Killer On The Road
By: Biker Billy
Cruising this past Sunday along one of my favorite mountain roads, I spent a few dozen miles behind a driver straight out of a B-grade slasher movie. I never saw the driver’s face, not even a glimpse in the mirror, but I am sure the eyes would have burned with the red glow of demonic possession. While the driver occasionally waved an arm out the window as if conducting a doomsday orchestra, the passenger seemed fixed in the seat as if by rigor mortis. They were piloting an older model imported pickup, in a faded color that spoke of many seasons of neglect and nary a touch of wax.
The truck sat high on a lifted suspension—struts and springs the powdery red of rust, or maybe the weary red of Carolina clay, or, more sinisterly, the dull red of dried blood. It was shod with oversized tires that are good neither in deep muck nor on pavement, but simply have “the look.” It was, in a word: a cliché. A low-budget wannabe monster truck, and riding in its wake you could smell the burning oil of a small motor long since whipped to within an inch of its maximum service life. The more I review the mental image of that truck going up the road, the happier I am not to have seen the faces of its occupants; I don’t need the nightmares, thank you very much. Yet this truck, parked anywhere in the country, would have blended into the landscape. It was a visual cliché because pickups like this are ubiquitous in real-country America. It was the driving style that made it stand out and scream Danger, Beware! Reckless would be too kind a description. But let me step back a moment and tell you about this road we were on.
It drapes across a mountain in rural Madison County, North Carolina, running through a national forest. Not as twisty as the famed “Tail of the Dragon,” it comes close enough to draw many a motorcycle on any Sunday. It differs from the Dragon in having a good amount of elevation change along with the sharp, often-blind turns. There is no shoulder and only a few places with a 1930’s-era guardrail and scenic pullouts. It is a narrow, winding ribbon of road that requires constant attention; you don’t really want to lose focus looking at the pretty mountains . . . unless they’re the last thing you wish to see in this life. The time I spent behind this truck was on the ascent and most of our blind turns were towards the right. Even when you could see through a turn into the next turn or momentary piece of straightaway, you never saw more than a couple hundred feet of road ahead.
I have traveled this road many times with many different vehicles; the ascents are much easier to navigate at the speed limit and even a bit beyond a lawful pace. Certainly this day, following this truck at a distance that kept it just in sight, we never reached speeds that were at all challenging. I kept it in sight for two reasons; first, my utter amazement at the cornering technique, and second, the same morbid fascination that makes people watch disaster videos. Actually, I should have said “lack of cornering technique,” since this driver was doing the double-devil-damnedest to make a straight line out of this twisty mountain road. The tighter the turn, the more the truck straddled the double yellow line—sometimes barely keeping a wheel on its own side, even in blind right-hand turns. Thank God in heaven that nobody was coming the other way during this wanton demonstration of murderous driving technique. Just when I had thought that they couldn’t do anything crazier, they went straight where the road makes a blind right-hand hairpin turn. The driver never touched the brakes—just shot straight off the road. I did not hear a crash so I can only assume that there was an unmarked road between the trees. Now, I have seen people wander in their lane, drift across the lines, and run wide from excessive speed or inattention. This was none of that. It was someone driving on both sides as if it were a one-way road. Knowing that stretch as well as I do, it was clear to me that anyone coming the other way was a potential crash victim; even at sub-limit speeds there would have been no avoiding a head-on collision. The most sobering thought was that there are several places where rough edges force a rider to choose a line through the center of those blind turns, and any rider doing that would meet a killer on the road. As the world reopens from the pandemic lockdown, remember some folks still think they have the road all to themselves.
3 tablespoons dried basil
3 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1 pound tri-color fusilli pasta, cooked to al dente according to package directions, drained, and kept warm
- Combine the basil and boiling water in a small heatproof bowl, stir well, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until it begins to color, about 1 minute. Add the crushed red pepper, white pepper, salt, pistachios, and pine nuts and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, add the basil and its soaking liquid, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cheeses, stir well, and remove from the heat.
- Pour over the hot pasta, toss well to cover with the sauce, and serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2020. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.
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