This weekend was back to local riding. After a lot of traveling in recent weeks, it was a nice change of pace. The heat is here in full force, so I started early on both Saturday and Sunday and got nearly 100 total miles. Sunday was a short, recovery pace ride to Congaree National Park. The route is almost entirely flat, so this was more of a leisurely, social ride. It was a nice morning for it and we had a great time.
Congaree is essentially a swamp. It is a lush area with a lot of wildlife, flora and fauna. We only get a little taste of the park. Our ride takes us just to the welcome center, where we take a break and refuel, and then we return to suburban Columbia.
While we approached the swamp area, I was engaged in conversation with another rider and wasn’t paying too much attention to my surroundings. She casually pointed out that I had a bee in my draft. I could not see him, but she kept pointing out where he was. Sometimes he would be hovering right behind me, buzzing around. Other times he would rest on my jersey or some other part of my body before moving somewhere else. I kept going, hoping he would buzz off, but he persisted.
I am highly allergic to bees. It has been about 20 years since I have been stung, so I’m not sure how I would react now. The last time I was stung on my hand. It became so swollen that it literally started to look like a baseball mitt. I had been told by doctors that it could be dangerous if I were stung somewhere vital, such as my head or chest. Needless to say, I try to avoid bees as much as possible. When they are near, I generally freeze, let them do their thing, and eventually they will go away. At some point I could be stung on a ride and will have to deal with it.
We had about three miles to go before stopping and the bee was still hanging around. Since I had not been riding fast, I had a lot of energy. I decided to use this stretch as a sprint section and hopefully leave the bee behind in my wake. I blew past everyone, looked around and the bee was nowhere to be seen. When arriving at the park entrance, I stopped for a picture (the one above) and to wait for my riding companions.
My good bee friend arrived shortly before my friends. I saw him for the first time and he was huge. What’s worse, he was clearly angry, rapidly buzzing all over the place. At first I remained stationary until my friends passed, then I got back on the bike and floored it to the welcome center. When I got there, the bee was gone and we had a nice break.
We rode back casually again, the bees nearly forgotten. As we approached the park entrance, I heard that familiar buzzing. My buddy was back and this time he wanted blood. Again, I took off ahead of the group and stopped after roughly a half mile of fast riding. This time he seemed gone finally. When the few other riders caught up, I got behind them only to see a number of bees were on them. There must have been a half dozen, maybe more, and they were buzzing all over the place. The bees did not seem to be on me, at least from what I could tell, but I saw them all over the other three riders. At one time there were three hovering around the front rider, who was aimlessly trying to swat them away with no luck. I decided to play hero, sped around the pack and yelled “jump on, we’ll outrun them.” I then pulled the group at around a 24-25 mph pace. They hung on and we reached the next cross street where we waited for the rest, hopefully without any unwanted guests. Fortunately we did not see another bee afterward. Oddly enough, the rest of the pack showed up and claimed not to have seen a bee the entire time.