One of the cool things about being a cyclist is you get to experience stuff most people never will. Dug’s seen a cross-dresser casually strolling on a lonely mountain road. My sister Kellene told me that during her trip to Telluride last week, she rescued a woman from a brush-covered ravine who had been the victim of a hit-and-run by a car.
And I’ve been hit by birds. Four times, to be exact.
It’s always quite a surprise.
The first time was when I lived in Sammamish, Washington, a couple years ago. I was out on a nice early morning road ride out in the countryside, out past Carnation. One of the things I liked best about riding out there in the farmland was how quiet and peaceful the rides were. Green everywhere. Birds singing. Eagles flying above. It’s easy to get lost in a cycling reverie.
And then: WHAM. My left shoulder suddenly felt like it had been punched. Or like I had been hit with a paintball by someone in a passing car (this has happened before) or with a beer bottle by a passing truck (this has also happened before).
But there were no cars around. I was as alone as possible, with fields of flowers on either side of me (Ever wonder where florists’ flowers come from? Turns out there’s such a thing as florist farms).
I — unlike you, because of course you already know what hit me — was so confused I forgot about the pain (which wasn’t really that bad anyway). And then finally I looked around.
There was a bird — a sparrow I think — flopping in the road.
Questions filled my mind. I was all alone in an open field; why had this bird hit me? Was it sick? Blind? Just really, really stupid? Or was it as zoned out as I was, caught in the zen of flying, and it just didn’t see me? I could imagine that happening.
I turned around and rode back toward it. I knew I wasn’t going to take it home — if it was injured, it would become some animal’s meal. But I could at least end its suffering, I guess, although I wasn’t too excited about that prospect.
Before I got to it, though, it got its wits back and flew off.
I admit to feeling relief.
The Second, Third, and Fourth Hits
The next time I had a close encounter of the third kind with birds, I was mountain biking, just a couple weeks ago. Specifically, I was on my favorite ride in the world — Tibble to Joy to Ridge to Mud to Tibble — and riding one of my favorite parts: the buff, forested downhill section we call “Joy,” because it is impossible to ride that trail without a big smile on your face.
As I turned through one of the hairpins early in the ride, I passed a log on my left, startling three little birds that were either behind or inside the log.
All three of them flew right into me: two hit my chest, one hit my face: Puff puff puff. It was like getting hit by three lightly-tossed Kooshes in rapid succession.
They kept flying, gone so fast I didn’t even have a chance to get a good look at what color they were — though my impression was of blue.
It was maybe the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.
I am willing to bet that every single cyclist has at least one story of an unexpected encounter like this. Something that will stick with you for the rest of your life. Something that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been there right that moment on your bike.
Tell me about it. I’ll give a Twin Six-designed Fat Cyclist T-Shirt to the person with what I consider to be the coolest story.