Driving and Biking in the Big City

A successful dog walk-bike ride combination

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Biking with TuckerThese days, I mostly saddle up on old Blue Streak and ride the gully with my lone hound, Tucker. Bike riding while dog walking is something I’ve tried frequently with varying degrees of success and in varying stages of my own nimbleness, theory being that I can get in both chores at once. This time is my most successful with this, my most obedient and loving hound and my best bike for the concept.

In the course of a mere month since I lost my much beloved senior hound Patsy to lung cancer, Tucker has become so well trained that my bike ride and hound walk are one in the same. Blue Streak is the perfect vehicle for my bike ride-slash dog walk. With a wide seat, big straw basket and easy balance, I can keep pace with Tucker or fall back while he sniffs. It’s his walk after all, not mine.

Today is a perfect day to take Tucker out on the gully. The gully itself has been mowed this week. It’s an almost perfect surface for Blue Streak, which is, after all, a mountain bike and perfect for a bit of uneven terrain. I fill a water bottle, grab one of my small white hand towels, toss Tucker’s leash and my phone in the basket and off we go.

I gamble a bit by opening the gate and letting Tucker out without looking for other dog-walkers, bikers or kids with their fishing poles. In the past, he’s been a bit of a barker but never a biter. Of course, other folks don’t know that. In our first walk, after losing Patsy, I had a traumatic experience when he barked at a jogger who was frightened by him before I could get him back on the leash. She shouted at me while I cried, apologizing for having him off leash. “You will do nothing,” she said over and over as I pleaded that I would. Then, as I continued to hang my head and cry, she shouted “fuck you” several times and for several more feet. Already devastated by the loss of my best friend, I couldn’t blame her and had nothing to say for myself.

A month later, Tucker has become so obedient that it’s a small gamble. We don’t have a problem today. I make a quick canvass and see neighbors working their garden a few houses down and kids in the gully, but that is all.

The gully comes up to a bank on both sides before it dips 15-feet to 20-feet down to the slow-moving water below. I come out of my wooden gate behind Tucker pumping at full speed, trying to get up the hill without stopping. I need to meet the rise at an angle and am getting better at this as I get stronger and more familiar with Blue Streak’s capabilities again.

I push hard up to the sandy path that is a high school track-like oval. It’s a mile and a half to go the loop, but I sometimes extend my ride down the gully to the park or in the other direction to a wooden bridge. In both cases, I have to be prepared to put Tucker on the leash to cross roads. My mind unconsciously chooses simply to make the loop with my loyal hound.

First up on the right is a formerly beautiful cactus that grew for years in front of a neighbor’s gate. The huge pink flowers were so enticing one year that I attempted to grab one for my own cultivation, picking needles out of my arm for days after my attempt. It’s been mowed down recently but continues to grow in patches along the fenceline. I hope to see the flowers again some day.

Almost immediately after the cactus is a sort of community garden that expands every year. I think three neighbors are involved these days. They have beautiful sunflowers this year, growing to eye level. Beans loop around trellises, and young tomatoes, okra, peppers, lettuce and typical vegetables grow in even, perfectly weeded rows. It’s become a pretty spectacular effort with compost, fallen logs, some flowers and a watering hose that’s permanently looped over the fence. I reap the rewards on occasion and without any effort on my part when the tomato or okra crop comes in successfully and a neighbor shows up at my door with a bag full.

Today, adults are walking beside the gully, which is not the norm. It’s usually the kids who traverse the steep incline to the water for fishing or turtle torture.

These folks have a small white houseshoe dog, and they grab it up when they see me and Tucker. It could also be because our neighborhood red-shouldered hawk is making its rounds, swooping close to them. He’s flown by my face once at such speed that I knew I wouldn’t survive a hit, and, similarly, heard the screams from a squirrel when he grabbed it off the neighbor’s rooftop.

Also nearby, is a huge turkey buzzard the size of a small child. I holler to Tucker, and he comes to the side of my bike, trotting parallel to me. “Good boy,” I say, and we keep a tight mass, even though I think Tucker is too big to entice Mr. Hawk. He’s so great and well trained these days.

As a former police reporter, teacher and general busy-body, I tell the neighbors to maintain their own tight circle to appear to be too big of a target. They seem to appreciate the advice, something that’s not always true when I choose to impart such wisdom.

Tucker and I cross the wooden bridge with ease this day. My speed is good enough to make the hills and the extraordinarily high bump up to from the concrete to the wood. We keep going past the turtles that I’ve watched grow from quarter-sized to a foot across.

On the other side of the gully is more shade, and Tucker starts to stall, sniffing and relaxing. I look over the fences at the pools until I’m halfway and at the neighbor’s house where folks typically have peaceful Zen music playing so loudly that I hear it on my side of the water.

Then it’s another bridge and we’re in the home stretch. Tucker has the most vocabulary than any of my hounds. He knows “bridge,” “left” and “right” or else he knows that I don’t want him to get near the road. As we approach a neighbor who has moved a lawn chair out to watch her kids fishing on the gully, I get him to trot beside me with my bike between him and the strangers.

He’s a great guy. It’s been a nice ride and he’s had a nice walk. We kick into gear and head for the open gate.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

May 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm

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