Snakes and Cycling

Cycling, of any sort, is very therapeutic to me. I often find myself dreaming up some of my best ideas, work related or recreational, while riding a bike. I design a lot of art projects, make promises to clean up my nutrition or start stretching more, and in general a plan to save the world. Some of these ideas stay on the road. Some are started but never finished. Yet some come to life and are testaments that cycling is truly good for the soul. One of my reoccurring thoughts, however, is slightly darker in nature and creeps into my thoughts more often than I would like. Not being from the South myself, I haven't encountered many snakes and the ones which I've had the pleasure of meeting have not been fortunate to make it across the road. However, I was out riding with a few friends on a warm summer night a while back, deep in conversation about an upcoming race, and I did not realize that I had drifted close to the side of the pavement. Above the wind I briefly heard a rattle and as if in slow motion, saw the rattlesnake curled up in the grass uncoil and narrowly miss my calf as I rotated through my pedal stroke. I don't scream very often, but this made me yelp in fright! That close call made me think...what if I were riding, alone, on Fort Benning (or anywhere actually) away from civilization? What would I do? Here are a few tips to think about:

1. Call emergency services or get to a hospital. Most snake bites aren't poisonous, but when you do get bitten by a poisonous snake, getting medical care as soon as possible is imperative. 2. Take note of the snake's appearance. 3. Move away from the snake. 4. Be as still as possible. If you're waiting for help to arrive, lie down on your back and take deep, steady breaths to calm yourself down. Don't move your body more than necessary; the goal is to get your heart rate back down as fast as possible. 5. Remove clothing or constricting items. 6. Cover the bite lightly, then leave it alone. After that, leave it to the paramedics to treat it further. There are many myths about what to do in case of snake bite; almost all of them just make the problem worse. 7. Receive anti-venom. Snakes have different types of venom; some affect the blood, while others affect the nervous system. Getting a dose of the right kind of anti-venom when the paramedics arrive is the most effective way to reverse the complications caused by the snake's poison. 8. Wait it out. If you're out in the middle of nowhere, with no hope of paramedics getting there soon, the best you can do is get as comfortable as possible and wait for the poison to leave your system. In most cases, snakes don't inject enough venom for the bite to be fatal. Treat the individual symptoms that may be occurring, and most importantly, stay calm. Fear of snakes and the anxiety that follows the bite are often what leads to fatalities, since a pounding heart makes the poison spread so quickly.

So next time you come up on what you think is just a dead branch in the middle of the road, take the long way around it and stay away from the long grass on the sides of the road!

Ride on my friends, ride on.