CS Clancy Centenary Ride: After 18,000 miles the adventurer’s boots come home
It felt like we had gone through an entire lifetime in three short months
By this stage 100 years ago, Carl Stearns Clancy – the first round the world biker whose route we were retracing – was on the scent of home.
Visiting his brother in Beloit, Wisconsin, he made the front page lead in the local paper, then was brought down to earth yet again by a crash 20 miles from Chicago which bent his rear wheel.
Riding on carefully, he came on two bikers repairing a puncture who regaled him with thrilling tales from their 200-mile adventure, then guided him to the Henderson branch factory on Michigan Avenue.
There, he had a hero’s welcome: they placed his battered Henderson in the front window and entertained him royally for two days before sending him on his way to the main factory in Detroit, where he was feted even more, while the brand new Hendersons coming off the production line looked at what he fondly imagined was mute admiration of their older and wiser brother.
We were now in the last few days of our own grand adventure, and when I looked back through the pages of our daily schedule, it felt like we had gone through an entire lifetime in just three short months, with events like leaving Belfast in the snow, sitting on the boat to Tunisia, riding through Sri Lanka in monsoon rain and marvelling at our first sight of Hong Kong bay or the skyscrapers of Shanghai like something we had done years ago, when we were young.
How his senses must have been filled to the brim, with the warm sun on his face and the smell of pine in his nose, as he waved to the astonished neighbours at the green mansion, then rode down the hill and turned right into his parents’ drive past the leaning pine and the ancient oak.
Pride and love
How his heart must have swelled with pride and love as he pulled up on the Henderson, with his collar stiff and his tie knotted just so, to see his mother look out from the kitchen, and his father come to the front door from the study, and to see the same pride and love reflected in their faces at the return of their prodigal son after his incredible adventure.
To see Carl Stearns Clancy, at just that moment a young man with his whole life in front of him, filled with boundless hope and optimism for a future in which, having conquered the world, he could do anything.
We stopped near the same green mansion to check our way, only for a neighbour to tell us that the old Clancy house had become a boys’ home, then burned down mysteriously 10 years ago.