Thursday evening I gave a speech in Worcester, Massachusetts, and drove home to Lincoln, Vermont when I was finished speaking. I did this because I’m a wild and crazy thrill-seeker and there is nothing more energizing than being pumped up on eleven Sugar Free Red Bulls and driving between Randolph, Vermont and Lincoln in the middle of the night.
I am, of course, exaggerating the number of Sugar Free Red Bulls I consumed: I only had five. And that was over the course of the entire day. Still, I had polished off 42 ounces of the juice between six a.m., when I awoke, and two in the morning, when I arrived home in Lincoln. I probably looked like I’d been cooking meth.
Now, I am not telling you this because I want to promote caffeine-laced energy drinks. Trust me, I’m not proud of the fact that I share anything with Honey Boo Boo or her mom. (For those of you with lives, Honey Boo Boo is the child star and beauty pageant participant in a reality TV show called “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Earlier this year, Honey Boo Boo’s mother told “Good Morning America” that she gets her daughter pumped for the pageants with something she calls “Go Go Juice:” Red Bull and Mountain Dew.)
Nor do I want to advertise my spectacular bad judgment. Let’s face it, no one with good judgment embarks on a four-plus hour drive at 10 at night, even if he has a Yankees playoff game, a Steelers football game, and a Vice Presidential debate to listen to. Yeah, I was seriously channel-surfing as I drove. The baseball game, you’ll recall, lasted 13 innings. There were times when I thought I would be home before the last pitch was thrown.
I am telling you this because in my last hour behind the wheel, I saw a deer, a fox, and a moose. I didn’t see another car on the road in Vermont once I left the village of Randolph, but I enjoyed the trifecta of animal sightings. (Note that I did not use the usual verb that precedes “trifecta.” I did not “hit” any of those animals.) It was glorious and reminded me of why I love living here.
I saw the deer standing by the side of the road, perhaps five miles north of Randolph on Vermont Route 12A. The moose was crossing the flats somewhere south of Roxbury. And the fox raced into the brush as I was descending the western side of the Lincoln Gap. None of them seemed especially alarmed to see a vehicle in the small hours of the morning. The deer and the fox indeed raced away from the road as I neared, but the moose took his sweet time crossing the asphalt. I’ve seen moose before when I’m driving, most frequently on the stretch of Route 125 just east of Bread Loaf in Ripton or on the Lincoln Gap, but their size still leaves me a little awed.
When I grew up in suburbs in New York, Connecticut, and Florida, I didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife other than birds. Supposedly there were alligators in the canal across the street from my family’s house in Miami, but I never saw one. The closest I came to wildlife there might have been the palmetto bugs we had in the kitchen: Imagine a cockroach that flies and is, oh by the way, the size of a poodle.
Consequently, even though I have lived in Vermont a quarter century, I am still excited by the way, on occasion, we can spot the natural world. It’s one of the gifts of living where we do, and I hope I never take that for granted. Sometimes, you just have to pop open a Red Bull – or track down a cup of coffee – and be on the road for home after midnight.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on October 14, 2012. Chris’s most recent novel, “The Sandcastle Girls,” was published in July.)