Friday, March 10, 2006

Vertical Miles Per Hour

Milepost 431, the highest elevation of the Blue Ridge Parkway, seemed like a good place to pause and look over the Richard Balsam overlook. We have peaked our run some 296 linear miles from and 1.146 vertical miles above the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets at Charleston, SC, to arrive at this point on October 29, 2005.

Highway 176 begins at the outskirts of Charleston and winds a diagonal path through rural South Carolina to the north eastern boundary into North Carolina. Except for a few patches of festering urban sprawl, 176 meanders through vast stretches lovely countryside. What we have come to call " green spaces " in our desperately caged vernacular are actually vast areas of largely unspoiled territory. We are jealous of green space much as we covet Park Place on the Monopoly board. If one, but exits the interstate highway these are the paths they can follow.

The Saluda Grade was just the appetizer before sinking our teeth into the Parkway or perhaps it into us. The Parkway deals you ten, twenty, thirty gear changes in a linear mile and those miles don't just fly by, you earn them. Flat out speed, never our objective, isn't happening up there unless you plow through one of the frail guard rails and take the quick trip to forever. At times, 12 MPH is pretty thrilling. The hard charge up a grade provides the aggressive pleasures, but once a rise is crested, the descent calls in the defense which means down gearing and a judicious use of light braking. Frequently one encounters a steep down grade where water is running off the rock on to the apex of a very sharp curve.

When you let out the clutch you can throw out Photoshop. The parkway is photographic endorphins, its colors need no tweaking. Windveil is pictured much as a dog which found a bone, stole away a great distance and is now chewing on the prize while resting. The other half of the bone awaits. From the peak of the Parkway, it's again as much fun going down the other side. The sights we've tucked away in our mind's eye only make us wonder what's around that next bend then the next.


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