22 May 2014

Bound For Glory: A Sailor On A Bike

Yesterday I mentioned the beginning of Fleet Week here in New York City.  I recounted tales of Sailors Doing Strange Things, like holding doors open for people like me.

Now, when I say that's strange, I'm not denigrating it.  Nor do I intend to disparage another sailor who did something even stranger after a famous actor, who used to be a sailor himself, put him up to it.

The sailor in question was bound to do what he did.  Once he started, he was locked in.  He would not be released until he finished; the only person who could let him go was the Mayor of this city.

Everything I said In the previous paragraph is completely true. Literally.  You see, 95 years ago yesterday, a failed actor named Tony Pizzo set out from Los Angeles astride two wheels.  Fellow sailor C.J. Devine joined him on a planned bicycle trip to New York.

A transcontinental cycling expedition was no doubt more difficult in those days, as there were fewer paved roads and other facilities, especially in and around the Rocky Mountains and high deserts, were far more primitive than they are now.  So was much of the equipment cyclists used then.

But what made the trip so extraordinary is that both Pizzo and Devine were handcuffed to their bicycles.  Yes, you read that right.  Fatty Arbuckle shackled Pizzo's wrists to the handlebars at a ceremony in Venice Beach.  Arbuckle had bet him $3500 (in those days, more than most working people made in three years) that he wouldn't make it to New York by 1 November. 

Pizzo beat that deadline by two days and checked into a room at the Hotel McAlpin still locked to his bike.  The next day, Mayor John Hylan separated him from his machine.

About two months before that, Pizzo was separated from his partner when Devine was struck by a car in Kansas.

As if it weren't enough to ride several hours a day shacked to his handlebars, Pizzo ate, drank, washed and otherwise took care of himself while cuffed to his cycle.

Even more incredibly, the following year, he took the same trip--yes, cuffed to his bike.  And, the year after that, he got on his bike and pedaled to visit the governors of all 48 states.

You can read another--and possibly better--account of Pizzo's exploits on "The Bowery Boys," one of my favorite non-bike blogs.

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