Thursday, June 13, 2019

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
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.

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