What does a smashed turtle on the road really mean?

A smashed turtle should be a wakeup call to our own manner of existence.

A smashed turtle should be a wakeup call to our own manner of existence.

At the tail end of a pleasant 25 mile bike ride this past Saturday morning, I was feeling good about the new bike fit and riding with a pair of riders who happened up behind me at a stop light 15 miles earlier and asked, “Where we going?

Riding with strangers is a dance of etiquette and panache. You need to fold into their pace and riding style and at the same time pull your literal weight against the wind when it’s your turn to lead. Then there are hills to cover, and road variations that can confuse the issues of who really is setting the pace.

But these riders were cool. We pedaled at at 20-24 mph up hill and down, sharing pulls and making 10 miles of rolling terrains down Keslinger Road headed west seem like the perfect place to ride. When they pulled off to head home I said, “Thanks. I rode faster than I would have alone, for sure!”

Giving props

That’s the perfect compliment, I realized. Because rather than saying something potentially selfish or self-centered like, “Hope you guys had a good time” or whatever, a compliment that pays respect to their respective abilities is the right thing to do. Don’t disrespect the peloton no matter how small or large it may be.

And that experience made what came next even more jarring. On the trip back to Batavia on Main Street, the road passed by a series of forest preserves and ponds. And as bad luck and nature would have it, there were smashed turtles along the road. I counted six in just 6 miles.

A snapping turtle that had crawled 800 yards from a glacial marsh winds up dead by the side of the road.

A snapping turtle that had crawled 800 yards from a glacial marsh winds up dead by the side of the road.

They were snapping turtles and painted turtles. Both are moving across the land to lay eggs in a remote spot where their eggs can hatch. Amazingly, those young turtles that do hatch will find their way back to water eventually. They’ve been doing the same routine for millions and millions of years. Forget Noah’s Ark. The really miraculous acts of nature are found in turtles and frogs and birds and insects that make humble but vital journeys every second of every day, and have been doing that for billions of years. Life is far more important and alive than a fable about some supposedly bearded dude that saved nature from a flood. That’s so freaking naive it begs debate. But in the stead of that longer argument, I submit the photos attached with this article. Smashed turtles are a sign that we human beings are truly disconnected both from nature and reality.

Disconnected reality

Our technology is responsible for this disconnection. We trust it to make billions of decisions for us every day. And when you are hurtling down the road at 60 miles an hour you cannot possibly appreciate the drama of a turtle crossing that road. So the tire strikes the turtle and crushes it’s carefully evolved shell. Another spot of road kill. Another unfulfilled mission. Another evolutionary decision made without much thought. Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s a part of how evolution works. The turtle might not have technically “made a bad decision” in a cognizant fashion but the combination of instincts that led it to a path across a busy road are now erased. The turtle’s potential offspring will never exist. And that’s how nature “improves” upon itself, if you want to call it that.

The harsh facts

Of course 99.9% of all types of living things that have ever existed are now extinct from this world. Some speculate that turtles and frogs, especially, may be headed down that dark road right this minute. Dozens of frog species up and down Central America are vanishing due to a persistent fungus that kills frogs.

So we live in a world full of random decisions. Yet as I looked at those smashed turtles it became evident to me that in a heartbeat, I could look just like one of those turtles with my guts spilled out on the road. All it takes is a texting motorist and bam, the bike and I are thrown 30 feet into the ditch. Worse yet, all it takes is one road rage incident and lives are changed forever. It’s very sad. People indeed have lost all connection to the value of life, their own, or that of others. But religion itself isn’t the cure. It takes both religion and common sense. The two often seem to avoid each other.

Human detritus

It happens. Give or take a few human lives, there are 600+ cyclists killed on the road every year. Compared to a speeding car, even the fastest cyclist clipping along at 30 miles an hour is still slow. The average serious cyclist rides half that fast. Then the number of riders who go much, much slower in traffic is massive.

But a slow rider is no more a target than a speedy cyclist. Same goes with runners. It’s not pace that matters, because that is obviously a relative factor in car/bike or car/runner accidents.

It’s all about attention, and arrogance. The idea that a motorist somehow “owns” the road over a runner or a rider is absurd to a bloody well insane degree. We all occupy this planet for a very short time. The notion that because you have to swerve for 2 seconds to get around a cyclist or a runner is somehow an inconvenience is a disturbing, disgusting form of hubris.

Remember, you’re not even safe in your car or truck. Millions of people every year die in traffic accidents. Evolution doesn’t care how smart you think you are. Evolution only “cares” in the sense that your decisions and your indecisions can cost you dearly. When you become a statistic, or turn someone else into a statistic, you are inextricably linked to a process that does not care whether you live or die.

Holy crap that hurts

You can deny it on a stack of Bibles or a holy Koran, but the fact is, God rather likes the evolutionary process. It’s a highly effective way to remind us that life is indeed precious, but only to the point where you an effectively protect it. At some point we all have to give up our lives, and life itself is a pre-existing condition. Cancer is as random as a traffic accident. A flock of hummingbirds crossing from the Yucatan to Texas can get caught in a storm and all be blown into the merciless waves.

What matters is our consideration of life. And consideration of others. Thats’ the real message of both evolution and God. Our brains make us capable of these distinctions. Let’s use them wisely. At all times.

And put down the smartphone. It’s really not a highly evolved form of communication. It’s merely a distraction from turtles crossing the road.

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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