In November 2019, the Eastern Fresno County Historical Society posted a newspaper article from 1895 on their Facebook page.  

For the benefit of all FCC Members, Janet Lucido re-typed the article, which appears below with the exact same wording as the original article.

Please enjoy, and be sure to thank the Eastern Fresno County Historical Society for bringing this to our attention.   

HILLSIDE BICYCLING

Joyless Journey of Six Days

By Hu Maxell   (originally printed in a local newspaper in 1895)

A NEW SUNKEN ROAD OF CHAIN

Viewing Rural Scenes and Wayside Wonders
From the Hurricane Deck of a Bicycle

  Having sounded the shallows and explored the depths of life in town until the ways of men had brown monotonous by their sameness, I concluded to sprinkle a little spice in the feast of existence by taking a pious pilgrimage to the everlasting hills that loom above Tollhouse.  A man who depends solely upon municipal scenes for his inspiration is apt to become somewhat cob-webby.  A week among nature’s haunts, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary get no rest, always holds out inducements; and, decoyed by these inducements and the proverbial gold at the end of the rural rainbow, I mounted my wheel and started.  There is a charm about country landscapes when viewed from the hurricane deck of a bicycle.

   Among the first waves of trouble that rolled across my peaceful breast were those encountered when I hit the road from Sanger to Academy, and for ten miles beat up against a strong north wind, over a lop-sided road rough as if paved with cannon balls.  It is a country of black bog and red clay, and the fathomless winter mud had hardened just enough to resemble the ice hammocks where the boreal cyclones churn the sea.

  The result was that by the time I swept into the suburbs of the Academy, 24 miles from Fresno by the road I had gone, I was ready to lean my tired bicycle against the fence and let it rest, while I sat on a rock and drank in the beauties of nature for half an hour.

THE CITIZEN AND THE OILER

  So much, so good.  The first stage of the pilgrimage was ended.  The hills were at hand.  The wheel having had time to blow and recover its wind, I mounted again.  In an evil hour I met a citizen, who came riding down the road.  When I had passed him fifty yards he called to me to stop, which I did.  He came back and said he wanted to look at the patent oiler.  He meant the cyclometer on the front axle of my wheel.  When I explained that the instrument’s utility consisted in measuring distance, he seemed satisfied, and in order to show his gratitude he volunteered some startling information, but he meant it well.  He said there was no money in the county treasury, and the road up Dry creek to the Toll House had not been worked, and I could not travel that way.  I must go over Pittman hill, past Mechanicsville.

DECOYED INTO TROUBLE

  It was one of the mistakes of my life that I believed him, but I have a trusting and confiding heart.  So I turned aside, like a fool, to follow the Mechanicsville road.  It led five miles up a mountain so steep that the only way could get my bicycle up was to walk behind it, put my shoulder to the wheel, and boost.  Had I not been an expert bicyclist, I could never have reached the top of that mountain with my wheel.  The best bicyclist is not the one who can ride twenty miles an hour on a race track, but he who can get along any place.  In places where the road was so rough I could not push my bicycle up I put it on my shoulder and carried it.

A MOUNTAIN VILLAGE

  Roads are seldom up hill all the way.  The one I was following was no exception.  I reached the summit at 11 o’clock, ante meridian.  There stood Mechanicsville.  I mounted my wheel and made a dash down Main street, much to the surprise of the inhabitants.  The throng parted right and left, and I went through.  There was down hill two miles.  I clutched the handle bars and took my chances.  I applied the brake at times, but the only effect was to make the tire smoke.  The road had gullies across it, but the wheel went over them without noticing their presence.  There was danger of a mashup; but as I had nearly broken my back carrying the bicycle up the hill, I was determined it should carry me down or break its back in the effort.  It was faithful, and l reached Dry creek, six miles from Toll House and thirty-three miles from Fresno.  

IMITATING CASSIUS

  The road crossed the creek.  They called the place a “ford”, but I never before heard of that name being applied to a chasm half full of rocks and water.  There was no bridge.  I off with my shoes, rolled up my bloomers, shouldered my wheel and started.  I fell down two or three times, but made the bank.  Half mile further the road crossed the creek again; so did I.  Half mile further it crossed again.  I was tired of pulling shoes, so I shouldered my wheel, took my hat in my teeth, and Cassius like, plunged in, accoutered as I was.

A VISION OF ANGELS

  Two mile more of tribulation, hills and creeks, and then I rebelled against fate and stretched myself by the road side, under an oak with my bicycle for a pillow, weary, footsore, hungry, and I fell asleep, and like Jacob of old, I dreamed I saw a ladder reaching from the earth to heaven, and Angels going up with bicycles on their shoulders.  I awoke with an amazingly vivid realization that the hour of dinner had passed and nothing to show for it.  While lying under the tree in hungry despondency, a priest from Pine Ridge passed by on one side and a Levite from Big Sandy on the other, and neither stopped to ask what was the matter.

  But an hour later a good Samaritan with a six-horse load of lumber came by and stopped.  When I offered him a half dollar for a piece of bread from his well-stored grub box, the teamster said “take two” and gave me two pieces and passed on. 

FROM MT. SINAI’S TOP

  The next day while passing southward from Toll House toward Kings river I made the best time on the whole journey.  Circumstances made it necessary.  I will explain the point briefly, for I may have occasion to refer to it in the evening of life as one of the times during my earthly pilgrimage when speed counted for more than judgment.  The lane leads from the top of Mt. Sinai into Burrough valley. 

  While jogging along on my faithful wheel I ran into a dairy.  Cows jumped fences left and right and ran bawling.  Calves bawled.  Dogs barked.  Geese cackled.  I was clearing the precinct in fine style.  Every living thing flew except one old cow that had roamed Burrough valley since before Columbus discovered America, if the rings on his horns were reliable.

  As the bicycle passed her, she made a pass at it.  She nearly jumped in front of it.  If she had done so, she would have been knocked half way across the valley, for I was going fast.

  The old patriarch of the herd raised her bristles, and came after me.  A bicycle can outrun a cow on a long race, but I was afraid the race would not last long enough.  I cast a glance back, saw she was coming, and I threw the throttle wide open, and went down that lane like a flash of light.  It was down hill, which was in my favor.  My first thought was that there might be a turn in the lane, and at my speed I could not make it.  I looked ahead.  It was straight as far as I could see, and down hill; and I said defiantly, “Come ahead, old cow,”

  I thought, of course, that I was outrunning her.  But when I glanced behind me, I was surprised to see that such was not the case.  Her head was down, her tail standing high above her back, coiled like a vast corkscrew, and her hair on end with rage.

  I devoted myself to business, and soon attained such a speed that the fence posts flew back till they made me dizzy, and the cyclometer buzzed like a watch with a broken ratchet wheel.  I don’t think Zimmerman ever rode that fast, especially if the pacemaker was behind him instead of before, as in my case.  When I would glance back, I could see nothing but that corkscrew standing in air, about six jumps behind me.

SUNKEN ROAD OF CHAIN

  Looking back is dangerous.  By looking back, Mrs. Lot lost everything.  By looking back, Orpheus lost Eurydice.  By looking back, I lost my pedals.  That means (explanatory to those who do not ride wheels) that my feet flew off the cranks of my bicycle; and at such a speed, it is impossible to catch them.

  It was down hill, and the wheel went anyhow, going faster and faster.  The cow also came faster and faster, and the outlook was somewhat mixed.  But all I could do was to keep a cool head, steady nerve, and let the wheel drive.

  I felt that a catastrophe of some sort must come sooner or later, and I thought it would strike me.  But it caught the cow.  For once on the trip luck helped me, and I snatched victory from apparent disaster.  Right across the road ran a deep gully, the result of late rains.  I saw it, but was powerless.  If it has been the mouth of hades, I could not have stopped or turned aside.  It shut my eyes as my bicycle dashed over the brink.  I did not want to see.  But my speed was so great that the wheel went across safely.  The cow went down into that Sunken Road o’Chain, and I saw her no more. 

L’ENVOI

  It rained four days.  I spent the time in a farm house in Burrough valley, while woodpeckers drilled holes in the roof to drop acorns in, and incidentally let in the rain.  On the fifth day, when all roads had been washed out, I crossed the mountain through a pathless woods into Watts valley.  The only mishap was my falling about 400 yards down a mountain into the head of a canyon, bicycle and all.  While on the way down, the earth, the air and the heavens seemed full if bicycles.  I had never seen such a cyclery.  When I reached the bottom and gathered myself together, I was surprised to find there was only one bicycle in the vicinity.  From Watts valley down Fancher creek the walking was good, and after hoofing it ten or fifteen miles, I mounted my wheel and returned to Fresno with flying colors.  My cyclometer showed I had traveled 988 miles on the trip.  Unless a cog slipped somewhere, this was a remarkable showing for one week.    

    FCC - P.O. Box 27571, Fresno, CA 93729-7571

    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software