Pedal Another Mile

Bicycling, death, life after death.

A look into the past, pt. 2: twenty pound winged rats. (aka why I hate geese)

One spring day in 2008 I was riding down a crushed limestone trail that was originally a towpath along the I&M canal. Water + springtime means lots of 20 lb winged rats (known to some as Canadian Geese) along the trail. Spring also means their eggs have hatched and there are scores of "cute little furry but soon to be grown up" winged rats all over the place. Let me tell you something- if you think Canadian Geese are mean, you haven't seen anything until you've seen them as new parents. Overprotective, hissing more than usual, and charging. My ten mile ride out had no less than eight encounters with these monsters. Lots of hissing, rushing towards me, etc.

On the way back, the story was the same. Until about mile four. A line was crossed. One of them decides I'm a threat and attacks me. It leaps up, hits me in the helmet and is simultaneously kicking, flapping, and snapping at me. I veer off trail and am now in the loose stuff on the side at a bad angle which drops about 10 feet. Me and the bike go down (not too hard, and I didn't go over the handlebars) a few feet short of a nice 2 foot diameter tree. This damn thing is still on me! I am now on my right ride with my bike still on top of me, punching a full grown goose. Finally a swift kick with my free left leg gets him back up on the trail and heading back to his mate and the brats.

I pick myself up and immediately check for blood. Seeing none, I decide this bastard must die. Unfortunately I remember they are a protected migratory species in Illinois before I can act. Never mind the fact that they are here year-round and there are millions of them, they are protected and migratory. Distraught that I won't be able to satisfy my bloodlust, I pick myself and the bike up, climb back up to the trail, and check for damage. I have a scrape/bruise impression from my handlebar extenders above my left knee, and aside from the gears/chain being full of deteriorating leaves & twigs, the bike is fine.

I glare at the beast one final time and move on. The remainder of the ride is a little uneasy since I am now convinced I cant get back to the truck without two or three more brawls. Every time I come up on them, I decide to go really slow past them and avoid eye contact. I figure if I get attacked again I will kill it and with no previous record I am willing to gamble I'll get off with a year probation. Thankfully none of the others do much more than hiss and some ignore me completely.

A few miles later I come up on three Illinois DNR trucks. They stop ahead so I can get by. The last truck holds his hand out to me to stop. He wants to tell me they did some tree removal and the ground is softer than usual ahead. I thank him, tell him if I fall it won't be the first time that day. I tell him I was assaulted by a goose. He said, "oh, the problem is back!" Apparently this goose is well known to the crew but they hadn't had a run-in with it in a few months. He asked if I killed it. I said, "Isn't that illegal?" He replied, "only if we don't see you."

I asked him for a ride back and for him to look the other way, but he declined.