Last Sunday, the unflappable Marine mentioned that, on the morning ride, "Steve ran over a dead porcupine on Route 28 and went off the road. He decided to drop out of the ride and go home."
This is a rough year for porcupines. Their defenses don't work well against hurtling tons of inanimate metal, unfeeling cyborg composites of vestigial human consciousness merged with powerful machines that thunder down the darkened highway crushing anything small enough to fall below bumper height. You don't turn a charge like that by turning your back and erecting your quills.
Porcupine corpses litter the side of Route 28. I've been watching them go from black, quilly corpse to gut-pile to darkened leather, one every couple of miles, since early June. I didn't happen to see the one Steve hit. It's on the northbound side of a section I usually miss, because I turn off to my alternate route before I get there.
Steve's account is much more colorful and gripping. He was at the back of a pace line, pushing fairly hard up this grade at about 12-15 miles per hour, when he heard someone say "oh shit" or something, and riders started swerving. When he could see the road kill, he found himself set up to pass to the right of it, on the side with the gut-splatter. Others had gone around the head end.
"I couldn't believe how slippery it turned out to be," said Steve. "I thought I would just cut through it, but the front end washed out immediately. I was going down."
Remember that Steve crashed 14 months ago, broke two ribs, collapsed a lung and fractured his scapula. He's a little sensitive.
"The front tire slid sideways on the guts. The bike was laid right over," said Steve.
"Suddenly the tire went off the pavement onto the dirt. The bike stood right up. I figured I was going over the bars then, but instead it suddenly flipped about a hundred and eighty degrees and I headed down the ditch.
"I never noticed how deep that ditch was along there. I figured I'd flip when I hit the bottom of it, maybe even fold up the fork. But the bike made it through the compression at the bottom and rolled up the other side. It just came quietly to a stop.
"My bike and my legs were covered with porcupine intestines. I emptied both my bottles trying to wash it off."
Thus ended Mr. Steve's Wild Ride.
Everyone who rode around the head had no problems. Porcupines have a lot of guts and very little brain. We all know someone like that.
Steve didn't just limp away home. He went off by himself and found a nasty puking hill to charge up "to calm down." Then he went home to clean himself and his bike thoroughly.
Some things you just can't practice for.