Watch for the squirrel 48 seconds into the video.
I rode the Talimena Scenic drive recently. This is a 53-mile mountainous road between Talihina, Okla., and Mena, Ark. This is one of those roads made for motorcycles. This road was the reason we were camping at Queen Wilhelmena State Park. I ran the 13-mile stretch from the lodge atop Rich Mountain back into Mena six times while we were there. I only made the longer 40-mile run from the lodge to Talihina twice. Once going east to west, then going west to east. Our original plan was to leave our campsite at the park, then make the run before heading home to Texarkana through Oklahoma from Talihina. But sitting in Talihina, we decided we had to make the run at least one more time. That meant going home, back through Mena.
I was experimenting with a video camera mounted to my bike. I was unfamiliar with it and only managed to get a short segment of the run leaving the lodge heading toward Mena. I missed the best part of the road because the camera timed out before we got to the twisties.
This was my fourth run of this stretch of road and I was riding fairly aggressively. I wanted to get some good video. One thing I did manage to capture on camera was a narrow miss with a squirrel. I was going into a long curve and saw the little guy come hopping across the road from the left side. I decided to try to take the line as far to the right as I could to give him as much time as possible to stop. I was fairly sure that if I tried to go behind him, he’d turn at the last minute and I’d hit him. In the video, you can see me drifting toward the right side of the road as the furry little kamikaze keeps coming.
At the last second he makes an impossible move and darts back the way he came. I then gently eased my line back toward the center of the road. Or at least that’s what I remember.
Watching the video, I’m surprised to see a substantial swerve right after missing Rocky. At first I thought it was a delayed attempt to avoid rodenticide. But the jag back toward the center lane clearly comes after passing the squirrel. It feels like I might have tried to give the varmint every extra inch by standing the bike up trying to get the wheel a few centimeters further to the right. The visible jag is clearly me trying to get back into a proper cornering line.
The thing is, I have absolutely no memory of doing that. Ultimately it made no difference, but if I had gone down there, I would have sworn that I was holding an even line. But in fact, I wobbled my way through the rest of the curve. It’s not a big deal really, but I find it disconcerting that my memory of the event could be so different from the facts recorded by my camera. It makes me question the validity of any memories during a stressful moment. It also goes a way toward explaining how in the aftermath of an accident, you can have two people both adamant that the other party is at fault.
I think the squirrel and I both learned a lesson. Hopefully he learned to watch out for motorcycles, and I learned that memory can be squirrely.
－ Guy Wheatley