A few weekends ago I went on a couple of solo bike rides. Most days if I’m riding alone I notice the clouds, the horses, the sunsets, and the stone fences. For anyone who follows my Instagram feed, that’s no surprise.
But instead of noticing the usual suspects on these rides the other weekend, I found myself paying attention to the critters (the ones smaller than horses). This was for a number of reasons:
That Saturday I found myself riding parts of the final segments of the Bourbon Chase, a 200-mile overnight relay race that ended in Lexington that afternoon/evening. Annually, I always seem to remember at about 4 p.m. race day that the runners are passing a whopping 180 yards from my home. So when I headed out on my ride and began seeing runners, I decided to change my route and multitask: Be a fan as I rolled.
Cheering on people in endurance sports is one of my favorite pastimes. Ever since completing a handful of triathlons from 2006 to 2009, I’ve enjoyed supporting people because I know how much one voice of encouragement can help when you’re about to collapse.
Anyway, back to the “critters.”
So besides being on guard for drivers, cyclists, and runners that Saturday, I was on guard for road kill. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of flat, stinky former animals on the road and, due to all the traffic, there were fewer places than usual to steer to give them a wide berth. So as I cheered runners, I began warning them about the upcoming road kill so they could time their breaths and plan their swerves. (Side note: Sometimes runners found enough energy within to ask if I could give them a ride on the bike. Yes, there was some guilt when I had to say no.)
Every few moments I’d hit a cloud of gnats. They were in my helmet, on my arms, and in my clothing, and each time I took a sip from my water bottles, I got one (or eight) in my mouth. I’m surprised I didn’t inhale or swallow more, since I had my mouth open cheering pretty much the whole time I was out there, and the gnat clouds were perpetual. Mmm. Protein. Couldn’t wait to wash shower those critters off after my ride.
When I veered off the Chase route to complete a loop, I encountered the happy chickens on Bethel Road. No daredevil hens tried to cross in front of me this time on either ride of the weekend. But I’m always on my guard at the chicken curve, because a red squirrel nearly took out one of my friends and me a few years ago there.
Truth be told, I was pretty lonely on my Sunday ride of the weekend: There were no runners to cheer, and few cyclists to greet. Saturday was kind of like Disneyland for me. Sunday, though, I was cramming in a workout, chasing the sun and simply trying to get home before dark. My knees hurt, I was over the gnats, and I needed distractions.
Enter the industrious squirrels. Suddenly these little stinkers started scurrying dramatically in front of me at what seemed like every turn. The chilly temps must have them on overdrive getting ready for the winter.
About four miles from home, I saw a particularly ambitious squirrel. He was carrying a walnut the size of a grapefruit in his mouth (OK, maybe it was the size of an orange), green outer covering and all. I loved his expression when he saw me: “Hmm. Put this behemoth thing down, or make a run for it?” I might be giving him more credit than is due for the brainpower he invested in the decision, but he certainly possessed optimism.
He chose the option that didn’t involve spokes and nut loss, and I got a good laugh out of the fact he could even carry that thing.
Ah, the critters. Just another fun part of bike rides in Central Kentucky, keeping you alert and ready for anything. I’m not going to try to draw any pensive take-home messages with this post, but I will ask you a question.
What types of critters do you generally encounter during your workouts? Any fun stories to share?