Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Mishaps cause anxiety on English bike tour

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 miles together.

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