Of Dogs and Other Wild Animals - America's Most Naive Bike Tourist Rides From MN to MA - CycleBlaze

June 13, 2014

Of Dogs and Other Wild Animals

Tippecanoe River State Park, Indiana

"Hello."  "How ya doin'."  "Beautiful day isn't it?"  "Have a great day."  In addition to a lot of friendly waves, those are some of the comments I got from the citizens of Rensselaer while I was buying a new canister of fuel for my stove, searching for an ATM, and admiring the historic courthouse in the center of town.  The people were the most cheerful and friendly I have yet encountered.  Rensselaer is the very antithesis of Warren, IL.

The Jasper County Courthouse in "nice" Renssalaer.
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I found some much quieter roads today.  It was sunny but unseasonably cool.  I had no hills to deal with.  All I had to do was pedal forward, using only one or two gears all day.

An ass takes a picture of a donkey.
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In other words, not much of a day.  Except for one more thing, and that one more thing brings me to my new essay entitled "Of Dogs and Other Wild Animals."

While on last year's tour, a couple of bike tourists told me I was foolish for not carrying bear spray while riding through northwest Montana.  Was this another example of my naivete?  I tried to explain that I have backpacked in bear country and was familiar with precautions necessary for bear-proofing a campsite, but they seemed more concerned about a bear confrontation RIGHT ON THE ROAD.  I tried to picture riders being clotheslined right off of their bikes by the massive arms of malicious grizzly bears.  I had never heard of such a thing and I kind of shrugged off the idea.

I recall a statement I made to one of those advocates at a campground in Washington after we debated the pepper spray issue.  It went something like this:  "I would rather die being attacked by a wild animal than in almost any other way."  I will always remember the momentary look of horror that crossed his face.  "It would be better," I clarified, "than suffering a long bout with an incurable disease or any death in a hospital bed."  I may live to regret those words.  Maybe, maybe not, but it's likely I won't regret them for more than a minute or two as bears and mountain lions are cold, efficient killers.

I don't think I'll be going through any bear country on this trip, so I should explain that the thing that initiated these thoughts today was an attack from a "domestic" dog--a mixed breed, I think, and powerfully built.  I first saw it when it barked twice from the side of a farm house.  Then it took off full speed right at me.

"Oh boy, here we go," I thought.  I started pedaling faster as I had a feeling there would be no negotiating with THIS dog.

Before I left home, I had made a conscious decision NOT to bring pepper spray for such occasions.  I've been chased by dogs before in my years of riding but, until today, I never thought a dog actually wanted to eat me.

Anyway, the dog came running across the road and it either misjudged my speed or took the wrong angle because it lunged a foot behind my rear wheel and ended up in the ditch.  He gave up the chase right there as I fled the scene.

I have to admit that for a couple of seconds I wished I had a canister of pepper spray to blast into it's miserable tooth-filled face.  I feel bad writing this because I recently became a dog owner and I like dogs.  But I restrain my dog from giving chase to bikers.  Perhaps, then, I should be directing my anger toward the owner of that beast.  A nice little shot of pepper spray (better yet, mace) might do the owner some good.  And after the macing, I could pretend I was James Bond or The Terminator and quip, "How did you like that mace in the face, Ace?"

Five minutes later I had completely forgotten the incident.  Ten minutes after that, I had another threat from some kind of hound.  It gave chase just like the first dog, but stopped suddenly at the edge of the road when a voice from the farmhouse screamed "SPANKY!"

Tippecanoe River State Park was quite expensive but it was very nice and Indianans should be proud of it.  The campground had about 100 sites and all but six were occupied, so it was almost like a small city.  I usually try to avoid places like this on Fridays and Saturdays.

Late in the afternoon, a ranger invited me to a s'more feed to be held between 8:00 and 9:00.  I attended the campfire event and roasted a big marshmallow on a skewer along with a bunch of kids. I had a great time.  My "Quest for Fun" is being fulfilled.

Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 632 miles (1,017 km)

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