Home > Drives > Confessions of a Dragon Slayer (or: Why I Can’t Drive 25)

Confessions of a Dragon Slayer (or: Why I Can’t Drive 25)

There’s just something about a good curvy road that beckons to me. It’s the texture of the blacktop, the challenge of the turns, the oneness with my surroundings, and the communication of the vehicle’s controls in my hands and against my feet that heighten the senses in a way that nothing else quite does. Pressing the throttle in a powerful car is definitely thrilling, but it doesn’t fire on the same mental cylinders for me as carefully carving a curvy road. I have been known to sit alone on the side of some of my favorite roads and just quietly ponder its corners and what it took to put that road there for me to enjoy.

Truly great roads are few and far between these days as most well-traveled roads are mean to speed up transport like Eisenhower intended. Our roads which were once little more than paved cart paths are regularly expanded, smoothed, leveled, and widened. We live in a world of gridlocked commutes and uninspiring driving appliances where few people understand what it means to enjoy driving a ribbon of a road with a true driving machine. After a mere two weeks in my vanilla Honda Accord on the commute to the office even I begin to forget what it means. It’s all about A to B, 8 to 6, grocery store and home. Driving becomes about practicality, safety, and efficient travel rather than oneness with your surroundings and machine.

But fortunately for me I live in an area with lots of challenging roads that wind through our mountainous terrain. I live here by choice, and by far the largest factor for me staying in Chattanooga has been the quality of the roads, scenery, and car-friendly weather. (Not to mention the cost of living is low enough to allow me to drive much nicer cars than if I lived within day-trip distance of the Pacific Coast Highway.) There are a great many roads here that remind me why I have sports cars and motorcycles.

Lately, though, we have seen some of our favorite automotive playgrounds falling victim to the, ah, progress of a more carefully controlled society. Enforcement technology and lawmakers have begun to lock down some of the more deadly and commonly-abused roads in our area, and have reacted strongly enough to limit the fun for everyone. A report from my uncle in Vonore this weekend said not only is US 129 closed for the rockslide, but many roads in that area have been changed to 25 mph. He also confirmed what Bob and I had suspected last year: The gorgeous $100,000,000-to-build Cherohala Skyway does indeed have multiple computerized “trigger boxes” which sense speeding cars and alert patrolling officers of the vehicle’s speed and direction and even provide a quick snapshot. They operate like a traffic camera, except the officers sweep in and tag you with stiff criminal penalties rather than the State and its contractors relying on a $50 civil penalty (which doesn’t require that you face your accuser). Trust my recent experience: they are perfectly willing to print you a ticket from the cruiser’s onboard printer.

I’m a true Dragon lover. I have a US 129 patch on my backpack. There are little dragon stickers on every vehicle I have which has been to the road. Most of my T-shirts and even one of my jackets bear the logo. My coffee cup proudly proclaims my love for this great piece of pavement. I’ve got the license plate bracket, the kick stand puck, and the map on my wall. I’ve jousted with it many times, and come away unscathed thus far.

But Dragon lover though I am, I am ready to explore, branch out, and move on. I’ve grown up a bit in my 5 years with this club, and I am no longer looking for a 10/10ths romp past the edge of sanity and in the face of law enforcement. The traffic is increasing, and the negative attention is exponentially greater than it was a few short years ago. I’m not looking for a long autocross race anymore, and I don’t intend to set a new personal best from Tabcat to the CROT. I’m just looking for some great new roads; a place to commune with myself, my home, and my vehicles. In 2010 I am on a quest to find the best unknown roads of our area. I want to pore over maps, study terrain, drive, plan, ponder, and record. I want to catalog the driving richness our area has to offer. My first quest will be April 11th as I head north to explore more of Mowbray Mountain and the Montlake area.

There’s a 2010 Miata in my garage which belongs to an understanding woman who will lend me the keys and hop in beside me. And I know just how to use a new Miata. Who will join me?

The President is back.

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