american journeys   


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

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 Day 17, June 9
 Mishawaka, Indiana to Valparaiso, Indiana.  56  miles, 7 hours
Thursday morning dawned foggy and muggy but we push out at 8:30 a.m., and make South Bend. New Carlisle is reached by dinner time and we push on to LaPorte. This is a fine little city, paved streets, nicely laid out and very pleasant. Westville appears at 5 p.m. We clean up our horse and taking supper run to Valparaiso. We have passed great fields of wheat, growing corn and potatoes during the past few days and not many fine farms, coming in contact with very fine people at every point. But for nice improved farms, well fenced, and stocked, none in this section can compare with those we passed in Cayuga and Orleans counties, New York. The roads here are equally as lacking in comparison. A good road is very generally a harbinger of fine farms and an excellent manager at the helm.

 
Day 18, June 10
 Valparaiso, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois.  49 miles, 10 hours
Friday is another sandy day. It took us five mortal hours to reach Hobart 12 miles away, and we walked every step of the way - with a meager few exceptions. For 34 miles southeast of Chicago there lies the finest sandy desert on the face of the globe. Sand of all sizes, colors and consistencies. Sand in banks, in pools and in avalanches. Sand o’er which riding is a torture and walking is absolute agony. But six miles from South Chicago we struck a hard road at 7:40 p.m. Lake Michigan, ablaze with lights from Chicago on the left, a cool breeze to fan the cyclist’s heated brow, and the soft mellow glow of a fading sunset all lend their charms to enchant the heart of the weary dust laden tourist. Reaching the heart of the city, over avenue and boulevard, smooth as glass and hard as adamant, lined with parks and elegant floral banks, I put up at the Windsor hotel and immediately turned in.

 
 Day 19, June 11
Chicago, Illinois
Out next morning with the lark, a stroll around the block and breakfast renews the normal shape of your cyclist and prepares us for the ordeal of hand-doing Porkopolis. We go through a pile of accumulated mail, meet C. T. Gray, of East Springfield, (N.Y.) our contemplated companion hence-forward, and do up the Porkopolis in general. First we met Mr. N. N. Hadley, whose [bicycle] passage thro’ Herkimer from Brattleboro, Vermont, to this place was chronicled in a recent issue of the Democrat and are introduced to several jolly wheelmen. Hence we are wheeled around the madly rushing, pushing and rollicking city, thro’ its noise and bustle and confusion to one of the finest parks and avenues imaginable. Here base ball of the championship order is digested, and some of another ship. Only sixty-three games were played in the city Saturday, so we were not wanting in that respect. The evening was devoted to sight-seeing, museum, investigating, cycloramas of historical battles, theatres, etc. We had the pleasure of shaking hands with Mr. Harvey D. Colvin, an old Herkimer county boy, and ex-president of the United States Express Company. In the sporting world, Mr. A. G. Spalding gave us a welcome grip. 
 Day 20, June 12
Chicago, Illinois
Sunday we devoted to church-going and meeting some hundred cycling gents, as well as a pleasure ride down Drexel and Grand boulevards, and yachting on Lake Michigan. All these, of course, are tame as compared to some of the greater points in Chicago, but we were well satisfied in baking under the glamour of the lesser lights.

 
 Day 21, June 13
 Chicago, Illinois to Downers Grove, Illinois.  28 miles, 4 hours
At 3 p.m. we saddled our Expert and rode westward out the great wicked city, which true to say we were not reluctant to do. With all its gaiety and grandeur, its beauty and its magnificence, its wealth of sights and scenery, its volumes of smoke and soot, its whirl of fashion and festivity, its miles of plazas and parks, Chicago possesses no charms for such as I. A run and LaGrange was passed at 6 o’clock, together with dinner. Nine miles more and we stopped at Downers Grove for the night. (Although not mentioned in newspaper accounts, Nellis and Theron Gray left Chicago together.  They separated near Davenport, Iowa on Day 24 since Nellis wished to travel faster.)

 
 Day 22, June 14
 Downers Grove, Illinois to near Mendota, Illinois.  65 miles, 10˝ hours
At 5:30 Tuesday morning we were out kicking off miles by the still small light of the morning sun. Three o’clock we were taken in tow by a brother ‘cyclist Mr. H. W. Gardenier of Rockford, Illinois, who ran against us in the jovial style peculiar to our craft, and in forty minutes we were eating ice cream at Somonauk. Here we parted. A fruitless attempt was made to catch Mendota but we only caught a farm house four miles out and launched our crafts and our nose in a bowl of genuine old fashioned milk. The farmer was a jolly cove and made our short sojourn with him very pleasant. A good lodging and breakfast – gratis.

 
 Day 23, June 15
 Near Mendota, Illinois to Annawan, Illinois.  69 miles, 9˝ hours
“Hey, boys! Hey! Five o’clock and time to git eout.” I was down and loading up with a genuine old – fashioned breakfast. About 6:30 we sprang in the saddle, and pushed slowly over some terrible rough roads to Mendota. Rushed on to Dover for dinner. Passed Princeton and Wyanet, reaching Sheffield for supper at 5:30, Annawan completed the days run at 8:15. Annawan has a local reputation for their beautiful art, and art is a female with its citizens. So we found it, both the reputation and the girls. Four of them escorted us out Thursday morning.

 
 Day 24, June 16
 Annawan, Illinois to Davenport, Iowa .  46 miles, 7 hours
With light hearts we embarked Thursday morning at seven o’clock, and pulled into Atkinson, six miles, one hour. Fair sailing accompanied the journey to Geneseo. Pushing out, five miles beyond we struck a bad road. This gradually grew worse, then horrible. Reader have you ever mounted a sandy hill one mile long, and no side path, you will know exactly our bill of fare that day. Ye gods! We left Colona at 3:30 with the sun scorching our top knot and indulged in a ferry across the Green river and a weary tug of eleven miles to Moline and spent one hour for tea. Thirty minutes later we were in Rock Island digesting a big morsel of mail. A trip down Government Island, with its vast aggregation of armored and naval manufactories, arsenals, magazine, yards, parks, etc., is one of the most delightful things we absorbed at Rock Island. Spell bound we were soon gazing upon that great and majestic stream first discovered by DeSoto [Mississippi River]. We wheel over the long suspension bridge to Davenport, and put up at the St. James Hotel, directly on the river front. The 196 miles from Chicago here were made in less than three days running time. Characteristic with the appearance of this section, its inhabitants cannot be excelled in the way of hospitality or generosity in our eastern land.

 
Day 25, June 17
Davenport, Iowa to Iowa City, Iowa .  71 miles, 10 hours
At 5 o’clock Friday morning we shook the dust of Davenport, the Dutch city of Iowa, from our heels and lit out for Blue Grass for breakfast. Fifteen miles of fair roads and Sweetland Center was passed. Muscatine coming into view one hour later. Here we take dinner and meet several jolly cyclists, among whom F. W. Grosheim, comes in for a big share of our praise. With him we wheel out of Muscatine at 2:30, and reach West Liberty at six p.m. Putting up at the National Hotel
we partake of as fine a repast as an epicure could desire. At seven o’clock accompanied by Lew Dumar, a new acquaintance, we ride away to Iowa City. The Saint James harbors us overnight, and we turn in at ten o’clock.



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