Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Innocent side trip provides tour lesson

The first thing we learned about touring by bicycle was that each person should have a written itinerary in his pocket at all times.

We were two mothers and our four youngsters, fitted with rented bicycles and going from Portsmouth, England, to Hastings on our first day out. Pat and Mike Cronan were 14 and 16 years old. My Walt and Nancy were 12 and 14.

The first bike tour was in Missouri a few weeks before we sailed to England on Holland-America’s Ryndam. As a shakedown trip we cycled, cooked over a campfire, stayed in the Commercial Hotel in Hermann and cycled again the next day.

The hotel, like many youth hostels, was a lovely old home, converted to a place for travelers to spend the night. The elderly lady who owned the hotel allowed us to put our bikes in a shed for the night. We were thrilled with the idea of bike touring and eager to sail off to Europe.

The Cronans lived in Vandalia and Jean and I talked often, each conversation ending, "And how much money should we take?" Advice from a well-traveled friend was, "Take half as many clothes as you think you’ll need and twice as much money."

We received confirmations for our hostel reservations for evening meals and lodging at youth hostels about a day’s ride apart. We would cook breakfast in the hostel’s "members’ kitchens."

After five days on a "glassy sea" we were ready for the adventure ahead. Lester Ward’s Ltd. of London delivered our rental bikes to the Portsmouth Youth Hostel, adjusted to our various sizes.

The hostel, once a beautiful old home, was converted to accommodate "young people of limited means who travel under their own power" — and their trip leaders of any age. We helped with the housekeeping chores, filled water bottles and strapped our saddlebags in place.

Looking like the green American tourists we were, we wore decorated straw hats for most and a bright red golf hat on Patrick, the oldest of our four kids.

We traveled the highway nearest the coast and encountered heavy holiday traffic. For safety’s sake we rode single file and not in a group. The two Cronan boys, strong riders, were soon ahead of the rest.

Noon came and we expected to find them waiting for us, but didn’t. Soon we were apprehensive and asking travelers we met if they’d seen two American bicyclists up ahead, "One wearing a bright red hat." No one had seen them.

By mid afternoon Jean Cronan visited with the police and no cyclists of their description had been reported but they’d look for them. On we went, worried and keeping in touch with the police. No boy in a red hat!

When the four of us arrived at the youth hostel the boys had been located and told to "stay where you are, awaiting instructions." They had gone to a sunny beach and enjoyed it so much the time passed rapidly and they didn’t realize that they were "lost," or that it would be dark before they could get to the hostel. We had been riding ahead of them all afternoon and didn’t know it.

The hostel houseparent, called a warden, went to pick them up in his van — over and beyond his call of duty, of course.

From that time forward, we were certain that each cyclist carried written information about when and where we would meet and the address and telephone number of our overnight destination.

And Patrick kept wearing that red hat.

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.