A bicyclist gets a good look at all the road kill. Sometimes we get to rescue a small creature before it gets flattened. Once I directed traffic around a beaver that was crossing Route 28. A few times I've snatched a snake or a turtle from the traffic lane. Most of the time I'm too late.
On Saturday, I was in a hurry to get to work before opening time, to lug clothing racks out to a pop-up tent set out to entice holiday weekend shoppers. But then, on 28, I noticed snapping turtle hatchlings doing that flappy-footed baby turtle walk from the roadside into the lane. One had already been flattened. I saw one, two, three more as I scanned the shoulder. There's only about a foot or foot and a half of paved shoulder, and then a guardrail, where the turtles happened to be.
The wetland that probably served as the mother turtle's home is way down a forested slope. Dozens of yards may not seem that far, but when the slope is covered with trees and undergrowth, and you're wearing hard-soled road cycling shoes, it's too far to go. And the baby turtles had been headed the opposite way. I tried to remember what other streams and wet areas lay along that section, perhaps more convenient for all of us.
The babies' instinct to keep moving meant that I could not cup them in one hand. I had to wedge each of them between a pair of digits, with just the right firm but gentle pressure to keep them in place without squishing their soft little shells. All the while, they kept flapping their flippers.
After walking for 30 or 40 yards on the northbound side of the highway, I crossed back to the southbound side. I knew that a stream flowed very close to the road within perhaps an eighth of a mile. It feeds into the wetland where the rest of their family probably lives. I figured if I could get them to water they could work the rest out for themselves.
Still confined by the guardrail, I remounted to ride, turtles in hand. One finally wiggled free just as I stopped. I picked it back up and hoisted a leg over the guard rail. I could hear the stream trickling thinly, even after weeks of drought. I bushwhacked down a short distance and set the turtles as near the stream as the tangled shrubs and weeds allowed.
I had switched on the video camera, or so I thought, as I dismounted, to record the little guys, but I had not pushed the slide far enough. It hits resistance just before it actually switches on, so it can look and feel like it's on when it isn't yet. I can't always hear the beep when things are noisy, as they are when cars and trucks are hitting the centerline rumble strip. So I got no visual record.
At least when I arrived late at work I had a more interesting story than usual.