Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hawks, Dogs, Cricket Infestations... and Bike!

Ed Nolan, a fellow member of Cyclo-CLUB, started a thread about dog encounters on his blog. It morphed into an article on Cyclo-CLUB where I gave tips to handle the situation. Actually, here's that excerpt:
  • Be Large & In-Charge! Just like in dog training, assume control. Growl, bark, bare your teeth. I will literally go TOWARDS the chasing dog and get aggressive. Unless the dog is rabid and insane (1 time in 10,000) - this tactic works great!

  • Water in the Face. If the above fails, water bottle squirts, as Ed suggested, work great. They startled the animal out of chasing.

  • Physical Threats. Oftentimes obsessed chasing dogs are abused, sad as that may be. I DON'T advocate further abusing these animals! But, simply raising a fist or threatening with a frame pump will be a recognizable, threatening gesture such a dog is used to and will respect.

  • I don't recommend the American Flyers technique... But it is great, cheesy TV!

All of that led to a slew of bikes n' animals related stories... which, inevitably, meant the retelling of one of my personal faves. Now that I've bothered to retell it, might as well post it here too!

The Hawk Story. New Mexico, 2004-ish:
It ended up as a surreal, epic day. Three of us set out on a mountainous, 140-mile loop which only one had done before (and he has a taste for the crazy, epic rides). My longest day ever in the saddle, I do believe! We left from Taos, NM, climbed gradually across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and on up to Tres Piedras. From Tres Piedras to Tierra Amarilla averages almost 10,000 feet elevation and has some great, hard hills in between. And spectacular, change-your-life scenery. There's a race up there every June - the TP to TA road race - that I can't recommend enough (I used to promote it for a few years!).

Anyhow, it was on that stretch that we encountered Animal Planet. First came the hawk. we were flying down a long, straight descent at maybe 45 or 48mph when I spotted a red tail hawk cruising along to our left. It apparently had no idea we were there and started swooping in towards us. I yelled at it, enough to send it into evasive tactics... and straight into my friend Doug's front wheel! Doug's handling skills are world-class, and he proved it. I couldn't believe that he didn't crash and hardly changed his line!

The three of us eventually came to a stop and looked back uphill. The red tail was lying in the middle of the road on its back. We feared the worse as we made our way back up to it. Cellphone coverage was non-existent and we thought we might need to put the animal out of its misery. Not a great start to a "fun" ride. As we approached, the bird seemed to slowly come to and hobbled off the road into the bushes, where it took us a long time to finally spot. Much to our relief, it gathered its wits and flew into the tree for a minute, before sailing off along its (I hope merry) way!

About 10 miles later started the cricket infestation. It only lasted for a few miles but the roads were absolutely covered in insects in intermittent patches. Never seen anything like that either... but it all makes for a good "from the saddle" story. After Tierra Amarilla, we climbed up to Chama along the river and on into Colorado... over to San Antonito, looped back to Tres Piedras. Go to Taos and ask Doug (the owner of Taos Cyclery, by the way) for some advice and yarns of his own.

Photo via flickr by ehoyer.

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