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The Sign Smith of Chester

Day 5: 6/16/2008

I got a late start due to yet another flat and a trip back to the bike shop, but we solved it pretty quickly, it was clearly my fault from the installation the day before.

Anyway, maybe twenty miles down the road I started to see storm clouds.  At about twenty five miles I stopped at a gas station and the news was talking about a thunderstorm watch, flash flood warnings, hail the size of golf-balls a few towns away and even a tornado watch!  Who knew we got tornado's in Massachusetts?

Anyway, the gps said there where no motels around so I was aiming for a campground about ten miles away.  When I got to the end of this little town called Chester and stopped to take a drink of water this guy started walking down his driveway towards me.  He's middle-aged and small but kind of tough looking.  He pointed at the sky and starts shaking his head.  I said "yeah I'm worried about that.  Do you know of an inn or a campground around here somewhere?"  He said "not for a while and it's all uphill" in sort of a raspy whisper that you can only hear from up close, like he has laryngitis or something.  "You'd better hurry, but If all else fails you can wait it out in my shop if you want". 

I thanked him and took off up the hill as fast as I could go.  Not a hundred yards down the road and the sky opened up like nobody's business.  I got wetter in the first minute than I did in all the rain of the past few days so I decided it wasn't worth it and went back to see if the guy was still around.  He was and he opened up his shop and let me bring the bike in. 

When I rolled into the shop the first thing I noticed was a couple of port-a-pottys in the back with handpainted pictures of bride and groom cartoon wolves an text that reads "when nature calls, call the wolf!".  There were hundreds of photographs of custom painted motorcycles, cars and signs all over the walls. 

Apparently he's a sign painter, something he learned from his father who learned it from his father and so on.  I noticed an article from a local newspaper up on the wall with his picture on it and a caption that says William "the sign smith of chester"  Smith.

He handed me a beer and we got to talking.  He had all kinds of stories to tell of his time in Vietnam, his days with the Hell's Angels and some of the weird things people have asked him to paint.

Eventually, Bill's wife Jane called the shop from the main house next door.  She was cooking and wanted to know if I'd be joining them.  That's hard to turn down.  We talked for a while over burgers and broccoli and they offered to let me sleep on a couch on their covered porch.  All I could convince them to let me do in return was to wash the dishes and buy a six-pack from a store down the hill.  They even put up a bit of a fight over that.

In short, I was treated to some remarkable hospitality from some really nice people.  What made it even more amazing to me was how they didn't seem to give any of it a second thought -- like that's just what you do when a stranger is stuck outside in the rain.

Miles: 32 (154 total)
Flats: 1 (3 total)


Mark P

Wonderful! Sounds a bit like a Harold & Kumar encounter.

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