North Fork Mountain Run......the run that wasn't.
I made it over the mountain and stopped in Franklin to stock up on burgers, dogs, cheese and diet coke, all the staples for a weekend of fun. Pulling into Seneca shadows I noticed that it was not any cooler in the mountains. I was the second person to arrive at the campground. I staked out a nice spot and set up the tent. A young family from Preston county had spent the previous week camping in Pocahontas county and arrived early for NFM. They pitched their tent then promptly took it down, packed the van and headed for the local motel. An ominous sign? Perhaps.
Friday 8/12/05 @ 14:30 Robert arrives dressed in shorts, black socks and dress shoes. We set up camp and cracked the cap on two cold Heinekens. We sat in the shade and enjoyed a few more. Earlier in the day I had passed on breakfast and lunch in anticipation of this evenings bounty of grilled dogs and burgers. The combination of an empty stomach, soaring temperatures and cold beer sent my head spinning so I said to Robert, "let's go for a ride". We donned our riding attire and snaked our way through the campground. Before we could even make it to Rt. 33, a slightly impaired Robert swerved into my rear derailer, clipped a spoke on his wheel and then his tire went flat. We stopped to change the tire and mid-way through the procedure a young couple from Michigan walked up to us and asked us what we were doing. We told them that we were going on a drunk bike ride. The young husband, Jason, asked if he could come along. We said "sure, but were not responsible for what could, may and most likely will happen to you because we're drunk". He raced back to his camp and assembled his very expensive Cannondale bicycle. After brief introductions and an exchange of pleasantries were finally on the road.
It is 10 miles to the top of Allegheny Mountain with it's summit lying just in the shadows of Dolly Sods. The climb begins with gentle rolling hills that soon stretch their way towards the heavens. As we began to climb, Robert and Jason dropped me off the back end of the slow moving train. The climb started at 9 percent for two miles then 10 percent for another couple miles until the summit. I was working hard and would frequently come out of the saddle only to have my quads fail and leave me desperate to make another revolution of the crank. The road never seemed to end. I kept looking up just to see one more switch back. I unzipped my jersey and took off my helmet. I pictured myself on the road to Le Alp D 'huez with a multitude of crazed fans cheering, waving flags, ringing cow bells, with the devil running along side of me parting the way just at just the last second allowing me to peddle my way to victory when just then the alcohol wore off, my mind cleared, and a log truck nearly made road pizza outta me. With a new found sense of sobriety, I kept climbing and finally reached the summit where Robert was standing by a large sign reading "Eastern Continental Divide". It was all worth it. We shook hands. The guy from Michigan said, "I thought you guys were joking when you said you were drunk". We turned our machines to the east and descended the mountain.
We returned to camp and grilled burgers and dogs for Hillary and Lauren. The girls gobbled up their hamburgers like they had just won a reward challenge on the television show Survivor. I'm concerned that their parents might not be feeding them properly. After a nice meal and some socialization, we turned in for the evening. Robert had knee surgery this spring and runs with a hitch in his gimp. Not that he always didn't have a hitch, but it just isn't any better. It's like running on egg shells barefoot through a lava field in January with one of those freak characters from that mid '70s show H&R PufnStuff chasing you http://www.albany.net/~genxtv/krofft.html. I, myself, just coming off the throws of a heat induced delirium tremens brought about by the evil Purple Trail at Catherine's Fat Ass. Yes, I actually believe I saw someone named Catherine, and she had a fat ass. Bottom line, "it just isn't any fun". We only come to the mountains to have fun, so instead of suffering the ill effects of the mountain heat two weekends in a row, I/we opted to skip the NFM run and spend the day pursuing other adventures.
Saturday 8/13/05: We made sure the kids had breakfast (left over hot dogs and diet coke) and adult supervision (Robert and I are not qualified to be called supervisors). We packed up our gear and instead of biking to Harman we drove to Harman and parked on main street. "What ya'll doin? . . . It's gonna get hot.". They were having a bake sale in town and we spent some time talking to the kind old fella at the laundry mat. We hurriedly pumped up our tires and headed north. It was warm as we began the ride up to Canaan Valley. Another 5 mile climb of 9-10% awaited us. Robert, again, left me to suffer like an animal. I wasn't feeling "anything special on this day". We eventually passed the turn off for the Laneville DNR cabin and the start of Highland Sky. I pointed out to Robert, the mountain we ran up at Highland. I recalled the suffering on the Road Across the Sky, and vivid memories of Highland came rushing back. I began to whimper. We crested Canaan Valley and raced across the valley floor. The temps were much cooler and we had a slight tail wind pushing us north.
Before you get to Davis you have one more short climb before you descend into the village. We made it to the top and raced down the hill crossing the Black Water River. My goal was to make it to Thomas and find Willy Lehmann and see his new Mountain State Brewing Company. We rode through Davis, into the suburbs of Thomas and finally into the downtown where the first thing we saw was a large building under construction. Like distant cousins at Sunday dinner, we snuck in the side door and made ourselves at home. We found Willy in the rafters with a hammer. After convincing him to put down the hammer and come down from the rafters, he seemed excited to see us and begrudgingly gave us the grand tour. Willy is a recent Uva grad and now a budding young entrepreneur. We climbed up on his newly constructed, yet to be inspected, deck and watched the large electricity producing windmills to the northeast spin around and around and around and around. It was cool, in the temperature sense, and we didn't want to leave, but Willy had some work to do and Robert had other plans.
On the ride through the suburbs of Thomas, Robert said, "I've cracked". I started to get a little nervous, but we were soon in Davis, seated at a table in the local pizzeria for a hand tossed, over roasted pie with 1/2 cheese and 1/2 sausage/onion. I had the cheese half. After a medium pie, two large diet cokes, and juke box version of Madonna singing "Like a Virgin" Robert was able to scrape together just enough one dollar bills to pay our waitress, Jessica Simpson. We were on the road again.
We crossed the Black Water River and began our return trip. Not a stones throw out of town, next to where they kick people from northern states out of town, Robert displayed the classic signs and symptoms of "sausage induced hyperglycemia" I knew that if I didn't act fast he could get into some serious trouble. Thinking with the speed of my cuzin, I attached a short piece of twine I found lying along side the road to Robert's handlebars. I then began to tow him like a novice skier up a bunny slope to Canaan Heights where we finally were able to begin our decent back home. As we made our way through Canaan Valley a strong head wind slowed our return giving me time to reflect on the last few miles of Highland Sky and the amazing things that can be accomplished with a gas powered weed wacker. We stayed down on the bars and pushed it over the edge of the valley floor and dropped back down into Randolph County. The last down hill pushed speeds of 50 mph. My knuckles turned white and I experienced some GI cramping, but by then, I had cut the twin attached to Robert's handlebars and we were both able to hold on all the way to the bottom. A few short miles later we were back in Harman, smiling at the bakesaler's as we paraded down main street back to our truck. We loaded up the machines and on the ride home Robert nodded off.
We pulled into camp expecting to see a host of runners. Not so. Couzin Bill was standing by his truck. I turned up the volume knob on my stereo with AC/DC at 50 watts max power all in an attempt to get his attention. Surely Angus banging out the licks on his guitar could bring a smile to my cuzin's long and drawn out face. No response. I thought that he must be ignoring me, so I honked the horn and again, not even a bat of the eye. Uh Oh. Come to find out, it was not so cool on the NFM. Many runners didn't carry enough water and ended up wishing someone would build a Go Mart up on that ridge. Bill had a glassy stare and voice that would rival any women who answers a 900 number. Others looked like walking Zombies. Others were refueling with Bud Lite, but most, enjoyed a hot, dry 24 miles of NFM.
Two days, two rides, no running, but a grand time with good friends. Thanks to Dan and Jody for providing an excellent venue to get into all sorts of trouble.