In August, 27 years ago, my husband and I were making our
first long bike tour carrying everything in saddlebags. We
wandered around Britain without an itinerary and made train hops
through industrial areas or in heavy rain. We ferried from the
outer Hebrides to the Isle of Skye, attended a local country fair
and then stopped at a small-town hotel where the Scottish Games
had ended about an hour before.
Later, Chub and I stood looking out the lobby window and were
horrified to see a fellow riding away on my bicycle. I screamed
and started for the door, and Chub said, "I’ll go, you
watch where he goes!" Several other people rushed to the
window beside me, and we watched the fellow get off, pick up my
expensive Peugeot and slam it to the ground over a fence. Chub
had already stopped the thief when I arrived. A uniformed
policeman was not far behind.
The young man was drunk; he’d been too much in the bottle
at the Scottish Games. The officer had a few words with him as
Chub retrieved "Peugie." I recalled that our son, Walt,
had said, "Mom, buy a good one because it will take more
punishment" and I did. We checked everything and discovered
that nothing was damaged. I gave the fellow a short sermon ending
with, "I want you to know that this bike carries me and all
of my belongings. Our tour would have been ruined if it had been
stolen or damaged."
"Do you want to press charges?" the officer asked.
"No, we just want to get on with what has been, until
now, a great trip in your beautiful country." The fellow had
just acted on a drunken impulse, and this was a sobering
experience. He and the officer walked off together.
A more painful incident occurred a week later. Chub and I were
riding across northern England, following the road near
Hadrian’s ancient wall. Hadrian was called "one of
Rome’s four good emperors."
In the first century, his military forces were turned back in
northern England by the brutal Scots. Therefore, he engineered
the building of a fortified wall across the rolling hills of
northern England. It had guard towers, bathhouses and other
structures made of granite stones. Much of it still remains, and
I have a tiny chunk of one of its stones.
About 10 years before this tour, my children and I visited
part of that Roman wall on a chilly drizzly day. We warmed and
ate at a nearby pub that also provided lodging. Chub and I headed
for that same place after riding about 35 miles.
A pleasant woman checked us in and suggested that we put our
bikes in the cellar where their dog was confined. "We had a
problem with some robbers night before last," she said,
"and he’s a bit nervous." She told Chub the
dog’s name and suggested that he make friends with the pet.
Chub took both bikes to the cellar while I arranged for bed and
breakfast. The next day was a drizzly one, so I wore a heavy
long-sleeved shirt and a light sweater under my yellow rainwear.
Chub brought my bike from the cellar and went back for his. He
must have left the door open because, as I topped up the air in
my tires, the dog bounded from behind me and grabbed my pumping
arm at the wrist with very sharp teeth. Dark blood rolled down my
hand. His teeth had lashed through my shirt-sleeve, the sweater
and the raincoat! The owner quickly put the dog away. She put a
tight bandage on my wrist and we were soon riding on, but the
sting of the deep laceration lasted for days.
My wound healed in three weeks, and Chub and I had pedaled 575