Saturday, June 1, 2019

June 1 - Across America on a Motor Bicycle

(Bitter Creek to Walcott, WY)

"After having breakfast in the boxcar restaurant, I left Bitter Creek for Rawlins. In this stretch, about 20 miles from Bitter Creek, I crossed my third desert, the Red Desert of Wyoming. It takes its name from the soil of calcareous clay that is fiery red, and the only products of which are rocks and
sagebrush, and they will grow anywhere. There is a Red Desert Station on the map, but there is nothing there but a telegraph office, and the same is true of Wamsutter and Creston, the succeeding names on the map. I took a snapshot of the road in the desert near Bitter Creek and wrote on the film: "Who wouldn't leave home for this?" East of Red Desert the road improved considerably, and from Wamsutter to Creston it was really fine.

It was along this fine stretch, just before reaching Creston, that I came to the
Great Divide and took a picture of the signpost, which marks the ridgeline of the great American watershed. Standing there and facing the north, all the streams on your left flow to the west and all those on the right side flow toward the east, the waters of the former eventually finding their way to the Pacific, and the latter to the Mississippi River. This is the backbone of the continent and it is duly impressive to stand there and gaze at the official sign. It does not mark the exact middle of the continent though, as some have mistakenly thought. It is about 1,100 miles east of San Francisco. I had rather expected to find the continental divide, if I did come across it, on the summit of a mountain, in a very rough piece of country, but it is in a broad pass of the Rockies, that seems more like a plain than a mountain, although a commanding view is obtainable from there. To the north are the Green, Febris and Seminole chains of mountains, and further, in the northwest is the Wind River range, and beyond that again the Shoshone range, while to the south are the Sierra Madres, all escalloping the horizon with their rugged peaks, here green, there shrouded in a purplish veil, and far away showing only a hazy gray of outline. One realizes that he is in the Rockies positively enough.


From Creston to Rawlins there is nearly 30 miles of downgrade, and, as it is a fairly good highway of gravel, I made lively time over it. After leaving Creston there come Cherokee and Daly's ranch before you get to Rawlins, and it was between these places, both mere railroad points, that I got the picture of the abandoned prairie schooner that was printed in Motorcycle Magazine. Rawlins, where I stopped only for gasoline, is a town of some size, having more than 2,000 population. From there the country becomes rolling again, and after passing Fort Fred Steele, I began to ascend once more. It is a great sheep ranch country all through here now from Rawlins. At Fort Steele there is nothing left but the ruins of abandoned houses. I now follow the old immigrant trail that winds across the River Platte, and am fast approaching the Laramie Plains, over which my route lies to the Laramie Mountains. Beyond Fort Steele I enter White Horse Canyon, which got its name, so the story goes, from an Englishman, one of the sort known in the West as "remittance men," who drank too much "Old Scratch," and, mounted on a white horse, rode over the precipice and landed on the rocks 200 feet below.

At 6:10 p.m. I reached Walcott, a "jerkwater" settlement, composed of two saloons, a store and a railroad station. It is made important, though, by the fact that two stage lines come in there. The hotels at places of the sort are generally clean, and they are kept more-or-less peaceable by the policy of reserving an out-building for the slumbers of the "drunks," so I concluded to tarry. I found some interest in automobiles here, and, after inspecting my machine, the natives fell to discussing the feasibility of running automobiles on the stage lines, instead of the old Concord coaches, drawn by six horses, that are now used. One of the stage drivers said that if anyone would build an automobile that would carry 12 or 14 persons and run through sand six inches deep. He would pay from $3,000 to $5,000 for it. I told him to wait awhile. After supper I mended my broken spokes with telegraph wire, and entertained quite a group of spectators, who watched the job with open curiosity. I find a variable reception in this country to my statement that I have journeyed from San Francisco, and am bound for New York. A great many do not believe me, and smile as if amused by an impromptu yarn. There is another class, though, that of the old settlers, the real mountaineers who have had adventures of all sorts in the mountains and the wilderness. These men are surprised at nothing, and they rather nettle me by accepting me and my motor bicycle and my statement with utmost stolidity as if the feat was commonplace. For awhile I thought that this class, too, were unbelievers, but later I learned that as a rule they are the only ones who do believe me, because they are men who believe anything possible in the way of overland journeying."

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

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