Why I Love Cycling: Reason #1
Why I Love Cycling: Reason #1
You don't get eaten up with chiggers when you go out for a ride. For example, this past Sunday, I went for a twenty-five mile road ride, alone. I parked at Clinton Nature Preserve and got on the road from there since it is less busy and closer to my favorite roads. The worst thing that happened to me was that my chain came off, and I had to stop and fix it. An old lady even stopped and asked if I was okay.
Fast forward to the hiking adventure part of the day. Howie, my boyfriend, wanted us (me, his children, and himself) to go to a state park we hadn't ever visited. I suggested Tallulah Gorge State Park, my favorite. Great. Sounds nice. It was too far away. Instead, we chose Chattahoochee Bend State Park because it’s closer to home. It's a relatively new state park, only open for 3 years. We loved the roads on the way there. They were country roads that seemed to go on forever...with no traffic, so they would be great roads for cycling. This park is in the middle of nowhere, but we were there to hike. That was kind of the point. Even though the lady working in the visitor center recommended driving down to the river and then taking the trail by the river, Howie thought it was a better idea to hike the trail starting at the visitor center. I didn't protest because I love to walk on trails in the woods. I run in the woods all the time at Clinton Nature Preserve.
Well, we forgot bug spray, no big deal. At Clinton, it wouldn’t have been. Here, WRONG!!! Big deal. Very big deal as a matter of fact. After hiking two miles to get to the Chattahoochee River, I looked down and was covered in these tiny, red tick-like bugs, chiggers. I almost started to hyperventilate as I yelled, "Howie, I have tiny ticks all over me! Check Reagan, check Olivia, I bet they have them too!" Looking for actual ticks, Howie completely missed the chiggers (they are very tiny) and told me that they didn't have any ticks. I ran up to the 2nd story of the observation tower, and told the kids to go wait downstairs. I stripped down to my panties and bra, and Howie checked me for any sign of bugs crawling all over me, which he couldn't see. I pointed to a spot on my leg. "There is one," I said, "You don't see that?"
"Yeah, I see that one," he said.
"Well, they all look like that, but they are everywhere." I was trembling and breathing heavily, trying to keep it together but failing as I stared at my legs and picked off all the crawling bugs that I could spot.
"I think the best thing we can do is just to go back to the car." With no argument from me, I started dressing. As I was pulling up my britches, I swear, a couple with their kid were walking up in the distance. Did they see this whole spectacle? About that time, Howie noticed the other couple as well. "This doesn't look right. The kids are downstairs. We are up here, and you are putting your clothes back on. Looks like we just finished or something," he commented. At that point, I could really not care less what this couple thought might have been happening. I wanted out of the woods, and I was happy as long as we were headed towards the car, leaving the godforsaken chiggers behind. Well, at least the ones that were not already feasting on our flesh.
After walking for only a few moments, Olivia, his daughter, got stung by a small, yellow flying insect. We stop, and I am attempting to identify the yellow insect that she had swatted dead to the ground. Howie interrupted me, saying, "Babe, I need your help. Reagan has them too. Look at this," as he pointed to Reagan’s feet. Chiggers lined where his socks used to be. Howie held one foot. I grabbed the other foot. Both of us were rubbing his feet to get them off of him. After we were finished, we checked Olivia, but thankfully, she had somehow managed to not get them. She was always the last hiker and wore black Converse high tops, her ninja shoes. Though I was sure these shoes gave her some super powers, chigger repellent would not have been one of super powers imagined. Continuing on the trail, the pace picked up, mostly due to a camaraderie to get out of bug infested woods. Reagan and I even started running, but the kid went too hard, too fast and had to slow down and stay with Dad.
Personally, I had enough of the woods and bugs. I needed to get out of there for my own sanity, so I kept on running, not stopping until I reached a clearing, Trailhead 2 to be exact, leaving Howie and the kids far behind. Guiltily, I sat on a rock, picking chiggers off of me, waiting. Hearing laughter coming from the woods, I knew they were close and would arrive at the trailhead at any moment, so it was not a surprise when they emerged out of the brush. Waving at them and wanting to get the bugs off of me sooner than later, I offered to run back to the car and let them wait for me to pick them up, but Howie wanted to walk back. What a relief as I truly did not desire to run back, anyways. I asked him if I could wait there for him to pick me up. Howie probably knew the angle I was working from the start, but happily agreed. He and Reagan continued along the trail, back towards the car, smiling and chattering away as they left. Overworked after days of watching too much TV, Olivia had enough of walking and wanted to stay with me and play on her iphone, a typical twelve year old.
While Olivia and I were sitting there, waiting, she started to get in freak out mode, slightly. She started seeing bugs on herself too. She said, "I am so angry, I just want to scream. What are these things?" To pass the time and to look on the bright side, Olivia and I played a game called: What's Worse than This? I think this game is self-explanatory and went something like:
"Getting stung by a Jellyfish," she said.
"That's worse than this?" I asked, “I have never been stung by a Jellyfish.”
"Okay...getting bitten by a venomous snake."
"Getting attacked by a shark."
"Being lost out here and having to spend the night."
"Chili cheese fries from Longhorn don't exist anymore."
"Ice cream doesn't exist anymore."
"Oh, no. That would be horrible. Don't say that," She pauses, “You know what would be worse than this? If The Beatles never existed.” They are her favorite band. She has exceptional taste in music.
“What if music didn’t exist anymore?” As I said the words, she gasped for breath to add a dramatic flair.
“Life would be so boring if music didn’t exist.”
“I know. Life would be unbearable.”
The game went on and on like this until she spotted Howie’s Prius coming our direction. Smiles spread across both of our faces as we jumped up off the rocks in joy. We felt a sense of relief knowing a bath was that much closer to becoming a reality, and we were ready to escape this hell on earth that was cleverly disguised as paradise.
When I got home, I showered immediately and scrubbed my legs clean, harder than I have in my whole life. I did not escape the wrath of the chiggers, though. At least 200 bites on my body, from my feet all the way to my neck. Reagan had them around his underwear line and around his feet, and Olivia only had a couple bites on her legs. (I give all the credit to the ninja shoes.) Howie thought he had none, until about 11:30 PM that night. Suspecting it awfully strange that he was the only one who didn’t get any bites, I insisted on checking him. Little tiny specs of what looked like dirt covered his feet. I said, “You have chiggers all over your feet. Oh my gosh, you are on the bed!”
“Do I?” he asks with his eyes opening wide, a little perturbed.
“Yeah, you do. I thought you bathed. You need to scrub with soap. You need to get off the bed unless you want to sleep with them tonight.” I said. He went and sat on the bathroom floor, and as I looked closer, I saw the little tiny bugs, not crawling but latched on to his skin, feeding. I pulled them off one by one, but there were just too many. He ended up taking another shower and scrubbing all over again. We still had to pull more off of him when he got out. He ended up with the worst case of chiggers out of all of us, over three hundred bites. It served him right for taking us to the woods and not remembering the bug spray with Deet. Served me right to get over two hundred bites for not knowing better and insisting on buying bug spray. Why do I ever let Howie Clay plan any adventure we take? I have to remember that I should always be in charge of the planning department. With all the incessant itching and sleepless nights, scratching attacks that only go away with Epson salt baths and almost scalding hot water, I will certainly never forget this lesson: I love biking because you don’t get eaten up with chiggers when you go out for a ride.