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Watch out for wildlife (and other big critters)

Buffalo herd, Custer State Park, South Dakota

This past weekend, a motorcyclist in Oregon died when a bear ran out in front of him on the highway and they both crashed into an SUV in the opposite lane. The driver of the SUV was hospitalized in serious condition.

Last week, a biker in southeastern Minnesota, where there are lots of Amish folk, crashed into a horse that bolted from its pasture and suddenly appeared on the road before him. Horse and rider both died.

When you’re traveling on curvy country roads, be on the alert for wandering wildlife. That bump on the road might be a snapping turtle, or a skunk. Best to avoid either if you can.

Deer, as a rule, move around a lot during the earning morning hours and in the hours just before and after dusk. But they don’t always follow the rules. I’ve seen them come to the roadside at 10 a.m. and in the middle of the afternoon. Fortunately, they’re naturally timid and a “snort” from the motorcycle sent them back to safe cover. But that doesn’t always happen, either.

Buffalo are another matter. They trot or amble down the roads in Custer State Park in South Dakota and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming like they own them. Bikers are well advised not to get too close and not to rev their engines. Bison love a challenge, and they’ll gladly take on that iron horse you’re sitting on.

From 2004 through 2013, the Oregon Department of Transportation recorded 431 crashes involving motorcycles versus wildlife. More than 61,000 vehicle-deer related crashes occurred in Michigan in 2009, with 10 fatalities. Those 10 killed were all on motorcycles.

The Skilled Motorcyclist Association makes the following recommendations for reducing wildlife/bike collisions:

  • Slowing down
  • Hand on the brakes to reduce reaction time
  • Use your lights
  • Stagger riders when in a group

And for God’s sake, wear a helmet!


Ready to Ride

Swimsuits, check. Sunscreen, check.  Long underwear, check.

When the kickstand goes up tomorrow morning, our Victory’s nose will be pointed north (instead of south, toward work). We’ll leave early for a week-long ride around Lake Superior. Maybe we won’t need the longjohns, but you never know how warm it will be on the shores of Gitchi Gumi.

After leaving the Twin Cities, we’ll start our circle around the lake at Duluth and travel eastward across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We’ll cross the border into Canada (Passports, check.) at Sault Ste. Marie. It always amazes me how the U.S. side of the lake is so filled with towns and people, but the Ontario side is so sparsely populated and wild. Toronto and Nipigon are a long way–even worlds–apart.

The camera is packed and ready to, and my notebook, too. I want to add another book to what I hope will become my “Ride” series. I know others have circumnavigated Superior and written about it. But this will be our ride, our experiences and insights.

We’re excited, and anxious to be on the road. And we’ll be doing our best to stay safe and, as the women from the Christian Motorcyclists prayed during the Blessing of the Bikes, to “remain upright.”