There were moments of stillness, however, moments where this girl from the Northwest had to stop, and do nothing but soak in the sun, Seattle's scarcest commodity this time of year.
Amber is pure power, and I promised she'd absolutely destroy on a mountain bike. "Enjoy your new addiction!" Said the girl at the rental shop as we rolled the bike, ours for 24 hours, towards my car.
"I don't know...." Amber replied, cheerfully unconvinced, "I'm already pretty addicted to bouldering." I exchanged looks with the shop girl. I am admittedly newly in love, and hard in love at that, which renders my opinion utterly biased, but for me there's no comparison. Cold rock and crushed fingertips versus long, undulating single tracks that whip through forests and across fields, and you're out there alone, at top speed, face stinging with cold as your legs burn. Getting ten miles under your belt as opposed to a few inches of granite. No comparison.
I was right, my friend killed it. She walked nothing, at one point banging down the biggest drops of the the trail (picture a big, rooted stair case) while holding my cell phone in one hand and calling out casually, "did you want me to be taking pictures?"
It took me a week of biking that trail every day to have the confidence to ride out the steeps. So it goes. Amber is four years younger than me and built out of iron.
"How long till we have to return this thing?" She asked in the parking lot as we hoisted the bikes back onto their clumsy racks.
Amber opened a can of Ninja porter. "Yeah, we're riding that trail again before bouldering tomorrow."
The next day, on to the cold rocks and the split fingertips. We drove to Rumbling Bald, winding through Bat Cave and through Chimney Rock, flanked by apple orchards and SAV MOR food stores and dilapidated houses. Amber, brand new to the Southeast, was glued to the window.
I felt a jolt of pride, playing country music loud over the stereo, even though I wouldn't call this place mine yet, not the way I claim Washington or New England. Still, it's this secret world that I discovered, a place I found so compelling and mysterious that I left everything for it. I left everything fast.
This girl is so strong.
And then we drove to Tennessee, to a huge field surrounded by the blues or the smokies, I'm not sure which. A cold wind was whipping over the bald, and thin grey clouds mostly smothered the sun.
And on her last day, we did nothing.
More accurately, we wandered over to the Wedge in the river arts district, ordered a pitcher of beer and played a game of Corn Hole which lasted all evening.
Corn Hold champions won a food truck dinner.
Amber left at 5 in the morning on Tuesday. She went home and trained in the rock gym for five hours straight, woke up at six for work and did it all again. I slept for three days.
Asheville would be perfect if it bordered Washington and all the girls that live there. Now and then I get lonely for them.
All the time I get lonely for them.