Sign here, please

While I must plead guilty when it comes to accumulating bicycles, I've never been a collector of items like coins or stamps. But over the years, I have obtained some treasured autographs, all from the sports realm. Actually, my collection encompasses ice hockey and, no surprise here, cycling.

All the skating signatures are linked to the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. Gracing framed photos with their names and messages — and now hanging proudly in my "man cave" — are former coach Mike Babcock; Gordie Howe, the greatest player to ever wear the winged wheel; and Darren McCarty, one of my favorite members of the team. I also have a signed jersey of the legendary Ted Lindsay, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a reception in Sault Ste. Marie.

Crown jewel of my collection.

I secured my two collectibles from the biking world during a visit to Austin, Texas. They include Lance Armstrong and Bob Roll, a former professional cyclist and currently a television commentator, who does a fantastic job presenting the Tour de France and other cycling events on NBC.

However, my recent acquisition of a third autograph really knocked my cycling socks off. And it all stemmed from my reading of the book "Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike," which I reviewed in my previous blog posting.

While turning its pages and learning more about The Cannibal, I kept thinking it would be pretty awesome to acquire the signature of, in my opinion, the greatest cyclist of all time. But how? Where? And, furthermore, wanting to make sure it was authentic.

So I googled "Eddy Merckx autograph" and, sure enough, a boatload of offerings came flooding across my computer screen. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but one site finally caught my attention — the Horton Collection. I just liked the way they presented themselves ... very professional and classy, but not in an overbearing sort of way.

Then I read an article in Bicycling magazine on the husband and wife team who are the Horton Collection, run from their home in San Francisco, California, and I knew I'd located the right place. Yes, they are purveyors of everything having to do with cycling, but they also are very passionate about the sport itself and, as the story points out, probably have the greatest collection of bicycling memorabilia in America.

I ended up purchasing a high-quality lithograph showing Merckx participating in the 1967 Paris-Nice race, and to say I'm thrilled would be an understatement. It has been framed and is the crown jewel of my small collection of autographs. A big thank you to Shelly and Brett with the Horton Collection.

'Thought for the day'

"Let our people travel light and free on their bicycles." — Edward Abbey, American author and environmental activist

From "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017)

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