As a country that stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic we have always been fascinated with the ability to cross this great nation in many different ways. Today many people achieve this accomplishment annually by crossing parts of the US either West to East or North to South to enjoy a great journey either by car, on a motorcycle, by foot or even on a bicycle. With our improved infrastructure of highways its relatively safe and uneventful to accomplish this feat of distance travel, but there was a time just over a century ago when this wasn’t the case.
In 1902 a man by the name of George A. Wyman rode what can only be described as a Moped across the United States. He rode on a California Motor Company motor-bicycle which was just that, a bicycle that could still be pedaled but had a motor on it to allow some motorized travel. The fact that his vehicle would actually get 120 mpg was astonishing, but you have to picture the scene of 1902 to fully understand how difficult this travelling could be. Mr. Wyman started out in San Francisco and it took him 51 days to reach New York City, a trip that today could be done in nearly a week and that’s at a slower pace.
At the time Wyman carried with him a small set of clothes, a Kodak camera and a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver. This was all he could manage on the bike and with the complete lack of improved roads that crossed the country much of his journey was on top of the railroad tracks which certainly made for a bumpy ride. Even starting this journey on May 16th, which you think would have made it so he would be able to avoid snow, he ran into snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas.
There is no doubt Wyman had a lot of troubles along the ways across the country including dealing with a broken crankshaft just outside of Aurora, Illinois which caused him to have to pedal the bike into Chicago and spend five days in the parts of the city that tend to be less desirable than others. After he fixed the bike the engine finally gave out around Albany, NY and he pedaled the final 150 miles to New York City to complete his journey. Once he arrived in New York and finished celebrating he returned to San Francisco with the bike via train.
Sometime after the completion of the journey the bike was lost and was supposedly purchased by Otis Chandler in the 1970s. In 2006, after the passing of Chandler the bike was sent to the Wyman Memorial Project to have the bike authenticated. There is no real proof that this bike actually is the original except the word of Chandler, but this bike and the story that goes along with it is one that is truly part of what we consider to be the American spirit and an example of what happens when someone puts their mind to a task.