Sunday, October 21, 2007

Chicken Stories: Siler City Express / Oct. 20, 2007

“The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.” -- Bob Dylan

And the question is: what were those cyclists doing on yesterday’s Siler City permanent?

It was truly an odd wind day on the 200K Siler City Express. We had a tailwind as we headed through the rolling hills of the Uwharries. We hit the turnaround, reversed course and voila: tailwinds. Nature is magic, no?

Only on a few stretches where we angled due north did we have the wind in our teeth. And then, who was complaining? Not me. Not Joe. Not Wes. The weather was too damned nice for griping, with temps in the high 70s, buckets of sunshine and low humidity. The prolonged Indian Summer has turned into the Indian Fall.

The ride had been scheduled by Paul P, and we picked an 8 a.m. start. But 8 a.m. came and went. No Paul. So we shoved off at 8:10 as a trio rather than a quartet. We’d eventually see Paul heading out when we were on le retour. He was 40 miles behind us at that point. A house full of flu was to blame for his late start, he said.

For those who don’t know the Siler City Express, the route tracks the crème de la crème of N.C.’s brevet series. The first leg of the course runs from Siler City to Coleridge, through Erect and up 705, the “Pottery Highway” into Seagrove. That’s not to be confused with the “Pot Highway,” which runs into the heart of Asheville’s Bead and Candle District. It was the perfect stretch to hear of JoeRay’s flirtation with a new carbon bike. Apparently, while the store price couldn’t be beat, the true cost might be his marriage. By the end of the ride, it was clear he'd turned chicken. Peace in the home roost: priceless.

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The Seagrove control is at the Hardees, where two bacon, egg and cheese biscuits were on special for $2.19. At that price, you can feed em to the ducks. Since there were no ducks hanging around, we were forced to down em ourselves.

The route heads to the Black Ankle crossroads and into Uwharrie National Forest, through Ophir and the crossroads of Uwharrie.

The Uwharrie hills are joyfully painful. JoeRay recorded a 14.3 percent grade on Flint Hill Road. Climbing over the entire route averages about 500 feet per 10 miles, roughly the same as PBP. Roads are mainly chip & seal and car traffic is extremely light. Development is apparently restricted in this area although we saw several new homesites on the edge of the forest.

The warm weather brought out our state reptile in droves. We saw several Eastern Box Turtles, aka Terrapene Carolina, crossing the road. I stopped to move one big fellow out of harm’s way. His front door hissed shut when I picked him up.

The Eastern Box Turtle was designated North Carolina’s official reptile in 1979 by H.B. 384. Whoever wrote the legislation had a sharp eye and a sharper sense of humor. Check out the preamble:
WHEREAS, the turtle is a most useful creature who serves to control harmful and pestiferous insects, and acts as one of nature's clean-up crew, helping to preserve the purity and beauty of our waters; and

WHEREAS, the turtle is derided by some who have missed the finer things of life, but in some species has provided food that is a gourmet's delight; and

WHEREAS, the turtle, which at a superficial glance appears to be a mundane and uninteresting creature, is actually a most fascinating creature, ranging from species well adapted to modern conditions to species which have existed virtually unchanged since prehistoric times; and

WHEREAS, the turtle watches undisturbed as countless generations of faster hares run by to quick oblivion, and is thus a model of patience for mankind, and a symbol of this State's unrelenting pursuit of great and lofty goals; and

WHEREAS, the woodlands, marshes, and inland and coastal waters of North Carolina are the abode of many species of turtles; Now, therefore,

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
Section 1. G.S. Chapter 145 is amended by adding a new section as follows:

"§ 145-9. State reptile.— The turtle is adopted as the official State reptile of the State of North Carolina, and the eastern box turtle is designated as the emblem representing the turtles inhabiting North Carolina."

The Uwharrie leg of our course eventually popped out of the trees for an eight-mile stretch on River Road to the turnaround. Even on a relatively cool day, you’re in for a baking. Like an oven roaster.

One big drawback to the route are a dozen poultry operations that vent ammonia gas into the valleys. If hell is a slaughterhouse, the waiting room is the factory chicken farm. Isn’t factory farm an oxymoron?

Of course, the chicken tastes better than it smells, especially when it’s between a bun and topped with lettuce and tomato. Like the sandwich JoeRay had when we hit the Hardees for lunch. Wes and I had the burgers. Everybody got a shake. JoeRay bought. Observant readers will note Wes is wearing the official PBP jersey from Australia. At this very moment, a rider in Oz is sporting the official RUSA jersey.

We rolled into Siler City at 4:52. I was back home at 6:10 and out to the movies by 7:15. The evening’s bill: King of California, where the featured restaurant was McDonald’s, not Hardees, and the only chicken in sight was the child who feared for her father’s sanity. Yeah, the same old story, with Wilco’s California Stars playing over the closing credits.

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