To The Golden Gate
George Nellis' 1887 Wheel Across The Continent
Leamington, Ontario to Dearborn, Michigan. 45 miles, 7½ hours
Friday morning rain again greeted me, but at 8:45 I pushed out in ankle
mud and wheeled through Ruthven to Olinda, six and one-half miles. At Essex
Center I had dinner, and rode into Windsor at two p.m. Taking passage on the
steamer “Victoria,” I was soon gliding peacefully over to Detroit. On
landing a big fellow waltzed me over to the custom house and went through a
series of evolutions concerning my importation of a Columbia Expert Bicycle.
“Great Scott, man, what in the great name of Jehovah could attempt me to import a Canadian bicycle? Why we can make three American wheels for what it costs to get one in your confounded old Canada.” I hauled papers before that official’s eyes by the score and talked bicycle till his hair stood on end. “That’s enough, get out o’ this with your velocipede, you’re all right.”
Passing through the smoke and turmoil of Detroit, I wheeled to Recreation Park and resolved to take in a ball game between the Chicagos and Detroits of the National League. My card [press] was sufficient to gain admittance, and leaving wheel and baggage in charge of the gate keeper, I proceeded to the reserved grand stand, was ushered in gratis, as usual, and walking up the aisle, took a conspicuous seat amid great applause and clapping of hands. Modestly I arise to acknowledge the honor, when loud cries of “down in front” greeted injured vanity. Looking out, I observed a big fellow in center field making a brilliant catch, and this is the cause of all the racket. Oh, for Jonah’s big whale to swallow me up! The way Clarkson twirled the sphere for the next hour was a caution to stolid Detroiters, but they heeded it not and came out second best.
Leaving the scene of base glory I came in contact with Messrs. Irwin and Gage, of the Detroit Cyclists, and am shown through the halls of wheeling fame. Royal palaces of pleasure these genial boys possess, and with reluctance I wheel out after supper in the company with a half dozen Detroiters to Dearborn, seven miles away. Next morning I attempt to liquidate my lodging with a five dollar Canadian bill – but it won’t pass.
Dearborn, Michigan to Adrian, Michigan. 57 miles, 9 ½ hours
Saturday is warm, yes, in the language of Jericho, it is hot. A few
miles out of Dearborn we passed the Wayne County Poor Asylum and stopped for
a closer look. One superior feature lay in the separation of the insane from
rational patients, male from female, etc., in entirely different buildings.
At Poline we have an ample dinner and push on at 2 p.m. to Macon,
away. Shortly after a school picnic comes into view and we take that
in, of course. About a dozen little girls and half as many boys get up in
succession and with their little piece, while their parents, and cousins and
aunts, sit in the sun and try to look wise. Signs of relief are heard when
the plume and ribbon bedecked school marm announces a retreat for
refreshments. We joined the retreat and took ours with several huge slices
of cake, big bumpers of lemonade, etc. This picnic was a grand success far
as we were concerned. Push on to Tecumseh, 16 miles for supper and with fine
roads before us we bowl away to Adrian. As I ride into town appears a
cluster of prison-like buildings which I afterwards learn is the Adrian
Reform School for Girls. Here our wayward lasses of America are cloistered
and taught to chew gum in the most approved fashion and free from the evils
which surround the inmates of Vassar.
A little inquiry and we are grasping the paw of that prince of good fellows, Irving H. Finch, and receiving a cordial welcome at the same time. Under his direction we are stalled at the Central Hotel, taking a good bath and soon afterward being introduced to the Adrian Bicycle Club. Without exception these Adriance wheelmen are as genial and whole hearted a lot of cyclists as have yet been thrown in our way. They possess a club room replete with all modern appliances for comfort and enjoyment, elegant parlors, etc. [Nellis had met two Adrian wheelmen the preceding year when they stopped in Herkimer while on a ride to New York City].
A run is planned for Sunday afternoon, but rain comes down in torrents
and puts a stop to cycling for that day. Various occupations conspire to
pass the time however. One of the pleasantest and most picturesque
cemeteries extant we saw in Oakwood and a walk thro’ its various paths and
winding avenues was not the least pleasure we participated in. Sunday
evening we had the pleasure of meeting Mr. E. I. Waldby, a native of
Cooperstown, New York [near Herkimer]. Mr. Waldby gave us some exceedingly
interesting accounts of former central New York events.
Adrian, Michigan to Allen, Michigan. 46 miles, 7 ½ hours
Monday morning we pushed out in the mud and endured it for 19 miles to
Hudson, reaching there at 4 p.m. Hardly a bright spot was visible on our
Expert, but a thorough force pump bath and rubbing down restored it to its
native luster, and weight, and we pushed on to Osseo, Hillsdale, and halted
at Allen. Not a bad day’s work after all. But saints preserve us from those
19 miles of mud again. The farmers had just made their annual road
improvements and this accounted for it. They scrape all the gutter mud into
the middle of the road and let it quietly drift back. That is how Michigan
roads are made, when made at all.
Allen, Michigan to Sturgis, Michigan. 43 miles, 6½ hours
Tuesday morning we start out with great promise
of sand - and find it. We reach Quincy and Coldwater. Messrs. Conover, Starr
and Johnson of cycling fame, here claim our attention and are bound to keep
us here over dinner. Why don’t you stop with us a while? was the burden of
their song. At 12:30 we mount and ride away to Matteson and from there to
Bronson. From here we go direct to Sturgis, instead of following the
teachings of our L.A.W. road book and go thro’ Burr Oaks 3 miles further.
This L.A.W. road guide has foolished us on other occasions. At Sturgis we
met very poor hotel accommodations and worse than all the landlord demanded
a fee of $1.50 for lodging and breakfast. Did we settle? Well no, hardly
not. Therefore he came down one-half and was glad to get that.
Sturgis, Michigan to Mishawaka, Indiana. 49 miles, 8 hours
Wednesday, Klinger Lake, White Pigeon and
Mottville are entered and left behind and 22 miles away I cross into
Hoosierdom. Three miles and Bristol, Indiana, captures me for dinner. Sorry,
indeed was the aspect of Bristol’s only hotel. From a mental vision of cold
pork, soggy potatoes, bad coffee and musty bread I was suddenly awakened to
the reality of a dinner fit for an epicure, and that fellow was I. A nicely
broiled steak, mashed potatoes, elegant coffee, milk, lettuce, cabbage,
peas, tomatoes, corn, fine bread, pie, cake and a whole saucer of
strawberries to top off with caught me that time, and more astonishing than
all, twenty-five cents footed the bill. At 1:30 I mounted my Expert and
wheeled south to Elkhart, twelve miles away, over very fine roads. Reach
Osceola, 6 miles further, at 4 o’clock. A big rain stops navigation here and
for a time nearly
paralyzes us. No hotel in the place and six miles to Mishawaka, raining like
blixen – and no prospect of stopping. No supper either so we repair to the
corner grocery. Glory! A stem of bananas. Glorious! Some molasses cookies.
“Cookies 8 cents a dozen, and I’ll give you all the bananas you can eat for
25 cents.” I take six bananas and a dozen cookies. Five minutes later I want
six more bananas and in ten minutes later I want six more bananas. The
proprietor begins to quail, I begin to eat. Bananas are going down fast.
Extraordinary demand and two dozen have been laid away. “Here, take your
quarter and get out of this.” I took pity on the poor fellow and desist. He
won’t pick up any more hungry bicyclists by the wrong ear again, that’s
certain. The rain presently abated and at six o’clock we were able to go
out, two inches of soft mud cover the roadway, but we prefer this to
sleeping out doors, and so run on to Mishawaka. At 7:30 I was ensconced in
the best hotel the place afforded.
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