Blue Ridge 2

It was just out of Boone on 321 on a downhill slope where I broke away from my father. It was raining and I think it had him spooked, the road to Erwin curves and twists, but they’re wide through the mountains there so it runs about 55 plus. I was sick of worrying about his Harley behind me, checking my mirrors after each dogleg, my mother towing the trailer behind him, sick of the rain. I had come down here to tear through those hollows like I had before, rising up from Tennessee come morning and gone into the Carolina highlands.

A solid hour of burned homesteads to bank past, goat shacks, paint-flecked pine wrecks tumbling. Each smooth arc run on little traction as rain was falling, stitching them together down the mountain to Erwin. Gearing down past the highest fingers of Boone Lake, flooded oaks rising from the water yet. I felt reckless and wild again. I didn’t know how far back dad was. I was ticking off the pissant towns flying past.

I drove it deep into the valley when I spotted the turn-out over the bridge across from the grocery. The bridge ran over a falls, dad said later he saw an eagle gutting down through the cut. There were vehicles lining the front of the filling station, I aimed for a small paved patch that turned back to a fishing spot. Braking, the rear tire locked up and I went into a fifty yard skid, the back end getting sideways out from under me. I eased off and it barked back upright. I got it slowed again and pulled off. The whole valley was quiet except for my engine’s low idle. I was breathing heavy in the helmet.

There was no movement from the store. I looked around, the high ridges, tall poplars, mist and smoke; I could’ve bit it there, I thought, and been satisfied.

From down the ridge, the sound of my father preceded his crossing the iron bridge. His sound filled the valley; he was running it faster now. I throttled my machine back onto the roadway and got ahead of him, barely.