Dangerous, lurking shadows of the night

As a motorcyclist, I’m always on the watch for critters on the road. Around here, deer pose the greatest threat to those on two wheels. More than a dozen riders have collided with deer in Southwestern Virginia so far this year. Two died. Five others suffered serious injuries.

Deer, however, aren’t the only dangers lurking in the shadows.

Night riding is especially hazardous. My Harley Super Glide has extra-bright driving lamps on the front to help illuminate sides of the road when I’m riding after dark and they were on Tuesday night as I headed home on U.S. 221 north of Floyd.

I had just passed the entrance to Great Oaks Country Club when my eyes picked up what at first seemed like a shadow on the road ahead. The shadow wasn’t a deer but a large black bear lumbering across the highway. I swerved to the left, into the oncoming lane, missing the the animal by less than foot as it crossed from left to right on the highway. The aptly named crash bar on the right side of the bike came within inches of collecting the bear’s hind quarter.

I slowed from 55 to about 35 as the realization set in on just how close I had come to disaster. I hit a deer with another bike two years ago at the bottom on Bent Mountain. The deer went down. Luckily, I did not. Had I hit that mass of black bear on the road Tuesday night, I would not have been so lucky.

At home, I pulled into the garage, shut down the engine, and just sat on the bike, waiting for my breathing to return to normal.  Amy, who had followed me home in her Liberty but had stopped for gas, pulled up and found me still sitting.

“What happened?”



“On 221, near the country club.”

“How close?

“Too close.”

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4 Responses

  1. My. God. That must have been nerve racking. You poor man! I saw a deer on the side of the road here in Germany but I think there was only one bear surviving in the wild over here and some crazy french farmer shot it years ago. I can´t even imagine what that would have been like. So traumatic! Am glad you´re here to tell the tale.

  2. Further on down 221, in Rutherford County, you’ll likely encounter the harmless but numerous Laid-off Lintheads. They’re everywhere. Sound your horn before rounding blind curves.

  3. Definition of a “Linthead”: A derogatory term for an employee of a textile company, particularly in the American South. And “laid-off,” on top of that. How about a little compassion?

  4. Bear sightings have been increasing this year in southwest Virginia. Not sure if their numbers are increasing, or if they are just becoming less fearful of the human animals. We have only small patches of woods in our area, but suspect a bear is making the rounds due to disappearing dog dishes. One dish was found a distance from the house, but the chew marks on the dish were not likely to have been made by a dog.

    When we moved here in ’87 it was common for people to warn you about driving at dawn and dusk because of the likelihood of encountering deer. But over the last couple of years I’ve found we see them at all times of day and right out in the open where they don’t seem to be concerned with the sound of approaching cars. It used to be rare to see fawns but I’ve seen dozens in the last two years.

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