So far we have been too genteel to talk about things like peeing in our blogs. But here goes.
People ask us many things when we meet them out front of the local Albertson’s, Piggly-Wiggly or Publix grocery stores. “Where do you sleep?” “What do you eat?” “How far do you ride every day?” But they’ve never asked about our peeing adventures.
The other day I decided to count the number of alligators beside the road as we cycled eastwards across “Alligator Alley” – Florida Route 41. If you look at the map, they call I-75 by that name, but we’d been assured that we were cycling across the true, the original, the one-and-only Alligator Alley.
“Fourteen,” I yelled as I saw a 5-foot-long gator lounging across the creek. “There’s number fifteen – she’s a big one. Sixteen! I only saw the nose and the eyes, but I’m counting it as a whole alligator.”
I was riding in my usual position at the back of the Bird Year peleton. My job? To keep an eye on my rear-view-mirror and watch for dangerous traffic situations. Generally I’m pretty conscientious, but today I was too busy watching for alligators. Suddenly a transport truck materialized beside us, blaring its horn. We swerved onto the bumpy shoulder. “Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t see that one coming.”
“Seventeen! Wow, that one is huge!” As the alligator sank, I noticed that it was oddly pale. I yelled at Malkolm and Wendy to stop and we swerved across the road. A trail of bubbles rose from the murky depths of the pond, and suddenly we saw the nostrils of a manatee rise above the surface. It inhaled and sank back out of sight.
If there is one thing I’ve learned during Bird Year, it is to pee when a favorable opportunity arises. I waited until a red pick-up zoomed past, quickly pulled down my shorts and relieved myself. After we watched the manatee surface once more, we got back on our bikes and started pedalling.
“Another Manatee.” yelled Wendy. “And look at that! Those people got a nature show in more ways than one.”
I saw what she was looking at: a “swamp buggy” across the pond. Swamp buggies are long jeep-like vehicles with an elevated platform for passengers. A dozen pairs of binoculars were trained on the manatees. A couple of minutes before they were no doubt focussed on me peeing.
By the end of the two-day cycle across Alligator Alley, we’d counted 207 gators, three Snail Kites plus numerous Anhingas, cormorants, herons, egrets and hawks. We only saw the one swamp buggy, however.