My bike disappears! - Across America - 70 years ago - CycleBlaze

My bike disappears!

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A MOTORING map was my sole pocket-guide, and thoughts of passing through Calais, Bangor, and Belfast on the morrow encompassed me. (France, Wales and Ireland in one day!) When I glanced at the scale of the map and found it to be a hundred miles to the inch, I thought better of it and decided that Calais, 141 miles away, was a goal sufficiently distant, which it was, although I made a 4 a.m. start.

An early thrill came my way for the route ran through an Indian Reservation, where the remnants of the original Americans live their own lives under careful and sympathetic Government supervision. A gloomy Redskin, clothed in a vivid shawl and awe-inspiring headdress, raised his right hand in salute and invited me to purchase any of his wares that he produced from a wicker basket.

The Great Chief who now stood before me gave sonorous assurance that the knick-knacks he showed were made by his squaw, but he had so many of exactly similar pattern that it was impossible to banish the thought that a Chicago toy factory had turned them out at thirty cents a time.

The third day was uneventful in the matter of things seen or adventure encountered, but it is worthy of placing on record the statement that I rode 155 miles from dawn to dusk. I did not know it at the time, but that huge total was the highest single day's mileage I touched during the whole month that stretched before me.

I left Bangor early on the morning of the fourth day, knees a bit wobbly through the activity of the previous two days, but there's nothing like a hair of the dog that bit them for cyclists feeling a little "over ripe," and after pedalling in the direction of Belfast, I felt fighting fit again.

The road alongside Penobscot Bay was extremely pleasant and the breeze invigorating. At Lincolnville, a hamlet where a ferry connects with one of the innumerable islands in the Bay, I came what is popularly known as a purler, and bent a crank in consequence.

The attendant at the gas station, to whom I appealed for help, got to work with a huge monkey wrench and straightened the kink, although I would have preferred that he take the crank off to straighten it in a vice. Still, it gave no trouble during the remainder of my long journey.

Several car drivers pulled in as I waited for the minor repair, and as they stood in line to be filled up with gas their interest in my obviously British bicycle was intense.

On again, I had set my heart on getting out of Maine before the day was over, but once more I had to adjust myself to the immense distances between State lines, although in the populous district of New England I was now entering, the exceptions were to prove the rule. Through Bath and Brunswick the road followed the jagged coastline, and after passing through townships with the familiar names of Yarmouth and Falmouth, I came to anchor at Portland with another handsome total of miles ridden: 119 by my English cyclometer.

The small hotel to which I was directed was kept by a jovial little man, whose flow of conversation was amusing and provocative. Short in inches, for he was barely five feet five high, he was big in deed, if his accounts of his life since the age of ten were to be believed, and I was no reason to doubt his word.

He prepared me for what lay ahead by "wising me up" to such things as varying "town times" and car speed limits.

"F'r instance," he counselled, "in Maine our limit is set definitely at thirty-five miles an hour, but in New Hampshire it is defined as 'what is reasonable and proper,' which may mean anything, and way up in Vermont you can let it rip at fifty miles an hour and you're still okay."

My host's tiny hotel was sparsely filled, and he would have talked far into the night with me as exclusive audience had I not excused myself on the plea of making an early start for the New Hampshire border, fifty miles away.

Not that a particularly early start was possible, for six o'clock the next morning brought the disturbing but undeniable news that my bicycle had disappeared!

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