Reporters’ Notebook

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Bike trip ended in Comfort

Don Robitaille of Lewiston embarked last month on his second bicycle trip across the United States. After cycling 1,700 miles on his beloved Trek, the 79-year-old was slightly injured in a fall in Comfort, Texas, and decided to end the journey West.

Falling in Comfort, he said, seemed like “maybe it was an omen to just end it.”

With two bent wheel rims, and rib and foot injuries, Robitaille started carrying his bike East along I-10 and hitchhiked back to his starting position in St. Augustine, Fla. It took four days, and dozens of rides, to retrace the 1,700 miles, sometimes riding with the same folks 200 to 300 miles at a stretch.

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“I had my thumb out,” Robitaille said. “I had my bike with me. Obviously, I was in distress.”

People were good enough to cart him back to Florida. He stayed in motels at night, and tried twice to buy bus tickets, but both times he was dropped at a bus station, the station was closed. So, he continued hitching rides.

Once Robitaille got to Florida, where he had left his car, he drove home.

Home now, and healed, Robitaille has had the bike fixed and is back in the saddle. “Everything’s okey-dokey,” he said, but he doesn’t have any plans to reschedule the cross-country trip.

He made the trip once before, in 2001, a three-month journey from Bar Harbor to Seattle. That’s enough he said. Plus, the second half of the recent trip left unfinished would have taken him over the spectacularly challenging Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

“The first half was probably easy,” he said. “This would have been very difficult.”

— Judith Meyer

A case of sudden illness

There was disorder in Androscoggin County Superior Court on Tuesday morning.

A prisoner awaiting his initial appearance on a probation violation was slumped on a bench near the back of the courtroom. During a hearing on another case, one of the corrections officers guarding George Magee, 53, signalled to a court officer at the front of the courtroom.

The corrections officer tried to rouse Magee: “George, come on buddy.” He pulled Magee up by his hands, but Magee didn’t respond and his slack body slipped to the floor. Guards clustered around Magee as the judge called for a recess.

Clutching his arms and ankles, guards lifted Magee off the floor and carried him from the courtroom into the hallway, his leg shackles dragging on the floor.

A guard said: “He’s got medicine coming.” An ambulance was called and a nurse was beckoned.

A jail administrator later said Magee had been returned to jail from the hospital.

“He’s fine,” the administrator said.

— Christopher Williams

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