Sunday, April 21, 2013

CALDERWOOD - DISAPPOINTED AGAIN

I know I said the title to this blog entry would be "Calderwood".  Today was a real disappointment but at least I was there.  The picture below proves it:
I set the speedometer of the old Ford right on 65 miles per hour and got in the extreme right lane.  Little toy, plastic cars and pickup trucks flashed by on my left, cutting in and out of each other's path on their mad dash to - wherever.  I nursed the enormous travel mug full of coffee between my knees just below the steering wheel.  Weigels refills are .98 and it isn't worth me boiling the water in the morning at that price.  A guy in his wanna-be, look like a BMW car Nissan turned his face toward me as he passed by and gave me a scowling look as if I caused him some sort of delay or something.  Heck - I'm not even in the same lane as him.  There's three lanes on this interstate so he has plenty of lanes to get mad in.   He plunged ahead on my left  up to the tail end of a tractor trailer and became trapped there when another toy car pulled up beside him and slowly accelerated on by him, upsetting Mr. Scowl even further.  What a way to start the day!  I tried to ignore it all but it's impossible to do if ya want to live.

I pulled into the first boat ramp on Route 129 which is on the tail end of Tellico Lake.  I needed a break.  I noticed the current was very fast indicating that Chilhowee Dam was dumping a lot of water into Tellico Lake.  No way could a canoe paddle across that current.  It was ripping along at a tremendous pace.   I had hoped Calderwood Lake would be more serene.  Back onto Route 129 North I went and ambled along at 50 miles per hour.  The famous stretch of curvy road known as the Dragon was about six miles ahead and I wasn't looking forward to fooling with that.  It's the only route that leads to Calderwood Dam.  My heart jumped out of my chest when four crotch rockets approached from behind and passed on my left.  I never saw them coming.  All four were ten feet apart from each other and they all had loud exhausts that suddenly were there beside me for the length of a heartbeat and they were gone ahead of me.  Is it that time of the year already?  Crotch rockets and tourists pretending they are race drivers are the norm on this road throughout the Summer.  I've learned to detest this route.

The road that leads to the Calderwood powerhouse down at the dam came into view the right.  That's where the old original town named Alcoa, later changed to Calderwood, used to exist.  Scona Lodge lays directly across the lake from where I was driving.  I almost wished I had the Gheenoe instead of the canoe.  It seemed I was passing by an old friend's house and purposely not stopping in.  The road had a bend in it about every two car lengths and would so for the next twelve miles when it would wind down the other side of the mountain to Cheoah Dam on the left side and the little turn off that would go to the boat ramp at Calderwood Lake on the right.   A "Killboys Photography" truck was parked directly on a tight road corner and the photographer was sitting in a lawn chair placed under a tall umbrella, camera in hand waiting for the next crotch rocket to appear and flash around the tight turn.  These photographers upload these photos of motorcyclists to their on-line sites where the bike riders can view themselves in action.  They then can purchase the photos of themselves tempting fate as they negotiate the ten mile per hour corner at 60 plus miles per hour.  There are now four different photography companies represented on the Dragon strategically placed to capture the daring-do's of the highly skilled, wonderfully capable, tried and tested wanna-be racers who tempt the hand of fate on this killer road.  The photographers may or may not know it but, their presence on those corners compels most crotch rocket drivers to twist the throttle harder in order to present their bikes to the cameras in the steepest lean angle possible to attain their Cary Grant moment in time.  Gotta remember that crotch rocket riders are kids and kids like to impress their buddies who are kids.  I guess that's why there is an ambulance parked at the end of the Dragon at the little store there all day every Saturday and Sunday.  The damn road is a killer!

The steering wheel on the old truck was in continual motion as I turned it left and right and back again repeating the motions, it seemed, without thought.  A bright green crotch rocket came around the bend toward me at blinding speed into the corner I was negotiating and flashed by like lightning.  He had to be moving at or near 80 miles per hour on that corner which is posted at 30 miles per hour.  Two more bikes approached from my rear, their headlights diving downward with the application of their front brakes as they did a panic brake to slow down for my old truck.  They followed about a yard off my bumper.  I wanted to pull over at the next tiny "pull off" to let them bye but they were too close for me to slow down fast enough to get out of their way.  The hell with em!  They can just sit behind me and stew over it.  I'm sick of this stupidity!  A short straight piece of road appeared and one of the crotch rockets zipped on past but the other couldn't make it and was forced to remain behind me.  He flicked his throttle occasionally to let me know he was pissed that I wouldn't let him by.  Hell - I couldn't pull off the road.  He's too close to me and besides - there wasn't anywhere to pull off.  This road is nothing more than a motorcycle race track.  Tiny sports car drivers offend the sanity of lesser beings also.  They whip around the corners testing the stickativity of their expensive, foreign tires as they thread their way through the curves.  Tiny digital movie cameras are mounted on the hoods and trunks of most of the cars to capture the drivers prowess as a capable, highly technical race driver.  I've even seen those cameras mounted on motorcycle helmets.  I trundled through the curves at a blinding 25 to 30 mile per hour speed, cursing continuously and wishing I weren't here.

I finally descended down the other side of the mountain and came upon the familiar turn off that would allow me to start a peaceful day at Calderwood Lake.  I pulled the truck close to the edge of the lake and got out for a look-see.  The first thing I noticed was the wind.  A cold wind was gusting at a brisk pace and it was cold.  A glance at the water indicated that Cheoah Dam was releasing water at full capacity.  The current was fast.  This was just great!  It took me two and a half hours to drive here to find it unacceptable to paddle a canoe this water.  I pulled on an insulated shirt and took a walk down to the water for a closer look.  The current from Cheoah dam was charging downstream toward Calderwood Dam and the wind was actually causing a conflicting current that appeared to flow upstream toward and into the original current.  Of course the wind driven current was a surface only flow in the opposite direction but it was quite formidable.  This situation wasn't going to correct itself anytime soon.  I reluctantly got in the truck and headed back.  If Shade would have been along I might have tried a hike on the mountain.  Hiking is no good without her though.  It was two and a half hours back home and I went as fast as I could.  Five hours of driving and 50 bucks wasted.  If I'd have had a for sale sign I would have parked the canoe and trailer and hooked that sign on the whole rig and sold it.  Might do it anyway.  I sure can't keep driving all these miles for a canoe ride.  Just can't.  The old truck is hanging in there but who knows for how much longer?  All these miles aren't helping.  All I have over here where I live is a rock quarry filled with water and no wildlife and a mud hole with no wildlife.  Both lakes are unfit for canoeing, especially in the Summer when the pleasure boats arrive.   In the Winter all associated creeks and streams dry up due to the draining of the two huge dams.  It's a shame what the state has done to it's natural rivers in the name of electric power.  It is what it is I guess.  

So, that's my story for the day.  I will say one thing - I've never put as many miles on vehicles in my life as I do now.   I'm back on good ole Cherokee Lake in the morning so, we'll see what that brings.  I will be on Douglas Lake, hopefully, in the afternoon to do an eagle count that I've been trying to accomplish for a month now.  Don't worry - I'll get to Calderwood---------someday.