Monday, July 15

Shadrach, Horshack, and Jeaph On The Fiery Furnace Mountain

Near the top of the climb there is a scorch mark on the pavement where someone’s car apparently overheated and caught fire.  By that point, if you’re a mere mortal cyclist like myself, you have plenty of time to reflect on the irony and ecstasy of that image.  Overheated.  Cooked.  Blown up.  Redlining.  Failed to summit. Destroyed.  If there had been a burned out hulk of a car heaved over into the ditch it would have only fed my apocalyptic mood.

Do you remember that Biblical story of the Four Horsemen in the Fiery Furnace?  Well, the Four Horsemen ended up being not four climbs but four riders.

I didn’t end up doing my epic Drip Rock ride.  Jeff had this imaginary cabinet job he supposedly had to finish, and we both had far too many social engagements and just not enough time.  After talking for a bit on the phone (in lieu of a protracted text dialogue) it became clear that a Friday afternoon ride greatly reduced the stress of our complicated lives.  Sort of.

Afternoon rides go against my entire riding ethic.  To enjoy riding I do my utmost to avoid vehicular traffic.  I’m comfortable riding in traffic, but I prefer not to.  Mornings, mid-days, middle of the night… all preferable to fighting with the stream of motorists speeding home at the end of a work week.

So as car after car gunned past me as I crawled up Furnace Mountain my ire boiled slightly.  It was really a miniscule ire that boiled off and was gone even before the first car had charged out of earshot.  I was suffering more than usual and had little energy left over for contemplating transportation injustices.

“Car back!” I called over and over as more tired laborers passed me and headed upward toward Jeff, Roger and Keenan.  At first Jeff relayed the warning upward until he and I were thoroughly dropped, and then I stopped calling out because I was finally dropped.  They were on their own.  I felt conspicuously guilty for being part of a party of four that was inhibiting the commuting patterns of my fellow Powell Countians.  But, contrary to my nature, I was enjoying the ride so I kept right on pedaling.

I crested the climb and after a few hundred yards of increasing speed I saw Jeff waiting by the phenomenal overlook of the Red River Valley.  He waved me on as he urged his bike toward the road so I kept right on going. After a couple of minutes I caught up with Keenan and Roger, but Jeff still hadn’t caught me.  They were waiting on us slow-pokes, and as I rolled to stop near them I spoke, jerking a thumb over my shoulder.  Jeff was considerate enough to come around the curve a few dozen yards back right then:

It's hard to pull someone's bike shorts over the back of their saddle when they're wearing bibs, but I managed anyway.”

I was rewarded with chuckles.  I really shouldn’t be rewarded for my attempts at such humor, but people keep rewarding me so I keep attempting.

We continued on out Furnace Mountain over continuous but deceptively fun rollers.  We’d come a ways to get to the bottom of Furnace and by continuing deeper into the plateau we were committing ourselves to more and more of the same “fun” rollers.  Well, all of us except Jeff.  He was just getting closer to home with each pedal stroke.

We regrouped (read: they waited for me) at Furnace proper.  While we were stopped at the intersection two older gentlemen in a pickup pulled up and asked directions to a hunting cabin in the area.  They mentioned the name of someone I was unfamiliar with.  As fate would have it, a delivery truck came rolling toward the intersection we four cyclists and the two men in the truck were occupying.  Wouldn’t you know it…?

“Hey!” I called to the driver as he slowed through the intersection.  He glanced our way, smiled and stopped.  It was my brother-in-law.

These guys are looking for So-and-So.  Do you know where he lives?”

Josh didn’t recognize the name, though if anyone within earshot would have it would have been him.  He’s been a parcel deliveryman in the area for a few years and knows his way around better than most.

I thanked him and he went on while Jeff and I tried to give the guys some direction to help them find their lost hunting cabin.  They thanked us and took off down a narrow road and we headed off toward more miles of rollers.

They dropped me on the first short hill out of Furnace and I didn’t see them again for a while, but I cranked on, enjoying the amazing weather and just being out on the bike under the sun, not level with it, or even above it in complete darkness.  Commuter traffic didn’t penetrate too heavily into the backwoods where I (we) were riding.

After a nice long 40+ mph descent I stopped at the spring box at Rogers Chapel and filled my water bottles.  I knew the other Three Horsemen were probably loitering near or at Jeff’s place, but I didn’t plan on staying long.  I needed to keep on going down the road so I could eventually return home.  I’d carried the Laser with me though, so I could stay out as long as I needed/wanted.

Jeff was in his festive shoes with his bike shoes dangling over his handlebars and Roger and Keenan were pointed toward Slade when I reached the junction of High Rock and Pilot Roads.  Physically I was worked over.  My spirits were stoked somewhat by the fine evening air and just being out in the woods with the potential of some wickedly good vertical relief between me and a good meal.  But I was tired from trying to hang on with the two younger guys and Jeff.  Jeff was pretty beat, and I could see he’d been struggling to hang on with those guys too.  Maybe.  Once.

Jeff and I chatted for a few minutes as the other guys rode off to return to their cars.  I eventually followed but at a slower pace.  By then I knew I wouldn’t catch up with them so there was no use trying.  I climbed up to High Rock ever so slowly enjoying my relaxed pace.

Then I was screaming down into South Fork from one of the high points in the county.  All that fatigue was blown out of me as I cranked with gravity for a few miles, but then it started to settle back onto me as I hit the flats and was faced with a 10 mile return home devoid of potential energy.

I detoured to Joe’s but he wasn’t home so I continued on toward Stanton.  I was tired, but satiated when I rolled back into the Red River Regional Bikeport.  I knew I had been overdoing it the previous days and should rest, but that ride just whetted my appetite.  I wanted to eat, sleep, and ride in the morning.  But after my ride with Mark and the broken chain, my first time that night going to a yoga class, a meeting commute on the Xtracycle into downtown Lexington from the office, and then the Fiery Furnace ride all without appropriate recovery behavior or food…I was starting to wear down.  

Got a text from Jeff about 10pm.

Ask "Mandy been-crankin'" [Like the actor Patinkin] where our peaches at? I woulda had peach cobbler tonight!

After a girls’ afternoon out ride Mandy had promised Casey some fresh peaches from her sister’s peach tree.  On our ride we went right past her house.  We were too spread out on the road at that point so we didn’t stop.  But we still talked about peaches and value-added products that could be made from them during the ride.

They're up on furnace mountain hanging on a tree.  They have not been put in a can by a man in a factory downtown.

Then I twisted the knife (with three separate texts):

Mandy's going to make some at our house. 

Peach cobbler that is. 

With homemade whip cream.

To which Jeff replied:  I shouldn't have gotten you going. Now my phones chiming more than the back door of a Texas whorehouse!

When did you live in Texas?

Years ago. I had a bit of an addiction but it was great there, our friends always brought us peaches.

I’m not sure if he was addicted to chimes or peaches.

Maybe you should get them to send you some now.

But you’re our new friends and you have peaches AND you’reso much closer

I’ll give away the ending: I took peaches with me when the kids and I went up to help the Mozhican clan work on their trail on Sunday.  I’ve yet to see peach cobbler materialize at either the Chainring or Mozhican family compounds.

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