It wasn’t the first thing she told me, which struck me as very odd, because if I had a story like that, I think it would be the first thing I said to everyone I met. Instead we exchanged pleasantries and went about our business pretty casually, only eventually to have her say, “Oh, I tripped over a racoon yesterday.”
She is my trail running friend, and I am often impressed by her drive to run all the trails in all the weather and all the conditions. It had been dark, pre-dawn, and also pouring rain. Her headlamp began to give out after the first mile, but she ran onward, only to kick something soft in the trail and spill over forwards onto all fours, at which point she looked back to find an angry, growling racoon staring back at her. Do racoons gravel? Maybe startled, wet, kicked ones do.
I was immediately reminded of two other events, both of which occurred to cyclists I know.
One weekend morning I arrived home from some youth sporting event to find my neighbor on his front steps nursing at a scrape on his elbow. What happened, I asked, assuming he’d fallen off his bike somehow. Turns out he’d been off on a solo ride, when all of a sudden a deer burst from behind a tree right next to the road. He t-boned it and went over the bars. This I did not believe at first, but then he asked me to check out his bike, so I did, and what I found was fur stuck in his levers, actual tufts of fur.
His wife asked how the deer had reacted. “It was out of sight by the time I hit the pavement,” he answered.
Then there was Mike, riding casually down the bike path. All of us have this experience of riding along and encountering squirrels, little brown balls of fluff darting across in front of us. Some people I know have even run over them. But Mike didn’t. His squirrel had the unfortunate luck to be caught in Mike’s spokes and decapitated, its tiny head fully severed from its body, and Mike sprawled on the ground with his bike in a heap.
I have been hit by cars, and I have hit cars, but I have never had an encounter like any of those above. Somehow I’ve never run over my dog while mountain biking, though he (and his predecessor) certainly put themselves in harms way more than enough times.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what is your strangest encounter on the bike? Maybe you hit a person? Or an armadillo? You ran over a snake? Or bought a tire and tube from a sentient aardvark?