12.14.2006,9:12 PM
Bikes and Wildlife
Every rider's nightmare: wildlife in the road. Since I commute both ways in the dark and live out in the country, I scan the roadsides for deer like a cyborg. I know riders who have intimately met deer on their bikes and some have metal pins and plates in their bodies from it.

My only close encounter was being nearly beheaded by a big black bird. Big. In a nanosecond reflex I ducked my head, crashing it on my tankbag. The bird skimmed the windshield which I suspect deflected it away from my head, and sumersaulted over my helmet. All I remember is it was black and big. All I could think of was Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". 'Who's that knock, knock, knocking at my windshield?'

But tonight I had a Wildlife Encounter of the Third Kind. (dont ask about the second kind, that also involved a bird)

It's pitch dark. Except for the neighbor's Xmas lights down the road and twinkling stars above. Pulling off the corner of the S-curve onto my gravel private road, it was the usual: shift down to second, turn, press the turn indicator button to off, loosen the hand grip and let the front wheel wobble around abit and find it's own way, let friction and gravity do its job in slowing the bike down, no braking needed.

Traveling about 500 feet or so on the right edge of the road to navigate the 90 -degree left turn into my driveway, I see something dark, squat and furry-like scampering along the outside of the road ahead. Hmmmm......a running conversation occurs inside my head:

'What the hell is that? A cat?'

Rolling off the throttle a bit I notice the 'thing' is continuing its forward motion, now nearing the culvert where my driveway begins. Riding closer I see the 'thing' turn and recognize immediately:

'Oh no. No, no. NO! A skunk!'

Its approaching the point where our paths will meet within a few seconds. Time is meaningless.....

'Should I stop? Heck no, not on this gravel and entering the turn.

Its not stopping. Its looking at me. And still moving. Its not stopping or turning away. Look at those beady eyes. Dim the lights to low? Will it make a difference?

It's coming right at the bike.

Oh crap, we're gonna collide.

I'm going to tango with a skunk. On gravel. On a turn. In the dark.
This is not good.'

The Critter (upgraded from 'thing') not only saw me, looked at me, but seemed intent on coming for me. I neared the turn and started turning, hoping I could beat it at the driveway.

I rolled on that throttle and started the turn. From my peripheral vision (well, a bit more; I'm familiar with this route) I watched in horror as Critter, about four feet from me, swung his or her butt around and literally throw that big black furry butt with the white stripe on the top of the tail, up in the air, doing a handstand on its front feet,

and aim.

I knew intimately what was coming and opened that throttle wide,

'Keep mouth shut and don't breathe!!!'

skidding on the rocks and heading for the other turn in my driveway, knowing I didn't escape it all. That acrid foul stench, almost viscous and tangible in the air, those little stinking aerosols of the most foul combination of volatile compounds that could probably melt paint off my bike and the skin off my bones, wafted through my helmet and despite keeping my mouth closed and holding my breathe, little tiny aerosols crept up my nostrils like vaporized demons looking for a fresh kill.

'Oh god; I got hit and he didn't.'

My gear and boots are hanging outside the house, the sheepskin pad is wet from being hosed off, the tailbag airing out in the bed of my truck, and I took a very very long hot shower with lots of strawberry-smelling gel and scrub brush. And lots of shampoo.

If only I could go back in time and find the ancestor that introduced those stinking musk glands into such a cute little furry demon.........


posted by Macrobe
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