Wednesday, November 21, 2018

There are always surprises on the roads and pathways

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 11/21/18

I was startled by a replica of a black panther while on a run in Caloosahatchee Regional Park. DAN MOSER / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Anyone who traverses our roads, pathways and trails surely has tales of things found or seen that were out of the ordinary. Of course, the slower your pace the more likely you’ll actually spot such curiosities. So, while it is possible to have these experiences when sitting behind the wheel or in the passenger seat of a moving motor vehicle (think of seeing your fellow motorist reading a newspaper while driving I-75, just to name one) unanticipated sightings are much more apparent when at a human pace. The frequency and detail increase as we move from bicycle speed to running then to walking. I’d like to relate a few of the more, shall I say, interesting items and sightings I’ve happened upon.

One re-occurring subject I’ve come upon over the years is discarded clothing, shoes and hair extensions. While these items can be lumped in with the glut of other litter our area is plagued by, these things stand out. It’s on or just after the weekend when these are most likely to be spotted and it’s always disturbing when underwear is among them. On one run across the Edison Bridge I found a prosthetic leg, which I reported to FDOT so they could add it to their lost and found box. Seeing things like that and hair extensions always leads me to conjure up stories of how they got there, adding some entertainment to my ride, run or walk.

Finding paper money isn’t nearly as ordinary as clothing and hair extensions items but discovering coins is quite common. However, Maria, my wife, seems to have an eye for the greenback — or she’s very lucky. A while back she found a $100 bill on our usual Sunday morning run. More recently she came home with over $125 in assorted bills scattered around an empty parking lot when she was on her eight-mile walk. The best I’ve ever done is a few dollar bills here and there. But I’ll continue to keep my eyes peeled.

Trail running frequently results in big surprises. Sometimes they’re wildlife-related and other times human wildlife themed. I’ve witnessed hawks grabbing snakes hanging in trees and flying away with them in their talons. At least twice I’ve had to change course due to very large rattlesnakes blocking the trail. Happening upon scores of wild boars is very common in places like Caloosahatchee Regional Park. At that same park I once turned a corner and came face to face what appeared to be a black panther (Yikes!) but was really a lifelike replica strategically placed to elicit just the reaction I exhibited.

The human wildlife I’ve encountered in woods off the beaten path (i.e., not in a park or other “official” public place) frequently include camps that the folks living there consider their homes. In most cases no one was there at the time but it still felt like I was an uninvited guest in their living room so I never lingered.

One time there were what appeared to be trip-wires around an area I couldn’t determine to be a typical camp for otherwise homeless people or something more nefarious, so I quickly retreated and never returned to that area. Another reoccurring theme I’ve happened upon in the woods that probably won’t surprise anyone is sexual activity of one kind or another. It’s obviously quite uncomfortable to (literally) run into such situations, so unless it appeared to be anything other than consensual — something I fortunately never encountered — I’d simply acknowledge their presence while continuing to move along.

An important aspect of seeing things up close and at slow speed is the ability to identify hazards that might otherwise be overlooked until something bad occurs. My injury prevention background means I can’t help but look at infrastructure quite critically and make mental notes or stop to take photos of things I feel need attention. I recently came upon a newly constructed sidewalk that presented a potentially serious hazard: the unfinished but unprotected curb ramp had a drop-off that could easily injure unknowing users, especially in the dark. A phone call to public works got the problem on their radar (although a week later it remained unaddressed). It shouldn’t be only safety-nerds like me to point out such hazards and problems to those who can fix them; anyone who happens upon them need only call or otherwise inform the jurisdiction responsible for addressing such matters. All the pertinent contact information can be found below.

Lee County: Request For Action hotline 533-9400 or an online form at

Cape Coral: Online at or Citizen Support Center at 574- 0425. You can also go to and click on the “Maintenance Requests” tab on the left side of the page which will take you to the city page.

Fort Myers: Public Works, 321-7445 or submit a request online at

Sanibel: Public Works, 472-6397.

Fort Myers Beach: Online at or contact Public Works, 765-0202, ext. 1701.

Bonita Springs: Public Works Department, 949-6246 or online at

State roads: local operations center, 985-7800. ¦

- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at and 334-6417. 

For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (; Florida Mudcutters (; and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group ( The Florida Bicycle Association ( is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.

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