Cycling, Dog Bites, and 26 Miles of Pain and Memories

Gary Fisher Tassajara Mountain Bike

I sit now on my couch.  All of my muscles are aching and I’m exhausted.  Yesterday, Turtle, Misti and I peddled just over 13 miles along the C & O Canal Towpath from Weverton, MD to Shepherdstown, WV making for a 26-mile round trip.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to share with you.  I found it difficult to take photos or to even think about taking photos while peddling my mountain bike and pulling Turtle in the tow-behind.  Since I don’t have any photos, I decided to write a post to share some of our peddling story and some of the thoughts I had between staring at the Potomac River and reminding myself to “just keep peddling.”

Misti and I have been hiking and/or jogging a section of the towpath for quite a while.  Our longest recent run was 6 miles so I thought that I was getting in pretty good shape.  I found out at about mile 15 that I wasn’t nearly as in-shape as I thought.

We began our ride at Weverton, MD.  There’s a parking lot there but little else.  The towpath makes its way between the canal and the Potomac River for a couple of miles until it reaches Harpers Ferry, WV.  From there, the towpath follows the Potomac all the way to Shepherdstown.  The ride is beautiful, especially where the river is visible.  I’ve not spent much time along the Potomac but it is a true work of art.  Close to Harpers Ferry, the river is accented with large boulders, small shoals and fast moving channels.  Further up, it widens and becomes a flat, slow-moving body of water.  Not only is it beautiful, there are quite a few swimming holes and it looks like it would probably be good fishing as well.

Although I was beginning to get tired, the ride out was quite tolerable.  My muscles were aching but were still functioning.  We reached Shepherdstown and took a short break.  Even Turtle was glad to get out and stretch his legs a little.  After a snack and some water, we decided to get moving again.

The ride back was excruciating.  From the first peddle, my legs didn’t seem to want to function.  I’d imagine that the towpath must be where all of those older folks walked to school back in the old days.  It seems to me that it was uphill both ways.

Between painful legs and fussy two-year olds, I had a lot of time to think.  Riding a bicycle is an instant “thinking switch” for me.  It always reminds me of days past.  I took the time to share a few thoughts with Misti.  I told her about how I got my bike.  Some time ago, I worked hard to get some things taken care of for some of the closest friends I ever had.  In return, they all chipped in to purchase a Gary Fisher Tassajara for me.  I was proud that day.

As I continued along, the thoughts kept coming to me almost uncontrollably.  I drifted back to many years ago – back to the days of my youth, a Diamond Back bike, a sweet old lady and a dog named “Beagle.”

I had been playing on our street most of the day.  This was back when someone still cared what time I came home so just as the streetlight came on, I told my friends goodbye and began the nightly ride down Burnside Street towards my house.  It was the last part of twilight, where you could still make out basic shapes but details were scarce.  As I approached the big hill that led to my driveway, Beagle, an old mutt, came chasing after me.  Beagle was a good dog and I spent quite a bit of time shooing the flies away from him and scratching under his chin.  We’d sit in the shade of a big tree and try to beat the August sun.  He was getting older but he still had enough spunk to chase bicyclers as they passed.  Most days he’d chase you and bark a bit but this night, he went a bit further.  I don’t know if it was because it was so dark, maybe he was already aggravated, I don’t know.  He started barking and biting at me barely missing my pants leg.  Startled, I kicked at him and ended up making contact pretty hard.  Within the seconds of my kick and pulling my leg back to my peddle, Beagle bit down on my leg, hard.

I didn’t know what to do but at just that moment, that sweet old lady, Lucy, the dog’s owner came outside and chased Beagle away.  She asked me what happened and I told her that he bit me.  She asked me if I kicked him and instead of explaining the whole story, I said “no.”  Perhaps I should have told the truth.  She likely saw me kick him anyhow.  But I was a little scared from being bitten and I didn’t want to tell anyone that I ended up kicking their dog.  Near thirty years later, I still feel bad sometimes for lying about it.

Regardless, Lucy was as sweet as she could be.  I can’t imagine her being any other way.  She pulled up my pants leg to examine the bite but it was dark by this point and she nor I could see anything.  I told her “goodbye” and peddled the rest of the way home.  As soon as I stepped into the house, I could see a dab of blood on my jeans and when I took my shoe off, I dumped blood from it.  Beagle did a fine job of jabbing one of those big canine teeth into my shin.

I don’t remember if I went to the doctor or anything else about the bite except that if you look real closely at my left shin, you can still see a faint dent in my skin where Beagle left his mark.

The sweet old lady was actually my great aunt.  It’s odd that this is my only “hard” memory of her.  She just always seemed to be there, a sweet and loving part of my childhood.  In some ways, my childhood was difficult, or perhaps I was a difficult child, either way, those bits of goodness that I remember are always magnified immensely and my memories of Lucy are no different.

Lucy passed away just a couple of days ago.  I was never close with her but the loss bothers me more than I had expected.  Not only was she the sweetest woman I can remember from my childhood, she was my best friend’s “ma-ma.”  I always imagined her as somewhat of an angel, left here by God himself to remind the world of what love and peacefulness are really about.  In my mind, it stood to reason that he would choose West Virginia to do something like this as we are “Almost Heaven.”

My concentration, or lack thereof, was interrupted as Misti, Turtle and I approached Harpers Ferry again.  Just before reaching the Harpers Ferry Bridge, there is a nice little hill that I managed to peddle up to and coast quickly down.  From there, it took every bit of self-discipline I had to keep peddling toward the car.  The last three miles nearly broke me.  I gradually reached the point that my bike was moving so slow that it nearly fell over.

Eventually, we did make it back to the truck.  I grunted and moaned my way through loading two mountain bikes and a tow-behind into the rear of the vehicle.  We put down the windows and drove home in near silence.  I left all of our gear in the truck and we went directly to the medicine cabinet for 800mg Ibuprofen.

We’ve spent quite a bit of our conversation today dedicated to which muscles and bones are hurting the worst.  Even though the trip was enjoyable with it’s peaceful riding through the wilderness and the beautiful views of the Potomac River, I’ve decided that at 36, it takes a lot of training before you’re ready to peddle a Marathon.


One thought on “Cycling, Dog Bites, and 26 Miles of Pain and Memories

  1. Pingback: An Unexpected Hiking Hazard |

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