Canyon Carving Theory

Take an internal combustion engine, and wrap a precision piece of machinery with either two or four wheels. Add a driver with the proper mixture of gusto, skill and heathy disregard for the speed limit. Throw them together on a winding mountain road and you have the ingredients for a good time.

Canyon carving is, simply put, driving down a mountain road as fast as one possibly can, simply for the enjoyment of the experience. One does not describe their activities as canyon carving when one is running late for work, though one's commute can be described as canyon carving if the mountain road is deliberately taken purely for entertainment purposes. At its simplest, its an inexpensive, exciting hobby, that can be as addictive as some drugs.

How to go Canyon Carving

Though the simplest forms of canyon carving can be performed by simply driving a mountain road for sheer enjoyment, Canyon carving is best performed after some degree of planning. When planning to go canyon carving one should ask themselves the following questions:

  1. What route should I take? The simplest portion of the trip is deciding which roads to drive, as you usualy have a road in mind when you think about going canyon carving, but there are other things to consider as well. If its the middle of summer, and your right foot is itching to stomp the accelerator pedal, it would probably be a good idea to avoid the roads which lead straight to the local beach, as they're bound to be crouded. Likewise, the middle of winter is probably not the best time to be driving over 10,000 foot passes at a high rate of speed. If the road is a notorious speed trap, its usually not a good idea to go barrelling through at a high rate of speed, unless of course you like paying up your nose in traffic fines and increased insurance costs. Basically, use common sense in determining a route you know you'll get enjoyment out of driving.
  2. Is my car up to the challenge? No, I'm not talking about a car's performance, though that is an issue that comes into play later. I'm talking about the cars mechanical well being. Have you changed the oil? Are the tires in good condition? Is the engine running well? All of these things should be taken into consideration before going canyon carving, or taking any other road trip for that matter. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a deserted mountain road several miles from civilization because you didn't realize that your radiator had no coolant running through it.
  3. Is the weather up to it? Now, you may enjoy taking curves in the rain, but there's more to the weather conditions than what's coming out of the sky. Usually, a rainstorm will cause some minor rockslides, which will leave a layer of football-sized boulders across the mountain road. These rocks can cause serious damage to your vehicle, and may cause you to lose control. Trust me, its much more enjoyable to wait a few days until the highway department can clear off any debris from the road. Your car will thank you for it.
  4. Are you up to it? I'm not questioning your competency in driving, but there are situations in your own life which may mean that you shouldn't go out canyon carving. First off is time. You can get carred away going canyon carving; a short two hour drive can quickly escalate into a 5-6 hour romp through the mountains, sometimes going for an even longer period. Discovering you're running late for an event is the last thing you want, as you're apt to make mistakes and get into serious trouble. You also want to make sure that you're physcally up to driving. If you've got the flu, its best to stay at home and rest until you're up to the challenge of a mountain road. If you're tired or drunk, you should likewise stay at home rather than risk life and limb on a windy mountain road. Wait until you're ready to drive before getting into your car.

At this point, you should be ready to go out onto the canyon road. The first thing you should do is drive it one or two times to get the feel of the road you're driving. Don't push the car too hard, just take it easy and get a hold of where different features of the road are. Try to get a feel as to where the especially tricky portions of the road are, where the hairpin turns are, where the switchbacks are. After that, start pushing both yourself and your car. Try braking a split second later, accelerating a split second earlier and a split second longer. Go faster. Try to redline the engine. Skid. Power slide. Feel the adrenaline pumping through your bloodstream. Have fun.


Okay, after you've gotten back home, what happens now? More than likely, you'll feel great and want to go out driving again. If you felt like the abilities of your car peaked before your skills did, you probably will begin fantasizing about a better performing sports car. If you feel your abilities were challenged, good. You'll probably feel like going out and practicing again and again until you can fantasize about getting a better car so you can take that curve a little bit faster.

If you've got a decent car, and some decent skills, you may want to find a local auto group with similar interests. Websites, such as the excellent abound, with practical advice, ratings on various mountain roads, and web boards so you can get together with your fellow driving enthusiasts. Don't be afraid to ask questions; you'll never learn if you don't ask.

The most important thing in canyon carving is to have fun. Stop thinking of driving as simply a way to get from point "a" to point "b", and start thinking of it as a destination in and of itself. Believe me, there are times when nothing relieves stress better than a drive on windy mountain roads going twice the speed limit. You've got the resources, you've probably got the time, now get out there and have a good time.

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