Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dr. Doolittle

I have never ridden a bicycle in the city, but I imagine it to be dangerous, noisy, smelly, and for all its effort, not really very scenic. How much can you see, really? Mostly you have your eyes straight ahead hoping to not be run over at the next intersection and every building looks the same for the first 4 floors. So, unless you are stopping every couple of miles, I don't know if you really get to see that much.

Riding in the farmland of Illinois offers a completely different experience. I almost never see another car on my rides. The rides I have mapped out are on quiet, little country roads. However, if I do see another car they are usually going Mach 1, but because they quite literally have a country mile to see me, they usually slow down by the time they pass me. It is true that most of my scenery is corn and beans, but there can be amazing beauty in the "carpet" of green in a soybean field or tunnel of golden corn as you ride down a long straightaway. Every now and again you pass a magnificent farm property with a bright red barn and a wrap-around porch (I find this to be beautiful). But the most amazing thing about riding a bicycle in the farmland of Illinois is the wildlife.

I don't even notice so much, except for the occasional deer, while I am driving a car, but this area is teeming with life. I notice it especially on my rides to work. My place of business,, is located inside a 1500 acre National Natural Landmark. It is nothing for me to be riding in and see a raccoon or squirrel. I remember one day I was riding in and a blue bird (an indigo bunting, to be exact) swooped in and raced alongside me for about 100 yards. I felt like the bird actually looked at me (maybe even winked) and took off ahead of me, as if to give me a little jab about my speed, or lack thereof. As I continued down the road, I came across a family of ground hogs slowly making their way. I saw almost no surprise in their faces; I literally had to slow down so they could finish crossing. Just a few more yards ahead there is a clearing in one of the formal gardens along the road and there in the middle of it were 4 deer. All four of them took off down the road, not away from me, but right next to me. It was awesome. I eventually made it to work, got off my bike, and said, "I feel like freakin' Dr. Doolittle." Or at least like Ace Ventura, near the end of that second movie, when he breaks thought the consulate wall and all of those animals coming pouring in to stampede the bad guys. But I digress.

The wildlife certainly does not only exist near my work. I remember another time I was riding in the countryside, turned the corner at a wooded intersection, and up out of the ditch came this huge owl. I don't what kind it was, but I had obviously interrupted a midday snack of his. That owl was the first one I had ever seen not in captivity. But the best animal story was actually a little nerve wracking. I was way outside of town, pumping hard on a north-south road with the wind at my back, when out from the cornfield comes a SKUNK. The little guy was very cute and obviously had not seen me yet, but we were on a collision course for sure. I didn't really know what to do, so I stood up on the pedals and really started to pound, hoping to pass in front of him. He only noticed me as I was just about to pass him. He screeched to a halt, turned around, and put his back side in the air. I literally closed my eyes (not usually recommended while operating any vehicle) and prayed not to get sprayed. When I opened my eyes back up, I had made it passed the little fella with out getting hit. I tried to turn my head to see what he was doing (probably checking his shorts, if he had any), but there was no way I was going to turn around to see if he was alright. I was just thankful for dodging a bullet. I have seen Mythbusters; you can't get that smell off with anything.

So, no offense to you city folk, I am sure a ride along the lake is wonderful, but for me, a ride out in nature and amongst the wildlife is just the thing to refuel and recharge.


  1. Hi! - just visiting; I'm a FatCyclist reader. And I spent 4 years in downstate Illinois. I'll be back...


  2. Hope you enjoyed your visit, Alice. Thanks for checking out the blog.