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.

Parks and Pastures

Three and a half miles east of Sacramento, the high trestle bridge spanning the main stream of the American River has to be crossed, and from this bridge is obtained a remarkably fine view of the snow-capped Sierras, the great barrier that separates the fertile valleys and glorious climate of California, from the bleak and barren sage-brush plains, rugged mountains, and forbidding wastes of sand and alkali, that, from the summit of the Sierras, stretch away to the eastward for over a thousand miles. The view from the American River bridge is grand and imposing, encompassing the whole foot-hill country, which rolls in broken, irregular billows of forest-crowned hill and charming vale, upward and onward to the east, gradually getting more rugged, rocky, and immense, the hills changing to mountains, the vales to caons, until they terminate in bald, hoary peaks whose white rugged pinnacles seem to penetrate the sky, and stand out in ghostly, shadowy outline against the azure depths of space beyond.

After crossing the American River the character of the country changes, and I enjoy a ten-mile ride over a fair road, through one of those splendid sheep-ranches that are only found in California, and which have long challenged the admiration of the world. Sixty thousand acres, I am informed, is the extent of this pasture, all within one fence. The soft, velvety greensward is half-shaded by the wide-spreading branches of evergreen oaks that singly and in small groups are scattered at irregular intervals from one end of the pasture to the other, giving it the appearance of one of the old ancestral parks of England. As I bowl pleasantly along I involuntarily look about me, half expecting to see some grand, stately old mansion peeping from among some one of the splendid oak-groves; and when a jack-rabbit hops out and halts at twenty paces from my road, I half hesitate to fire at him, lest the noise of the report should bring out the vigilant and lynx-eyed game-keeper, and get me "summoned" for poaching. I remember the pleasant ten-mile ride through this park-like pasture as one of the brightest spots of the whole journey across America. But "every rose conceals a thorn," and pleasant paths often load astray; when I emerge from the pasture I find myself several miles off the right road and have to make my unhappy way across lots, through numberless gates and small ranches, to the road again.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 25th Apr 1884 (11:30 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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