american journeys   


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

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 Day 35, June 27
 Fremont, Nebraska to Silver Creeek, Nebraska. 67 miles, 10 hours
From Fremont we were destined to meet the most expeditious travel on our trip, tho’ one could hardly believe it. All day we were cheered on by level, hard roads, which with few exceptions, are the predominating highways thro’ out the entire state.

 
Day 36, June 28
 Silver Creek, Nebraska to Shelton, Nebraska. 71 miles, 11 hours
Tuesday proved even more propitious, and 71 miles were added to the record. Chapman is a city of some 5,000 inhabitants, pleasantly located, and contains a fine class of people. A half hour is whiled away in an ice cream saloon. Halted at Shelton. Some faint recollections yet linger about this halting place. Here we were compelled to bunk on the floor on a pallet.

 
 Day 37, June 29
Shelton, Nebraska to Gothenburg, Nebraska. 88 miles, 10 hours
Wednesday turned out to be the red letter day of our trip, and bids fair to remain so, unless California hustles out some extraordinary fine roads. Starting out at 7:30 a.m., we passed thro’ Gibbon, Buda, stopped an hour at Kearney one of the finest places yet encountered in the west. Here we are again taken in tow and shown around the precincts of a future American metropolis. Mr. A. E. Atkins, a spirited citizen and extensive land agent, spends a half hour in expatiating upon the wealth and beauty of his favorite hobby, and presents some very strong facts to show why Kearney is destined to be the future commercial and business center of central Nebraska. It is a town of 5,000 inhabitants, surrounded by some of the most fertile soil in the La Platte valley and possessing many natural advantages not found elsewhere. In addition, a canal 16 miles long supplies abundant water for manufacturing purposes and furnishes the stimulus to Kearney Lake, a fine sheet of water one-half mile from the city. All in all, Kearney is about as attractive a spot yet to be found west of the Missouri, and we believe a bright future is in store for the place. From there to Odessa, Elm Creek, Overton, Plum Creek, Cozad and finally landed in Gothenburg. About seven o’clock we had our first experience with a rattler. We were riding along nonchalantly when all at once there appeared before our steed in the roadway a streak of green snake [probably not a rattler]. Such as his haste in getting out of our way he didn’t even leave his card and not even a rattle to commemorate the event. We were about to turn in when along comes a fortune teller. Seizing our paw, the swarthy maiden of mystery proceeded to illumine the dark abyss yawning out before us and unravel the countless threads of intricacy woven about the future career of “me and my bi.” We were compelled to bunk in a room with four beds and as many occupants, and every mother’s son of them snored like unto the boss bugler in a brass band.

 
 Day 38, June 30
Gothenburg, Nebraska to Paxton, Nebraska. 76 miles, 12 hours
June 30 was our birthday, and we resolved to do some-thing extraordinary to commemorate the event and make a fit inscription for the milestone of our 22nd anniversary. Starting out at 8 o’clock we cross the Platte river over a bridge one mile long and took a road on the south side, forty-four miles to North Platte. Stopping at the Pacific Hotel we secured the best dinner we had for many a day. Here is the home of “Buffalo Bill,” and other personages of like renown. At three o’clock we mounted our Expert and pointed westward, reaching O’Fallon’s, a section station [on the Union Pacific line]. Here we had supper, and set out for Paxton, the only place where lodgings were obtainable. Four miles through sand and we saw the sun disappear. Darkness settled down upon us six miles from Paxton. Nothing to do but take the railroad for a five mile trudge to Paxton and a place to lay our weary bones. At ten o’clock we halted before a fourth class hotel. They had no beds and would make us one on the dining room floor.

 
 Day 39, July 1
 Paxton, Nebraska to Denver Junction, Nebraska. 58 miles, 8 hours
Breakfast was the only redeemable feature of that so-called hotel, and we manage to make up at the table what we lost elsewhere. Twenty miles passed and Ogallala was reached at 10:50. Here a stop of two and half hours was necessitated by a ripped bicycle shoe. [Years later Nellis said he had worn out three pairs of shoes on the journey and had worn the bicycle tire down to the rim]. About 3 p.m., we overtook several cowboys in charge of a great herd of cattle, westward bound, and exchanged some kindly greetings. A short distance further and we came upon a patriarchal old bull, of gigantic proportions, tied, as we thought, to a stake in the ground. After eyeing us a moment, he snorted, pawed the ground and came for our vicinity with no friendly intentions. Instead of being fast, the rope was merely tied to a heavy iron, and by extraordinary exertions, his bullship could go where’er he chose. Looking back we saw the cowboys, and mechanically pointed that way, the bull after us pell mell. Great beads of perspiration stood out on our sunburned brow, and excitement lent wings to our flight. Reaching the cowboys we ran around the cattle drove. One of them dismounted and seizing the rope which held the now infuriated bull, he succeeded, by a series of dexterous twirls, in getting it around the animal’s fore leg, and drawing it taut, prevented the circumvented beast from moving a single step. “Now git, youngster, and we’ll keep this critter till you are out of sight.” Did we git! Well, in less time than it takes to tell it we were miles away.

 
 Day 40, July 2
 Denver Junction, Nebraska to Kimball, Nebraska. 82 miles, 10 hours
When we mounted our Expert Saturday morning, at Denver Junction [Julesburg], a tremendous gale came over the hills like an avalanche, and threatened to dislodge our one hundred and forty pounds [decrease of almost ten pounds]. Against this we pedaled on an up grade for fourteen miles to Chappell, and just in time to escape from one of those Nebraska showers which spring up at all hours, and go about as sudden as they come. We wheel into Sidney and take dinner at the Pacific Hotel. On to Kimball over the best road of the day, registering at Hotel Martha at eight o’clock.

 
 Day 41, July 3
 Kimball, Nebraska to Hillsdale, Wyoming. 55 miles, 7 hours
Sunday we resolved to desecrate in an endeavor to reach Cheyenne to spend the glorious 4th. Nine miles of sand cheered us on to the border line of Wyoming territory [Statehood in 1890]. A better road now appeared and we went five miles in no time. Suddenly feeling behind us for our saddle bag, we only felt the place where that useful article usually was. Great Scott! Lost saddle bag and 46 miles from Cheyenne. We were positive that the bag was there at the start. Nothing to do but go back and get it, and we performed the right-about-face tactic with exceedingly bad grace. Long and anxiously did we scan the roadway until just three miles back our optics espied the innocent cause of all our trouble. Well the bag wasn’t to blame. The strap which confined it had worn completely in two, and of course no ordinary bag could stay with nothing to hold on to at the rate we were going. We were doomed to still further persecutions. A run of six miles farther and we struck Egbert. Starting out, a half mile from the station a big rain-storm suddenly put in some more protests against our celebrating the Fourth at Cheyenne and back to Egbert we skidaddled. We took supper at the section house and again embarked for Hillsdale. This distance was made partly riding and partly walking. Here we found a jolly son of Erin all alone, the rest of the family as he said, has gone up Cheyenne to “cellybrate the Fourth.” A big bowl of bread and milk was forthwith laid before me.

 
 Day 42, July 4
 Hillsdale, Wyoming to Cheyenne, Wyoming. 20 miles, 3 hours
I was awakened at five next morning by the smell of coffee, fried eggs, ham and toast. We insisted on his taking four bits and departed. One hour and we were at Archu. Forty-five minutes later we passed Atkins and were at the same time greeted with the far away summits of the Rocky mountains, their snow capped peaks looming up into the clouds about 75 miles away. We now take a coast of eight miles into Cheyenne, pulling up before the Metropolitan hotel at nine o’clock. We saunter out to see a part of the great celebration promised us there. Ye gods! Gentle reader, after all this hurry and trouble was it not outrageous for the first fellow we met to tell us “there was no celebration,” but a church picnic and a juvenile ball game in the city. Returning to the hotel, we write several letters, get a good dinner and then feel better. Several bicycle men then claim our attention and a visit to their handsome club rooms enlivens the dreary aspects of a quiet Fourth of July. Here we found pool and billiard tables, besides other games. A fine reading room, good gymnasium, bath rooms, and in fact a complete ‘cycling paradise. One of our newly made friends was a former Herkimer county boy, hailing from Manheim [near Little Falls, New York]. His father, Stephen Ransom, emigrated to this country in 1855 and has since lived here. In the evening we saw “Janish” at the city opera house, and a fine building it is.

 
Day 43, July 5
Cheyenne, Wyoming to Tie Siding, Wyoming. 44 miles, 6 hours
Tuesday morning we devoted to business and at 12:30 wheeled out of the city on our last 1,000 miles more to the golden gate. From Cheyenne we point westward along the U.P. railroad [Union Pacific] and enter Granite Canyon. This is a lonely though rough and romantic spot, and is only attainable by several miles of tall climbing. Pushing on we stop at Sherman, the highest point on the Union Pacific, for supper. This place is 8,242 feet above the ocean level, and the country for miles around is revealed in an endless succession of rock turreted hills and winding valleys, dotted here and there and everywhere with massive boulders, with an occasional mountain peak standing out like grim sentinels on the lovely landscape. A monument of gigantic proportions is here erected to the memory of General Ames, ex-superintendent of the Union Pacific Railroad. From here we have an easy coast of seven miles to Tie Siding, and put up for the night at a fourth rate hotel. [The name and importance of the town came from the fact that great quantities of railway ties were cut in the forest north of town and transported to the railroad line]

 

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