish the controls to Dr J.  I smile behind my helmet when he leads us back onto the same route: he liked it and wants to practice Killer Corner again.  No complaints from me.

My ride up until this point has been the usual choppy ham fisted affair when I’m leading.  The good doctor is one of the people I love to follow because he’s smooth.  Once he dials in a speed for the conditions, he stays there.  He sets a spirited pace, but is never reckless. By the time we’re half way round our second lap on Merrill’s Cove, I’ve settled down considerably from just following him.  I’m able to read the road better as I watch his silver Arai reappear thru the bare forest in a distant corner.  

The Zone has found me again, and my senses come alive.  I’m thinking about nothing, yet I’m aware of everything.  It’s warm, so warm that there are no residual cold spots along streams or in the shade.  The dry afternoon heat has coaxed creosote smell from old chimneys which has become the background for the other olfactory observances of the season: manure, cut grass and dozens of blooming trees. 

The streams are still swollen from all the rain of a few days ago, and I can’t keep from smiling when I catch short glimpses of wild water roaring over rock streambeds.  Forsythia yellow shouts at us as we roll past.  Trees are pink and white with blossoms.  Hawks and Vultures can be seen all day working thermal currents above West facing rocks. 

J leads us onto Cane Creek and we hook east to grab 74A.  This road is a good rest from the constant twisties of the last 20 miles, and I allow my mind to wander.  I’m amazed at my ride yesterday, and today is working out to be just as good.  This area we live in is not to be believed if you subscribe to the theory that life begins with a twist of the wrist exiting a corner.  I know that J will be taking us out to Garren Creek for that little stretch of curvy heaven between 74A in Fairview and Rte 9.  I’m salivating in anticipation.

 Just like people all look different, so do roads out here.  No corner is the same, the radii all change constantly.  Some roads look like they were laid out on horseback, the rider pouring a trail of flour to mark the way.  Others have a fine camber with consistency of turn that only a grader with a GPS can create.  Garren Creek tends toward the former in the beginning, and the closer we get to 9, the road becomes somewhat modern. 

So, here I am, totally settled in behind Dr. J, and I notice another thing: seldom do I see illuminated brake lights from him, and he doesn’t appear to need to shift that often either.  I start to pay more attention to his (lack of) braking and his corner rhythm.  This unlocks a stuck mental cog for me, and I begin to ride a more consistent speed with less highs and lows and less braking.  My right hand begins to feel like its being controlled by a neurosurgeon, the changes are very very slight.  A couple times I don’t feel any transition from front braking and throttle movement. Did I just do that?  This makes my Inner Rider smile.  I don’t want this ride to stop. 

It doesn’t.  Once he hits 9, Doc takes us back towards Bat Cave, and we head into Chimney Rock for refreshments in the shade.  It’s early afternoon on a Friday, so the Harley crowd are still at their jobs down in the flatlands and their ‘bad boy’ lifestyle apparel hangs in a lonely closet somewhere in Charlotte or Atlanta.  The espresso bar was closed (panic sets in here) but I do have a full water bottle.  Doc goes for death by ice cream; bemoaning that his new ‘Stitch is too tight already. 

I try to explain how much I enjoy following his lead but as usual the words sound hollow as soon as I get them out.  Maybe it’s because we were putting ear plugs back in at the time…  

We head home via 74A.  No tourists or Harleys to block the corners.  The river is pounding the rocks on our left as we slice thru Bat Cave, Gerton and Hickory Nut Gap.  I’m having a great time trying to keep a consistent speed and getting off on the rhythm that the corners provide when I don’t brake.  My mantra today seems to be “I am one with the throttle”…I am the throttle…the throttle is me…I throttle therefore I am… 

I pull up to J at a light where 74 gets all 4-laney and boring.  Then he says thru his helmet,

 “I’m thinking of hitting the Parkway North and getting off on Town Mtn to head back into town, you got time for that?” 

‘Of course’, says my mute thumbs up.  

Today was around 85 miles, all of it twisties and all of it good.  I still cannot believe how much I love this sport and how honored I feel to be able to enjoy these great roads with such good riders.

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