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.

Prickly Thoughts

Not far from where the trail leads out of Crow Creek bottom on to the higher table-land, I find the grassy plain smoother than the wagon-trail, and bowl along for a short distance as easily as one could wish. But not for long is this permitted; the ground becomes covered with a carpeting of small, loose cacti that stick to the rubber tire with the clinging tenacity of a cuckle-burr to a mule's tail. Of course they scrape off again as they come round to the bridge of the fork, but it isn't the tire picking them up that fills me with lynx-eyed vigilance and alarm; it is the dreaded possibility of taking a header among these awful vegetables that unnerves one, starts the cold chills chasing each other up and down my spinal column, and causes staring big beads of perspiration to ooze out of my forehead. No more appalling physical calamity on a small scale could befall a person than to take a header on to a cactus-covered greensward; millions of miniature needles would fill his tender hide with prickly sensations, and his vision with floating stars. It would perchance cast clouds of gloom over his whole life. Henceforth he would be a solemn-visaged, bilious-eyed needle-cushion among men, and would never smile again. I once knew a young man named Whipple, who sat down on a bunch of these cacti at a picnic in Virginia Dale, Wyo., and he never smiled again. Two meek-eyed maidens of the Rockies invited him to come and take a seat between them on a thin, innocuous-looking layer of hay. Smilingly poor, unsuspecting Whipple accepted the invitation; jokingly he suggested that it would be a rose between two thorns. But immediately he sat down he became convinced that it was the liveliest thorn - or rather millions of thorns - between two roses. Of course the two meek-eyed maidens didn't know it was there, how should they. But, all the same, he never smiled again - not on them.

At the section-house, where I call for dinner, I make the mistake of leaving the bicycle behind the house, and the woman takes me for an uncommercial traveller - yes, a tramp. She snaps out, "We can't feed everybody that comes along," and shuts the door in my face. Yesterday I was the centre of admiring crowds in the richest city of its size in America; to-day I am mistaken for a hungry-eyed tramp, and spurned from the door by a woman with a faded calico dress and a wrathy what - are? look in her eye. Such is life in the Far West.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 04th Jun 1884 (17:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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