Thursday, May 30, 2013

What, Are Those Bees?

So, weird things tend to happen when I'm out riding by myself.  Usually, no one else is around, and this leaves me the free license to exaggerate but lacking the fidelity of someone else to back me up.  

I have issues with wildlife, apparently.  All kinds.  Rabid dogs, mother bears, and now, it would appear, killer swarms of bees.

I took Charla for a good two hour ride through some rollers along the edge of the Franklins, and then up and over Scenic Drive for good measure.  We rode back towards home, stopping at the Dunkin Donuts for a well earned breakfast.  From there, Char headed home and I took off for a quick 23 mile loop to stretch out my legs and get some speed work on top of the hills from earlier.  Just as I rode over Haan Bridge, only 2 miles into my ride, I rode into a buzzing swarm of insects.  I closed my mouth to keep them out, and could feel them impacting all over my body, face and helmet.  One bounced down onto my arm and I looked down to see what kind of huge flies were making all this ruckus.  One glance at the yellow and black bodies bouncing off my arms and legs and I realized that I had ridden into a swarm of very large and very noisy bees.  

Killer bees.  Of that I'm sure.

I rode very hard and very fast down the other side of the bridge hoping to outpace them.  After half a mile I was confident none had followed me.  I had escaped certain doom and total embarrassment.  In my mind's eye I saw myself having to call Char to come pick me up, or just limping home, too covered in bee stings to keep riding.  Not fun at all.

I have a history of near misses with violent manifestations of nature.  A month ago, I ran into a pack of feral dogs that tried to eat me.

Or, it could have been one dog, yapping playfully along side as I rode down the highway.  Seriously, how can you not panic when a random dog comes running full tilt out of the woods right at you barking his goofy head off.  I sped up to keep him from getting tangled up in my tires and he kept up for a good 200 feet before tiring out.

My real obsession with running into wildlife while riding comes from an incident that happened during my first Cloudcroft ride, almost two years ago.

I was in town for a leadership retreat.  We started classes and discussions promptly following an 8am breakfast every morning, so I had limited time to ride.  I was still fairly new to cycling and was excited to try my legs out up in the mountains.  I saddled up promptly at 530am and took off down the road, ignoring the concierge's warnings about bears digging through the trash.  The climbs were pretty steep and demanding and the descents terrifying for me. (See my post about my most recent ride in Cloudcroft)

About 12 miles into the ride, I hit my turn around time and flipped around on the side of a steep climb.  Roughly a quarter mile downhill I saw a large black dog run out into the road and stop.  Behind it was a smaller black shape that I took for it's puppy.  As I got closer, I realized that it was no dog, but a small black bear and her cub.  They were blocking both lanes of the road so I braked hard, fishtailing to a stop about 15 feet away.  The momma bear and I stood staring at each other for what felt like minutes but was probably only 15 seconds.  I waited to hear the telltale huffing of aggression, but she suddenly took off, back across the road and up the hillside into the trees, her little cub screaming behind her. 

I waited for more than a minute before my heart slowed down enough that I could clip in and coast downhill without shaking too bad to stay upright.  When I finally made it back to the lodge, cleaned up and walked in to breakfast, I was less in shock but still shaken.  The BDE Chaplain made the mistake of asking me how my ride was, and I lost my composure completely.  I started swearing (at the Chaplain, yes) about my close encounter with the bear, and tried to relate my tale in an almost unintelligible stream of swear words and stream of consciousness. 

To this day I can’t run into him without his relating the tale of the bear to someone nearby.  I also can’t mention riding in the mountains without a select group of witnesses reminding me to not get eaten by a bear.

So, next time I have a serious run-in with nature, I promise to punch every bee in the face.