We were up before the sun this morning, and on the road before 4am. The moon once again lit our way, and there were almost no cars to be seen for hours. Everything was still – well, until we pedaled by, and stirred up life. It was barely light out when a shape on the edge of the road moved, and we realized it was a snake. Not just any snake, this one lifted its head up in surprise at our passing by, and shook its tail, thus proving its rattlesnake status. It is certainly an effective defense – we were sufficiently intimidated (although also fascinated) and exclaimed as we swerved, giving the snake a wide berth. It must have been a good place to be, curled up on that black asphalt, probably still pleasantly warm after the heat of yesterday.
We spent a few hours pedaling on the highway, but thanks to the wide shoulder, we felt safe the whole time. Everything was going smoothly, and we barely stopped for breaks until I spotted a little bird, eyes half closed, sitting on the edge of the road… I stopped and picked up the bird (a finch, I think) and looked for obvious injuries. Probably stunned by being hit by a car, I didn’t see any other injuries right away except for a bit of gravel in her eye. I called Julianna (my wildlife rehabilitator friend and senior project mentor), and she helped me figure out how best to help with my limited resources. With drops of water from my bike water bottle (the one that has never had Gatorade powder in it!) I was able to carefully rinse out the gravel. But our little birdie friend wasn’t very lively, and when I tried placing her in a safe spot, she only stood unsteadily in place. So she came along for the ride, tucked in my shirt to stay safe. Despite our best efforts, the little finch died a couple hours later, but hopefully she felt more comfortable in our care. It’s always worth trying to save these little wild lives, and I like to think they can feel that we care. The moment when a bird settles into my hand, I feel like there actually is a universal language like what our class focused on while reading the book The Alchemist.
We found a library to rest in for the day, and enjoyed talking with the librarians, reading Desert Solitaire, and thinking about biking. One of the librarians came up to us with a bag of bagels and granola bars! And another offered us a place to stay for the night! Really, nothing could be more perfect. We are actually passing up the opportunity for a place to stay here in Gilette in order to get some more miles in this evening. We have about 100 miles between us and Sheridan, where we have a place to stay with my uncle Jamie’s friend, and care packages to pick up! It’s an exciting prospect…
We biked for a few hours this evening, then just as we were getting tired, someone pulled over and offered their yard for a campsite – a mile down the road! So we fell asleep at 10:30, setting the alarm for a mere 4 hours later.