Fire on the Mountain
Fayetteville, WV holds Bridge Day every year off the New River Gorge bridge.
This is one of the tallest bridges in America. On Bridge Day the bridge is open to BASE jumpers. There is also sort of street fair on either side of the bridge, with about a mile of vendors. The event gets about a quarter million spectators! Ansted, about 20 miles away wanted their own extreme event to sort of compete. They decided to hold a down hill race the day after Bridge Day. In 1997 they paved a road up that goes up to a fire watch tower. And Fire on the Mountain was born.
The course was at the time the most technical and fastest course in America. There were a couple of hairpins and straight at the bottom with speeds approaching 70 mph! The straight ended in a 90 degree right turn to the finish line.
The race was only a one day event, and held the day after Bridge Day. So I spent Saturday attending the Bridge Day festivities. Shannon had an NSLA booth set up at the fair.
I hung out at the booth for a bit in the afternoon. Before heading over to check out the course.
There were a few of us there to check the course out. Bama, another new rider, told us he was supposed to pick up Waldo, but found out that Waldo missed his flight. Waldo told him that he got another flight, but would be coming into I think Pittsburgh, about 4 hours away. Bama was in a borrowed truck and couldn't go get him.
There aren't a ton of accommodations in the area, and many are booked up for Bridge Day. Someone found a cabin not far from the bridge that slept 16. We filled it up with lugers.
We built a huge bonfire out in front, and stayed up late chatting.
We got to the hill Sunday morning, to discover Waldo was already there! Turns out he hitchhiked across the state! With his luge.
The course starts out with a hard left, that sort of squeezes the inside person, then almost immediately is a hairpin. People said you couldn't paddle too hard, because then you have to brake for the hairpin. Well on my second run down I paddle as hard as I could, and didn't brake very hard for the hairpin. I pretty much went straight. The day before, Swartz had jokingly said if you go over the side you should wave your arms and try to grab the trees, because its straight down for 50 feet! Well I remember this as I shoot over the side of the road. I managed to grab some branches and stop myself about 10 feet down. But I was standing on some dead underbrush, but the side of the cliff was all loose dirt. I realized I couldn't move. I also noticed something tumbling away from me. Of course I assume it is my luge. One of the course workers yells down to me "you ok?" I responded with "yeah, is my luge up there?" We did this a couple of times, he was more worried that I was ok, I was more worried my luge was ok. Finally he told me my luge was still up there, and I informed him I couldn't move. Of course he thought I meant I was hurt. There were two course workers at this corner, while one was getting a rope rigged up, the other one made his way down to me. He gets down to me, then realizes the same thing I already knew. There was pretty much no way to climb back up. We had to wait for the rope to get tossed down to us. I got back up and discovered that my luge had hit the post that held up the fencing. And I went under the fencing! I broke for that turn for the rest of the day.
Towards the end of practice I had an issue with the last hairpin and ran off the road. It was more of a case that I took the turn just a little wide, and ran off the road at the end of the turn. It wasn't that big of a deal, except I hit a small hill, and just as I hit it, I extended my leg and tensed up. Being tense when you hit something is bad. I sprained my ankle. I thought I was done, but Tripp convinced me that I didn't fly across the country to not race. I got the paramedics to wrap my leg up real tight. And then continued to race. NSLA tried to run a full bracket. That mean everyone got to race the same number of heats. With my ankle hurting I lost every heat except for my last one, where I took second to last. So I squeaked out of last place.
Meanwhile Waldo, after spending all night hitchhiking goes on to win the event!
Ansted could have been a premier event. But unfortunately it was the last time we raced there for almost a decade.