He looks at a bag
of ice we had just picked up. "Watcha buy that sorry stuff for? Should've
let me cut you up some real ice, twice as much for half the price." He
points to a rusty hand-crank ice chopper. A cool breeze comes over his
icehouse. And he's right; we should have.
Back in the car
and starting our descent, we spot the first finger of Lake Lure reaching
through the tree trunks, orange from the setting sun. At the turn of the
century, they say, Lake Lure dreamed of being the resort of the South but the
floods of '16 took down every bridge from the Smokies to the ocean.
"Brought a live cow clean down here from Bat Cave. She spit up water for a
while but didn't give no more milk."
Across from the
lake Chimney Rock Mountain appears, a dark mountain with a chimney of rock
against it, the American flag flapping. At the foot of the mountain are the
motels, a miniature carnival and the shops, the fronts covered with towels
painted with Indians, stuffed black bears and Confederate flags, bedspreads
woven with peacocks.
folks around here do for a living?"
winter we trap and skin coons and possums." The eyes crinkle. "In the
summer we skin tourists."
In town now is a
special crop of tourists, some from Massachusetts, Florida and Oklahoma, some
from just around the bend, many come thousands of miles towing race-car rigs
for about 15 minutes of wheel spinning up that old mountain. We drag the main
and only street, checking out the machinery: the Baumgardner clan came 500
miles again in their Dodge motor home with Snoopy hooked on behind—a red
checkerboard Mini Cooper; Pete Feistmann has a new Formula Ford, tree-frog
green, first one ever run here; Ted Tidwell is back with the Formula B, 1,600
VW-powered—takes the engine out of his Dune Buggy and rebuilds it once a year
for this run; and there's the record holder, John Scott's Cobra, a fat, bulging
machine with a roll cage strong enough to hold up five upside-down cars.
They're all here, all the oldtimers we expected and a whole batch of newcomers.
We stop in at registration and find there is a record entry, 53 racers. At the
end of the street we see the gate to the mountain, locked up for the day to
remove the temptation of slipping in a little practice.
In the morning a
crowd catcher, Formula Ford national champion Skip Barber, is due to arrive
with a TECNO just out of the crate from Italy. "That ought to be the car to
get up the mountain," everyone agrees; light, rear-engined, plenty of
horsepower. "Yeah, but he's never seen the mountain."
reckon Stirling Moss would make you guys pack up and go home."
"Not if he
hadn't seen the mountain."
Then Barber saw
the mountain. His first comment, a quiet, awestruck "Wow...." His
second, "Like nine racecourses strung together." They call the road a
roller coaster without rails; driving it is like holding onto a greased