american journeys   


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

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 Day 44, July 6
 Tie Siding, Wyoming to Eykyn’s Ranch, Wyoming. 48 miles, 7 hours
We start out at 8 a.m., and reach Red Buttes, after a nine miles walk. Nine miles of good roads are passed and we enter Laramie City [Laramie] one hour later. Here we loiter till 12:30, and acting under the advice of local wheelmen desert the railroad and take an overland emigrant trail through the Rockies. This is done partly for adventure, partly for diversion, and partly because it is 20 or 30 miles shorter than the railroad course. Ten miles of good road are passed when we suddenly encounter a rough, stony, unridable road, and eighteen miles out strike Birds Ranch. Our Laramie adviser told us to put up here, but we push on, and seven miles further come to Eykyn’s Ranch [spelled Eyky’s and Eytyn’s in other accounts] and secure a good supper, lodging and breakfast. Our host is a generous-hearted Englishman, and readers, our stay with him was very pleasant. These jolly ranchmen never think of taking pay for these favors and consequently we were so much in pocket.

 
Day 45, July 7
 Eykyn’s Ranch, Wy. to Tatum’s Ranch, Wyoming. 48 miles, 8 ½  hours
A run of 20 miles over pretty rideable roads brings us to Rockdale, a romantic ranch on Rock creek. Here we find a pleasant reception from Mr. and Mrs. Williams, who extended the hearty hand of welcome to their pleasant ranch for dinner. We are shown a fine garden and the creamery department under the sole charge of Mrs. Williams, who makes 100 pounds of butter daily. This product retails readily at 40 cents per pound, and is no small part of the ranchero’s revenue. She is wholly wrapped up in her home and devoted to its interests founded on a life of nine years in the Rocky Mountains. We might also add that Mrs. Williams is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and how she became accustomed to this wild rural region is a miracle to one of our meager comprehension. We set out for Elk Mountain, 16 miles away. The trip was made in three hours, over somewhat improved roads, and pushing on, after wading a foot of water in Medicine Bow creek, we brought up at Tatum’s Ranch. Although given a bunk of blankets on the hard floor of the ranch, we turn in and sleep like a rock till six a.m.


 
 Day 46, July 8
Tatum’s Ranch, Wyoming to Rawlins, Wyoming. 45 miles, 10 hours
Sixteen miles down the gradual winding declivity of Elk Mountain, passing over multitudinous mountain brooks, from whose cool, bubbling, depths we quaffed many a refreshing draught, crossing tiny canyons, and running beneath massive rocks and huge boulders hanging in mid air from the mountain side. We at last emerged upon a level prairie. Securing luncheon at a wayside ranch, pushed on this sand and sage brush to Fort Steele. Crossing the Platte river on the railroad bridge we were soon eating a hearty dinner and congratulating ourself upon once more hearing the rumble of railroad cars and seeing the old familiar telegraph poles. Still we are not sorry we traversed that lonely but
picturesque place, for there are many redeeming features about its meandering path. We are assured it is the first time man and bicycle have braved the wilderness and traversed the route crossed by us from Laramie to Fort Steele. Leaving Fort Steele at 5 o’clock we push on and reach Rawlins at 8 p.m., quite content to secure a good night’s rest in a bed, at the Brunswick hotel.

 
 Day 47, July 9
Rawlins, Wyoming to Latham, Wyoming. 38 miles, 7 hours
We staid at the capital of Carbon county until ten A. M., and while there had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ira Biderman, an old Herkimer County boy born and matured in Mohawk. He came west about 15 years ago. He is now proprietor of a first-class restaurant at Rawlins, and, if report goes for aught, is piling up cords of western wealth for his future welfare. Wheeled out of Rawlins with no prospect of meeting another town for 120 miles. And the intervening territory no better than a deserted wilderness. Way back in the mountains we registered a solemn vow to assassinate the first individual who again advised us to take a mountain path in preference to railroad road. Before we were ten miles out of Rawlins, the impression began to dawn on our bump of wisdom that our jump from mountains to plains was a leap from frying pan to fire. We walked just 34 miles that day, passing thro’ the railroad stations, an occasional depot and one section house. Probably four miles of riding entire and that on the U.P. railroad tracks. The road here was so sandy that it was with difficulty could we even push our wheel walking, and the railroad ties, rough and unballasted, were a parlor carpet compared to the awful road. At Latham we staid at a section house, a place kept for the railroad men, generally four in number who attend to the track for a certain number of miles. These are the only persons to be found in the territory, and with the wife of one of these men, usually the boss of the gang and, the telegraph operator at the stations, who also serves as freight agent, ticket agent, depot master, signal officer, and yard brakeman comprise the total population of any one station on the Railroad between Rawlins and Rock Springs. This, too in a section of country bare and bleak as the desert of Sahara where nothing will grow but paltry shriveled bunches of sage brush, where no animal life can live but gophers, chipmunks and an occasional prairie dog, and where rain never falls to the depth of three inches during the entire year [in a letter written by Nellis, late in his life, he recalls taking headers when his bicycle wheel hit a gopher or prairie dog hole]. We brought up at Latham at eight p.m., tired and I need not say hungry, for we are at all times hungry.

 
 Day 48, July 10
 Latham, Wyoming to Bitter Creek, Wyoming. 54 miles, 11 hours
We were not loth when the sun arose to grasp our Expert and get out of that immediate vicinity as fast as the tramp act could carry us in our mad effort to escape from the foul atmosphere of a railroad section house from the association of men whose natures are as wild, whose ideas of life as vague and whose conversations as rough, and uncouth as ever emanated from the denizens of Siberia or Patagonia. Stopped at Red Desert for dinner. We reach Tifton at 3 p.m., and there strike a tolerably hard clay road which carries us to Table Rock for supper, and lands us in Bitter Creek at 8:30 p.m.

 
 Day 49, July 11
 Bitter Creek, Wyoming to Rock Springs, Wyoming. 50 miles, 8 hours
Pushing out, we take a ride and walk of 16 miles to Hallville for dinner, and at 1 p.m., are on the road to Point of Rocks, the first post office encountered since leaving Rawlins 94 miles back. We stop a half hour and mail divers letter, postals, etc., and pushing on eat supper at Slat Well, another section house and ride into Rock Springs at 8:30. A good bed here awaits us and we seek its alluring embrace for the first refreshing sleep in a good while.

 
 Day 50, July 12
 Rock Springs, Wyoming to Granger, Wyoming. 47 miles, 9 hours
We are off over mountains and through canyons to Green River over some tolerably big hills, and we rush into this western citadel. Dinner is absorbed in the Pacific Hotel and we resume the march. Following the advice of some road agent, we take the railroad track on a promise of some good riding. Crossing the Green River over the ties find no riding at all but a walk of 13 miles to Bryan, which we reach in time for lunch at 4 o’clock. At Marston, 9 miles farther, we take supper. We set out for Granger but it is past ten when we arrive. All have retired and soundly locked in sleep – not to be aroused. We have but one choice and that is a bed in a car house, a small hut large enough to hold a hand car, and we make up our bed on the car itself. Unstrapping our satchel for a pillow we lie down to sleep on a handcar, with no covering and the wind playing through cracks and crevices.

 
 Day 51 July 13
 Granger, Wyoming to Hilliard, Wyoming. 56 miles, 10 ½ hours
From Granger we resolved to abandon the railroad again, and as our clever host directed, took an overland emigrant trail south thro’ Fort Bridger, striking the railroad again at Piedmont, 42 miles away. With the exception of a stiff up grade for six miles, we lead a fine ride into Fort Bridger and took dinner in the mess. These regular army chaps are hale, hearty boys, and with many a hand shake and lots of well wishes they start us on our way to Piedmont. Twelve miles further comes a big rain storm. Hurriedly we point for a railroad snow shed, about two miles away, as the nearest shelter. But long before we get there the pitiless water deluged us and the road at the same time, transforming a hard clay bottom to a soft sticky mass of mud. By the time we reach that shed we are a fit subject for a clothes wringer, while our wheel is so covered with mud scarcely a bright spot is discernible on its usually polished surface. This is roughing it with a vengeance, and for one mortal hour we sit there, bemoaning the fate which took us on this wild goose chase and wishing that bicycles had never been invented. Once more the sun comes out and we are en-route to Hilliard. The soft clay would clog up in the head of our wheel and actually stop it from going round. Then would we do the wheelbarrow act until some gravel made pushing right side up possible [he pushed the bike with the small wheel in front and the bars facing the ground]. Arriving at 8 p.m., we find nothing but a boarding house, but this is grasped at so eagerly we half scare the landlady who views our forlorn appearance with holy terror. We take some eatables aboard and then give our ‘cycle a good shower bath, restoring it in half an hour to its original luster and lightness.

 
Day 52, July 14
Hilliard, Wyoming to near Castle Rock, Utah. 34 miles, 6 hours
It is 9 a.m., before the roads are dry enough to venture forth; and we then set out reaching Evanston over fair rideable roads at 12 o’clock. Here we take dinner at the Mountain house, spend two hours with Robinson’s circus which is raising Cain in the place and fairly flocked with such a motley crowd of ruralites as the eye ever beheld. Here are bucolics rushing by, pushing and jostling and treading on one another’s toes in the mad endeavor to get a seat in the pavilion. There are gangs of cowboys renewing old times over the festive gin and lager and raising such a rumpus that the sense of hearing is anything but a pleasure. And high above the din and bustle and clamor can be heard the stentorian tones of the ticket seller. It was past two o’clock when we left and took a tramp up a mile hill, to coast down the other side. Fairly good roads sent us along flying until about six miles from town a nice little shower introduced itself to our notice. With no better shelter in sight, we repaired to a snow fence erected by the railroad, and tearing off some loose boards, put up a pretty substantial hut for myself and the bike. We proceeded to walk and push into Wasatch for supper. This was taken at a section house and we pushed on at a rattling pace down a steep incline which made the mud fly and brought us up at Castle Rock. Here we secured lodging and several glasses of milk at the ranch of David Moore. This gentleman possesses one of the best properties to be found at this altitude, 6,000 feet, and has many hundred head of cattle and horses, besides running a good dairy.

 

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