A Distracting Commute

I do a lot of business travel – last year alone I was on the road for over 120 days. In most cases that means flying somewhere, renting a car and with my latest client then driving over an hour to the town where my client is. In a lot of cases this also ends up putting me somewhere not particularly bicycle-friendly. (Take my current client: they’re in Louisiana – a place bike touring blogs talk of people throwing things at cyclists, and deliberately passing too close. It’s a place where people have been known to shoot at cyclists with paintball guns, and has the the second highest cyclist fatality rate in the US with only Florida topping them).

But one trip was different. A few years back I was sent to the small town of Delta, BC – a short taxi ride from the Vancouver airport. For this trip I packed my folding bike in to a large suitcase and decided I would use that instead of a rental car.  Why did I choose this? Well look at the scenery I had on my route! I have to admit, I wasn’t able to be as fast as I usually am – this kind of scenery demanded riding slower and occasionally stopping to enjoy the view.

routeroute 2

I admit, my client was a little surprised to see me show up with a bicycle but they eventually got over it. It was BC, after all, I wasn’t that unusual.

On my third day there I headed home and saw a couple of really big birds off in the distance. I am pretty sure that other than flightless birds at farms or the zoo, I’ve never seen any bird bigger. I watched them land in a tree a few metres ahead and decided to have a look and caught my first glimpse of one of these:


There above me were two bald eagles and in a bit more secluded area of the tree was a nest where I could hear babies making noise.  I spent quite a while there watching them – they didn’t seem too upset by me but I was keeping my distance. (I used the zoom function quite liberally to get that picture)  Later, when I got back to the hotel, I found out that there was actually a webcam installed nearby and so I did catch a glimpse of the babies eventually.

As a postscript, it seems that birds are always going to be a distraction for me. We live in a very tall building in a neighbourhood of highrises. Some red tailed hawks have recently moved in and they spend a good amount of time screaming outside and doing aerobatics between the buidlings. A week or so ago I was on the phone with a colleague (I work from home when I’m not traveling) and was sitting looking out the window. All of a sudden I saw something that made me gasp and then had to explain to my colleague why. At that moment one of the hawks, with an enormous wingspan was flying directly at our window and at the very last moment turned away.

A few days later I was sitting at my desk and some motion caught my eye. I turned to look and one of the hawks had landed outside the window of Sage’s office and its wings were so wide that as it unfurled them to balance, they went in front of my window in a whole different room.  I ran to tell Sage to look out her window and nearly bumped in to her as she came out to tell me what had happened.  She was sitting at her desk at the back of the computer and heard a noise that sounded like a cat clawing the wall as they’ve been known to do as they stretch. (they’re gentle, it doesn’t damage anything but makes a ‘nails on the chalkboard’ noise) and she turned around to get him to stop. Then she saw something outside the window and at first thought “Oh no! How did the cat get outside the window!” (we’re well over 400 feet up so it’d be a bad thing) and then realized: It was a hawk, clawing on the glass.

Did they want in? Maybe! A few months back I was waiting in line for the library to open (have I mentioned how much I love that there are lineups at the library in this city?) and was watching some hawks on a nearby highrise. A stranger pointed them out and struck up a conversation. Apparently in her building, one person she knew kept their balcony door open for the breeze quite often. One day he came out to the living room and there inside was a hawk.  Eventually he spent more and more time inside, following him to the bedroom or the kitchen but always going outside, presumably to hunt. This went on for quite some time until one day they left and never came back. We both agreed that we hoped they’d found a mate and started their own life.

Wow – from cycling to raptors, this has been a bit of a journey.

via Photo Challenge: Ooh, Shiny!

10 thoughts on “A Distracting Commute

  1. Todd – Such great stories and images. Thanks for sharing them!
    I am one of those people who are always looking up if I notice a shadow of something bigger than a common bird. I have spotted hawks flying over highways and fields but also over urban areas. Often I think that people have no idea that beautiful hawks live so close by. Unfortunately, I have never captured a picture of a hawk in the wild (that is worth showing people). I have never been that close and I don’t have a super zoom lens. But I will keep looking up. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much! I’m seeing more and more hawks in our city. I think that’s a good sign.

      Another place I have seen large birds – in this case, vultures, is above chemical plants. On more than one cool morning I’ve arrived on a large chemical plant site to find 10-20 of them circling above the plant itself. They seem to love the warmth radiating from below and ride the thermals there. It’s a strange juxtaposition of dystopian landscape with beautiful wildlife. (One of the sites also has a large herd of deer that live there – with no firearms allowed on site it is likely the safest place they could be for miles around – especially during hunting season).

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. A fold up bike you can fit into a suitcase? Awesome! I’ve never heard of such violence towards cyclists, wow, that’s horrible.

    All of your pictures are beautiful and your adventures always keep me reading. 😊

    1. Thanks for your kind comments!

      They’re pretty cool though I gave away the special suitcase a few years back (it’s a little bigger than the average one). There are some folding bikes that are small enough that, amazingly, some people bring them as carry on luggage. Pretty crazy. Maybe someday I’ll travel with it again…

      Different places have different levels of “bike-friendliness” and it seems to be slowly improving as more people do it. Meanwhile you take the good with the bad. There are so many really interesting experiences I’ve had traveling that way. And going more bike-friendly places like Quebec or better still, Amsterdam show me how nice it can be.

      1. That’s really awesome, I’ve never known about fold up bikes until now. I’m glad that the “bike-friendliness” has been improving, I know people hate cyclists on roads but throwing things and such is a little ridiculous! I’m glad you were well aware of the dangers and didn’t get yourself into that. 😊 you’re so lucky to have been to so many place all over the world and to be able to travel so much for work, too!

  3. It is amazing what we MISS when we decide to just go through life…in a car. This was fantastic. So jealous of your visit with the eagles. I would have been late to work that day! Donna.

    1. Isn’t it true? Even walking or riding a bus in the city we sometimes tune out completely, music in our earbuds, eyes on a book while the world puts on a show around us.

      I was lucky with the eagles, I was on the way back from work when I discovered them. I’m with you – I might’ve been late if I’d discovered them on the way to work.

      I was really amazed at how big they were. I grew up in the US so there was no shortage of bald eagle imagery in my life but to actually see one was quite something. They’re huge!

      1. Yes. We lived in Yellowstone for two years, and loved seeing them often. Never get tired of that. I believe great minds think alike here. 🤗

      2. Wow – lovely spot to live. Never seen eagles here though with all of our highrises in the neighbourhood right next to large, tree-filled ravines, we have lots of red-tailed hawks . They’ve been known to sometimes scratch on our windows even. Perhaps they’d like to come in and snack on our cats.

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