Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Day 54 -- Around Man

Today was a day filled with a variety of activities. The first thing this morning, Paul picked me up and we drove the 37 mile TT course. The first thing that impressed me is that the course follows a public road. It has everything we see on roads – uphills, downhills, curves, depressions, rough spots, grooves, manhole covers, light poles, fences, potholes, uneven pavement, etc. All of these conditions come at the racers in the blink of an eye, and the racers constantly adjust their riding technique to deal with them. As Paul drove his van at the speed limit, he rehearsed the route in his mind and narrated his thoughts for my benefit.

“Stay wide on this curve. Too tight too soon and you can’t make the second turn.”

“Hug the wall on this turn, but lift your head to miss the pole.”

“Throw the bike right at this point to keep the line. Then throw it left at this marker.”

By the time we reached the 12 mile marker, I was exhausted – and we still had 25 miles to go. The average speed of this year’s TT winner was over 130 mph. (That includes pit stops – they must refuel every two laps.) Top speeds exceed 170 mph. At those speeds, drivers are always thinking 3 or 4 moves ahead. By the time they see something, it’s too late to react. Think about a baseball batter trying to hit a 100 mph pitch. That’s why Paul was rehearsing the course. He’s not going to be driving at those top speeds on Monday’s “Parade Lap,” but he’ll be hitting 100 mph on a winding country road.

He’ll have several more rehearsals. I was honored to have participated in one. Thank you very much, Paul. I wish you all the best.

Back in Douglas, I needed something less taxing. I took the Manx Electric Railway (top speed about 20 mph) to Laxey to see the Great Laxey Waterwheel. I visited its little sibling last week, but the great one is a working machine – water turns the wheel, which operates a piston, that laboriously pumps water from the mine. The wheel is a beautifully designed device, almost hypnotic in its slow, deliberate movements. Its designer may have thought 3 or 4 moves ahead, but he probably dozed off between them.

Yesterday, Rachel, the helpful desk clerk at my hotel, suggested a walk from Douglas Harbour up to Douglas Head, and then along the sea bluffs to Marine Drive. A good walk was the stimulation I needed to overcome the somnambulant stupor into which the Great Wheel and the Electric Railway had put me. What the walk lacked in distance was made up by angle of ascent. 111 stair steps take one from the harbor to the bluff. Views back to Douglas were outstanding. As the route curved with the high bluff, Douglas was left behind and a series of ridges plummeting to the sea came into view, each successive ridge progressively fading into the distant haze. The scenery looked remarkably like the Big Sur coast of California, or the rugged coast of Cornwall. With sufficient time, I may have walked farther, but I still had another item on today’s agenda.

Entrance to Marine Drive
Paul had recommended that watch tonight’s Festival of Motorcycles practice run from a point at the base of Bray Hill, called Agos’ Leap, where the cyclists have their first turn after the descending a hill from the start. Due to the 15-second interval starts, the racers go all out down the Bray Hill straightaway, and hit the first turn at speeds approaching 160 mph, where a small dip in the road causes them to lift off the surface momentarily. One can see the leap on slow motion video, but in real time you will never notice it. As before, I tried to take pictures of the cyclists, but the best I could capture was a blur. As motorcyclists disappeared in the distance, I thought about the rest of the course, and how fast it would be coming at them. That’s another reason I like walking.

Find the blur