This morning I went for the most awesome ride of my short riding career. Riding my foolish buddy's Kawasaki ZX-7R 750cc bullet bike, I met up with a friend at a local gas station and headed out for some brisk canyon air.
First stop was Squaw Peak Road - and by "stop" I mean dashing up the mountain. It was some kinda crazy because there was the occasional gravel, and I haven't actually been all the way up the road in at least a year and a half. I took it easy on every turn because a) I am new to this thing, b) there could be gravel, c) there could be people or suicidal longboarders and d) I am new.
I got to lean over good and far - and that is awesome. I was deluded into thinking that I was over far enough to be able to scrape my knee if I were to stick it out. My friend, Matt, told me, "no." The air was crisp enough to keep the engine very cool even without the fan - I would have to stop for a while to get the engine anywhere beyond warm. At the top of the mountain - well, at the overlook parking lot - the bikes looked glorious together. Well, they looked like relics from the mid-90's in their bright orange and red paint. My wrists were already aching, but I had a ways to go.
I followed Matt down the mountain, and it was mildly frightening. It was so much steeper going down the mountain on a bike than ever before - except that time in a Jeep with bad brakes. For those who don't know, Squaw Peak Road twists up the side of a mountain just East of North Provo. The road has no guardrail, and it has lots of what rally drivers call "exposures." This means cliffs next to the road that mean certain levels of dismemberment at least - but more likely death. This is where the fear and the carefulness came from. People ride and drive and skate it all the time, and I never hear of people getting hurt. That said, I have considered killing some brazenly stupid skaters with a well-timed smack. Actually, just a really hard smack at any time. But I digress.
From the bottom of Squaw Peak Road, we zipped farther into the canyon to the road that leads up to the Alpine Loop and past Sundance. Heading down Provo Canyon was intense. The road was very bumpy, and sitting down through all that was a little unnerving at the speeds we were going. So I stood up just a little bit, and suddenly the bike settles down, I stopped bouncing, and the game got less interesting - which was good at this juncture.
At last we past the tunnel and turned on the road we were aiming for. Matt was still leading, so he was setting a pace that was both comfortable and challenging. It was pretty cool. I left the bike in third at about 60 mph or so when I slowed enough to check. The scenery was beautiful, but the stream was off the opposite side of the road, so I didn't get a glimpse until on the way down. We slowed slightly as we passed the resorts and camping areas and stuff, and we got up to the gate to the famed Alpine Loop. Which was closed save for a small opening for hikers and bikers. And us.
The first few hundred yards were littered with pine cones - thickly. Pine cones are in the same neighborhood as wet leaves, but a few blocks away from ball bearings. Then we came to our first large branch across the road followed by a big patch of snow blocking progress for the weak. We slowed down and slipped through a narrow gap in the snow. The road was narrow and smattered with branches and pine cones and the occasional snow patch, but as we continued on, the snow became more prevalent. And the snow invovled us tiptoeing across an 8" strip of wet pavement between thick snow and plunging canyon depths. After several of these we came to a portion that was blocked off for at least a hundred feet to the next turn and presumably beyond. We stopped there for a while before we headed back.
I led on the way back, and I kept things tame - going back to the newness and fear stuff. As we headed down the larger road, the first 2 or three cars either moved to the side to let us pass ot turned somewhere else. But then we came up to the back of a BMW X5 SUV. We came up to his tailpipe quickly, and then instead of moving over, he took off. Impressively, following behind this person saw us turning up the pace from what we were doing before, but it also lowered the stakes because I knew that whatever it could do, I could, too. This relaxing feature of the chase gave me time enough to see the rushing stream next to me - and it was stunning. Then I looked back to the road.
The guy must have lived on the road somewhere, because he only hit his brakes once while I chased him, and it was quite the road with even a few blind turns. At the bottom, I pulled right behond him as he turned down the road, and I blasted behind him, passing him on the left. Matt and I never saw him again as we zipped out, but we both decide the Bimmer dude was awesome. I guess Matt has ridden that road a lot, and he said he had never seen anybody on 4 wheels take that road that fast before. So props to the Bimmer.
It is really incredible to take 85 mph turns leaning a ways, and it sticks with you. The endorphins chased away a lot of stress. The only real downside is the noise - I should have brought earplugs because that was stinkin loud.
Matt and I stopped where we started - at the gas station by the stadium. After reliving the better parts of the ride, and celebrating the X5 some more, we discussed fun issues with having babies - his wife is due for their first next month, and went home. And it was awesome.