I needed some time to think yesterday. So naturally, I decided to bike from my house to my in-laws’ via the Hamilton-to-Brantford Rail Trail, a ride guaranteed to last a minimum of 3 hours with lots of “alone time” out in the woods. I packed my MEC backpack with all the fervor of a boy headed for his first day of school, stuffing in granola bars and bottles of water, did a thorough inspection of my bike (Two wheels? Check. Seat? Check.), and strapped on my sexy helmet.
It was a beautiful day for a ride. The sun was shining, the breeze was cool, the roads nearly empty at that time in the morning. I took my usual route down to the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, rolled on into the trails, and suddenly heard Cher belting out girl-power songs through the trees.
No, it wasn’t the subconscious expression of an alternate lifestyle thumping its way through my brain. I emerged from the woods to discover a shanty-town of tents built around the Rail Trail entrance. It was the Weekend to End Breast Cancer, and supporters were running through the woods to… well I don’t actually know how it helped stop breast cancer. They probably paid money to do it or something. Anyway, Cher was warbling them along in their fancy running gear while I steered through the crowds like a dirty vagrant, helping myself to the free apples and water bottles (thank goodness I had decided to wear my pink spandex shorts that day!).
Once I had left the social awareness behind me, the Rail Trail was virtually abandoned. The empty path stretched out to vanishing point. The waving trees beckoned me down the trail. For some reason, I was quietly singing Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” to myself. In an uncharacteristic move, I took off my helmet to better feel the breeze blowing through my sweaty hair. I breathed deeply of-
KAMIKAZE CHIPMUNK ATTACK!
“Barglefarph!” I screamed (in my terror I had forgotten how to swear properly). I slammed on my brakes, skidding the bike across the gravel and nearly dumping myself into the ditch. The brush into which the chipmunk had disappeared quivered.
Now, before you start telling me that the chipmunk was not flinging itself into my path as an act of suicidal warfare, before you start talking about the wonders of the natural world or coincidence or some such thing, let me tell you something: that chipmunk screamed as it ran across my path. It was a warcry. It may have sounded like the terrified squeak of a rodent in distress, but I could clearly hear the word “Banzai!” coming from its little bucktoothed mouth.
“Why would it have chosen to cross the trail at that exact point,” I asked myself as I shakily rode on down the trail again, “if not to try to fling me from my bike at the expense of its own life? The trail was completely empty for kilometers in both directions. If it was just trying to get across, it could have easily waited-”
KAMIKAZE CHIPMUNK ATTACK!
“Crackmotherlytrap!” I yelled (still not great at swearing under pressure). I swerved, dodged a tree, and fell into the brush. Another Banzai-screaming rodent squeaked from the opposite side of the woods. I shakily emerged after a moment, brushing dirt and leaves from myself, and righted my bicycle.
The chipmunks came again and again on the ride. While I hardly saw another human soul on the trail, I began to realize that they had all fallen victim to the last, desperate attempts of the chipmunk’s Imperial society to wipe out the invading bicyclists. I saw their wrecked conveyances at the edges of the trails, cracked frames and bent spokes a mute testament to the bravery of the Rail Trail cyclists, and a chilling reminder of the enduring power of the rodent’s martial spirit.
I was one of the lucky ones.