I love taking our foster dog out for runs alongside Starbuck, my recumbent trike. We go at least once a day, sometimes 2 or 3 depending upon the weather.
Elphie–short for Elphaba (our god daughter named her after the character in Wicked)–gets so excited when I put the red harness on her that means we’re off for triking fun. She becomes a wiggly mess and it’s usually all I can do to finagle to harness loops into place.
The neighbor’s dog, Sharpie, who sometimes escapes her fence, often comes and runs in front of us, causing Elphie to pull me even faster than she already does. I’ve clocked Elphie at 22 miles per hour, pulling the 39 pound trike and the hundred and forty-something pound me.
So I’m used to triking and dogs. But I never planned on being a kind of pied piper to the fleet-footed strays of Dickinson.
There’s a group of dogs who meet up and hang out together along the driveways and front yards on Hill Avenue, by the railroad tracks, a couple blocks over from Highway 3/Old Galveston Road. It’s like a canine VFW post over there.
From my house I ride through a couple middle class neighborhoods, past a goat ranch, and a shiny new development with its collection of sprinklered-green, sharp-cornered lawns.
I go through some much less affluent neighborhoods with row homes, trailers, tiny churches and home day care centers.
Many of the houses are dilapidated, some abandoned, windows boarded up, foundations leaning, crumbling. There are a lot of dogs tied up in yards.
Galveston County has anit-tethering laws but they aren’t enforced. I’ve called about these poor dogs, to the Humane Society, to the SPCA, to local animal control. No one even comes out to check, as far as I can tell.
As I’ve mentioned here on the blog before, you see a lot of things when you’re riding around at recumbent trike level that you normally wouldn’t see if you were on a regular bike, or even walking. But some things you really don’t want to see. Like dogs spending their lives chained up in dirt yards. I avoid going past those houses as much as possible because it makes me heartsick, but there’s no way to go through this area without passing a few of the tied-up dogs. And then there’s the area where all the loose dogs congregate, some with collars and tags, some without. I have to go past them to get where I’m going.
What is it about dogs and spinning wheels?
At first these dogs scared the bejesus outta me. I startled and cringed at the piercing yelps and raucous yaps, my heart pumped against my ribcage, my legs strained and burned with furious pedaling.
There simply isn’t a way to get where I need to go without encountering these dogs and their barking-chasingness. My choices are either outpacing the dog frenzy or trying to maneuver on super-trafficked streets without sidewalks or a bike lane, with distracted drivers going 50 miles an hour. So I just sucked it up and steeled myself every time I needed to ride past–what seemed like–a pack of snaggle-toothed, rabies-infested, Tazmanian Devil-pawed wolf-dogs who wanted nothing more than to make a buffet of my lycra-clad flesh, then save my tires, helmet and shoes as midnight snacks to gnaw on.
After a few weeks, the dogs got used to me and I got used to them. They still chase after me and run alongside, but more for the sport of it. Turns out the dogs are pretty harmless, just in it for the thrill of the chase.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gonna slow down to discover exactly where each dog ranks on the continuum of Harmless to Biting My Ankles to Swallowing My Fingers Whole. But at least I don’t feel under siege anymore when cycling by them. Nowadays I feel more like I’m doing them a favor, letting them have a little bit of excitement–cheap though it may be–in their otherwise dull days.
Sometimes one of the dogs will run behind me for half a mile or more before giving up. I’m considering opening a coaching business for dogs hoping to place in track and field events. Here’s the dog I’d put money on in a canine marathon. He didn’t follow very far in this video, though. He must’ve urgently needed to get back to his beauty sleep. Or maybe he pulled a hamstring from following me several blocks the evening before. Or perhaps because the other dogs didn’t even bother to wake up from their nap-pile-athon in the afternoon sun, he had no one to impress, thus no motivation to over-exert himself.
From this road, Hill Avenue, I hop over to Dickinson Avenue, still riding along the railroad tracks but on the other side. This route takes me across Highway 646, under 96, and then across Highway 517 before landing me right in the tree-lined historical district of League City. There’s a nice park where I fill up my water bottles and stretch, then I ride over to Fairview Cemetery, past the training center for the firefighters, to Heritage Park and then Clear Lake with all of its lush bird life. It’s roughly 20 miles, and I like this training ride because I don’t have to transport my trike in a vehicle or on the bike rack. I just point Starbuck down my driveway and go.
Oh, and my local yarn shop, Park Avenue Yarns, is on the way. The owners are very nice about letting me pop in–in spite of my eau de cyclist condition–to grab a skein of yarn or pick up some needles. I feel incredibly efficient when I combine marathon training with errands. It’s the little things in life sometimes that give me great joy.
I still have quite a ways to go on my fundraising goal. I am, quite possibly, the world’s worst fundraiser. The thing about being a challenged athlete is that most of my time and energy go to the actual training for the marathon (and then resting and recovering from said training), so that there’s not much of either time or energy left over to devote to the actual fundraising. I’m at a complete loss as to how to solve this conundrum. It’s incredibly embarrassing to me that I cannot manage to do better at securing donations for something I care so much about. If anybody has any fundraising tips, advice, ideas–I’m all ears.
If you’ve been tinkering with the idea of a recumbent, there isn’t a better opportunity than this to check out a multitude of makes and models, talk to manufacturers, dealers and riders, and, best of all, test ride everything with wheels that you can get your hands on. Woohooo!
If you’re headed that way, please find me and say Hi (I’m the woman walking around with the cute golden service dog, pondering whether trikes can be shoplifted in a backpack).
I only have 3 weeks left to reach my fundraising goal and I really, really need your help!