Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Four Days Off

With inclement weather threatening the east coast, I was unsure what direction I should head for the upcoming four day weekend. The primary objective was to get in some nice long rides in the mountains with good friends. Things were looking a bit ominous down south, but at the last minute I decided to go for it. “Go big or go home” is what I always say! On a whim I also invited my good friend Mike, from the hinterlands of Maine, to join me on the journey south. From years of his father’s travels, he has been blessed with a wealth of frequent flyer miles with which he was able to get a last minute flight to D.C..

So, I picked Mike up on Thursday night from DCA and by Friday morning we were heading south to the mountains of southern Appalachia. All evidence of snow disappeared once we were in southern Virginia and we bee-bopped down highway 81 happily day dreaming of the endless miles of single track patiently waiting for us in the Pisgahs. So, you can imagine our shock when we arrived in Hendersonville, NC to find a nice thick layer of snow on the ground. In addition to the large supply of snow, it was also uncharacteristically cold for the south with lows in the single digits and highs reaching a balmy 22 degrees.

On Saturday morning we gave it the good college try. Heading up Black Mountain Trail, things didn’t seem so bad. The trail was littered with bits of snow and icy, slushy, mud puddles…but nothing we couldn’t handle. As we continued up the mountain the snow seemed to get deeper at an exponential rate until our ride became more of a hiking trip. So, we decided to turn around and give the gravel roads a try. The gravel roads proved to be more navigable (although the snow was equally as deep) and the climbing helped to warm our legs back up. My right foot was skating that fine line between being painfully cold and completely numb as the ice and snow slowly made their way through my intricate combination of booties, shoes, plastic bags and socks.

I knew the descent was going to be painful….and indeed it was. By the time we got back to the car frozen snot-sicles hung from my face, my feat had turned to numb blocks of ice, and there was just enough strength left in my hands to apply the appropriate amount of pressure to the breaks. Once we were safely inside the cab of my truck (aka “Anna’s Sauna”) it wasn’t long before we had thawed out and were once again in good spirits.

That evening we decided to see what the Hendersonville night life had to offer. First we stopped at a local bar to play a little pool. By some crazy stroke of luck Mike ended up beating the town pool shark who was appropriately nicknamed “Redneck”. Upon being dethroned, Redneck made a point to repeatedly remind me that it was “just a game….not a big deal…doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things…it’s just a game.” So, the yankee beat the rebel on his own red clay soil, but it’s just a game….not a big deal…really doesn’t matter.

Heading back to the car our attention was drawn to a cacophony of music and cheers pouring out from the local pro wrestling venue known as the House of Pain. Peering in through the window we were quickly invited inside (cover charged waved) to watch the final fights of the evening. The doorman enthusiastically rattled off a roster of fighters such as Baby Face, Dusty Roads, and Freddy Valentine in hopes of convincing us to return for the next fight to take place on February 16th. Although I am not familiar with the likes of these men, I must say I am slightly tempted to return….and it does fall on another federal holiday….coincidence? (more photos to follow)

What a show! The wrestlers appeared from behind a curtain of smoke accompanied by theme songs and strobe lights. Some of them even came as far as Michigan and New York just to have their chance to throw down in the one-horse-town that is Hendersonville. The spectators were equally as entertaining as young and old were elbow to elbow yelling insults and obscenities at the fighters in the ring. Tomorrow they will most likely be shoulder to shoulder at church belting out praises to the Lord with the same raw emotion. This is the stuff that binds communities!

Due to trail and weather conditions, the following two days would be spent doing long trail runs. Although I was sad not to be on my bike, it’s never a bad idea to mix it up in the winter. Cross training in the winter gives your mind a break from the racing scene, and your body a chance to recover from another season of saddle sores.

So, all-in-all, it was a good trip. Mike and I got some riding and running in, I got to see my family, and the House of Pain just gained a new fan. Can’t wait for February 16th!!!

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