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.

Cycling by moonlight

It is scarcely presumable that one would be blessed with rosy-hued visions of pleasure under such conditions, however, and near midnight I awake in a cold shiver. The snowy mountains rear their white heads up in the silent night, grim and ghostly all around, and make the midnight air chilly, even in midsummer. I lie there, trying in vain to doze off again, for it grows perceptibly cooler. At two o'clock I can stand it no longer, and so get up and strike out for Battle Mountain, twenty miles ahead.

The moon has risen; it is two-thirds full, and a more beautiful sight than the one that now greets my exit from the bunk-house it is scarcely possible to conceive. Only those who have been in this inter-mountain country can have any idea of a glorious moonlight night in the clear atmosphere of this dry, elevated region. It is almost as light as day, and one can see to ride quite well wherever the road is ridable. The pale moon seems to fill the whole broad valley with a flood of soft, silvery light; the peaks of many snowy mountains loom up white and spectral; the still air is broken by the excited yelping of a pack of coyotes noisily baying the pale-yellow author of all this loveliness, and the wild, unearthly scream of an unknown bird or animal coming from some mysterious, undefinable quarter completes an ideal Western picture, a poem, a dream, that fully compensates for the discomforts of the preceding hour. The inspiration of this beautiful scene awakes the slumbering poesy within, and I am inspired to compose a poem - "Moonlight in the Rockies" - that I expect some day to see the world go into raptures over!

A few miles from the Chinese shanty I pass a party of Indians camped by the side of my road.They are squatting around the smouldering embers of a sage-brush fire, sleeping and dozing. I am riding slowly and carefully along the road that happens to be ridable just here, and am fairly past them before being seen. As I gradually vanish in the moonlit air I wonder what they think it was - that strange-looking object that so silently and mysteriously glided past. It is safe to warrant they think me anything but flesh and blood, as they rouse each other and peer at my shadowy form disappearing in the dim distance.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 07th May 1884 (05:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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