Cross Country Trip 2   

William Henry Sheneman
Cross Country 100 Years Ago On A Wheel
June 18 - August 10, 1896
By Trella H. Romine

In his journey he crossed the Nation's largest rivers, and duly noted them.  When he spotted the Columbia River in the distance from an overlook, he drank the last of his water thinking he could reach it shortly.  "Another hour's push brought me to another little elevation in view of the river, but this time it looked much farther away, and so on through the afternoon.  I finally became so thirsty I could cry out as loud as I could for water, although I knew that no one would hear me.  I also laid down on the boiling hot sand, and rested, but knew it would not do to lie there, or I might soon be so that I could not get up.  So I started again and tried to carry my wheel but could not do that.  Was almost given out when I struck the Columbia River, and drank the red, sandy water.  I was accommodated at the ferryman's cabin where I more crawled than walked.  The next morning I paid 50 cents to be rowed across to Umatilla in a small skiff.  The Columbia was very high and swift on account of the snow melting up in the mountains.  My wheel was tied fast with a rope so that when we got in the rough, swift water it would not get away from us, for I had made up my mind it was all I would want to do to look after myself."

By June 24 he was nearing Pendleton, Oregon when he came to the top of a hill:  "...with roads running in every direction, and it was hard to decide which was the road I should take, but to stand there and wonder, would not take me to Pendleton, so I selected the road I thought led in the direction I wished to go, (something I very often was obliged to do) and started out over the sage brush prairie.  After traveling about four miles I came to the end to the road, and took another direction following an old trail.  After traveling until almost night I came to a road traveled much more than the others.  This I followed and soon began to descend a steep hill.  My wheel getting the better of me, began to go down at a break-neck speed.  Not knowing where the stopping place would be or what was at the bottom, I thought the safest plan was to jump, which I did.  I didn't stop until I had gone end over end for about thirty feet."

His overnight accommodations ranged from camping under the stars and with a group of emigrants headed west, to staying in the best hotels.  But they also included bed-buggy beds in settlers cabins, and mosquito-plagued section houses.  His Fowler wheel was sturdy, but not immune to tire punctures, broken pedals, and a broken seat.  Sticky mud clogged the wheels, and his cyclometer broke several times.  Along the way he met other Wheelmen, and they sometimes joined him for a while.  In Pocatello, Idaho he found his bicycle was a curiosity to the many Wheelmen there since they had never seen a Fowler Truss Frame before.  At Montpelier, Idaho on July 3rd he picked up a money order and found it almost impossible to get away from the crowd.  "They thought it almost a miracle that such a light wheel would carry such a heavy load over the rough and rocky roads.  I was never slow in assuring them that I was riding the best and strongest-made wheel in the world.  I purchased a pair of shoes, my first pair having been completely worn out by so much walking over rocky roads and the railroad." 


American Journeys Page


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