Who Let the Dogs Out?

January 9, 2012

(Originally written 1/5/2012, before this blog was up and running.)

Since the long-range cycling bug bit me, I’ve read much about the subject online. Blogs and vlogs of riders, forums, various trail sites, etc.  One thing that initially surprised me was a reference to getting chased by dogs on longer rides. I assumed this was an anomaly until I read similar bemoaning in several other places.  The theme emerged: getting chased by the occasional dog is a fact of the long-range cyclist’s life.

Like most folks entering a new hobby, I found myself asking, “I wonder how long until I’m there?”  Now this is usually a wistful question, but in this case, it was a pondering on a development that I’d rather avoid altogether 🙂

Well, didn’t take too long to get my answer.

This night I was setting out on a planned 10-to-15-mile ride within my hometown. I decided to check out a fairly empty stretch of a local highway (not interstate) which I’d seldom been on.  When entering my hometown from the interstate, I turn to the west; in the 11+ years I’ve lived here I’ve only been east of that off-ramp a couple times.  It looked fairly sparse of buildings and interesting for a bike ride, so I headed there.

From early on, the ride was bumpy – literally and figuratively. This section of road was not terribly well maintained, with lots of cracks, bumps, you name it. Rumble strips extended out an inordinate length into what would otherwise have been gratefully-received shoulders, forcing the cyclist to the outside edge of the shoulder. Finally, the ride was, while not “hilly”, certainly generous with rises and falls which, with the poor gearing on my value-purchase Wal Mart bike, was hellish. I’ve recently become more adept at gearshifting on the bike, so the inclines were fine, but even a modest decline creates a rolling speed that I cannot seem to “participate” in with any gear.  The result is that basically no pedaling on the downhill is exactly as fast as pedaling.

But the coup de grace awaited. After only a couple miles past the interstate, I had exceeded my patience for the rumble strips, the bumps, the hills for which my bike was ill-equipped, and I decided to turn back for more familiar territory.  I began to perceive through my headphones a sound to my right. Assuming it was folks talking out on their porch or deck (it was a nice evening for January), I casually turned for a look – only to learn the sound was the barking of a dog that had started to give pursuit!  In the dark with few lights around, I still don’t know what kind of dog it was; when I recognized the situation, I cursed and accelerated to my starter bike’s top speed. Looking back once or twice, I could see the dog still going, not directly behind me but maybe 20 feet to the side.  He would occasionally veer in to nearly catch up with me.

Pondering whether this would be the end of me, out here on a Wal Mart bike listening to a happy-go-lucky song in my headphones, I remembered from much of my reading that unless the dog is actually a stray (possibly even then), it’s most likely just herding you off of its territory.  It doesn’t so much want to catch you, as to keep you away from its turf. This added more energy to my pedaling, as I realized that if I could simply escape the boundary of the area this dog considered “his” to patrol, he would turn back.  And happily, that’s what occurred.  After a few seconds, the dog was no longer around.  I continued on at high speed for another good mile or so for good measure, but I had evaded the pursuer.

In the relatively short time I’ve been cycling, I’ve gotten cursed at on the road (twice), harangued in my public park (a few times), and now chased by a dog.  All of these are badges of honor, rites of passage into a community that I’ve come to very much admire. Now that I’ve met the requirements, I’d just as soon these sorts of experiences remain firmly in the past.

One can dream.

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One Response to “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

  1. Amy said

    Holy crap….that was truly and Penlandism!!! Love your stories man! Keep them coming!!!

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