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.

Escargots and Prussians

The following morning is still rainy, and the clayey roads of the Ornain Valley are anything but inviting wheeling; but a longer stay in Tronville is not to be thought of, for, among other pleasantries of the place here, the chief table delicacy appears to be boiled escargots, a large, ungainly snail procured from the neighboring hills. Whilst fond of table delicacies, I emphatically draw the line at escargots. Pulling out toward Toul I find the roads, as expected, barely ridable; but the vineyard-environed little valley, lovely in its tears, wrings from one praise in spite of muddy roads and lowering weather. En route down the valley I meet a battery of artillery travelling from Toul to Bar-le Duc or some other point to the westward; and if there is any honor in throwing a battery of French artillery into confusion, and wellnigh routing them, then the bicycle and I are fairly entitled to it.

As I ride carelessly toward them, the leading horses suddenly wheel around and begin plunging about the road. The officers' horses, and, infact, the horses of the whole company, catch the infection, and there is a plunging and a general confusion all along the line, seeing which I, of course, dismount and retire - but not discomfited - from the field until they have passed. These French horses are certainly not more than half-trained. I passed a battery of English artillery on the road leading out of Coventry, and had I wheeled along under the horses' noses there would have been no confusion whatever.

On the divide between the Ornain and Moselle Valleys the roads are hillier, but somewhat less muddy. The weather continues showery and unsettled, and a short distance beyond Void I find myself once again wandering off along the wrong road. The peasantry hereabout seem to have retained a lively recollection of the Prussians, my helmet appearing to have the effect of jogging their memory, and frequently, when stopping to inquire about the roads, the first word in response will be the pointed query, "Prussian?" By following the directions given by three different peasants, I wander along the muddy by-roads among the vineyards for two wet, unhappy hours ere I finally strike the main road to Toul again.

After floundering along the wellnigh unimproved by-ways for two hours one thoroughly appreciates how much he is indebted to the military necessities of the French Government for the splendid highways of France, especially among these hills and valleys, where natural roadways would be anything but good. Following down the Moselle Valley, I arrive at the important city of Nancy in the eventide, and am fortunate, I suppose, in discovering a hotel where a certain, or, more properly speaking, an uncertain, quantity and quality of English are spoken.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 19th May 1885 (20:00 +0200) | Add a comment | Permalink

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