It was the second time I heard a strange humming noise above my head. I slowed my pace, wanting to take a look around without crashing my mountain bike into a tree, but saw nothing.
Perhaps I just imagined things. Maybe the whistle of the wind was a bit duller today, and I was mistaking it for a buzzing. Something told me that my gut instinct was right, though.
Something else was in the mountains with me.
I picked up my pace again, wanting to make good time to mountain’s peak so I wouldn’t lose daylight on my way back down. I was just about to hit a clearing that gave way to a 30° incline when I heard the buzzing a third time.
This time I was ready. I slammed my brakes hard. The buzzing culprit wasn’t ready and flew right past me.
I sighed in relief. Probably just some kid flying his drone among the treetops.
I put my foot back on the petal and pushed forward, wanting to build speed for the incline when the drone flew back in my direction. As it approached, it got lower, whizzing erratically over my head. In a second’s glance, I was able to make out the red flashing light on the top of the machine.
Was it filming?
Realizing I had taken that sigh of relief prematurely, I decided to pedal harder, hoping to make my way through the clearing and back into the line of thick vegetation as quickly as I could. I hoped that it really was a kid. If it were, his inexperience would make it difficult for him to follow me through the thick vegetation.
I was preparing to hit the 30° incline at full speed when the drone flew back at me from the side, barely missing my helmet and causing me to duck and lose control of the bike. I was thrown almost 10 feet from where the drone had made contact with my helmet. Or did he make contact? I couldn’t remember.
I looked up to see the drone hovering curiously above my head, red light still blinking.
Even though my hands were cut and bloodied and I could feel a searing pain in my shin (likely from a rock I hit on the way down), I still managed to pull myself up and confront my attacker.
“What do you want!?” I yelled at it, drawing my fist back as if I were going to punch it into next week.
The drone flew backward away from my violent gesture, but then nudged itself a bit closer as if it were nodding in my direction.
“I don’t know who you are, but this is… this is harassment. And when I find out who you are, I’m going to sue you for everything you’ve got!” I screamed, feeling my face redden and grow warm.
I picked up my bike and walked back down the mountain, needing to find a spot from which I could build enough speed to make my way back up the mountain. As I continued to walk away from the incline, the drone seemed to lose interest and flew off into the trees.
Seeing an open opportunity, I turned my bike back in the direction of the mountain, got back on, and pedaled as hard and as fast as I’ve ever pedaled in my life. Just as I was about to hit the incline, I heard the drone behind me. I pushed on harder, knowing that camouflage was just a few hundred feet away. The drone whizzed past my head and brushed past my shoulder, sending it into a brief spin before it turned its attention back in my direction. I kept pressing on, realizing that I was quickly closing in on the tree line ahead.
The drone flew a few yards ahead of me and turned, hovering at eye-level unmoving.
I had to make a decision: stop or pedal right through it. I narrowed my eyes and forced my body to go faster, preparing to use my helmet as a battering ram. If some kid wanted to mess with people out on a ride, he was going to have to accept the consequences. In this case, those consequences were finding his drone in pieces thanks to my helmet.
I was closing the gap quickly. I bowed my head down and prepared for impact, but it never came. I looked up, and the drone was still hovering at eye level in front of me, but now it was moving at my speed, keeping pace and continuing to record.
The incredulousness of this person!
I was just about to hit the tree line when the drone stopped abruptly. Instead of my helmet making contact, it was my face. For the second time this afternoon, I was sent flying backward off my bike. For the second time this afternoon, the drone hovered above me, watching carefully as I began to put myself back together.
I had half a mind to grab the drone out of mid-air and walk it into the woods with me, the last thing it filmed being my fist. The drone kept moving its attention from the tree line, back to me, likely trying to decipher if I was going to run. I brought my hand to meet the burning sensation on my face and came back with blood.
I consulted my watch and realized that I would never make it to the peak and back down before dark. I’d have to take this trip again another time.
I turned my attention back to the drone that was now focusing almost exclusively on the line of trees in front of us. Suddenly, the drone turned towards me and flew into my chest again, pushing me further and further away from the tree line.
I picked up my bike and, for the third time today, mounted it, this time to head back down the mountain.
“I’m coming for you,” I said demonically into the tiny drone camera.
That’s when I heard the growl. I didn’t have to look to know it was a mountain lion. I looked back at the drone in shock. It pushed me again, encouraging me to move quickly away from the tree line.
I didn’t hesitate. I started pedaling hard, making my way down the mountain, my new drone friend leading the way.