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Bike vs. wild
Part of what I like about riding my bike is my ability to commune with nature.
Now, I’m not all hippy-dippy about it. I’m not about to go all Walden or anything.
But I do like feeling the weather, sensing the seasons, gazing at the stars. And I usually enjoy occasional encounters with wildlife, too, that I wouldn’t have if I were trapped in a cage.
But a couple of quick-succession instances in the past few weeks caught me a bit off guard.
It’s not altogether uncommon to happen upon critters — both wild and domesticated — during my bike commutes.
But in the span of about two weeks, I thought I was trapped in a pilot for the Nature Channel.
First, the deer.
I know the randy ungulates get a little, er, frisky in the fall. As I understand it, the boy deer start cruising for girl deer. Their behavior becomes a little unpredictable, their territory a little broader.
OK, so that might explain the small herd I saw in the early-morning hours about two blocks from my house. I don’t exactly live on the edge of the Black Forest, but I could see how a bunch of Bambis could hoof it over from a nearby construction area that until recently was a bit more, well, wild.
Two nights later, I was surprised to happen upon another half dozen or so of the beasties on a front lawn near Fifth and Indiana. The river is nearby, so maybe it wasn’t that unusual, but their nonchalance in having a human pedal past just a few yards away was somewhat disconcerting.
Then just a couple of nights after that, I rode past another gang — I say another, but I guess it could have been the same band of roving whitetails just messin’ with me — calmly munching the grass on the front lawn of a house at Fourth and Colorado. As best I can tell, they didn’t come from a nearby wooded area but one of the many apartment complexes in the vicinity.
At least in the last instance, the little dears saw me coming and made like the lawn sculptures I thought they were. One sneezed — or maybe it was a snort — to give them all away.
But it was not just hooved creatures.
About the same time (but during the day), I was riding home from racquetball on Clinton Parkway when I saw a man on a bike stopped in the middle of the multiuse trail. He seemed to have bike trouble, so I slowed down and asked if he was OK. He said yes, so I rode on — and, as I turned away to ride off, was surprised to find myself face-to-beak with a big red-tailed hawk dining on a rodent of some sort.
I’ve seen lots of hawks, but never one as up-close as this: It was as startled as I was; I could feel the breeze as it flapped its wings to fly away.
In that two-week span, I also saw a couple of foxes and a coyote or two.
The last wildlife run-in happened just a block from home.
I was pedaling along in the early morning after a night shift when I saw something run across the street ahead. I assumed it to be a neighborhood cat, though something about its gait seemed a bit “off.”
As I neared the spot that it ran onto the street, I saw that it had turned to run in the same direction I was headed.
I caught up to it and glanced over at the kitty and was surprised to find it wasn’t a cat but a polecat. Yep, a skunk had decided that was a fine time to go for a wee-hours jog, and the best part was that it turned its cute little skunky snout to look at me … AND JUST KEPT RUNNING.
I can’t imagine a more surreal scene than finding yourself, at 2 in the morning, riding a bike alongside a sprinting skunk, then having each participant glance over at the other and continue on like it’s the most natural thing in the world.