Editor’s note: Podunk frequently solicits guest blogs, but rarely do I get takers. So please join me as we warmly welcome the Fixer, who shares his harrowing eye witness account of … stuff. Gentle and especially loyal readers may remember the Fixer from the Argentina Adventure Episode 11.
During May and June this year, Mother Nature blessed Central Idaho with record rain. So instead of looking like the brown desert they are, by July the local foothills were covered in 3-foot-tall lush green grass.
Tall enough to conceal a good-sized calf.
At trail side.
Turns out this matters a lot, since high elevation grazing doesn’t start until a week or so after this story takes place. Who knew?
This past year I ran and biked 3-4 times a week to prepare for elk season, and to whip my 55-year-old butt into shape. I love to swim, but the City smartly closed the pool for the season mere hours after the word “bleach” crossed Agent Orange’s lips. So running became my usual jam with biking a distant second, mostly because my hardtail bike is so old Hubster, the town bike mechanic, routinely encourages me to register it as an antique.
Early July days at 45 North offer about 16 hours of direct daylight, which means high heat until 7 or 8 pm, and short evening hours for exercise in temps under 100F. If you don’t get out on a long cool morning jaunt, you try to squeeze in a quick evening sprint as the sun goes down.
This blog’s owner is an accomplished rider with a super nice, light bike. Taking pity on me on the mid-week evening in question, Podunk invited me on a quick Disco spin and in spite of the heat, after a long day at my desk I happily agreed.
Meanwhile, Podunk’s bike offers full suspension smoothness, disc brakes, Incan charms, and lucky (?) #13.
We enjoyed a super ride on Disco, covering 10-12 miles of single and double track in the sage, a couple thousand total vertical feet, one short steep bushwhack, and a windy, super flowy new-to-me section of trail called Drunken Sheriff (see local lore for that genesis story).
We were in the home stretch, maybe a mile from the trailhead. I was sore, thirsty, sweaty, and thinking we were inches from a clean getaway. (Not only do my friends all have better newer higher tech bikes than I, they also possess skill and confidence while riding that comes from years of watching me. With high deductible insurance and having watched my accomplished riding friends visit the local ER, I ride in constant, low simmering fear of injury).
Anyway, Podunk was cruising fast about 50 feet ahead of me through the sage-and tall grass-lined trail, heading down into a steep gully through tall grass…
…a calf appeared out of thin air in the middle of the trail. One moment all is well. The next moment a relatively small but large enough bovine was, simply, there.
Five feet in front of Podunk’s fast moving bike.
Sadly, no modern disc brake can stop a fast moving bike in 4.99 feet.
(The working theory is that the startled young bovine stood up quickly from behind abnormally tall grass. Who knows…)
The next few moments were a tangled blur of human, black furry calf and hi-tech ChroMolly/graphite bike frame. The entire ball rolled 10 feet down trail, and another 25 off trail to the bottom of the gully.
Oh, and a crunching noise as one bike helmet became several pieces.
That noise, and the awkward angle of Podunk’s neck as she and the calf hit the bentonite and tumbled through numerous prickly pears, still haunt my biking memories.
In my defense, the only reason I checked on the bike first, was because it ended up in top of the heap. I didn’t test ride it.
[Editor’s note: My first memory of this incident was the Fixer standing over me and prior to checking my pulse, he lifted my bike off my hot tangled mess, and exclaimed, “Holy shit! This bike is LIGHT.” To be fair, his bicycle is heavier than most motorcycles.]
Because it was on top of Podunk, the calf was next. I helped the stunned bovine up and shooed it towards its mama cow.
Expecting the worst and reaching for my phone to dial 911 (and finding no signal, fuck you too ATT) I turned my attention to what was left of Podunk, flat on her back, head downhill in steep sage and rocks festooned with prickly pear spines and pieces of helmet. Seeing no blood or bone, cringing anyway, I offered a hand up, hoping for the best or at least a pulse.
Long story short, a dozen cactus spines, a few good leg, arm and rib bruises and one new helmet later, Podunk was back chasing Disco calves less than 48 hours later. That nice bike suffered nary a scratch.
They say you can’t teach a cow anything, but I bet that telekinetic calf avoids bike trails to this day.
Editor’s note: Thanks again for your eyewitness account, Mr. Fixer! And remember if you have a story you would like to relay about rural Americans and their encounters with livestock….nevermind. Just keep it to yourselves.