Monday, January 21, 2013

The Whistle

     Larry - Shortly after its publication in 1996, I read David Lamb's 'Over the Hills:  A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle'.  Lamb was a professional writer, about to turn 50, and looking for an antidote to a looming midlife crisis.  Though not a cyclist, he bought a bike and rode it solo on a transcontinental ride from his home near Washington, D.C. to Santa Monica, California.  He then wrote a very interesting book about his experience,  more about his inner thoughts than the usual travelogue of weather, sights and eats.  (In the small world category, I chanced to meet David's sister-in-law while having a mid-ride snack at a little marina on a tour near Williamsburg, VA very shortly after having read his book.  She thought he was crazy for riding his bike all that way when he had a perfectly good automobile.)
     These many years later, the thing I most remember about Over the Hills is the author recounting of all the states he pedaled across, Tennessee had more dogs running at large than all the other states combined. 
     That might be true.  Having ridden myself in about 26 different states, I must say it is quite unusual to have chasing dogs.  We rode for a week in the N.Y. Adirondacks and had only one chaser.  Same with most states.  Not so here in TN.  We have lots of dogs and most of them are on the loose.  Cyclists are big fun for the TN canine set.  We've got one local loop that Martha has dubbed 'The Hundred Dog Ride' (and it's just a 40 miler!).
     I've seen/tried all kinds of anti-dog tactics:  Water bottle squirting/throwing; shouting (No!, Go Home!, Get off the Couch!, etc); spray (that stuff just blows back into your own eyes and those of everybody with you); even dog biscuit pitching (they always get distracted for eating). 
     But I discovered many years ago that my best dog deterrent is a whistle.  A Fox40 whistle to be exact.  The Fox40 is a basketball referee's whistle, available at most sporting goods stores.  It was invented by a couple of bb refs (Ron FOXcroft and Chet Forte -40!, hence its name).  Long ago, I ran across one of those guys, can't remember which, and he wound up giving me my first Fox40 (lost it when I left it hanging on the bear guard fence at an Appalachian Trail hut - duh!).  The unique feature on a Fox40 is that it has no pea, just flukes, meaning that you cannot over blow it.  The harder you blow, the louder it gets.  And the pitch is very, very shrill.  Dogs hate it.  You can tell from the way they flinch and squench up their eyes that the sound offends their delicate little doggy ears.  It's as if they're saying, "That hurt!  Please don't blow that thing anymore.  I'm turning around right now and heading back to the porch".
     My Fox40 is getting a little age on it.  It started out bright red in color.  Now with time and lots of UV rays, it's more of a dusty pink (see photo).  No matter, its stored in my helmet, so it goes around my neck every time I ride.  Whenever its not repelling pooches, it makes a great horn for alerting inattentive riders/drivers of my presence.
     My Fox40.  It's definitely going on THE BIG RIDE.
My Fox40

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