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.

Laramie Wheelmen

Stopping for the night at Lookout, I make an early start, in order to reach Laramie City for dinner. These Laramie Plains "can smile and look pretty" when they choose, and, as I bowl along over a fairly good road this sunny Sunday morning, they certainly choose. The Laramie River on my left, the Medicine Bow and Snowy ranges - black and white respectively - towering aloft to the right, and the intervening plains dotted with herds of antelope, complete a picture that can be seen nowhere save on the Laramie Plains. Reaching a swell of the plains, that almost rises to the dignity of a hill, I can see the nickel-plated wheels of the Laramie wheelmen glistening in the sunlight on the opposite side of the river several miles from where I stand. They have come out a few miles to meet me, but have taken the wrong side of the river, thinking I had crossed below Rock Creek. The members of the Laramie Bicycle Club are the first wheelmen I have seen since leaving California; and, as I am personally acquainted at Laramie, it is needless to dwell on my reception at their hands. The rambles of the Laramie Club are well known to the cycling world from the many interesting letters from the graphic pen of their captain, Mr. Owen, who, with two other members, once took a tour on their wheels to the Yellowstone National Park. They have some very good natural roads around Laramie, but in their rambles over the mountains these "rough riders of the Rockies" necessarily take risks that are unknown to their fraternal brethren farther east.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 31st May 1884 (14:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Grand Views and Rain

From this ridge an extensive view of the broad, billowy plains and surrounding mountains is obtained. Elk Mountain still seems close at hand, its towering form marking the western limits of the Medicine Bow Range whose dark pine-clad slopes form the western border of the plains. Back of them to the west is the Snowy Range, towering in ghostly grandeur as far above the timber-clad summits of the Medicine Bow Range as these latter are above the grassy plains at their base. To the south more snowy mountains stand out against the sky like white tracery on a blue ground, with Long's Peak and Fremont's Peak towering head and shoulders above them all. The Rattlesnake Range, with Laramie Peak rearing its ten thousand feet of rugged grandeur to the clouds, are visible to the north. On the east is the Black Hills Range, the last chain of the Rockies, and now the only barrier intervening between me and the broad prairies that roll away eastward to the Missouri River and "the States."

A genuine Laramie Plains rain-storm is hovering overhead as I pull out of Rock Creek, after dinner, and in a little while the performance begins. There is nothing of the gentle pattering shower about a rain and wind storm on these elevated plains; it comes on with a blow and a bluster that threatens to take one off his feet. The rain is dashed about in the air by the wild, blustering wind, and comes from all directions at the same time. While you are frantically hanging on to your hat, the wind playfully unbuttons your rubber coat and lifts it up over your head and flaps the wet, muddy corners about in your face and eyes; and, ere you can disentangle your features from the cold uncomfortable embrace of the wet mackintosh, the rain - which "falls" upward as well as down, and sidewise, and every other way-has wet you through up as high as the armpits; and then the gentle zephyrs complete your discomfiture by purloining your hat and making off across the sodden plain with it, at a pace that defies pursuit. The storm winds up in a pelting shower of hailstones - round chunks of ice that cause me to wince whenever one makes a square hit, and they strike the steel spokes of the bicycle and make them produce harmonious sounds. Trundling through Cooper Lake Basin, after dark, I get occasional glimpses of mysterious shadowy objects flitting hither and thither through the dusky pall around me. The basin is full of antelope, and my presence here in the darkness fills them with consternation; their keen scent and instinctive knowledge of a strange presence warn them of my proximity; and as they cannot see me in the darkness they are flitting about in wild alarm.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 30th May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


After passing Medicine Bow Valley and Como Lake I find some good ridable road, the surface being hard gravel and the plains high and dry. Reaching the brow of one of those rocky ridges that hereabouts divide the plains into so many shallow basins, I find myself suddenly within a few paces of a small herd of antelope peacefully grazing on the other side of the narrow ridge, all unconscious of the presence of one of creation's alleged proud lords. My ever-handy revolver rings out clear and sharp on the mountain air, and the startled antelope go bounding across the plain in a succession of quick, jerky jumps peculiar to that nimble animal; but ere they have travelled a hundred yards one of them lags behind and finally staggers and lays down on the grass. As I approach him he makes a gallant struggle to rise and make off after his companions, but the effort is too much for him, and coming up to him, I quickly put him out of pain by a shot behind the ear. This makes a proud addition to my hitherto rather small list of game, which now comprises jack-rabbits, a badger, a fierce gosling, an antelope, and a thin, attenuated coyote, that I bowled over in Utah.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 30th May 1884 (14:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Laramie Plains

I am now getting on to the famous Laramie Plains, and Elk Mountain looms up not over ten miles to the south - a solid, towery mass of black rocks and dark pine forests, that stands out bold and distinct from surrounding mountain chains as though some animate thing conscious of its own strength and superiority. A snow-storm is raging on its upper slopes, obscuring that portion of the mountain; but the dark forest-clad slopes near the base are in plain view, and also the rugged peak which elevates its white crowned head above the storm, and reposes peacefully in the bright sunlight in striking contrast to the warring elements lower down. I have heard old hunters assert that this famous "landmark of the Rockies" is hollow, and that they have heard wolves howling inside the mountain; but some of these old western hunters see and hear strange things!

As I penetrate the Laramie Plains the persistent sage-brush, that has constantly hovered around my path for the last thousand miles, grows beautifully less, and the short, nutritious buffalo-grass is creeping everywhere. In Carbon, where I arrive after dark, I mention among other things in reply to the usual volley of questions, the fact of having to foot it so great a proportion of the way through the mountain country; and shortly afterward, from among a group of men, I hear a voice, thick and husky with "valley tan," remark: "Faith, Oi cud roide a bicycle meself across the counthry av yeez ud lit me walluk it afut!" and straightway a luminous bunch of shamrocks dangled for a brief moment in the air, and then vanished.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 29th May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Prairie dogs

Staying over night and the next day at Rawlins, I make the sixteen miles to Fort Fred Steele next morning before breakfast, there bein" a very good road between the two places. This fort stands on the west bank of North Platte River, and a few miles west of the river I ride through the first prairie dog town encountered in crossing the continent from the west, though I shall see plenty of these interesting little fellows during the next three hundred miles. These animals sit near their holes and excitedly bark at whatever goes past. Never before have they had an opportunity to bark at a bicycle, and they seem to be making the most of their opportunity. I see at this village none of the small speckled owls, which, with the rattlesnake, make themselves so much at home in the prairie-dogs' comfortable quarters, but I see them farther east. These three strangely assorted companions may have warm affections toward each other; but one is inclined to think the great bond of sympathy that binds them together is the tender regard entertained by the owl and the rattlesnake for the nice, tender young prairie-pups that appear at intervals to increase the joys and cares of the elder animals.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 29th May 1884 (08:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Inquisitive Coyote

About eighteen miles from the divide I am greatly amused, and not a little astonished, at the strange actions of a coyote that comes trotting in a leisurely, confidential way toward me; and when he reaches a spot commanding a good view of my road he stops and watches my movements with an air of the greatest inquisitiveness and assurance. He stands and gazes as I trundle along, not over fifty yards away, and he looks so much like a well-fed collie, that I actually feel like patting my knee for him to come and make friends. Shoot at him. Certainly not. One never abuses a confidence like that. He can come and rub his sleek coat up against the bicycle if he likes, and - blood-thirsty rascal though he no doubt is - I will never fire at him. He has as much right to gaze in astonishment at a bicycle as anybody else who never saw one before.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 27th May 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Continental Divide

Ten o'clock next morning finds me leaning on my wheel, surveying the scenery from the "Continental Divide" - the backbone of the continent. Pacing the north, all waters at my right hand flow to the east, and all on my left flow to the west - the one eventually finding their way to the Atlantic, the other to the Pacific. This spot is a broad low pass through the Rockies, more plain than mountain, but from which a most commanding view of numerous mountain chains are obtained. To the north and northwest are the Seminole, Wind River, and Sweet-water ranges - bold, rugged mountain-chains, filling the landscape of the distant north with a mass of great, jagged, rocky piles, grand beyond conception; their many snowy peaks peopling the blue ethery space above with ghostly, spectral forms well calculated to inspire with feelings of awe and admiration a lone cycler, who, standing in silence and solitude profound on the great Continental Divide, looks and meditates on what he sees. Other hoary monarchs are visible to the east, which, however, we shall get acquainted with later on. Down grade is the rule now, and were there a good road, what an enjoyable coast it would be, down from the Continental Divide! but half of it has to be walked.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 27th May 1884 (12:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Rock Springs

Splendid level alkali flats abound east of Rock Springs, and I bowl across them at a lively pace until they terminate, and my route follows up Bitter Creek, where the surface is just the reverse; being seamed and furrowed as if it had just emerged from a devastating flood. It is said that the teamster who successfully navigated the route up Bitter Creek, considered himself entitled to be called "a tough cuss from Bitter Creek, on wheels, with a perfect education." A justifiable regard for individual rights would seem to favor my own assumption of this distinguished title after traversing the route with a bicycle.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 26th May 1884 (14:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Paying the bill

On calling for my bill at the hotel here, next morning, the proprietor - a corpulent Teuton, whose thoughts, words, and actions, run entirely to beer - replies, "Twenty-five cents a quart." Thinking my hearing apparatus is at fault, I inquire again. "Twenty-five cents a quart and vurnish yer own gan." The bill is abnormally large, but, as I hand over the amount, a "loaded schooner" is shoved under my nose, as though a glass of beer were a tranquillizing antidote for all the ills of life.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 26th May 1884 (09:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Green River

Next day I pass the world-renowned castellated rocks of Green River, and stop for the night at Rock Springs, where the Union Pacific Railway Company has extensive coal mines.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 25th May 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

High-water and Whiskey

From Carter my route leads through the Bad-Lands, amid buttes of mingled clay and rock, which the elements have worn into all conceivable shapes, and conspicuous among them can be seen, to the south, "Church Buttes," so called from having been chiselled by the dexterous hand of nature into a group of domes and pinnacles, that, from a distance, strikingly resembles some magnificent cathedral. High-water marks are observable on these buttes, showing that Noah's flood, or some other aqueous calamity once happened around here; and one can easily imagine droves of miserable, half-clad Indians, perched on top, looking with doleful, melancholy expression on the surrounding wilderness of waters. Arriving at Granger, for dinner, I find at the hotel a crest-fallen state of affairs somewhat similar to the glumness of Tecoma. Tecoma had plenty of customers, but no whiskey; Granger on the contrary has plenty of whiskey, but no customers. The effect on that marvellous, intangible something, the saloon proprietor's intellect, is the same at both places. Here is plainly a new field of research for some ambitious student of psychology. Whiskey without customers. Customers without whiskey. Truly all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 24th May 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

On to Carter Station

At Piedmont Station I decide to go around by way of Fort Bridger and strike the direct trail again at Carter Station, twenty four miles farther east.

The next day at noon finds me "tucked in my little bed" at Carter, decidedly the worse for wear, having experienced the toughest twenty-four hours of the entire journey. I have to ford no less than nine streams of ice-cold water; get benighted on a rain-soaked adobe plain, where I have to sleep out all night in an abandoned freight-wagon; and, after carrying the bicycle across seven miles of deep, sticky clay, I finally arrive at Carter, looking like the last sad remnant of a dire calamity - having had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 23rd May 1884 (14:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Uintah Mountains

Crossing next day the low, broad pass over the Uintah Mountains, some stretches of ridable surface are passed over, and at this point I see the first band of antelope on the tour; but as they fail to come within the regulation two hundred yards they are graciously permitted to live.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 22nd May 1884 (17:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


Following the trail down Yellow Creek, I arrive at Hilliard after dark. The Hilliardites are "somewhat seldom," but they are made of the right material. The boarding-house landlady sets about preparing me supper, late though it be; and the "boys" extend me a hearty invitation to turn in with them for the night. Here at Hilliard is a long V-shaped flume, thirty miles long, in which telegraph poles, ties, and cord wood are floated down to the railroad from the pineries of the Uintah Mountains, now plainly visible to the south. The "boys" above referred to are men engaged in handling ties thus floated down; and sitting around the red-hot stove, they make the evening jolly with songs and yarns of tie-drives, and of wild rides down the long "V" flume. A happy, light-hearted set of fellows are these "tie-men," and not an evening but their rude shanty resounds with merriment galore. Fun is in the air to-night, and "Beaver" (so dubbed on account of an unfortunate tendency to fall into every hole of water he goes anywhere near) is the unlucky wight upon whom the rude witticisms concentrate; for he has fallen into the water again to-day, and is busily engaged in drying his clothes by the stove. They accuse him of keeping up an uncomfortably hot fire, detrimental to everybody's comfort but his own, and threaten him with dire penalties if he doesn't let the room cool off; also broadly hinting their disapproval of his over-fondness for "Adam's ale," and threaten to make him "set 'em up" every time he tumbles in hereafter. In revenge for these remarks, "Beaver" piles more wood into the stove, and, with many a westernism - not permitted in print - threatens to keep up a fire that will drive them all out of the shanty if they persist in their persecutions.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 21st May 1884 (23:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Gastronomic Feat

The weather is cool and bracing, and when, in the middle of the afternoon, I reach Evanston, Wyo. Terr., too late to get dinner at the hotel, I proceed to devour the contents of a bakery, filling the proprietor with boundless astonishment by consuming about two-thirds of his stock. When I get through eating, he bluntly refuses to charge anything, considering himself well repaid by having witnessed the most extraordinary gastronomic feat on record - the swallowing of two-thirds of a bakery.

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

Castle Rocks

Fourteen miles farther brings me to "Castle Rocks," a name given to the high sandstone bluffs that compose the left-hand side of the canon at this point, and which have been worn by the elements into all manner of fantastic shapes, many of them calling to mind the towers and turrets of some old-world castle so vividly, that one needs but the pomp and circumstance of old knight-errant days to complete the illusion. But, as one gazes with admiration on these towering buttresses of nature, it is easy to realize that the most massive and imposing feudal castle, or ramparts built with human hands, would look like children's toys beside them.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 19th May 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Pulpit Rock

Heavily freighted rain-clouds are hovering over the mountains next morning and adding to the gloominess of the gorge, which, just east of Echo City, contracts again and proceeds eastward under the name of Echo Gorge. Turning around a bold rocky projection to the left, the far-famed "Pulpit Rock" towers above, on which Brigham Young is reported to have stood and preached to the Mormon host while halting over Sunday at this point, during their pilgrimage to their new home in the Salt Lake Valley below. Had the redoubtable prophet turned "dizzy" while haranguing his followers from the elevated pinnacle of his novel pulpit, he would at least have died a more romantic death than he is accredited with - from eating too much green corn.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 19th May 1884 (12:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

The Thousand Mile Tree

A short distance farther, and I pass the famous "Thousand-mile Tree" - a rugged pine, that stands between the railroad and the river, and which has won renown by springing up just one thousand miles from Omaha. This tree is having a tough struggle for its life these days; one side of its honored trunk is smitten as with the leprosy. The fate of the Thousand-mile Tree is plainly sealed [It had died by 1900 but was replaced in 1982]. It is unfortunate in being the most conspicuous target on the line for the fe-ro-ci-ous youth who comes West with a revolver in his pocket and shoots at things from the car-window. Judging from the amount of cold lead contained in that side of its venerable trunk next the railway few of these thoughtless marksmen go past without honoring it with a shot. Emerging from "the Narrows" of Weber Canyon, the route follows across a less contracted space to Echo City, a place of two hundred and twenty-five inhabitants, mostly Mormons, where I remain over-night. The hotel where I put up at Echo is all that can be desired, so far as "provender" is concerned; but the handsome and picturesque proprietor seems afflicted with sundry eccentric habits, his leading eccentricity being a haughty contempt for fractional currency. Not having had the opportunity to test him, it is difficult to say whether this peculiarity works both ways, or only when the change is due his transient guests. However, we willingly give him the benefit of the doubt.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 18th May 1884 (19:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Devil's Slide

Wherever the walls of the canyon recede from the river's brink, and leave a space of cultivable land, there the industrious Mormons have built log or adobe cabins, and converted the circumscribed domain into farms, gardens, and orchards. In one of these isolated settlements I seek shelter from a passing shower at the house of a "three-ply Mormon " (a Mormon with three wives), and am introduced to his three separate and distinct better-halves; or, rather, one should say, "better-quarters," for how can anything have three halves. A noticeable feature at all these farms is the universal plurality of women around the house, and sometimes in the field. A familiar scene in any farming community is a woman out in the field, visiting her husband, or, perchance, assisting him in his labors. The same thing is observable at the Mormon settlements along the Weber River - only, instead of one woman, there are generally two or three, and perhaps yet another standing in the door of the house. Passing through two tunnels that burrow through rocky spurs stretching across the canyon, as though to obstruct farther progress, across the river, to the right, is the "Devil's Slide" - two perpendicular walls of rock, looking strangely like man's handiwork, stretching in parallel lines almost from base to summit of a sloping, grass-covered mountain. The walls are but a dozen feet apart. It is a curious phenomenon, but only one among many that are scattered at intervals all through here.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 18th May 1884 (17:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Weber River

Twelve miles of alternate riding and walking eastwardly from Ogden bring me to the entrance of Weber Canon, through which the Weber River, the Union Pacific Railroad, and an uncertain wagon-trail make their way through the Wahsatch Mountains on to the elevated table-lands of Wyoming Territory. Objects of interest follow each other in quick succession along this part of the journey, and I have ample time to examine them, for Weber River is flooding the canon, and in many places has washed away the narrow space along which wagons are wont to make their way, so that I have to trundle slowly along the railway track. Now the road turns to the left, and in a few minutes the rugged and picturesque walls of the canon are towering in imposing heights toward the clouds. The Weber River comes rushing - a resistless torrent - from under the dusky shadows of the mountains through which it runs for over fifty miles, and onward to the pkin below, where it assumes a more moderate pace, as if conscious that it has at last escaped from the hurrying turmoil of its boisterous march down the mountain.

Advancing into the yawning jaws of the range, a continuously resounding roar is heard in advance, which gradually becomes louder as I proceed eastward; in a short time the source of the noise is discovered, and a weird scene greets my enraptured vision. At a place where the fall is tremendous, the waters are opposed in their mad march by a rough-and-tumble collection of huge, jagged rocks, that have at some time detached themselves from the walls above, and come crashing down into the bed of the stream. The rushing waters, coming with haste from above, appear to pounce with insane fury on the rocks that dare thus to obstruct their path; and then for the next few moments all is a hissing, seething, roaring caldron of strife, the mad waters seeming to pounce with ever-increasing fury from one imperturbable antagonist to another, now leaping clear over the head of one, only to dash itself into a cloud of spray against another, or pour like a cataract against its base in a persistent, endless struggle to undermine it; while over all tower the dark, shadowy rocks, grim witnesses of the battle. This spot is known by the appropriate name of "The Devil's Gate."

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 18th May 1884 (11:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


Ogden is reached for supper, where I quite expect to find a 'cycler or two (Ogden being a city of eight thousand inhabitants); but the nearest approach to a bicycler in Ogden is a gentleman who used to belong to a Chicago club, but who has failed to bring his "wagon" West with him.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 17th May 1884 (19:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


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

'Perlocefede' in Corinne

Arriving at Corinne, on Bear River, at ten o'clock next morning, I am accosted by a bearded, patriarchal Mormon, who requests me to constitute myself a parade of one, and ride the bicycle around the town for the edification of the people's minds.

"In course they knows what a 'perlocefede' is, from seein' 'em in picturs; but they never seed a real machine, and it'd be a 'hefty' treat fer 'em," is the eloquent appeal made by this person in behalf of the Corinnethians, over whose destinies and happiness he appears to preside with fatherly solicitude. As the streets of Corinne this morning consist entirely of black mud of uncertain depth, I am reluctantly compelled to say the elder nay, at the same time promising him that if he would have them in better condition next time I happened around, I would willingly second his brilliant idea of making the people happy by permitting them a glimpse of my "perlocefede" in action.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 16th May 1884 (10:30 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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) | Add a comment | Permalink

Entering Mormon Land

Still following the shores of the lake, for several miles, my road now leads over the northern spur of the Promontory Mountains. On these hills I find a few miles of hard gravel that affords the best riding I have experienced in Utah, and I speed along as rapidly as possible, for dark, threatening clouds are gathering overhead. But ere I reach the summit of the ridge a violent thunder-storm breaks over the hills, and I seem to be verily hobnobbing with the thunder and lightning, that appears to be round about me, rather than overhead. A troop of wild bronchos, startled and stampeded by the vivid lightning and sharp peals of thunder, come wildly charging down the mountain trail, threatening to run quite over me in their mad career. Pulling my six-shooter, I fire a couple of shots in the air to attract their attention, when they rapidly swerve to the left, and go tearing frantically over the rolling hills on their wild flight to the plains below.

Most of the rain falls on the plain and in the lake, and when I arrive at the summit I pause to take a view at the lake and surrounding country. A more auspicious occasion could scarcely have been presented. The storm has subsided, and far beneath my feet a magnificent rainbow spans the plain, and dips one end of its variegated beauty in the sky-blue waters of the lake. From this point the view to the west and south is truly grand-rugged, irregular mountain-chains traverse the country at every conceivable angle, and around among them winds the lake, filling with its blue waters the intervening spaces, and reflecting, impartially alike, their grand majestic beauty and their faults. What dreams of empire and white-winged commerce on this inland sea must fill the mind and fire the imagery of the newly arrived Mormon convert who, standing on the commanding summit of these mountains, feasts his eyes on the glorious panorama of blue water and rugged mountains that is spread like a wondrous picture before him. Surely, if he be devotionally inclined, it fails not to recall to his mind another inland sea in far-off Asia Minor, on whose pebbly shores and by whose rippling waves the cradle of an older religion than Mormonism was rocked - but not rocked to sleep.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 15th May 1884 (15:00 +0000) | 1 Comment | Permalink

Bed bugs

This spot, is the healthiest and most favorable for the prolific production of certain forms of insect life I ever was in, and I spend the liveliest night here I ever spent anywhere. These people professed to give me a bed to myself, but no sooner have I laid my head on the pillow than I recognize the ghastly joke they are playing on me. The bed is already densely populated with guests, who naturally object to being ousted or overcrowded. They seem quite a kittenish and playful lot, rather inclined to accomplish their ends by playing wild pranks than by resorting to more austere measures. Watching till I have closed my eyes in an attempt to doze off, they slip up and playfully tickle me under the chin, or scramble around in my ear, and anon they wildly chase each other up and down my back, and play leap-frog and hide-and-go-seek all over my sensitive form, so that I arise in the morning anything but refreshed from my experience.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 15th May 1884 (07:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Monument Station

From Kelton I follow the lake shore, and at six in the afternoon arrive at the salt-works, near Monument Station, and apply for accommodation, which is readily given. Here is erected a wind-mill, which pumps the water from the lake into shallow reservoirs, where it evaporates and leaves a layer of coarse salt on the bottom. These people drink water that is disagreeably brackish and unsatisfactory to one unaccustomed to it, but which they say has become more acceptable to them, from habitual use, than purely fresh water.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 14th May 1884 (19:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Great Salt Lake

From this house, which is situated on the table-land of the Red Dome Mountains, can be obtained a more comprehensive view of the Great American Desert than when we last beheld it. It has all the appearance of being the dry bed of an ancient salt lake or inland sea. A broad, level plain of white alkali, which is easily mistaken in the dim distance for smooth, still water, stretches away like a dead, motionless sea as far as human vision can penetrate, until lost in the haze; while, here and there, isolated rocks lift their rugged heads above the dreary level, like islets out of the sea. It is said there are many evidences that go to prove this desert to have once been covered by the waters of the great inland sea that still, in places, laves its eastern borders with its briny flood. I am informed there are many miles of smooth, hard, salt-flats, over which a 'cycler could skim like a bird; but I scarcely think enough of bird-like skimming to go searching for it on the American Desert. A few miles east of Matlin the road leads over a spur of the Red Dome Range, from whence I obtain my first view of the Great Salt Lake, and soon I am enjoying a long-anticipated bath in its briny waters. It is disagreeably cold, but otherwise an enjoyable bath. One can scarce sink beneath the surface, so strongly is the water impregnated with salt. For dinner, I reach Kelton, a town that formerly prospered as the point from which vast quantities of freight were shipped to Idaho. Scores of huge freight-wagons are now bunched up in the corrals, having outlived their usefulness since the innovation from mules and "overland ships " to locomotives on the Utah Northern Railway. Empty stores and a general air of vanished prosperity are the main features of Kelton to-day; and the inhabitants seem to reflect in their persons the aspect of the town; most of them being freighters, who, finding their occupation gone, hang listlessly around, as though conscious of being fit for nothing else.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 14th May 1884 (17:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


At three in the afternoon I roll into Terrace, a small Mormon town. Here a rather tough-looking citizen, noticing that my garments are damp, suggests that 'cycling must be hard work to make a person perspire like that in this dry climate'. At the Matlin section-house I find accommodation for the night with a whole-souled section-house foreman, who is keeping bachelor's hall temporarily, as his wife is away on a visit at Ogden.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 13th May 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


A dreary-looking country is the "Great American Desert," in Utah, the northern boundary line of which I traverse next morning. To the left of the road is a low chain of barren hills; to the right, the uninviting plain, over which one's eye wanders in vain for some green object that might raise hopes of a less desolate region beyond; and over all hangs an oppressive silence - the silence of a dead country - a country destitute of both animal and vegetable life. Over the great desert hangs a smoky haze, out of which Pilot Peak, thirty-eight miles away, rears its conical head 2,500 feet above the level plain at its base.

Some riding is obtained at intervals along this unattractive stretch of country, but there are no continuously ridable stretches, and the principal incentive to mount at all is a feeling of disgust at so much compulsory walking. A noticeable feature through the desert is the almost unquenchable thirst that the dry saline air inflicts upon one. Reaching a railway section-house, I find no one at home; but there is a small underground cistern of imported water, in which "wrigglers " innumerable wriggle, but which is otherwise good and cool. There is nothing to drink out of, and the water is three feet from the surface; while leaning down to try and drink, the wooden framework at the top gives way and precipitates me head first into the water. Luckily, the tank is large enough to enable me to turn round and reappear at the surface, head first, and with considerable difficulty I scramble out again, with, of course, not a dry thread on me.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 13th May 1884 (14:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Depressing Tecoma

There is an awful calamity of some sort hovering over this village. One can feel it in the air. The habitues of the hotel barroom sit around, listless and glum. When they speak at all it is to predict all sorts of difficulties for me in my progress through Utah and Wyoming Territories. "The black gnats of the Salt Lake mud flat'll eat you clean up," snarls one. "Bear River's flooding the hull kintry up Weber Caon way," growls another. "The slickest thing you kin do, stranger, is to board the keers and git out of this," says a third, in a tone of voice and with an emphasis that plainly indicates his great disgust at "this." By "this" he means the village of Tecoma; and he is disgusted with it. They are all disgusted with it and with the whole world this evening, because Tecoma is "out of whiskey." Yes, the village is destitute of whiskey; it should have arrived yesterday, and hasn't shown up yet; and the effect on the society of the bar-room is so depressing that I soon retire to my couch, to dream of Utah's strange intermingling of forbidding deserts and beautiful orchards through which my route now leads me.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 12th May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


The next day, when nearing the entrance to Montello Pass, over the Goose Creek Range, I happen to look across the mingled sagebrush and juniper-spruce brush to the right, and a sight greets my eyes that causes me to instinctively look around for a tall tree, though well knowing that there is nothing of the kind for miles; neither is there any ridable road near, or I might try my hand at breaking the record for a few miles. Standing bolt upright on their hind legs, by the side of a clump of juniper-spruce bushes and intently watching my movements, are a pair of full-grown cinnamon bears. When a bear sees a man before the man happens to descry him, and fails to betake himself off immediately, it signifies that he is either spoiling for a fight or doesn't care a continental password whether war is declared or not. Moreover, animals recognize the peculiar advantages of two to one in a fight equally with their human infer! - superiors; and those two over there are apparently in no particular hurry to move on. They don't seem awed at my presence. On the contrary, they look suspiciously like being undecided and hesitative about whether to let me proceed peacefully on my way or not. Their behavior is outrageous; they stare and stare and stare, and look quite ready for a fight. I don't intend one to come off, though, if I can avoid it. I prefer to have it settled by arbitration. I haven't lost these bears; they aren't mine, and I don't want anything that doesn't belong to me. I am not covetous; so, lest I should be tempted to shoot at them if I come within the regulation two hundred yards, I "edge off" a few hundred yards in the other direction, and soon have the intense satisfaction of seeing them stroll off toward the mountains. I wonder if I don't owe my escape on this occasion to my bicycle. Do the bright spokes glistening in the sunlight as they revolve make an impression on their bearish intellects that influences their decision in favor of a retreat. It is perhaps needless to add that, all through this mountain-pass, I keep a loose eye busily employed looking out for bears. But nothing more of a bearish nature occurs, and the early gloaming finds me at Tecoma, a village near the Utah boundary line.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 12th May 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Extinct Volcanos

Gradually I am nearing the source of the Humboldt, and at the town of Wells I bid it farewell for good. Wells is named from a group of curious springs near the town. They are supposed to be extinct volcanoes, now filled with water; and report says that no sounding-line has yet been found long enough to fathom the bottom. Some day when some poor, unsuspecting tenderfoot is peering inquisitively down one of these well-like springs, the volcano may suddenly come into play again and convert the water into steam that will shoot him clear up into the moon. These volcanoes may have been soaking in water for millions of years; but they are not to be trusted on that account; they can be depended upon to fill some citizen full of lively surprise one of these days. Everything here is surprising. You look across the desert and see flowing water and waving trees; but when you get there, with your tongue hanging out and your fate wellnigh sealed, you are surprised to find nothing but sand and rocks. You climb a mountain expecting to find trees and birds' eggs, and you are surprised to find high-water marks and sea-shells. Finally, you look in the looking-glass and are surprised to find that the wind and exposure have transformed your nice blonde complexion to a semi-sable hue that would prevent your own mother from recognizing you.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 11th May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


Much of the Humboldt Valley, through which my road now runs, is at present flooded from the vast quantities of water that are pouring into it from the Ruby Range of mountains now visible to the southeast, and which have the appearance of being the snowiest of any since leaving the Sierras. Only yesterday I threatened to shed blood before I left Nevada, and sure enough my prophecy is destined to speedy fulfilment. Just east of the Osino Canyon, and where the North Fork of the Humboldt comes down from the north and joins the main stream, is a stretch of swampy ground on which swarms of wild ducks and geese are paddling about. I blaze away at them, and a poor inoffensive gosling is no more.

While writing my notes this evening, in a room adjoining the "bar" at Halleck, near the United States fort of the same name, I overhear a boozy soldier modestly informing his comrades that forty-five miles an hour is no unusual speed to travel with a bicycle.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 10th May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Alkali Bill

At Elko, where I take dinner, I make the acquaintance of an individual, rejoicing in the sobriquet of "Alkali Bill," who has the largest and most comprehensive views of any person I ever met. He has seen a paragraph, something about me riding round the world, and he considerately takes upon himself the task of summing up the few trifling obstacles that I shall encounter on the way round:

"There is only a small rise at Sherman," he rises to explain, "and another still smaller at the Alleghanies; all the balance is downhill to the Atlantic. Of course you'll have to 'boat it' across the Frogpond; then there's Europe - mostly level; so is Asia, except the Himalayas - and you can soon cross them; then you're all 'hunky,' for there's no mountains to speak of in China." Evidently Alkali Bill is a person who points the finger of scorn at small ideas, and leaves the bothersome details of life to other and smaller-minded folks. In his vast and glorious imagery he sees a centaur-like cycler skimming like a frigate-bird across states and continents, scornfully ignoring sandy deserts and bridgeless streams, halting for nothing but oceans, and only slowing up a little when he runs up against a peak that bobs up its twenty thousand feet of snowy grandeur serenely in his path. What a Ceasar is lost to this benighted world, because in its blindness, it will not search out such men as Alkali and ask them to lead it onward to deeds of inconceivable greatness. Alkali Bill can whittle more chips in an hour than some men could in week.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 10th May 1884 (19:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Incident with a mountain lion

Little riding is possible all through this section of Nevada, and, in order to complete the forty miles a day that I have rigorously imposed upon myself, I sometimes get up and pull out at daylight. It is scarce more than sunrise when, following the railroad through Five-mile Canon - another rift through one of the many mountain chains that cross this part of Nevada in all directions under the general name of the Humboldt Mountains - I meet with a startling adventure. I am trundling through the canyon alongside the river, when, rounding the sharp curve of a projecting mountain, a tawny mountain lion is perceived trotting leisurely along ahead of me, not over a hundred yards in advance. He hasn't seen me yet; he is perfectly oblivious of the fact that he is in "the presence." A person of ordinary discretion would simply have revealed his presence by a gentlemanly sneeze, or a slight noise of any kind, when the lion would have immediately bolted back into the underbrush. Unable to resist the temptation, I fired at him, and of course missed him, as a person naturally would at a hundred yards with a bull-dog revolver. The bullet must have singed him a little though, for, instead of wildly scooting for the brush, as I anticipated, he turns savagely round and comes bounding rapidly toward me, and at twenty paces crouches for a spring. Laying his cat-like head almost on the ground, his round eyes flashing fire, and his tail angrily waving to and fro, he looks savage and dangerous. Crouching behind the bicycle, I fire at him again. Nine times out of ten a person will overshoot the mark with a revolver under such circumstances, and, being anxious to avoid this, I do the reverse, and fire too low. The ball strikes the ground just in front of his head, and throws the sand and gravel in his face, and perhaps in his wicked round eyes; for he shakes his head, springs up, and makes off into the brush. I shall shed blood of some sort yet before I leave Nevada. There isn't a day that I don't shoot at something or other; and all I ask of any animal is to come within two hundred yards and I will squander a cartridge on him, and I never fail to hit the ground.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 10th May 1884 (10:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Bar-room antics

It grows pitchy dark ere I leave the canyon on my way to Carlin. Farther on, the gorge widens, and thick underbrush intervenes between the road and the river. From out the brush I see peering two little round phosphorescent balls, like two miniature moons, turned in my direction. I wonder what kind of an animal it is, as I trundle along through the darkness, revolver in hand, ready to defend myself, should it make an attack. I think it is a mountain-lion, as they seem to be plentiful in this part of Nevada.

Late as it is when I reach Carlin, the "boys" must see how a bicycle is ridden, and, as there is no other place suitable, I manage to circle around the pool-table in the hotel bar-room a few times, nearly scalping myself against the bronze chandelier in the operation. I hasten, however, to explain that these proceedings took place immediately after my arrival, lest some worldly wise, over-sagacious person should be led to suspect them to be the riotous undertakings of one who had "smiled with the boys once too often."

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 09th May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Humboldt Canyon

This afternoon I follow the river through Humboldt Canyon in preference to taking a long circuitous route over the mountains. The first noticeable things about this canyon are the peculiar water-marks plainly visible on the walls, high up above where the water could possibly rise while its present channels of escape exist unobstructed. It is thought that the country east of the spur of the Red Range, which stretches clear across the valley at Be-o-wa-we, and through which the Humboldt seems to have cut its way, was formerly a lake, and that the water gradually wore a passage-way for itself through the massive barrier, leaving only the high-water marks on the mountain sides to tell of the mighty change. In this canyon the rocky walls tower like gigantic battlements, grim and gloomy on either side, and the seething, boiling waters of the Humboldt - that for once awakens from its characteristic lethargy, and madly plunges and splutters over a bed of jagged rocks which seem to have been tossed into its channel by some Herculean hand - fill this mighty "rift" in the mountains with a never-ending roar. It has been threatening rain for the last two hours, and now the first peal of thunder I have heard on the whole journey awakens the echoing voices of the canyon and rolls and rumbles along the great jagged fissure like an angry monster muttering his mighty wrath. Peal after peal follow each other in quick succession, the vigorous, newborn echoes of one peal seeming angrily to chase the receding voices of its predecessor from cliff to cliff, and from recess to projection, along its rocky, erratic course up the canyon. Vivid flashes of forked lightning shoot athwart the heavy black cloud that seems to rest on either wall, roofing the canyon with a ceiling of awful grandeur. Sheets of electric flame light up the dark, shadowy recesses of the towering rocks as they play along the ridges and hover on the mountain-tops; while large drops of rain begin to patter down, gradually increasing with the growing fury of their battling allies above, until a heavy, drenching downpour of rain and hail compels me to take shelter under an overhanging rock. At 4 P.M. I reach Palisade, a railroad village situated in the most romantic spot imaginable, under the shadows of the towering palisades that hover above with a sheltering care, as if their special mission were to protect it from all harm. Evidently these mountains have been rent in twain by an earthquake, and this great gloomy chasm left open, for one can plainly see that the two walls represent two halves of what was once a solid mountain. Curious caves are observed in the face of the cliffs, and one, more conspicuous than the rest, has been christened "Maggie's Bower," in honor of a beautiful Scottish maiden who with her parents once lingered in a neighboring creek-bottom for some time, recruiting their stock. But all is not romance and beauty even in the glorious palisades of the Humboldt; for great, glaring, patent-medicine advertisements are painted on the most conspicuously beautiful spots of the palisades. Business enterprise is of course to be commended and encouraged; but it is really annoying that one cannot let his esthetic soul - that is constantly yearning for the sublime and beautiful - rest in gladsome reflection on some beautiful object without at the same time being reminded of "corns," and " biliousness," and all the multifarious evils that flesh is heir to.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 08th May 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Maiden's Grave

Three miles from Be-o-wa-we is seen the celebrated "Maiden's Grave," on a low hill or bluff by the road-side; and "thereby hangs a tale." In early days, a party of emigrants were camped near by at Gravelly Ford, waiting for the waters to subside, so that they could cross the river, when a young woman of the party sickened and died. A rudely carved head-board was set up to mark the spot where she was buried. Years afterward, when the railroad was being built through here, the men discovered this rude head-board all alone on the bleak hill-top, and were moved by worthy sentiment to build a rough stone wall around it to keep off the ghoulish coyotes; and, later on, the superintendent of the division erected a large white cross, which now stands in plain view of the railroad. On one side of the cross is written the simple inscription, "Maiden's Grave;" on the other, her name, "Lucinda Duncan" Leaving the bicycle by the road-side, I climb the steep bluff and examine the spot with some curiosity. There are now twelve other graves beside the original "Maiden's Grave," for the people of Be-o-wa-we and the surrounding country have selected this romantic spot on which to inter the remains of their departed friends.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 08th May 1884 (12:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Crossing the river

From Battle Mountain my route leads across a low alkali bottom, through which dozens of small streams are flowing to the Humboldt. Many of them are narrow enough to be jumped, but not with a bicycle on one's shoulder, for under such conditions there is always a disagreeable uncertainty that one may disastrously alight before he gets ready. But I am getting tired of partially undressing to ford streams that are little more than ditches, every little way, and so I hit upon the novel plan of using the machine for a vaulting-pole. Beaching it out into the centre of the stream, I place one hand on the head and the other on the saddle, and vault over, retaining my hold as I alight on the opposite shore. Pulling the bicycle out after me, the thing is done. There is no telling to what uses this two-wheeled "creature" could be put in case of necessity. Certainly the inventor never expected it to be used for a vaulting-pole in leaping across streams.

Twenty-five miles east of Battle Mountain the valley of the Humboldt widens into a plain of some size, through which the river meanders with many a horseshoe curve, and maps out the pot-hooks and hangers of our childhood days in mazy profusion. Amid these innumerable curves and counter-curves, clumps of willows and tall blue-joint reed grow thickly, and afford shelter to thousands of pelicans, that here make their homes far from the disturbing presence of man. All unconscious of impending difficulties, I follow the wagon trail leading through this valley until I find myself standing on the edge of the river, ruefully looking around for some avenue by which I can proceed on my way. I am in the bend of a horseshoe curve, and the only way to get out is to retrace my footsteps for several miles, which disagreeable performance I naturally feel somewhat opposed to doing. Casting about me I discover a couple of old fence-posts that have floated down from the Be-o-wa-we settlement above and lodged against the bank. I determine to try and utilize them in getting the machine across the river, which is not over thirty yards wide at this point. Swimming across with my clothes first, I tie the bicycle to the fence-posts, which barely keep it from sinking, and manage to navigate it successfully across. The village of Be-o-wa-we is full of cowboys, who are preparing for the annual spring round-up. Whites, Indians, and Mexicans compose the motley crowd. They look a wild lot, with their bear-skin chaparejos and semi-civilized trappings, galloping to and fro in and about the village. "I can't spare the time, or I would," is my slightly un-truthful answer to an invitation to stop over for the day and have some fun. Briefly told, this latter, with the cowboy, consists in getting hilariously drunk, and then turning his "pop" loose at anything that happens to strike his whiskey-bedevilled fancy as presenting a fitting target. Now a bicycle, above all things, would intrude itself upon the notice of a cowboy on a "tear" as a peculiar and conspicuous object, especially if it had a man on it; so after taking a "smile" with them for good-fellowship, and showing them the modus operandi of riding the wheel, I consider it wise to push on up the valley.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 07th May 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Cycling by moonlight

It is scarcely presumable that one would be blessed with rosy-hued visions of pleasure under such conditions, however, and near midnight I awake in a cold shiver. The snowy mountains rear their white heads up in the silent night, grim and ghostly all around, and make the midnight air chilly, even in midsummer. I lie there, trying in vain to doze off again, for it grows perceptibly cooler. At two o'clock I can stand it no longer, and so get up and strike out for Battle Mountain, twenty miles ahead.

The moon has risen; it is two-thirds full, and a more beautiful sight than the one that now greets my exit from the bunk-house it is scarcely possible to conceive. Only those who have been in this inter-mountain country can have any idea of a glorious moonlight night in the clear atmosphere of this dry, elevated region. It is almost as light as day, and one can see to ride quite well wherever the road is ridable. The pale moon seems to fill the whole broad valley with a flood of soft, silvery light; the peaks of many snowy mountains loom up white and spectral; the still air is broken by the excited yelping of a pack of coyotes noisily baying the pale-yellow author of all this loveliness, and the wild, unearthly scream of an unknown bird or animal coming from some mysterious, undefinable quarter completes an ideal Western picture, a poem, a dream, that fully compensates for the discomforts of the preceding hour. The inspiration of this beautiful scene awakes the slumbering poesy within, and I am inspired to compose a poem - "Moonlight in the Rockies" - that I expect some day to see the world go into raptures over!

A few miles from the Chinese shanty I pass a party of Indians camped by the side of my road.They are squatting around the smouldering embers of a sage-brush fire, sleeping and dozing. I am riding slowly and carefully along the road that happens to be ridable just here, and am fairly past them before being seen. As I gradually vanish in the moonlit air I wonder what they think it was - that strange-looking object that so silently and mysteriously glided past. It is safe to warrant they think me anything but flesh and blood, as they rouse each other and peer at my shadowy form disappearing in the dim distance.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Wednesday 07th May 1884 (05:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Stone-House Ghosts

Alkali flats abound, and some splendid riding is to be obtained east of Iron Point. Just before darkness closes down over the surrounding area of plain and mountain I reach Stone-House section-house.

"Yes, I guess we can get you a bite of something; but it will be cold," is the answer vouchsafed in reply to my query about supper. Being more concerned these days about the quantity of provisions I can command than the quality, the prospect of a cold supper arouses no ungrateful emotions. I would rather have a four-pound loaf and a shoulder of mutton for supper now than a smaller quantity of extra choice viands; and I manage to satisfy the cravings of my inner man before leaving the table. But what about a place to sleep. For some inexplicable reason these people refuse to grant me even the shelter of their roof for the night. They are not keeping hotel, they say, which is quite true; they have a right to refuse, even if it is twenty miles to the next place; and they do refuse. "There's the empty Chinese bunk-house over there. You can crawl in there, if you arn't afeerd of ghosts," is the parting remark, as the door closes and leaves me standing, like an outcast, on the dark, barren plain.

A week ago this bunk-house was occupied by a gang of Chinese railroaders, who got to quarrelling among themselves, and the quarrel wound up in quite a tragic poisoning affair, that resulted in the death of two, and nearly killed a third. The Chinese are nothing, if not superstitious, and since this affair no Chinaman would sleep in the bunk-house or work on this section; consequently the building remains empty. The "spooks" of murdered Chinese are everything but agreeable company; nevertheless they are preferable to inhospitable whites, and I walk over to the house and stretch my weary frame in - for aught I know - the same bunk in which, but a few days ago, reposed the ghastly corpses of the poisoned Celestials. Despite the unsavory memories clinging around the place, and my pillowless and blanketless couch, I am soon in the land of dreams.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 06th May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Horned Toad

There are Piutes and Piutes camped at Winnemucca, and in the morning I meet a young brave on horseback a short distance out of town and let him try his hand with the bicycle. I wheel him along a few yards and let him dismount; and then I show him how to mount and invite him to try it himself. He gallantly makes the attempt, but springs forward with too much energy, and over he topples, with the bicycle cavorting around on top of him. This satisfies his aboriginal curiosity, and he smiles and shakes his head when I offer to swap the bicycle for his mustang.

The road is heavy with sand all along by Winnemucca, and but little riding is to be done. The river runs through green meadows of rich bottom-land hereabouts; but the meadows soon disappear as I travel eastward. Twenty miles east of Winnemucca the river and railroad pass through the canyon in a low range of mountains, while my route lies over the summit. It is a steep trundle up the fountains, but from the summit a broad view of the surrounding country is obtained. The Humboldt River is not a beautiful stream, and for the greater part of its length it meanders through alternate stretches of dreary sage-brush plain and low sand-hills, at long intervals passing through a canyon in some barren mountain chain. But "distance lends enchantment to the view," and from the summit of the mountain pass even the Humboldt looks beautiful. The sun shines on its waters, giving it a sheen, and for many a mile its glistening surface can be seen - winding its serpentine course through the broad, gray-looking sage and grease-wood plains, while at occasional intervals narrow patches of green, in striking contrast to the surrounding gray, show where the hardy mountain grasses venturously endeavor to invade the domains of the autocratic sagebrush.

What is that queer-looking little reptile, half lizard, half frog, that scuttles about among the rocks? It is different from anything I have yet seen. Around the back of its neck and along its sides, and, in a less prominent degree, all over its yellowish-gray body, are small, horn-like protuberances that give the little fellow a very peculiar appearance. Ah, I know who he is. I have heard of him, and have seen his picture in books. I am happy to make his acquaintance. He is "Prickey," the famed horned toad of Nevada. On this mountain spur, between the Golconda miningcamp and Iron Point, is the only place I have seen him on the tour. He is a very interesting little creature, more lizard than frog, perfectly harmless; and his little bead-like eyes are bright and fascinating as the eyes of a rattlesnake.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Tuesday 06th May 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


Going out of Mill City next morning I lose the way, and find myself up near a small mining camp among the mountains south of the railroad. Thinking to regain the road quickly by going across country through the sage-brush, I get into a place where that enterprising shrub is so thick and high that I have to hold the bicycle up overhead to get through.

To-night I stay in Winnemucca, the county seat of Humboldt County, and quite a lively little town of 1,200 inhabitants. "What'll yer have." is the first word on entering the hotel, and "Won't yer take a bottle of whiskey along." is the last word on leaving it next morning.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Monday 05th May 1884 (20:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink


Sunday, May 4th, finds me anchored for the day at the village of Lovelock's, on the Humboldt River, where I spend quite a remarkable day. Never before did such a strangely assorted crowd gather to see the first bicycle ride they ever saw, as the crowd that gathers behind the station at Lovelock's to-day to see me. There are perhaps one hundred and fifty people, of whom a hundred are Piute and Shoshone Indians, and the remainder a mingled company of whites and Chinese railroaders; and among them all it is difficult to say who are the most taken with the novelty of the exhibition - the red, the yellow, or the white. Later in the evening I accept the invitation of a Piute brave to come out to their camp, behind the village, and witness rival teams of Shoshone and Piute squaws play a match-game of "Fi-re-fla," the national game of both the Shoshone and Piute tribes. The principle of the game is similar to polo. The squaws are armed with long sticks, with which they endeavor to carry a shorter one to the goal. It is a picturesque and novel sight to see the squaws, dressed in costumes in which the garb of savagery and civilization is strangely mingled and the many colors of the rainbow are promiscuously blended, flitting about the field with the agility of a team of professional polo-players; while the bucks and old squaws, with their pappooses, sit around and watch the game with unmistakable enthusiasm. The Shoshone team wins and looks pleased. Here, at Lovelock's, I fall in with one of those strange and seemingly incongruous characters that are occasionally met with in the West. He is conversing with a small gathering of Piutes in their own tongue, and I introduce myself by asking him the probable age of one of the Indians, whose wrinkled and leathery countenance would indicate unusual longevity. He tells me the Indian is probably ninety years old; but the Indians themselves never know their age, as they count everything by the changes of the moon and the seasons, having no knowledge whatever of the calendar year. While talking on this subject, imagine my surprise to hear my informant - who looks as if the Scriptures are the last thing in the world for him to speak of - volunteer the information that our venerable and venerated ancestors, the antediluvians, used to count time in the same way as the Indians, and that instead of Methuselah being nine hundred and sixty-nine years of age, it ought to be revised so as to read "nine hundred and sixty-nine moons," which would bring that ancient and long-lived person - the oldest man that ever lived - down to the venerable but by no means extraordinary age of eighty years and nine months. This is the first time I have heard this theory, and my astonishment at hearing it from the lips of a rough-looking habitue of the Nevada plains, seated in the midst of a group of illiterate Indians, can easily be imagined.

On, up the Humboldt valley I continue, now riding over a smooth, alkali flat, and again slavishly trundling through deep sand, a dozen snowy mountain peaks round about, the Humboldt sluggishly winding its way through the alkali plain; on past Rye Patch, to the right of which are more hot springs, and farther on mines of pure sulphur-all these things, especially the latter, unpleasantly suggestive of a certain place where the climate is popularly supposed to be uncomfortably warm; on, past Humboldt Station, near which place I wantonly shoot a poor harmless badger, who peers inquisitively out of his hole as I ride past. There is something peculiarly pathetic about the actions of a dying badger, and no sooner has the thoughtless shot sped on its mission of death than I am sorry for doing it.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Sunday 04th May 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Hot Springs

A short distance to the right of Hot Springs Station broken clouds of steam are seen rising from the ground, as though huge caldrons of water were being heated there. Going to the spot I find, indeed, "caldrons of boiling water;" but the caldrons are in the depths. At irregular openings in the rocky ground the bubbling water wells to the surface, and the fires-ah! where are the fires. On another part of this desert are curious springs that look demure and innocuous enough most of the time, but occasionally they emit columns of spray and steam. It is related of these springs that once a party of emigrants passed by, and one of the men knelt down to take a drink of the clear, nice-looking water. At the instant he leaned over, the spring spurted a quantity of steam and spray all over him, scaring him nearly out of his wits. The man sprang up, and ran as if for his life, frantically beckoning the wagons to move on, at the same time shouting, at the top of his voice, "Drive on! drive on! hell's no great distance from here!"

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Saturday 03rd May 1884 (18:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

The Forty-mile Desert

For a short distance, next morning, the road is ridable, but nearing Wadsworth it gets sandy, and "sandy," in Nevada means deep, loose sand, in which one sinks almost to his ankles at every step, and where the possession of a bicycle fails to awaken that degree of enthusiasm that it does on a smooth, hard road. At Wadsworth I have to bid farewell to the Truckee River, and start across the Forty-mile Desert, which lies between the Truckee and Humboldt Rivers. Standing on a sand-hill and looking eastward across the dreary, desolate waste of sand, rocks, and alkali, it is with positive regret that I think of leaving the cool, sparkling stream that has been my almost constant companion for nearly a hundred miles. It has always been at hand to quench my thirst or furnish a refreshing bath. More than once have I beguiled the tedium of some uninteresting part of the journey by racing with some trifling object hurried along on its rippling surface. I shall miss the murmuring music of its dancing waters as one would miss the conversation of a companion.

This Forty-mile Desert is the place that was so much dreaded by the emigrants en route to the gold-fields of California, there being not a blade of grass nor drop of water for the whole forty miles; nothing but a dreary waste of sand and rocks that reflects the heat of the sun, and renders the desert a veritable furnace in midsummer; and the stock of the emigrants, worn out by the long journey from the States, would succumb by the score in crossing. Though much of the trail is totally unfit for cycling, there are occasional alkali flats that are smooth and hard enough to play croquet on; and this afternoon, while riding with careless ease across one of these places, I am struck with the novelty of the situation. I am in the midst of the dreariest, deadest-looking country imaginable. Whirlwinds of sand, looking at a distance like huge columns of smoke, are wandering erratically over the plains in all directions. The blazing sun casts, with startling vividness on the smooth white alkali, that awful scraggy, straggling shadow that, like a vengeful fate, always accompanies the cycler on a sunny day, and which is the bane of a sensitive wheelman's life. The only representative of animated nature hereabouts is a species of small gray lizard that scuttles over the bare ground with astonishing rapidity. Not even a bird is seen in the air. All living things seem instinctively to avoid this dread spot save the lizard. A desert forty miles wide is not a particularly large one; but when one is in the middle of it, it might as well be as extensive as Sahara itself, for anything he can see to the contrary, and away off to the right I behold as perfect a mirage as one could wish to see. A person can scarce help believing his own eyes, and did one not have some knowledge of these strange and wondrous phenomena, one's orbs of vision would indeed open with astonishment; for seemingly but a few miles away is a beautiful lake, whose shores are fringed with wavy foliage, and whose cool waters seem to leave the burning desert sands at its edge.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Friday 02nd May 1884 (16:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Little Shanty

I find it occupied. I am all right now for the night. Hold on, though! not so fast. "There is many a slip," etc. The little shanty, with a few acres of rather rocky ground, on the bank of the Truckee, is presided over by a lonely bachelor of German extraction, who eyes me with evident suspicion, as, leaning on my bicycle in front of his rude cabin door I ask to be accommodated for the night. Were it a man on horseback, or a man with a team, this hermit-like rancher could satisfy himself to some extent as to the character of his visitor, for he sees men on horseback or men in wagons, on an average, perhaps, once a week during the summer, and can see plenty of them any day by going to Reno. But me and the bicycle he cannot "size up" so readily. He never saw the like of us before, and we are beyond his Teutonic frontier-like comprehension. He gives us up; he fails to solve the puzzle; he knows not how to unravel the mystery; and, with characteristic Teutonic bluntness, he advises us to push on through fifteen miles of rocks, sand, and darkness, to Wadsworth. The prospect of worrying my way, hungry and weary, through fifteen miles of rough, unknown country, after dark, looms up as rather a formidable task. So summoning my reserve stock of persuasive eloquence, backed up by sundry significant movements, such as setting the bicycle up against his cabin-wall, and sitting down on a block of wood under the window, I finally prevail upon him to accommodate me with a blanket on the floor of the shanty. He has just finished supper, and the remnants of the frugal repast are still on the table; but he says nothing about any supper for me: he scarcely feels satisfied with himself yet: he feels that I have, in some mysterious manner, gained an unfair advantage over him, and obtained a foothold in his shanty against his own wish-jumped his claim, so to speak. Not that I think the man really inhospitable at heart; but he has been so habitually alone, away from his fellowmen so much, that the presence of a stranger in his cabin makes him feel uneasy; and when that stranger is accompanied by a queer-looking piece of machinery that cannot stand alone, but which he nevertheless says he rides on, our lonely rancher is perhaps not so much to be wondered at, after all, for his absent-mindedness in regard to my supper. His mind is occupied with other thoughts. "You couldn't accommodate a fellow with a bite to eat, could you." I timidly venture, after devouring what eatables are in sight, over and over again, with my eyes. "I have plenty of money to pay for any accommodation I get," I think it policy to add, by way of cornering him up and giving him as little chance to refuse as possible, for I am decidedly hungry, and if money or diplomacy, or both, will produce supper, I don't propose to go to bed supperless. I am not much surprised to see him bear out my faith in his innate hospitality by apologizing for not thinking of my supper before, and insisting, against my expressed wishes, on lighting the fire and getting me a warm meal of fried ham and coffee, for which I beg leave to withdraw any unfavorable impressions in regard to him which my previous remarks may possibly have made on the reader's mind.

After supper he thaws out a little, and I wheedle out of him a part of his history. He settled on this spot of semi-cultivable land during the flush times on the Comstock, and used to prosper very well by raising vegetables, with the aid of Truckee-River water, and hauling them to the mining-camps; but the palmy days of the Comstock have departed and with them our lonely rancher's prosperity. Mine host has barely blankets enough for his own narrow bunk, and it is really an act of generosity on his part when he takes a blanket off his bed and invites me to extract what comfort I can get out of it for the night. Snowy mountains are round about, and curled up on the floor of the shanty, like a kitten under a stove in mid-winter, I shiver the long hours away, and endeavor to feel thankful that it is no worse.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 01st May 1884 (22:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

Over the Deserts of Nevada

Gradually I leave the pine-clad slopes of the Sierras behind, and every revolution of my wheel reveals scenes that constantly remind me that I am in the great "Sage-brush State." How appropriate indeed is the name. Sage-brush is the first thing seen on entering Nevada, almost the only vegetation seen while passing through it, and the last thing seen on leaving it. Clear down to the edge of the rippling waters of the Truckee, on the otherwise barren plain, covering the elevated table-lands, up the hills, even to the mountain-tops-everywhere, everywhere, nothing but sagebrush. In plain view to the right, as I roll on toward Reno, are the mountains on which the world-renowned Comstock lode is situated, and Reno was formerly the point from which this celebrated mining-camp was reached.

Boiling into Reno at 10.30 A.M. the characteristic whiskey-straight hospitality of the Far West at once asserts itself, and one individual with sporting proclivities invites me to stop over a day or two and assist him to "paint Reno red " at his expense. Leaving Reno, my route leads through the famous Truckee meadows - a strip of very good agricultural land, where plenty of money used to be made by raising produce for the Virginia City market. "But there's nothing in it any more, since the Comstock's played out," glumly remarks a ranchman, at whose place I get dinner. "I'll take less for my ranch now than I was offered ten years ago," he continues.

The "meadows" gradually contract, and soon after dinner I find myself again following the Truckee down a narrow space between mountains, whose volcanic-looking rocks are destitute of all vegetation save stunted sage-brush. All down here the road is ridable in patches; but many dismounts have to be made, and the walking to be done aggregates at least one-third of the whole distance travelled during the day. Sneakish coyotes prowl about these mountains, from whence they pay neighborly visits to the chicken-roosts of the ranchers in the Truckee meadows near by. Toward night a pair of these animals are observed following behind at the respectful distance of five hundred yards. One need not be apprehensive of danger from these contemptible animals, however; they are simply following behind in a frame of mind similar to that of a hungry school-boy's when gazing longingly into a confectioner's window. Still, night is gathering around, and it begins to look as though I will have to pillow my head on the soft side of a bowlder, and take lodgings on the footsteps of a bald mountain to-night; and it will scarcely invite sleep to know that two pairs of sharp, wolfish eyes are peering wistfully through the darkness at one's prostrate form, and two red tongues are licking about in hungry anticipation of one's blood. Moreover, these animals have an unpleasant habit of congregating after night to pay their compliments to the pale moon, and to hold concerts that would put to shame a whole regiment of Kilkenny cats; though there is but little comparison between the two, save that one howls and the other yowls, and either is equally effective in driving away the drowsy Goddess. I try to draw these two animals within range of my revolver by hiding behind rocks; but they are too chary of their precious carcasses to take any risks, and the moment I disappear from their sight behind a rock they are on the alert, and looking "forty ways at the same time," to make sure that I am not creeping up on them from some other direction. Fate, however, has decreed that I am not to sleep out to-night - not quite out. A lone shanty looms up through the gathering darkness, and I immediately turn my footsteps thitherwise.

Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 01st May 1884 (19:00 +0000) | Add a comment | Permalink

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