HISTORY: The first bicycle trip across the Sierra

Thomas Stevens’ bicycle was a 48 pound Columbia Extraordinary, “excessive wheeler” or “penny farthing” — a type of bicycles with the massive entrance wheel and a small again wheel. Some individuals known as these bicycles “bone crushers.” There have been no gears — the bicycles had been “direct drive.”

Thomas Stevens had by no means been on a bicycle when, in 1884, he determined to trip throughout the Sierra, throughout the nation, and around the globe by bike.

Nobody had ever thought to do what he had deliberate.

The primary order of enterprise was studying easy methods to trip a motorbike. A fast lesson in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park inspired him to depart San Francisco in April for his grand journey. He clearly didn’t notice that snow lasts lots longer within the Sierra.

Stevens’ bicycle was a 48 pound Columbia Extraordinary, “excessive wheeler” or “penny farthing” — a type of bicycles with the massive entrance wheel and a small again wheel. It price $110, had picket wheels and stable rubber tires. Some individuals known as these bicycles “bone crushers.” There have been no gears — the bicycles had been “direct drive.”

Stevens traveled mild carrying solely further socks, a shirt, bedroll, pistol and a gossamer rubber coat he may use as a tent.

Bicycle driving in these days was tougher than at present. In lots of locations it was extra bike strolling than bike driving. Stevens used the trail that ran subsequent to the railroad as a result of it was “often rideable.”

The roads weren’t.

As he approached the Sierra individuals started asking how he was going to get by the snow.

Snowsheds, he mentioned.

The streets in Dutch Flat had been a torrent and it was snowing on the Summit.

The snowsheds had been the one means over the mountain and had been “constructed at nice expense to guard the monitor from the huge portions of snow …”

Bike driving by the snowsheds was not an possibility and Stevens “trudged merrily alongside” pushing his huge bike by the tunnels. Touring by the snowsheds was something however “nice going” as he traveled the “gloomy inside” that was each “darkish and smoky.”

Stevens didn’t have a prepare schedule so he needed to make do when a prepare handed. At one level he was crossing a trestle when a prepare approached. He had no different possibility however to get out on a rail, dangle his bicycle over the precipice and maintain on for expensive life because the prepare handed.

Within the sheds when he heard a prepare he’d “proceed to occupy as small an quantity of house as doable towards the aspect, and look ahead to the “smoke-emitting monsters” to go. The engines “fill each nook and nook of the tunnel with dense smoke, which creates a darkness by the aspect of which the pure darkness of the tunnel is daylight as compared. Here’s a darkness that may be felt; I’ve to grope my means ahead, inch by inch; afraid to set my foot down till I’ve felt the place, for concern of blundering right into a culvert …”

“I pause each few steps to hear” for an approaching prepare.

When he emerged from the Sierra sheds he climbed a pine tree to “receive a view of Donner Lake, known as the ‘Gem of the Sierras.’”

Then it was down the Truckee, a “fast, rollicking stream” alongside which had been dams and mill websites with out restrict. There was little rideable street right down to Truckee however Stevens ultimately discovered a great street at Verdi.

After the Sierra it was on to the 40 Mile Desert in Nevada. In Reno “the attribute whiskey-straight hospitality of the Far West directly asserts itself” and he stopped for a couple of days to “paint Reno pink.”

Stevens completed his cross-country jaunt in August in New York. It had taken 103 days and coated 3,700 miles. Then he launched into his round-the- world journey. In 1887, he returned to San Francisco from the west having coated 13,500 miles. He’d walked about one-third of the journey and confronted a mountain lion, lack of roads, 130 diploma Indian warmth, lack of ability to speak in overseas lands, loneliness, nearly being stoned to loss of life, being arrested as a spy, and being waylaid by highwaymen.

He’d misplaced 25 kilos from his small 5-foot, 5-inch body on the journey.

Bicycling continues to be a well-liked pastime with the Donner Summit-Truckee space providing an unlimited assortment of trails

Any good day will discover individuals bicycling from Truckee to Tahoe Metropolis, going out to circumnavigate Lake Tahoe, trip round Donner Lake, or journey over the summit to Cisco and again.

Immediately’s bicyclists observe within the tracks of early bicyclists, essentially the most wonderful of whom was Thomas Stevens.

Invoice Oudegeest has had a home on Donner Summit for greater than 40 years. He’s a retired public college instructor and administrator and one of many founders of the Donner Summit Historic Society. He writes and edits the Donner Summit Heirloom, has revealed two books on native historical past, written quite a lot of pamphlets and reveals, leads hikes, and extra.