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.