Part II: Bicycle Touring Through Joshua Tree National Park

Thirty-seven Year Old Woman Gets Eaten By Coyotes While Bicycle Touring

Don't pee near signs at night. The wildlife will track you down.

They need to add: Don’t pee near signs at night. The wildlife will track you down.

At the very least, I would be going back to nature. It wasn’t really the way I thought or hoped my existence would end. Much better than getting hit by a bus or accidentally shot while hiking. Though it’s probably quite painful, it seems a much more honorable way to die. I think about these things. To die because of becoming part of the food chain or massive heart attack at a ripe old fart of an age sounds good to me.

According to the police report, she seemed to put up a decent fight and took out 2 of the coyotes with her pocket knife but apparently they overwhelmed her. She probably did not have the strength after biking from Palm Springs. 

The only thoughts in my head were:

  1. Oh fuck. I’m way too tired for this.
  2. My friend’s text to me earlier that day saying “have a good death”

Four sets of eyes stared back at me as they crept a little closer. My pocket knife was open and ready for action as I kept walking with the bicycle. Maybe they smell the beef jerky? Oh wait, I peed by that sign…sorry, I didn’t mean to mark your territory. Just passing through, I promise.

I finally stop walking after a quarter-mile and stand with the bike to my back. If an attack from behind happens, it might give me a little protection, maybe even confuse the attacker but I am not walking the whole way being tailed by this bunch. Screw that. I’m going to fight tooth and nail and take some of them out with me.

Three of them stay back about 50 feet while one trots closer to me, all the time hiding in the bushes on the side of the road. Those eyes get about 20 feet away from me and I start yelling at it, which does nothing but get my adrenaline pumping even more. Oddly, I’m not even scared. I’m too tired to be scared. It skirts from one bush to another and I finally get a good look at my Grim Reaper.

It’s a fox.

A big, beautiful, bushy tail waves at me while it checks me out from behind a leafless bush.

“Holy crap. You’re just a family of foxes. Okay, I don’t care if you tail me any more but, damn, you freaked me the fuck out. Don’t do that.”

Talking to the foxes made me realize I was so exhausted I was starting to lose it mentally. Keep it together, T. There’s not much farther to go. Right…

The rest of the way I kept looking behind me. All those horror movies that I never should have watched are trying to crowd my mind and freak me out. The nice part about being absolutely exhausted is I stopped caring. That’s when all the really mind-blowing enlightenment happens. When you are stripped of your ego and the civilized world is the moment you are actually alive. The moment when you are fully human. You are raw in each moment, aware in a way that we don’t experience everyday. It’s hard to hold onto. I think I understand why people do “extreme” sports like RAAM or running the Leadville 100. It’s not the so-called runner’s high that makes it addictive because at that level the high runs out pretty fast. It’s what happens to the inside of you when there’s nothing left and you keep going.

I had no clue how close I was to the campsites when I finally crested that incline. The road into the park, just like the highway, kept going up. I stopped for a moment to rest since it looked as though the road was going downhill. The moon had come over the mountains at the same time. Off in the distance, coyotes start howling and yipping.

Great. Just what I needed.

Does this motivate me to start moving? Nope. They can eat me for all I care at this moment. That moon was stunning and I’m just going to enjoy it.

I hop on my trusty steed and coast down the road until I see a sign for the ranger station. Woo hoo! Following that is the camping sign. As I take the turn for the camping area, the road starts to go up again. I have no idea how close the sites are and my legs are giving me the final “eff off”. The executive decision is made to set up my tent in the picnic area. I’ll move when either I wake up or the rangers wake me up. At least there’s other people around here somewhere.

I crawl into my sleeping bag with my knife still out. You know, just in case those coyotes come after the beef jerky packed in the pannier in my tent. My phone says it’s 11:38pm.

That was by far the longest day of my life. Eighty-two miles long.

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