Neighborhood Hazard (or: Why the Cops Won’t Patrol Brice Street)
I never dreamed slowly cruising through a residential neighborhood
could be so incredibly dangerous!
Studies have shown that motorcycling requires more decisions per
second, and more sheer data processing than nearly any other common
activity or sport. The reactions and accurate decision making abilities
needed have been likened to the reactions of fighter pilots! The
consequences of bad decisions or poor situational awareness are pretty
much the same for both groups too.
Occasionally, as a rider I have caught myself starting to make bad or
late decisions while riding. In flight training, my instructors called
this being behind the power curve. It is a mark of experience that
when this begins to happen, the rider recognizes the situation, and more
importantly, does something about it. A short break,
a meal, or even a gas stop can set things right again as it gives the
brain a chance to catch up.
Good, accurate, and timely decisions are essential when riding a
motorcycle at least if you want to remain among the living. In short,
the brain needs to keep up with the machine.
I had been banging around the roads of east Texas and as I headed back
into Dallas, found myself in very heavy, high-speed traffic on the
freeways. Normally, this is not a problem, I commute in these conditions
daily, but suddenly I was nearly run down by a cage that decided it
needed my lane more than I did. This is not normally a big deal either,
as it happens around here often, but usually I can accurately predict
which drivers are not paying attention and avoid them before we are even
close. This one I missed seeing until it was nearly too late, and as I
took evasive action I nearly broadsided another car that I was not even
aware was there!
Two bad decisions and insufficient situational awareness all within
seconds. I was behind the power curve. Time to get off the freeway.
I hit the next exit, and as I was in an area I knew pretty well, headed
through a few big residential neighborhoods as a new route home. As I
turned onto the nearly empty streets I opened the visor on my full-face
helmet to help get some air. I figured some slow riding through the
quiet surface streets would give me time to relax, think, and regain
that edge so frequently required when riding.
Little did I suspect
As I passed an oncoming car, a brown furry missile shot out from under
it and tumbled to a stop immediately in front of me. It was a squirrel,
and must have been trying to run across the road when it encountered the
car. I really was not going very fast, but there was no time to brake or
avoid it it was that close.
I hate to run over animals and I really hate it on a motorcycle, but a
squirrel should pose no danger to me. I barely had time to brace for the
Animal lovers, never fear. Squirrels can take care of themselves!
Inches before impact, the squirrel flipped to his feet. He was standing
on his hind legs and facing the oncoming Valkyrie with steadfast resolve
in his little beady eyes. His mouth opened, and at the last possible
second, he screamed and leapt! I am pretty sure the scream was squirrel
for, Banzai! or maybe, Die you gravy-sucking, heathen scum! as the
leap was spectacular and he flew over the windshield and impacted me
squarely in the chest.
Instantly he set upon me. If I did not know better I would have sworn
he brought twenty of his little buddies along for the attack. Snarling,
hissing, and tearing at my clothes, he was a frenzy of activity. As I
was dressed only in a light T-shirt, summer riding gloves, and jeans
this was a bit of a cause for concern. This furry little tornado was
doing some damage!
Picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in
jeans, a T-shirt, and leather gloves puttering maybe 25 mph down a quiet
residential street and in the fight of his life with a squirrel. And
I grabbed for him with my left hand and managed to snag his tail. With
all my strength I flung the evil rodent off the left of the bike, almost
running into the right curb as I recoiled from the throw.
That should have done it. The matter should have ended right there. It
really should have. The squirrel could have sailed into one of the
pristinely kept yards and gone on about his business, and I could have
headed home. No one would have been the wiser.
But this was no ordinary squirrel. This was not even an ordinary
This was an evil attack squirrel of death!
Somehow he caught my gloved finger with one of his little hands, and
with the force of the throw swung around and with a resounding thump and
an amazing impact he landed square on my back and resumed his rather
anti-social and extremely distracting activities. He also managed to
take my left glove with him!
The situation was not improved. Not improved at all. His attacks were
continuing, and now I could not reach him.
I was startled to say the least. The combination of the force of the
throw, only having one hand (the throttle hand) on the handlebars, and
my jerking back unfortunately put a healthy twist through my right hand
and into the throttle. A healthy twist on the throttle of a Valkyrie can
only have one result. Torque. This is what the Valkyrie is made for, and
she is very, very good at it.
The engine roared as the front wheel left the pavement. The squirrel
screamed in anger. The Valkyrie screamed in ecstasy. I screamed
in well just plain screamed.
Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in
jeans, a slightly squirrel torn T-shirt, and only one leather glove
roaring at maybe 70 mph and rapidly accelerating down a quiet
residential street on one wheel and with a demonic squirrel on his back.
The man and the squirrel are both screaming bloody murder.
With the sudden acceleration I was forced to put my other hand back on
the handlebars and try to get control of the bike. This was leaving the
mutant squirrel to his own devices, but I really did not want to crash
into somebody’s tree, house, or parked car. Also, I had not yet figured
out how to release the throttle my brain was just simply overloaded. I
did manage to mash the back brake, but it had little affect against the
massive power of the big cruiser.
About this time the squirrel decided that I was not paying sufficient
attention to this very serious battle (maybe he is a Scottish attack
squirrel of death), and he came around my neck and got IN my full-face
helmet with me. As the faceplate closed partway and he began hissing in
my face I am quite sure my screaming changed tone and intensity. It
seemed to have little affect on the squirrel however.
The rpm’s on The Dragon maxed out (I was not concerned about shifting
at the moment) and her front end started to drop.
Now picture the large man on the huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed
in jeans, a very ragged torn T-shirt, and wearing one leather glove,
roaring at probably 80 mph, still on one wheel, with a large puffy
squirrel's tail sticking out his mostly closed full-face helmet. By now
the screams are probably getting a little hoarse.
Finally I got the upper hand managed to grab his tail again, pulled
him out of my helmet, and slung him to the left as hard as I could. This
time it worked sort-of. Spectacularly sort-of, so to speak.
Picture the scene. You are a cop. You and your partner have pulled off
on a quiet residential street and parked with your windows down to do
Suddenly a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in
jeans, a torn T-shirt flapping in the breeze, and wearing one leather
glove, moving at probably 80 mph on one wheel, and screaming bloody
murder roars by and with all his strength throws a live squirrel grenade
directly into your police car.
I heard screams. They weren't mine...
I managed to get the big motorcycle under directional control and
dropped the front wheel to the ground. I then used maximum braking and
skidded to a stop in a cloud of tire smoke at the stop sign at a busy
I would have returned to fess up (and to get my glove back). I really
would have. Really. But for two things. First, the cops did not seem
interested or the slightest bit concerned about me at the moment. One of
them was on his back in the front yard of the house they had been parked
in front of and was rapidly crabbing backwards away from the patrol car.
The other was standing in the street and was training a riot shotgun on
the police cruiser.
So the cops were not interested in me. They often insist to let the
professionals handle it anyway. That was one thing. The other? Well, I
swear I could see the squirrel, standing in the back window of the
patrol car among shredded and flying pieces of foam and upholstery, and
shaking his little fist at me. I think he was shooting me the finger
That is one dangerous squirrel. And now he has a patrol car
I took a deep breath, turned on my turn-signal, made an easy right
turn, and sedately left the neighborhood.
As for my easy and slow drive home? Screw it. Faced with a choice of 80
mph cars and inattentive drivers, or the evil, demonic, attack squirrel
of death...I’ll take my chances with the freeway. Every time.
And I’ll buy myself a new pair of gloves.