HotFreeBooks.com
Around the World on a Bicycle V1
by Thomas Stevens
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

By Thomas Stevens

Scanner's Notes: This was scanned from an original edition, copyright 1887, 547 pages. It is as close as I could come in ASCII to the printed text. Scanning time: 15 hours OCR time: 20+ hours Proof #1: 25 hours Proof #2: ? (A slow reading by a friend)

The numerous italics have been unfortunately omitted, and the conjoined '' have been changed to 'ae'; as well as others, similarly. I have left the spelling, punctuation, capitalization as close as possible to the printed text, including that of titles and headings. The issue of end-of-line hyphenation was difficult, as normal usage in the 1880's often hyphenated words which have since been concatenated.

Stevens also used phonetic spelling and italics for much of the unfamiliar language or dialects that he heard; a great deal of foreign words and phrases are also included and always italicized. A word which might seem mis-spelled, such as 'yaort', was originally in italics and was the 1886 spelling of 'yogurt'. Many of the names of places and peoples have long since changed and so are no longer easily referenced.

The book is written in the common English of a San Francisco journalist of the era and so is filled with contemporaneous idioms and prejudices, as well as his own wry wit.

One of the more unfortunate issues is the omission of the over 100 illustrations of the original edition. I also elected to omit the informative captions. I hope to make an HTML edition available at http://rjs.org/gutenberg/ which will include them.

I have written a wxPython program to assist in converting raw OCR text to the project's formatting, as well as general punctuation and spelling. http://rjs.org/gutenberg/OCR2Gutenberg/ Code contributions/modifications are most welcome; it is a bit of a hack, but it reduced the proof time needed by more than what it took to write 778 lines of code.

Ray Schumacher

******************************************************************************



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. PAGE OVER THE SIERRAS NEVADAS, . . . . . 1

CHAPTER II. OVER THE DESERTS OF NEVADA, . . . . 21

CHAPTER III. THROUGH MORMON-LAND AND OVER THE ROCKIES, . . 46

CHAPTER IV. FROM THE GREAT PLAINS TO THE ATLANTIC, . . 70

CHAPTER V. FROM AMERICA TO THE GERMAN FRONTIER, . . . 91

CHAPTER VI. GERMANY, AUSTRIA, AND HUNGARY, . . . . 121

CHAPTER VII. THROUGH SLAVONIA AND SERVIA, . . . . 153

CHAPTER VIII. BULGARIA, ROUMELIA, AND INTO TURKEY, . . . 184

PREFACE. Shakespeare says, in All's Well that Ends Well, that "a good traveller is something at the latter end of a dinner;" and I never was more struck with the truth of this than when I heard Mr. Thomas Stevens, after the dinner given in his honor by the Massachusetts Bicycle Club, make a brief, off-hand report of his adventures. He seemed like Jules Verne, telling his own wonderful performances, or like a contemporary Sinbad the Sailor. We found that modern mechanical invention, instead of disenchanting the universe, had really afforded the means of exploring its marvels the more surely. Instead of going round the world with a rifle, for the purpose of killing something, - or with a bundle of tracts, in order to convert somebody, - this bold youth simply went round the globe to see the people who were on it; and since he always had something to show them as interesting as anything that they could show him, he made his way among all nations.

What he had to show them was not merely a man perched on a lofty wheel, as if riding on a soap-bubble; but he was also a perpetual object-lesson in what Holmes calls "genuine, solid old Teutonic pluck." When the soldier rides into danger he has comrades by his side, his country's cause to defend, his uniform to vindicate, and the bugle to cheer him on; but this solitary rider had neither military station, nor an oath of allegiance, nor comrades, nor bugle; and he went among men of unknown languages, alien habits and hostile faith with only his own tact and courage to help him through. They proved sufficient, for he returned alive.

I have only read specimen chapters of this book, but find in them the same simple and manly quality which attracted us all when Mr. Stevens told his story in person. It is pleasant to know that while peace reigns in America, a young man can always find an opportunity to take his life in his hand and originate some exploit as good as those of the much-wandering Ulysses. In the German story "Titan," Jean Paul describes a manly youth who "longed for an adventure for his idle bravery;" and it is pleasant to read the narrative of one who has quietly gone to work, in an honest way, to satisfy this longing. THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS., April 10, 1887.



FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO TEHERAN.



CHAPTER I.



OVER THE SIERRAS NEVADAS.

The beauties of nature are scattered with a more lavish hand across the country lying between the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the shores where the surf romps and rolls over the auriferous sands of the Pacific, in Golden Gate Park, than in a journey of the same length in any other part of the world. Such, at least, is the verdict of many whose fortune it has been to traverse that favored stretch of country. Nothing but the limited power of man's eyes prevents him from standing on the top of the mountains and surveying, at a glance, the whole glorious panorama that stretches away for more than two hundred miles to the west, terminating in the gleaming waters of the Pacific Ocean. Could he do this, he would behold, for the first seventy-five or eighty miles, a vast, billowy sea of foot-hills, clothed with forests of sombre pine and bright, evergreen oaks; and, lower down, dense patches of white-blossomed chaparral, looking in the enchanted distance like irregular banks of snow. Then the world-renowned valley of the Sacramento River, with its level plains of dark, rich soil, its matchless fields of ripening grain, traversed here and there by streams that, emerging from the shadowy depths of the foot-hills, wind their way, like gleaming threads of silver, across the fertile plain and join the Sacramento, which receives them, one and all, in her matronly bosom and hurries with them n to the sea.

Towns and villages, with white church-spires, irregularly sprinkled over hill and vale, although sown like seeds from the giant hand of a mighty husbandman, would be seen nestling snugly amid groves of waving shade and semi-tropical fruit trees. Beyond all this the lower coast-range, where, toward San Francisco, Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais - grim sentinels of the Golden Gate - rear their shaggy heads skyward, and seem to look down with a patronizing air upon the less pretentious hills that border the coast and reflect their shadows in the blue water of San Francisco Bay. Upon the sloping sides of these hills sweet, nutritious grasses grow, upon which peacefully graze the cows that supply San Francisco with milk and butter.

Various attempts have been made from time to time, by ambitious cyclers, to wheel across America from ocean to ocean; but - "Around the World!"

"The impracticable scheme of a visionary," was the most charitable verdict one could reasonably have expected.

The first essential element of success, however, is to have sufficient confidence in one's self to brave the criticisms - to say nothing of the witticisms - of a sceptical public. So eight o'clock on the morning of April 22, 1884, finds me and my fifty-inch machine on the deck of the Alameda, one of the splendid ferry-boats plying between San Francisco and Oakland, and a ride of four miles over the sparkling waters of the bay lands us, twenty-eight minutes later, on the Oakland pier, that juts far enough out to allow the big ferries to enter the slip in deep water. On the beauties of San Francisco Bay it is, perhaps, needless to dwell, as everybody has heard or read of this magnificent sheet of water, its surface flecked with snowy sails, and surrounded by a beautiful framework of evergreen hills; its only outlet to the ocean the famous Golden Gate - a narrow channel through which come and go the ships of all nations.

With the hearty well-wishing of a small group of Oakland and 'Frisco cyclers who have come, out of curiosity, to see the start, I mount and ride away to the east, down San Pablo Avenue, toward the village of the same Spanish name, some sixteen miles distant. The first seven miles are a sort of half-macadamized road, and I bowl briskly along.

The past winter has been the rainiest since 1857, and the continuous pelting rains had not beaten down upon the last half of this imperfect macadam in vain; for it has left it a surface of wave-like undulations, from out of which the frequent bowlder protrudes its unwelcome head, as if ambitiously striving to soar above its lowly surroundings. But this one don't mind, and I am perfectly willing to put up with the bowlders for the sake of the undulations. The sensation of riding a small boat over "the gently-heaving waves of the murmuring sea" is, I think, one of the pleasures of life; and the next thing to it is riding a bicycle over the last three miles of the San Pablo Avenue macadam as I found it on that April morning.

The wave-like macadam abruptly terminates, and I find myself on a common dirt road. It is a fair road, however, and I have plenty of time to look about and admire whatever bits of scenery happen to come in view. There are few spots in the "Golden State" from which views of more or less beauty are not to be obtained; and ere I am a baker's dozen of miles from Oakland pier I find myself within an ace of taking an undesirable header into a ditch of water by the road-side, while looking upon a scene that for the moment completely wins me from my immediate surroundings. There is nothing particularly grand or imposing in the outlook here; but the late rains have clothed the whole smiling face of nature with a bright, refreshing green, that fails not to awaken a thrill of pleasure in the breast of one fresh from the verdureless streets of a large sea- port city. Broad fields of pale-green, thrifty-looking young wheat, and darker-hued meads, stretch away on either side of the road; and away beyond to the left, through an opening in the hills, can be seen, as through a window, the placid waters of the bay, over whose glittering, sunlit surface white-winged, aristocratic yachts and the plebeian smacks of Greek and Italian fishermen swiftly glide, and fairly vie with each other in giving the finishing touches to a picture.

So far, the road continues level and fairly good; and, notwithstanding the seductive pleasures of the ride over the bounding billows of the gently heaving macadam, the dalliance with the scenery, and the all too frequent dismounts in deference to the objections of phantom-eyed roadsters, I pulled up at San Pablo at ten o'clock, having covered the sixteen miles in one hour and thirty-two minutes; though, of course, there is nothing speedy about this - to which desirable qualification, indeed, I lay no claim.

Soon after leaving San Pablo the country gets somewhat "choppy," and the road a succession of short-hills, at the bottom of which modest-looking mud-holes patiently await an opportunity to make one's acquaintance, or scraggy-looking, latitudinous washouts are awaiting their chance to commit a murder, or to make the unwary cycler who should venture to "coast," think he had wheeled over the tail of an earthquake. One never minds a hilly road where one can reach the bottom with an impetus that sends him spinning half-way up the next; but where mud-holes or washouts resolutely "hold the fort" in every depression, it is different, and the progress of the cycler is necessarily slow. I have set upon reaching Suisun, a point fifty miles along the Central Pacific Railway, to-night; but the roads after leaving San Pablo are anything but good, and the day is warm, so six P.M. finds me trudging along an unridable piece of road through the low tuile swamps that border Suisun Bay. "Tuile" is the name given to a species of tall rank grass, or rather rush, that grows to the height of eight or ten feet, and so thick in places that it is difficult to pass through, in the low, swampy grounds in this part of California. These tuile swamps are traversed by a net-work of small, sluggish streams and sloughs, that fairly swarm with wild ducks and geese, and justly entitle them to their local title of "the duck-hunters' paradise." Ere I am through this swamp, the shades of night gather ominously around and settle down like a pall over the half-flooded flats; the road is full of mud-holes and pools of water, through which it is difficult to navigate, and I am in something of a quandary. I am sweeping along at the irresistible velocity of a mile an hour, and wondering how far it is to the other end of the swampy road, when thrice welcome succor appears from a strange and altogether unexpected source. I had noticed a small fire, twinkling through the darkness away off in the swamp; and now the wind rises and the flames of the small fire spread to the thick patches of dead tuile. In a short time the whole country, including my road, is lit up by the fierce glare of the blaze; so that I am enabled to proceed with little trouble. These tuiles often catch on fire in the fall and early winter, when everything is comparatively dry, and fairly rival the prairie fires of the Western plains in the fierceness of the flames.

The next morning I start off in a drizzling rain, and, after going sixteen miles, I have to remain for the day at Elmira. Here, among other items of interest, I learn that twenty miles farther ahead the Sacramento River is flooding the country, and the only way I can hope to get through is to take to the Central Pacific track and cross over the six miles of open trestle-work that spans the Sacramento River and its broad bottom-lands, that are subject to the annual spring overflow. From Elmira my way leads through a fruit and farming country that is called second to none in the world. Magnificent farms line the road; at short intervals appear large well-kept vineyards, in which gangs of Chinese coolies are hoeing and pulling weeds, and otherwise keeping trim. A profusion of peach, pear, and almond orchards enlivens the landscape with a wealth of pink and white blossoms, and fills the balmy spring air with a subtle, sensuous perfume that savors of a tropical clime.

Already I realize that there is going to be as much "foot-riding" as anything for the first part of my journey; so, while halting for dinner at the village of Davisville, I deliver my rather slight shoes over to the tender mercies of an Irish cobbler of the old school, with carte blanche instructions to fit them out for hard service. While diligently hammering away at the shoes, the old cobbler grows communicative, and in almost unintelligible brogue tells a complicated tale of Irish life, out of which I can make neither head, tail, nor tale; though nodding and assenting to it all, to the great satisfaction of the loquacious manipulator of the last, who in an hour hands over the shoes with the proud assertion, "They'll last yez, be jabbers, to Omaha."

Reaching the overflowed country, I have to take to the trestle-work and begin the tedious process of trundling along that aggravating roadway, where, to the music of rushing waters, I have to step from tie to tie, and bump, bump, bump, my machine along for six weary miles. The Sacramento River is the outlet for the tremendous volumes of water caused every spring by the melting snows on the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and these long stretches of open trestle have been found necessary to allow the water to pass beneath. Nothing but trains are expected to cross this trestle-work, and of course no provision is made for pedestrians. The engineer of an approaching train sets his locomotive to tooting for all she is worth as he sees a "strayed or stolen" cycler, slowly bumping along ahead of his train. But he has no need to slow up, for occasional cross-beams stick out far enough to admit of standing out of reach, and when he comes up alongside, he and the fireman look out of the window of the cab and see me squatting on the end of one of these handy beams, and letting the bicycle hang over.

That night I stay in Sacramento, the beautiful capital of the Golden State, whose well-shaded streets and blooming, almost tropical gardens combine to form a city of quiet, dignified beauty, of which Californians feel justly proud. Three and a half miles east of Sacramento, the high trestle bridge spanning the main stream of the American River has to be crossed, and from this bridge is obtained a remarkably fine view of the snow-capped Sierras, the great barrier that separates the fertile valleys and glorious climate of California, from the bleak and barren sage-brush plains, rugged mountains, and forbidding wastes of sand and alkali, that, from the summit of the Sierras, stretch away to the eastward for over a thousand miles. The view from the American River bridge is grand and imposing, encompassing the whole foot-hill country, which rolls in broken, irregular billows of forest-crowned hill and charming vale, upward and onward to the east, gradually getting more rugged, rocky, and immense, the hills changing to mountains, the vales to caons, until they terminate in bald, hoary peaks whose white rugged pinnacles seem to penetrate the sky, and stand out in ghostly, shadowy outline against the azure depths of space beyond.

After crossing the American River the character of the country changes, and I enjoy a ten-mile ride over a fair road, through one of those splendid sheep-ranches that are only found in California, and which have long challenged the admiration of the world. Sixty thousand acres, I am informed, is the extent of this pasture, all within one fence. The soft, velvety greensward is half-shaded by the wide-spreading branches of evergreen oaks that singly and in small groups are scattered at irregular intervals from one end of the pasture to the other, giving it the appearance of one of the old ancestral parks of England. As I bowl pleasantly along I involuntarily look about me, half expecting to see some grand, stately old mansion peeping from among some one of the splendid oak-groves; and when a jack-rabbit hops out and halts at twenty paces from my road, I half hesitate to fire at him, lest the noise of the report should bring out the vigilant and lynx-eyed game-keeper, and get me "summoned" for poaching. I remember the pleasant ten-mile ride through this park-like pasture as one of the brightest spots of the whole journey across America. But "every rose conceals a thorn," and pleasant paths often load astray; when I emerge from the pasture I find myself several miles off the right road and have to make my unhappy way across lots, through numberless gates and small ranches, to the road again.

There seems to be quite a sprinkling of Spanish or Mexican rancheros through here, and after partaking of the welcome noon-tide hospitality of one of the ranches, I find myself, before I realize it, illustrating the bicycle and its uses, to a group of sombrero-decked rancheros and darked-eyed seoritas, by riding the machine round and round on their own ranch-lawn. It is a novel position, to say the least; and often afterward, wending my solitary way across some dreary Nevada desert, with no company but my own uncanny shadow, sharply outlined on the white alkali by the glaring rays of the sun, my untrammelled thoughts would wander back to this scene, and I would grow "hot and cold by turns," in my uncertainty as to whether the bewitching smiles of the seoritas were smiles of admiration, or whether they were simply "grinning" at the figure I cut. While not conscious of having cut a sorrier figure than usual on that occasion, somehow I cannot rid myself of an unhappy, ban- owing suspicion, that the latter comes nearer the truth than the former.

The ground is gradually getting more broken; huge rocks intrude themselves upon the landscape. At the town of Rocklin we are supposed to enter the foot-hill country proper. Much of the road in these lower foot-hills is excellent, being of a hard, stony character, and proof against the winter rains. Everybody who writes anything about the Golden State is expected to say something complimentary - or otherwise, as his experience may seem to dictate - about the "glorious climate of California;" or else render an account of himself for the slight, should he ever return, which he is very liable to do. For, no matter what he may say about it, the "glorious climate" generally manages to make one, ever after, somewhat dissatisfied with the extremes of heat and cold met with in less genial regions. This fact of having to pay my measure of tribute to the climate forces itself on my notice prominently here at Rocklin, because, in- directly, the "climate" was instrumental in bringing about a slight accident, which, in turn, brought about the - to me - serious calamity of sending me to bed without any supper. Rocklin is celebrated - and by certain bad people, ridiculed - all over this part of the foot-hills for the superabundance of its juvenile population. If one makes any inquisitive remarks about this fact, the Rocklinite addressed will either blush or grin, according to his temperament, and say, "It's the glorious climate." A bicycle is a decided novelty up here, and, of course, the multitudinous youth turn out in droves to see it. The bewildering swarms of these small mountaineers distract my attention and cause me to take a header that temporarily disables the machine. The result is, that, in order to reach the village where I wish to stay over night, I have to "foot it" over four miles of the best road I have found since leaving San Pablo, and lose my supper into the bargain, by procrastinating at the village smithy, so as to have my machine in trim, ready for an early start next morning. If the "glorious climate of California " is responsible for the exceedingly hopeful prospects of Rocklin's future census reports, and the said lively outlook, materialized, is responsible for my mishap, then plainly the said "G. C. of C." is the responsible element in the case. I hope this compliment to the climate will strike the Californians as about the correct thing; but, if it should happen to work the other way, I beg of them at once to pour out the vials of their wrath on the heads of the 'Frisco Bicycle Club, in order that their fury may be spent ere I again set foot on their auriferous soil.

"What'll you do when you hit the snow?" is now a frequent question asked by the people hereabouts, who seem to be more conversant with affairs pertaining to the mountains than they are of what is going on in the valleys below. This remark, of course, has reference to the deep snow that, toward the summits of the mountains, covers the ground to the depth of ten feet on the level, and from that to almost any depth where it has drifted and accumulated. I have not started out on this greatest of all bicycle tours without looking into these difficulties, and I remind them that the long snow-sheds of the Central Pacific Railway make it possible for one to cross over, no matter how deep the snow may lie on the ground outside. Some speak cheerfully of the prospects for getting over, but many shake their heads ominously and say, "You'll never be able to make it through."

Rougher and more hilly become the roads as we gradually penetrate farther and farther into the foot-hills. We are now in far-famed Placer County, and the evidences of the hardy gold diggers' work in pioneer days are all about us. In every gulch and ravine are to be seen broken and decaying sluice-boxes. Bare, whitish-looking patches of washed-out gravel show where a "claim " has been worked over and abandoned. In every direction are old water-ditches, heaps of gravel, and abandoned shafts - all telling, in language more eloquent than word or pen, of the palmy days of '49, and succeeding years; when, in these deep gulches, and on these yellow hills, thousands of bronzed, red-shirted miners dug and delved, and "rocked the cradle" for the precious yellow dust and nuggets. But all is now changed, and where were hundreds before, now only a few "old timers " roam the foot-hills, prospecting, and working over the old claims; but "dust," "nuggets," and "pockets " still form the burden of conversation in the village barroom or the cross-roads saloon. Now and then a "strike " is made by some lucky - or perhaps it turns out, unlucky - prospector. This for a few days kindles anew the slumbering spark of "gold fever" that lingers in the veins of the people here, ever ready to kindle into a flame at every bit of exciting news, in the way of a lucky "find" near home, or new gold-fields in some distant land. These occasions never fail to have their legitimate effect upon the business of the bar where the "old-timers" congregate to learn the news; and, between drinks, yarns of the good old days of '49 and '50, of "streaks of luck," of "big nuggets," and "wild times," are spun over and over again. Although the palmy days of the "diggin's" are no more, yet the finder of a "pocket" these days seems not a whit wiser than in the days when "pockets" more frequently rewarded the patient prospector than they do now; and at Newcastle - a station near the old-time mining camps of Ophir and Gold Hill - I hear of a man who lately struck a "pocket," out of which he dug forty thousand dollars; and forthwith proceeded to imitate his reckless predecessors by going down to 'Frisco and entering upon a career of protracted sprees and debauchery that cut short his earthly career in less than six months, and wafted his riotous spirit to where there are no more forty thousand dollar pockets, and no more 'Friscos in which to squander it. In this instance the "find" was clearly an unlucky one. Not quite so bad was the case of two others who, but a few days before my arrival, took out twelve hundred dollars; they simply, in the language of the gold fields "turned themselves loose," "made things hum," and "whooped 'em up" around the bar-room of their village for exactly three days; when, "dead broke," they took to the gulches again, to search for more. "Yer oughter hev happened through here with that instrumint of yourn about that time, young fellow; yer might hev kept as full as a tick till they war busted," remarked a slouchy-looking old fellow whose purple-tinted nose plainly indicated that he had devoted a good part of his existence to the business of getting himself "full as a tick" every time he ran across the chance.

Quite a different picture is presented by an industrious old Mexican, whom I happen to see away down in the bottom of a deep ravine, along which swiftly hurries a tiny stream. He is diligently shovelling dirt into a rude sluice-box which he has constructed in the bed of the stream at a point where the water rushes swiftly down a declivity. Setting my bicycle up against a rock, I clamber down the steep bank to investigate. In tones that savor of anything but satisfaction with the result of his labor, he informs me that he has to work "most infernal hard" to pan out two dollars' worth of "dust" a day. "I have had to work over all that pile of gravel you see yonder to clean up seventeen dollars' worth of dust," further volunteered the old "greaser," as I picked up a spare shovel and helped him remove a couple of bowlders that he was trying to roll out of his war. I condole with him at the low grade of the gravel he is working, hope he may "strike it rich " one of these days, and take my departure.

Up here I find it preferable to keep the railway track, alongside of which there are occasionally ridable side-paths; while on the wagon roads little or no riding can be done on account of the hills, and the sticky nature of the red, clayey soil. From the railway track near Newcastle is obtained a magnificent view of the lower country, traversed during the last three days, with the Sacramento River winding its way through its broad valley to the sea. Deep cuts and high embankments follow each other in succession, as the road-bed is now broken through a hill, now carried across a deep gulch, and anon winds around the next hill and over another ravine. Before reaching Auburn I pass through "Bloomer Cut," where perpendicular walls of bowlders loom up on both sides of the track looking as if the slightest touch or jar would unloose them and send them bounding and crashing on the top of the passing train as it glides along, or drop down on the stray cycler who might venture through. On the way past Auburn, and on up to Clipper Gap, the dry, yellow dirt under the overhanging rocks, and in the crevices, is so suggestive of " dust," that I take a small prospecting glass, which I have in my tool-bag, and do a little prospecting; without, however, finding sufficient "color" to induce me to abandon my journey and go to digging.

Before reaching Clipper Gap it begins to rain; while I am taking dinner at that place it quits raining and begins to come down by buckets full, so that I have to lie over for the remainder of the day. The hills around Clipper Gap are gay and white with chaparral blossom, which gives the whole landscape a pleasant, gala-day appearance. It rains all the evening, and at night turns to heavy, damp snow, which clings to the trees and bushes. In the morning the landscape, which a few hours before was white with chaparral bloom, is now even more white with the bloom of the snow. My hostelry at Clipper Gap is a kind of half ranch, half roadside inn, down in a small valley near the railway; and mine host, a jovial Irish blade of the good old "Donnybrook Fair" variety, who came here in 1851, during the great rush to the gold fields, and, failing to make his fortune in the "diggings," wisely decided to send for his family and settle down quietly on a piece of land, in preference to returning to the "ould sod."He turns out to be a "bit av a sphort meself," and, after showing me a number of minor pets and favorites, such as game chickens, Brahma geese, and a litter of young bull pups, he proudly leads the way to the barn to show me "Barney," his greatest pet of all, whom he at present keeps securely tied up for safe-keeping. More than one evil-minded person has a hankering after Barney's gore since his last battle for the championship of Placer County, he explains, in which he inflicted severe punishment on his adversary and resolutely refused to give in; although his opponent on this important occasion was an imported dog, brought into the county by Barney's enemies, who hoped to fill their pockets by betting against the local champion. But Barney, who is a medium-sized, ferocious-looking bull terrier, "scooped"the crowd backing the imported dog, to the extent of their "pile," by "walking all round" his adversary; and thereby stirring up the enmity of said crowd against himself, who - so says Barney's master - have never yet been able to scare up a dog able to "down" Barney. As we stand in the barn-door Barney eyes me suspiciously, and then looks at his master; but luckily for me his master fails to give the word. Noticing that the dog is scarred and seamed all over, I inquire the reason, and am told that he has been fighting wild boars in the chaparral, of which gentle pastime he is extremely fond. "Yes, and he'll tackle a cougar too, of which there are plenty of them around here, if that cowardly animal would only keep out of the trees," admiringly continues mine host, as he orders Barney into his empty salt-barrel again.

To day is Sunday, and it rains and snows with little interruption, so that I am compelled to stay over till Monday morning. While it is raining at Clipper Gap, it is snowing higher up in the mountains, and a railway employee 'volunteers the cheering information that, during the winter, the snow has drifted and accumulated in the sheds, so that a train can barely squeeze through, leaving no room for a person to stand to one side. I have my own ideas of whether this state of affairs is probable or not, however, and determine to pay no heed to any of these rumors, but to push ahead. So I pull out on Monday morning and take to the railway-track again, which is the only passable road since the tremendous downpour of the last two days.

The first thing I come across is a tunnel burrowing through a hill. This tunnel was originally built the proper size, but, after being walled up, there were indications of a general cave-in; so the company had to go to work and build another thick rock-wall inside the other, which leaves barely room for the trains to pass through without touching the sides. It is anything but an inviting path around the hill; but it is far the safer of the two. Once my foot slips, and I unceremoniously sit down and slide around in the soft yellow clay, in my frantic endeavors to keep from slipping down the hill. This hardly enhances my personal appearance; but it doesn't matter much, as I am where no one can see, and a clay- besmeared individual is worth a dozen dead ones. Soon I am on the track again, briskly trudging up the steep grade toward the snow-line, which I can plainly see, at no great distance ahead, through the windings around the mountains.

All through here the only riding to be done is along occasional short stretches of difficult path beside the track, where it happens to be a hard surface; and on the plank platforms of the stations, where I generally take a turn or two to satisfy the consuming curiosity of the miners, who can't imagine how anybody can ride a thing that won't stand alone; at the same time arguing among themselves as to whether I ride along on one of the rails, or bump along over the protruding ties.

This morning I follow the railway track around the famous "Cape Horn," a place that never fails to photograph itself permanently upon the memory of all who once see it. For scenery that is magnificently grand and picturesque, the view from where the railroad track curves around Cape Horn is probably without a peer on the American continent.

When the Central Pacific Railway company started to grade their road-bed around here, men were first swung over this precipice from above with ropes, until they made standing room for themselves; and then a narrow ledge was cut on the almost perpendicular side of the rocky mountain, around which the railway now winds.

Standing on this ledge, the rocks tower skyward on one side of the track so close as almost to touch the passing train; and on the other is a sheer precipice of two thousand five hundred feet, where one can stand on the edge and see, far below, the north fork of the American River, which looks like a thread of silver laid along the narrow valley, and sends up a far-away, scarcely perceptible roar, as it rushes and rumbles along over its rocky bed. The railroad track is carefully looked after at this point, and I was able, by turning round and taking the down grade, to experience the novelty of a short ride, the memory of which will be ever welcome should one live to be as old as "the oldest inhabitant." The scenery for the next few miles is glorious; the grand and imposing mountains are partially covered with stately pines down to their bases, around which winds the turbulent American River, receiving on its boisterous march down the mountains tribute from hundreds of smaller streams and rivulets, which come splashing and dashing out of the dark caons and crevasses of the mighty hills.

The weather is capricious, and by the time I reach Dutch Flat, ten miles east of Cape Horn, the floodgates of heaven are thrown open again, and less than an hour succeeds in impressing Dutch Flat upon my memory as a place where there is literally "water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to -;" no, I cannot finish the quotation. What is the use of lying'. There is plenty to drink at Dutch Flat; plenty of everything.

But there is no joke about the water; it is pouring in torrents from above; the streets are shallow streams; and from scores of ditches and gullies comes the merry music of swiftly rushing waters, while, to crown all, scores of monster streams are rushing with a hissing sound from the mouths of huge pipes or nozzles, and playing against the surrounding hills; for Dutch Flat and neighboring camps are the great centre of hydraulic mining operations in California at the present day. Streams of water, higher lip the mountains, are taken from their channels and conducted hither through miles of wooden flumes and iron piping; and from the mouths of huge nozzles are thrown with tremendous force against the hills, literally mowing them down. The rain stops as abruptly as it began. The sun shines out clear and warm, and I push ahead once more.

Gradually I have been getting up into the snow, and ever and anon a muffled roar comes booming and echoing over the mountains like the sound of distant artillery. It is the sullen noise of monster snow-slides among the deep, dark caons of the mountains, though a wicked person at Gold Run winked at another man and tried to make me believe it was the grizzlies "going about the mountains like roaring lions, seeking whom they might devour." The giant voices of nature, the imposing scenery, the gloomy pine forests which have now taken the place of the gay chaparral, combine to impress one who, all alone, looks and listens with a realizing sense of his own littleness. What a change has come over the whole face of nature in a few days' travel. But four days ago I was in the semi-tropical Sacramento Valley; now gaunt winter reigns supreme, and the only vegetation is the hardy pine.

This afternoon I pass a small camp of Digger Indians, to whom my bicycle is as much a mystery as was the first locomotive; yet they scarcely turn their uncovered heads to look; and my cheery greeting of "How," scarce elicits a grunt and a stare in reply. Long years of chronic hunger and wretchedness have well-nigh eradicated what little energy these Diggers ever possessed. The discovery of gold among their native mountains has been their bane; the only antidote the rude grave beneath the pine and the happy hunting-grounds beyond.

The next morning finds me briskly trundling through the great, gloomy snow-sheds that extend with but few breaks for the next forty miles. When I emerge from them on the other end I shall be over the summit and well down the eastern slope of the mountains. These huge sheds have been built at great expense to protect the track from the vast quantities of snow that fall every winter on these mountains. They wind around the mountain-sides, their roofs built so slanting that the mighty avalanche of rock and snow that comes thundering down from above glides harmlessly over, and down the chasm on the other side, while the train glides along unharmed beneath them. The section-houses, the water-tanks, stations, and everything along here are all under the gloomy but friendly shelter of the great protecting sheds. Fortunately I find the difficulties of getting through much less than I had been led by rumors to anticipate; and although no riding can be done in the sheds, I make very good progress, and trudge merrily along, thankful of a chance to get over the mountains without having to wait a month or six weeks for the snow outside to disappear. At intervals short breaks occur in the sheds, where the track runs over deep gulch or ravine, and at one of these openings the sinuous structure can be traced for quite a long distance, winding its tortuous way around the rugged mountain sides, and through the gloomy pine forest, all but buried under the snow. It requires no great effort of the mind to imagine it to be some wonderful relic of a past civilization, when a venturesome race of men thus dared to invade these vast wintry solitudes and burrow their way through the deep snow, like moles burrowing through the loose earth. Not a living thing is in sight, and the only sounds the occasional roar of a distant snow-slide, and the mournful sighing of the breeze as it plays a weird, melancholy dirge through the gently swaying branches of the tall, sombre pines, whose stately trunks are half buried in the omnipresent snow. To-night I stay at the Summit Hotel, seven thousand and seventeen feet above the level of the sea. The "Summit" is nothing if not snowy, and I am told that thirty feet on the level is no unusual thing up here. Indeed, it looks as if snow-balling on the " Glorious Fourth" were no great luxury at the Summit House; yet notwithstanding the decidedly wintry aspect of the Sierras, the low temperature of the Rockies farther east is unknown; and although there is snow to the right, snow to the left, snow all around, and ice under foot, I travel all through the gloomy sheds in my shirt-sleeves, with but a gossamer rubber coat thrown over my shoulders to keep off the snow- water which is constantly melting and dripping through the roof, making it almost like going through a shower of rain. Often, when it is warm and balmy outside, it is cold and frosty under the sheds, and the dripping water, falling among the rocks and timbers, freezes into all manner of fantastic shapes. Whole menageries of ice animals, birds and all imaginable objects, are here reproduced in clear crystal ice, while in many places the ground is covered with an irregular coating of the same, that often has to be chipped away from the rails.

East of the summit is a succession of short tunnels, the space between being covered with snow-shed; and when I came through, the openings and crevices through which the smoke from the engines is wont to make its escape, and through which a few rays of light penetrate the gloomy interior, are blocked up with snow, so that it is both dark and smoky; and groping one's way with a bicycle over the rough surface is anything but pleasant going. But there is nothing so bad, it seems, but that it can get a great deal worse; and before getting far, I hear an approaching train and forthwith proceed to occupy as small an amount of space as possible against the side, while three laboriously puffing engines, tugging a long, heavy freight train up the steep grade, go past. These three puffing, smoke-emitting monsters fill every nook and corner of the tunnel with dense smoke, which creates a darkness by the side of which the natural darkness of the tunnel is daylight in comparison. Here is a darkness that can be felt; I have to grope my way forward, inch by inch; afraid to set my foot down until I have felt the place, for fear of blundering into a culvert; at the same time never knowing whether there is room, just where I am, to get out of the way of a train. A cyclometer wouldn't have to exert itself much through here to keep tally of the revolutions; for, besides advancing with extreme caution, I pause every few steps to listen; as in the oppressive darkness and equally oppressive silence the senses are so keenly on the alert that the gentle rattle of the bicycle over the uneven surface seems to make a noise that would prevent me hearing an approaching train. This finally comes to am end; and at the opening in the sheds I climb up into a pine-tree to obtain a view of Donner Lake, called the "Gem of the Sierras." It is a lovely little lake, and amid the pines, and on its shores occurred one of the most pathetically tragic events of the old emigrant days. Briefly related : A small party of emigrants became snowed in while camped at the lake, and when, toward spring, a rescuing party reached the spot, the last survivor of the partly, crazed with the fearful suffering he had under- gone, was sitting on a log, savagely gnawing away at a human arm, the last remnant of his companions in misery, off whose emaciated carcasses he had for some time been living!

My road now follows the course of the Truckee River down the eastern slope of the Sierras, and across the boundary line into Nevada. The Truckee is a rapid, rollicking stream from one end to the other, and affords dam-sites and mill-sites without limit. There is little ridable road down the Truckee caon; but before reaching "Verdi, a station a few miles over the Nevada line, I find good road, and ride up and dismount at the door of the little hotel as coolly as if I had rode without a dismount all the way from 'Frisco. Here at Verdi is a camp of Washoe Indians, who at once showed their superiority to the Diggers by clustering around and examining; the bicycle with great curiosity. Verdi is less than forty miles from the summit of the Sierras, and from the porch of the hotel I can see the snow-storm still fiercely raging up in the place where I stood a few hours ago; yet one can feel that he is already in a dryer and altogether different climate. The great masses of clouds, travelling inward from the coast with their burdens of moisture, like messengers of peace with presents to a far country, being unable to surmount the great mountain barrier that towers skyward across their path, unload their precious cargoes on the mountains; and the parched plains of Nevada open their thirsty mouths in vain. At Verdi I bid good-by to the Golden State and follow the course of the sparkling Truckee toward the Forty-mile Desert.



CHAPTER II.



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.

Before reaching Reno I meet a lone Washoe Indian; he is riding a diminutive, scraggy-looking mustang. One of his legs is muffled up in a red blanket, and in one hand he carries a rudely-invented crutch. "How will you trade horses?" I banteringly ask as we meet in the road; and I dismount for an interview, to find out what kind of Indians these Washoes are. To my friendly chaff he vouchsafes no reply, but simply sits motionless on his pony, and fixes a regular "Injun stare" on the bicycle. "What's the matter with your leg?" I persist, pointing at the blanket-be-muffled member.

"Heap sick foot" is the reply, given with the characteristic brevity of the savage; and, now that the ice of his aboriginal reserve is broken, he manages to find words enough to ask me for tobacco. I have no tobacco, but the ride through the crisp morning air has been productive of a surplus amount of animal spirits, and I feel like doing something funny; so I volunteer to cure his " sick foot" by sundry dark and mysterious manoeuvres, that I unbiushingly intimate are "heap good medicine." With owlish solemnity my small monkey-wrench is taken from the tool-bag and waved around the " sick foot" a few times, and the operation is completed by squirting a few drops from my oil-can through a hole in the blanket. Before going I give him to understand that, in order to have the "good medicine " operate to his advantage, he will have to soak his copper-colored hide in a bath every morning for a week, flattering myself that, while my mystic manoauvres will do him no harm, the latter prescription will certainly do him good if he acts on it, which, however, is extremely doubtful. 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. 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.

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 lave the burning desert sands at its edge.

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!"

>From the Forty-mile Desert my road leads up the valley of the Humboldt River. On the shores of Humboldt Lake are camped a dozen Piute lodges, and I make a half-hour halt to pay them a visit. I shall never know whether I am a welcome visitor or not; they show no signs of pleasure or displeasure as I trundle the bicycle through the sage-brush toward them. Leaning it familiarly up against one of their teepes, I wander among them and pry into their domestic affairs like a health-officer in a New York tenement. I know I have no right to do this without saying, "By your leave," but item-hunters the world over do likewise, so I feel little squeamishness about it. Moreover, when I come back I find the Indians are playing " tit-for-tat" against me. Not only are they curiously examining the bicycle as a whole, but they have opened the toolbag and are examining the tools, handing them around among themselves. I don't think these Piutes are smart or bold enough to steal nowadays; their intercourse with the whites along the railroad has, in a measure, relieved them of those aboriginal traits of character that would incite them to steal a brass button off their pale-faced brother's coat, or screw a nut off his bicycle; but they have learned to beg; the noble Piute of to-day is an incorrigible mendicant. Gathering up my tools from among them, the monkey-wrench seems to have found favor in the eyes of a wrinkled-faced brave, who, it seems, is a chief. He hands the wrench over with a smile that is meant to be captivating, and points at it as I am putting it back into the bag, and grunts, " Ugh. Piute likum. Piute likum!" As I hold it up, and ask him if this is what he means, he again points and repeats, " Piute likum;" and this time two others standing by point at him and also smile and say, " Him big chief; big Piute chief, him;" thinking, no doubt, this latter would be a clincher, and that I would at once recognize in " big Piute chief, him " a vastly superior being and hand him over the wrench. In this, however, they are mistaken, for the wrench I cannot spare; neither can I see any lingering trace of royalty about him, no kingliness of mien, or extra cleanliness; nor is there anything winning about his smile - nor any of their smiles for that matter. The Piute smile seems to me to be simply a cold, passionless expansion of the vast horizontal slit that reaches almost from one ear to the other, and separates the upper and lower sections of their expressionless faces. Even the smiles of the squaws are of the same unlovely pattern, though they seem to be perfectly oblivious of any ugliness whatever, and whenever a pale-faced visitor appears near their teepe they straightway present him with one of those repulsive, unwinning smiles. Sunday, May 4th, finds me anchored for the day at the village of Lovelocks, 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 Lovelocks 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 Lovelocks, 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 Eye 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.

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 go thick and high that I have to hold the bicycle up overhead to get through.

At three o'clock in the afternoon I come to a railroad section-house. At the Chinese bunk-house I find a lone Celestial who, for some reason, is staying at home. Having had nothing to eat or drink since six o'clock this morning, I present the Chinaman with a smile that is intended to win his heathen heart over to any gastronomic scheme I may propose; but smiles are thrown away on John Chinaman.

" John, can you fix me up something to eat. " " No; Chinaman no savvy whi' man eatee; bossee ow on thlack. Chinaman eatee nothing bu' licee [rice]; no licee cookee." This sounds pretty conclusive; nevertheless I don't intend to be thus put off so easily. There is nothing particularly beautiful about a silver half-dollar, but in the almond-shaped eyes of the Chinaman scenes of paradisiacal loveliness are nothing compared to the dull surface of a twenty-year-old fifty-cent piece; and the jingle of the silver coins contains more melody for Chin Chin's unromantic ear than a whole musical festival.

" John, I'll give you a couple of two-bit pieces if you'll get me a bite of something," I persist. John's small, black eyes twinkle at the suggestion of two-bit pieces, and his expressive countenance assumes a commerical air as, with a ludicrous change of front, he replies:

" Wha'. You gib me flore bittee, me gib you bitee eatee. " "That's what I said, John; and please be as lively as possible about it."

" All li; you gib me flore bittee me fly you Melican plan-cae." " Yes, pancakes will do. Go ahead!"

Visions of pancakes and molasses flit before my hunger-distorted vision as I sit outside until he gets them ready. In ten minutes John calls me in. On a tin plate, that looks as if it has just been rescued from a barrel of soap-grease, reposes a shapeless mass of substance resembling putty-it is the " Melican plan-cae; " and the Celestial triumphantly sets an empty box in front of it for me to sit on and extends his greasy palm for the stipulated price. May the reader never be ravenously hungry and have to choose between a " Melican plan-cae " and nothing. It is simply a chunk of tenacious dough, made of flour and water only, and soaked for a few minutes in warm grease. I call for molasses; he doesn't know what it is. I inquire for syrup, thinking he may recognize my want by that name. He brings a jar of thin Chinese catsup, that tastes something like Limburger cheese smells. I immediately beg of him to take it where its presumably benign influence will fail to reach me. He produces some excellent cold tea, however, by the aid of which I manage to "bolt" a portion of the "plan-cae." One doesn't look for a very elegant spread for fifty cents in the Sage-brush State; but this "Melican plan-cae" is the worst fifty-cent meal I ever heard of.

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. 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 arid railroad pass through the caon 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 caon 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 yellowishgray 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.

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. 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 stilly 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.

>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 reeds 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.

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 liver, 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. This afternoon I follow the river through Humboldt Caon in preference to taking a long circuitous route over the mountains. The first noticeable things about this caon 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 caon 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 caon 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 caon. Vivid flashes of forked lightning shoot athwart the heavy black cloud that seems to rest on either wall, roofing the caon 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.

It grows pitchy dark ere I leave the caon 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." 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 caon 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.

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 a week. 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 Caon, 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. 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.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse