Into the Belly of a Hair Dryer
I just put lotion up my nose. It smells better than vaseline.
I rode up into the hills yesterday into the belly of a hair dryer. Warm winds whorled through the canyon crevices, the scaled road surface shimmering in the searing sunlight. My feet swelled in protest.
You have to climb to get to the climb, up through million dollar views, their twisting driveways peeling back from the main road. An old waterworks, green concrete built in the days of the WPA, stands guard at the base of the mountain. Extreme Fire Danger, reads the only warning sign. Past the reservoir, once above ground, now buried, you take your first bite out the climb. You feel sated, but this is only the beginning. Through the first steep set of corners, you reconsider. Somewhere your couch is calling, but you ignore it for now. The first false flat isn’t flat, but relative to what comes before and after, it feels like it might be. Your confidence builds and recedes. Gravity’s invisible hand pulls, your legs push.
The road snakes it way up the mountain, topping out at four thousand feet. In a fit of lizardish laziness, I stopped short of the summit. The view commanded the channel, the islands closer than they appeared, the city pixellated in white, red, silver, and green. Maybe if I’d taken a picture, you could see what I mean. And, I wouldn’t have to write so much. Writing is hard.
Swooping down through the switchbacked corners, the scenery blurs vertiginously. Steep drop-offs stalk the unwary. Potholes pockmark the road surface, a cratered moonscape. The brakes burn, your hands cramp. Dodge the guy wrong-siding it, climbing too hard, too delirious to see the danger in a blind corner on a one lane road. You look over the edge, the view extends across the canyon out to sea.
Far below, a car inches its way upward, still small in the distance. You’ll hear it long before you see it, surprising you behind the next corner, its mass monopolizing the road. You slip between it and the mountain side, a few centimeters to spare. The road straightens, flattens, then turns again. Your internal compass spins haplessly, seeking its bearings and finding none. A steep series of corners, none of them banked, lures you downward. Come here little girl, I’ll give you some candy. You open the brakes, concede to temptation. Someone has painted “pave” on the road. An arrow points to a hole roughly patched. You corner again, wheels angled, a physics problem brought to life and set in motion. A straight steep chute ends with a stop sign. You wonder if you can. You do, but just.
The air feels slightly cooler here, down off the mountain, but not by much. Your sweat is long dried, evaporated nearly as fast as it appeared, leaving only salt behind to mark its visit. There’s a Coke in the refrigerator, and the refrigerator lies just down the hill. You roll in the door, still in the twelve.
Disclaimers: This post brought to you by the Alliance for the Affirmation of Alliteration. In honor of the awkwardly named Third World Conference on Doping, no espresso was consumed in the composition of this post, a herculean feat never to be repeated here.