Join Date: Nov 2006
Bikes: Trek 800 Antelope, August 1978 Schwinn Stingray, Old Red White and Blue Free Spirit
I never dreamed slowly cruising through a residential neighborhood could be
so incredibly dangerous! Studies have shown that motorcycling requires more
decisions per second, and more sheer data processing than nearly any other
common activity or sport. The reactions and accurate decision making
abilities needed have been likened to the reactions of fighter pilots! The
consequences of bad decisions or poor situational awareness are pretty much
the same for both groups too.
Occasionally, as a rider I have caught myself starting to make bad or late
decisions while riding. In flight training, my instructors called this
being "behind the power curve". It is a mark of experience that when this
begins to happen, the rider recognizes the situation, and more importantly,
does something about it. A short break, a meal, or even a gas stop can set
things right again as it gives the brain a chance to catch up.
Good, accurate, and timely decisions are essential when riding a
motorcycle, at least if you want to remain among the living. In short, the
brain needs to keep up with the machine.
I had been banging around the roads of east Texas and as I headed back into
Dallas, found myself in very heavy, high-speed traffic on the freeways.
Normally, this is not a problem, I commute in these conditions daily, but
suddenly I was nearly run down by a car that decided it needed my lane more
than I did. This is not normally a big deal either, as it happens around
here often, but usually I can accurately predict which drivers are not
paying attention and avoid them before we are even close. This one I missed
seeing until it was nearly too late, and as I took evasive action I nearly
broadsided another car that I was not even aware was there!
Two bad decisions and insufficient situational awareness, all within
seconds. I was behind the power curve. Time to get off the freeway. I hit
the next exit, and as I was in an area I knew pretty well, headed through a
few big residential neighborhoods as a new route home. As I turned onto the
nearly empty streets I opened the visor on my full-face helmet to help get
some air. I figured some slow riding through the quiet surface streets
would give me time to relax, think, and regain that "edge" so frequently
required when riding. Little did I suspect.
As I passed an oncoming car, a brown furry missile shot out from under it
and tumbled to a stop immediately in front of me. It was a squirrel, and
must have been trying to run across the road when it encountered the car. I
really was not going very fast, but there was no time to brake or avoid
it-it was that close.
I hate to run over animals, and I really hate it on a motorcycle, but a
squirrel should pose no danger to me. I barely had time to brace for the
Animal lovers, never fear. Squirrels can take care of themselves!
Inches before impact, the squirrel flipped to his feet. He was standing on
his hind legs and facing the oncoming Valkyrie with steadfast resolve in
his little beady eyes. His mouth opened, and at the last possible second,
he screamed and leapt! I am pretty sure the scream was squirrel for,
"Banzai!" or maybe, "Die you gravy-sucking, heathen scum!" as the leap was
spectacular and he flew over the windshield and impacted me squarely in the
Instantly he set upon me. If I did not know better I would have sworn he
brought twenty of his little buddies along for the attack. Snarling,
hissing, and tearing at my clothes, he was a frenzy of activity. As I was
dressed only in a light t-shirt, summer riding gloves, and jeans this was a
bit of a cause for concern. This furry little tornado was doing some
Picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a
t-shirt, and leather gloves puttering maybe 25mph down a quiet residential
street, and in the fight of his life with a squirrel. And losing.
I grabbed for him with my left hand and managed to snag his tail. With all
my strength I flung the evil rodent off the left of the bike, almost
running into the right curb as I recoiled from the throw.
That should have done it. The matter should have ended right there. It
really should have. The squirrel could have sailed into one of the
pristinely kept yards and gone on about his business, and I could have
headed home. No one would have been the wiser. But this was no ordinary
squirrel. This was not even an ordinary pissed-off squirrel. This was an
evil attack squirrel of death!
Somehow he caught my gloved finger with one of his little hands, and with
the force of the throw swung around and with a resounding thump and an
amazing impact he landed square on my back and resumed his rather
antisocial and extremely distracting activities. He also managed to take
my left glove with him!
The situation was not improved. Not improved at all. His attacks were
continuing, and now I could not reach him. I was startled to say the least.
The combination of the force of the throw, only having one hand (the
throttle hand) on the handlebars, and my jerking back unfortunately put a
healthy twist through my right hand and into the throttle. A healthy twist
on the throttle of a Valkyrie can only have one result. Torque. This is
what the Valkyrie is made for, and she is very, very good at it. The engine
roared as the front wheel left the pavement. The squirrel screamed in
anger. The Valkyrie screamed in ecstasy. I screamed in, well, I just plain
Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in
jeans, a slightly squirrel torn t-shirt, and only one leather glove roaring
at maybe 70mph and rapidly accelerating down a quiet residential street, on
one wheel and with a demonic squirrel on his back. The man and the squirrel
are both screaming bloody murder.
With the sudden acceleration I was forced to put my other hand back on the
handlebars and try to get control of the bike. This was leaving the mutant
squirrel to his own devices, but I really did not want to crash into
somebody's tree, house, or parked car. Also, I had not yet figured out how
to release the throttle, my brain was just simply overloaded. I did manage
to mash the back brake, but it had little affect against the massive power
of the big cruiser.
About this time the squirrel decided that I was not paying sufficient
attention to this very serious battle (maybe he is a Scottish attack
squirrel of death), and he came around my neck and got IN my full-face
helmet with me. As the faceplate closed part way and he began hissing in my
face I am quite sure my screaming changed tone and intensity. It seemed to
have little affect on the squirrel however. The rpm's on The Dragon maxed
out (I was not concerned about shifting at the moment) and her front end
started to drop. Now picture the large man on the huge black and chrome
cruiser, dressed in jeans, a very ragged torn t-shirt, and wearing one
leather glove, roaring at probably 80mph, still on one wheel, with a large
puffy squirrel's tail sticking out his mostly closed full-face helmet. By
now the screams are probably getting a little hoarse.
Finally I got the upper hand, I managed to grab his tail again, pulled him
out of my helmet, and slung him to the left as hard as I could. This time
it workless Spectacularly sort-of, so to speak.
Picture the scene. You are a cop. You and your partner have pulled off on a
quiet residential street and parked with your windows down to do some
Suddenly a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans,
a torn t-shirt flapping in the breeze, and wearing one leather glove,
moving at probably 80mph on one wheel, and screaming bloody murder roars by
and with all his strength throws a live squirrel grenade directly into your
I heard screams. They weren't mine...
I managed to get the big motorcycle under directional control and dropped
the front wheel to the ground. I then used maximum braking and skidded to a
stop in a cloud of tire smoke at the stop sign at a busy cross street.
I would have returned to fess up (and to get my glove back). I really would
have. Really. But for two things. First, the cops did not seem interested
or the slightest bit concerned about me at the moment. One of them was on
his back in the front yard of the house they had been parked in front of
and was rapidly crabbing backwards away from the patrol car. The other was
standing in the street and was training a riot shotgun on the police
So the cops were not interested in me. They often insist to "let the
professionals handle it" anyway. That was one thing. The other? Well, I
swear I could see the squirrel, standing in the back window of the patrol
car among shredded and flying pieces of foam and upholstery, and shaking
his little fist at me. I think he was shooting me the finger. That is one
And now he has a patrol car.
I took a deep breath, turned on my turn-signal, made an easy right turn,
and sedately left the neighborhood. As for my easy and slow drive home?
Screw it. Faced with a choice of 80mph cars and inattentive drivers, or the
evil, demonic, attack squirrel of death...I'll take my chances with the
freeway. Every time. And I'll buy myself a new pair of gloves.