In 1887 a 21-year-old newspaperman named George Nellis (1865-1948) rode a bicycle from Herkimer, New York, to San Francisco in 72 days, surpassing the transcontinental bicycle record by several weeks. He averaged 50 miles a day pedaling a 52-inch, high-wheeled Columbia Expert "ordinary" bicycle with a tubular steel frame and hard rubber tires, and he lost 23 pounds in the process.
He bicycled ever westward through sleepy villages, farmlands, and growing cities of the rapidly changing nation and trekked across uninhabited stretches of prairies and mountains that marked its shrinking frontier. Following his daily 10-hour rides, Nellis sat down and wrote letters about his adventures to his hometown newspapers and a national cycling magazine to finance his cross-country journey.
Nellis's epic journey over dirt paths, muddy roads, and occasional railroad ties was plagued by terrible weather, frightening experiences, and odd encounters; yet it was also enriched by breathtaking natural wonders and the generous spirit of many people he met.
Drawing on Nellis's letters and media coverage of the trip, Kevin J. Hayes recreates in compelling detail this amazing trip and the many ordinary and extraordinary faces of late 19th-century America.
The book is published by University of Nebraska Press.
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