A Man Who Biked Across America With No Brakes Before The Nation Was Tamed

George Loher Showed How Easy it Really Was to Ride a Bike in 1895

George Loher Showed How Easy it Really Was to Ride a Bike in 1895

On This Date in History: In Oakland, California a reasonably successful butcher by the name of George Loher decided he needed some excitement in his life. Did he look for a girlfriend? Turn to crime? Maybe try a new line of work? No, he had bigger ambitions. On this date in 1895, George Loher decided it would be “a pleasant undertaking” to go to New York…on a bicycle.

Yellow Fellow had a double frame

Yellow Fellow had a double frame

He left San Francisco on his Stearns Yellow Fellow bike to begin his herculean task. The Stearns’ company model was pretty similar to bicycles of today and Loher was weighed down with over 50 pounds of equipment, clothes and supplies to such an extent that observers weren’t sure he’d ever get out of the Bay Area. But, he did.

Stevens Rode This Thing Across the Country Before Loher

Stevens Rode This Thing Across the Country Before Loher

It would seem Loher took the northern route, heading to Oregon and then across thirteen states and territories. He crossed deserts, sandy valleys and 5 mountain ranges. Believe it or not, he was not the first to ride a two-wheeler across the country. 11 years before, another guy from Oakland named Thomas Stevens rode a high-wheeler across the nation and later around the world. But, the tea-totalling butcher and “wheelman” enthusiast was the first to do so with the new pneumatic tire and for some odd reason, he had no brakes. Seems, his method of stopping was to drop a bunch of brush and sticks tied to a rope on his bike and drag it behind to slow his momentum. I don’t think it worked too well. In Oregon, his trip almost ended when he nearly ran into a train. In Washington, he broke his front forks and in Montana he smashed his front wheel on a boulder.

George Peddled a Long Way from the Butcher Shop

George Peddled a Long Way from the Butcher Shop

Undaunted, he continued on and in North Dakota he must have gotten into trouble because he was cursed at in Swedish. His luck changed in Wisconsin because he took time to party down with a bunch of tobacco traders. One doesn’t think of Ohio as being a big oil state but he rode between oil wells in the Buckeye State. One publication describes him as a typical tourist. Well, Snow White and I just returned from an adventure in Virginia and Washington DC and we didn’t decide to visit a prison but Loher thought it would be a good idea to visit Sing Sing prison in New York. The warden must have thought he was some sort of VIP because he let the traveler take a rest in the electric chair. Loher said “I found it a comfortable piece of furniture (that is, when the dynamo is not running.)”

Jules Verne's guys went around the world in 80 days

Jules Verne's guys went around the world in 80 days

Loher finished his adventure in 80 days, which would have made Jules Verne smile. And then…he returned to Oakland on a train and went back to his butcher shop. He wrote a journal about his exploits but didn’t publish it because he thought it was too ordinary. Hence, he was lost to the pages of history until the late 1960’s when he grand-daughter was rummaging through some of his stuff and found the manuscript. She had it published in the early 1970’s.

This is rather odd in American lore because most of the time people do extra-ordinary things…in this case cycling over 4300 miles in the days before automobiles and paved roads and when Swedish was still being spoken in North Dakota…and then cash in with a book or something. Not George. He simply went home. Apparently, he did it because, as one published article says, he “wanted a larger slice of life” and he certainly must have been adventuresome because he neglected to pack a map. He just rode like Forrest Gump until he ran into the ocean.

Today, so many people cycle across America that there even a webpage dedicated to it.  This guy biked across the nation in 43 days.   But, one of the first people to do so was George Loher and he did it when paved roads were the exception, not the norm and the number of roads across the nation was pretty sparse in some areas.  The book is called The Wonderful Ride and it looks like you can find it on antique or used book websites. Or you can buy a new one on Amazon for about $141!

Weather  Bottom Line:  We should have more in the way of scattered t’storms late in the day as we heat up again to the upper 90’s.  It’s because a front is getting close but it won’t move through.  It will stick around for about 24 hours before lifting up and when it does, the rain chances go back down.  This weekend, another front comes down and increasese the rain chances and it might move through to cool things down, though I’m not so sure just how far it will get nor how much it will knock down the heat.  In other words, aside from a few wrinkles, the song remains the same.


4 Responses

  1. I think I’ve been cursed at in Swedish – in Iowa, by one of my grandmother’s friends. They were such a hoot – when they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about, or got really mad, they’d lapse into the mother tongue.

    This is a book I’d love to read. The go-out-and-do-something-extraordinary-and-then-go-home dynamic is fascinating. It’s very much related to the person who writes one smashing book, and then is done with it. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind.

    On the other hand, there are those who don’t get so far. Did you ever hear the story of Teacup, who left Seabrook/Kemah to circumnavigate, and decided by the time he’d gotten through the jetties it wasn’t such a good idea? He spent the rest of his life anchored off the CG station there, in a yellow ferro-cement boat.

    There’s a story worth telling 😉

  2. Never heard of that one. How about the guy who left Houston for Raleigh NC, ended up in Louisville and never came home?

  3. I own a copy of this book.

  4. Is it a good book?

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