american journeys   


To The Golden Gate
George Nellis' 1887 Wheel Across The Continent

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 Day 62, July 24
 Beowawe, Nevada to Battle Mountain, Nevada. 35 miles, 5 ˝ hours
We concluded to take a 35 mile jump to Battle Mountain to partially relieve the monotony. It was an effective remedy, I assure you. Five miles from Beowawe, as we were wheeling over the ties at a fairly rattling pace, a big zephyr suddenly came along and blowed us gently from the saddle. The rest of the journey we made on foot, and entered Battle Mountain at 6 p.m. Here we put up at the Exchange Hotel and meet a very pleasant mountaineer in the person of a Mr. A. G. Higbie, one of the owners and managers of the Blanco Gold Mines, situated about 12 miles west, and in the hills. Mr. Higbie proved a genuine specimen of the rough, hearty and jolly mountaineer, and served to make our stop at the American Exchange hotel a very pleasant one.
Day 63, July 25
 Battle Mountain, Nevada to Golconda, Nevada. 48 miles, 6 hours
Monday morning we set out at 7 o’clock, and walked 20 miles to Stone house by 12 o’clock. Dinner was secured here, and did we say dinner? Hardly. We have not reached that stage of starvation circles where we can conscientiously classify two biscuits, an onion, and half a dozen crackers as “dinner,” but on this occasion it had to answer the purpose. On we went to Irion Point, 13 miles more of the tramp act and continued the business another 13 miles to Golconda.

 
 Day 64, July 26
Golconda, Nevada to Humboldt, Nevada. 57 miles, 11 hours
A walk of 18 miles in the morning to Winnemucca. But after a bread and milk dinner we set out for better going. Pass Rose Creek, Rasberry Creek, and take supper at Mill City. We push on, walking and riding at intervals and pull up at Humboldt at 9 p.m. A hotel is met here, but God pity the unfortunate traveler who falls into its meshes. Three-dollar-a-day fourth class shebang it is, and the proprietor is noted for nothing save his thirst for ducats. Six bits for supper, six bits for lodging, six bits for breakfast, is the tune we danced to.

 
 Day 65, July 27
Humboldt, Nevada to Wyllis Ranch, Nevada. 58 miles, 12 ˝ hours
At 6 a.m. we are in the saddle and away to Rye Patch. Pass Oreana and stop with a farmer, an actual farmer, for dinner. It was a fact, here in this remote, desert country we had found an oasis, so to speak, and for perhaps twenty miles a fertile area, capable of producing all agricultural products common to the Pacific, was situated, surrounded on all sides by bare and bleak mountains. How was it done? By irrigation. Water was conducted in trenches all over these acres and its life-giving properties rendered the cultivation of corn, wheat, rye, oats, potatoes, etc., a great success. We ride to Lovelock, passing fields of ripening grain, and acres of fertile ground on either hand. Hay-making was just in progress here and the scent of new mown hay, we can tell you, was a welcome relief to the dry alkaline, parched and burnt air, which had infested our nostrils so long. Pushing on we get to Granite Point and mirage, where desolation reigned supreme once more. From here to Wyllis’ Ranch, a salt manufacturing concern, we hoof it and pull up at 8:30. The proprietor of the salt works we find to be a pleasant, social ex-Massachusetts man of many good qualities. The freedom of his bed and board was readily extended to us.

 
 Day 66, July 28
 Wyllis Ranch, Nevada to Reno, Nevada. 52 miles, 10 hours
Thursday morning we are possessed of a strong desire to sleep in Reno, and set out at 6 a.m., without breakfast. We walk to Hot Springs, and hastily bolting a lot of substantials for the inner gentleman, capture Desert at 9:30. This place is well named. It is a section house, and is not only in the midst of a desert, but it is also deserted as well. A walk of 9 miles and we reach Wadsworth, taking dinner. At 3 p.m. we have the satisfaction of riding past Clark’s and stay in the saddle, meeting good roads for 12 miles further to Vista. It is 5:30, and we are terribly hungry, so repairing to a near by farm house, met with a warm reception and a big bowl of bread and milk, appreciating both at the same time. Mrs. McCarron is the name of our kind-hearted benefactor, and in vain we offer pay for our lunch. Oh, how she reminded me of home and mother. Living here 9 years she and her kindly husband have cleared and cultivated a fine little farm, many of which we have seen along the Truckee River since leaving Wadsworth. The valley of the river, perhaps half a mile wide on an average, is fertile and green, but on either side the mountains rise bare and brown. We are off on an 8-mile fly to Reno. This was virtually the finest road this side of Nebraska. Our gallant steed, so long retarded by sand and railroad ties sprang forward like a shot, and responding to the pressure of an energetic pedal, once more infused with life and activity, we are bowling over a built-up, hard gravel road, past fields of grain, thrifty farms and their white-coated houses, commodious barns and droves of horses and cattle, on toward the distant Sierras, which loom up grand and appalling in the distance. We were at Reno at last, thank God, and with that was forever left behind the great American desert. Stabling our wheel at the Palace hotel, we are soon in the midst of a pile of letters and papers from home. To me it has been one of the greatest pleasures of this trip, and long and anxiously have I yearned for the appearance of a place where such a boon was awaiting me. If ever another such journey is made it will be careful to arrange my “mail stations” at least two hundred miles apart instead of about 500 as was the case on this trip.

 
 Day 67, July 29
 Reno, Nevada
Friday we devote to a trip down to Lake Tahoe by rail and stage. This inland body of water is perhaps one of the most picturesque lakes in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and is the objective point for vast numbers of tourists daily. An abundance of pleasure resorts abound every where in the vicinity, and numerous large hotels give ample accommodations to visitors. A sail on the steamer Tom Goodwin gives one a fair idea of Tahoe and its many beautiful attractions, as well as a fine view of the magnificent scenery surrounding its placid depths. Reluctantly we leave Tahoe and return to the city [Reno].

 
 Day 68, July 30
 Reno, Nevada to ?, California. 56 miles, 10 ˝ hours
[There is no known narrative for this day.]

 
 Day 69, July 31
 ?, California to Colfax, California. 64 miles, 8 ˝ hours
[There is no known narrative for these two days. One of the Herkimer newspapers acknowledged receiving an account for this period that they did not print, for unspecified reasons. The mileage and hour data for these days is taken from a chart prepared by Nellis at the conclusion his journey. It is likely that after leaving Reno, Nellis passed through Verdi, Nevada and followed the Truckee River toward Donner Lake, Summit, Dutch Flat, Cape Horn, and Gold Run to reach Colfax. Although going in the opposite direction, Thomas Stevens, used this route to pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1884. George must have found the view from Cape Horn as spectacular as Stevens’ description. “For scenery that is magnificently grand and picturesque the view from where the railroad track curves around Cape Horn is probably without peer on the American continent. Standing on this ledge, the rocks tower skyward on one side of the track so close as almost to touch the passing train. One the other side is a sheer precipice of two thousand five hundred feet, where one can stand on the edge and see, far below, the north fork of the American River, which looks like a thread of silver laid along the narrow valley. It sends up a far-away, scarcely perceptible roar as it rushed and rumbles along over its rocky bed.”]

 
Day 70, August 1
Colfax, California to Sacramento, California. 56 miles, 8 hours
Another of those fine days so characteristic of California climate greeted your ‘cycler, as mounting the ever ready Expert on Monday, we were away down the mountain on our swiftly ending course to the Golden Gate. Three inches of yellow dust covered the roadway which wound up and down the mountain side to Clipper Gap. The railroad track was decidedly the best – most level at least – but we kept heroically pegging away, just for the novelty of the thing, and we were struck by several luscious looking peach orchards which bordered the way. We learn that we are now in the center of one of the most prolific fruit belts of the state. Well, we lived in clover all thro’ this section. We took dinner at Rocklin, but could do but half justice to the bill of fare, owing to such hearty inroads in the fruit business. From this point the roads began to grow worse and the next seven miles to the junction ended in a substance very near sand. The main thoroughfare, leading directly into Sacramento, the far-famed capital of the Golden State, was so inexpressibly bad that it could not be called a road by any sane course of logic. The road bed, bad at any rate, was covered by a foot or two of loose straw, through which the heavy draft wagons had worn two deep ruts, and packed it partially down, make a road such as has never before been seen by mortal man. It was only 4 p.m. when we were registered at the Great Western, but concluded to tarry over night.
 

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