Monday, December 8, 2014

Dec 8 (Day 342) - Motivational low compounded by rain, wind, and dogs dogs dogs

First, check out this AWESOME video that Adam Sedgley put together for Birdnote, a daily radio program that features all things birds. We did this interview on the Washington coast in late August Please take a few minutes to check out their site on this video.

I am tired, really tired at the moment. I think that the combined toll of this year has finally caught up with me. I am not riding big miles right now, and still I am completely exhausted almost all the time. For example, I woke up at 6:00am this morning after my normal 6 hours of sleep. I attended breakfast at the Alamo Inn which ran from 7:00-8:00. I then returned to my room and passed out for an additional 2 hours. I am just lacking that killer instinct that I have had for much of the year. The Fork-tailed flycatcher miss from a few days ago is a perfect example of this. I am so close to being done, and for the first time I really can't wait to be done. I don't want to wish the end of the year away, but I am certainly ready for it. I am just glad it took until week 49 of 52 to feel this way. It would have been a long year had these feelings crept in during week 31! 

Part of my lack of motivation right now certainly rests on the incredibly crappy weather that has blanketed the LRGV for the last 4-5 days. Every day has been foggy and cloudy. Some have been windy while few have been warm and sunny. In fact, I saw the Hook-billed kite during one of the few short breaks in the crappy weather. I'll count my blessings on that bird for a LONG while! Today was the worst day yet. There was a wet north/northeast wind blowing all day today. This meant a headwind for my 44-mile ride to Raymondville today. Blowing rain further complicated the situation. However, it was the dogs that really made today interesting. 

43 + 1 unmapped for 44 canine-laced miles today.

Now, people in Texas seem really good at building fences. They build fences to keep Mexicans out, and they build fences to keep deer and cattle in. It seems that there are more miles of fence in this state than in the rest of the country combined. Why then do so few people in this whole state understand how to fence a dog/yard? I was chased by no fewer than 10-12 dogs today. Most of these are harmless, but some do nip at my feet and others do run directly in front of the bike causing me to swerve to avoid them. I went through 2 water bottles squirting them today. I had no water at the end of my ride. This approach was essentially useless. Now I love dogs, but I am really getting sick of this. I am now going to have to unscrew one of my telescopic tripod legs to use as an extended baton to fend them off from here forward. I hate to hit dogs, but if this is what it comes to, so be it. This isn't going to be on me, it's on the owners. I didn't write about this when I was in Salineno, but a dog that chased me swerved into the traffic lane and caused a car to come to a screeching halt to avoid it. It's no wonder that I see so many dead dogs on the roads around here. Nowhere else in the entire country did I see this other than Texas. I guess I just don't understand the Texas model of dog ownership where the animals are either free roaming or chained to a tree in the yard. What the heck is up with that? A dog has more emotional awareness than a toddler, and no one would chain a toddler to a tree, would they? A fence solves all these problems - it's so simple. So, cyclists beware; Dogs are big problem here in Texas.

Anyway, tomorrow is the big Ferruginous pygmy-owl hunt. The entire morning will be dedicated to this task. Finding this bird tomorrow would make my life SO MUCH easier than if I miss it. I have a back-up strategy, but it is not attractive as it would require a lot of walking on a dirt/sand road that I am sure is a complete disaster after the last few days. 


  1. Hi Dorian,
    It's okay to just take a day and just vegetate. A day off in the next couple of days will almost certainly pay you dividends later in the month! If you were in the tropics, I'd also wonder if you were getting enough fluids. Take a break! Good luck!

  2. Awesome interview, Dorian! Get more sleep! Most people can't even survive on 6 hours working an office job! -Dave

  3. Hi Dorian,

    Hang in there my friend, I am sure things will be looking up soon! I was birding Plum Island yesterday with a friend who also follows you and we were talking about what an inspiration you are to us. There have been days this year when I had trouble getting my butt out of bed to go birding, and I have had the luxury of not having to bike in bad weather to get in position for the next bird like you have done. Your quest has inspired me since the first time you mentioned it to me last year and I and many others have vicariously lived your quest with you, so we feel for you on the down days and soar with you on the good ones!

    By the way, I am sorry I missed the matching donor, but in honor of that, and in honor of you surpassing 600 birds for the year, I am hereby doubling my support to $2 a bird for the entire year. It is a small price to pay not only for the entertainment, but also the education you have provided in your blog on new birds I am unfamiliar with, where to go, when to go and the decision making process on how to maximize the return on your efforts.

    Jim Guion - Arlington, MA

  4. Look at the bright side. You probably won't see another hill the rest of the year.

  5. Hi Dorian. In 2006 we did a Big Year for N. America. Traveled by cars, boats, jets, and truck and still only got 611, and that included a trip to Alaska.
    Your achievement is truly impressive, and you’ve had the determination and drive to carry it off. Simply incredible. We’ll be sending donation shortly, maybe watching for a matching donor.

  6. Best of luck with the dogs. While I agree that Texans are an interesting breed, I have had similar encounters with dogs in Washington and Oregon where I ride. On two occasions the dogs ran in front of cars and were killed. I did feel sorry for the dogs, but not the owners. Dogs should not be roaming free and more than cats should be allowed to roam free. They can too easily get into trouble.

  7. Hey man- I hear you about dogs. They are a real problem on bikes and I can only imagine how bad it must be in Texas. Sprinting to get away from them is one option, but I have resorted to kicking and yelling too. Just like a squirrel when driving, dont swerve to avoid the animal if it is going to put you in any danger. And yes, it is 100% the owners fault - the dog is just being a dog! Ride on.

  8. I too love all animals, BUT when I'm being chased by one, I don't know if it's harmless or not. That's the owners responsibility to keep their pets either on a leash or contained. So if being chased by one, it's either him or I. I suppose a dog whistle is out of the question. Hang in there. Just a few more weeks. Even though you've reached 600, 615 has a nice ring to it....

  9. I can relate to your dog dilemma. I'm totally a dog person, but I've been chased by dogs on quite a few occasions while biking to work and it can be pretty dangerous. I bought a pepper spray can and a little holder that attaches to the front of the handlebars - it only takes one squirt to the face for a dog to think twice about chasing you the next time... I think this will be far more effective and safer than you brandishing a tripod leg while riding.

  10. Dorian,
    I ride in Texas and many of my rides include being chased by as many as 30 dogs. A particular nasty Doberman who trailed a 6ft. leash every time I saw him finally met his demise beneath a pickup truck mere feet from my left foot as he was lunging for some cyclist appetizer. I used to try outrunning them, but since I'm not a speed demon it wasn't much use. It just seemed to encourage the game. I've had owners come out to the road to see what their dogs were barking at and actually talked to them, but on the next ride their dogs were still chasing this slow cyclist. I started carrying ammonia filled spray bottles, then high powered pepper spray and used it often. It just makes them shake their head. Occasionally they slow down, but I've never seen a dog stop in it's tracks when hit.
    They are just too jacked up on adrenaline for it to be immediately effective. I told a friend that if you ask a dog it's name 10 times while being chased, they will stop cause they just hate telling people their names. In reality it takes about 10 questions to a dog while on a bike to pass out of it's territorial road boundary. But because I get jacked up on adrenaline when I'm chased, I continue to ask them their names and not a SINGLE dog has ever told me the truth. Be aware that a tripod leg may be a great substitute for a stick and dogs may indeed try to grab it to play "Kill the Cyclist". There is NO good solution to "The Dog Problem" as long as they are kept by people who don't care, either for their dogs or for us. What I've found is that when you do a route routinely you know where to expect the dogs and indeed, get to know their limits and tactics. But when you're traveling through new territory it's the SURPRISE attacks that take their toll on your nerves. The worst are the dogs that get in front of you. They are the worst danger in my opinion. One of my normal routes includes a routine chase by a pack of 10-15 dogs and THAT can get pretty hairy...again cause so many get in front of you and increase the danger of being felled. And then there's the killer Dachshunds, who I believe would rip the flesh from your bones if only they could reach the pedals.
    Hang in there.
    Feral Cyclist