I love riding this time of year. Early fall, cool in the mornings, and perfect when you ride home. This morning’s ride to work was just that. I had my leather jacket on, knowing that at 49 degrees on the ride in, it would not be needed this afternoon on the way home. About six miles from home the road drops into a valley where the small community of Skiddy resides, and of course where the temperature drops what seems to be about 10 degrees. It’s also a known hangout for deer. You cross two bridges over the same creek with trees lining the banks, so I guess from a deer’s perspective it makes a great place to jump from the ditches and scare us folks on motorcycles.
Every day you swing a leg over the seat of a motorcycle, you take a chance. There isn’t a day goes by that a car doesn’t pull out in front of me without the driver looking my way – it’s going to happen, so I fully expect it. Deer on the other hand, have an element of surprise that humans posses but rarely use. Deer usually come to work semi-camouflaged to their surroundings, aren’t going to have a cell phone up to their head and they do their best work anywhere but in an intersection. Humans are usually confined to pavement and as long as your head is on a swivel, they are predictable.
This morning as the sun was coming up but yet to crest the horizon, I dropped into the valley crossing the first bridge. After the bridge there is a gradual curve to the left that can be taken without slowing down and this morning wasn’t going to be any different. Once I was committed into the curve, out of the corner of my good eye I realized a doe was ignoring the Motorcycle Crossing sign. She was stepping up onto the road from the ditch to my left wearing a stunning brown fur coat (like I said, the temperature feels about 10 degrees cooler when you drop down through Skiddy, so a coat was expected). Traveling at about 50 miles per hour and well into to the curve, I had only a split-second to react to the situation as it presented itself. My history with deer indicates an unpredictable jump out of the ditch onto the road or they are already standing there, statuesque, on the road staring directly into my headlight. This doe was just casually stepping onto the road as if waiting on a school bus, and as I rounded the curve our eyes met – hers big and brown, mine wide open. Her head moved, following me and watching to see what I was going to do next, mine doing the same thing, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Had I reached out with my left hand I felt like I could have touched her, but I’m sure she was a littler further away than that. Too close for me either way.
I accept the risk of riding motorcycles, and in a split-second this situation could have gone from a close call to call an ambulance. Remaining composed, I didn’t slow down or panic, but rather accepted whatever decision this deer was going to make. It’s amazing how fast you can think when faced with a situation involving many different factors, hoping for the best, and the only control you have is your own actions. I don’t know what the doe was thinking, but I’m sure she was just as surprised as I was.
Just like that it was over with. It all ended well and I made it to work without a scratch. As a daily occurrence, a car pulled off the exit ramp of I-70, didn’t stop at the stop sign or look my way – barely a close call but I knew it was going to happen so there were no surprises. At least the deer saw me.