May 12, 2017 - Willie Weir blogs for Adventure Cycling every other Friday.
Bike touring gets you close to nature ... sometimes too close. The more panniers and gear you are hauling, the more nooks and crannies are available for small, often undesirable, stowaways. Everyone has a mosquito or black fly nightmare to tell. And ticks and fleas are all part of the summer bike-travel/camping experience. But you don’t have to be camping to have a story or two to tell.
My partner Kat has a dark, deep fear of spiders. Before our first journey to Southeast Asia, she prepared by forcing herself to go to the insect and spider house at the zoo. Even for arachnid fans, the enormous orb spiders and their vast webs in the trees and bamboo can be daunting.
We were up in northern Laos and stayed in this tiny hotel with bright pink walls. I had completed the usual spider check before we settled in, and we were so tired, we barely saw the room.
In the early morning, as we carried our gear out to the bikes, right above the door, inside the room, was the largest spider on the planet I’ve ever seen. If Kat saw that, I knew our trip was over. I engaged her in conversation and kept things moving, focusing on stuff at floor level. Once Kat moved outside, I told her to watch our stuff while I went in to get the rest of our gear. She had to think I was paranoid ... there were no other guests, and this hotel wasn’t even in a town.
I took one more look at this spider as I left the room. It freaked me out, and I’m fascinated by spiders. Did I take a photo? No. I was in trip survival mode. But here is a photo from our recent adventure in Taiwan that will give you an idea.
It was not until we were safe and sound back in our home in Seattle — a month later — that I told Kat about the spider. She verified my wisdom in withholding the information.
What is your best/worst creepy crawler close encounter? Extra credit for photos!
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday.
Willie Weir is a contributor for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can also find him at WillieWeir.com, Facebook, and Instagram.
I was fascinated by black widows when I was a kid. They used to nest in the wooden beams in our backyard in Sacramento. My mom drew the line when brought a egg nest into the house in a jar and they hatched. I agree with your assessment of fire ants.
When I started traveling, the "creepy-crawlies" freaked me out a little. As time went on, I found them fascinating, even joining a facebook group for insect identification. Many are quite beautiful and even alien in appearance. Even black widows are kind of exciting to encounter. The mosquitoes and blackflies, midges and no-see-ums, fleas and ticks, and (worst of all!) fire ants I can do without, but on the whole, I love seeing unusual critters of all kinds on the road.
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If I'm the first one on a forested trail or road early in the morning, I will frequently see spider webs spun all the way across the trail or road.