Peddling clothes and racks while pedaling southward
Chic Godfrey caught the first ferry out of Cape May last Sunday morning, crossed Delaware Bay, disembarked and then headed into the pines of Cape Henlopen State Park.
Nothing so unusual about that.
The fact that he was on a bicycle and was riding southward on the Gordons Pond Trail was also not particularly noteworthy. Lots of people come across the ferry from New Jersey to ride the trails and visit Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
The panniers flanking the front wheel of Chic’s Giant road bike showed he was touring. Again, not so notable. Each spring, many cyclists begin West Coast-bound cross country cycling trips in Cape Henlopen State Park.
But when he stopped to chat with us at the marsh overlook on the long boardwalk section of the trail, we noticed the bags attached to the rack on the back of his bike. It’s not every day you see golf bags on the back of a bicycle.
Each bag carried a half dozen or so clubs - woods and irons and a putter. Evenly distributed. When you’re carrying loads on a bicycle, it’s important they’re distributed evenly. Bicycling is about balance and symmetry. Poetry in motion. Lovely when it’s right. A struggle and often a crash when it’s not.
“It’s a heavy rig,” said Chic, who looks like a cycling version of Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf. “Feel it.”
I grabbed the back of the seat and lifted. Sure enough, it was heavy.
When I was young, I caddied and occasionally carried a double. Sweaty work on hot summer days. Big, multicolored leather bags festooned with towels, pouches for balls and tees, and other golfing knick-knacks carried lots of weight, and status. Don’t worry about the mule, load the wagon. Two bags meant $8 instead of $4. Good money for a 12-year-old.
I remember one lady who played regularly. She was evenly tanned from afternoons on the course, and her bright white hair stood out against lightly browned skin. She wore stylish and colorful skirts and shirts - a picture of fashion when she stepped out of her turquoise and opera-windowed Thunderbird.
She pulled a light, two-wheeled cart that had slots for clubs, instead of carrying a big leather bag.
Caddying for her was a lot easier than shouldering two bags and zig-zagging across the course following two men.
Fashion connection coming
There’s a connection between that image and the cycling golfer, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Chic told us he is cycling from Maine to Key West, hugging the coast, staying in motels and playing a round of golf every day. “I designed the rack myself. Strong and lightweight. Patent pending.”
He calls his Pembroke, Mass. company BikeGolfBag LLC.
“I started out in Maine last fall doing a week or two at a time. On this leg of the trip I started out in Manhattan. Not sure how far I’ll get, but I am looking forward to cycling down the Outer Banks of North Carolina.” And playing golf.
Chic gets up early, knocks out 30, 40 or 50 miles and then heads to that day’s course. Not a bad way to spend time.
On Sunday he was pedaling toward the Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Bayside, west of Fenwick Island.
On Monday, he emailed to say he was headed toward Assateague and Chincoteague and hoped to see the ponies. Didn’t say where he planned to golf that day.
Now, about the fashion. Chic mixes business with pleasure at the courses he plays. “I drop off my card and discuss women’s clothes.”
Chic, you see, owns a company called Leon Levin that specializes in casual women’s wear.
Brightly colored, solid and patterned polo shirts, skirts, pants, and cardigan sweaters characterize the line.
Levin started the company in New York City in the late 1920s. He made his mark with the revolutionary skorts - skirt shorts - that brought comfortable, active fashion to the golf course.
His advertisements appeared regularly in magazines like the New Yorker with iconic artist illustrations showing tall and thin women wearing his fashions in active outdoor settings.
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Mrs. Carvel occasionally wore Leon Levin fashions when she rolled into the course parking lot in her T-bird.
Chic now operates the company from the Boston area and maintains a strong web presence. “We don’t design as much clothing now for the golfing set as we once did, but we’re still in the game.”
He didn’t say when he plans to finish his journey to Key West - pedaling, golfing, and promoting bicycle golf bag racks and Leon Levin clothing along the way. Given the overall nature of his gig, uncertainty doesn’t sound all bad.