Frick Park Chicken Chuck

Pittsburgh

March 2021

I bought a farm fresh rotisserie chicken at our local grocery store.  Easy, tasty, just the slightest hint of nutrition.

I ate some for dinner and later that night felt a bit queasy, so I went to bed.  The next morning I gave it the carcass test:  I took off the lid of the package and smelled the bird.

Usually these chickens are finger lickin’ good, but this one?  Yuck.  Eww.  Nope, not this time.  This is a sick chick.

I have a hard time throwing away food.  Tossing even bad food seems to be a waste.  So Lisa and I carried the not-so-farm-fresh rotisserie chicken over to the park, Frick Park.

Standing on a bluff, overlooking a gully that is home to countless critters (worms, squirrels, non-chicken birds, deer) we tossed the not-so-farm-fresh rotisserie chicken right over the edge into the gully.  We flicked the chick.

We flicked the chick in Frick.  It is the Frick Park Chicken Chuck.

Then I got a tick.  It didn’t stick.

Lisa says, “No harm, no fowl.”

The Great Stone Face

The White Mountains

New Hampshire

1982 / 2003

One of the remarkable things I have come upon in my travels is the Old Man of the Mountain.  To wit…

Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades;  shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe, jewelers a monster watch and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth.  But up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.

—Daniel Webster

If you stand in Profile Lake, or on the shore, and look in a southwesterly direction, there is a big old stone mountain.  Look upward about 1200 feet and perched on the shoulder of the mountain is a forty-foot-high person profile that has stirred the hearts of poets.  An enormous mythology grew up around this natural rock formation, and the symbol of the profile has made its rounds of businesses, government, recreational and social groups.  It even appears on Hew Hampshire road signs and the state quarter.

My New England friend Marc first introduced me to the Old Man of the Mountain during a visit in his part of the country.  From the right viewpoint, five slabs of granite jut out from a mountain so as to present the profile of an old man looking to the east.  This dude had been looking to the east for thousands of years.


August 2013

Twenty-eight miles southwest of Mount Washington, Lisa and I drive past Franconia Notch State Park, former home of a famous New Hampshirite.  In the old days here, if you stood on the shore of what was then Echo Lake, and you looked 1200 feet up into the air and tilted your head in a southward direction, you would see, perched on the shoulder of Cannon Mountain, a forty-foot-high profile of a human face, but made of stone.  If it were flesh and blood, at that size, it would be too freaky.  And yet, this geologic feature has stirred the hearts of poets and writers and promoters of commerce.

The visage adorns New Hampshire road signs and quarters and in 1945, was chosen to appear as a major part of New Hampshire’s official state emblem.

Marc first introduced me to the Great Stone Face, five slabs of granite on Cannon Mountain jutting out in such a way as to present the profile of a craggy old man looking to the east.  This dude had been looking east for at least 2000 years, possibly as long as 10 000 years, give or take twenty minutes.  Until…

Early in the morning of May 03, 2003, the poor old guy had a breakdown:  The stone slabs gave way and tumbled to the valley below.  Face off.  These days, looks like nothing more than a standard beautiful, picturesque, New Hampshire granite mountain.  Alas.  Friends come and go.

Those Crosses

West Virginia

July 2011

Route US-19 South, on our way to Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia.  We behold an amazing assortment of “roadside attractions,” including the nearly ubiquitous sets of three crosses alongside the highway.  We don’t count how many we see on this trip, but there are easily more than the number of apostles.  The ones we pass are a few of the one thousand, eight hundred, sixty-four sets of crosses which stand in 28 states, the Philippines and Zambia.  The first three-cross tableau (of this style) went up in 1984.

1

The mission of Crosses Across America, Inc. is to reach non-Christians with The Message, and to remind Christians that there is hope in Jesus Christ.

2

The mission of Crosses Across America, Inc. is to preserve, maintain and construct crosses across America.

3

The mission of Crosses Across America states that, “The Crosses stand to remind people that Jesus was crucified on a Cross at Calvary for our sins;  there is hope in Jesus Christ;  and, that He is soon coming again.”

I lifted these three missions at different times from the website.  They keep changing their minds.

West Virginia, where we score most of our cross sightings, hosts 352 sets, far more than any other state.

The man responsible for the whole toot and scramble was the Reverend Bernard Coffindaffer, of Craigsville, West Virginia, not far from our route, ten miles as the crow flies, twelve miles as the crow drives.  Coffindaffer was a businessman turned evangelist.  As a Methodist minister he anointed himself “Point Man for God,” and made it his mission to cover the world with trios of crosses, most of them a gold rood flanked by two blue ones.

Coffindaffer would first obtain permission from land owners to erect the icons and then, at his own expense, place them strategically so that they could be viewed by a large population, say, drivers like us.  He’d put more than three million dollars into this project.

The reverend and I share a birthday, but not a death day.  He died in 1993.  I didn’t.

The Wild West Lives

The Black Hills

South Dakota

May 2015

Sometimes it’s easy to spend a very short time in a place and pick up a strong impression.  It’s also easy to spend a very short time in several places and pick up the impression that they are similar.  So it is with Keystone, Custer, Deadwood and Hill City, all towns in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  All are built around their Wild West narrative:  saloon doors, fringe jackets, fancy women and gambling.  Crowds of tourists are drawn to the gaming resorts and casinos and saloons.  These days, instead of horses we have motorcycles, everywhere and always.  The town of Sturgis is nearby and the yearly August rally pulls in half a million motorcycle riders.  This is a town of seven thousand residents.

I was in Sturgis on an “off” week and still, there were hundreds of bikes, and just as many leather vests.  

Harney Peak, the high point of South Dakota, is in this area.  I wonder if the name should be “Harley Peak.”

Approaching Deadwood, driving the road that snakes through towering rock face on either side, the sign welcomes us…

Where the Wild West Lives

The streets are named Hickok, Calamity, Lee, Sherman.  It doesn’t take much to figure out the theme.  A section in the eastern part of town has streets named Madison, Taylor, Jackson, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Harrison, Lincoln and Van Buren.

A big part of what made the Wild West wild was the personalities, folks who built this country in various and colorful ways.  Legends abound.  To wit…

James Butler Hickok

Deadwood is associated with some pretty engaging characters.  For starts, there’s this guy, bka “Wild Bill Hickok.”  He was a well-known, widely feared, well-respected gambler and gunslinger, one of the best in shootouts.

Jack McCall

Shot Wild Bill in the back of the head while Bill was playing poker.  Mr Hickok was holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights, “aces and eights,” now known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

Agnes Thatcher Lake

Agnes was married three times:  #1 Bill Lake, circus clown.  #2 James Butler Hickok, eleven years younger.  #3 George Carson, thirteen years younger.  She married Wild Bill only six months before he was shot dead.  But Ms Lake was a pip in her own right, not just for her list of husbands.  She walked the tight-rope, trained lions and was one of the most popular circus attractions in the west.  Also, possibly, the Wild West’s first cougar.

Martha Jane Canary

“Calamity Jane” is how we know her.  A looker when she was younger, but not so much in her adulthood, Jane was a tobacco-spitting, beer and whiskey-guzzling, foul-mouthed illiterate liar who preferred to wear men’s clothing.  Most of her gunslinging and heroic escapades were probably fabrications, but who cares!

Ellis Albert Swearengen

“Al” opened up the first “night club” in Deadwood.  He lured, bullied and beat despairing women into becoming his prostitutes/employees/slaves.  He allied himself with local politicians to stay clear of any efforts to clean up the rough and tumble town.

Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert

“Poker Alice” was born in England but found herself widowed and broke in the Black Hills.  So she started smoking cigars and took up poker.  She rarely lost.  She would say, “Praise the Lord and place your bets.  I’ll take your money with no regrets.”

Seth Bullock

Brave man.  In the days when Deadwood was proud of its lawless, murdering nature, Bullock became its first sheriff, bringing some semblance of law and order to the home of the ruffians.

Ethan Bennett Farnum

E B was Deadwood’s first mayor, school board president and Justice of the Peace.  He sent the first telegram from Deadwood, helped establish the first school, performed the first marriage, opened and ran one of the first general stores, levied taxes on businesses, established the first fire department and helped contain an outbreak of small pox by establishing a quarantine house.  Busy man.

Cornelius Donahue

“Lame Johnny,” as they called him, walked with a limp.  No one knew why exactly, but it made it easier to identify and apprehend him.  Johnny was notorious for his activities as a horse thief, prospector, bookkeeper, cattle rustler and stage coach robber.  They hanged Lame Johnny right along where Highway 79 is now.  We drive right past the turnoff to Lame Johnny Road and right past Lame Johnny’s ghost.

The Black Fly

Maine

June 2019

Lisa spent the first part of her life in Maine.  I asked her how she handled the black flies when she was a kid.  She scoffed.

“My friends and I compared, we held contests.  Who could not scratch for the longest time, who could get the most bites, who could hold out the longest without complaining.  It was all good fun.”


We are relaxing in a Freeport, Maine brew pub, enjoying quaffs of Gritty McDuff’s Black Fly Stout.  Well…

The black fly.  Some folks describe black flies as “annoying.”  Some go as far as to say, “very annoying.”  Sorry but that ain’t the half of it.

When we contemplated a trip up to this area, I asked my New England friend Marc about the black flies.  “It sort of depends on your tolerance whether you want to come here.  Some locals don’t go outside their houses at all.  They’re pretty bad.”

I wanted more.  “Pretty bad” or “really bad?”

“Really bad,” he said.

“How bad is really bad?”

Marc said, “Let me put it this way.  When we go biking, inevitably, someone is going to get a flat tire.  While the biker changes his tire, every other rider within the area crowds around in a circle, madly waving their arms in the air, shooing away the black flies from the biker so that he can focus on his task.  If we didn’t do that, the bugs would be so maddening he would never be able to stay still long enough to change the tire.  They are very, <very> bad.”

Marc also said, “Black flies can occur in such vast numbers that livestock have died of shock or blood loss from their bites.”

Yep, that’s very bad.


So here we are, sitting in Gritty McDuff’s quaffing Black Fly Stout.  The black fly is the hero the brewers picked to give their beer its name.  Well, drink up, as we were swarmed with black flies on every damned hike on this trip.

Is there anything that can be done to make life a wee bit more comfortable while sharing oxygen with these pissants?  Some humans resort to using chemical repellants.  We new agers, of course, choose a natural insect repellant, something with lemon or citronella.  Marketed under various names from various companies, basically this shit is embarrassingly ineffective.  They call it bug spray — I think that’s because the bugs like it so much.

With all the expensive preparations available in specialty outdoors and camping stores, we pick this one major brand spray right off the shelf in the local pharmacy.  Works fairly well.  Keeps the bugs away for up to four minutes.


But enough about how miserable these little dipsticks can make life.  I mean, just because they get in your ears, nose, throat and eyes and up your shorts, and just because they don’t actually just bite but rather, they sink in with their teeth and rip your flesh, and just because they inject a venom which can cause maddening itching, and just because my companion one time had an allergic reaction to their bite that swelled her eye closed…


In 2002, I climbed to the summit of Mount Ascutney in Vermont.  It is the height of black fly season so before getting out of my car, I affixed a bug net around my head and neck and tucked it in under my collar.  Ever see one of these?  Imagine what a beekeeper looks like.  There you are.

Stepping out of my car, I notice a small group of people looking in my direction, one of them stifling a laugh.  I’m sure he was thinking, “overkill” because of my head net.  I’m sure I was thinking, “preppie” because of his choice of chinos, oxford shirt with a scarf (in summer!) and his loafers.  Loafers?  We’re at trailhead.  Please tell me he’s not going to hike in those.

I quickly lose track of them as they seem to be in a hurry and scuffle up the trail.  Taking my time, I soon begin my hike.

I come upon a particular section that is a steady uphill on a grassy tract.  I am well aware of the hoards of black flies swarming outside my insect net which I check to make sure it is secure and there are no leaks.  One black fly can ruin your day.  I am hiking in a swarm of about a hundred.

I also am wearing long sleeves with my hands pulled up inside, and long pants.  No damned black fly will feast on me today.

Soon enough, who comes running down the hill but PreppyBoy.  Running downhill is risky.  Nonetheless, he slows down just enough and says, rather breathlessly, “I’ll give you $20 for that net.”

Without a pause, he then offers, “I’ll give you $50 for that net.”

“Naah, I don’t think so,” I say.

He is near hysterical.  Reaching into his pocket, he gasps, “I’ll give you $100 for that net.”

“No, but thanks for the offer.  Have a nice day.

The Possum

or maybe

The Opossum

Pittsburgh 2016

This is Jean-Clawed.  He lives with me.

This is what Jean-Clawed is looking at.

This…  thing…  is on my back porch.  It is an opossum.  He does not live with me.  Clearly, you can see that, just by looking at Jean-Clawed’s face.

What we have here is the two extremes.  When he’s not on high alert, when his suspicions rest, Jean-Clawed is the most adorable, gentlest critters ever to exist.  He is of surpassing cute-itude

An opossum, in any state of mind whatever, is at the other end of the spectrum, if you ask me, one of the most hideous critters to burden the earth.  Double oh my!

So what’s the deal with these uglies?  And exactly what animal was it on my back porch?  Was it a possum or was it an opossum?

Most of the answer to this question comes from the Opossum Society of the United States.  Really.

The opossum is a marsupial, the only one in North America.  Being a marsupial means that, opposite of bicyclists, you have a front pocket.

They are kind of like ugly gardeners, eating snails and slugs, spiders, worms, cockroaches, rats, mice and snakes and the occasional chicken.  They will raid garbage cans and dumpsters.  In a pinch, they’ll dine on grass, nuts and fruit.  The OSUS calls them, “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineer.”  Pretty catchy, eh?

But concerning our most pressing issue — was that a possum or an opossum that had Jean-Clawed fascinated — there is considerable confusing information out there.  Some sources say these are the same animal, some say they are different beasts and we-who-name-them are just lazy.  Here’s the best I found…

opossum  (Didelphidae)

.  North American marsupial

.  white face

.  grayish-white body

.  black ears and feet

.  coarse fur

.  sharp teeth

.  bare, rat-like tail

possum  (Phalangeridae)

.  Australian marsupial

.  four primary color variations: silver-gray, brown, black, gold

.  larger ears

.  fur is softer and more bushy

.  bushy tail covered in fur

So let it be settled.

Paleontologists Get Down

Oklahoma

March 2013

This area of the country has long been a hot spot for geologists and paleontologists who like to get down.  Y’know, they dig for remains of dinosaurs that date back to the Jurassic and Triassic periods, as long ago as 245 million years, give or take twenty minutes.  More than 18 tons of bones have been recovered here.  That’s a lot of dead dinosaur, and a lot of history.

When my sewer line went bad, the plumber dug a trench six feet deep in my basement and eight feet deep in the front yard.  That was fifteen years ago, give or take twenty minutes.  Once he was done with the pipe, it took him half a day to fill up that hole.  Here you see me standing in a hole created by the foot of an Allosaurus more than 63 000 002 years ago, give or take twenty minutes.  This hole still hasn’t filled in.

Black Mesa is the highest point in Oklahoma.  It is located here in the Panhandle, part of what is called the Morrison Formation which covers parts of 13 states.  More Allosaurus bones have been found here than anywhere else in the world.

When we drove into Boise City, we saw a dinosaur in a field.  It is made of metal, but hey, it’s still a dinosaur.

From the trailhead parking lot where we earlier began our hike to the summit, it is only three tenths of a mile up the road to the turnoff to the advertised “Dinosaur Tracks!”

These tracks were made by critters much larger than us and currently much deader.  I stand in the depressions left by those terrifying lizards and try to imagine how big one would be if it were standing here with us.  Nope, can’t do it.  Too fantastic.  I still have trouble imagining heavier than air flight.  But there is no doubt the dinosaurs were here.

As a point of fact, humans never stood here, or anywhere, with dinosaurs.  Depending on how you choose to define “human being,” or “person,” we began trampling around this Earth anywhere from 2.3 million to 250 thousand years ago, give or take twenty minutes.

Humans have had many forms over the long haul, from early hominins to Homo erectus to Homo neanderthalensis on up to Homo sapiens, us!  Think of that picture depicting evolution:  a monkey turning into a hairy human with bad posture, turning into a modern human turning into a hiker.

Dinosaurs, on the other paw, were finished with their careers, their calling, somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 million years ago, give or take twenty minutes.  This means, contrary to what those dipsticks will tell you at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, the last dinosaur went out of business a good 63 million years before we began to be human.  It was a pretty good run for the terrible lizard, stretching all the way back to Pangaea, when all the Earth’s land mass was one.  The dinosaurs were very busy making fossils sixty-three million years ago, give or take twenty minutes.

Why am I calling these enterprising people at the Creation Museum dipsticks?  Look.  I don’t have a problem if those folks want to believe that the Earth and the Universe are the same age, that they were literally created in six days in the year 4004 B.C.  I don’t have a problem if they want to believe that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time (like the Flintstones.)  No.  My problem with them, and hence the “dipstick” characterization, is that they are insisting that their belief is true fact, and they have no respect for science, and that, in their ass-holiness, they use deceitful tactics to try to convince us of their dipstick philosophy.  They tell you what the science says and then tell you why it is wrong.  But they lie about what science says.  They make up something dumb and call it science and then discredit what they made up as if it proves science is wrong.  That’s just not nice, and I would very much like them to stop.

Science is not against religion.  Science does not try to make religion go away.  They are dissimilar enough that it doesn’t even make sense to compare them.  Science deals with the <how> of the Universe whereas religion is about the <why>.  There’s room for everyone.

Even someone as large as an Allosaur.


Interesting, ain’t it.  In general, Oklahoma is so backward in their approach to science, and this is the state where so many prehistoric critters once lived, and still provide evidence, real evidence, contrary to what these people believe.  As my buddy Neil deGrasse Tyson once mentioned to me, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Hailstones

Mount Davis

Pennsylvania

June 2014

We cross the broad summit on the rocky trail, surrounded by a still recovering forest.  In July of 1999 a storm raged over much of this high point area of the state, smacking down trees and ripping up the flora.  Great wind damage.  There were reports of balls of ice 1.75 inches in diameter falling from the sky.  Kickass hailstones.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, recognizes that hailstones come in various official sizes.  1.75 inches is considered the size of a golf ball, according to NOAA.  The United States Golf Association considers, nay, mandates that the size of a golf ball be 1.680 inches.  But we’re not really talking about golf balls, we’re talking about hailstones the size of golf balls

Here’s a useful list of hailstone comparisons you may want to keep in your wallet…

diameter helpful comparison

1/4” pea

1/2” mothball, or marble

1 ½” walnut, or ping pong ball

1 ¾” golf ball

2” hen egg

2 ½” tennis ball

2 ¾” *baseball

3” tea cup

4” grapefruit

4 ½” softball

* Here we go again.  Paragraph 1.09 of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball specifies the allowable circumference of a baseball:  “It shall…measure not less than nine nor more than 9 1/4 inches in circumference.”  For the sake of our discussion, we do the math, round out the number, and find that this works out to between 2.86 and 2.94 inches in diameter.  Compare this to the size of a 2 ¾” NOAA baseball, which is smaller.  As any baseball fan knows, the rules of baseball are far more strict than the rules of weather.

If you go ahead and measure the other comparisons, you will find similar discrepancies.  Hen eggs, for example, come in six sizes, ranging from jumbo on down to peewee.  Really.  Peewee eggs.  NOAA says they are two inches in diameter.  The chickens say they range from 1.6 to 2.8 inches, including the shell.  They should know.  Of course it has to do with the size of the chicken.  If you see hailstones the size of chickens falling from the sky, run away!

The Fastest Among Us

part III

But so can we.  We can outrun, endurance-wise, almost any animal.  We are familiar with panting, that mechanism animals use to stay cool when exerting themselves.  Humans sweat.  Much more efficient, and it’s what allows us to maintain exercise levels of performance for long periods of time.  We are just about the only animals (the thoroughbred racehorse is an exception) that can run a marathon.  We have the ability to cover 26.2 miles at one effort.  Take that, all you speed demons.  Ha!

So okay, we can outlast most animals.  But do you think they will leisurely pace us before they attack, y’know, hanging back, reading the paper, sipping a margarita?

When it comes down to it, who can we outrun?  What kind of head start do we need to get away from a big cat, or even a little bear?  After all, we are quite tasty, to them.

could you outrun a rattlesnake

Don’t step on it, just run away.  They clock in at about 3 mph.

how about an alligator?

These guys can motor at 11 mph.  Get a short head start and you’ll be okay.   Oh, and that business about running in a zigzag?  Don’t waste your time, just get your sorry ass in gear.

a tiger?

Scary as this might be — 35 mph, and serious teeth — just outrun it for a few moments and it will probably lose interest.  They tend to ambush rather than run down.  Probably.

a lion

Just a tad slower than tigers, but more persistent, and they will hunt you in packs.  You’ve got to outrun the lead who, by virtue of being in the lead, is the fastest.  Good luck.

when is the last time you were chased by an elephant?

Top speed will be about 20 miles per hour.  While running?  Hmm…  maybe.  There is some discussion about whether elephants actually “run” since there is no aerial phase to their locomotion, which is to say, there is no moment when all fours are off the ground at the same time.  If this gargantuan beast is chasing you, does this really matter?  Hoof it out of there, baby!

what about a chimpanzee?  can you outrun this ancestor of ours?  (not really an ancestor, although we share an ancestral line)

Have you ever been chased by a chimpanzee?  Can you even imagine being chased by a chimpanzee?  Anyway, they can outrun us.  And then what?

killer bees

Now this is bad.  While we can outrun these little MFs, they still seem to be able to catch us.  And we really don’t want that to happen.  Let me rephrase that:  we really don’t want that to happen.

human

The fastest human run will occur immediately after stirring up a nest of killer bees.

deer, fox and raccoon

Fear not.

your ex

You’re on your own here.

rhinoceros

Depending on the breed, a rhinoceros may weight anywhere from 1500 to 5100 pounds.  It my be able to ambulate at 35 mph.  Rhinos have a nervous temperament and tend to attack anyone who annoys them and they are capable of ambush.  You’d better run your sorry ass off.

hippopotamus

If you had the choice between surprising a rhinoceroses and surprising a hippopotamus, go with the…

N’wait.  What a dumb hypothetical situation.  You get to choose getting run over by a rhinoceroses or a hippopotamus?  That’s ridiculous.

Anyway, go with the hippo.  They are vegetarians and slightly slower than the rhino.

daddy long legs

By any name, how fast can a harvestmen or shepherd spider run?  We have no idea.  They don’t run much.  Usually they will come out from under wherever they were, hang out, do a few pushups and then go back to under wherever they were before, or somewhere else.  That’s about it.

You don’t need to outrun them.  They don’t care.

bison

At 2000 pounds, these babies are the heaviest land animal in North America.  They can run at horse speeds.  They can jump about the same as the old world record in the high jump.  Six feet up.  Six feet up!

Should you run away?  Look at the tail.  If it’s standing straight up, get your sorry ass out of there;  it may be preparing to charge.  And if you pray, throw that into the mix.

caterpillar

Caterpillars can…  what is it that they do? — undulate?  squiggle? — at a rate of 6.2 feet per minute, or 2.1 feet per minute, depending on whether it’s before or after dinner.

In human terms, this is not fast.  We can dust them.

moose

Many years ago, I encountered a moose on the hiking trail in the remote wilderness of Maine.  I had no idea what to do.  I knew nothing of the habits and inclinations of moose.  More recently I asked Lisa’s dad, Earl, about moose.  He has spent his entire life as a resident of Maine so I figured he might know a thing or two (which he usually does.)

“So Earl, I once encountered a moose on the trail.  What would have been the best thing for me to do?  Try to hide?  Run away?  Stand my ground and make noise?”

He considered for a moment, got a little grin on his face and said, “I don’t know.”

“Hmm?”

“No one knows.  Moose are unpredictable.  They may come at you, they may ignore you.  Can’t tell from one moose to another.”

Don’t moose with me.

cheetah

Now we’re getting to the sexy animals.  Cheetahs are beautiful cats.  Just be careful that if you see one running, 1) you don’t get mesmerized by its grace, and 2) it’s not running toward you.

cow

Some say a cow can run at 25 mph.  Perhaps this is a little surprising for an animal that chews sideways and farts more than Uncle Izzy.  It is however, a milk factory.  That’s worth something.

butterfly

According to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History here in Pittsburgh, the butterfly is able to get it on up to 37 miles per hour.  I don’t know if that means much considering how vicious butterfly attacks aren’t, and the fact that they change directions so often it seems that their flight, while it isn’t, is pointless.  No danger here.

snail

C’mon!

polar bear

These cuties have a nasty reputation.  While they could easily rip all your limbs off, they would actually rather avoid a confrontation.  Whatever, get a good head start and keep running until you get south of Canada.

wild boar

These critters are not known as “wild” for their party habits.  They are very fast, even at 200 pounds, and will chase you down.  Watch out for their sharp tusks.

puppy

They can outrun you.  Better to focus on how cute they are.

axolotl

Even though they are known as Mexican walking fish, axolotls do not run.  They are fish.

No, they’re not.  They are amphibians.  This is important.  To the axolotl.

bear

You cannot outrun a bear.  You cannot out-climb a bear.  You cannot hide from a bear.  You cannot out-eat a bear.  You are much weaker than a bear.

You cannot out-bear a bear, and they are good at all these things:  running, climbing, hiding, eating, fighting.  You might be smarter than a bear, but you two won’t be having a debate.

sorry ass

I’ve certainly referred to your sorry ass enough times here, so let’s see what we’ve got.

Ass:  15 mph

Your sorry ass:  10 mph

You lose.

The Fastest Among Us

part II

Nonetheless, while the average time it takes to do the A T is about five months, hiking (running) this trail in 41 days is impressive.  In spite of my distaste of running this granddaddy of all hiking trails, let me tell you about some other speed demons.

To cover the distance in that amount of world-record time, Karel Sabbe hiked/ran just over 2.2 miles per hour.  This however is a misleading number because it includes time he was horizontal, sleeping, icing his shins, or taking other types of breaks, such as, as they say, visiting the woods.

Let’s say he actually hiked 12 hours a day.  (I have no idea how many hours a day he hiked/ran, so this is a guess.)  It means a pace of 4.4 miles per hour, much more realistic.

How does this compare with other fast running?

Usian Bolt, the fastest human alive, has run 27.8 miles per hour but only for short bursts, like 100 meters, or 328 feet.  Were he to run at that rate for a few hours, he would likely burst into flames, or his limbs would fall, willy nilly, all over the track.  But he could cover the A T in 77 hours, or just over three days.

On the downside, he’d miss every caterpillar and gnat on the trail.

27.8 miles per hour.  I had a car once that could do that.

Animals can run faster.  North African ostriches can regularly hit 40 miles per hour.  They look like idiots, but still, they are the fastest bird on land which is an honor equivalent to being voted prettiest fat girl at the dance.

One of our best friends, the greyhound, can just beat the ostrich at 43 miles per hour.

How about thoroughbred racehorses, who are trained for moving over the ground at high speed?  55 mph.  Same as the pronghorn antelope, who are not known for training.

At the top of the speed race, we have the fastest of all animals on land, the cheetah.  Extraordinarily elegant at high speed, especially when caught by a slow motion camera, these cats can hit 61 mph!  One astonishing supercheetah was clocked at 68 miles per hour!  Faster than the national speed limit.

Then there are the speed freaks who move through liquid.  The sail fish, the world’s fastest fish, can slice through the water at 75 mph.

What about those animals who are not burdened by gravity.  Let us soar.  The spur-winged goose can fly at 88 mph.

The frigatebird is capable of slicing the air at 95 mph and in a show of endurance, can stay aloft for more than a week at a time.  At this speed, it would need less than a day to cover the Appalachian Trail.

The white throated needletail can do 106, but these folks are slowpokes compared to the king of bird speed, the peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on the planet.  Dig this:  they routinely reach an airspeed of 161 miles per hour!  But wait.  In a dive, this monster can clock up to 242 miles per hour, setting off car alarms all over the neighborhood.  Prey has no chance whatsoever.

Stamina?  Did someone say something about stamina?  Well, it turns out that we humans are not such slouches after all.

Yes, the frigatebird can hang out in the air for eight days, defining endurance.  But…

(please go to Who’s Faster Among Us part III)