Four Days.

Because of the compressed work schedule of the school I'm attending, every other Friday is off. I think they just do it to piss me off, so I have to stay here longer. I'd be happy with 12-hour days if I could just leave early.

The first weekend of my school happened to fall on a normal Friday off and Labor day, resulting in a four-day weekend. Want to drive me insane? Stick me in a Gulf Coast hotel room for a long weekend. Even the bike can't keep me sane.

Faced with the unthinkable, I opted out.

I rented a car and drove north. North to mountains. North to cooler temperatures. North to home. After 12 hours of driving, I arrived at the family farm exhausted but elated to be temporarily free of Biloxi. My parents were happy to see me, even though I promptly collapsed and didn't wake up for 12 more hours. When I awoke, I got kitted up and took my bike on the same ride that broke my collarbone. Maybe I could even myself out. Even if I did, I wasn't back in America's taint. I was happy.

Instead of breaking myself some more, I did a really long ride. I relished the mountain air and the long climbs. I watched the deer and noted the leaves in certain places were just starting to turn. I felt completely at peace, which is something I never feel when I can't see a terrain feature that's above shoulder high. Despite missing my wife and kids and the chaos they bring to my life, I was happy.

The next day I left the farm and drove south to visit a cousin in North Carolina. This gave me new and interesting roads to ride and cut a couple hours off the return trip. The climbs around Banner Elk are everything I could have hoped for. I even passed Grandfather Mountain, where Lance Armstrong made the courageous decision to continue doping after cancer. This is an area I really need to explore some more, because it seemed like every turn promised a new and wonderful ride. 

Once again I beat up my cousin on the climbs, which made me feel like slightly less of a fat body. However, on his home turf he turned the tables on me. I took the lead on the first descent, and promptly overcooked the first couple turns. He giggled as he blew by, arcing switchback after switchback cleanly as I clumsily braked and swerved. Whatever he lacks in climbing ability he makes up for in descending skill. He flat out left me in the dust, which only made me attack him more on the climbs to restore the balance of power. I made sure to sit up and stretch as I spun away from his struggling form, just to reinforce the status quo. I may get romped on by superior climbers everywhere else, but in this case I made sure to rub it in. Another day of bliss in the saddle, which we followed up with hipster "Mexican" food and PBRs. Gotta say, I've had worse times in my life.

I had to get up before dawn to drive back to the Taint Coast. I took a lot of back roads, trying to extend the mountains as long as possible before giving into the flat nothingness. It was like walking the Green Mile. Eventually I was snarled in the Labor Day traffic in Mississippi, a reminder of the stark contrast the last few days had demonstrated. 

I'm not made for this flat, hot, humid, stinky world. Some people are, and I pity them.

One week down. About nine more to go.

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