Saturday started out chilly – 38 degrees Fahrenheit. There were five of us making our way to Rutherfordton, NC. Because of the small group, there were no attacks, no sign sprints, and no drops. We kept it relaxed. On our way my good friend asked me if I remember the time him and I conquered Cane Creek Mountain Road. I said yes, and shuddered thinking we were heading that way again.
The area is beautiful, with mountains poking out from the landscape and houses sitting high up as if they were accidentally dropped there from helicopters. On one mountain in particular you could see a clearing amidst the trees where the road rolled over the top. It looked like God flicked his finger and cleared away a small section of pines. This was Cane Creek Mountain Road. It is a bout a 4 mile stretch between Interstate 64 and Highway 226 in Bostic, NC. From either direction you start climbing and didn’t reach the apex until somewhere in the middle. The side we chose was the most difficult, reaching moderate grades of 12-14 percent, but no switchbacks.
I’m no climber. Neither is my bike. I’m 6 foot even, 183 pounds lean. My bike is a cheap Cannondale with its easiest gear ratio at 39/23. So I had to battle the road standing the whole way. I won but had to pay for it in the days to come when sitting or walking up stairs.
So when my friend said that Cane Creek had nothing on the road we were climbing today I almost wept.
Fire Tower road had grades of 18 percent and better. It was a 2 mile staircase with a few nasty switchbacks. We started climbing. And climbing. And climbing. And climbing.
There are single moments in life when something goes off internally- a snap or click if you will. This snap sometimes leaves an enduring scar. Like when a bully gets the best of you, you retaliate, and you still get beat down. Or a girl you pursue for a long time by sending her endearing anonymous letters, only to find out later that when she realized it was you she laughed publicly with her friends. (These things have never happened to me personally, but I’ve heard of such tales.) Well, if you believed my last sentence then this hill climb was that snap. But this snap was a close encounter with cardiac arrest. It was dually triggered by fear and pain on a different level. A physical pain deep in my legs and chest and a fear that the pain would send me to a morgue. Death doesn’t point a finger and snicker with other pigtailed school girls. When Death points the outcome is more severe. After the second switchback I could see his ghastly, wizened finger uncurl toward me.
My pulse was so deep - so strong - that my breathing became affected by it. The Jell-O that now filled the hollow places in my legs began to sizzle. My entire body weight was shifting to each pedal stroke but it felt like the cranks were welded in place.
I began wondering if I had a wish left over from that Genie I freed from its bottle in my youth. He gave me only three, right? I must have used them up on useless crap like money or fame or the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle all my friends have but we were too poor to even know who Evel Knievel was. Then it hit me: what Genie? I never had any wishes.
It was just me, this mountain, the guy ahead of me, and the three behind me. Were they suffering like this? Did they want to give up, turn around, and zoom down the way we came? Apparently not. I could see the guy ahead making another turn up deeper into the heavens. And when I turned to look behind there they were, edging up toward me.
Masochistics. They wanted me to suffer like this. Probably getting off on it too.
Then I saw them: Heaven’s gates. I have heard of these but always thought of them as sort of a cartoonish metaphor. Did heaven really have gates? To me heaven was an open and free land. Either you got there or you didn’t. But I guess I was wrong because as the Lords as my witness (and soon to be close encounter) there they were – but black not pearly like all the stories stated. And I saw a sign. No, not a sign from God. A sign on the gates: No Admittance. Use Pin Number to Open Gate.
I didn’t die and go to heaven. I suffered and wound up at a gated community high up on a mountain.
Everyone made it. So we talked and laughed, took a pee near the surveillance camera, then flew back down the way we came. I was clocking speeds over 41mph. I could have easily gone faster but at each switchback I had to Conan the brakes to make it around the turn. As soon as you let off the brake handles – BOOM – the sound barrier was broken.
What a blast.
We did fifty something miles that day with an average just over 17.
Last edited by substructure; 12-18-06 at 03:09 PM.