Apparently, CBS News Phoenix wanted to run a segment on how to eat roadkill.
Apparently, they wanted me to do the deed.
Wade – I am a reporter for CBS 5 News in Phoenix.
I recently found your blog / website – and was fascinated by your explanation of utilizing road kill for free food. Where are you located? Would you ever be willing to show us (on camera) how to do this?
Lisa Leigh Kelly
CBS 5 News
The prospect of hacking up a bloody pulp of roadkill for all of Arizona to see was a touch too hilarious to pass up. So I agreed to be portrayed as some jerk who eats roadkill on television for the sake of plugging Vagabond Journey.com in other media.
I had previously published an entry on this travelogue about How to Eat Roadkill. At the time I published it I had no idea that it would one day lead to me gutting a piece of roadkill on television.
Watch Wade gut roadkill on the news
My first reaction was that the news reporter was looking for a raucous way to get fired. But I began wondering who this lady was who wanted to put me on television eating roadkill? Her name was Lisa Leigh Kelly, a journalist at the top of her profession.
I read her credentials and realized that this story was for real.
But there was one little problem: to be able to dress and cook up roadkill on CBS News Phoenix, I would need to find a dead animal on the side of the road still in edible condition. It is my impression that roadkill for the palate cannot be preordered: eating roadkill is a free food strategy of opportunity, not something that can be planned nor arranged.
But I needed to find fresh roadkill for the news segment that was arranged to be aired at 3PM Friday, November 20th. I needed to find some edible roadkill on Friday morning.
To complicate this matter further, I am in Arizona. I am not in the lush and heavily small gamed forests of the American Northeast. I am not in Maine, a place where I can find a roadkill squirrel just by walking down through a city park like clockwork. No, to find fresh roadkill in the American Southwest in the span of a handful of hours would prove to be a challenge.
“The chances of me being able to find good roadkill in Arizona right before this segment is to be filmed is an infinitely decimal possibility,” I spoke to my wife before going out alone to scour the roads for any smushed critters. Then I thought about it for a moment:
“Yes, but the chances of finding edible roadkill this morning is not as small as the chances of a news anchor woman requesting to film a segment of me gutting, skinning, and prepping a massacred animal for CBS News.”
I regained a little hope.
I looked at an Arizona state gazetteer to search out the best possible locations to begin scouting for roadkill. I was in Jerome, a small mountain top town on highway 89A. There are two factors that need to be satisfied to raise the probability for finding roadkill:
- I need to scout in the proper habitat for the animal that I am looking for. I was primarily looking for squirrel, so I needed to find a place that had trees that was inhabited by the little nut eaters.
- I need to scout in places that have a lot of vehicular traffic, as speeding cars and trucks provide the raw tools for creating roadkill. I could find an entire menagerie of small game running and gallivanting in a forest, but if there are no roads and not enough traffic, my observations would be for naught — as I needed a small animal that had been smushed to death beneath an automobile’s tire.
The overlapping of these two criteria happen far less than often in Arizona — a state where dry desert meets high mountains. It has been my experience that areas in Arizona are either wilderness — and therefore attract little vehicular traffic — or are cities or deserts — places that are not good habitat for small game.
The urban parks of the north are full of trees, grass, and squirrels that are very often metamorphosed into roadkill. The urban parks of Arizona are usually full of cacti, sand, and shrubs. To look for roadkill around an Arizona city would be folly. The only option left would be to scour the mountain highways in the state’s highlands.
Photo from How to Eat Roadkill
I drove along 89A into the Prescott forest. I found no roadkill splattered upon the highway. I entered the forest and turned off along a forest service road. I drove and drove. No animals, needless to say freshly made roadkill, were in sight. I drove past a forest service truck that had a ranger digging through the gear in the back. I momentarily halted my search to go and see if he had any suggestions.
“This may sound a little funny,” I began our conversation, “but I am a travel writer who recently published a piece on how to eat roadkill.”
The ranger repeated my words with a laugh, “How to eat roadkill?”
I was correct, what I was saying did sound a little funny.
“Yes, and I am going on CBS news tonight to demonstrate how to prepare roadkill to eat. But the only problem is that I do not have any roadkill for the demonstration. Do you know of any place around the forest that may have a good chance of containing some freshly run over animals?”
The ranger laughed, big and hearty, “Why don’t you just drive really fast down these backcountry roads and make some roadkill yourself!?!”
It was good that I stopped to talk with this ranger, his advice was what I was looking for. I was getting nowhere doing my slow man’s survey for roadkill on the forest service roads. To find some roadkill for the CBS news segment I would need to create it myself.
I revved the engine of my Subaru NewEnglander, and floored it. Like an aborigine in the outback of Australia, I would do my hunting with the bumper and wheels of an automobile. I flew down the the rocky dirt roads resolute to run down any animal bold enough to cross my path. A beautiful coyote walked out from the forest and into the road directly in front of me. I braked.
I did not have the heart.
I watched the coyote pass, and rolled down my window. On the other side of the road, the wild dog turned and looked right towards me. I asked him if he had seen any squirrels around these parts. With his gaunt sides and wild eyes he told me that he had not.
If he had he would probably be eating, rather scavenging the forest in search of a meal.
So I went my own way on my vehicular hunt for small game, as coyote went on his. I wished him luck, and sped off, ever ready to run down the next animal bold enough to step into my path.
For four hours I drove madly through the Prescott Forest. At one point I ascended into the manzanita riddled heights of a high peak — no trees here, no squirrels — at another point I descended into the desert — no trees here, no squirrels. I tried to keep in the middle elevation of the forest that still had large mature trees that could support a population of potential roadkill. After four hours I had exhausted my options. It was noon, and I would have to telephone the CBS News woman and tell her that we would have to cancel the segment — that I could not come up with any “dinner.”
I lowered my tail, and turned for my temporary residence in Jerome sans roadkill. I looked up towards the bright side: I had a great wild morning of wild driving through beautiful countryside and mountains. I had looked across a hundred miles of valley past Sedona towards the San Francisco peaks beyond from a high mountain pass above Jerome, I had driven through thick Ponderosa forests, I had a colorful conversation with a jolly faced park ranger. It was a good morning, and, besides, going on regional news would probably prove to be an embarrassing situation anyway. I felt good as I drove back to where I came from in defeat.
It feels good to take something to the end of the line, even when that line ends in disappointment. An ending is just a beginning, and at least now I would have the entire afternoon to just walk around in the hills with my wife and baby.
But not so fast.
As I drove back up highway 89A, a mile from home, there I saw it: laying perfectly splayed out, flattened and bloodied in the middle of the road, was a road killed squirrel! It was fresh, it did not meet its rubber induced end until after I drove by the first time some hours before. I slammed on my breaks and threw the Subaru over to the side of the road. I dug out the ice provisioned cooler out of the backseat that I had prepped in the event of success.
I ran over to my much sought after feast. It was massacred — dare I say, it was absolutely decimated. Its bowels were ripped from its midsection cavity, and most of the available meat — a slim commodity in squirrels to begin with — was thoroughly pancaked. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have called this free food source a little too far gone to savor.
But these were not ordinary circumstances. I was going on CBS news. I had promised to produce edible roadkill. This squirrel, splattered like a plank board shack in a tornado, was “edible.”
I grabbed the recently departed squirrel with a hand stuffed inside of a plastic bag, and ran my catch over to the side of the road. Here, I rolled the plastic bag over the squirrel in a way so that I did not have to touch it with a bare paw. I tied up the bag and stuffed it into the ice chest and turned for Jerome with a smile on my face.
It is a blessed moment when you find what you are looking for in the moment you give up the search. It is simply beautiful when the roads of coincidence intersect before you, like the meeting of a point of longitude with latitude, and show that you are on are on your Path. I know of very few atheistic travelers.
I now had a fresh specimen of roadkill. It was now time to go on television to gut it. Though I must say that the vehicle which splattered it did most of my work for me: insides were now on the outside, I just need to do some strategic plucking.
I called Lisa Leigh Kelly.
“Hello Wade!” she said with wide mouthed excitement.
“I have out dinner,” I muttered like a bad guy who had just completed his part of a heist (the deed is done).
“Great!” the news woman replied, “Where should we meet up to shoot this?”
Apparently, this news segment was all on me. I suppose the news people had not already scoped out a location for filming.
To make matters more difficult:
“I would like to get some footage of us driving around together looking for roadkill, maybe we could find some along the way and you could tell us what to look for and what to avoid.”
It sounded good, but considering that it took me four hours to find our first and only specimen of edible roadkill, I feared that this plan was a little overzealous, if not to say extremely improbable.
“Ok, we can do that,” I spoke hopefully, “would Jerome be too far for you to drive?”
Affirmative, was the reply. Jerome is around two hours north of Phoenix. I needed to find a place where we could scout for roadkill near the metropolitan area of Arizona’s desert capital. Now I was in trouble. I was standing near the southern extent of the Arizona forests, much farther south is all desert. Other animals besides squirrels abound it the desert, it is true, but I did not want to bank on trying to find roadkill there — an hour of sitting splayed out and flattened in the desert sun would be enough to cook the innards of any dead little beasty.
I was also not so sure that I know how to skin an armadillo.
“I will find a place and give you a call,” I assured the news woman.
“Ok, hear from you in an hour!”
I had an hour to find a suitable place in the desert to search for roadkill. I am not from Arizona, I have been working and traveling in the state for only two months. Tierra incognito.
I referred back to the gazetteer. I needed an area as close to Phoenix as possible while still containing trees and a rough semblance of a forest. I followed the blue line of Interstate 17 down from where I stood towards the state capital of Arizona. I found that the Prescott Forest had a southern stretch that went down nearly as far as Bumblebee.
I had never been to Bumblebee before, but it was on the map, and, as there was a road that lead to it outlined in red as oppose to black, I took it to be a populated township. I followed this red line from Bumblebee and connected dot to dot back into a green area of mountains. It seemed apparent that this road lead between towns in the Prescott Forest, and that it could be a highly trafficked forest road.
This could work. I called the news woman, and requested that she meet me at the Bumblebee exit on Interstate 17, around 60 miles out of Phoenix. She said that this could be done.
Driving now down the 17 with my wife and infant daughter in the backseat, I made way to exit 248. I arrived on the road that lead to Bumblebee. It was desert. No trees here. Shit. I looked up into the mountains and shrubs stood where I hoped to find trees. I drove down the road that I hopped would be paved and highly trafficked only to find that it was dirt and deserted.
The news crew were already on their way. I was perhaps in the worse place that I could think of to find roadkill. I still had the squirrel in the cooler, but could only laugh when thinking about the charade I would need to pull to make it seem as if I pulled it out of the desert landscape that surrounded me: “Now the cactus squirrel is a good variety of roadkill to find in the desert.”
It would not do.
I looked down at my gas gauge, it lent far to the left. Shit.
The news crew was on their way.
I called the news woman and arranged to meet at the next exit to the south to discuss strategy. They were almost there, but I could not risk driving farther into the desert with my family without gas. I arrived at the newly designated exit first, but only with enough time to fill up with gas.
The news crew rolled in. Their SUV was unmarked, but the big smiling face of the brightly blond haired women in the passenger seat gave them away: there was no mistaking that she was a news anchor woman.
I walked up to their vehicle and introduced myself and shook hands. There were two people on the crew, the news woman, Lisa Leigh Kelly, and a cameraman named Sam.
“We will follow you,” Lisa told me our strategy.
So I guess they were going to follow me — I was the roadkill expert wasn’t I? — but I did not know where I was going. I returned to the gazetteer and found the first primitive looking road that I could find and drove towards it. As the wheels of the Subaru kicked up clouds of smoke, the news crew followed. They were filming, the news woman held a camera out of the passenger side widow.
We were on. I drove up the road a little way and then pulled over into a little back country parking area. I figured that this would be as good a place as any to prepare some roadkill. I stepped out of the Subaru, the camera man attached a mic to the lapel of my ratty flannel shirt, hid it from the wind under my vest, aimed his camera towards me (with a cactus in front of it for effect), and we were on.
I was beyond nervous, I was so far into that special zone of surreal curiosity that my nerves were calm and I was focused. I began mentally writing the script to this travelogue entry as the events were occurring. I was at work.
“And then Lisa Leigh Kelly began interviewing me in the desert . . .”
I fielded a good string of questions. The news woman hit her bases well — one question followed another in rapid succession, any reply that may have proved newsworthy was dug into with followup questions. She worked without pen and paper. She was a professional. She remembered every piece of information about me that she read or I spoke and asked for all that she did not have. She laughed a little at my replies, I did too, and we had a conversation that would later be mined for sound bytes.
I tried to construct my replies in a way that I would like to receive if I were doing the interviewing. I am usually on the other side of journalism, I am usually the asker of questions, rather than the answerer. I knew what she was looking for, and tried to give it to her.
I gutted a roadkill squirrel on television.
Watch Wade gut roadkill on the news
The segment aired multiple times on CBS News Phoenix, as well as being featured on the homepage of their website. I was impressed by the piece’s quality — it was put together very well. It is also my impression that I did not embarrass myself nearly as much as I planned to. The segment also gave Vagabond Journey.com a lot of attention, and even included multiple screenshots of the How to Eat Roadkill article, as well as close ups of photographs from the page.
“Whew, that was a close one,” I thought. The Phoenix news is broadcast over every part of Arizona, and I figured that after the segment aired I would need to flee the state out of embarrassment. But I was not embarrassed, I was hardly even made to look like some jerk spotlighted on television for the sake of the spectacle.
Though it was still hilarious.
The phone calls began coming in to the friends that I have been staying with in Jerome, “We saw your friend, the roadkill guy, on TV.”
I fear that I have now become the roadkill guy of Arizona.
Watch the how to eat roadkill news piece
Read the CBS News Phoenix online article
Vagabond Journey.com series on travel food strategies [seriesposts orderby=date name=”food strategy” ]