Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tuesday, June 16, 1903

Stoddart Hotel, 1907
On June 16th, Wyman woke at the hotel run by the widow Stoddart and her two sons in Marshalltown, IA.  He rode east out of town along Main Street at 7 am. His goal was to make Cedar Rapids by the end of the day.  Following the Northwestern RR tracks, he alternated between riding the ties and the roads adjacent to them.  As he approached the small farming communities along the route, some of the "section hands" would order him off the tracks.  It became sort of a game to Wyman as he always attempted to blarney his way along the tracks.

Here, in his own words taken from: "Through the Valley of the Two Great Rivers to Chicago", G.A.Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September, 1903

     "Imagine a man so anxious to ride a bicycle over railroad ties that he would lie awake at night planning how to prevaricate to the section men! My luck in the gentle art of telling fairy stories was variable. Some passed me on with a doubtful look, but others were rude enough to refuse me credence and order me "back to the highway." Although I was east of there, I was like the man going to Omaha, who persistently returned after being put off the railroad train. Some section bosses and track walkers I went past, others I went around, and by using road and rail bed alternately I kept making headway."

Wyman's "snapshot"
About 20 miles from Marshalltown, Wyman rode along the RR ties through the Meswakie Indian Settlement near Tama.  As the tracks intersected what is now Meskwaki Road, Wyman left the tracks and took to the road.  (this stretch of road would become part of the Lincoln Highway system, circa 1913.)  A passing wagon caught Wyman's interest and he snapped this photo with his Kodak Vest Pocket camera.

     "There is a reservation at Tama, Iowa, through which place I passed and most of the Indians I saw were from there...while I was on the road I tried to get a snapshot of one of the parties of Indians that I met in wagons. There was a squaw in the party, and she yowled like a coyote when I pointed the camera at her and made haste to cover herself with a blanket...This squaw waved her arms and threw herself about so that I thought she would fall. I persevered, however, and got a snapshot; although it was an unsatisfactory one, because, after all, it shows only the Indian lady seated in the wagon with a blanket over her head."

He continued on, alternating between the rails and good roads.  Near the small community of Fairfax, Wyman's motor started to miss fire badly.  The spark for the combustion was produced by batteries stored in the metal compartment behind his seat.  Still following the tracks of the Northwestern RR he decided to switch to the adjacent road and pedal the rest of the way into Cedar Rapids.  Alas, another instance of final drive failure as his coaster brake malfunctioned.  Undaunted, he walked the rest of the way to Halls Bicycle Shop at 108 Second Avenue to affect repairs.  He remained overnight in Cedar Rapids, IA

     "Five miles from Cedar Rapids my batteries got so weak that my motor began to miss and finally gave out. When I tried to pedal the clumsily repaired coaster brake it broke again and I had to walk into Cedar Rapids. The rapids, which I passed as I entered the city, were pretty, but I, plodding along and pushing my bicycle envied their rapidity more than their beauty. I traveled about 77 miles this day, though the distance by rail from Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids is only 69 miles."

41.920245, -91.780172
Wyman Waypoint Sign Mounting
We are pleased to announce the City of Fairfax, IA has joined the Wyman Memorial Project as the hosting authority for Wyman Waypoint 616.2 Cedar Rapids Outskirts.  The Waypoint sign is mounted on the southside of Railroad Street just east of Vanderbilt Street.

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project thanks the City of Fairfax, IA for their enthusiastic support of our efforts to enrich the history of their community with the Wyman story.

"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"

Friday, October 14, 2016

FLASH! "The Motorcycle Magazine" Digitized

Premier June, 1903 edition
The George A. Wyman Memorial Project is pleased to announce the successful digitization of the of The Motorcycle Magazine collection held by the Yale University Library Archive.  This collection is the only known copies of The Motorcycle Magazine and represents a vital link to the Wyman legacy.

At the left is the premier June, 1903 edition cover, not seen publicly in over 113 years!  This successful digitization task represents a major milestone in the Project's efforts at, "Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future."

The entire collection of Volumes 1&2, some 48 individual monthly editions, of The Motorcycle Magazine will soon be to be released by Yale to the HathiTrust Digital Library.  Free public access to the digitized collection is expected to be the end of October or early November, 2016.  The Project will post links, as appropriate, for ease of access.

Wyman's articles appear in the June, July, August, September and October, 1903 editions.  Several other articles about Wyman historic journey appeared in the November and subsequent editions.  The Wyman Project requested that Yale digitize the entire collection of Volume 1,1903-1904 and Volume2, 1905-1906.  We felt it important to the legacy of Wyman's historic saga to be seen in the full context of motorcycling of the period.

We need your help!  The Wyman Project is on the hook for the cost of the digitization.  We do not yet know the final amount but expect it to be a few thousand dollars.  The Yale University Library partnered with Google to do the actual digitization of each page or each edition of entire collection of The Motorcycle Magazine.  Please, make a tax deductible contribution to support the Project's Research efforts.  Become a Research Sponsor for $50 or more.  Any amount will help!

A Team Effort - The digitization effort has been in the works since the Wyman Project contacted Yale almost 18 months ago.  Marti Wyman Schein, Project Director of Research, led the coordination with the Yale University Library archivist to get the job done.  Marti reached out to Deborah Hunt at San Francisco's Mechanics Institute Library, who had contacts at the Yale University.  Deborah Hunt worked with Andy Shimp of Yale's Librarian for Engineering & Applied Science, Chemistry and Mathematics, who coordinated the digitization process for Yale. We have these professionals to thank for successfully bringing the historic Wyman saga, as first published, to the digital world.   Well done, Team!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Passing Through Earlville

Earlville, IL c.1900
On Tuesday, June 18, 1903, Wyman rode through Earlville on his way to Chicago.  He started the day in Clinton IA, crossing the Mississippi River then on to Dixon IL.   There, he was told to follow the Old Chicago Stage Road southeast to Earlville, where he stopped to take a break.  From Earlville, Wyman rode northeast to Aurora where he experienced a major mechanical problem requiring him to peddle to Naperville, stopping for the night at a “little store” at the crossroads.

We are pleased to announce the City of Earlville has joined the Project as the hosting authority for Wyman Waypoint 618.4 Earlville.  The City plans on mounting the Wyman Waypoint sign in the city green space at the end of Railroad Street.  The 618.4 Earlville Wyman Waypoint sign is sponsored by Big & Little Arlen Brunsvold and Ron Hurner.  Thank you!

If you would like to join the Project as a Sponsor, you can get more information on our "Friends of George" page. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Riding Through Goshen

Wyman departed Kensington Illinois at 6:45 on June 24, 1903.  He rode along the railroad tracks because recent rains had made the roads heavy with mud.  Passing through Porter, IN he continued alternating between the railroad tracks and stretches of passable road.  Along the way he noticed a peculiar order.  The smell of burning paint seemed to be coming from the motor.  When he reached La Porte around noon he investigated the issue and determined it was bad gasoline.   After a brief lunch, some repairs and getting fresh gasoline in La Porte, Wyman pressed on.

Turning southeast, Wyman rode through Goshen, Indiana at about 5:30 that afternoon.  In 1903, Goshen was a farming community with a population of about 7,810.  It was settled by "Yankee" immigrants in the 1830s.  They named it after the "Land of Goshen" owing to their Puritan and Amish heritage.  With ample daylight remaining and the motorcycle running well, he continued all the way to Ligonier, where he stopped for the night.  Wyman had ridden 130 miles, one of his best days.

Today, Goshen is the home of Janus American Motorcycles.  "Founded on the belief that the spirit of motorcycling is best understood on a small, lightweight machine, and that honoring timeless styling cues from motorcycling history isn't antithetical to modern engineering and performance. Janus Motorcycles provide riders with a more powerful sensation of speed and a more direct connection with both the road and the passing landscape than is possible with many of today's motorcycle designs."

"The design and manufacturing process developed by Janus in northern Indiana is focused on the highest level of design, quality, and performance. This approach mandates a motorcycle different from any others made today and guarantees a fundamental simplicity of operation and maintenance, making possible a closer relationship between owner and machine. All fabricated parts of our motorcycles are made within about 20 miles of our facility, with specialty cast parts such as the engine & brakes sourced from the best suppliers we could find for our purposes."

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project is pleased to announce that Janus American Motorcycles has join the Project as the hosting authority for 624.3 Goshen waypoint.  The Wyman Memorial plaque and Waypoint sign, sponsored by Roger & Kathy Allen - IBA members 436 & 437, will be mounted on the Janus American Motorcycle Company headquarters at 211 South Fifth Street, Goshen, Indiana

We are excited to have Janus as a supporter of the Project.  They bring an undeniable passion for the sport of motorcycling and a special synergy to our efforts...
"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"

Sunday, August 7, 2016

On the Wyman Trail

Our efforts to obtain authorized and secure mounting of Wyman Memorial plaques and Wyman Waypoint signs, along the historic 1903 San Francisco to New York City route, requires lots of behind the scenes coordination.  Sometimes, it takes personal site visits to get the proverbial ball rolling.

This Wyman trail excursion will be in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.  There are several hosting authorities who are in various stages of final acceptance to mount Wyman Memorial plaques and Waypoint signs in their communities.  The locations below are the focus for this trip.

626.1 Fremont
625.8 Perrysburg RON
625.4 Edgerton
624.4 Ligonier RON
618.4 Earlville
618.3 Dixon

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Riding the Grand Tour on an Electric Motorcycle

Zero Motorcycle - DSR Dual Purpose
John Michael Flores is a freelance writer currently working on a series of articles for RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine about George A. Wyman.  John contacted the Project several weeks ago to give us a 'heads up" about his plans to ride the Wyman Grand Tour route....on an all electric motorcycle!

We wish John safe travels and an exciting hard riding adventure.  We will be following his journey with great interest.  Click on the links above to follow John on Instagram and his posts on the RoadRUNNER Facebook page.  

This is the route that George A Wyman took in 1903. He did not map his route (roadmaps were a new thing), but the George A Wyman Memorial Project has spent years reviewing Wyman's travel story as it was originally published and correlating places that Wyman mentioned in his story to a map. Wyman himself did not record his mileage because his cyclometer broke due to the horrid road conditions. He bought another one and then that broke too. So that was the end of that. Overall, it's about 3,028 miles, and the general route became what is now known as the Lincoln Highway, one of the first transcontinental routes established 10 years later in 1913. Funny story-when I went to my credit union to tell them that I would be traveling and not to put a security block on my card, they asked what states I was visiting. I said, "California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York." I don't think that they were expecting such a long list LOL. #advrider #adventuretouring #motorcyclelife #motorcyclediaries #motorcycletravel #motorcycleadventure #motorcycle #motorcycles #RoadRUNNER @RoadRUNNER_magazine #ZeroMotorcycles #GeorgeAWyman
A photo posted by john m flores (@johnmichaelflores) on

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wyman in the News

The City of Ogden Iowa is celebrating its sesquicentennial year and is sharing the rich history of their community with featured stories about their town.  To commemorate June 14th, The Ogden Reporter published the account of Wyman's visit to Ogden in 1903.

George A. Wyman - A Sesquicentennial feature story, The Ogden Reporter, by Kathy Pierce, June 6, 2016

The City of Ogden is the hosting authority for both a Wyman Memorial plaque and Waypoint sign.  Their plan is to place the plaque and sign in the city common space near the center of town.

TeamStrange Airheads sponsored the Wyman memorial plaque with this inscription:  "Dedicated by TeamStrange Airheads in memory of its founder Eddie James, IBA #71"

On Sunday, June 14, Wyman stopped for the night in Ogden, Iowa. He likely stayed at the Ogden Hotel on Walnut Street. The next morning, he sought the services of the Marquardt Blacksmith Shop, at the corner of Walnut and Southwest 5th Streets, to repair the rear axle and coaster brake of his motorcycle. It was 11:30 am before he departed, riding the 11 miles to Boone where he stopped for lunch.  Read Wyman's account of his visit to Ogden, IA below.

"It had been my design when I started to take the more southerly route from Omaha, by way of Kansas City and St. Louis to Chicago, because I understood that, although the distance is greater, I would find better riding by so doing. When I came along, however, all that country was under water, one might say, so I decided to follow the route of the Northwestern Railroad past Ames, from which a spur of the road runs south to Des Moines. For the credit of the country, I hope the southerly route is better than the one I followed. On the whole, Iowa gave me as much vile traveling as any State that I crossed.
Enroute to Ogden

I started from Denison at 8 a.m., taking to the railroad. After going five miles the roadbed became so bad that I could not ride, and I sought the highway. This did not help me much, for I was able to ride only a little way at a time, and then walk anywhere from 100 yards to a mile. My coaster brake, which had begun to give me trouble the day before, became on this day a coaster broke. The threads of the axle were stripped, and, while the brake would not work, the coaster worked overtime, so that I could not start the bicycle by pedaling; I had to run it along and then hop on. This day, July(sic) 14, was the hottest I had yet encountered."
G.A. Wyman, Through the Valleys of the Two Great Rivers to Chicago, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903

Monday, May 23, 2016

Follow the Riders - 2016 Wyman Memorial Challenge, "Rendezvous"

Click for more pictures
Sunday, May 29 -  After breakfast at the hotel riders rode into San Francisco to scout the terrain and get their picture taken at Lotta's Fountain.  As you can see, much to our disappointment, the City had Lotta's Fountain boarded up for some restoration work.  Undaunted, riders managed to navigate the city traffic to pose for picture at the famed starting point of Wyman's historic journey.

Riders Meeting - Just before the 3 pm meeting, riders got the IBA starting paperwork all taken care of in the parking lot.  Witness form sign off and collection of the Waivers went off without a hitch.  Pictured here is Marti Schein talking about her Great Grandfather's exploits before and after his epic 1903 journey.

 Dave Scoffone brought the 1902 California to the meeting for all to see.  What a great opportunity to have some fun.  Kerri, Dave's collections manager, supplied the wardrobe for pictures.

Click for more pictures
Marti was first to strike the "Wyman Pose"...can you see the family resemblance?  All in attendance got their chance to pose for the camera.  Click on the caption to see more pictures.

"Rendezvous" T-Shirt

Riders participating in the 2016 - Wyman Memorial Challenge, "Rendezvous" have joined the SpotWalla location page for the event.  The map below shows the last known location.  Click on any of the rider icons on the map to view the expanded information.  Riders who elected to provide links to their full SpotWalla maps are listed below the Location Page map.

SpotWalla - Supporting the Long-Distance and motorcycle touring community.  

Click to view the full SpotWalla Location Map

The Grand Tour Route
All rides participating in the George A. Wyman Memorial Challenge follow strict rules established by the Iron Butt Association.  See the Certification Guidelines and Rules

Wyman Memorial 50cc GoldSan Francisco to New York City in under 50 hours
  • Matt Wise - 479, 2015 BMW R1200GS Adventure, SPOT Map  Finisher  Well done!
  • Bruce Edwards - #BE, 2015 HD Ultra Classic Limited, SPOT Map  Finisher Well done!
  • Robert Clement - 2013 Honda F6B 
Wyman Memorial Grand Tour - San Francisco to New York City visiting the Wyman "Points Along the Way" finishing by July 6.
  • Cliff Wall, 2006 Honda GL1800, SPOT Map  Finisher  Well done!
  • Dan Clark - DLC, 2014 HD Ultra Classic Limited, Bubbler Map
  • John Graham, 2013 HD Road Glide, SPOT Map.  Finisher  Well done!
  • Robert Stransky - Bob, 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure, SPOT MapFinisher  Well done!
  • Howard Entman - HE, 2013 Yamaha FJR, SPOT Map. Finisher Well done!
  • Bill Cumbie - S3, 2016 HD Riad Glide Ultra, SPOT MapFinisher Well done!
  • Danny Dossman, DCD, 2014 HD Ultra Classic Limited, SPOT Map  Finisher  Well done!
  • Duncan Ragsdale & Krista Tuter, BMW R1200 GS, Bubbler MapFinisher  Well done!

Wyman Waypoint Site Surveys
Tim Masterson - 415, 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure, SPOT Map, Bubbler Map

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rif Addams is a Motor-Assisted Bicyclist

G.A.Wyman 1903 -- Rif Addams 2003
Editor's Note:  Long before the Wyman Memorial Project began its efforts to promote the saga of the first long-distance motorcyclist, the motor-assisted bicycle community had adopted Wyman as its hero.  This group of enthusiasts looked to Wyman as the founding father of their sport and as an inspiration to keep the passion for motor bicycling alive.  No other member of the MAB community has done more to popularize the sport and bring attention to the Wyman saga than Rif Addams.  His 2003 centennial recreation of the Wyman's 1903 journey across America was an inspiring saga in its own right.  The Wyman Memorial Project is pleased to have Rif Addams as a member of our  Research Team and representing the MAB community on the Project.

Today, May 16, 2016 is the 113th anniversary of the start of Wyman's historic journey across America on a motorized vehicle.  To mark this occasion we are pleased to share with you Rif's account of his quest to ride in the tracks of George A. Wyman.  (Tim Masterson, President, GAWMP)

The George A. Wyman Centennial Recreation
Across America on a Motor Bicycle - 2003
By Rif Addams, (c)2003

"Little more than three miles constituted the first day's travel of my journey across the American continent. It is just three miles from the corner of Market and Kearney streets, San Francisco, to the boat that steams to Vallejo, California, and, leaving the corner formed by those streets at 2:30 o' clock on the bright afternoon of May 16, in less than two hours later I had passed through the golden gate and was in Vallejo..."  George A. Wyman, Over the Sierras and Through the Snow Sheds, "The Motorcycle Magazine", June 1903

Prologue:  Thus began one of the greatest chapters in American Motorcycling and transportation history.  My Name is Rif Addams, and in 2003, on the centennial of George A. Wyman's historic crossing, with the help of friends and family I re-created the epic journey of the first person to cross America on a motorized vehicle, following as close as safely possible, George's original route and time schedule.
It was during October of 2001 when I received a photocopy of the complete story of George A.
Wyman's incredible odyssey, sent from a fellow two-wheel enthusiast. Being a Motor-assist Bicycle enthusiast, I was inspired by Wyman's determination and tenacity, so as such, desired to recreate his journey, and experience his adventure. And ultimately, the goal of the adventure was to draw attention to the Wyman story.

The Wyman centennial team came together in quick fashion from different corners of the country, through various channels and networks. Through the generosity of the bicycle and Motor-assist Bicycle community, it all began to come together- the supplies, the parts, the vintage costume, etc. Everything needed was being donated. Through the generosity of my parents, funding for the actual trip was in place.  It was frantic work preparing, researching, mapping out the route, coordinating the players and places to stay, and building the bike.

Leg 1:  San Francisco to Reno- 5/16/2003, 2:30 PM 
As with George, little more than just a few miles constituted my days first ride. I kicked off the curb at the corner of Market and Kearney, fired the engine and promptly almost hit the back of a transit bus! I maneuvered my way to the ferry terminal without becoming immortalized as a hood ornament, and made my way onto the ferry and traveled through the golden gate to Vallejo, Ca. The engine worked magnificently, purring along the fertile valleys and farmlands upwards towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In Colfax where we camped the night of May 18, and where I made repairs to the coaster brake, we were thrilled to discover the old train depot George's original photos still standing! We took lunch, just as George had at Emigreant's Gap, and from the summit, beyond to Truckee, had a time of it pedaling a choking motor to that highest elevation, and downwards again, we arrived in Reno May, 20 with a major mechanical issue to the support truck, and a couple of issues with the bike.

Leg 2:  Reno to Ogden
Repairs were made while in Reno, and after we made tour of, and spoke with the people at Harrah's Automotive museum about George A. Wyman. To our surprise on display was the first automobile to circumnavigate the globe, originally owned and operated by E.R. Thomas of the Thomas Auto-Bi motor bicycle fame! How interesting and surprising to come across this connection in Reno! On through the desert to Ogden, UT there isn't much interesting- sand sagebrush, and blue skies. We arrived ahead of schedule, so would have to remain an extra day to get back to the timeline. To our good fortune, as I needed to make repairs to the bike's engine, and there was a Whizzer dealer in Ogden.

Leg 3:  Ogden to Omaha
We left Ogden May 28, one day ahead of schedule, to begin the climb over the Rocky Mountains. UP, UP, UP and down again into Evanston, with some more serious engine troubles with both the bike and the support truck. Outside Evanston on May 31, I was to see the face of death as a reality for the first time on this adventure. I had taken a wrong turn and became lost in the desert with no supplies, no cell phone, and nearly out of gasoline. What an adventure! Nebraska was magnificent with excellent roads to ride upon, beautiful rolling farmlands stretching to the horizon, and rains. Upon reaching Ogalalla June 3, I discovered the bike frame had a crack in the down tube. A local welding shop did repairs. June, 8 in Kearney, NE we got a hotel room, as the frame had cracked again, ahead of the formerly welded crack. Across the street, out of pure luck and circumstance, was a machine shop, so I walked over and talked with them a bit. I walked away with not only the milled and drilled angle iron I needed, but a job offer to boot! Then dad and I purchased u-bolts to bolt the angle as a brace, to the down tube. The brace worked and we were back on the road to Omaha.

Leg 4:  Omaha to Chicago
We crossed the Missouri River to pitch camp just over the river where I did more repairs including changing tires. The four-ply bicycle tires we ordered were holding up magnificently, but still, by this many miles, the rear had become nearly bald. The coaster brake, as with George 100 years earlier, became a coaster broke in Ogden, IA. The kind folks of a local motorcycle repair shop opened up the shop to us with use of tools and supplies all day for me to get the work done. I inquired as to the original blacksmith shop, where George had repaired his brake, as it turns out the building was still standing at that time in 2003! We took photos but upon our return were dismayed to see that the camera had a malfunction, so as to not capture the historical place.

The little engine gave out 150 miles from Chicago. There was a terrible amount of metal shavings in the oil, and upon tear down discovery of badly worn piston rings and scored cylinder walls. Dad drove 300 miles that day round trip, to the nearest Whizzer dealer for parts. I rebuilt the engine as best I could. It was running well enough so that next day we rolled out. We reached the whizzer dealer in Illinois, just outside Chicago, the Whizzer company insisted upon replacing motor with new, and the rear wheel needed new spokes. Just as with George a century ago, trouble abounds around Chicago.

Leg 5:  Chicago to New York City
We passed through Chicago June 23, the same day George left the Windy City, and as with George, I was glad of it. I did not care one bit for this metropolis. As for the rest of my journey it seemed fraught with trouble and breakdowns. June 28, just outside Conneaut, OH, my rear wheel collapsed due to a cereal bowl sized pothole. I spent most of the day swapping parts from a parts bike scrounged from an old farmer. It was afternoon when I finished repairs and pushed on towards New York, passing through Erie, PA where the bike began to act "squirrely". Finding no source for the problem, I pushed on, racing against the setting sun. Just before the New York State line, I pulled in to a truck stop for a quick rest, whereupon the frame of the bike broke in two at the head tube, I pulled to a stop as the bike fell out from under me. With little else to do, we set up camp. The next morning, we loaded up the two halves in the truck, and headed towards New York City to meet our hosts. Which we did, and were part of an Independence Day celebration at Sagamore Hill Long Island, NY. The long journey over, our centennial celebration done, the time had come to return to home.

At the end of our journey, when time came to return to the west coast, we loaded up the broken bike in the support truck, and drove straight back across. Dad and I lost deep in our thoughts, reflecting back as we passed back through all the places we had previously travelled. Remembrances coming to surface, laughing about it now that we were no longer in the thick of it. The reactions of everyone we met was one of genuine good will. And they all found a fascination in George A. Wyman- though most none had ever heard of him, or his story. They know now though, as we did our level best to spread the word. and following my return, I continued my work. I contacted museums, historical societies, bike clubs and organizations, and kept on my research. Over time though, things began to fade, as life events took a front seat, which is quite often the case. Yet not a day went by I didn't think of George A. Wyman, of my own saga, at some point throughout the day.

Because of George A. Wyman, a great American Hero and motor bike pioneer, I returned home a completely different man than the one who kicked off that curb in San Francisco, headed for New York City, on May 16, 2003.  I am forever grateful to him for the favor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wyman Memorial Plaque Dedication - Colfax, CA

The City of Colfax California will hold the dedication ceremony for the Wyman Memorial plaque at 11:00 am, Wednesday, May 18, 2016.  Appropriately, this is the 113th anniversary of Wyman's overnight stay in Colfax on May 18, 1903.  Read about his visit at the Colfax Station and overnight stay.

The dedication will take place at the Depot Green (Google street view) next to the Museum on Railroad Street, south of Green Valley Street.  Pan left using Google street view and you can see the old "Gillen Hotel" believed to be the location Wyman stayed while in Colfax.

Tom and Helen Austin, plaque sponsors and Waypoint volunteers, are representing the Wyman Project at the dedication ceremony.

The City of Colfax is the hosting authority for the Wyman Memorial plaque and Waypoint sign mounted at the Depot Green park.  Mayor Tom Pamham oversaw the construction of the monument pedestal on which the plaque is mounted.  The  "Waypoint" sign is to be mounted on the light pole behind the monument.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Size Matters

The engine size (displacement) of Wyman's California motorcycle matters.  Was it 90cc (5.5 or 200cc (12  Both sizes have been widely reported in connection with the Wyman California.  Our research team has been examining this issue to determine the likely displacement of the California that carried Wyman, with all his gear, 3,800 miles across America.

It is unlikely a 90cc displacement would produce 1.25-Horsepower often attributed to his motorcycle.   Here is a quote from an article written for the Wikipedia Motorized bicycle page...

"Other sources state that the Marks engine in the California was only 90 cc in displacement, but a 1901-vintage 90 cc low-compression four-cycle engine running the 30-octane gasoline of the day was unlikely to generate 1.5 horsepower and 25 mph on the California, which weighed some 75-80 pounds, not counting fuel, oil, and rider."  Rafferty, Tod, The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Motorcycles, Philadelphia, PA: Courage Books, page 22.

The motorcycle Wyman used to ride from San Francisco to New York City has been identified as a 1902 California designed by Roy C. Marks, of the California Motor Company.  It could have been a Regular 1903 Model California.  In 1902, Wyman acquired (bought?) a California. He rode it from San Francisco, over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to Reno and back that summer.  This ride inspired him to attempt a transcontinental journey across the United States.  Since Wyman and the CMC were both in San Francisco, he may have collaborated with the CMC on the project. Either to get the bike he rode to Reno in tip top shape and modifying it for the trip across country.  Or, CMC provided him the latest model in exchange for promotional rights.  (We are conducting research to shed more light on this issue.)

On September 30, 1902, Marks was granted two US Patents for his designs:


There is no mention for the displacement of the cylinder volume not occupied by the piston in the description of Marks' design.  This is not unusual, though.  It would be to his advantage to not specify size of the engine, allowing for future size changes of the applied for design. Figure 2, depicts the motor cylinder showing the internal space of the combustion chamber.

An examination of the diagram above indicates the volume of the cylinder, not occupied by the piston, to be about 60% to 65% of the total volume between the bottom of the cylinder and top of the head assembly.  We will use 62.5% in our calculation.

Comparing the Wyman motorcycle with the 1902 California in the Dave Scoffone collection provides the opportunity to examine the relative size differences between motor cylinders.  Even with the slight viewing angle difference the cylinders appear to be identical, right down to the number of heat transfer fins.  A cylinder of 90cc displacement would be noticeably more slender or roughly half the size.
1902 California today and "Snip" of Broken Belt Photo
Dave measured the cylinder of the 1902 California in his collection.  The length from the base of the cylinder to the head assembly is 6 inches.  The circumference of the outside wall at the base of the cylinder, below the heat fins, is 9.5 inches.  The cylinder walls of the patent diagram appear to be 3/8 or 1/2 inches thick, given a 6 inch length.  For our gross calculation we will use 1/2 inch.  
The formula for calculating the volume of a cylinder is:  V = pi r^2 (length),
given the cylinder....
  • Length: 6 inches
  • Outer circumference:  9.5 inches
  • Outer diameter:  3.03 = 9.5 divided by 3.14
  • Cylinder wall thickness:  .5 inches
  • Inside diameter:  2.03 = 3.03 minus 1 inch for cylinder wall thickness
  • Inside radius:  1.015 = 2.03 divided by 2

  • Volume cylinder:  19.32 = 3.14 times (1.015^2) times 6
  • Displacement: 12.08 cu in. = 19.32 times 62.5% of total cylinder volume not occupied by the piston.
It is conclusive to our research team the engine size of Wyman's motorcycle was not 90cc (5.5, but 200cc.  Going forward, the Project will refer to Wyman's motor-bicycle as being 200cc, 1.25-horsepower 1902 California motorcycle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Has Wyman's 1902 California Been Resurrected?

1902 California
(Click here for more pictures)

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project has been contacted by a private collector who believes to be in possession of 'The' Wyman 1902 California motor-cycle.  This beautifully restored 1902 California was acquired by Dave Scoffone in 2006.  More about that later...but first some background.

Sometime in 1902, George Wyman took possession of a Regular Model California motor-cycle, designed by Roy C. Marks.  This motorized bicycle was manufactured by the California Motor Company located at 305 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA. (Other reports suggest the CMC facilities were at 2212 Folsom Street)

Aux Tank & Cargo Rack
Farkle behind gas tank
Wyman modified the stock Regular Model California in preparations for its transcontinental journey.  He installed a carrying rack behind the battery box for an auxiliary fuel tank and cargo.  He also fabricated a small triangular storage compartment under the seat post in the area formed by the center frame and rear suspension down strut. (This particular Farkle had not been seen on any other Regular Model California)

It was the first motorized vehicle to make a transcontinental journey across America. Beginning May 16 in San Francisco, this 1.25 horsepower motorized bicycle would climb mountain ranges, cross deserts, motoring over vast prairies and through the industrial heartland of America to finish 50 days later in New York City on July 6, 1903.

After reaching New York City, the motor-cycle was put on display for a few weeks then shipped back to Wyman's home in San Francisco.  There, it was put on display in the Museum at Golden Gate Park for a couple of years.  It whereabouts after that begin to fade from public knowledge.  Wyman reported in a 1958 interview by the Oakland Tribune, to have lost track of it after 1905.  It was rumored to have changed hands several times.  Urban legend has it was purchased by a bar in San Francisco and hung from the ceiling for a time.  Or, it was lost in the great earthquake of 1906.  It disappeared from public view for over 60 years.

Fast forward to the 1970s.  Otis Chandler, publisher of the Los Angeles Time, was a well known collector of motor vehicles.  His motorcycle collection was regarded as one of the finest in existence.  His passion was obtaining rare, often unique specimens and restoring them to near perfect condition.  Otis and his team of scouts would search garages, basements, barns and warehouses for opportunities to add to his marvelous collection.

It was one of these finds that brought Mr. Chandler to a garage in San Francisco. There he found a badly deteriorated 1902 California, rusted out, tires rotted away, parts broken and missing.   He acquired this wreck of a motor-bicycle and was convinced by the seller that it was the 1902 California used by George A. Wyman to ride across America in 1903.  Otis must have had good reason to believe it was Wyman's motor-cycle.  Unfortunately, no account or documentation of that transaction, along with any photographs of the condition of the bike as it was found have surfaced.  Over the next several years, he set about the task of restoring the bike to original condition.

The restored 1902 California was put on display at the Chandler Vintage Museum of Transportation and Wildlife, in Oxnard, CA.  From time to time it was loaned out to other museums and collection venues.  Here is a couple of press clippings about the 1902 "California."
In 1994, Dave met with Otis Chandler. As fellow vintage collectors, they share a deep passion for the history of American motorcycles and the significant impact the industry had on the industrial revolution of America. Dave and Otis exchanged many stories about different bikes and their unique history(s) and between the two of them had more than ample historic bikes to share their stories.

Over the years the stories and discussions continued, but there was never a bike trade made between them. Dave only wanted certain bikes that Otis had and visa versa.  It was a friendly sharing of the passion as neither were willing to part with their treasures.

In 2005, Otis was quite ill and it seemed time to part with his collection. Dave and Otis discussed the specific bikes that were going to be purchased by Dave but Otis became so ill that the bike negotiations took a back seat. In February of 2006, Otis Chandler died at age 78.

The Otis Chandler Collection was auctioned off by Gooding & Co in October, 2006 and Dave was there.  Although there were seven bikes that Otis and Dave had earlier agreed on, Dave felt very fortunate to acquire three of Otis's prize motorcycle possessions from the auction. Yes, the 1902 California was one of the three and the main prize.

Today, Dave has several rare and vintage motorcycles.  He shows selected pieces
at exclusive events and venues throughout  western United States.  He was delighted to find out about the George A. Wyman Memorial Project and immediately joined as a Wyman Memorial Plaque Sponsor.  We have commissioned a special Wyman Memorial Journey Plaque to accompany the 1902 California while on display.

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project, Inc., would be thrilled if Dave's 1902 California can be authenticated as the Wyman motor-cycle.  And, we are excited to work together with him to help obtain the documentary and photographic evidence necessary. Regardless, it is the finest example of the Regular Model 1902 California yet to be found.  It is priceless in its current state. If proven to be the one ridden by George A. Wyman across America, it will be the antique motorcycle find of the century and truly, a "National Treasure of the First Order!"

"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"

Press Coverage...

Dateline April 21, 2016:  Atlas Obscura covers the G.A.Wyman Memorial Project announcement of the 1902 California resurrection.
George A. Wyman's bike has been missing for decades.  By Sarah Laskow April 21, 2016

Dateline April 30, 2016:  Road and Track covers the G.A.Wyman Memorial Project announcement of the 1902 California resurrection.
First Motor Vehicle To Cross America May Have Been Found
In 1902, ​George A. Wyman went through hell crossing the continent on a California motorcycle.  By Blake Z. Rong, April 30, 2016

Dateline May 2, 2016:  Popular Mechanics covers the G.A.Wyman Memorial Project announcement of the 1902 California resurrection.
Rediscovering the First Motor Vehicle To Cross America
In 1902, ​George A. Wyman went through hell crossing the continent on a California motorcycle.  By Blake Z. Rong, May 2, 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Colfax Station

Wyman got a late start leaving Sacramento on Monday, May 18, 1903.  The Sierra Nevada Mountains lay before him and shortly after noon he crossed the American River over the Central Pacific RR bridge.  Wyman had been this way before.

     "I was traveling familiar ground. During the previous summer I had made the journey on a California motor bicycle to Reno, Nevada, and knew that crossing the Sierras, even when helped by a motor, was not exactly a path of roses. But it was that tour, nevertheless, that fired me with desire to attempt this longer journey - to become the first motorcyclist to ride from ocean to ocean."
 G.A.Wyman, "Over the Sierra's and Through the Snow Sheds", The Motorcycle Magazine, June, 1903

Wyman traveled the roads east of Sacramento that followed the Central Pacific "Transcontinental" Railroad.  The gradual sloping countryside would increase in elevation as he passed through the town of Rocklin.  By the time he got to Auburn his motorcycle was "chugging" along, laboring under him as he rode up ever increasing grades.  By riding over the roads that followed the railroad tracks, he would always know where he was and what was up ahead.  The Railway was the dominate transportation artery across America in 1903.  Wyman was using the "Official Guide" listing all the stations, section houses and other official CPRR points from San Francisco to Omaha, NE.  It listed the railroad miles from San Francisco and the elevation.  Wyman would refer to it many times along his journey.

1902 USGS Topo Map
It was early evening when Wyman arrived in Colfax.  Entering town along Green Valley Street, he rode to the CPRR Depot, pausing for a few minutes to check on his motorcycle and gear.  Tired from his 60 mile ride from Sacramento, Wyman sought out a good meal and comfortable lodging in town.  The Depot was right next to the newly open Gillen Hotel, which at the time catered to both train passengers and over the road travelers alike.  Wyman's trip was being under-written by the Goodman Company as a promotion for the soon to be published "Motorcycle Magazine."   It is likely he stayed at the Gillen Hotel;  it was close, inviting and he was on a expense account of sorts.

Wyman at Colfax Depot
Pictured here is a photo believed to be George Wyman at the Colfax Station on May 18, 1903.  The photo was reportedly published for the first time in "Motorcycle Magazine" and republished by the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.  Though the photo is old and grainy, the definite profile of the 1902 "California", complete with rear carrier can be made out.  Also, one can detect the small triangular box/tank under the seat post behind the gas tank.  This "farkle" has only been seen in photos of Wyman's 1902 "California"  motorcycle.  It was not an original equipment item on the "California" motorcycle designed by Roy C. Marks.  We speculate it was by fabricated by Wyman for the trip and served as a tool box or storage compartment.  (click here to view on Google Drive)

We are pleased to announce!

The City of Colfax, California, had joined The George A. Wyman Memorial Project as the hosting authority for the 518.4 Colfax RON Wyman Waypoint location.  The City Council approved mounting of the Wyman Memorial Journey plaque and Wyman Waypoint sign at the City owned park between the Colfax Depot and the old Gillen Hotel building.   The Colfax Area Historical Society will display the Wyman Colfax site narrative, Wyman Waypoint Poster and photographs inside the Colfax Passenger Depot museum.

The dedication ceremony has tentatively been set for May 18, 2016; the anniversary of Wyman's over night stay in Colfax.  Tom and Helen Austin are the Wyman Memorial Plaque Sponsors for the 518.4 Colfax RON location and have graciously agreed to represent the Project at the dedication.

The George A. Wyman Memorial Project is grateful to the City of Colfax for joining the Project and enthusiastically embracing the Wyman story.  Working together, we are....

"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"   

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rif Addams: Motor-Assisted Bicyclist

We are pleased to announce Rif Addams has joined the research team of the George A. Wyman Memorial Project.   He will be working with Marti Wyman Schein, Director of Research, on a number of important items to extend the body of historical knowledge of the Wyman story.

1903 Wyman  --  Rif Addams 2003
Rif is well known for his 2003 Centenial Recreation of  Wyman's 1903 journey across America.  His extensive research, preparations for and 2003 re-enactment, along with his demonstrated passion for the Wyman saga makes Rif a welcomed addition to the Wyman Memorial Project team.  Rif has agreed to write an article for our "What's New" page to be published next month.  Stay tuned!

Rif Addams is a member of the Motor-Assisted Bicycling community and is dedicated to the preservation of safe and legal motor-assisted bicycling.  Rif will also represent the interests of MAB members, acting as liaison between them and the George A. Wyman Memorial Project.

The long-distance riding, motorcycle touring and motor-assisted bicycle communities share a common interest in Wyman's historic 1903 journey across America.  Each group views the Wyman legacy from a different perspective, but are united by the bond and inspiration of his historic accomplishment.   Rif Addams' publicly demonstrated passion for the Wyman saga is one of the best examples of that inspiration, and ...
"Linking the Past to the Present to Enrich the Future"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Pace of the Breakdowns

When Wyman began the last leg of his epic journey in Chicago on June 23, 1903, he had about 1,000 miles to go.  His original plan was to arrive at the New York Motor Cycle Club at 1904 Broadway, NYC, by July 2.  He wanted to get there in time to participate in the "The Great Endurance", motorcycle rally that started on July 3.  But, 'fate' was taking a toll on his pace across the industrial heartland of America.  Both he and his motorcycle were suffering from the constant pounding along the route.  His new target date to arrive in NYC was the evening of July 4th.

With almost 300 miles more to reach NYC, Wyman departed Canastota at 7 am on Thursday morning, July 3.  He was determined to reach Albany by the end of the day, which was 135 miles of hard riding from Canastota.  The previous two days wore him down.  The July heat made the frequent stops to fix the motorcycle all the more frustrating and exhausting.  Wyman had done several days of riding that distance before, over the course of his journey.  So, he knew if things went in his favor he could reach Albany by the end of the day.  He was following the Erie Canal.  The towpath had been open for cycles and was easy going with its level grade that followed the famed canal.  (Wyman did not know it at the time that NY required a special license to ride on the cycle path.)

It wasn't long before problems started to slow his pace.  The leather drive belt slipped off seven times.  It was so worn and fragile, it barely functioned as designed.  Each time it came off or broke, Wyman would have to stop to adjust and replace the belt around the driving cogs.  When he reached Little Falls, Wyman turned left up Anne Street to the center of town.  At the time, there were a couple of 'Tack and Harness' shops along  Anne Street.  Wyman would have sought out the first available shop where he could get the materials needed.  Repairing the belt required splicing a new length of leather that was cut to the width of the original belt.  With the belt repaired, Wyman pressed on along the Erie Canal towards Albany.

About 40 miles out, the constant pounding along the cycle path produced another
Handle Bar Stick
frustrating delay when the left side of his handle bars broke off.  Wyman had several experiences with this problem before on his journey.  He repaired the handle bars by lashing a 'stick' to the steering assembly.  (Seen here, in the photograph taken in upper NYC on the 6th of July.)    Handle bars fixed, he was motoring along when the engine began to squeak loudly.  Stopping to investigate the noise, he discovered it was the piston rings.  No amount of oil seemed to correct the problem, so he was resigned to ride it into Albany, squeaking all the way.

Then, six mile from Albany, the rear tire blew out.  Wyman was skilled at fixing flat tires, but this one was beyond repair.  The hole was large enough to insert a hand.  He was forced to walk the motorcycle the rest of the way into Albany.

Here, in his own words, is Wyman's account of the 135 mile ride from Canastota to Albany on July 3, 1903...

     "The fates seemed in a conspiracy to prevent my getting to New York before July 4. The motor was getting in such shape that I realized I would be lucky if I could finish with it at all. To add to my troubles these two days from Rochester, July 1 and 2, were terribly hot and I was nearly prostrated by the heat. I managed to make 65 miles and get to Canastota by 9:30 p.m. on the second, and as that was the day I had hoped to be in the metropolis, I did not go to bed in any cheerful humor.

     At 7 a.m. on July 3, I started from Canastota; determined to get to Albany, at least, that day. I had trouble from the start. I relaced the belt seven times during the forenoon, and then I spliced it with a new piece at Little Falls. I was still 40 miles from Albany when my handlebars broke off on one side. I had been there a couple of times before during the trip, and it did not take me long to lash a stick across the steering stem. Soon after, the piston began to squeak, and I discovered that the rings on it were worn out. Oil was of no avail, and I rode on with the squeak for company. Six miles from Albany, while I was on the towpath, the rear tire blew out. There was a hole in it that would admit a hand. I walked into Albany. Some of the remarks I made to myself as I walked were not fit for quoting to a Sunday school class. My distance that day was 135 miles. This was to be my last day of big mileage though.

     All the way through New York state I used the cycle path without a license. It was not until after my trip ended that I knew I had been violating the law."

G.A.Wyman, "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York", The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903

We are pleased to announce Little Falls, NY has joined the Project as a hosting location.  The Little Falls Historical Society and Museum, at the corner of Albany and South Anne Streets, will mount the Wyman Waypoint sign outside, with the Waypoint poster and site narrative inside the museum.