Saturday, June 3, 2023

June 4 - Across America on a Motor Cycle

(Laramie to Cheyenne, WY)

"Up in the air was the program from Laramie - almost straight up it seemed to me at times, so steep was the road. They told me in the town that by leaving the railroad and taking the road over the ridge I would save 20 miles. Maybe I did. I went over the "ridge" anyway. I climbed steadily for 8 miles, and when I reached the summit I was at the highest point I touched in my entire trip, and higher up than I ever was in my life before. The altitude at the top is 8,590 feet. Going up I followed a narrow trail full of stones and sharp twists around boulders and the best guide I had to keep from going wrong was the hoof-prints of the presidential party that had gone over the summit the day before. It would have been easy to have lost the trail had it not been for the hoof-prints, but I followed them and knew that I was right, for the President's party had a guide. At the summit is a flagstaff, put there by a survey party I believe, and someone in the Presidential party had hoisted a handkerchief on it the day before, so I took a snapshot of it. Then, before I left I rested myself by putting this inscription on the pole: "G.A. Wyman, June 4, 1903, 11:30a.m. - First motorcyclist to cross the Rockies, going from San Francisco to New York."

While I was on this summit, it clouded up and began to thunder ominously. I had no more than started on the descent than it began to rain in torrents. The water just dropped from the clouds as if they were great lakes with the bottoms dropping out. In one minute I looked as if I had been fished out of a river. There was no place to seek shelter. either(sic), not even a small tree, for the mountaintop is "bald," so I had to keep going. After running down about three miles my belt would not take hold and I had to get off and walk. So long as I was on the ridge where the ground was all rocks it was not so bad, but when I began to get down to the lower-lying land my trouble settled upon me in earnest. Down at the bottom I struck gumbo mud, and it stuck me. Gumbo is the mud they use in plastering the crevices of log louses. It has the consistency of stale mucilage and when dry is as hard as flint. It sticks better than most friends and puts mucilage to shame. When you step in it on a grassy spot and lift your foot the grass comes up by the roots. My wheel stood alone in the gumbo whenever I wanted to rest, and that was pretty often. Every time I shoved the bicycle ahead a length I had to clean the mud off the wheels before they would turn over again. I kept this up until finally I reached a place where I could not move the bicycle another foot. It sunk into the gluey muck so that I could not shove it either forward or backward. I found that it had taken me two hours to travel half a mile, and I could not see New York looming in front of me with any particular prominence. In fact, I could not see a sign of any settlement or human habitation anywhere, and I was in a quandary what to do. I had set out to travel to the Atlantic coast with my motor bicycle, and thus far I had done so, though I had done some walking, I did not like to part with the machine right there, for in the long run, the walking would be worse than the riding. I finally left the bicycle sticking bolt upright in its bed of gumbo mud and set out to find a place where someone lived. This move led me to a pleasant experience, the hospitality of the Wyoming ranchers.

After walking two miles I came to a ranch house, and I was lucky to find it for there is not another house within seven miles. The young man I met there immediately hooked up a team of horses and went back with me and pulled the wheel out of the mudhole. When I got to the house my rescuer, who was R.C. Schrader, of Islaly(sic) Station, Wyoming lent me a hose, and with the aid of a stream of water and a stick, I got the machine fairly clean after an hour of hard work. Mr. Schrader was a hearty host. I had eaten nothing since an early breakfast, and it was then 5 p.m. He made me stop and eat, and then, as I insisted on pushing along, he showed me the way to the railroad track. I was glad to see the ties again. It was about 20 miles to Cheyenne, and I walked most of the way, arriving there at 10:30 p.m. About an hour after I left the Schrader farm it began to rain and kept it up till I was within two miles of Cheyenne. When I reached there I was a sight for men and dogs. I was mud and tatter from head to feet. A colony of tramps would have been justified in repudiating me, for my face had been washed in streaks and the mud remaining on it was arranged as fantastically as the war paint of an Indian buck. My shirt is splashed with mud, too, and I miss my vest because I could remove it and make a better front in the town, I have missed that waistcoat all the afternoon, for there was snow mingled with the rain and I was cold: but I took off he vest, a light, fancy affair, some time before reaching Laramie and threw it away because I took a notion it was a hoodoo.

With my coat torn in several places and one sleeve of it hanging by a thread, my leggings hanging in shreds, no waistcoat on, dripping wet and splashed with mud all over, I checked my bicycle at the baggage room of the railroad station and set out to find a room in Cheyenne. "All full" was the word I got at the first hotel, and at the next it was the same. After I had tried three and been refused, I was satisfied that it was my appearance that was the reason. To make the matter worse, I discovered that my big ".38" revolver had worn a hole in my pocket and was sticking through so that it showed plainly between the torn part of my coat. I must have looked like a "bad man" from the wilds that night, and, realizing this, I made it a point to tell my story In explanation, after I had been refused accommodations at the hotels. After visiting a couple of boarding houses and being turned away I finally found a woman who kept furnished rooms, who eyed me suspiciously and said she had no room, but would fix me up a cot. She listened to my story and finally fixed me up a nice room, and I stayed there two nights. "

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