Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Football and Hunting? (Go Bambi!)

A weird thing happened to me last Sunday while I was lost on my bike ride. I had started the ride at the base of the Blackwater Heritage Trail, wound my way north on Hwy 89 past Milton, FF, took a right on Greenwood Ln (State Road 168), and then continued to wind my way around Brewton, Jay, and maybe - gulp - briefly into Alabama. I couldn't be quite sure, but I may have crossed a state line. It was a gorgeous day, sunny skies, fair winds, light traffic, and very mild temps for Florida in October (think upper 70s. Perfect!). I eventually found myself back on Highway 4, and figured taking a right/going South would be my best option to figure out where the heck I was. 20 minutes later I passed a gas station, stopped to fill up my water and grab a Gatorade, and - here's the real kicker - consult my map. Yes, I was carrying a map. I repeat- I was carrying a map. And no, I didn't plan on getting lost, it just happened. So I figured that with some good route planning, I could wind my way through some of the hills and valleys of Santa Rosa County, past the horse stables and trails, and make my way back to the trail head off of Munson Highway.

As I was folding my map back into the plastic protective cover (hey - getting lost and having a map is one thing, but getting lost and ruining your map with sweat is an entirely different matter!), a nice, er, gentlemen pulled up in his pickup truck. Now - I have absolutely no disrespect for 1)People from Florida or Alabama 2)People who drive pickup trucks 3)People who wear all camouflage and hunt cute little animals or 4)People who's accents are so thick I can barely understand them. That being said - the guy gets out of his pickup truck, decked out head to toe in camouflage, takes a long look at me and says, "I seen you biking down in Milton near 2 or 3 hours ago!" If you're familiar with "Larry the Cable Guy" - that's exactly what this guy looked like. Except wearing camouflage.

I didn't want to seem rude. This guy was obviously being polite, and my bike with all of its water bottles and bento boxes stuffed with gels, bars, and gum was probably not what he's used to seeing. "Yup - that was me."

"How far you done?"

"Oh, I've been riding for 2 and a half hours, but I've got another few hours to go," I replied.

"How far you done gonna go?" he asked, genuinely interested. He was eyeing my saddle with great interest (note - this was the first ride that I've gone commando on, if you've read my previous entries. So I was more than a little nervous that my butt was clearly visible), so I made sure that I was turned and facing him squarely, while holding a gel - something to occupy my hands with, I guess.

"Oh, maybe another two hours, if I can stand it. I suppose around 80 miles by the end."

He whistled and replied, "Well, that there's really something. Me, I'm going deer hunting. Gonna get me a 6 pack and sit outside all day."

Visions of a motherless Bambi flashed through my mind. I hate, absolutely hate hunting. It's one thing if you do it out of necessity, use all the animal parts and respect the animals. I often times think of the first scene from "Last of the Mohican's" when the deer is being hunted by the last 3 Mahican tribe members - they kill the deer, but say a prayer, are very respectful of the animal, and it's clear that they have a lot of admiration and need for it. I really don't like big game hunting - just for the sake of killing animals. I'm all for the deer charging the hunter, or the shark attacking the boat... I just would have a very hard time taking another's life. Yes - I DO eat meat, but I try to purchase cage-free eggs, and organic meat (free range, I suppose), if I can help it. But I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't like killing for killing's sake. And it seemed as though my new gas-station friend was about to do just that.

So I tried to steer his mind elsewhere. "That sounds interesting. Me, well, the minute I get off this bike, I'm going home, kicking my feet back, getting a beer and watching football."

His eyes perked up almost immediately. "Who's playing?"

Had he called my bluff? I played it cool, "Well, my husband's a Green Bay fan, so I know they're playing today, I'm not sure if it's an afternoon or an evening game. But they've only suffered one loss this season, and that was last weekend to Chicago." (At least I think it was).

He was pretty impressed and said, "You know, that sounds like a right'n good idea. Football! You seem like my kind of lady! Now you be careful out there. They'r plenty of drunk rednecks drivin' around all day - buncha idiots. Don't go an git yourself run over now."

I thanked him for his well wishes and encouraged him to go watch the games, and set off for the rest of my ride. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I still hoped that the deer got away. Right before leaving I had consulted my map and was 98% sure that I was going the right way. South on Hwy4 - check! (At least I won't find myself in Alabama again). Now I'm supposed to take either the first or second right turn on Hall. Or is it Linmark? Oh well - Hall looks familiar, and there are horses - the horse stables should be 5 or 6 miles or so down the rode.

So there I was, bumping along some random road in Santa Rosa County. I kept riding, and riding, and riding. And riding. No stables. I checked my odometer - I had been on this road for a little over 8 miles, and still no stables. In fact, come to think of it, the last house I had seen was nearly 6 miles back. Hhhmmmmm. I paused momentarily. Not much around me. Except state forest. The wind in the trees. Sun shining overhead, Occasional gunshots through the woods. Birds flying overhead. Wait a moment - gunshots?

And then my pickup truck, camouflaged friend entered my head. Goin' deer huntn' today! Oh shit! So here I am - obviously NO horse stables around, lost again (and this time WITH the map), in the middle of no where, and woods all around me. It would have been funny. It would have been beautiful. But all I could hear was the occasional crack of gunfire. Great. Just what I needed. I couldn't go back - It would be an extra 20 miles out of my way and I was getting tired, and didn't want to trek an additional 20 miles extra to get to Muson Hwy. Crack! More gunfire. I though of the grisly scene from "Blackhawk Down!" where one soldier asks another what the difference in close gunfire versus gunshots from a distance was. I don't remember the exact response, but just that gunfire at a close noise made a zipping nose. At least this gunfire wasn't zipping. Didn't these people know the was a road? With motorists, old grannies driving home from church, and a very blond, obviously lost biker? Sheesh! I really was pulling for the deer!

So I did the only thing I could think of - I pressed forward. And you know what? I kept thinking to myself when I get home, all I want to do is to watch football and have a beer. No kidding. I've never been a football fan and I hardly ever drink beer. So this was obviously a breakthrough for me.

It's funny - my life wasn't really threatened, but I was scared and I was lost - but I managed not to panic (yea!). Instead I focused on something really good. Football and beer. And if you know me well, you know that I've NEVER had a taste for either. But lately I've been getting more and more into football. I still can't tell you what half of the things mean, don't have a clue about strategy, and the idea of fully-grown men attacking each other isn't all that appealing. But what I DO enjoy, is the strategies, the importance of special teams (I love the kickers!), and how each part of the team has to function in order for the team to win. The last few weekends I've watched football with Nathaniel, and have learned a lot and have had an even bigger blast watching his reactions. He really gets into the game and puts up really well with my questions.

So there you have it: I was lost in the woods, a little afraid, and one of the things that kept me going was watching a football game. How odd! I never thought it would come to that - but it did.

Oh yeah, and obviously I did find my way out - the road eventually hooked up to Springhill road, which 11 miles later hooked up with Munson Highway. So I was lost, and then found my way. Kind of like with football - I was lost with the game, but am slowly finding my way. And you know what, I kind of like it now. Gunfire aside, it was a really great ride. It's interesting how it has taken me a while to catch onto the notion that I kind of like football. Then again, I may have crossed into Alabama without knowing it - and I was carrying a map. You just never know until you try something new, go through a new experience, or just let yourself go. You might be surprised.

As for me now - I'm off to bed. After catching up with ESPN's replay. I do know enough to know they don't play on Tuesday... right?

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