Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I get the point...several times!

Looks like a peaceful and tranquil scene, doesn't it? Under normal circumstances it would be. It's open farm land beside a quiet road that gently winds it way around the various fields. Life would be perfect if it weren't for those little white boxes.

Take a closer look.

These little white boxes shelter thousands of air-borne honey makers. Thing was, my encounter with them wasn't especially sweet. I have felt the pain!

Turns out I had some extra time. One of my appointments had fizzled out. It was shaping up to be a good time to start exploring back roads in my new surroundings. Although there are clouds over against the foothills, it was actually warm and sunny most of the time.

I found this road by following the navigational advice of Yogi Berra. His words of wisdom are "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!"
Seems perfectly suited to a natural born wanderer like me.

I tell you, this road is a perfect stress reliever. Except for the bees, of course. Small farms fill every acre. The road is narrow. I suspect that if you met a big tractor coming the other way you'd have to just stop near the shoulder and let it pass. I think how the road was laid out was by natural selection. I've seen architects do the same thing with college campus sidewalks. No pavement is laid in the beginning. After a while some tracks appear where folks have walked. In this case, driven. Once the usage patterns are set the blacktop goes down to make it official.

Curve speed postings vary between 10 and 35 mph. Straightaways are fairly short. It's impossible to get up much speed. That's the whole point of a road like this, isn't it? For the locals it's a matter of just meandering from here to there. Outsiders either buy into the philosophy or crash. Let its magic settle over you and it's almost healing. Certainly soothing, to say the least.

I've succumbed to the whole effect. After a day of work the relaxation is similar to sitting in a hot tub and letting the bubble jets do their thing. This is truly bliss on two wheels. Since it's warm I have my 'stich zipped down fairly far in the front. Those wonderfully long side vents are open. I want to see the sights and inhale the fragrances of farming as I peacefully tool along. Ok, so some of the fragrances aren't as pretty as others, but it's part of the experience. The face shield on the full face helmet is open.

Now and then a bug of some sort or other will glance off the fairing or somewhere on my person. It's fertile farm country, after all. My speeds are low enough that splatting is generally avoided. Much to my harm, it turns out. Bug hits are getting more frequent. Suddenly I feel several impacts, one right on the heels of the other. The last one hits me in the face just above my sunglasses. There's a crawly sensation coming from a number of spots. And then pain.

I ended up getting stung four times. Three were inside my shirt. Did I mention that I also had a button-up shirt with a few buttons undone for ventilation? The worst sting was on my right eyebrow. Thank goodness these were honeybees and not wasps. One sting and the honeybees are done. Not so with wasps. I figure I crossed an area that was in the path of travel to return to the hives. If the little critters would have kept to the field they were hired to pollinate it would have been a case of "no harm, no foul". I guess the flowers somewhere else looked better.
What was really interesting was that the bees came at me from my left side and not from in front of me. It just struck me as I write this. I hope they didn't think I was some sort of huge sunflower. Andy, does the Hi-Viz 'stich look like a big flower to bees?

After rounding a bend I saw both a place to pull over and the home to my attackers. At least, the former home of my attackers as stinging me probably killed them. I carry a Micro-Leatherman (r) tool which has tweezers. I stripped down. Sorry, I know that sounds gross. Let me put it this way. I pulled off the jacket and my shirt. Does that sound better? With the tweezers and my reading glasses I pulled out the couple of stingers hanging from my skin.

Since I was stopped, anyway, I took some pictures. Curiously, I noticed a black helicopter circling overhead. There's an airport about ten miles distant. This chopper looked almost military in origin but I couldn't tell. I do know that it circled near me for a while.

The way I see it, the pilot and co-pilot were either laughing at me or they were part of some sort of Pollination Police. I decided to take their picture, too. After all, it seemed to be "flying things" day. Having lost a camera over a wall and down a cliff to cavorting squirrels, and having dropped another camera on the pavement, I bought a rather inexpensive camera this time. The zoom isn't overly savage on this one. As you notice, this is the back end of the helicopter. As soon as I raised the camera the thing shot away from the area. Draw your own conclusions.

Being stung was painful and they still itch a little. On the other hand, I'm still smiling about the ride and the adventure. That's the way life works out, isn't it? It just seems that being on two wheels magnifies the effect. By the way, I've had this tremendous craving for honey, lately!

Miles and smiles,



Gary said...

Hey Dan,

I finally got some time to catch up on your blog. I can really sympathize with this bee-sting entry.

After not being stung for something like twelve years, I have inexplicably been nailed three times this year! Did those Killer Bees from Saturday Night Live finally make it to Minnesota? They've been warning us about them for decades...

That helo you photographed was definitely a Hughes UH-1 derivative. You can tell by the two-bladed rotor and distinctive shape. I'm sure it also made that "whop-whop" noise that we all associate with a certain Southeast Asian "conflict".

I'll bet the pilot and observer were probably watching you have your very own "Apocalypse Now" down there...

Ride well,

irondad said...

I could never see the choppers for the trees! Yes, there were some left after the Orange showers. I wondered why the sound made my adrenaline run. I thought it was the bees.

I think the bees in my encounter were just poor working stiffs who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time!


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

Lost a camera to "cavorting squirrels"...? There's a story there. Do tell. ::grin::

Hey, Gary - me too! I hadn't been stung for probably 20 years or so, and got nailed twice this summer, within about 10 days of each other, while riding, & within about 1/2 mile radius. One was a little honey bee that got inside the right temple of my helmet (poor bee - wrong place, wrong time), the other a LARGE black wasp.

I've never been stung by a wasp before. It HURTS!!! Fortunately, after stinging the back of my shoulder once it found a back mesh vent & was trying to find its way out 'til I got home. (I'd had the jacket unzipped a few inches in the high-90's heat that day, and it just blew in)

I made it the last mile-plus home in record time; I know I was going at least 85. Then I quit obsessing about the numbers and started paying attention to the road. Fortunately, it's mostly a nice straight 2-lane smoothly paved road, with few driveways and good lines of sight. I like the BMW R1150... lots of go when you need it, and lots of stop too (ABS is so nice). And it purrs like a big cat.

Honking all the way down the drive brought my fiancee out to see What Was Happening, and he peeled the jacket off me, seeing the wasp get away. He had to turn off the bike, too. (But I did put it in neutral, and didn't hit anything in the garage.)

About the time the wasp had healed I met up with the bee. ::sigh::

irondad said...

For the story of the squirrels, see Road Trip Part 2 from April 15, 2006.

Sorry about your stinging encounters!