Saturday, June 30, 2018

June 30 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Buffalo to Rochester, NY)

"I left Buffalo at 5:20 a.m., determined, if possible, to get to New York by July 2. and join in the endurance run to Worcester that started on the third. After I had gone 10 miles the lacing holes in the belt broke away again. I then put on the old original belt with which I had started from San Francisco and which I had removed at Chicago. but still carried with me. Everything went finely for the next few miles, and then the connecting rod of the motor broke. Everything seemed to me to be going to pieces. There was nothing for it then but to pedal, and I churned away for five miles into Batavia. It was only 9 a.m. when I got there, and it took until 3:30 p.m. to get the repairs made so that I could start again. 



It went all right until I was 12 miles from Rochester, and then the valves got to working so poorly that I could not make more than five miles an hour with it. I managed to reach a cycle store in Rochester, and there I went to work, intending to get it fixed and ride half the night to make up for lost time. It was of no use. I worked until 11 p.m., and then gave it up until morning. I realized then that the motor and bicycle were suffering from crystallization. There were no flaws or defects of any sort in the parts that were breaking. They were just giving out all at once, like the Deacon's famous shay that lasted him so well and so long and was not weaker in any one part than in another. In spite of all my troubles, I had made 80 miles that day, and I still had hopes of being in New York in time for the fireworks."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Friday, June 29, 2018

June 29 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Angola to Buffalo, NY)

"I spent two hours in a repair shop in Angola the next morning, June 29, and at the end of that time the repairer pronounced the forks mended sufficiently to carry me through to New York. I did not feel as confident about this as the repairman did. I got to Buffalo by 11 o'clock, and after a visit to the post office,
E.R.Thomas Factory
I rode out to the E. R. Thomas automobile and motor bicycle factory. There I met Mr. F. R. Thomas for the first time, and I must pay a tribute to his generous hospitality, which I shall always remember. His kindness was all the more magnanimous when it is remembered that I was riding the product of a rival maker. The first thing Mr. Thomas did was to send my bicycle inside and have it seen to that it was supplied with oil and gasoline. Then he learned that my forks were in bad shape, and he ordered men to get to work and make a new pair for it and finish them at night. The men worked in the factory until 9 o'clock that night on my forks, and had them ready for me to make an early start in the morning. For all this Mr. Thomas. would not accept payment. In the meantime he showed me through his factory, and then lent me an Auto-Bi, on which I took a trip about the city."


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Thursday, June 28, 2018

June 28 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Conneaut, OH to Angola, NY)

"My hoodoo was with me all the next day. I left Conneaut at 7:30 a.m., and before  I had gone quite 10 miles the oil began to leak out of the crankcase, although I had done my best to make it tight and seal it with white lead the night before. The belt again gave out and I had my own profane troubles with these two defects all day. First it was the oil, and then the belt, and I became so disgusted before noon that I felt like shooting the whole machine full of holes and deserting it. This was my first visit to Pennsylvania - for I been riding in the little 50-mile strip of the Keystone Stare that borders on Lake Erie ever since leaving Conneaut - and I can say that all my Pennsylvania experiences were hard ones. The roads were fairly good and for most of the way I rode on footpaths at the side of the road. The view from the road with the luxuriant verdure clad bluffs on one side and the horizon bounded expanse of the great lake on the other side was as magnificent as I had seen. It reminded me of the good old Pacific.

By afternoon I had crossed the Pennsylvania strip and at last was in New York state. It seemed as if I was nearing home then, but it is a big state, and I came to realize the truth of the song that "its a blanked long walk to the gay Rialto in New York." I didn't have to walk, but walking would have been easier than the way I traveled from the western boundary of the Empire State to the metropolis. It was on the afternoon of June 28 that I entered the state, and it was eight days later before I got to the confines of the great city.


USGS, c.1899
I had hoped to reach Buffalo on the day I left Conneaut but was still 25 miles from the Queen City when my troubles climaxed by the breaking of a fork side. The crystallization resulting from the continuous pounding was telling again. I walked two miles to Angola, and there sought a telegraph office, and wired Chicago for a pair of new forks. I learned that I would not be able to get a pair there for two days, because they would have to go first to Buffalo and then be reshipped to Angola. I therefore determined to get the forks repaired there if possible, and make them do till I got to Buffalo. It is a fortunate thing that I was not riding fast or going downhill when the fork side broke. I was told that automobiles and motor bicycles frequently traveled the road that I took from Chicago to New York, but the behavior of the natives belied it. People all came running out of the houses when I passed, and they stared as if they never had seen a motor bicycle before."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June 27 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Cleveland to Conneaut, OH)

"It was on the day I left Cleveland, June 27, that my troubles began to come thick and fast. I started from Cleveland at 10 a.m. and had gone only a mile when the lacing holes in my driving belt gave way and I had to stop and relace. For the first five miles the road was fine, and then I came to a stretch where the road was being rebuilt and I had to walk for a mile and a half. After that, I had a plank road for six miles, and then it was sandy for 30 miles, all the way to Geneva. From there to Conneaut, 22 miles, the road was good in places, with occasional stretches of clay and sand, through which it was hard going. It was a dreary day of travel through a pretty farming country, where the ranchers seemed to be as heavywitted as the cattle. The belt broke five times during the afternoon, and the last time I fixed it I laced It with two inches of space between the ends in order to make it reach. 

I passed through town after town, where I wondered what the people did for recreation. There was nothing for them to do after their day's work but to walk around the block and then go to bed. One thing I noticed is that it is a poor country for shoemakers for nearly everyone I saw, men, women and children, were barefooted. It was plain that much of the country I saw was settled by immigrant farmers from Germany and other parts of Europe. I made only 75 miles this day. When I arrived in Conneaut, I got a piece of belting at a bicycle store and spliced my troublesome piece of driving leather. Then I discovered that the screws in the crankcase of the motor were all loose, so I put in some white lead and tightened them. It was so late by this time that I concluded to remain at Conneaut that night."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

June 26 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Perrysburg to Cleveland, OH)

"From Perrysburg I got a 7 o'clock start, but soon discovered that I did not have any more lubricating oil than enough to last for 30 miles. By economizing I managed to reach Tremont(sic Fremont) where I got some oil at a machine shop. It was so thick that I had to heat it before it would run, but it was better than nothing. After leaving Fremont the roads began to grow very poor. There had been several days of rain on them Just before I came along and as they were simply dirty roads for repeated stretches of 10 miles or more the mud was deep and wide.

Near Amherst about 30 miles west of Cleveland I got my first reminder of the one-horse story and a foretaste of what was in store for me. The truss on the front forks of my bicycle broke. When I stopped to remove the remains of it, I found that it had crystallized so that it was like a piece of old rusty iron. It broke in several places like a stick of rotten wood. That was the effect of the terrible pounding the machine had received over the railroad ties.  It occurred to me at the time that the whole machine must have suffered similarly, but it did not show signs of disintegrating at the time, and I concluded it would carry me to New York. After leaving Elyria, 25 miles from Cleveland, I struck a good sidepath that continued for 20 miles. It was only six inches wide in places, but those few inches spelled salvation for me, because the road was so heavy with sand that if I had not had the path to ride I would have had to have walked for long stretches. Just out of Elyria I met an automobile, and it was having a hard time of it. It was all the engine could do to keep it moving. The last five miles into Cleveland I went over the best roads I ever had ridden on anywhere in my life.

It was 7 p.m. when I reached Cleveland. and my first move was to hunt up an automobile station in order to get some oil. At the Oldsmobile branch I found what I wanted, and they gave me enough to last for 300 miles, all I cared to carry, in fact. They took a lively interest in me and my bicycle and examined my motor carefully. Like everyone else, though, they had to be shown the photographs of my start from San Francisco before fully accepting my statement that I had come from California. My distance for this day, to Cleveland, was 121 miles, and I used five quarts of gasoline."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Monday, June 25, 2018

June 25 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Ligonier, IN to Perrysburg, OH)

"At 8.a.m. On June 25 I left Ligonier and struck out over a sand road, through a rolling and fertile farming country, to Wawaka, where I came to a stone road, and had good riding to Kendallville. East of that place, to Butler, the going was a good second to what I had in Iowa, which was the worst of anywhere that there were roads. Between Butler and Edgerton, after having ridden 48 miles from Ligonier, I crossed the state line into Ohio. The road improved some then, but it was very bad in places all the way to Swanton. at which place I
Leaf Hotel, Perrysburg, OH c.1890
resorted 
to the railroad for more comfort and fewer dismounts. I rode nine miles to Holland along the tracks, but the railroad bed was a poor one and about as rough riding as the road, so I returned to the highway and found a six-mile stretch of good road south to Miami(sic, Maumee). By taking this road I made a shortcut that saved me 15 miles, and did not therefore, see Toledo. I arrived at Perrysburg, Ohio, at 7 p.m. with 126 miles to my credit for the day.


The price of gasoline continued to decrease as I got East. In the morning of that day at Ligonier I had paid 10 cents for half a gallon; at Butler I got the same quantity for 8 cents, and at Swanton the  price was 7 cents. The table board did not improve, however. For me, with my vigorous Western appetite. the bounteous supply of plain food served by the little hotels in the Rocky Mountain country was much more satisfactory than anything I got East. The meals out in Nevada and Wyoming were much better than anything I got in Illinois, Indiana or Ohio, at the same price. Everywhere I stopped during this part of my trip a crowd gathered about me and my motorcycle, although neither the machine nor my self had any sign on telling our mission. Whenever I told someone in a crowd I had come from San Francisco there was at first open incredulity. The word was passed along, and they winked to one another, while staring impudently at me. At this stage of my journey I had with me, however, a copy of the June issue of The Motorcycle Magazine. with the story of my start from the coast and a picture. This convinced the doubters, and immediately my bicycle became the subject of unbounded curiosity, while I was the target of Gatling-gun fire of questions that it was impossible to answer satisfactorily. The consequence was I became more particular when and where I took the trouble to convince people of my feat.

About this time I began to feel the effects of my five days' rest in Chicago. That length of time led to my growing tender. and I was more saddle-sore at Perrysburg that night than at anytime before. I felt then as if I would have to finish with a hot water bag on the saddle."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903




Sunday, June 24, 2018

June 24 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Kensington, IL to Ligonier, IN)

Kensington Depot, c.1900
"In the morning I ordered and paid for some gasoline. What I got was a vile mixture of gasoline and something that was much  like linseed oil. I believe it was that, but I did not discover the imposition until after I had started. and I did not go back. A man who will sell such stuff has no conscience. Only a club will appeal to him, and I had no time to waste in fighting. I simply went on and made the best of it till I could get fresh gasoline elsewhere. The roads were heavy from recent rains when left Kensington at 6:45 a.m., and here in the smooth and "built up" east I had to resort to the trick I learned in the deserts of Nevada and Utah. I took to the railroad track, and rode 20 miles along the ties to the lake. I saved a considerable distance by following the railroad, and as I was seasoned to such riding, the bouncing did not hurt so much as the thought that I was having the same sort of traveling east of Chicago that I had west of Omaha. Well, it as a big country to build up and supply with good roads. Anyone who has made such a trip as I made can appreciate this in a fullness that others cannot. When this country is eventually built up with good roads it will be truly great and wonderful.

I left the railroad at Porter, Indiana, and got onto a road with a good rock bed, which lasted for several miles. The rains, which had so severely damaged the roads, had not hurt the crops much, so far as I could see. It was all a "ranching country," as we say in the West - farming they call it in the East - through which I was passing at this stage, and it looked flourishing. I reached La Porte at noon, and lunched there, having made 55 miles in the forenoon. I had been keeping company with a smell like that of burning paint all the morning. It came from the mixture that I was exploding in the motor. I got fresh gasoline at La Porte, and at least had an honest smell for my money after that. I passed through Goshen at 5 p.m., and reached Ligonier, where I stopped for the night, at 6:30 p.m. The roads began to get better after I left La Porte, and the last 19 miles of this day's run were made in an hour and 10 minutes.

I thought that when I got east of Chicago folks would know what a motor
Calvin Street, Ligonier, IN c.1900
bicycle  is, but it was not so. In every place through which I passed, I left behind a gaping lot of natives, who ran out into the street to stare after me. When I reached Ligonier I rode through the main street, and by mistake went past the hotel where wanted to stop. When I turned and rode back the streets looked as though there was a circus in town. All the shopkeepers were out on the sidewalks to see the motor bicycle, and small boys were as thick as flies in a country restaurant. When I dismounted in front of the hotel the crowd became so big and the curiosity so great that I deemed it best to take the bicycle inside. The boys manifested a desire to pull it apart to see how it was made. There was really more curiosity about my motor bicycle in the eastern towns than in the wilds of the Sierras. The mountaineers are surprised at nothing, and seemed to have caught from the Indians the self-containment that disdains to manifest the slightest curiosity. Although when spoken to about it, the Westerners would frankly admit they never saw such a machine before, yet they turned toward me on my first appearance stolid countenances with which they gazed at the sky and the surrounding landscape. This day, when I reached Ligonier, June 24, I had made 130 miles."


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Saturday, June 23, 2018

June 23 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Chicago to Kensington, IL)

"It was not until the morning of this day, June 23, that I got my new motor crank by express, and it took me nearly all day to fit it and get the engine together again. I lost no time in getting away from the Windy City. I did not want to stop there one hour longer than I was obliged to do. I left there that same evening.

I would "blow in" to New York in a week or so. The worst roads I knew must surely be behind me, and, with better highways, I calculated that I would have no more trouble with my motor bicycle. I reckoned without thought of the cumulative effects of the continuous battering that the machine was receiving. It has proven itself a wonderfully staunch steed, but no vehicle could stand what I imposed upon the 90-pound vehicle, nor should any be expected to do so. Before I got through with my trip I had, as will he seen, a vivid personal experience that put me into thorough sympathy with the Deacon and his one-horse shay.

As I have said, I did not want to remain in Chicago one minute longer than was necessary. and accordingly I left there at 5:30 p.m., on June 23, and made my way to Kensington, 23 miles east."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

June 20-22 - Across America on a Motorcycle

(Layover in Chicago, IL)

G.Wyman
"I was thoroughly disgusted with Chicago from that time on. I eventually went to a hotel where everything was all right, but my dislike of Chicago increased during the five days of my stay there. It rained nearly every day, and the soot from the soft coal smoke nearly strangled me, after my being accustomed to the pure air of the mountains. The things that impressed me most in Chicago were the way that the inhabitants ran about the streets as if they were lost or going to a fire, and the number of drunken men and women in the streets. I never saw so much drunkenness In my life anywhere before. I went to some of the theatres, but my impression of the city was not helped by that. I simply abhorred the place." 


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Along The Shores Of The Great Lakes And Down The Hudson To New York" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, October 1903, Vol 1 No 5
Chicago, IL to New York City
June 20 to July 6, 1903

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

June 19 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Naperville to Chicago, IL)

G.Wyman
"I was on fine stone roads by this time, and only 25 miles from Chicago. I pedaled Into the Windy City in five and a half hours the next day, June 19. As may be imagined, I was tired after pedaling 25 miles, and not only physically weary, but I was mentally dejected because of the accident to my motor. On the outskirts of the city I sat down on the curb to rest and meditate, and I was aroused by a local rider who, fancying I was in trouble, stopped to offer assistance.

Once I was fairly in Chicago I sought to get a new motor crank, but found there was none to be had, so I telegraphed to San Francisco for one. The motor crank was the last thing that was expected to break. I had parts of every sort excepting that one along with me, and these were unused, while the one thing I could not replace was the one that broke. This showed that one never can tell what to expect in a cross-country journey of this sort.

After telegraphing for the motor crank I knew I would have to lay up in Chicago for a while, so I went out to engage lodgings. I found a nice-looking boarding house, and chose it in preference to a hotel. I engaged board for four days. When I made a light in the room, however, I found I had company - insects in the bed as big as canary birds. At least they looked that big to me. I hastily decamped with my few belongings, and walked the streets for three hours, feeling timid about making another attempt to get accommodations. "


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903

Monday, June 18, 2018

June 18 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Clinton, IA to Naperville, IL)

Lyons-Fulton Bridge, c.1898
"At Clinton I was nearing Chicago, within 150 miles of it, and on the morning of June 18, when I left Clinton, Ia, at 6:30 a.m., I hoped to reach it before noon on the following day. Shortly after leaving Dixon(sic. Clinton)  about two miles, I crossed the "Father of Waters" and was at last east of the Mississippi and into Illinois, where I was told at the start I never would get with my motor bicycle. The roads improved at once after crossing the great river, though I had some difficulty finding the correct one going out of Fulton, Illinois. The country in general also improved. The soil was darker and more fertile looking, and the farms had a thriving look about them that was superior to anything I had seen since leaving Sacramento. I chose the road on the north side of the Rock River, and remained on that side until I crossed the river at Dixon.

Persons of whom I made inquiry at Dixon advised me that the best thing I could do was to take the old Chicago stage road. I did so, and that road will be ever memorable to me, for on it my troubles broke out afresh. I rode from Dixon, which Is 99 miles from Chicago. Southeast about 45 miles to Earlville, and then rode northeast about 25 miles toward Aurora.

A great part of the road was so poor that I wished I had stayed on the railroad, and I learned afterward that I might have ridden on roads much nearer the tracks. Still, other parts of the road were good and I made fair time. I was getting near Aurora when the crank of my motor broke. This was the most serious accident that had happened to me, and it meant trouble. There was no possible way of repairing the damage, so, like the steamer that breaks its engine and hoists sail, I resorted to the pedals, and mighty glad I was that I had fixed the coaster brake at Cedar Rapids, so that I could pedal and did not have to walk. I pedaled about 10 miles before nightfall, and then put up at a little store at a crossroads, where they gave me accommodation for the night."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903

Sunday, June 17, 2018

June 17 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Clinton, IA)

Wyman did not account for his activities on June 17, 1903.  In the passage below, he states he departed the Stoddart Hotel in Marshalltown at 7 am, Tuesday, on "July 16"(sic - should be June 16), clearly a transcription error that made into the September 1903 issue of The Motorcycle Magazine.  (See page 145, right column, last paragraph)

"With my nerve fortified by a resolve to brazen it out with the section hands on the railroad, and a stock of interesting stories arranged in mind for their benefit, I left Marshalltown at 7 a.m. on July 16, and proceeded to the tracks of the Northwestern."

His last reference for Tuesday, June 16, is arriving in Clinton at 9 pm after riding some 85 miles that day.  (See last paragraph of page 146 to top paragraph of page 147)

"Darkness overtook me before I reached Clinton, and, being afraid of smashing into something. I walked the last few miles into that place, arriving at 9 p.m., after having covered eighty-five miles."

Wyman's next date/time reference is when he departs Clinton at 6:30 am on June 18, heading north to cross the Mississippi over the "Lyons-Fulton Bridge."  There is another transcription error in the reference to "Dixon" instead of Clinton.  Dixon is community east of and after going through Fulton, just across the Mississippi river.  Wyman goes on to mention "Fulton" correctly in the passage below.  (See page 147, first full paragraph)

"At Clinton I was nearing Chicago, within 150 miles of it, and on the morning of June 18, when I left Clinton, Ia, at 6:30 a.m., I hoped to reach it before noon on the following day. Shortly after leaving Dixon(sic. Clinton)  about two miles, I crossed the "Father of Waters" and was at last east of the Mississippi and into Illinois, where I was told at the start I never would get with my motor bicycle. The roads improved at once after crossing the great river, though I had some difficulty finding the correct one going out of Fulton, Illinois."

It is remarkable there are relatively so few transcription errors in the whole of the Wyman narrative.  If you think of the communication flow-process that was necessary to end in the final printed copies of The Motorcycle Magazine articles.

Wyman would have to keep a journal of his daily progress, noting dates, times, locations and a descriptive narrative about activities.  He also had with him a Kodak Vest Pocket camera that he used to take pictures along the way.

At the end of each riding day, after tending to the motorcycle, getting fed and securing lodging, he would compile his notes into a narrative suitable for publication.  Then, depending on the telegraph, telephone and postal services available in the place he stopped for the night, he had to package it up and send it to Goodman Company publishing facilities in San Francisco and/or New York City.  He never mention getting film developed so one can assume it was sent to the publisher for processing.  Also, we imagine the editorial staff at the Goodman Company offices would polish the narratives before sending the copy to the press for typesetting and printing.  So, the opportunity for "copy errors" were ever present.

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903



Saturday, June 16, 2018

June 16 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Marshalltown to Clinton, IA)

"With my nerve fortified by a resolve to brazen it out with the section hands on the railroad, and a stock of interesting stories arranged in mind for their benefit, I left Marshalltown at 7 a.m. on July(sic) 16, and proceeded to the tracks of the Northwestern. 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. In this section of the country I saw more Indians than I did in all that portion of the country west of the Missouri. There is a reservation at Tama, Iowa, through which place I passed and most of the Indians I saw were
G.Wyman
from there. They were tame redskins, given to the wearing of shirts and coats and trousers, and to agricultural pursuits. In fact, one sees few blanket Indians in this locality. Once, 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, for most of the Indians have not gotten over the superstition that, like the man's watch in the photograph gallery, their soul is taken in any picture of them. 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.


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.


Hall Bicycle Co. 2nd Ave.
Cedar Rapids, IA c.1903
When I reached Cedar Rapids my bicycle needed attention more seriously than at any previous time, and this was not to be wondered at, for it had carried me more than 2,300 miles. I went to a bicycle store on Second Avenue where I soldered the loose sprocket lock nut on to the hub. My handlebars were cracked near the head, where holes are drilled for the wires, so I brazed a piece of reinforcing onto them. Leaving Cedar Rapids, I found the roads still muddy, and, as the country is of rolling character, I sought the railroad, but I found the bed so strewn with sharp rocks that I returned to the wagon road. Why I did not get lost several times In this country I do not know. The telegraph poles branched off at every crossroad, and it was simply a toss-up to decide which was the line of poles to follow. The roads were a little better east of Cedar Rapids, which itself has splendid roads, but they were still wet and in places sandy. Darkness overtook me before I reached Clinton, and, being afraid of smashing into something. I walked the last few miles into that place, arriving at 9 p.m., after having covered 85 miles."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903

Friday, June 15, 2018

June 15 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Ogden to Marshalltown, IA)

"At Ogden I found a blacksmith, and had him cut a new thread on my rear axle, and we wedged the lock-nut of the coaster on with pieces of brass so that it would act properly. Ogden is in a fine farming district on rolling land, and going out of the place there it fine view across the mountains. I had a good chance to look around, for it was 11:30 o'clock before I got my coaster brake fixed so that I could start. I rode 11 miles on the road to Boone, a town with model asphalted streets, and there I had luncheon, after which I sought the railroad tracks. After a while I met a section foreman, in the person of a big Swede, who ordered me off the track bed. No amount of blarney would persuade him even to let me continue to a crossroad. I must get off the railroad property right then and there. The harshness of this edict became apparent when I had to climb through a barbed wire fence, drag my motor cycle after me and then walk with it for half a mile through a grain field before I reached a road. The prospect of being caught by the farmer while I was in the act of trampling down his grain did not add to my cheerfulness of mind during this enforced detour. 

Shortly after I got started at riding on the road again my wheel twisted in a rut and I fell in a heap with the machine. In this fall I broke my cyclometer, the fourth one smashed since leaving San Francisco. I had been thoroughly subdued by my two days experience with the Iowa gumbo, and I did not swear over this mishap. I was taking everything with becoming humility by this time, and my most fervent hope was simply that it would not rain until I got safely out of the country. Fortunately it had not rained since I left Council Bluffs, and the mud I was encountering was simply that left over from the flooding storms of the previous week. I knew that if it rained before I
Stoddart Hotel, c.1905
Marshalltown, IA
got out of the region I would be laid up for days, for the roads get so bad during a rain that horses cannot make their way along them. Horses have been stuck in the roads out that way so badly that it was necessary to hoist them out with tackle. After my fall I returned to the railroad tracks, determined to take a chance with the section hands in preference to the chances of the road. I had no more difficulty with the railroad men, and eventually reached Marshalltown at 7 p.m. with 71 miles to my credit for the day. By following the railroad tracks I missed passing through Des Moines, which is on a spur of the road down from Ames. At Ames I stopped and got a new screw for my carburetor valve, which was damaged by the same fall that broke my cyclometer. At Marshalltown I registered at a hotel run by a widow and her sons. After supper I gave my belt a lacing and went to bed."


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903

Thursday, June 14, 2018

June 14 - Across America on a Motor Cycle

(Denison to Ogden, IA)

"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. My clothing was drenched with perspiration, and it was hard to decide whether it was easier and cooler walking or riding. I hated the task of dismounting every half mile, walking in the gumbo mud and pulling my feet out at each step as if I was breaking them away from the hold of a rubber rope; yet when I was walking it seemed about as easy to keep at it as to start the motor by running along with it and jumping on, knowing that I was apt to fall immediately, as I did several times because of the ruts, and knowing, also, that if I did not fall as soon as I mounted that I was likely to be compelled to dismount after going 500 yards. One fall that I got through performing this stunt of running with the bicycle and jumping aboard on the rutty road nearly laid me up, I fell and struck my knee so hard that I had to sit down and nurse my strength for a quarter of an hour. My leg was lame for a couple of days. It was all I could do to keep going, and had the blow been a little harder I would have been crippled. It may be tiresome to react about the hard luck passages of my trip, but it is less tiresome than enduring them; arid they all come back to me so vividly that the story would seem incomplete without some of these mishaps. At best, the hard knocks pale in description. and I try to state them mildly. In actual fact, some of them were sources of real agony. It was not a sentimental journey at any stage, nor a humorous one, and often I was too sadly used up to perceive what humor there might have been in a situation, though usually I am not slow in catching any glint of humor there may be abroad. I must have appeared comical at many times, but unfortunately we have not been blessed by the gods with the gift "to see ourselves as others see us," and so missed many a laugh and smile at my own appearance. 

A part of the aggravation of this hot day was due to the remarks of those I met on the road. “What's the trouble?" "Puncture?" "Motor busted, eh?" These were some of the queries and comments I had hurled at me as I floundered along through the mud.  Sometimes the remarks were uttered from sincere solicitude, sometimes from mere curiosity, and occasionally from a desire to ridicule. "Why don't you ride?" was several times asked by persons who really did not understand why a motor bicycle could not go through anything. There is, in fact, a great deal of ignorance still remaining among the farmer folk as to the limitations of a bicycle. They seem sometimes to think that it must be able to skim on the surface of sand and mud, run through water, or on a telegraph wire, or anywhere; yet, on the other hand, there is great incredulity as to the ability of anyone going any great distance. The worst taunt I got while walking and pushing the bicycle came from a grizzled farmer old enough to be more polite to strangers. He called out: "Hey, young fel'! Is it any easier walkin' in that gumbo when yer push one o' them things along-side?"  The paradoxical ideas of the farmers about my bicycle were revealed in the evening when I arrived at a small place called Ogden after covering 76 miles. While I was talking about my trip and telling of the troubles of the daunting journey there were several expressions of disbelief in my story of having come from San Francisco, and I was told that I couldn't get to Chicago with a "little thing like that." At almost the same time a man solemnly asked me why I didn't avoid all the bad going by riding on the steel rail, he having no doubt of the ability of a me to ride right along on a rail without any attachment."



Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 13 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Council Bluffs to Denison, IA)

"I left Council Bluffs at 6:30 a.m. on June 13, and, in spite of what Mr. Smith had told me, I felt glad to know that I had crossed the Missouri, for, with the "Big Muddy" at my back, my journey was two-thirds over. I started on the roadway and followed it nearly 40 miles to Woodbine. The June floods had preceded me surely enough and the roads were so muddy that I could hardly force the bicycle along. I took a snapshot of my bicycle in one place where it
G.Wyman
was kept upright by the mud. Where the roadbed was not muddy it had dried with deep ruts and "thank you, ma'ams" in it. I frequently had to get off and walk for short stretches, wading through the mud or getting over the ruts. I had gone about 10 miles from Council Bluffs, riding and walking alternately, when I got off to foot it past a bad piece, and discovered that the jolting over the rough places had loosened the bundle in which I had my tools and parts and they were all gone. I did not care to leave my bicycle by the roadside for any tramp or small boy who might come along to fool with, so I trundled it along back with me hunting in the mud for my lost tools. I do not believe in profanity, but my unbelief in this respect was greatly helped by the experience. In the course of two miles I recovered everything except the pump connection and a small bundle of battery wire. After regaining my tools and starting to ride again I had not gone a mile before I ran into a rut and the machine slewed and hurled me into a slough of mud about 10 feet away. The mud along that part of the world is of the gumbo variety, that sticks like glue when it is moist and dries as hard and solid as bricks. I held quite a good sized tract of Iowa real estate when I arose, but I reflected that it was better to have landed in a soft spot than it would have been to have struck a place where the flinty ruts were sticking up five inches like cleavers with ragged edges. This philosophical reflection served to modify my exclamations at the time, and I went on carrying the mud as a badge of membership in the grand order of hoboes, to which I felt at this time that I belonged. Nor was the mud, both wet and dry, the sum of my troubles. It was a rolling country, with plenty of farms about. Through which I was traveling, and I met quite a number of wagons. Motor vehicles of any sort are not common enough thereabouts as yet for the horses to be unafraid of them. Eight out of ten horses I met wanted to climb a telegraph pole or leap the fence at the sight and sound of my harmless little vehicle, and the farmers used language that would make a pirate blush. I was frankly expecting any one of them to pull a gun and take a shot at me during all my 40 miles on the road that forenoon.


One experience of the road that day, in which I tried to play the part of a gallant, mud-covered though I was, but succeeded only in becoming unpopular and ridiculous, occurred when I met a buggy containing a couple of maiden ladies past the boom of youth. At an eighth of a mile away or more, the animal they were driving began to cavort and show insane alarm. The women screamed, and I dismounted as quickly as I could, and laid the bicycle down in the gully at the roadside. One of the women got out and tried to lead the animal. He did not lead very well, either, and I approached, intending to take him by the bridle, quiet him and then let the lady return to the seat and remain there while I led the refractory brute. Usually I get along well with horses, but this one went crazy when I got near him. He acted like a rocking horse, standing first on his hind legs and then on his front ones, and kicking out in the rear to the accompanying screams of the women. I supposed I smelled motory or looked it. At any rate, he would not be quiet as long as I tried to hold him, and I had to shamefacedly retire from view and let the spinster return to his head. I felt foolish, and must have looked it, for the woman in the carriage glared at me with manifest contempt and indignation while her partner in single blessedness led their good steed forward. The beast did a hornpipe as he passed the place where my bicycle lay in the gully, and the last I saw of him he was ambling along and shying every 10 yards after both women were again in the buggy. I started on my journey again, wondering if they bred fool horses especially for old maids in that region.


G.Wyman
About 20 miles from Omaha, at Lovelands, I took a picture of an orchard and field still under water from the rains. This was not the only place of the sort by a great deal, but it gives an idea of how the country suffered and how I suffered. At Woodbine I concluded to take to the railroad tracks to escape the affectionate hugging of the gumbo mud and the objurgations (sic) of the farmers, a number of whom told me I "ought to keep that thing off the road altogether." I went on the tracks of the Northwestern, and had not ridden far before I was ordered off by a section boss. This was the first time this thing happened to me, but it was not the last time. The railroad waves in and between the bluffs there, so that there is hardly a straightaway stretch a hundred yards long, and It is because of the danger due to the many sharp curves that no one is allowed on the tracks. After making a detour through the fields, I returned to the tracks, but I was chased off a second time, and then I shifted my route over to the tracks of the Illinois Central about 50 feet the other side of the Northwestern rails, and I had no more trouble with the section bosses. I reached Denison at 8 p.m., after covering only 75 miles in 13½ hours. I found a comfortable commercial hotel, with modern improvements, at Denison, and had It not been for the roads I would have thought I was well out of the wilderness. I had to have my driving belt sewed again that night, and it was midnight before I went to bed."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

June 12 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Omaha, NE to Council Bluffs, IA)

"Although it was evening when I reached Omaha, Nebraska, on June 11, I at once hunted up the largest bicycle store and repair shop I could find in the city - that of Louis Flescher, 1622 Capitol Avenue - and began putting my machine in trim for the last 1,600 miles of my trip. I found that six new spokes were needed, and, after putting them in and truing up the wheels, I put on a new belt rim to replace the old one, which had been literally chewed up by the rocks along the road. It looked, in fact, as if it might have been a rail on the manger of a cribbing horse. Also, I put on the second one of the pair of tires that I got at Ogden and soldered up a small leak in the gasoline tank. Knowing that from that time on I would be able to get almost anything I needed, I decided to remove my carrier, with its extra gasoline tank and tools, and ship them to Chicago. I kept only a pump, a tire repair outfit, a wrench, a spark plug and my lubricating oil. All this was not done at night. It took me until 1:30 o'clock the next day to finish my work, and then I had lunch.

It was three o'clock on June 12 when I left Omaha. The streets of that city are fine, many of them having vitrified brick pavement. It might have been all imagination, or the exhilaration I felt at leaving the deserts and the Rockies behind me, but the bicycle seemed to skim the earth like a swallow as I started for the steel bridge across the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, Iowa. The carrier and its freight made the load lighter, and the fine pavement had much to do with it, but the difference seemed greater than could be accounted for by these things. At the time it seemed to me as if I was having the finest ride of my lifetime. Unwitting I cheated the toll collector at the bridge and crossed over into Iowa without paying anything. I was going at a smart pace when I reached the bridge and had gone along on it some distance when I heard a man shouting to me. I learned afterward that he was the toll collector. I glanced back and saw him waving his arm excitedly, but at the time I thought he was expostulating because I was riding between the tracks, so I kept on and, as far as l am aware he did not undertake to pursue me or have me stopped. 

At Council Bluffs I made the acquaintance of Mr. Smith, of the Nebraska Cycle Company, who has traveled all over the country. He sent the barometer of my new-born confidence and enthusiasm down. From what he told me of the roads and the condition in which I would find them at that time, after all the rainy weather, I about made up my mind that I would have to ride on the railroad ties all the way to Chicago. Perhaps it was the effect of what he said that led me to explore Council Bluffs to a greater extent than I had any other place through which I passed, though, truth to tell, there was not opportunity for exploring in more than a very few, most of my stops west of Omaha having been at places that could be seen at one glance - "tout ensemble," as the Frenchmen say. The brick pavement of the Council Bluffs streets is superior to anything I ever saw before and I have seen some fine roads in Australia and other countries. It is laid with such scientific method and such consummate art that you might think you were riding on a board floor when rolling over it. 

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."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Through The Valleys Of The Two Great Rivers To Chicago" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, September 1903, Vol 1 No 4
Omaha, NE to Chicago, IL
June 12 to June 19, 1903

Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Columbus to Omaha, NE)

"I left Columbus, Nebraska at 7:40 a.m. My start was later than usual, because I had to wait to get gasolene. They do not keep it in the stores there, but a wagon goes around in the morning to the various houses and supplies what they want for the day. I had to take to the railroad once more from the outset. After going 28 miles over the ties I noticed that the roads looked better, and I rode on them for the rest of the day, stopping at Fremont for dinner and arriving at Omaha at 5:30 p.m.

At Omaha I feel that my self-imposed task was as good as accommodated. The roughest and most trying part of the country has been crossed, and I have traveled more than 2,000 miles of the total distance. I have reached the great waters of the Missouri; the promised land of the East, where I hope to find good roads, lies ahead of me. My anticipations of what lies before me are bright."


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Over the Rockies and the Great Divide to the Prairies" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, August 1903, Vol 1 No 3
Ogden, UT to Omaha, NE
May 28 to June 11, 1903

Sunday, June 10, 2018

June 10 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Kearney to Columbus, NE)

"The roads were still impassible going out of Kearney, and I followed the railroad tracks to Grand Island, and even then I had to walk over several short stretches where it was sandy, and every half mile I had to dismount for the crossing of the wagon road, the highway being in such vile condition that its dirt was piled upon the tracks so that I could not ride through it. In the 11 miles between Grand Island and Chapman, where I stopped for dinner, I broke six spokes. I rode, with the rear wheel thus weakened, over the ties 10 miles to Central City, where I stopped for repairs. 

I left Central City at 4:45, and rode 44 miles to Columbus, arriving there at 8:25 p.m. This made 108 miles for the day and I felt satisfied. On this day again I narrowly escaped being lifted from the roadbed by an engine pilot. It was a fast mail train this time. I was riding along outside the rail, where the space between the rail and edge of the embankment was only six inches, and I could not look around without danger of banging into the rail or slipping over the edge. I did not hear the train until the whistle sounded, when the engine was within 100 feet of me. I just went down that embankment as if I had been pushed."


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Over the Rockies and the Great Divide to the Prairies" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, August 1903, Vol 1 No 3
Ogden, UT to Omaha, NE
May 28 to June 11, 1903

Saturday, June 9, 2018

June 9 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Maxwell to Kerarney, NE)

"I left Maxwell at 7:15 a.m. on June 9, and followed the wagon road for the first eight miles. Then it got so sandy that I took to the railroad. I remained on the tracks for 12 miles, and then tried the road again. After an hour on it, the mud began to be so thick that riding was impossible, and I then returned to the railroad and stuck to it until I reached Lexington, where I had dinner. When I emerged from the dining room it was raining so hard that it would have been folly to have attempted to ride. My batteries required attention, and by chance I met J.S. Bancroft, who has the most complete bicycle and automobile repairing
Looking west, c.1900

station that I saw between Cheyenne and Omaha. Mr. Bancroft stopped when he saw me at work on the batteries and invited me to his store. He is a motor bicycle rider, using a 2 1/2-horsepower Columbia. I lost an afternoon in Lexington, but it stopped raining at 5 p.m., and I went over to the railroad and made a run of 20 miles in an hour and a half to Elm Creek, where I had supper. I was anxious to make all the mileage I could, so after supper I started again, and by 8:20 p.m. I had ridden 16 miles more and was at Kearney, where I put up for the night. I had a fall and broke my ammeter in this last stretch. I had the same experience with my watch back in Nevada. A note in my diary, made at Kearney reads:


'There are some of the greatest pace followers of their size in the world in this region. A bunch tacked on to me back at Ogallala, and for two days I have been unable to shake them. It looks as if they will stay with me all the way into New York. The natives call them gnats. They bite like hornets.' "


Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Over the Rockies and the Great Divide to the Prairies" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, August 1903, Vol 1 No 3
Ogden, UT to Omaha, NE
May 28 to June 11, 1903

Friday, June 8, 2018

June 8 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Ogallala to Maxwell, NE)

c.1900
"It is now the time of the heavy rains, cloudbursts and freshets that devastated so much of the Western country during the month of June. It is my luck to be right in the particular great basin where the waters flow most copiously. At Ogallala, Nebraska, I was told that there had been nothing but rain there for the last two weeks. The roads were in terrible condition, I know, when I left there at 6:45 o'clock, on the morning of June 8. After 10 miles of heavy going through the mud, I struck sand, and then took to the railroad track once more. After going six miles over the ties it began to rain so hard that I had to get off and walk three miles to the station at Paxton. There I waited for three hours until it stopped raining, and set out again at 12:30 o'clock. From there it is just 31 miles to North Platte, and as the sun had come out, I returned to the road. I found it good in places and sandy in spots. There was one stretch, two miles long, so sandy that I had to walk it. It was like being back again in the deserts. I got gasoline at North Platte and pushed on 16 miles to Maxwell, which made 70 miles for the day's travel.

Maxwell is a little bit of a place, and I had to take accommodation in a room that had three beds in it. A couple of surveyors were in one of the other beds, and at midnight, a commercial traveler was ushered in and given the third bed. I was fortunate in having a bed to myself at all the small places, for "doubling up" is quite the common thing where accommodations are limited. One more cyclometer was sacrificed on the ride from Ogallala to Maxwell, snapped off when I had a fall on the road. I do not mention falls, as a rule, as it would make the story one long monotony of falling off and getting on again. Ruts, sand, sticks, stones and mud, all threw me dozens of times. Somewhere in Emerson I remember a passage about the strenuous soul who is indomitable and "the more falls he gets moves faster on." I would like to see me try that across the Rockies. I didn't move faster after my falls. The stones out that way are hard."



Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Over the Rockies and the Great Divide to the Prairies" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, August 1903, Vol 1 No 3
Ogden, UT to Omaha, NE
May 28 to June 11, 1903

Thursday, June 7, 2018

June 7 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Kimball to Ogallala, NE)

"On Sunday morning, June 7, I left Kimball, Nebraska, and made the biggest
G.Wyman
day's run that I scored west of the Mississippi. It is a fine, grain-growing country that I rode through from Kimball, which is a prosperous town. For the first 12 miles the country was rolling and the roads sandy. After that I found good hard roads all the way to Sidney, 35 miles from Kimball, and I made it in just three hours, reaching Sidney at 10:15. When I rode into the place, which is a division town, I passed as tough a bunch of citizens as I met all through 
the West. They were young fellows loafing on a corner, and they tossed all manner of taunting comment at me, as if inviting trouble. I kept on my way without replying, which was wise, but not easy to do. After getting some gasolene(sic), I left at 10:30, and had no trouble making Chappell at 12:15, where I had dinner. 


G.Wyman
I started again at 1:07 p.m., and quickly found that the good road was at an end. It became so bad, in fact, that I took to the railroad and rode the ties most of the way into Ogallala, 114 miles from Kimball. Of this distance I made the first 65 miles in five hours, and had I had as good going in the afternoon as I had in the morning, I would have made 140 miles. It began to rain shortly before I got to Ogallala, and I had to pedal over the last 15 miles. Of the 114 miles I made this day, 46 were ridden in the State of Colorado, for the railroad and road both put in a bend from Chappell southward to get to the South Platte River at Julesburg, Colorado and then the road follows the river valley back again into Nebraska; so that 46 miles was all of Colorado I saw. I found one good stretch of road five miles long in the 46 and this was a relief from the railroad ties so I blessed it and took a snapshot of it for a Colorado souvenir. Ogallala is only a "little jerkwater station," as they say in this country, but it was nightfall when I reached there, and it was raining hard, so I put up there for the night."



Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Over the Rockies and the Great Divide to the Prairies" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, August 1903, Vol 1 No 3
Ogden, UT to Omaha, NE
May 28 to June 11, 1903

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

June 6 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Cheyenne, WY to Kimbell, NE)

"It was raining a little when I left Cheyenne, and the roads were too heavy to ride. I took to the railroad again, and the railroad ties were not much better than the road. For 43 miles I had to pedal. If you ever went for a ride on a tandem and took your best girl, or some other fellow's best girl, and she was a heavyweight, and about 30 miles from home she gave out and you had to do all the pushing to get home, you have a slight idea how I felt pushing the motor over the railroad ties. I got to Egbert at 12:45 and had dinner at the section house there. It is downhill all the way now. I have turned my back upon the Rockies and their grandeur and am nearing the great prairie lands. I can see Elk Mountain, which, with its snow-capped peak is a landmark for hundreds of miles around and in spite of the troubles I have had in the rocky country, I feel somewhat regretful at leaving it. I do not know what troubles the prairies hold for me, and I shall miss the inspiration of the mountain air, the gorgeous view, and the coyotes and the glimpses of antelope that I caught a couple of times back near Laramie. One new sight I do have is that of prairie dogs, and as they sit beside their holes and yelp at me I take several pot shots at them. They dodge into their burrows so quickly that you cannot tell whether you hit them or not: even when shot through the head or heart these creatures dodge into their holes to die. It began to rain when I had gone a mile and a half from the station house, and, remembering my last experience with the rain and the gumbo mud, I turned back and waited at the telegraph operating room until the middle of the afternoon, when the rain slackened. I got to Pine Bluffs on the state line between Wyoming and Nebraska, at 4:40 p.m. To furnish an idea of how rapidly I have come down it may be mentioned that at Pine Bluffs the elevation is 5,038 feet, and this is only 90 miles from the summit, where the elevation is 8,590 feet, a drop of 3,500 feet in less than 100 miles.

During my first few miles of travel in the state of Nebraska I was nearly killed by a freight train. l was riding alongside the track, close to the outer rail, where the dirt over the ties is level, and a strong wind was blowing in my face, so that I did not hear the rumble of the train. Suddenly I heard the loud shriek of the whistle right in my ears. I looked back and the train was not more than 10 yards away. I just had time to shoot down the embankment, which, luckily, was only about four feet high at that place when the train ran past me. As it was, the engineer had whistled "down brakes" and was scared himself. It is fortunate that I was not riding between the tracks at the time, or I would have surely had to sacrifice my bicycle to escape with my life. If it had been a fast passenger train and got that close to me, it would have hit me before I got out of the way. This was worse than the mountains, for nothing that happened there came so near to causing heart failure. I got to Kimball, 65 miles from Cheyenne at 6:50 p.m. They told me there that the roads are good when it is not raining. I had to take their word for it, and conclude that I still carry some sort of a hoodoo with me, in spite of having shed my fancy waistcoat, for when I get into a region of good roads it rains and spoils them, and when it doesn't rain I am in a district where the roads are never good."

Across America on a Motor Bicycle - "Over the Rockies and the Great Divide to the Prairies" by George A. Wyman, The Motorcycle Magazine, August 1903, Vol 1 No 3
Ogden, UT to Omaha, NE
May 28 to June 11, 1903