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.

Over the Deserts of Nevada

Gradually I leave the pine-clad slopes of the Sierras behind, and every revolution of my wheel reveals scenes that constantly remind me that I am in the great "Sage-brush State." How appropriate indeed is the name. Sage-brush is the first thing seen on entering Nevada, almost the only vegetation seen while passing through it, and the last thing seen on leaving it. Clear down to the edge of the rippling waters of the Truckee, on the otherwise barren plain, covering the elevated table-lands, up the hills, even to the mountain-tops-everywhere, everywhere, nothing but sagebrush. In plain view to the right, as I roll on toward Reno, are the mountains on which the world-renowned Comstock lode is situated, and Reno was formerly the point from which this celebrated mining-camp was reached.

Boiling into Reno at 10.30 A.M. the characteristic whiskey-straight hospitality of the Far West at once asserts itself, and one individual with sporting proclivities invites me to stop over a day or two and assist him to "paint Reno red " at his expense. Leaving Reno, my route leads through the famous Truckee meadows - a strip of very good agricultural land, where plenty of money used to be made by raising produce for the Virginia City market. "But there's nothing in it any more, since the Comstock's played out," glumly remarks a ranchman, at whose place I get dinner. "I'll take less for my ranch now than I was offered ten years ago," he continues.

The "meadows" gradually contract, and soon after dinner I find myself again following the Truckee down a narrow space between mountains, whose volcanic-looking rocks are destitute of all vegetation save stunted sage-brush. All down here the road is ridable in patches; but many dismounts have to be made, and the walking to be done aggregates at least one-third of the whole distance travelled during the day. Sneakish coyotes prowl about these mountains, from whence they pay neighborly visits to the chicken-roosts of the ranchers in the Truckee meadows near by. Toward night a pair of these animals are observed following behind at the respectful distance of five hundred yards. One need not be apprehensive of danger from these contemptible animals, however; they are simply following behind in a frame of mind similar to that of a hungry school-boy's when gazing longingly into a confectioner's window. Still, night is gathering around, and it begins to look as though I will have to pillow my head on the soft side of a bowlder, and take lodgings on the footsteps of a bald mountain to-night; and it will scarcely invite sleep to know that two pairs of sharp, wolfish eyes are peering wistfully through the darkness at one's prostrate form, and two red tongues are licking about in hungry anticipation of one's blood. Moreover, these animals have an unpleasant habit of congregating after night to pay their compliments to the pale moon, and to hold concerts that would put to shame a whole regiment of Kilkenny cats; though there is but little comparison between the two, save that one howls and the other yowls, and either is equally effective in driving away the drowsy Goddess. I try to draw these two animals within range of my revolver by hiding behind rocks; but they are too chary of their precious carcasses to take any risks, and the moment I disappear from their sight behind a rock they are on the alert, and looking "forty ways at the same time," to make sure that I am not creeping up on them from some other direction. Fate, however, has decreed that I am not to sleep out to-night - not quite out. A lone shanty looms up through the gathering darkness, and I immediately turn my footsteps thitherwise.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 01st May 1884 (19:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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