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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Road hogs


This has been an interesting year for road encounters. I travel a winding and hilly road daily down into the valley, into the village. Significant improvements were made about six years ago that banked the curves such that the forty mile per hour speed limit could be stretched by fifteen or twenty under good conditions and especially when some fool behind thought he had more power. On the flip side, lagging behind some timid soul who braked for every curve and dip was payback.

The most road caution required, though, is not other motor vehicles, but for the majority users, the road hogs.

Bicycles. My little two lane county road to work and back every day runs primarily through a heavily wooded area of the national park. Once I thought the most obnoxious road hogs were the spandexed, two wheeling variety who defy traffic laws in general and rules of the road in particular. But their orange and lime green assault on the eyes notwithstanding, and their ability to detain a train of cars as a pair ignores the bicycle lane and labors two abreast uphill pales. I’ve encountered worse road hogs this summer.

Deer. Of course. I've rounded many a bend and encountered the generation of deer entitled to cross the road without looking. Honestly, caution seems bred out this year as groups, probably teenagers, stroll casually across two lanes.

Squirrels. I brake for animals. Deer of course, can put me and my car out of commission, so, certainly, stop. But where did the super abundance of squirrels come from? There is no dodging a squirrel; that’s only playing straight into their suicidal bent. (Or, is that lemmings? No matter.) I deserve a commendation for saving countless squirrel lives this summer by stopping my vehicle, waiting for a squirrel to make up its mind. Do you know squirrels run hesitantly forward and back until they make eye contact with the human, then they run like the wind, one way or the other off the road. The trick is to make eye contact with the squirrel in front before being rear ended by an enthusiastic driver behind.

Birds. Specifically, European Starlings. Most of us have looked up in awe at a murmuration of birds, dancing in waves across the sky. Not long ago I turned onto Truxell Road and stopped dead for a troupe of European Starlings, practicing, across a hundred square feet of golf course rough and two lanes of road. I could not drive through. Eventually I put the car in park and cut the engine and waited. Cars on the cross road stopped and some folks got out with cameras. I didn't. Up close and personal I found them as obnoxious as the colorful birds on bicycles.


20 comments:

  1. Must be some good feeding there if you have an overabundance of squirrels! I did learn something new here today about looking a squirrel in the eye. I'll have to remember that in such an encounter!

    betty

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  2. Starlings are not my favorite birds, but those videos of the European starlings are darn incredible. In Illinois, we used to have a lot of possum, squirrel and skunk road kill. Not too much deer though. I can imagine how careful you have to be with all the wildlife you've got.

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  3. Deer in the road are very frightening. Favorite Young Man is an avid cyclist and is very careful to obey the law.

    Love,
    Janie

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  4. you are toooooo funny. will try to remember to look a squirrel in the eye and if it doesn't move, this extended van will send him to his heavenly resting place. I love swarming birds and enjoy their swooping back and forth across the sky as I drive.

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  5. Those spandex dressed bike riders who ride our narrow country roads (usually in groups) and leave a caravan of cars to follow behind can drive me up a wall, both figuratively and literally.

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  6. Lycra louts are not my favourite road users. By a loooong way.
    Kangaroos can be tricky and we are very careful driving at dawn and dusk.
    And I do envy your murmuration. I have only seen (and marvelled) at the sight on video. They obviously have better road sense than most humans too - I have yet to see a collision in their intricate aerial ballet.

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  7. Wow, that is a lot of birds - it reminds me of a Hitchcock movie.

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  8. That mumuration almost looks like a bird itself. A dark crest, an eye to the right of that, a curved parrot type beak in a lighter shade under the eye and crest, a pale grey back, a near white belly.
    I'm glad you stop for squirrels and deer, although if you hit a couple you could get a nice batch of stews in your freezer for the coming winter.

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  9. We've had hundreds of Starlings nesting this summer !

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  10. The worst thing about the squirrels is that just when you think they are safely past you, they change their minds and dart back. I've only ever hit one and I wasn't the same for days after.

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  11. some of the roads bicyclists ride on is pure suicide in my estimation; I've seen mothers with a cart behind their bicycle taking their small child on the roads too, that just doesn't seem right to me, taking the life of their child in their hands risking their being hit by a car.

    I do brake for birds and animals,

    on the way home from new england alongside the highway we saw a small spotted deer grazing with the traffic whizzing by and I wondered at it's calm so close to all the noise.

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    1. I think caution is being bred out by familiarity. In thirty years of driving through protected lands I can say they no longer bound or dart across road, they stroll. And yes, they don't look up when grazing the verges.

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  12. We have to be cautious of deer too, especially this time of year, but I think bike riders are worse! They hog the road even when a bike lane is available. I hate them.

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  13. We have deer occasionally, squirrels too - and each evening a murmuration not far away.

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    1. This murmuration was on top of my car, across the hood and the windshield. Thousands of starlings, back and forth across the road.

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  14. Must admit I love the murmuration. We have lots of problems in northwestern Connecticut with deer -- not to mention deer ticks ...

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  15. Dear Joanne - if I understand it right, you mean real road hogs? We use it in a figurative sense (I was reminded of the word when I came back to Berlin: our roadhogs are the byciclists: they often have a road of their own in the city - but drive always on the footpath - coming from behind, inaudible (and I have good hearing!), and if you by mistake dare to change your way on a footpath - going to the left or the right without looking back (which I in Berlin now do always - looking like an irritated deer) they whack you. Remorselessly.

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  16. I hear you. Most evenings I visit my dad in a nursing home fifteen minutes away, half of which is through a densely forested area - 8 minutes of careful driving with eyes and braking reflex on full alert. This time of year is especially bad. A few nights ago I had to brake hard for two deer who were STANDING in the middle of the road when I came along in the dark. Not sure why they stopped in the middle of the flippin' road. It's not like there was anything there for them to eat :)

    I do love to watch the flocks of starlings, but I think it would be a bit creepy to be in the middle of it. From a distance, though, it's a marvel.

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  17. "I brake for animals.". Love that.

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  18. I brake for animals. I didn't know that about squirrels. I'll have to try it. Judging by the number of squirrels on the road, I gather many around here don't brake for them or else the squirrels are just excellent in suicide.

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