Fire on the Mountain
Fire on the Mountain
Ansted, West Virginia
Ansted is a small town with one hotel and no traffic lights, in the heart of West Virginia. Situated not far from the mighty Gauley. The Gauley is a popular river to rafter during Gualey season, which runs the month of September.
The course comes down Fire Hill, and is the most technical course in America. It is about 1.5 miles long, with several hair pins and many many turns on a fairly narrow course. The bottom of the course is a fairly straight, fast run, with spends in the upper 60's before a hard right leads to the end.
Saturday, September 6
I got up to some fairly dreary looking skies, and some very wet looking weather. Apparently West Virginia was in the middle of a monstrous rainy season, plus we were sitting in the tail end of a hurricane that dumped a lot of rain last night. Like the weather everyone seemed downcast at the riders meeting. But a few people cam prepared. I opted to sit the morning session out. I tried to take some pictures, but none of them really came out.
The first Fire on the Mountain was held in 1997, shortly after the road was paved. Unfortunately the pavement didn't hold up to well. There were sections of the hill that desperately needed repaving. One of the sections is a chicane just before the high speed straight. I discovered it was very hard to get through this section, as taking the apex of the turn takes you across the worst part of the road, there is barely any pavement there.
As the day wore on, the clouds burned off and the sun came out. The afternoon session racing began with rookie and am luge and pro buttboard. I rode my buttboard all day. I was still taking it fairly conservatively and manage to lose all of my heats.
To finish the day off, GSI started a new event, Bucket Brigade. This was going to be a relay race. Each team would have three entrants (teams were assigned randomly.) Each member would carry a bucket of water to the next team member and pass it off. The team who got to the bottom first, with the correct amount of water would win. Each team had to have at least one luge and one buttboard rider.
Still feeling uncomfortable I choose to ride my luge. I managed to ride on my luge, carrying a bucket of water, faster than I had on my buttboard! I got to my team member first, and handed off the bucket of water. After the last of the racers left, I followed, so I could see who won. The anchor of my team, Lott, managed to pass at the bottom, and we won the inaugural bucket brigade! It was a fun and light hearted event, hopefully GSI will run it again.
Ansted isn't exactly located in the best location, and since this was the start of Gauley season, many of the hotels in the area are full. A few of us were lucky to get a cabin at Opossum Creek. About 20 minutes or so from the race course. We went into Fayetteville for dinner, before heading back to the hot tub in our cabin.
Sunday, September 7
It looked like it might be another dreary overcast day. At least today the road wasn't wet. Today would be race day for Pro Luge. Darren trotted out his latest board. A beautiful version of the gumball machine. The board has 4 trucks, all equipped with gumballs. Darren quickly demonstrated out to ride down the hill. Apparently the correct way to do it, was in front of everyone else. Despite the low hanging clouds from the morning, the day was starting to warm and clear up.
Fall Mountain Productions was once again in town to film the race. Fall Mountain is filming a documentary on the entire GSI Season. They were interviewing everyone, from Lott to Ashleigh Cayer.
After morning practice, we broke for lunch. The local Girl Scouts had a booth set up, selling sodas and sloppy joes, as well as cookies. I am not exactly sure what Novak and Dean did (perhaps break the speed limit?) but I hope it wasn't too harmful.
In the afternoon we ran amateur buttboard and Pro Luge. Once again I took it easy, and managed to come in last in all of my heats. My plan was, I would race as hard as I could, as long as I was in front. There was one moment, when I was in third place approaching the high speed straight. There is a fairly hard right turn at the bottom, that I was taking way to easy. As I was approaching the straight, I was afraid I would have to attempt this turn at top speed, but just before we started the straight I was passed. I sighed with relief, I could take the turn at my leisure.
The last event of the weekend was the Extreme Buttboard Race. This was done GP style, with the finishing order deciding the starting order for the next heat. As he had done all weekend, Lott showed everyone how to ride.
After we got cleaned up we headed to the Sub Shack for the end of season banquet. Everyone chowed down to a very good buffet before the end of the year awards were given out. There was a long delay, because there was a tie in the pro buttboard! They decided to break the tie by looking at head to head performances through the season.
Despite the weather on the first day there was plenty of riding, and some good racing. Dr NO Racing, Neil Orta and Kim Trader as well as the rest of the GSI crew did a fine job bringing us another installment of Fire on the Mountain.