Motorcycle touring in the United States undoubtedly began when George M. Hendee and Carl Hedström rolled out their first Indian Single in 1901 (Carl is shown here with an early prototype). Ten years before, acclaimed historian Frederick Jackson Turner had noted the frontier was quickly closing, and Americans from all backgrounds were hungry to explore the storied places of our western expansion—places like Deadwood, SD, Yellowstone National Park, and the redwood forests of California.
The Indian and other bikes that soon followed slowly began to replace the horse as the preferred mode of solo exploration. Two years after the first Indian rolled out of production, George Wyman drove his California Motorcycle Company bike from San Francisco to New York in just 51 days, beating out an automobile trying the same feat by 20 days. His California (shown below) was basically a 1.5-horsepower four-stroke engine mounted on a standard bicycle frame with wooden-rim wheels. The bike weighed 70-80 pounds without rider, topped out at 25 mph, and had a range of 75-100 miles on a single tank of the 30-octane gas used at the time.
Wyman's gear for the trip? Warm clothing, money, water bottle, cans for spare oil and gasoline, a small camera, a cyclometer, various bicycle tools and spare parts, and a long-barreled .38 Smith & Wesson revolver. Because most western roads were often impassable dirt wagon routes, Wyman rode more than half of his trip on railroad tracks, and he suffered numerous breakdowns the further east he headed. Outside of Albany, NY, his engine broke down completely, and he pedaled the remaining 150 miles to New York City and into the record books.
Now, before you go thinking Wyman's trip was the feat of some out-of-his-mind daredevil, consider the case just 12 years later of Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, a mother and daughter team who in 1915 rode a V-twin Harley Davidson from New York to San Francisco and back, with mother Avis in a sidecar. The purpose of their trip was to attend the San Francisco World's Fair, and when they reached San Francisco after two months on the road, the first thing Effie did was dive into the Pacific Ocean so she could experience both coasts. They took with them a tent, blankets, pots, and pans, and tools because there were no hotels, restaurants, or repair shops on their route. Before their trip was over, they had logged 9,000 miles and became the first women to cross the continent on a motorcycle.
Today, motorcycle touring provides many more creature comforts than Wyman and Avis and Effie had on their trips, but whatever form it takes, an extended trip by bike across the great American landscape satisfies our national need to travel like nothing else. So give us a call today at (509) 856-6572 to start your next adventure!