american journeys   

When he reached Chicago on July 29th, he went to the Fowler Manufacturing Company.  "I was soon on the elevator headed for the office on the top floor.  I entered it with myself and my wheel covered with mud.  They were pleased to know that I had ridden one of their wheels, and my wheel was put in the window of their retail store on Dearborn Street, mud and all, with a card reading 'Ridden by W. H. Sheneman from Seattle, Washington to Chicago, IL, a distance of 2,176.25 miles without a break.  The wheel weighs 22 pounds.'  The wheel stood in the window for two days, and there was a large crowd around this window all the time.  I was taken to a first class hotel and orders were given to keep me as long as I wished to stay, that the Fowler Company would pay the bills." 

The Fowler officials also offered to give Will a new bicycle in exchange for his old one.  At first he refused to part with the wheel that was like an old friend, but the next day he accepted their offer to pick out any wheel he wanted in return for his.  They also provided him with a bicycle suit, pants, coat, sweater and cap.  Thus attired, and on his new bike, he went to the Howe Studio on Paulina Street to have a cabinet photo made.  It seems he reached his expectation of becoming thinner since he doesn't look like a "200 hundred pounder" in the picture.

In the west he average about 40 miles a day, but in Nebraska he "made a run of 94 miles, my biggest one yet."   He had sent regular dispatches to the Marysville Tribune, signing himself "Roving Boy."  As he wheeled his bike up the path to his brother's home at Sheneman's Corners west of Pharisburg on August 10th, he was hot and tired, but elated at finishing what he had started nearly two months before.  My mother, who had celebrated her sixth birthday the day before, never tired of relating the joy of that day when "Uncle Will came home!"

When asked if he intended to make the return trip on a bike, his answer was "No, I never intend to cross the Rocky Mountains and the sandy desert again on a bicycle.  I think anyone who makes the trip once will not be anxious to repeat it when it can be made just as cheap by rail in less than five days."

As good as his word, Uncle Will's next trip was made by train in 1897, across the continent and back with his uncle, George Wash Mackling.  I'm editing a book that will include his published articles, and will introduce my great uncle to a new audience.  Every family should have an "Uncle Will."


William Henry Sheneman
November 23, 1856 - April 11, 1921



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