It's hard to take buffalo seriously until you're surrounded by 200 of them. From afar, they look rather bizarre; lumbering, disproportionate, almost silly. When you can hear them breathing as they stare you down, it's another story entirely.
I was cruising through the Black Hills, on gorgeous empty sweeping roads, crests and dips, crests and dips. I rode over a hill and descended straight into a herd of free-ranging buffalo. These massive beasts lined both sides of the road and spread up into the hills, dotting the grasslands as far as the eye could see. Huge bulls stood four feet away from where I rode, trembling, in awe and afraid; each one five times the size of my Vespa, their heads larger than my entire torso and adorned with conical black horns. Ignorance is bliss and I didn't have that luxury; I knew these guys could run - fast, up to 35 miles per hour.
I soon realized that forward was not an option. I was flanked by buffalo where I was, and others stood in the road ahead. And so, I made the decision to turn around and find a different route, frantically praying the Vespa's headlight wouldn't anger those it crossed as I made a slow U-turn in the middle of the road.
I tried to avoid eye contact - because isn't that what you're supposed to do with wild beasts? But it was an impossible feat - everywhere I looked, a pair of big brown buffalo eyes stared down at me. I made my way back through the herd, hands sweating, my entire body shaking. A bull twenty feet from the road thundered into a run. Was he after a lady buffalo or after me? I didn't stay to find out. I opened up the throttle and was out of there.