Author Topic: Hillbilly dogs  (Read 1343 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline New Jawn

Hillbilly dogs
« on: August 22, 2021, 07:39:50 pm »
I listened to a podcast ("The Pedalshift Project") and the topic was dog deterrence.  Wanting more info, I found "Bike Forums" with numerous threads on dogs and cyclists.  From what I gathered, Kentucky and Missouri are far and away the most problematic states on the TA, with many saying that being chased 3-5 times a day while passing through is common.  The discussions quickly turned to what to do, the merits and demerits of various pepper and bear sprays, staying on your bike versus getting off to avoid swerving into traffic, etc.

All of that makes me want to avoid those two states by taking the Norther Tier route.  Yes, dogs everywhere, but having listened to two podcasts and having read a number of long threads on the topic, Kentucky and Missouri (and a few areas of Texas) are where problems are more likely to occur, so....

For those who've actually done the TransAmerica central route, was that your experience? 

Offline staehpj1

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2021, 08:16:22 pm »
Yes there were chasing dogs.  No I didn't find it to be that huge of a problem.  Maybe it is because I am old enough (70) that I remember a time when every rural ride around home involved some kind of dog encounter.

On the TA all of the dogs had seen Halt spray and knew what it was.  Even pretending to hold something and making spraying sounds/gestures was pretty effective and outrunning them was kind of fun any way.  They generally didn't seem to be in it for blood.  More for the fun of the chase.

I think only once did I really feel threatened by dogs on a bike tour and that was in the Central Valley of California.  I got triple teamed by three aggressive mutts on a steep enough uphill that I had to dismount.  I felt lucky to get away unscathed.

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2021, 12:39:12 am »
This is an interesting one.

I made my own way from Charleston to Nashville and had to deal with dogs every day. Honestly, they almost ruined my tour.

What I found was that even though I could deal with them (I have a squeezable water bottle - a squirt or two was usually enough) the thought of a dog up ahead really impacted on my enjoyment.
After a while a simple dog bark drove the anxiety needle higher.
Approaching dogs sent it higher again.
I had a few bad scares which ruined some otherwise good days.

And yes, traffic combined with dogs was often not pleasant. Drivers either were unaware or uninterested.
In a couple of cases owners weren't too interested either.

My usual method was a squirt of water.
I stopped a handful of times but preferred to keep moving if possible. I had a trailer so that limited flexibility of moving the bike when stationary. I also use a clickstand - an instant stick if I need it. And my mirror saved me a couple of times from silent chasers.

The thing is, I like dogs and generally have no problem with them. Plus, in quite a lot of touring in Europe I've only ever been chased once - by a comically tiny terrier. The shock almost had me off - not the dog.
I have some pretty good techniques for dealing with anxiety like this but they weren't working for dogs. It was a daily feature.

I have an understanding of dog behaviour (far from an expert) and can usually tell when a dog is simply protecting his territory or actively attacking.

The cure for me was the Natchez Trace Parkway - not a dog in sight. A few days of no dogs started to restore some perspective and get the needle back to a normal level.

That was probably not what you wanted to read. Sorry.
But, on the bright side, you have a lot of time to prepare, to get to understand dogs and to mix with them as much as possible. That would be my suggestion, rather than change your route.

I often think that what's going on between our ears can be the heaviest load we carry. Some people aren't put off in the slightest by dogs, others very much are. One hundred people could post here and say it will be fine (and they'll most likely be right) but it's your tour, your enjoyment. Not theirs.

Good luck!

Edited to add:
BikeForums can be overzealous to say the least. There's a thread that paints large swathes of the US as being inhabited by meth induced zombies. It's a wonder anyone rides a bike!
« Last Edit: August 23, 2021, 12:45:45 am by HobbesOnTour »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2021, 01:46:52 am »
Yes, dogs are annoying. But they are a manageable problem. I’ve done both the TransAm and the Northern Tier. Yes, the dogs are worse on the TA. But I still recommend the TA over the NT, even with the dogs. A bicycle tour involves oh so many challenges. Dogs are just one of them. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

Online HikeBikeCook

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 337
  • Touring for over 50 years and still learning
Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2021, 06:43:13 am »
You can take a look at the TransAM Eastern Express Route https://www.easternexpressroute.com/ and miss the most annoying dogs and some of the worst climbs. Having hiked the AT through that area you have already experienced that area of the Appalachians. Believe or not, one of the climbs that people often rate as the hardest on the TransAM is coming out the the hiker's paradise of Damascus, VA.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline staehpj1

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2021, 07:07:08 am »
Believe or not, one of the climbs that people often rate as the hardest on the TransAM is coming out the the hiker's paradise of Damascus, VA.
Yep.  I can attest to the fact that on the TA the climbs in the east were far more difficult for me than the ones in the west.  They may have been shorter, but they were  much steeper.  If anything I was in better shape being road hardened a bit since I was going W-E, but the eastern mountains were much harder.  Whether that is a good reason to opt for the Eastern Express depends on the rider.  I would hate to miss that part of the country, but yeah, you would miss a lot of the more difficult climbing and probably see way less dogs.  I hope to do the TA for the 50th anniversay of Bikecentennial and 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Given that I will be 75 years old by then I may be looking to avoid those steeper climbs and might choose the eastern express myself at that time.  The TA in the east was already pretty challenging the first time, so at 75 I have serious doubt of being able to manage it.

For a fit younger rider I recommend the normal TA unless you really are freaked about the dog thing and think you just can't deal with it.  Lots of riders who were worried about that do manage though, so you need to decide if it is a challenge you can cope with.

Offline New Jawn

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2021, 08:20:03 am »
.... I made my own way from Charleston to Nashville and had to deal with dogs every day. Honestly, they almost ruined my tour.

What I found was that even though I could deal with them .... the thought of a dog up ahead really impacted on my enjoyment.
After a while a simple dog bark drove the anxiety needle higher.
Approaching dogs sent it higher again.
I had a few bad scares which ruined some otherwise good days.

That.  Exactly that.  I don't want to wonder what unleashed dog(s) will come charging out of a trailer to try to bite.

But let me back up just a bit.  Early this summer I started to follow "TobyRail Touring," a vlog on YouTube of two ordinary guys doing the TransAmerica.  They posted a short video nearly everyday, they were unpretentious, non-racing ordinary riders.  That vlog is what got me started.  I'm not a cyclist, but when I saw it, I thought, yeah, I want to do that, I can do that. 

Then episode 61.  They were riding with two other guys for a bit.  One guy got ahead maybe 1/4 mile, and from the vlog, "out from behind a trailer came two massive pitbulls.... I've never ridden faster in my life... One of them hung with me for several hundred yards."

That could have had a very bad ending.  He didn't get bitten, but at the end of the day you could tell he was still shaken up.

So that's when I started paying attention to the issue of unleashed dogs and learned from numerous threads and vlogs that Kentucky and Missouri are where it's a much bigger problem than other sections.  I had no idea.  And the thought of dealing with pitbulls and other similar breeds -- not charging Yorkies or annoyed Basset Hounds -- and me planning on riding by myself... that creates a lot of anxiety.

Now I know that dogs can be an issue in any state, but if I can measurably reduce the number of potential attacks by avoiding those two states, then that's a very tempting solution.   And in my 1,100 miles hiking the AT, not one single time did I confront an aggressive dog.  Black bears were the danger, but I never gave them a thought and didn't carry bear spray.

I'll check out the Eastern Express.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2021, 08:46:35 am »
Well, you get to decide what you're going to do.  I think it'd be a pity, though, for 20 seconds of video to deter you from the TransAm route because of dogs.

Pete mentioned Halt! and I carried some on my TransAm trip.  Rather than daily, on the worst part of the trip, I probably pulled the Halt! spray twice a week or less, and used it perhaps a half dozen times.  There was half a can left at the end of my ride.

As for hills, I can't remember all the "contours of the land" quote -- perhaps someone can help me here?  I relished conquering the contours of the Appalachians as an obese, middle aged, and overloaded man.  If that sounds too tough, take the 2% maximum grade on the Eastern Express instead.  (Or you could do it younger, slimmer, and less loaded, but where's the fun in THAT?)

Online HikeBikeCook

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 337
  • Touring for over 50 years and still learning
Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2021, 08:49:52 am »
The biggest threat to hikers on the AT from wildlife is the brown recluse spider in shelters and not the bears.  ;D I think that and tick bites are the two most dangerous wildlife encounters hiking the AT.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline staehpj1

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2021, 09:13:09 am »
Now I know that dogs can be an issue in any state, but if I can measurably reduce the number of potential attacks by avoiding those two states, then that's a very tempting solution.   And in my 1,100 miles hiking the AT, not one single time did I confront an aggressive dog.  Black bears were the danger, but I never gave them a thought and didn't carry bear spray.

I'll check out the Eastern Express.
The Eastern Express is probably a good option if it relieves your anxiety.  It is about perceived danger though.  If you were weighing actual risks dogs in Missouri and Kentucky probably wouldn't move the risk needle and cars would stop you from riding at all if the small statistical risk dogs pose was significant enough to worry you.

If the actual statistical risk were enough to stop you fron riding the full TA, there are many other far more likely risks that would make riding it out of the question.  I seriously doubt that dog attacks are statistically a large risk in the case of riding the TA.  I think you hit it right when you compared it to black bears on the AT, but bet the risk is even lower.  Statistically the danger is actually very low for fatal bear attacks on the AT and pretty low for any attacks at all.  I read that it is typically something like one every 8-10 years for a fatal attack on the AT (deaths from dogs on the TA is likely zero).  People die that freqently or more frequently of other things on the AT.  There is hypothermia, falls, heart attacks, drug overdoses, and even murders which all are probably somewhere near that number.  Heck, I read that at least 4 people are know to have died from lightning strikes on the AT.

Only you can say whether the stress of it would ruin your trip though.  How much did you stress over there being bears on the AT?  How much do you think you would stress in the 12 days or so of "dog country"?  Depending on your answers maybe you could consider the full TA or maybe the Eastern Express is thje best answer.

Offline jamawani

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2021, 11:20:48 am »
Hey NJ -

Do you ever just head off somewhere where you've never been before?
Just turn left and hed down that dirt road and see where you end up? Y
ou might dead end at the county dump.
But you might also have the best bikr ride of your life.

There's planning and there's overplanning.
(There's also planing and paneling.)
There so much info out there that it can sink a battleship.
What's more, you can plan the "perfect" route -
and within three days your plans have changed.
Weather, road closures, no longer on schedule for your nightly stops.
Just ask anyone who has toured for a long time.

Planning is a good thing, but it will only be broad outlines.
Yes, dogs are a thing on the TransAm in Kentucky & Missouri.
Most of us have managed them without incident.
I happen to have a deep bass voice like a ghetto blaster.
And the obscenities I yell at those mutts cannot be repeated here.

But time of year matters for what route you choose.
You'll have more bike-oriented communities and run into more riders on the TransAm.
But a more northerly route may be a bit cooler in summer and with fewer dogs.
Can't remember when you said you were planning to do your trip.

I'm not a super big fan of the Eastern Express.
But it is a mapped route - if haved a route already mapped out is important to you.
The Northern Tier has a lot - a mean a lot - of Great Plains to cross.
The TransAm has west Kansas and eastern Colorado after Kentucky & Missouri.
The new Parks, Peaks & Prairies is a good compromise.
Although I might do the bike trails across Wisconsin and S. Minnesota instead of MSP.

I've ridden from the Deep South to the Far North.
And, yes, dogs are an issue in the South.
But it's more than dogs - the attitude towards roaming dogs in the South -
Is linked to a broader disdain for cycling in the South.
(And I have gotten in trouble here for saying so in the past.)

I have had more things tossed out of pickup windows at me in Missouri than anywhere else.
I had a 300-lb c-store clerk in N.C. say, "Why are you doing something stupid like that?"
It can happen anywhere, but more often in the South.
Plus there are far more bike trails, county parks with camping, bike shops in the Midwest.

So, maybe give some consideration to a route further north.

Pic - Empty back road in Indiana

Offline zzzz

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2021, 11:42:48 am »
I think most of us (except Jamawani) have a sample size of one, we were at this specific spot, at this specific time and that’s what we know. I did the transam and there is only a single dog I remember.  He was a big boy and he seemed pretty vicious but eventually he tired out and went home.

If you do this trip you’re going to be on the road for 4K miles. There will be some number of incidents, some great, some not so great, along the way that there is no way to plan for. The very best thing you can do is get your attitude in the right place:

You’re on an adventure of a lifetime! And in the end, whatever You run into, you will deal w it and you will come out just fine.

I’ve taken 6 long bike tours and everyone of them stands out in my memory as among the best 4-5 weeks of my life. Whatever route you take, some days or some incidents will suck, I can guarantee it, but taking a big trip like that is  as life affirming a thing as you can ever do.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2021, 11:59:09 am »
FWIW, despite Jamawani's comments I didn't find the people or the dogs to be a problem on the Southern Tier or other rides in the southern half of the US.  I actually greatly enjoyed the people I met on the ST.  Much of the way the scenery sucked, but the food and the people were nice and the dogs unremarkable.

I will say that the reservation dogs looked rangey and mean, but they seemed too lazy to bother to chase us.

Offline ray b

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2021, 01:44:29 pm »
Most older cyclists will tell you that loose dogs in the countryside are far less a problem now when compared to the the 70s and 80s.

(I'm reminded of the scene from American Flyers, in which our protagonists take a route to meet Eddy for some high intensity training. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up.  Strikes me, that the scene - purportedly in Wisconsin, was actually shot in Missouri....)

I live in Missouri. I can tell you, loose dogs are far less an issue now than 30 y ago, and certainly no reason to miss the scenic river roads of the trans-am.

As I've noted before, you do your do diligence and do a lot of things right, but I would encourage you to spend more time on your bike, and less time in review of the (often negative) stories that are posted to help others plan for the worst.

I've been on the road now for 6 weeks, and there is nothing like time on the bike to keep the anxiety at bay and the stories in perspective.

Safe travels.

(Oh - and don't ask why, but we refer to hillbillies in Missouri as "Hoosiers.")
« Last Edit: August 23, 2021, 01:46:44 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline New Jawn

Re: Hillbilly dogs
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2021, 05:34:03 pm »
I appreciate all of the comments -- you people have given this novice lots to think about in the next 9 mths.

I am all but committed to stopping by Colorado Springs on the journey west.  Looking at the ACA routes and other options, I will probably cobble together a combination of various routes.  All will be novel, so hopefully there's no such thing as a bad route.

I wish that I had a partner for the ride but I always hiked solo so I should be used to it.   I didn't give bears on the AT a second thought (tick-borne Lyme disease, yellow jacket nests, and giardia were, in that order, my bête noire), so I hope to get over the fear of pitbulls and bully breeds.

My bike should be ready within 2 weeks.  It's been a huge struggle to piece it together in a time when parts are so damned hard to find.  But I very much look forward to doing some very long rides on the weekends in prep. for going across county.  But truth be told, my first purchase will be a can of Fox Co. or Sabre pepper spray for dogs.

I've got a lot more questions, but I don't want to wear out my welcome so I'll shut up for now.

Again, thanks for your patience and information.