This past Sunday morning, with an inadequate night's sleep behind me and a pair of cargo bikes crowding the bed of a borrowed pickup (thanks Prez!) I made my way toward Dudley Mass at the crack of still-freaking-dark-out. As tired as I was, it was definitely a morning well spent. I sold very little, bought a bit more, and generally had a good time checking out cool old bikes and chatting it up with other bike people. I saw several people I have met over the years in the New England vintage scooter and motorcycle scene. Two wheels good!
Things had gotten pretty slow by noon and we started to pack up. With everything loaded, I wandered back in for a farewell lap through the Do-Right flea market to have one more look at the items for sale and their modern indoor plumbing. There were still a few bike vendors lingering into the early afternoon as well. Toward the back of the huge building, there was a room full of classic bikes that I think had been up for auction. Most of them were swoopy American balloon tire bikes, with a few British 3-speeds and a few earlier antique bikes thrown in for good measure. The old bikes lined up on the freshly refinished battered 19th century factory floor made for an especially pleasing scene. I could dwell happily in a space like that.
I spotted the remains of a Pope-built Columbia headtube badge and zoomed in for some macro shots of a Hartford hometown favorite. It wasn't until I backed away that I realized that this rusty old bike was none other than my grail, the pinnacle of my dream bike wantyness, an unrestored genuine Hartford-built Columbia Chainless! I hunkered down and leaned in for an extra-close look, taking care not to further corrode it with drool enzymes. It was in rough shape to be sure: rusted all over, tires rotting off of deformed wooden rims, and a pair of latter-day cottered cranks and pedals looking decidedly out of place. The wood and metal framework was all that remained of the seat, but it was there, which was good. The drive side was facing the wall, so I didn't get as detailed a look at the bevel-geared drive shaft as I would have liked, but it was still pretty damned cool. Nobody was around the bike, and the roll of raffle tickets on the handlebar offered no clues about its story. I pulled myself away from the stately machine and made my way home. I like to think I will have a chance to see it again someday.