Tuesday, January 20, 2015

50 Days...More or Less

Broadway & 195th St
George A. Wyman is credited with the first transcontinental crossing of America using a motorized vehicle.  He began his historic journey on May 16, in San Francisco, CA and arrived in New York City on July 6, 1903. 

Members of the press covered both the start from Lotta's Fountain, in San Francisco, and his arrival in New York City along Broadway in the Kingsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx.  You can read the press account of his arrival in New York City in this news account published in The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review.

If one counts the days between May 16 and July 6 they number 51.  So, why is Wyman credited with a 50 day journey across America?  As noted in the contemporaneous news accounts above, Wyman started in San Francisco at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time on May 16.  He arrived in New York City at 3:20 p.m. Eastern Time on July 6.  It would not have been the 51st day of his journey until 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  It is, therefore, a true statement it took Wyman more than 50 days but less than 51 days.  History has reconciled this issue and recorded his historic transcontinental journey as taking 50 days.

The debate over the number of days it took Wyman to cross America on his 1903 "California" motorcycle looses its significance when put into the context of the struggles he endured.  In an article written for "The Motorcycle Magazine", November 1903, by A. Nicolas Jervis on "The Merits of Wyman's Performance"  the author dissects the journey.  He points out that Wyman had a total of 38 days riding and over 11 days stopped making repairs or waiting on parts.  Jervis provides an insight into Wyman's determination to ride, peddle and sometimes push that fragile motor bicycle across a vast landscape, in all manner of harsh weather over mostly rough and unforgiving terrain.  Finishing almost three weeks ahead of the first successful cross-country automobile journey, Wyman's accomplishment would be relegated to the back pages of the popular press.  The automobile would be become the focus of the popular excitement.  The "motorcycle" was seen as a novelty at the time.  It would take 70 years, or two generations, before Wyman's historic saga would again capture the imagination of a new breed of enthusiast...the Long-Distance Rider.

One such enthusiast would pay tribute to Wyman's 50 day ride across America.  The 50cc Quest Gold is an Iron Butt Association Challenge event designed to test a riders ability to safely navigate coast to coast in under 50 hours while documenting more than 2,900 miles.  Starting in San Francisco on May 16, the 109th anniversary of Wyman's journey, this long-distance rider safely reached New York City 49:05 hours later arriving on May 18, 2012.  The account of this modern day equivalent of the Wyman motorcycle journey was published in "Iron Butt Magazine", 50CC Quest Gold: Honoring George Wyman, The Hard Way

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