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