Standing in a car wash in some small town in northeastern Oklahoma, in the middle of the night, digging through my pockets for enough quarters to get the thing started, I had an epiphany.
Some may prefer to call this a brain fart, still others would just look at me like I’m crazy and say, “Well DUH!”
The epiphany? (or thought or whatever?)
Maybe…just maybe…this run was not the safest thing I could be doing at this particular moment.
Being covered in blood and deer shit can sometimes have that effect.
See, I killed Bambi. Exploded him actually. Not 20 minutes later I helped to dismember his mother, and then worked to get rid of the evidence.
Yep. Just another summer night’s run in northeastern Oklahoma.
I hit the Oklahoma turnpike (I-44) coming out of Jasper, Missouri well after dark and it was ominous from the get-go. I’ve never seen so much road kill. Bodies and greasy spots littered the highway, and that rather…unique musty smell of death and corruption we riders instantly recognize went on for 30 miles.
The drought, the heat, or something else brought wildlife to the roadway in droves. Perhaps they were trying to solve the great chicken riddle. Maybe they were depressed. Certainly they were suicidal.
Yo! Fred! Go see if you can figure out why the chicken crossed the road.
Oh! Dude. Gross. WAY wrong answer. Yo! George! Your turn!
Must be fawning season too. Seems like the wrong time of year but I spotted dozens of the little spotted things roaming around, sometimes with adults, often taking tentative steps into the roadway. Occasionally I had to employ “skills” to miss them.
I saw lots of them. It’s the ones you don’t see that get you though.
Off the ‘pike at US 69, southbound and fast. Miles to burn. Oklahoma is bigger than most folks realize and I needed to cross the entire state, north to south.
I was ready…more than ready…to get home. I’d been on the bike far too long and there was a shower, a steak, and a warm and willing woman waiting for me at the end of this run. That’s all the incentive I need. I’ll burn asphalt clear across the country for those three things.
Typically confident…it never occurred to me I might not make it there.
I never saw the fawn enter the roadway. It didn’t walk or run out…it leapt. Perhaps it just appeared.
All I saw was a brown streak. “BANG!” I hit it solidly just as it landed on the road. A full on front tire-smackdown. The heavy machine simply consumed it, sucking it under the front tire with a sickly wet crunch. I don’t want to think about the possibilities if the fawn had been in the apex of it’s leap instead of landing. Thirty pounds of anything hitting you in the face at 80 mph is not a good thing.
The big cruiser shuddered but didn’t miss a beat. The fawn simply disintegrated and a cloud of grisly remains spattered in all directions.
I gagged as my senses of taste and smell were completely overwhelmed with the stench of fresh blood, hair, and less delicate substances.
It happened instantly. Almost as quickly it was gone…the pool of my lights passing beyond the scene of the carnage. Somewhat fresh air from the 80 mph blast furnace winds replaced the nauseating cloud of death that had engulfed me. I blinked and inhaled the air, trying desperately not to barf in my helmet and clear the strong aftertaste out of my sinuses.
It was an eye opening moment.
Know this, I am no stranger to motorcycles, night runs, or wildlife encounters. Most encounters can be avoided by being alert to the road and the areas around it, and by the skills of the rider.
Sometimes though, there is absolutely no chance at all. Sometimes, the only way to avoid an encounter is to not be out here at all.
I’m not even sure that’s an option in my case. A wanderer’s soul is a powerful thing. A pesky thing too.
A quick stop in at the next “quickieMart” revealed no visible damage to the machine and only a few grisly bits hanging on the bike here and there. I bought a bottle of water (the liter kind with the squirt top) to try and gargle and also clear/flush my sinuses of the gag inducing taste.
Protip: I don’t recommend flushing your sinuses with ice-cold water, heavy explosives and an ax would cause less pain. I imagine the store clerk was wondering why I spent a couple minutes dancing around his parking lot spewing water and moaning, but he’s probably seen stranger things. Maybe he thought it was a rain dance. Night-shifts. Oy.
Wow. A deer strike. And I’m still rolling! I know better, but still, somewhere in the back of my mind I expect I was thinking, “Well, glad that’s over with for tonight.”
Anybody experienced with the more perverse nature of the universe will, of course, know where that is leading…
Back on the road again. We’re back to a divided highway now. Safer. Wider road surface. Better visibility. I pushed the speed up a notch or two and settled in to make some miles.
Not even 20 miles down the road it happened. As I approached a car to pass, the car hit a deer. This time a full grown one. Once again, I never saw the deer enter the road. It simply arrived. Seems the deer have perfected teleportation. Too bad they keep using it to explore the road immediately in front of high speed iron.
Even though I didn’t see the deer enter the road, I clearly saw the impact. *BANG!*, the car’s fender crumpled and some of the headlights went out. Stuff went flying up and out of the light while other things slid messily down the road in my path
I was showered in heavy pieces of debris that for lack of a better term…I will describe as “meaty”. Yeah. “Meaty”. Well, except for the “shitty” ones.
Again gagging at the overwhelming stench and taste that seemed to infuse my very soul, I managed to keep the bike upright as we hit large squishy/crunchy bits in the road. Time dilated. Each impact was distinctly individual. The bike wobbled and skipped a bit sideways. Something heavy thumped me with bruising force in the shoulder. I suddenly felt wet.
No. “Wet” doesn’t describe it. Dirty. Ugggy. Blech. *shudder* There. Are. No. Words.
I realized I was still up, breathing, and running down the road. My world…the bubble created by my headlights…was once again clear.
I shuddered again. Ugh. Unbidden a movie quote crossed my lips.
“He slimed me.”
The car didn’t stop so neither did I. The bike was running smooth and straight and there would be little to accomplish out there in the dark.
“I feel so funky.” Yeah, I’m a movie geek.
Death is out here tonight. I’ve encountered her before. We have a running battle, she and I. Last time we met I bought her a beer…but that’s another story. This time I think she’s just teasing me.
Screw it. I’ve never been the passive sort. My fate is in my hands and I like it that way. Random chance and the roll of the dice are determining who hits what tonight. The only “safe” option is not to be out here…and it’s far to late for that. “Safe” is often not the primary demand of my soul anyway.
I cranked on all the driving lights and pushed the speeds beyond reasonable. If death is going to chase me down tonight she’s gonna have to run fast for it. Until she claims me…I’ll run hard and run free.
I gagged again. Besides…I had to get some more water and at least change shirts. Even in the dark I could tell I was covered in blood.
The gods threw me a bone and shortly provided an all night travel-plaza with a car wash attached.
The clerk eyed me with intense alarm as I purchased water and juice. I was dripping blood on his floor. Rather a lot of it actually. I was inordinately pleased that this time it wasn’t mine…at least…mostly…as far as I could tell.
“Dude! You alright?”
I couldn’t resist. I just looked puzzled, “Yeah. Why do you ask?”
Washing the bike off with the high-pressure spray…watching the blood, deer shit, and small gobbets of I don’t know what schluffing down the drain. The cops had rolled up and were watching me, but hadn’t bothered to make contact. Meh. I was beyond caring. They work the nightshift too. They can deal with it, or not. As they please.
The bike clean, I pulled off my shirt, glanced at it, and tossed it. I found I could clean my arms, torso, and jeans without peeling my skin off with the car wash nozzle as long as I didn’t pull the trigger.
Finally, passable and much less smelly, I pulled on a fresh shirt from my pack and hit the road. I think the cops followed me out of town but it didn’t really matter. I was doing 80 before I cleared the streetlights.
The epiphany? Yeah. Probably not safe. Maybe. Death and I will have to discuss it. Perhaps over a beer.
The only safe option is not to ride.
And it’s far too late for that.
I’ll see you on the road.