America is famed for its extremely diverse (and in some cases deadly) wildlife and with that in mind, Team Norton Rose’s first aid kit was prepared for everything. Luckily we managed to navigate the country without any major incidents but we did notch up a pretty impressive collection of animal encounters – the highlights of which (in no particular order) are below:
Brian had a mixed experience and probably takes the Gillian McKeith award for hilarious animal encounters. Highlights include the blabbered radio message that vehicle 2 received shortly after Brian had spotted what he describes as a “massive white rat thing with a huge tail” crossing the road just in front of him, avoiding a collision with a deer running across the freeway at full speed by inches in the dead of night, nearly walking straight over a snake while searching for a suitable place to use the toilet in Arizona late at night and filling the Kansas night air with a blood curdling scream shortly after a moth (Brian maintains that it was a bat) landed on him following a changeover.
My fears of encountering scorpians, grizzly bears and mountain lions turned out to be largely unfounded, however I did have a terrifying encounter late at night (are you noticing the pattern here….) with what turned out to be a roll of gaffa tape. Over the last few hours Brian and I had encountered numerous dead armadillos on the road – their use as possible replacement aero helmets was overlooked at the time. Readers that have never seen an armadillo are probably racking their brains and thinking back to the old Dime Bar adverts, but in summary they are blood thirsty predators (hmmm) about the size of a large rabbit, with a thick armoured shell and leathery tail. At a changeover later on that night several of us were attempting to gaffa tape my front light to the handle bars. I took my eyes off the bike to sort my bike computer and out of the corner of my eye spotted an armadillo charging at my legs. Cue what can only be described as the yelp of a teenage girl at a Justin Beiber concert coupled with a leap that would rival Michael Flatley for dexterity. The bewildered crew members swung around to see what the commotion was, just as the armadillo (read rolling roll of gaffa tape) wobbled slowly past my feet……
Dan and Anthony’s side of the race also had their share of animal encounters. Dan had an unfortunate incident where a startled mouse managed to run straight into his path and get run over despite a cat like attempted last gasp avoidance move. Hopefully the mouse made a full recovery and has learnt its lesson… Tanya momentarily bemused the vehicle one gang deep in the prairie lands by announcing that she had spotted a two headed cow , that turned out to be two cows standing next to each other and Ezra stunned himself during an attempt to put his head through a closed window, a manoeuvre that has been the end of many a confused summer time sparrow.
We were also plagued by moths, crickets and beetles who were drawn to our headlights and internal car lights like the proverbial moth to a flame. Memories of Robbie having a Rambo moment and attempting to punch the moths and crickets that had infested our van will stay with me for a while. A particularly bad shift for this was the dead of night pull that Brian and I took on shortly after crossing the flooded Mississippi. Rumours that Brian was cycling along with his mouth open in order to increase his protein intake haven’t been confirmed, but I can say with some certainty that we managed to significantly lower the bug population in the nearby area.
While not a true animal encounter I should also mention the particularly unfriendly beer swilling bear of a farmer that spent an afternoon chasing Dan, Anthony and the vehicle one gang along the road in an attempt to prevent them doing changeovers in the vicinity of his land. He showed all the skills of Wile E Coyote however as the Team Norton Rose roadrunner ran rings around him and carried out their changeovers at will.
A final mention should be made of some of the truly epic animal encounters we had, two standouts being the numerous eagles we spotted circling overhead along the way (they were possibly following us with an eye on the growing stash of dried fruit that Tanya was accumulating) and the wild Mustang ponies that roam the West. These encounters really add to the scale and drama of the race and helped to make the tough pulls easier.