Monday, June 25, 2012

Giant Spiders and Motorcycle Deer Strikes

“I am through riding the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Chris Jacarawycz. “This is the fourth time I’ve whacked a deer on this road, and the next one may whack me.”

Chris Jacarawycz is one of the finest motorcyclists I have ever known. Whether stirring up the dirt in backwoods Pennsylvania on a raging KTM, or taking a Honda Goldwing through twisties that would daunt a much nimbler bike, Jacarawycz is a biker’s biker. He carves through curves like a Renaissance sculptor, rendering gravel-coated corners into the moto equivalent of Michelangelo’s “David.” But all his skill couldn’t stop a large whitetail deer from from diving straight into the windshield of his Yamaha Super Ténéré — at point blank range.

“The deer came out of the brush in a dark brown blur,” said Jacarawycz. “My peripheral vision had barely scored the threat when the bike shuddered under a tremendous jolt. Broken plastic and bits of glass showered over me, as I fought for control. The front end started to wobble and the machine veered to the left. There was no opposing traffic and my thought was to keep it on the blacktop, while I brought the machine to a straight stop.”

He almost made it. The bike went into a front-end skid when the front wheel hit the grass, dropping Jacarawycz in a sliding dismount on the pavement. While not life threatening, his injuries would curtail his riding for the better part of the season. The event would prove fatal to both the bike and the deer. (Jacarawycz wears a full-face helmet and total ballistic gear.)

This was his fourth deer-strike, but only the first time he dropped the bike as a result of the impact. (His last encounter with a whitetail would severely damage the fairing of a Honda Goldwing, but Jacarawycz managed to hold the machine upright, precluding injury to himself, or the pillion rider. This was the outcome of two other deer strikes as well.)

“What could you have done differently to prevent this accident,” I asked him.

“Not a damn thing,” Jacarawycz replied.”It was broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon, and the deer leaped from thick cover right at the edge of the road. It slammed into the bike a split second later. There was absolutely no opportunity to swerve nor to slam on the brakes.”

“What was your initial reaction?”

“I knew what happened instantly... My reflex was to hold the bike upright, assess the situation, and bleed off speed without slamming on the brakes. I was pretty confident that I’d get it stopped upright, but there was greater impact damage to the forks or front brakes than I anticipated and circumstances proved otherwise,” Jaracawycz said.

“What advice would you give to riders dealing with whitetail deer?”

“It’s the luck of the draw. I’ve heard that if you come across a deer in the road, you should aim for where the animal has been. This assumes that the deer is not the point-man in a column of whitetails, which is often the case. Then again, I’ve seen deer start slipping and sliding on the pavement, and turn around to go back the way they came. The animals do not always enter the road in a tentative stance, pausing to look around. Sometimes they just come barreling out,” said Jacarawycz.

And on a tight, mountain road, this can spell trouble for motorists in general, and bikers in particular.

Nothing gets people more fired up in the US than the manner in which nature is regarded, discussed, and managed. When it comes to wildlife, the average fat-faced American is a real dope, extending human attributes to creatures who coexist with each other in a hair-trigger state of nature. I got my first lesson in this subject 25-years ago, on a fishing trip with my pal, Ihor Sypko. We were camping on the shores of Round Valley, a reservoir in New Jersey, and had planned to launch a rowboat from a marshy area, adjacent to our campsite.

There was nothing compact about the aluminum rowboat, and we chatted as we carried it (by hand) down the access road to the water’s edge. It was a half-mile walk. We laughed as we sweated, making no effort to conceal our movements. About 200-yards from the water’s edge, I noticed a fawn in the undergrowth. It was a thing of beauty. All spindly legs and silvery spots on a tiny, tawny body... It was trying to stand.

“Holy shit,” I said. “I think that fawn was just born. I hope we didn’t spook the mother.”

“I didn’t hear a deer run off,” replied Ihor.

We then carried the boat to the water’s edge in stealth mode.

The fishing was fun. The average size of the fish we caught could have been mounted on a Ritz Cracker, although I did hook into something impressive— that got away. It was probably a Blue Fin tuna or a Marlin.  We returned to shore 4 hours later, sun-dried, bug bitten, and hungry. We were carrying the boat back, when I remembered the fawn.

It was still there, and none too happy-looking.

“Shit,” I said to Ihor. “This little thing needs our help.”

Because we grew up in New Jersey — the land of abundant civil authority — and because we were city kids (relying on the irrefutable truth of Disney’s “Bambi” for our knowledge of deer), we decided to notify the park rangers. Since cell phones were pure science fiction in the late ’70’s, Ihor lit out for the emergency land line, about a mile and a half distant. Our plan was to call in a medivac helicopter and to get the deer airlifted to Johns Hopkins University Hospital as fast as possible.

I figured they probably had a jet at a local airport standing by for this sort of thing.

Ihor returned a bit later, with the news that a ranger was coming.

“Why didn’t you just wait by the phone and ride back in the helicopter?” I asked.

“They didn’t say anything about a helicopter,” said Ihor.

“What the fuck?” I responded, dripping furious indignation. (This was long before the internet, so I actually said, “What the fuck,” as opposed to the letters W.T.F.) “Did you tell them this involved a baby fawn, who may have been alone in the hot sun for a minimum of four hours?”

“Yes,” said Ihor.

“Did you tell them how cute it is with spindly legs and silvery spots on a tawny body?”

“Yes,” said Ihor.

“Did you tell them the little guy is thoroughly disoriented, and barely responds to his name?”

“Yes, I did,” said Ihor.

“Did you tell them his name is Jerome?”

“No,” said Ihor. “I didn’t think of that.”

“Well,” I said pointing in the direction of the phone. “Get moving. It is emotionally draining for me to stand guard over this fawn while you go sight-seeing.”

Ihor had barely set off, when we both heard the drone of motorboat, churning across the lake. It grounded with authority, and a ranger in a gray uniform, with very official hiking boots, stepped out of the boat. Have you ever noticed how some people just look like their chosen profession? I mean, is there a law that all firemen must resemble professional football players in stature, and have the confident demeanor of Navy SEALS? (By the same token, elected officials look like street walkers in the time of cholera.) This ranger, whose name was probably something like “Ted Goodperson,” combined the looks of Robert Redford with the personality of Saint Francis. I remember thinking, “I could fuck my way along the entire Appalacian Trail, without having to buy a drink for any lingerie model, if I looked like this guy.”

The ranger introduced himself, glanced at our gear and stuff, then advised us to wait quietly while he sized up the situation. He went into the tall grass and looked at the fawn carefully, without touching it. Then he looked at the grass around the fawn, examed the underbrush, and then poked around in the adjacent stand of hardwoods. This took about 15 minutes. He concluded his investigation and waved for us to join him.

“This fawn was born dyslexic,” said the ranger, “a condition that will prevent it from standing or walking properly.” To demonstrate his conclusion, he gently picked up the fawn, and set it on its legs.

It promptly fell down. He did this two or three times.

“The mother sensed there was something wrong with the fawn, so she abandoned it. They don’t waste any time with unhealthy fawns,” said the ranger.

This was not the message I wanted to hear from Saint Francis in a gray uniform... That the does of New Jersey were nothing more than wanton slatterns, who popped out fawns that got abandoned on the filmiest of pretexts.

“Why wouldn’t the mother try to nurse it to health?” I asked. “Will she come back?”

The ranger hesitated for a bit, then delivered the gruesome punch line. “The unhealthy fawn will attract predators that may prey on the doe as well. So in the interest of species preservation, the doe has abandoned the fawn. She may have three or four others in the next three or four years.”

“So you’ll take Jerome here to the state park vet?” I pressed.

It was then the ranger looked at both of us, and gave a little sigh. He knew he was dealing with two city assholes who couldn’t handle the truth. With the gentle grace of a good shepherd, the ranger put the fawn across his shoulders, carried it down to his boat, and buzzed off across the lake.

Ihor and I had steak that night... Steak seared over an open fire... Steak carved from the ass of a steer that had been whacked on the head with a sledge hammer in some slaughter house... A steer that had been born in the night, on spindly little legs, just like Jerome. And we felt pretty good... Like a couple of sports who had just saved a deer. And we drank our fortified ginger ale, listening to coyotes that we didn’t know New Jersey had, howling across the lake... Where they were probably eating Jerome.

Because this is the correct order of things, in a state of nature, where the mothers abandon their young to the coyotes, feral dogs, farm dogs, and bears... And where the remaining entrails of those abandoned young feed turkey vultures, crows, mice, twenty-kinds of beetles, and two million fly larvae. (The fly larvae will ultimately grow into big, fat, disgusting, shit-squatting insects, that slam into clear-plastic motorcycle face-shields, creating a need for replacement parts, providing the nice people at Nolan with jobs.)

Now, why did I write all this stuff about deer-strikes and motorcycles?

I was running through FaceBook last week and under the heading of a rider I like and respect was this well-intentioned advice about how you can tell the difference between orphaned fawns and those that are just parked for a bit. The truth is, there is no difference. Leave them all alone. Either the doe will come back, or Mr. Coyote will. Nature takes care of its own. In many states, it is illegal to feed wildlife as this conditions them to humans and ultimately makes them better targets for those with shotguns or rifles, or for cars and motorcycles.

I wanted to ask the nice lady who was feeding two “orphaned” fawns,  "what she would do if she found a couple of orphaned tarantulas, or other huge, fucking killer spiders with hides?" Would she return with a baby bottle and nurse them to health? Tarantulas need love too. (I had a mother-in-law who was a giant tarantula.)

Suppose the great Disney movie “Bambi” wasn’t about a deer?

What if the hero of that movie had been a huge, killer spider, whose name was “BiBi;” who got lost in a winter storm and who found a kindly old blind person (a guy named “Dallas”), in a remote cabin; who then invited the spider in from the cold (thinking she was an odd breed of talking dog). And suppose BiBi discovered the cabin was infested by Norway rats (British accents), that shit all over the blind person as he slept (like Congress does to the nation), so she laid 22,000 eggs under the kitchen table. Each egg hatched in the pleasant environment of the cabin, and  all the rats disappeared over the course of a week. Suppose the movie ended with the kindly old person falling asleep each night under the warm protection of a living blanket of 22,000 tarantulas?

The title of the movie could be “BiBi Lays For Dallas.” 

This movie would be as factual as “Bambi.” And it would be perfect if the studio could get Noomi Rapace (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) to be the voice of the spider.

Suppose that movie had been made and shown in the 1950‘s... Would we all be feeding orphaned tarantulas? Would we be pulling over on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and pointing in delight as resident tarantulas ate rare hummingbirds trapped in their webs?  Some dopes would. 

There are more deer alive and running around in the United States today than when Columbus discovered America. It makes more sense to feed cockroaches. Leave the deer alone. The fawn you’re feeding may injure or kill someone you know on a motorcycle. Wouldn’t that be swell?

As long as we’re supposing things, suppose cash-strapped states sold “orphaned” deer-feeding permits for $50, allowing well-intentioned, but dreadfully uninformed, people to feed abandoned fawns, provided the animals were ear-tagged, and that the permit-holders were liable for any motor vehicle or crop damage. Who would legally feed the deer then?

Now, do I expect anything I wrote in this blog episode to change the feeble mind of anyone who is feeding “orphaned” deer? Nope. But I do expect to get 10,000 emails from jerks claiming its time to ban motorcycles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, as they disturb the sugar-fueled deer. 

Philly Area Rider Wins Triumph T100, Compliments of Castrol....

Religiously changing his vehicle’s motor oil every 3,000 miles paid off big time for Fred Diehl, the winner of Castrol’s Triumph Sweepstatkes. Diehl accepted the keys to an iconic red and white, Triumph Bonneville T100, at a Pep Boys location in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, June 24, 2012.

Fred Diehl on his new Triumph Bonneville T100 -- Compliments of Castrol

“I have always used Castrol lubricants, in both my car and my motorcycle,” said Diehl. “I was buying oil in the shop and was intrigued by the promotion. So I went back to the office and entered the contest online. Winning this Bonneville T100 is the result of that effort.”

A Harley rider for more than 3 decades, Diehl had an instant appreciation for the T100’s retro appeal. “I have been without a bike for a while and look forward to the Triumph experience,” he said.  Diehl primarily rides on the weekends, but the Triumph, with it’s classic panniers has given him an idea for a longer run.

“My dream ride would be a run with no time-frames, no destination and no purpose, other than to enjoy the scenery and to relax without thinking of everyday problems. I want a short two-wheeled escape from reality,” said Diehl. This bike may make that dream come true.

When asked if he read Twisted Roads, Diehl replied, “I have never read the blog but I have heard of Jack Riepe and some of the strange stories he tells. No one can be that peculiar.”

I hope Mr. Diehl reads this whole blog and sends me a comment.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All rights reserved


Wayne said...

Dear Sir,
Might I suggest you start a 'Nuke Bambi' campaign. First order of business would use the money from the deer-feeding fee to lobotomize the applicants.

Canajun said...

Jack - We have more damned white tails here than sewer rats in New York! Of course we're also surrounded by hunters who prefer to shoot their winter meat from the comfort of their front porch so they feed the cursed things all year round - corn all winter, apples in the fall, etc. End result? I can't ride the 7 miles into White Lake village without seeing at least 3 or 4 on the side of the road - and those are only the ones I see. Fortunately the road authority here keeps the forests cut back at least 20 or 30 feet from the road so you get a bit of a fighting chance at least and a split-second warning when one's about to try to commit hari kari on your headlight.
Pests! (And don't even mention deer to the spousal unit whose gardens have been decimated time and again by these vandals.)

Cantwell said...

Move to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. The harsh winters and summer tourist cagers keep the deer at a manageable population.


Cantwell said...

Dear Jack,
Remember those spiders on your deck in Wilmington. I was feeding them chipmunks to keep them healthy just so I could hear you scream like a little girl.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Wayne:

You can't blame folks for wanting o take care of cute, seemingly helpless animals... But if they understood the facts, they'd understand things aren't what they seem. Deer and lemmings have the same motivation.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Canajun:

I sympathize with you. I just moved from a no-gunning county in Pennsylvania, and I watched a deer jump from the lawn of a Chinese restaurant through the grill work of a Mercedes Benz — on a major thoroughfare — at 5pm.

Fortunately, the woman driving the car was on the phone, so she wasn't startled.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Cantwell:

The scientific name for those spiders was "ugly bloat-bag spiders," and they were vicious.

It's been too long, Mike.

Fondest regards,

Lady R (Di) said...

Dear Mr. Riepe,

Having had too many near misses myself with the sweet innocent deer, they've lost their "cute" factor for me.

I'm as much an animal lover as the next person (I got married, didn't I?) but, there is a time and place for petting the deer, and going 70 on my bike is not one of them.

Now... I'm trying to decide just how ill timed your post is, as Harley and I are planning to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway during the week of the 4th.

7 days on the motorcycle, from Saturday to Saturday. I'm calling it our "Reunion Ride". After having a year long absence from riding, I'm very excited to hit the road again, I just hope it don't hit me!

Check out "The Boy". I've finally posted a picture of him.

Back in the saddle again,
Lady R

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Lady R:

I may have left out one or two other details about that deer-strike on the BRP... However, thousands of bike hit that route every weekend, without hitting a deer. I'm sure your heightened state of caution will prevail.

I look forward to reading about this epic reunion ride of yours and I'm headed over to your blog to get a gander at the bike.

Have a great run! You've waited a long time for this. And one more time, "never again" seldom means more than "not right now."

Fondest regards,

Nikos said...


I respectfully refer you to the episode of Fawlty Towers where Basil gets struck on the bonce (head) by a falling mooses head.

Keep up the recovery - you'll soon be let out of there


Canajun said...

@Cantwell - Agreed, nothing that a harsher winter, more tourists, and a few thousand wolves wouldn't fix.

Roger said...

Well that was an amusing read, I personally have never had an encounter with a deer, I did have "relations" with a women who gave a pretty good impersonation of a moose once, but I was young and stupid back then.

My motto now is not to get involved with anyone who ways more than me...easier said than done though.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Riepe,
My attorney tells me it is defamatory to post a picture of my younger brother on his new Bonneville in those poncy white tennis shoes. Expect a lawsuit to follow.
The funny thing is he keeps whinging on about how they should have been giving away a BMW, not an English chainsaw.
Fred Diehl's younger sis- Lettuce.

Conchscooter said...

Dear Jack,
I am busy dealing with the rapidly expanding iguana population that is camping out on my dock. After they are culled I will get to work on the deer population.
Will an air gun work on them as it does on iguana?
Your sincerely
Iguana Dundee

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

As you are aware, Twisted Roads does not advocate aggressive, nor unapproved, methods of iguana control through the use of air rifles. However, we see nothing wrong with natural animal control through the use of predator introduction, and applaud your release of 147 Australian mud crocs into the canal.

Your sideline in making cowboy boots should prosper as well.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Lettuce:

According to the details I received from your son's high-priced PR firm, the poncy tennis shoes are derigeur for former Harley riders. Many of then have at least 6 pairs.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Roger:

I can't believe you sent me a comment that is nothing less than a savage attack on fat people. Granted, fatty's can be really annoying, especially if they are the featured act as pole dancers, but still... LOL!

I used to love and admire the whitetail deer... There is no greater quarry in the woods. However, I never realized the revenge they would take until I started riding a bike.

Fondest regards,

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack, it's nice to finally read a published piece with elightening insight into the thinking (do they even think?) of your average deer. I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed the situation where deer are standing, browsing on the grass beside a highway, and watched egocentric, presumptuous people, who have to have seen the deer, not alter their path or speed as they drive by the deer at 70mph. I can only assume they believe that all deer have had a physics class in their training and that their mommies taught them to "stop, look, and listen" before crossing the road when they were fawns, when in actuality, they are clueless and totally unpredictable.
And those are the lucky people who get to see them ahead of time and have a chance to properly react to the situation. Like your friend, many folks get no warning, and can only (if they choose to) think about the possibility and anticipate it.
Your blog is always worth reading, and in addition to being humerous this time, you've brought up a subject that is rarely and properly loaded with precautionary info that all travellers should have to be grilled on during driver and safety training.
Keep up the good work.

redlegsrides said...

I've not had the close encounters you wrote about or that others commented on....except for one. Damn thing ran across the front of my R1150RT the evening I was riding it home from the dealer! I can still hear the click of its hooves....a collision that evening would have put and end to my riding days I think.

As to spiders, I doubt even Disney could make them as loveable as the rats on stilts....

The deer population here in Colorado isn't as high it seems as back East.....good for us riders, not so good for you guys.

Good post, Jack.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

It has been almost 20 years since I hunted the Whitetail deer, with a six-pointer being the one I took for the wall. I have the greatest respect for deer in their element, and fully understand the implications of what happens when their habitat is improved by corn fields, golf courses, municipal parks, and industrial campuses. There are bound to be those gray areas where deer and man tragically cross paths... But there is no reason to rescue or intrude in the life-cycle of a species that is replicating itself like a roach. The same can be said for the Canada goose, which is no a major problem for the bird and fish species it is encroaching on.

My position is, "Do not feed the wildlife."

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Curt:

You would be amazed at how many books have been written about the habits and lifestyle of the whitetail deer. The amount of "real and accurate" information regarding these magnificent creatures is truly impressive. Yet nearly all of it has been compiled in an effort to make sportsmen aware that hunting these animals is a thinking man's game.

I had been camping in the woods for years, and never knew that my encounters with deer were far more than chance. The whitetail deer is a creature of habit, reflex, and instinct. Two percent of the hunters account for taking 98% of the game.

The deer will beat the dopes in the woods one on one every single time. Yet once you understand how a deer feeds and lives, it becomes apparent why the automobile gets more deer each year than the slob hunters.

In his infinite stupidity, man has provided the deer with the ultimate buffet in almost every direction, while eliminating nearly all of the animal's predators, and then banning hunting to boot. Unbelievably crowded states like New Jersey have places where there are more than 40 deer per square mile. According to a document published by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, forest regeneration in the Garden State is only sustainable at levels of 10 deer per mile.

I can assure you there are places in New Jersey where the number of deer is nearly double 40 per square mile, especially in places where farms have been replaced by corporate parks. In these areas, the car has replaced the coyote as the #1 deer predator.

There is absolutely no reason to be feeding "orphaned" deer just so they can be peeled off the front of a car or motorcycle.

Curt, I am delighted you are now a regular Twisted Roads reader. And I am thrilled that you take the time to respond to my stories, as so many more of my readers should. However, do not elevate your expectations to the point where you think I will publish useful information on any kind of a regular basis.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Saving orphaned fawns under these circumstances

Anonymous said...

PM sent regarding your motorcyle.

Ronman said...

Mr. Riepe,

I can only think of two things. First I can't believe you didn't use "The Yearling" as the movie example. Secondly that orphaned fawn would have been oh so tender and tasty on your grill.



Ken said...

All I could think about while reading your tarantula movie scenario was that Bibi would have hairy legs....ruins the whole thing for me.

Re:deers on the road, I've been told to aim for the deers butt. But I'm afraid I can't attest to the validity of that info (and I'm going to leave the pun unwritten).

Unknown said...


I'm glad you brought that back together, for a few moments in there I had "what the fuck" rolling around in my head - though it was the WTF version, because I'm sitting at a computer and I was born late enough, specifically around the time people were just starting to bitch about digital and how it doesn't sound as good as analog. By the end of the story, though, things made sense. I never hit a deer on the BRP, but the thought went through my mind almost every time I was there, particularly on that rusted-out 70s Honda I used to run. Even with ample time the deer would have squirted its spleen out its ass because the thing has no brakes.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Classic Velocity said...

Dear Jack, you make an excellent case for why city kids need to get out more, or at least watch a little of the National Geographic Channel. PA and WV are at the top of the deer-strike list. They are also at the top of the great roads list (IMHO). Dawn and dusk are consequently anxious times on a bike rather than the best times of the day. Don't worry though our elected officials are on the case and wil sort things out any minute now......

Motorcycle Tires said...

Chris Jacarawycz is a biker's bike. He has the great peripheral vision that can barely scored the threat

Anonymous said...

We live in strange times when good food is too cute to eat. Your story generated a haiku:

People get hungry,
Deer get scarce quick.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Anonymous:

Truer words were never spoken.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads...

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Motorcycle Tires:

If any biker I knew was capable of x-ray peripheral vision, it would be Chris Jacarawycz.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Classic Velocity Blog (Wayne):

Deer present all kinds of challenges for bikers... But people who attribute human characteristics to wildlife are almost as dangerous. Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in. I always thought that digital sounded better than analog. And I, for one, would have a new Apple computer every three years.

The threat of a deer strike is a very real on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but worse on Skyline Drive. Yet getting whacked by a deer is like getting hit by a meteorite. You can't always get around it.

But you can hope stupid people will stop feeding these damn things.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ken:

On one of the few occasions I was tearing up the pavement out west (in a Toyota Land Cruiser), I had the speedo in triple digit territory when a wild turkey flew past the windshield, missing my eyes by inches. Deer are not the only culprits.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads and for writing in.

Fondest regards,