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.

Alkali Bill

At Elko, where I take dinner, I make the acquaintance of an individual, rejoicing in the sobriquet of "Alkali Bill," who has the largest and most comprehensive views of any person I ever met. He has seen a paragraph, something about me riding round the world, and he considerately takes upon himself the task of summing up the few trifling obstacles that I shall encounter on the way round:

"There is only a small rise at Sherman," he rises to explain, "and another still smaller at the Alleghanies; all the balance is downhill to the Atlantic. Of course you'll have to 'boat it' across the Frogpond; then there's Europe - mostly level; so is Asia, except the Himalayas - and you can soon cross them; then you're all 'hunky,' for there's no mountains to speak of in China." Evidently Alkali Bill is a person who points the finger of scorn at small ideas, and leaves the bothersome details of life to other and smaller-minded folks. In his vast and glorious imagery he sees a centaur-like cycler skimming like a frigate-bird across states and continents, scornfully ignoring sandy deserts and bridgeless streams, halting for nothing but oceans, and only slowing up a little when he runs up against a peak that bobs up its twenty thousand feet of snowy grandeur serenely in his path. What a Ceasar is lost to this benighted world, because in its blindness, it will not search out such men as Alkali and ask them to lead it onward to deeds of inconceivable greatness. Alkali Bill can whittle more chips in an hour than some men could in week.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 10th May 1884 (19:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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