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August 28, 2011

The Lesson of the Three-Legged Coon

Above: A shot of me heading up top for a better view of the planet with a few cameras while sailing through the Inland Passage of British Columbia. Note that I'm holding onto my cameras, not the rails. Save the cameras at all costs. It's all about priorities, people. Photo courtesy of The Man with the Big Yellow Bike.

I sit around here watching the Long Way Round with a coon trap in the kitchen so big you can't imagine. I mean, it's three feet long and we all walk around it and pretend like it's not there. But it's there. I can smell the coons when they walk into the house. They stink like h3ll and Timmy's afraid to go near his own food. He hides in the study with me, scared for his life.

A reasonable question might be, "Why, exactly, do you have wild raccoons in your house?" The answer is that they come in through the cat doors.

A reasonable follow-up question might be, "Why not get the high-tech cat doors that only open with a special collar worn by the family cat?"

Yeah. About that. So, we have those kind of cat doors. Tricky, super expensive, battery powered cat doors that only open for a special collar that has a magnet on it. Only the problem is that the coons have opposable thumbs, and they've figured out how to open the cat doors without magnets. And they apparently love the cheapest brand of cat food that Wal-mart carries. (Who doesn't, right?)

It's never fun when the coons come in because, there's very little you can do. You can't shoot them inside the house, obviously. And if you can't shoot them, you don't have a lot of options. If they choose to flee, then great. If they don't, well then you're basically in a Mexican Standoff. This is a bad spot to be in. They have teeth and claws and rabies and stink to high heaven and trust me you don't want to start a fight with one. That would be a Chernobyl-grade bad idea.

One of them came in the other night, climbed up on the counter, ate a bunch of stale donuts, and then pushed one of my china plates off the counter onto the tile floor. Loud enough that I came downstairs and I'm like, "Seriously? That's the fine china. Why couldn't you push off some of the disposable plates? They're virtually indestructible. They link up like Legos into plastic islands in the Pacific and float for generations."

But the raccoon just stares at me like, "You wann'a make something of it?" And all the sudden I'm back in high school staring down Scottie Madison.

I just went back to bed and closed the bedroom door.

So we have this Wild Kingdom Mutual of Omaha sized live animal trap inside the kitchen because I'm trying to trap them. And, anyone that's ever trapped coons knows that you can't catch a coon in a leg trap. They figure nothing's worth sticking around to see what happens next. They'll chew off a limb and walk away in two shakes of a sheep's tail. Freedom at any cost.

And I think that's where I am. I can't stand the thought of coming off of the road. It's too hard. The truth is that I really found myself out there, roaming up and down the left coast. Sure, I was lost, but I wasn't alone. Everyone I talked to was lost, drifting up and down the coast like bullhorn kelp on the tide.

The people I discovered are disciples of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and 'On The Road'. They're all searching for that mythical road to the Lost Coast. They're all lost and wandering, but they're seeking something. Something they can't extrude from their subdivisions or their home towns.

Aimlessly wandering across the planet on a dirt bike is the closest thing I've ever found to being alive. There's nothing in this life to compare it to. Maybe skydiving or smoking crack. But there's nothing else like it in my world.

When my kid takes off, I mean, sure...I can sit around snorting tequila for a little while, but it never lasts. Eventually, I start watching the Long Way Round and then the logic of the coon settles on me like a summer's fog on the Golden Gate and I think...."I can beat this trap...I've got three bikes in three different time zones. If all it costs is everything, then I think we're good."

The road is calling me like the mermaid's siren song and something deep inside of me snaps and I say, "That's it. I'm in. I'm all in."

I'm going back on the road tomorrow. I'll get up at 5:00 a.m. and fly back to California to reclaim my bike from the hourly covered parking section of SFO. I'll drive up a flight of steps to escape that little trap and then I'm off to Yosemite and I'm sure I'll be kicking myself tomorrow night for climbing back in the saddle, but I can't live like this. Getting off the road by going home to watch TV is like trying to quit meth by eating celery. It's not going to work.

I think if I catch a raccoon, I'll just relocate him. You have to respect something that wants to be free so bad he chews his own leg off. I think a certain part of you has to admire the coon for that.

Above: A shot of me inspecting Jennifer's Suzy on the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. Photo courtesy of The Man with the Big Yellow Bike.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 28, 2011 at 9:42 PM


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