Chapter 1
Phun with Photoshop Corporate letters Bear Notch Road Emails from Heck

 

Chapter the first - In which our hapless hero breaks a few laws

 

It was at the very end of October in 1998. Not that the date is important but it was my birthday so if any of you should feel the need to shower me with gifts, that would be a fine time to do it. I was visiting my parents' cottage in Jackson NH. Foliage season was long over so the leaf peepers had gone home and much of NH was in the midst of the second mud season of the year. My wife, my parents and my sisters were all out futzing around somewhere so I had the morning to myself. Having nothing to do I decided a nice birthday drive would be a terrific antidote to the reminder that I am aging at an alarming pace. Well, actually it computes out to approximately one day per day (Real Time Aging) but on your birthday it sure as hell seems like it's a lot faster. So I took the cover off my trusty beast, a 1990 E30 M3 (known as Ethyl, The Empowered Ogre), and headed out in search of twisties. Now, there's a road up there that runs between North Conway and Lincoln NH called the Kancamangus highway. It's been written as being one of the 10 Best Driving Roads in a Car and Driver article of the past. It's a lovely road but usually heavily traveled by rubberneckers and family vans and thus really not that conducive to wanton negligence. However, there's a road that bisects the Kanc and runs from it into the little hamlet of Bartlett. It's called Bear Notch road and it's about 15 miles of tight turns, switchbacks, blind decreasing radius corners and wide open sweepers. The perfect venue for a little gallivant early in the morning.

As I approached the entrance to Bear Notch I spied a familiar little boxy shape turning in just before me. My first reaction was one of dismay since I really didn't want to be stuck behind some parade warden out for a leisurely Sunday creep. As I caught up to the car I realized that it was a pristine little white 2002tii. I saw the driver's eyes catch mine in the rear view mirror and they creased in the corners in what I thought was a smile. I said to myself "Oh boy I think this is going to be fun," and sure enough he put the loud pedal down and with a healthy blat he brought it up to touring speed.

Now, a match between a 2002tii and an E30 M3 is not really a fair fight. The M3 has more stick, more power, bigger brakes and better handling. However, we weren't out to match race here, and a well-driven car is a well-driven car.  And I don't mind telling you, the guy that was driving that little '02 was definitely feeling inspired that morning.

I was following him deeper into corners than I would have thought possible on those skinny little tires. He knew the road and knew it well. He was taking the racing line on just about every corner, but he always left a bit of a safety margin just in case. I never caught him apexing early; even on the blind corners that would have otherwise caught me out. He never strayed out of his lane and would hold his lines cleanly throughout, usually going in with just a bit of trail braking and getting on the gas early so the tail would just start to drift. He had that car dialed and knew exactly how far he could push it. It was achingly beautiful to watch him driving that little Tii like it was meant to be driven.

Meanwhile, I was having a wonderful drive. I felt that I could push my car harder but there was really no need nor did I want to. Using my newfound friend as a guide I was able to really concentrate on the balance of my M3. I was able to load up the suspension and then play around with weight transfer using the throttle and brakes without being at the point where my hamfisted ministrations would result in me entering the vegetation backwards.

We reached a passing zone and he backed off on the throttle and actually gave me a point by. I looked over as I passed and he had this cheese-eating grin on his face that looked like it was welded permanently in place. I suppose I looked much the same to him.

Now, I don't mind telling you folks that I was more than a little nervous taking the lead in this little escapade. My un-met friend had set a very high standard and I knew that I did not possess the kind of coordination between eyes, hands, feet and wide open screaming mouth necessary to display the kind of mastery I had been witness to. Of course I'm not the kind of person to shy away from making a public fool of myself, seemingly at every opportunity. Or at least that's what my wife says. So I proudly took the lead and concentrated on embarrassing the entire population of E30 M3 owners everywhere.

 

Next: Chapter the Second - In which our feckless hero tries desperately to remain unfecked.