Close Encounters

Who knew that tortoises were native to this part of the United States? The rural idyll of the Shire gave way to strenuous, steep climbs through lush, deciduous forests, followed by spectacular descents that have left me quite euphoric, especially if, as on this day, I hadn’t yet had breakfast. And so it was that I came upon my first tortoise. No bigger than the palm of my hand, he was crossing the road. I pulled up and carefully put him safely on the grassy verge. Spotting a mom and pop diner down the road, I pulled in and mentioned the tortoise to the lady behind the counter. “Oh, we have to dodge ’em all the time”, she commented, in a tone that suggested that she didn’t hold with being inconvenienced by a tortoise.

Wondering whether a tortoise crossing the road would bring good luck, I didn’t spot the 3ft long stalk in the road until my front bicycle wheel was on top of it. To my dismay, the head and tail of the “stalk” whipped up towards my bare ankles. Clipped into the pedals, I couldn’t release my feet in time, but my rear wheel did the rest anyway. Sadly, the snake was done for.

I’ve been cycling on and off with the retired military guys (Bill, Don, and Dan) in the last few days. They invited me to share their campsite in the National Forest last night. Having dodged thunderstorms for the past few days, it was my first night camping. Aware of the guys’ scrutinous gaze, I was glad that I had practiced pitching my tent at home before attempting it in public. Chuffed with myself for pitching it with aplomb, my self-congratulations quickly dissipated when Bill casually commented that I had the flysheet inside out. (Deduct butch points for that.)

Today, I crossed the state border into Kentucky. Camping again tonight – this time in the grounds of the historical society. Besides the usual raccoons, there are also four bears hanging around. Hopefully, it will be a quiet night…