I should be pretty excited. I just saw my first armadillo. The bad news is that is was roadkill. A sail-a-dillo.
This month I have already traversed more than 4,500 miles in my Escape Pod RV with my little C.A.R.E. shelter dog, Chooch. I was looking for a place where the weather suited my clothes. After the coldest October on record in Colorado I wanted a little more fall before the abyss of winter.
Overall, the road has been good to us. We’ve spent at least half of our nights boondocking in secret, undisclosed locations. Forest Service land last night but as I write this I’m sitting lakeside in a Mississippi state park.
This isn’t about campgrounds, though. We have animals on our mind, especially since stumbling across a 10-foot gator Saturday night in southwestern Florida.
I’ve come across plenty of wild animals while living in the Colorado high country. It would be quicker to say what I haven’t seen in the wild, namely a mountain lion. They are here and you don’t have to look far back to read of a Woody Creek mom wrestling a mountain lion to protect her kid.
I suppose my most exotic encounters were with dangerous animals like bears, otters and moose. It took me decades but in the last two years I have had several potentially wild encounters with moose. I just hadn’t seen one. So when I walked around a bend in a hiking trail last year to be faced with a 1,200 pounder I was genuinely startled. Last winter, a senior citizen in Aspen was run down by a bull moose. He somehow escaped injury by defending himself with a cross-country ski pole. He got lucky. The moose had to be taken down by authorities.
Chooch has gone after a few critters this trip. He’s chased after skittering shorebirds on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and made a strong effort to catch a squirrel in South Carolina. He joined a herding dog in an impromptu cattle drive and I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if he didn’t get them doggies moving. He’s a natural.
I took Chooch out on a brackish river in southeastern Florida, keeping a close eye out for gators and manatees but was surprised when fish started popping out of the water three feet in the air.
Just Saturday night I was walking the dog near a little public park. Maybe it was all the warning signs not to feed or pretend to feed the alligators, but the hair on my neck was tingling in the dusky dusk as we lurked quietly along the edge of an inky pond. I paused and looked into the gloom and not 10 feet away saw a 10-foot-long black alligator with just the eyes and snout sticking out. I could barely make out the rest of her but she was long and strong.
Good thing I had Chooch on a leash, although he never saw the gator. I was tempted for a minute to wrestle the reptile but thought better of it. Best not to involve the dog in my gator whispering.
The alligator is Florida’s mountain lion and you only have to go to YouTube to see improvised wrestling matches gone wrong. Not for me. There are other exotic creatures to be seen out there like large, hungry pelicans diving straight into the water and horseshoe crabs washed up on the beach.
We think we saw an anteater on the trip but it was very early in the morning and still dark.
What surprised me most on this trip was roadkill. There was the usual stuff but we saw way too many dead dogs along the fast and furious freeways. Do people abandon their pets to face certain doom on the freeways? Made us wonder.
By far the most dangerous animals we saw were humans on the road. An informal survey I took across three states on Monday revealed that between 20 and 25 percent of folk on the road are texting — mostly in heavy traffic going 80 miles per hour.
Steve Skinner thinks you should beware of humans. Reach him at email@example.com.