To The Golden Gate 10   

To The Golden Gate 10
George Nellis' 1887 Wheel Across The Continent

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 Day 53, July 15
 Castle Rock, Utah to Ogden, Utah. 59 miles, 11 hours
We set out down the winding canyon for Echo. The road traversed one of the most picturesque sections of the Wasatch Mountains. As we passed down its winding course the ever changing landscape, dotted here and there by the log cabin of the sturdy ranchman, made a picture we will never forget. With a solid nearly perpendicular wall of rugged rocks on one side and a gradually sloping chain of hills on the other, a bubbling mountain brook in the center and the steel rails of the Union Pacific, glistening in the morning sun, crossed and recrossed by the circuitous wagon road, this pathway furnished an endless array of objects grand and beautiful for the entire distance to Ogden. High up the mountain side could the eye discern an occasional mountain buck, peering down on the silent steed and its rider. Steady wavering pines, which in the distance resembled tiny shrubs, bent and swayed in the gentle breeze. A compact mass of craggy yellow and stone, forming as it seemed an insurmountable barrier. But science and ingenuity had hewn a way out of the solid rock which led over cliffs and wound around abrupt curves, a yawning precipice on one side and the column of rock on the other. Carefully steering our 'cycle over these places, lest a false move, a suddenly encountered boulder would precipitate us to the yawning chasm below. We emerged upon a level plateau where lies the little village of Echo, 17 miles from Castle Rock at 12 o'clock. The reader may wonder at the slow rate of time – 17 miles in 5 hours, but had we to pass thro' that lovely spot again much more time would we consume in studying its wealth of wonders. Dinner over at Echo. Peterson is reached at 5:30, stopping 30 minutes for supper we push on thro' Devil's Gate and set out for Ogden. We run into the city, registering at the Chamberlin house, at 8:30. Half a bushel of mail awaited us there. Robbins circus was also there, so a little more than the usual excitement was manifest. Ogden is the terminus of the Union Pacific railroad, and from here westward the Central Pacific makes the connecting link to 'Frisco.

Day 54, July 16
 Ogden, Utah – visit Salt Lake City, Utah
Saturday is devoted to a run via rail down to Salt Lake City. Arriving in the city we immediately met Mr. D. L. Davis, L.A.W. consul at this place, who undertakes to pilot us about "the center stake of Zion," as this Mormon center has been facetiously dubbed. The tabernacle, temple and other buildings devoted to Mormon worship are duly inspected and admired, together with the late residence of Brigham Young and homes of other lesser or greater lights in saintly circles. A stroll about the city reveals many fine streets, beautified by handsome residences ornamented by pleasant shade trees, and with brooks of pure running water bordering either curb. Many orchards of fruit in various stages of growth are also seen and a ride into the country on either hand will reveal a perfect garden of Eden so extensive is fruit culture carried on here. After dinner we take a trip to Garfield beach on Salt Lake. This is the most prominent bathing and picnic resort of the place and is withal, a beautiful spot. Large steamers ply to and fro and give to the town a splendid opportunity of exploring the inland sea, which has no outlet. We might add that the city is now in quite a furor occasioned by the prospective admission of Utah as a state [not admitted until 1896].

 Day 55, July 17
Ogden, Utah to Promontory, Utah. 56 miles, 7 hours
Sunday morning we have the pleasure of meeting Messrs. Browning Bros. at Ogden, agents for bicycling goods in general and the Columbia cycles in particular. These gentlemen also carry a full line of sporting goods and are always ready to meet the wants of their increasing patronage. Accompanied by the best wishes of a host of Ogden's genial riders, we spring in the saddle at 9:15 and ride away across the desert. Hard gravel roads are met with all the way to Brigham City, twenty-three miles. Dinner over we are away to Corinne and here ends our good roads. The next 18 miles is partially ridden across Salt Lake or an arid desert on one end of the lake, and partially walked on the railroad track. When in the center of a wide expanse of sandy waste, which was smooth and hard in some places, we were ready to swear we were on an island. On every hand, as plain as day could be seen a blue expanse of water or what was to all appearances a good imitation of the genuine article. But reader, you have no doubt heard of a mirage. Well this was one, and a most realistic one too. [Stevens reported seeing mirages on his ride in 1884]. One of the first things we did at Blue Creek was to imbibe a quart or more of water for which we were nearly dying, and then set out for Promontory, an eight mile walk up a tremendous hill. The good fortune of a railroad hotel awaited us here, and so assured substantial accommodation. [Promontory was the place where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific were joined on May 10, 1869. In later years the dividing point between the two lines was Ogden, Utah].

 Day 56 July 18
Promontory, Utah to Ombey Section, Utah. 52 miles, 8 hours
We pushed out and took a ride over the hills on a hard gravel road to Monument. This section house kept by a batchelor, so we discarded dinner, notwithstanding the fact that it was 12 o'clock and we were ravenously hungry. Taking the railroad track we walk eight miles across another arm of the Salt Lake to Seco, but find no dinner there. The altitude here is very low and water filled the roadway on both sides of the track. So we take the latter and get a tolerably good amount of riding on the ties, arriving at Kelton at 3 o'clock. The landlady at the hotel which was unfortunate enough to have me for a dinner guest, tho't I had fasted a week. Can't help it. I ate several good dinners and then topped off with a large sized lunch, fetching up with two pieces of pie, three pieces of cake and a big bumper of milk. At 4 o'clock we set out for Ombey and walked thither, 12 miles, in three hours. On the way we passed the scene of a big cloud burst the night before and a
large section of the track had been washed away, occasioning a delay of 16 hours to passing trains. Never will forget that night at Ombey. As luck would have it, we struck a solitary old bachelor, an Irishman at that, whose heart was as hard as adamant and his dog as cross as blixen. He wouldn't let us sleep on the floor in his house and we were compelled to bunk in a cow shed, with a matting and pallet of hay. Thank God, there are not many such persons in this world and I find 'em few and far between even in this lonely wilderness. With a heavy heart we wheel our boon companion in sorrow, our only friend, our noble steed that has proved as true as the steel it contains, and is always ready to answer at our beck and call. If bicycles were human, I might say I adore this Columbia Expert which has carried us 2,500 miles over rocks and ravines, plateaus and prairies, thro' sunshine and rain, without a murmur or break. Entering the barn we find a more comfortable quarters than the outside appearance would indicate. We were soon wrapped in the arms of morpheus and dreaming of being eaten up by an Irishman and his cowardly cur of a dog. It must have been about midnight when we were suddenly awakened by a light touch on the arm and opening our eyes, the distinct out lines of a dark object could be faintly distinguished crouching over our prostrate form, but a foot or two away. What it was we could not make out. Was it a midnight assassin or beast of prey? We lay there apparently within the shadow of death. All at once we bethought ourselves of a loaded self-acting derringer which lay in the bottom of our satchel. Luckily we had unstrapped it from the bicycle and it now lay open at our head. Cautiously we put out our hand and was rewarded by coming into contact with the grip. A second more and we had hold of the revolver, while a low growl from our midnight visitor told us our movement was detected. Slowly bringing the weapon on a level with the body of the unknown beast we pulled the trigger. A flash, a blinding volume of smoke and the noise of the discharge was intermingled by a series of most blood-curdling yells. Leveling our gun we let him have one more shot and that settled the commotion. Sleep was impossible for us after that.

 Day 57, July 19
 Ombey Section, Utah to Tacoma, Nevada. 56 miles, 9 hours
At the first gray appearance of daylight we were up and examining the whereabouts of our midnight caller. We found him stretched out near the door, cold, stark and stiff. We had killed a coyote. [Nellis was denied breakfast by the Irish section man] Packing our grip and seizing our 'cycle we lit out over the hills for Matlin, first cutting off the tail of that luckless coyote, as a memento of our thrilling experience. We wish to add that not in all our experiences, during the weary journey through these western lands, have we met another Irishman as hard-hearted as this one and we have serious doubt if another like him is in existence. Many times have we applied for, and been given succor at Irish hands, and given it with a readiness and generosity which would pale the arts of native Americans; and be it said to the credit of old Ireland and her noble sons, that not once was a kindness extended to us with thoughts of compensation. A fair run brings us to Matlin and breakfast at a section house. We capture Terrace at 10 a.m. We conclude to stay here for dinner and so while away two hours with pen and ink. We left to ride thro' Bovine, another section station and passing on reach Lucin at 5:30. A luncheon is here secured of the section house wife and we embark for Tacoma over the railroad ties, as sand has taken the place of hard ground and for three miles we go bumping along, while old Sol is fast declining to rest. Gradually the wind became stronger and gusts of sand came flying over the rails. Suddenly, with a velocity which baffles description, the storm burst upon us and water fell in torrents. Our eye caught the bank of a deep rivulet about three rods east of the track, and into that we tumbled, cycle and all. Under the shelter of the shelving bank we were somewhat protected from the driven blast, which raged for fully an hour. When we entered the little gully worn into the earth by ages, it was perfectly dry, but hardly fifteen minutes had passed ere two feet of water was rushing thro' the bottom and gradually it encroached upon our resting place. Higher and higher rose the swiftly flowing current, which threatened ere long to engulf us, unless the storm abated. All at once a magnificent burst of light from the now setting sun cast a halo of glory over the wet and dripping landscape. Hastily clambering from out the soft mass of clay, we sought the rails and started on a seven-mile walk to Tacoma [spelled Taconia in some accounts]. You can imagine our joy when the light of Tacoma shone out. We need not dwell longer on one of the most trying ordeals of this transcontinental trip.

 Day 58, July 20
 Tacoma, Nevada to Toono, Nevada. 27 miles, 4 1/2 hours
Strenuous as were our efforts to reach Tacoma Tuesday night, it was not until after eleven next day that we could pluck up enough courage to evacuate the place. Pushing out we found a fair run to Toono over sand and railroad ties and halted for the night. Toono like dozens of other section stations on the railroad was a town of perhaps a dozen souls – lost souls at that – and the only industry of the place is wool shipping. This product is brought to the railroad by caravans of three wagons drawn by a dozen horses, from 20 to 40 miles in the mountains, and is the only source of revenue this God-forsaken country affords.

 Day 59, July 21
 Toono, Nevada to Bishop, Nevada. 54 miles, 10 hours
From Toono we wheeled forth and took dinner at Otego. Independence was reached by walking as usual and Wells came next. As we arrived at the station our eyes met the most appalling sight ever witnessed by mortal man. An engine was making up at the depot and shifting cars. The conductor had just made a coupling, and in stepping from between the cars his foot caught, he was thrown down and eight wheels passed over his abdomen. The poor fellow's body was literally cut in twain and death was almost instantaneous. Strong men turned away to avoid the sight. In vain we tried to get lodgings at Wells, and so resolved to push on 20 miles to Deeth over, as we were confidently told, a good hard road. About five miles out and the road ceased to be good. It grew unmistakably bad, and two miles further it ceased to be altogether. We went bumping over a horribly ballasted railroad track to Bishop, a section, and fortunately we were able to get a bunk for it was dark and we were very weary.

 Day 60, July 22
 Bishop, Nevada to Elko, Nevada. 47 miles, 9 hours
A good breakfast is secured which partially compensates for a lack of good rest, and at 7 a.m., we are away, passing Deeth and taking dinner at Halleck. This distance is made almost entirely out of the saddle and for 16 miles we continue the tramp act. It is nearly six o'clock, but we push on and get nine miles of fair riding to Elko. This is the capital of the largest county of the state, and is a place of considerable size and importance, supporting two dailies and several weekly newspapers.

Day 61, July 23
Elko, Nevada to Beowawe, Nevada. 54 miles, 12 hours
We embark at 7 a.m. Twelve miles of riding brings us to Moleen and 13 miles of walking lands us in Carlin in time for dinner. After a good dinner and with our pockets stuffed with apples by the kind-hearted landlady, we are away on a jaunt to Palisade. This is a picturesque spot in the center of a mountain range, thro' the canyons and passes of which the railroad makes delightful curves, overlooking many magnificent scenes and inviting shady glens on the banks of the Humboldt river. A half an hour is spent drinking in the beauties of Palisade and we are away for Beowawe. Darkness overtakes us. A faint moon illumines the way with grotesque and fitful shadows flitting here and there. Three miles farther we overtake a traveler, a tramp as silent and forlorn as ourself. Any way we were thankful for the companionship of this lone chap, who proved a genial talkative Scot and inclined to be hilarious. At nine o'clock we have the satisfaction of seeing Beowawe and lose no time in getting a good supper, and a good bed.



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