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.

A Plague of Gnats

Ten miles farther on, from the vantage-ground of a pass over another spur of the same range, is obtained a widely extended view of the country to the east. For nearly thirty miles from the base of the mountains, low, level mud-flats extend eastward, bordered on the south by the marshy, sinuous shores of the lake, and on the north by the Blue Creek Mountains. Thirty miles to the east - looking from this distance strangely like flocks of sheep grazing at the base of the mountains - can be seen the white-painted houses of the Mormon settlements, that thickly dot the narrow but fertile strip of agricultural land, between Bear River and the mighty Wahsatch Mountains, that, rearing their snowy crest skyward, shut out all view of what lies beyond. From this height the level mud-flats appear as if one could mount his wheel and bowl across at a ten-mile pace; but I shall be agreeably surprised if I am able to aggregate ten miles of riding out of the thirty. Immediately after getting down into the bottom I make the acquaintance of the tiny black gnats that one of our whiskey-bereaved friends at Tecoma had warned me against. One's head is constantly enveloped in a black cloud of these little wretches. They are of infinitesimal proportions, and get into a person's ears, eyes, and nostrils, and if one so far forgets himself as to open his mouth, they swarm in as though they think it the "pearly gates ajar," and this their last chance of effecting an entrance. Mingled with them, and apparently on the best of terms, are swarms of mosquitoes, which appear perfect Jumbos in comparison with their disreputable associates.

As if partially to recompense me for the torments of the afternoon, Dame Fortune considerately provides me with two separate and distinct suppers this evening. I had intended, when I left Promontory Station, to reach Corinne for the night; consequently I bring a lunch with me, knowing it will take me till late to reach there. These days, I am troubled with an appetite that makes me blush to speak of it, and about five o'clock I sit down - on the bleached skeleton of a defunct mosquito! - and proceed to eat my lunch of bread and meat - and gnats; for I am quite certain of eating hundreds of these omnipresent creatures at every bite I take. Two hours afterward I am passing Quarry section-house, when the foreman beckons me over and generously invites me to remain over night. He brings out canned oysters and bottles of Milwaukee beer, and insists on my helping him discuss these acceptable viands; to which invitation it is needless to say I yield without extraordinary pressure, the fact of having eaten two hours before being no obstacle whatever. So much for 'cycling as an aid to digestion.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 15th May 1884 (19:30 +0000) | 2 Comments | Permalink

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