Touring – Expect the Unexpected

| September 13, 2008 2:59 pm

by Jerry Schonewille

So I was in the middle of a 60 mile tour from Turlock to Mariposa, with 3000 ft of climbing, noticing that 5 gravel trucks had just passed me yet there was almost no other traffic on this country road.  Then an oil truck passed and I instantly thought – chip seal!  I started making plans in the event the road ahead was blocked.  I thought about turning around or hitching a ride or backtracking to an alternate route, but I kept going.  None of these alternatives were attractive because it was hot and each would sabotage my plan to ride early and beat the heat.  I carry spare tubes and spare spokes and a spare tire but no spare road.  So I plodded along.

Then I came upon a roadblock and there was no longer any doubt – chip seal!  One-way traffic control was in effect and several cars were lined up waiting their turn to proceed.  I rode past to find out if the road ahead was even rideable.  Before I could ask, they guy said you don’t want to ride on this.  We’ll put your bicycle in the pilot truck.  Fantastic!  Almost 5 miles of fresh oil and gravel bypassed.  I asked if other bicyclist had been along but was told I was the first and only.  In fact, very few cars come this way.  I was dropped off at a fork in the road and while I had planned to go left, I was advised to go right.  So I did.  It ended up adding more miles and more climbing in exchange for no automobile traffic.  Good move, until the dog …

Anyone who rides remote country roads eventually gets chased by a dog.  I’ve been chased by many during my rides.  About 95% of the time dogs just want to have fun and chasing bicycles is fun.  Sometimes I play along, slowing down or speeding up and letting the dog know that I enjoy his company.  Sometimes I’m not sure of his intention and proceed cautiously.  If I’m nervous I’ll stop and get off my bike.  Usually the dog stops too, forgetting why he was chasing me and deciding I’m no fun anymore.  Turns around and goes home.  Once in a while the dog’s body language tells me this is not about fun but about aggression or defending territory.  That was the case today.

I saw a home on a hill next to the road ahead of me about a quarter mile away and already the dog in front was barking and acting agitated.  As I got closer I saw there was no fence between me and that dog and sure enough there came a point when he charged down the hill toward me.  I could tell right away this was not a dog looking for fun.  As he approached I slowed, made eye contact, and started yelling things like “no”, “bad dog”, “go home”.  But he kept coming.  This dog was not accustomed to taking directions from humans. I stopped, and so did he – about 5 feet away and continuing  to display aggressive behavior.  I was concerned an attack might be forthcoming.  I kept yelling at the dog, my bike between me and him, standing tall and waving my arms like a madman.  The dog kept his distance but did not back off from his aggressive demeanor.  We had a standoff.  I now had water bottle in one hand (to squirt in his eyes in case of a charge) and my frame-mounted bicycle pump in the other (as a defensive weapon).  The dog was not backing off and seemed to move closer as he paced back and forth.  It entered my mind that if I was carrying a gun it would be in my hand right now and cocked and ready to go.  This was a very scary and unpleasant situation.

Then I noticed pebbles near my feet and I grabbed one and threw it at the dog.  It missed but not by much, and he noticed.  He instantly turned tail and ran back to his home up on the hill.  Phew.

This all occurred just before I reached the property the dog was defending.  As I rode past he continued to be agitated and aggressive but stayed on his property.  I hope he learned a lesson and next time will not be so aggressive toward a passing bicyclist, but I doubt it.

— jerry schonewille (aka vagabond jerry)

2 Responses to “Touring – Expect the Unexpected”

Franz Kelsch wrote a comment on September 15, 2008

Lucky that you didn’t have to ride on the chip seal. With dogs, sometimes I squirt them with my water bottle if they get too close. I am amazed out in the country where so many people let their dogs just run loose.

Russell Stevens wrote a comment on September 18, 2008

I just picked up my wife from the airport. She and a co-worker just got back from amsterdam. While there, the co-worker rented a bike and went riding – there are great trails in Holland. While riding, he got attacked by a dog – and bitten! Just before he was attacked, he reached down for his water bottle and realized that the rental bike did not have one. The bike had nice chain guards and fenders, but no water bottle. It’s a different biking culture over there.

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