Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

The road to San Pablo

With the hearty well-wishing of a small group of Oakland and 'Frisco cyclers who have come, out of curiosity, to see the start, I mount and ride away to the east, down San Pablo Avenue, toward the village of the same Spanish name, some sixteen miles distant. The first seven miles are a sort of half-macadamized road, and I bowl briskly along.

The past winter has been the rainiest since 1857, and the continuous pelting rains had not beaten down upon the last half of this imperfect macadam in vain; for it has left it a surface of wave-like undulations, from out of which the frequent bowlder protrudes its unwelcome head, as if ambitiously striving to soar above its lowly surroundings. But this one don't mind, and I am perfectly willing to put up with the bowlders for the sake of the undulations. The sensation of riding a small boat over "the gently-heaving waves of the murmuring sea" is, I think, one of the pleasures of life; and the next thing to it is riding a bicycle over the last three miles of the San Pablo Avenue macadam as I found it on that April morning.

The wave-like macadam abruptly terminates, and I find myself on a common dirt road. It is a fair road, however, and I have plenty of time to look about and admire whatever bits of scenery happen to come in view. There are few spots in the "Golden State" from which views of more or less beauty are not to be obtained; and ere I am a baker's dozen of miles from Oakland pier I find myself within an ace of taking an undesirable header into a ditch of water by the road-side, while looking upon a scene that for the moment completely wins me from my immediate surroundings. There is nothing particularly grand or imposing in the outlook here; but the late rains have clothed the whole smiling face of nature with a bright, refreshing green, that fails not to awaken a thrill of pleasure in the breast of one fresh from the verdureless streets of a large sea-port city. Broad fields of pale-green, thrifty-looking young wheat, and darker-hued meads, stretch away on either side of the road; and away beyond to the left, through an opening in the hills, can be seen, as through a window, the placid waters of the bay, over whose glittering, sunlit surface white-winged, aristocratic yachts and the plebeian smacks of Greek and Italian fishermen swiftly glide, and fairly vie with each other in giving the finishing touches to a picture.

So far, the road continues level and fairly good; and, notwithstanding the seductive pleasures of the ride over the bounding billows of the gently heaving macadam, the dalliance with the scenery, and the all too frequent dismounts in deference to the objections of phantom-eyed roadsters, I pulled up at San Pablo at ten o'clock, having covered the sixteen miles in one hour and thirty-two minutes; though, of course, there is nothing speedy about this - to which desirable qualification, indeed, I lay no claim.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 22nd Apr 1884 (10:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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