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.

On To Cheyenne

Tuesday morning I pull out to scale the last range that separates me from "the plains" - popularly known as such - and, upon arriving at the summit, I pause to take a farewell view of the great and wonderful inter-mountain country, across whose mountains, plains, and deserts I have been travelling in so novel a manner for the last month. The view from where I stand is magnificent - ay, sublime beyond human power to describe - and well calculated to make an indelible impression on the mind of one gazing upon it, perhaps for the last time. The Laramie Plains extend northward and westward, like a billowy green sea. Emerging from a black canon behind Jelm Mountain, the Laramie River winds its serpentine course in a northeast direction until lost to view behind the abutting mountains of the range, on which I now stand, receiving tribute in its course from the Little Laramie and numbers of smaller streams that emerge from the mountainous bulwarks forming the western border of the marvellous picture now before me. The unusual rains have filled the numberless depressions of the plains with ponds and lakelets that in their green setting glisten and glimmer in the bright morning sunshine like gems. A train is coming from the west, winding around among them as if searching out the most beautiful, and finally halts at Laramie City, which nestles in their midst - the fairest gem of them all - the "Gem of the Rockies." Sheep Mountain, the embodiment of all that is massive and indestructible, juts boldly and defiantly forward as though its mission were to stand guard over all that lies to the west. The Medicine Bow Range is now seen to greater advantage, and a bald mountain-top here and there protrudes above the dark forests, timidly, as if ashamed of its nakedness. Our old friend, Elk Mountain, is still in view, a stately and magnificent pile, serving as a land-mark for a hundred miles around. Beyond all this, to the west and south - a good hundred miles away - are the snowy ranges; their hoary peaks of glistening purity penetrating the vast blue dome above, like monarchs in royal vestments robed. Still others are seen, white and shadowy, stretching away down into Colorado, peak beyond peak, ridge beyond ridge, until lost in the impenetrable distance.

As I lean on my bicycle on this mountain-top, drinking in the glorious scene, and inhaling the ozone-laden air, looking through the loop-holes of recent experiences in crossing the great wonderland to the west; its strange intermingling of forest-clad hills and grassy valleys; its barren, rocky mountains and dreary, desolate plains; its vast, snowy solitudes and its sunny, sylvan nooks; the no less strange intermingling of people; the wandering red-skin with his pathetic history; the feverishly hopeful prospector, toiling and searching for precious metals locked in the eternal hills; and the wild and free cow-boy who, mounted on his wiry bronco, roams these plains and mountains, free as the Arab of the desert - I heave a sigh as I realize that no tongue or pen of mine can hope to do the subject justice.

My road is now over Cheyenne Pass, and from this point is mostly down-grade to Cheyenne. Soon I come to a naturally smooth granite surface which extends for twelve miles, where I have to keep the brake set most of the distance, and the constant friction heats the brake-spoon and scorches the rubber tire black. To-night I reach Cheyenne, where I find a bicycle club of twenty members, and where the fame of my journey from San Francisco draws such a crowd on the corner where I alight, that a blue-coated guardian of the city's sidewalks requests me to saunter on over to the hotel. Do I. Yes, I saunter over. The Cheyenne "cops" are bold, bad men to trifle with. They have to be "bold, bad men to trifle with," or the wild, wicked cow-boys would come in and "paint the city red " altogether too frequently.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 03rd Jun 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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