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.


After crossing Bear River I find myself on a somewhat superior road leading through the Mormon settlements to Ogden. No greater contrast can well be imagined than that presented by this strip of country lying between the lake and the "Wahsatch Mountains, and the desert country to the westward. One can almost fancy himself suddenly transported by some good genii to a quiet farming community in an Eastern State. Instead of untamed bronchos and wild-eyed cattle, roaming at their own free will over unlimited territory, are seen staid work-horses ploughing in the field, and the sleek milch-cow peacefully cropping tame grass in enclosed meadows. Birds are singing merrily in the willow hedges and the shade-trees; green fields of alfalfa and ripening grain line the road and spread themselves over the surrounding country in alternate squares, like those of a vast checker-board. Farms, on the average, are small, and, consequently, houses are thick; and not a farm-house among them all but is embowered in an orchard of fruit and shade-trees that mingle their green leaves and white blossoms harmoniously. At noon I roll into a forest of fruit-trees, among which, I am informed, Willard City is situated; but one can see nothing of any city. Nothing but thickets of peach, plum, and apple trees, all in full bloom, surround the spot where I alight and begin to look around for some indications of the city. "Where is Willard City." I inquire of a boy who comes out from one of the orchards carrying a can of kerosene in his hand, suggestive of having just come from a grocery, and so he has. "This is Willard City, right here," replies the boy; and then, in response to my inquiry for the hotel, he points to a small gate leading into an orchard, and tells me the hotel is in there.

The hotel - like every other house and store here - is embowered amid an orchard of blooming fruit-trees, and looks like anything but a public eating-house. No sign up, nothing to distinguish it from a private dwelling; and I am ushered into a nicely furnished parlor, on the neatly papered walls of which hang enlarged portraits of Brigham Young and other Mormon celebrities, while a large-sized Mormon bible, expensively bound in morocco, reposes on the centre-table. A charming Miss of-teen summers presides over a private table, on which is spread for my material benefit the finest meal I have eaten since leaving California. Such snow-white bread. Such delicious butter. And the exquisite flavor of "spiced peach-butter" lingers in my fancy even now; and as if this were not enough for "two bits" (a fifty per cent, come-down from usual rates in the mountains), a splendid bouquet of flowers is set on the table to round off the repast with their grateful perfume. As I enjoy the wholesome, substantial food, I fall to musing on the mighty chasm that intervenes between the elegant meal now before me and the "Melican plan-cae" of two weeks ago. "You have a remarkably pleasant country here, Miss," I venture to remark to the young lady who has presided over my table, and whom I judge to be the daughter of the house, as she comes to the door to see the bicycle.

"Yes; we have made it pleasant by planting so many orchards," she answers, demurely.

"I should think the Mormons ought to be contented, for they possess the only good piece of farming country between California and 'the States,'" I blunderingly continued.

"I never heard anyone say they are not contented, but their enemies," replies this fair and valiant champion of Mormonism in a voice that shows she quite misunderstands my meaning. "What I intended to say was, that the Mormon people are to be highly congratulated on their good sense in settling here," I hasten to explain; for were I to leave at this house, where my treatment has been so gratifying, a shadow of prejudice against the Mormons, I should feel like kicking myself all over the Territory. The women of the Mormon religion are instructed by the wiseacres of the church to win over strangers by kind treatment and by the charm of their conversation and graces; and this young lady has learned the lesson well; she has graduated with high honors. Coming from the barren deserts of Nevada and Western Utah - from the land where the irreverent and irrepressible "Old Timer" fills the air with a sulphurous odor from his profanity and where nature is seen in its sternest aspect, and then suddenly finding one's self literally surrounded by flowers and conversing with Beauty about Religion, is enough to charm the heart of a marble statue.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 16th May 1884 (14:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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