Conversations With A Rattlesnake

This afternoon I was riding back around the dried up lake that sits near the intersection of the road to Twin Lakes. For those who ride around Penticton, you probably know where that is. For those of you that don’t, no amount of description will really matter. Basically, it’s the middle of nowhere in the midst of high-desert scrub. I’m riding along, when I zoom by this snake sitting in the middle of the road. As usual, I pull a 180 and go back to check it out. As I suspected, this one (finally) is a young rattlesnake. After seeing a lot of what I think were gopher snakes on the road, I was hoping I’d finally catch a rattler. And this one, unlike all those gopher snakes, is alive.

I give it a wide berth, since when they want to, rattlesnakes can move very fast. The tail starts waggling a little bit as I stop to check it out. It was a relatively small snake. I’d guess maybe a year or so old. The rattlers around here are the Pacific rattlesnake, a subspecies of the Western rattler. It’s basically a dark tan with the typical diamond pattern, with a black tail until you hit the rattle. This one had only two or three rattles on it’s tail, another indication of young age.

It was sitting in the middle of the road, catching the last rays of the setting sun. Being concerned for it’s well being, I was hoping that by hanging around, I might shoo it off the road. Of course, shooing something that can kill you requires rather a bit more care (and length of shooing implement) than I really cared to offer. So instead, since I had no luck scaring it off the road and didn’t really feel like trying to usher it off the road with any sort of contact, I decided to make conversation.

Of course, such a meeting could have been coincidence, but I thought perhaps it was fate. I thought to myself, “This snake reminds me of someone. Who do I know that is pretty scrawny, lives in the high desert, is extremely objectionable (even to people who just want to help and who are also much bigger/faster/stronger than they are), and is somewhat venomous?” And then it hit me!

“Paulo, is that you?” Tail rattles. “It is you! What are you doing out here?” More rattling. “What do you mean HTFU? I already climbed The Wall and did my intervals for this ride. I’m just doing base now.” Cold stare. “I know, I know… ‘base mileage’… But really, you ought to get out of the road. You might get run over.” Slight flicker of the tail. “What do you mean you are waiting for someone. Were you waiting for me?” Vigorous shake. “No. Then who?” Back and forth flick. “Gordo?! Oh, I see. But this is the ultraman course, not the ironman course. And besides, Gordo has gone home. The race is over.” Cold stare. “It’s not my fault your watch slid off. Or that you don’t know where you are. And where is your orange shirt.?At least that might keep people from running you over.” More cold stares. “Well, you probably should have thought of those things before you turned into a rattlesnake.” Now the tail really starts shaking and the body coils up. “Whoa, ok. Do you want a cup of coffee?” Tail shakes. “Yeah, I can see how drinking coffee might be problematic in your current state.” The eyes narrow further. “No, thank you, I do not want to share an apple. I don’t care if it will give me the true meaning of lactate threshold training.” Body tenses again. “If you bite me, I will beat you to death with my front wheel. Is that what you want?” Body relaxes. “Well, I am glad we have an understanding. Well, I’ve got to finish my ride. Maybe I’ll see you at Interbike?” More cold stares and a slight waggle of the rattle. Typical…

And so off I rode. The strangeness of what had just happened didn’t really hit me until I refueled after my ride. I was left wondering, did I really have that conversation? Or was it just the delusions induced by lactic acid and too much orange Gatorade? I had just finished some hard intervals… Maybe that’s all it was. But next time you are at a race, why don’t you see if you can spot the resemblance.

5 thoughts on “Conversations With A Rattlesnake

  1. You know… he’s going to take this out on all of us down here in Cruces now. THANKS A LOT!!!!!!!!!!I will report back all broken and destroyed by 8pm tomorrow… I might be done with my 7am departure ride by then.

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