I found out I am no longer strong. I layered my clothing appropriately, and prepared to ride with Evan to the top of the mountain on which his parents' home sits. The steepness and elevation reduced me to paste. Almost immediately my feet returned to the pavement. Leaning on handlebars, I practically crawled forward. Evan's feet stayed planted on pedals, and he kept pulling wheelies and bouncing around me as I suffered. I returned to the saddle only for short bouts and made it to the summit only because quitting would be worse.
The top! We reached the top, and the cold air froze me. The wind managed to worsen the sting, and my mind drifted ahead to climes further south. Fast! Descending was easy. My windbreaker flapped like a helicopter, and moisture pressed to the corners of my eyes as I squinted and squeezed the brakes. For his part, Evan left the pavement abruptly and bombed across an open grassy field to reconnect to pavement 600 feet lower. I honked on my brakes the whole way down and felt far from stellar upon arrival. This felt much different than dropping off the back of the Rocky Mountains years ago. This time the mountains put me in my place, and I could not pretend it was the other way around.
Evan's mother is a fantastic example of a happy human with her ducks in a row. She welcomed us warmly to her home. Large comfortable chairs are arranged around a centrally-located fireplace, and a wall of windows overlooks the valley and Waynesville below. Healthy food and a large pot of coffee round out the mountain atmosphere. Many aspects of decor are handcarved and homemade by generations of this crafty and capable family. If this wasn't enough, there is a tiny chihuahua here, so we don't need to excuse any aspect of Daisy's doggish nature. This home is calm and complete.