It was a good day and a bad day for biking. Good because it was one of those days when I
felt like I could all but fly with hardly any effort. Not so good because of the adventures
along the way, and it left me feeling sadder at the end than I'd felt before after a ride.
Most mammals get moving when they see you racing in their direction on a bike. Almost
all of them at least have the sense to protect their young. Humans are a notable exception
on both counts: a remarkable number of them will stand in the middle of a bike trail and
just stare at you blankly as you approach.
Today there were hardly any cyclists (at least ones who were in motion), but there were plenty
of people standing around like so many stuffed penguins. Years ago, when exercise
was the "in" thing to do, I kept seeing people who would go out to the trails with their brand-new
bikes and logo-encrusted bikewear, none of which showed any visible sign of wear or even use,
stand around looking cool for a while, eat a foil-wrapped "energy bar" or two, and then go home.
I hardly ever see that any more, but the current trend is for people to head off to the trails,
stand in the middle of the bike path talking on a cellphone for a while, and *then* head back home.
It's a lot like the way people stay fit by purchasing gym memberships and not going, just
Today's Darwin Award hopeful was a woman who'd found a spot where the trail turned as it came
up from under a bridge, so there'd be a minimum of visibility. She was standing on one side of the
path, talking on her cellphone and holding onto the handle of an infant-laden stroller that she'd parked
sideways across the rest of the path(!). I managed to get her attention as I
approached, but she just looked at me, quite unable to come up with any pro-active response
like, say, pulling or pushing the stroller to one side of the path. I went off to one side to avoid
hitting them and continued on my way as she continued her conversation, unperturbed by any
awareness of the impending doom that she and her child might shortly be facing from the cyclists riding
The scariest thing is that this isn't the first time that's happened. What is the attraction of trying
to turn your offspring into a speedbump?
Well, okay. I've met some kids where I could definitely see the attraction, but that's still a
temptation best left untasted.
I don't usually have much personal involvement with the wildlife along the trails, except for my
stint as a "turtle taxi" some years back when a herd of baby turtles had decided to migrate down
the bike trail (and I thought that speeding up the journey for them was a fine way of keeping *them*
from ending up as speed bumps). Today's wildlife adventure wasn't nearly as successful and it left
me feeling sad.
Most raccoons develop an acute attack of stage fright when they see that you can see them; they
try to hide, squoosh themselves flat (and think you won't notice them), or run off. I passed one on
the path today who didn't do any of these things. We just looked at each other as I pedaled past.
He didn't look happy, though, and when I was heading back that way, I pulled over and got off the
bike. He looked really sick. Still, you'd think even a sick raccoon would have rushed off into the
underbrush, but he came up to my feet and looked at me like he wanted me to do something.
So of course I end up talking to him and trying to sound sympathetic--a lot of good that's going
to do, but you have to do it anyway. He just looked at me like he hurt; I could have picked him
up, but then what? Not a good idea, despite any urge to the contrary.
So I apologised and headed off to the park ranger station...which was closed and nobody was there.
After that, I spent about half an hour talking to the animal control departments of various jurisdictions,
each of which would pass me on to another. Eventually the state patrol said that they were the
ones to talk to, but there was nothing they would do under such circumstances except to put down
an animal they thought was aggressive or dangerous.
Which didn't surprise me; that's pretty much what I'd expected, but I thought I ought to try anyway.
Still, that won't stop me from remembering how he looked at me.