Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York: In the Tire Tracks of a Pioneer, Pt 5

Text: John M. Flores • Photography: John M. Flores

The home stretch. With the mountains and deserts and most of the country at his back, riding from Chicago to New York City should have been the easiest part of the trip for Wyman. It wasn’t.

Against all odds, George A Wyman had crossed the Sierra Nevada, the Great Basin Desert, the Rockies, and the Great Plains on his California motor bicycle. But he arrived in Chicago with his bike broken and remained there, stuck in the Windy City, until a replacement crank arrived from San Francisco.

The things that impressed me most in Chicago were the way that the inhabitants ran about the streets as if they were lost or going to a fire, and the number of drunken men and women in the streets … I simply abhorred the place.

Once the crank arrived, Wyman spent a day installing it and, rather than stay another night, he left that same evening. 

With the Windy City at my back, I felt as if I would “blow in” to New York in a week or so. The worst roads I knew must surely be behind me, and, with better highways, I calculated that I would have no more trouble with my motor bicycle. 

New York feels close enough to touch. Instead of drunkards in the streets, I battle rush hour traffic and manage to leave the Windy City unscathed. But Wyman’s optimism upon leaving Chicago was quickly quashed.

The roads were heavy from recent rains … I took to the railroad track, and rode 20 miles along the ties to the lake … as I was seasoned to such riding, the bouncing did not hurt so much as the thought that I was having the same sort of traveling east of Chicago that I had west of Omaha.

With each mile eastward, I rely more and more upon a thin network of car charging stations. In Hammond, Indiana, an old steel town, there’s a charging station at an office park. On the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, gas-powered cars are parked inconsiderately in the two charging spots. I ride the Zero DSR up onto the curb and park on the grassy island to charge.

By the time I get to northeastern Indiana, the big skies are gone. I ride through Amish country where the horse-drawn carriages are little changed from Wyman’s time. The Amish look puzzled as I ride by silently. The sky turns a tempestuous gray over the picturesque town of Angola and I make a beeline for the nearest hotel. I rush an extension cord from the room to the bike parked outside my window and the skies open up. 

(End of preview text.)

For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2018 back issue.