Being a fat biker (pedaling not Harley) with no pigment leaves me little choice. I have to ride at night or risk Satan’s kisses (sunburn).
I’m a night person anyway. I put on two motorcycle-power headlights, a flashing red tail light and go out once the sun is gone.
Tucson has an awesome set of bike paths along the dry rivers. 6-8 foot-wide paved lanes with yellow lines that encircle the city and reach into the suburbs. No cars.
But at night it’s a fucking Dr. Doolittle collection of nocturnal creatures.
Little Peter Cotton Tail Must Die
The worst are those little fucking bunnies. They dart out from any direction at any time.
When the lights hit their faces — they panic. They go into “dodge the predator” mode zig-zagging and doing “Crazy Ivan’s” before my front wheel.
All they have to do is exit on either side of the pavement. But they dive at my front wheel like Kamikazi pilots trying to hit an aircraft carrier. In spring and summer I see one almost every night. I’ve never hit one, but a couple of times, I’ve had to come to a complete stop before the little fucking thing would skamper off the path.
It’s a good thing those bunnies are just a hopping lunch for hawks, snakes, owls or coyotes… Those little white-tailed shits are trying to kill me.
Any night of the year, you can hear the coyotes howling in the wash. They howl when they have caught something to share. They howl when they have cornered something and need help to kill it. And by the sound of it, I’m guessing they howl when it’s time to fuck.
A couple of times of year, they will trot across the path in front of my lights. One time I rode up on 3 of them. I thought they were someone’s German Shepherds… Then as I rode among them, I noticed they had no collars.
They matched my pace. The alpha in front, one on the side and the “zeta” that dropped behind. I wasn’t going to stop. We “jogged” together for about a quarter mile, breathing and rolling at the same pace. Their paws quiet against the pavement, as my headlights scanned the darkness in front of us.
They turned left and headed back into the wash. I always thought “spirit animal” was bullshit. But one more mile jogging together, and I’d be buying a coyote cap, changing my Twitter AVI to Wile E. Coyote and selling tickets to my “Way of the Coyote Seances”.
For no apparent reason, parts of the river path are lined with metal pole fence. On the dark summer nights, the owls sit on the top pole of the fence and look into the wash.
They can hear a mouse a 100-feet away. They can see clearly in very low light. But I’m grunting and grinding my gears with two big headlights, and those feathered mother fuckers never hear or see me coming until I’m right on top of them.
Always scares the shit out of me, when they spread their enormous wings and try to lift off. One night leaving the Third World Club, the owl hit my helmet with both wings and its feet. Dude, I know I’m riding through “your yard” but you don’t have to hit me in the head, asshole.
When the nights get warm or on the last warm night in October, the black top starts to “move.” There’s tens of stretched out snakes trying to absorb the last of the day’s heat. If you are riding with a friend — make him go first. That way you can figure out which end is the head. Turn your wheel toward the tail — much safer. I’ve never been bit. But I have run over a few snakes — nature’s speedbump.
Well, only one of the bumps. After a monsoon rain, the path can get covered in toads. They are not as much a bump as a splat. They leave a mess on the asphalt that can linger for days. I guess toads are not tasty.
Stinky la Winky
I’ve cycled past javelina and had deer cross my path, and there’s always those fucking little annoying chipmunks, or ground squirrels or whatever the hell those little rodents with the tails are. But the weirdest encounter happened way up in Oro Valley at the end of the CDO path.
Far into the retirement community, past the golf courses, but not far from the old people’s hospital.
I was riding alone. I saw a patch of reflective white in my light. I figured it was spring flowers and I was trying to identify the plant. “Who the fuck is planting white poppies in the middle of nowhere…” Drug dealers… then the flowers moved.
Holy shit, that’s a skunk. I couldn’t stop. It started to run on the right side of the path. I passed it on the left. It matched my pace for 3-4 pedal strokes. It was maybe 6 inches from my right foot, then it was gone. Or maybe I was. I was pedaling as hard as I could. No spray, no stink.
Just a speed date. Me and my skunk just said “hello” and moved on.
So far I haven’t had a “bad” animal encounter on the path. But I never look forward to it.
You creatures can have your space, but just leave the bike path to the pigment impaired — when the sun is down, this is our time to shine.