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The Hairpin Turn. August 13, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
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As you take route 2 west past my place, the road leaves the Deerfield river and snakes its way upward along the Cold, then abandons that as well, making a break for the summit plateau of Florida, a town with a wry sense of humor.  Don’t even think about planting corn here – the growing season’s way too short.

You crest the Eastern Summit, passing beautiful views if they’d ever fix that damned tower, and coast down through Florida’s central business district, that is, the place where there used to be a store.  It’s gone now, so you keep going too.

It’s a warm summer afternoon, with the late sun coming through the clouds just as you ease up over the Western Summit.  Slowly now; the view here is spectacular for these parts, with North Adams occupying the valley far below and seeming somehow incongruous against the backdrop of Mount Greylock and the Taconic Range.

The road turns sharply right and begins a long diagonal down the hill, snaking along road cuts running with the rains of the past sunless month, now glistening, making you squint against the glare as you pass the silhouette of a sign, “Trucks Test Brakes,” and you don’t.  The downshift coming around the corner feels so automatic, seems so sufficient, that you aren’t thinking about the load at your back.  It’s a lot of weight, but it’s well tied down, and between the smooth ride, the long view and the sun on your shoulder, you’re just happy to be alive.

The curves come tighter now, 500 feet below the crest, exposing your speed for excessive despite the first class pavement.  You hit the brakes and down-shift.

Or you try.  Clutch, neutral, clutch, third, but no go.  It’s like it’s not there, What The Fuck, and in that second of trying, you’ve picked up speed.  You stand on the brake and not much happens, you Stand On The Brakes, God Damn It and finesse the shifter and nothing happens, and as you blow past the “Hairpin Turn” sign you hear a disembodied whimper, sense it leaving the passenger side window, leaving you with your non-shifter and your non-brakes, getting out while the getting’s good, escaping into the turbulence between the screaming chrome and the glistening shale.

The load at your back groans and shifts as the curves fly by, and then there it is, the Hairpin Turn, Speed Limit 15, and at 75 the thought never crosses your mind, it’s not an option, and horrified horns wail as oncoming traffic chooses the guardrail and you choose the gap between the restaurant on the right with the beautiful views and the double-decker porches filled with couples who seconds before had been Livin’ Large and whose knuckles turned white to see you and the gaggle of tourists on the left, gathered around the Pay-Per-Minute binoculars on the weathered wood platform, the Japanese couple dropping that expensive camera, the fat American girl lurching over the guardrail, going ass-over-tea-kettle down the slope, poor kid probably hurt herself for nothing, ’cause you see it, you see The Gap, and it’s not even a choice, it’s your path, it’s your future, it’s all that there is, and as time slows down, as it does, it’s enough, the Herculean effort of steering your monster into the void, leaving them all with forty more years despite their soiled pants, it’s enough, the minor class victory of flattening a very expensive little Mercedes convertible as its owner chokes on his lobster up on the second floor porch, it’s enough, the crisp snap of an ineffectual guard rail, the nearly instant transmuting of the agitated groaning of steel into the white noise of rushing air, and as your eyes close, you’re in the back seat of a ’65 Buick driving too fast on a winding country road, the levee rising up, the pavement falling away, your stomach colliding with your intoxicated giggle,

“Daddy, do it again!”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Hairpin Turn above North Adams and the Golden Eagle Restaurant at its tip, technically jutting northward into Clarksburg:

Golden Eagle

The gap in the guardrail has welcomed too many truckers for me to know, only one of whom survived (after flying over a hundred foot swath of oak trees and landing in the steep woods beyond.)

Unsuspecting touring bikers enjoy the view:

bikes at hairpin

It’s pretty, but I probably wouldn’t park right there.

Sorry to make off with you like that, but I just was at a loss for a way to introduce these photos.  😦

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Comments»

1. Bob - August 13, 2009

Heh.

I liked it. And was expecting to see photos of a rusted hulk of an 18-wheeler at the bottom of a dropoff. 🙂

Ever been on Beech Mountain — the Banner Elk area of the North Carolina High Country? Substitute a Realty office for the restaurant, and there’s the same picture. Actually, the road from Banner Elk up to Beech top is fulla hairpins. And there are bars on top of the mountain. Sheesh.

2. littlebangtheory - August 13, 2009

Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go. I’m embarrassed to say that I can conceive of that final ride as a Preferred Option when weighed against six months in a cancer ward. I can even see how a mountain-top bar might smooth the burrs of that transition.

But I’ve always had the fear of going over the cliff when I wasn’t ready, of losing my brakes on the way to my daughter’s birthday party, of blowing it by not paying attention.

Kinda makes a guy focus, you know?

3. susan - August 16, 2009

Good story. The road up to our house in Portland is similar and the reason why smart people stay home when everything ices up in winter.


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