"I see you are taking notes. I suppose you keep track of the crops as you travel along?" says the H. O. F.
"Certainly, I take more notice of the crops than anything; I'm a natural born agriculturist myself."
"Well," continues the farmer, "right here where we stand is Carson Township."
"Ah! indeed. Is it possible that I have at last arrived at Carson Township."
"You have heard of the township before, then, eh." "Heard of it! why, man alive, Carson Township is all the talk out in the Rockies; in fact, it is known all over the world as the finest Township for corn in Iowa."
This sort of conduct is, I admit, unwarrantable in the extreme; but cycling is responsible for it all. If continuous cycling is productive of a superfluity of exhilaration, and said exhilaration bubbles over occasionally, plainly the bicycle is to blame. So forcibly does this latter fact intrude upon me as I shake hands with the farmer, and congratulate him on his rare good fortune in belonging to Carson Township that I mount, and with a view of taking a little of the shine out of it, ride down the long, steep hill leading to the bridge across the Nishnebotene River at a tremendous pace. The machine "kicks" against this treatment, however, and, when about half wray down, it strikes a hole and sends me spinning and gyrating through space; and when I finally strike terra firma, it thumps me unmercifully in the ribs ere it lets me up.
"Variable" is the word descriptive of the Iowa roads; for seventy-five miles due east of Omaha the prairie rolls like a heavy Atlantic swell, and during a day's journey I pass through a dozen alternate stretches of muddy and dusky road; for like a huge watering-pot do the rain-clouds pass to and fro over this great garden of the West, that is practically one continuous fertile farm from the Missouri to the Mississippi.
Passing through Des Moines on the 23d, muddy roads and hot, thunder-showery weather characterize my journey through Central Iowa, aggravated by the inevitable question, "Why don't you ride?" one Solomon-visaged individual asking me if the railway company wouldn't permit me to ride along one of the rails. No base, unworthy suspicions of a cycler's inability to ride on a two-inch rail finds lodgement in the mind of this wiseacre; but his compassionate heart is moved with tender solicitude as to whether the soulless "company" will, or will not, permit it. Hurrying timorously through Grinnell - the city that was badly demolished and scattered all over the surrounding country by a cyclone in 1882 - I pause at Victor, where I find the inhabitants highly elated over the prospect of building a new jail with the fines nightly inflicted on graders employed on a new railroad near by, who come to town and "hilare" every evening.
"What kind of a place do you call this." I inquire, on arriving at a queer-looking town twenty-five miles west of Iowa City.
"This is South Amana, one of the towns of the Amana Society," is the civil reply.
The Amana Society is found upon inquiry to be a communism of Germans, numbering 15,000 souls, and owning 50,000 acres of choice land in a body, with woollen factories, four small towns, and the best of credit everywhere. Everything is common property, and upon withdrawal or expulsion, a member takes with him only the value of what he brought in. The domestic relations are as usual; and while no person of ambition would be content with the conditions of life here, the slow, ease-loving, methodical people composing the society seem well satisfied with their lot, and are, perhaps, happier, on the whole, than the average outsider. I remain here for dinner, and take a look around. The people, the buildings, the language, the food, everything, is precisely as if it had been picked up bodily in some rural district in Germany, and set down unaltered here in Iowa. "Wie gehts," I venture, as I wheel past a couple of plump, rosy-cheeked maidens, in the quaint, old-fashioned garb of the German peasantry. "Wie gehts," is the demure reply from them, both at once; but not the shadow of a dimple responds to my unhappy attempt to win from them a smile. Pretty but not coquettish are these communistic maidens of Amana.
At Tiffin, the stilly air of night, is made joyous with the mellifluous voices of whip-poor-wills-the first I have heard on the tour-and their tuneful concert is impressed on my memory in happy contrast to certain other concerts, both vocal and instrumental, endured en route. Passing through Iowa City, crossing Cedar River at Moscow, nine days after crossing the Missouri, I hear the distant whistle of a Mississippi steamboat. Its hoarse voice is sweetest music to me, heralding the fact that two-thirds of my long tour across the continent is completed. Crossing the "Father of Waters" over the splendid government bridge between Davenport and Rock Island, I pass over into Illinois. For several miles my route leads up the Mississippi River bottom, over sandy roads; but nearing Rock River, the sand disappears, and, for some distance, an excellent road winds through the oak-groves lining this beautiful stream. The green woods are free from underbrush, and a cool undercurrent of air plays amid the leafy shades, which, if not ambrosial, are none the less grateful, as it registers over 100° in the sun; without, the silvery sheen of the river glimmers through the interspaces; the dulcet notes of church-bells come floating on the breeze from over the river, seeming to proclaim, with their melodious tongues, peace and good-will to all. Eock River, with its 300 yards in width of unbridged waters, now obstructs my path, and the ferryboat is tied up on the other shore. "Whoop-ee," I yell at the ferryman's hut opposite, but without receiving any response. "Wh-o-o-p-e-ee," I repeat in a gentle, civilized voice-learned, by the by, two years ago on the Crow reservation in Montana, and which sets the surrounding atmosphere in a whirl and drowns out the music of the church- bells it has no effect whatever on the case-hardened ferryman in the hut; he pays no heed whatever until my persuasive voice is augmented by the voices of two new arrivals in a buggy, when he sallies serenely forth and slowly ferries us across. Riding along rather indifferent roads, between farms worth $100 an acre, through the handsome town of Genesee, stopping over night at Atkinson, I resume my journey next morning through a country abounding in all that goes to make people prosperous, if not happy. Pretty names are given to places hereabouts, for on my left I pass "Pink Prairie, bordered with Green River." Crossing over into Bureau County, I find splendid gravelled roads, and spend a most agreeable hour with the jolly Bicycle Club, of Princeton, the handsome county seat of Bureau County, Pushing on to Lamoille for the night, the enterprising village barber there hustles me into his cosey shop, and shaves, shampoos, shingles, bay-rums, and otherwise manipulates me, to the great enhancement of my personal appearance, all, so he says, for the honor of having lathered the chin of the "great and only--" In fact, the Illinoisians seem to be most excellent folks.
After three days' journey through the great Prairie State my head is fairly turned with kindness and flattery; but the third night, as if to rebuke my vanity, I am bluntly refused shelter at three different farm-houses. I am benighted, and conclude to make the best of it by "turning in" under a hay-cock; but the Fox River mosquitoes oust me in short order, and compel me to "mosey along" through the gloomy night to Yorkville. At Yorkville a stout German, on being informed that I am going to ride to Chicago, replies, "What. Ghigago mit dot. Why, mine dear Yellow, Ghi-gago's more as vorty miles; you gan't ride mit dot to Ghigago;" and the old fellow's eyes fairly bulge with astonishment at the bare idea of riding forty miles "mit dot." I considerately refrain from telling him of my already 2,500-mile jaunt "mit dot," lest an apoplectic fit should waft his Teutonic soul to realms of sauer-kraut bliss and Limburger happiness forever. On the morning of July 4th I roll into Chicago, where, having persuaded myself that I deserve a few days' rest, I remain till the Democratic Convention winds up on the 13th.
Fifteen miles of good riding and three of tough trundling, through deep sand, brings me into Indiana, which for the first thirty-five miles around the southern shore of Lake Michigan is "simply and solely sand." Finding it next to impossible to traverse the wagon-roads, I trundle around the water's edge, where the sand is firmer because wet. After twenty miles of this I have to shoulder the bicycle and scale the huge sand-dunes that border the lake here, and after wandering for an hour through a bewildering wilderness of swamps, sand-hills, and hickory thickets, I finally reach Miller Station for the night. This place is enough to give one the yellow-edged blues: nothing but swamps, sand, sad-eyed turtles, and ruthless, relentless mosquitoes. At Chesterton the roads improve, but still enough sand remains to break the force of headers, which, notwithstanding my long experience on the road, I still manage to execute with undesirable frequency. To-day I take one, and while unravelling myself and congratulating my lucky stars at being in a lonely spot where none can witness my discomfiture, a gruff, sarcastic "haw-haw" falls like a funeral knell on my ear, and a lanky "Hoosier" rides up on a diminutive pumpkin-colored mule that looks a veritable pygmy between his hoop-pole legs. It is but justice to explain that this latter incident did not occur in "Posey County."
At La Porte the roads improve for some distance, but once again I am benighted, and sleep under a wheat-shock. Traversing several miles of corduroy road, through huckleberry swamps, next morning, I reach Cram's Point for breakfast. A remnant of some Indian tribe still lingers around here and gathers huckleberries for the market, two squaws being in the village purchasing supplies for their camp in the swamps. "What's the name of these Indians here?" I ask.. "One of em's Blinkie, and t'other's Seven-up," is the reply, in a voice that implies such profound knowledge of the subject that I forbear to investigate further.
Splendid gravel roads lead from Crum's Point to South Bend, and on through Mishawaka, alternating with sandy stretches to Goshen, which town is said - by the Goshenites - to be the prettiest in Indiana; but there seems to be considerable pride of locality in the great Hoosier State, and I venture there are scores of "prettiest towns in Indiana." Nevertheless, Goshen is certainly a very handsome place, with unusually broad, well-shaded streets; the centre of a magnificent farming country, it is romantically situated on the banks of the beautiful Elkhart Eiver. At "Wawaka I find a corpulent 300-pound cycler, who, being afraid to trust his jumbolean proportions on an ordinary machine, has had an extra stout bone-shaker made to order, and goes out on short runs with a couple of neighbor wheelmen, who, being about fifty per cent, less bulky, ride regulation wheels. "Jumbo" goes all right when mounted, but, being unable to mount without aid, he seldom ventures abroad by himself for fear of having to foot it back. Ninety-five degrees in the shade characterizes the weather these days, and I generally make a few miles in the gloaming - not, of course, because it is cooler, but because the "gloaming" is so delightfully romantic.
At ten o'clock in the morning, July 17th, I bowl across the boundary line into Ohio. Following the Merchants' and Bankers' Telegraph road to Napoleon, I pass through a district where the rain has overlooked them for two months; the rear wheel of the bicycle is half buried in hot dust; the blackberries are dead on the bushes, and the long-suffering corn looks as though afflicted with the yellow jaundice. I sup this same evening with a family of Germans, who have been settled here forty years, and scarcely know a word of English yet. A fat, phlegmatic-looking baby is peacefully reposing in a cradle, which is simply half a monster pumpkin scooped out and dried; it is the most intensely rustic cradle in the world. Surely, this youngster's head ought to be level on agricultural affairs, when he grows up, if anybody's ought.
From Napoleon my route leads up the Maumee River and canal, first trying the tow-path of the latter, and then relinquishing it for the very fair wagon-road. The Maumee River, winding through its splendid rich valley, seems to possess a peculiar beauty all its own, and my mind, unbidden, mentally compares it with our old friend, the Humboldt. The latter stream traverses dreary plains, where almost nothing but sagebrush grows; the Maumee waters a smiling valley, where orchards, fields, and meadows alternate with sugar- maple groves, and in its fair bosom reflects beautiful landscape views, that are changed and rebeautified by the master-hand of the sun every hour of the day, and doubly embellished at night by the moon. It is whispered that during " the late unpleasantness " the Ohio regiments could out-yell the Louisiana tigers, or any other Confederate troops, two to one. Who has not heard the "Ohio yell?" Most people are magnanimously inclined to regard this rumor as simply a "gag" on the Buckeye boys; but it isn't. The Ohioans are to the manner born; the "Buckeye yell" is a tangible fact. All along the Maumee it resounds in my ears; nearly every man or boy, who from the fields, far or near, sees me bowling along the road, straightway delivers himself of a yell, pure and simple.
At Perrysburg, I strike the famous "Maumee pike"-forty miles of stone road, almost a dead level. The western half is kept in rather poor repair these days; but from Fremont eastward it is splendid wheeling. The atmosphere of Bellevue is blue with politics, and myself and another innocent, unsuspecting individual, hailing from New York, are enticed into a political meeting by a wily politician, and dexterously made to pose before the assembled company as two gentlemen who have come - one from the Atlantic, the other from the Pacific - to witness the overwhelming success of the only honest, horny-handed, double-breasted patriots - the... party. The roads are found rather sandy east of the pike, and the roadful of wagons going to the circus, which exhibits to-day at Norwalk, causes considerable annoyance.
Erie County, through which I am now passing, is one of the finest fruit countries in the world, and many of the farmers keep open orchard. Staying at Eidgeville overnight, I roll into Cleveland, and into the out-stretched arms of a policeman, at 10 o'clock, next morning. "He was violating the city ordinance by riding on the sidewalk," the arresting policeman informs the captain. "Ah! he was, hey!" thunders the captain, in a hoarse, bass voice that causes my knees to knock together with fear and trembling; and the captain's eye seems to look clear through my trembling form. "P-l-e-a-s-e, s-i-r, I d-i-d-n't t-r-y t-o d-o i-t," I falter, in a weak, gasping voice that brings tears to the eyes of the assembled officers and melts the captain's heart, so that he is already wavering between justice and mercy when a local wheelman comes gallantly to the rescue, and explains my natural ignorance of Cleveland's city laws, and I breathe the joyous air of freedom once again.
Three members of the Cleveland Bicycle Club and a visiting wheelman accompany me ten miles out, riding down far-famed Euclid Avenue, and calling at Lake View Cemetery to pay a visit to Garfleld's tomb. I bid them farewell at Euclid village. Following the ridge road leading along the shore of Lake Erie to Buffalo, I ride through a most beautiful farming country, passing through "Willoughby and Mentor-Garfield's old home. Splendidly kept roads pass between avenues of stately maples, that cast a grateful shade athwart the highway, both sides of which are lined with magnificent farms, whose fields and meadows fairly groan beneath their wealth of produce, whose fructiferous orchards arc marvels of productiveness, and whose barns and stables would be veritable palaces to the sod-housed homesteaders on Nebraska's frontier prairies. Prominent among them stands the old Garfield homestead - a fine farm of one hundred and sixty-five acres, at present managed by Mrs. Garfield's brother. Smiling villages nestling amid stately groves, rearing white church-spires from out their green, bowery surroundings, dot the low, broad, fertile shore-land to the left; the gleaming waters of Lake Erie here and there glisten like burnished steel through the distant interspaces, and away beyond stretches northward, like a vast mirror, to kiss the blue Canadian skies.
Near Conneaut I whirl the dust of the Buckeye State from my tire and cress over into Pennsylvania, where, from the little hamlet of Springfield, the roads become good, then better, and finally best at Girard-the home of the veteran showman, Dan Rice, the beautifying works of whose generous hand are everywhere visible in his native town. Splendid is the road and delightful the country coming east from Girard; even the red brick school-houses are embowered amid leafy groves; and so it continues with ever-varying, ever-pleasing beauty to Erie, after which the highway becomes hardly so good.
Twenty-four hours after entering Pennsylvania I make my exit across the boundary into the Empire State. The roads continue good, and after dinner I reach Westfield, six miles from the famous Lake Chautauqua, which beautiful hill and forest embowered sheet of water is popularly believed by many of its numerous local admirers to be the highest navigable lake in the world. If so, however, Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains comes next, as it is about six thousand feet above the level of the sea, and has three steamers plying on its waters. At Fredonia I am shown through the celebrated watch-movement factory here, by the captain of the Fredonia Club, who accompanies me to Silver Creek, where we call on another enthusiastic wheelman-a physician who uses the wheel in preference to a horse, in making professional calls throughout the surround-in' country. Taking supper with the genial "Doc.," they both accompany me to the summit of a steep hill leading up out of the creek bottom. No wheelman has ever yet rode up this hill, save the muscular and gritty captain of the Fredonia Club, though several have attempted the feat. From the top my road ahead is plainly visible for miles, leading through the broad and smiling Cattaraugus Valley that is spread out like a vast garden below, through which Cattaraugus Creek slowly winds its tortuous way. Stopping over night at Angola I proceed to Buffalo next morning, catching the first glimpse of that important "seaport of the lakes," where, fifteen miles across the bay, the wagon-road is almost licked by the swashing waves; and entering the city over a "misfit" plank-road, off which I am almost upset by the most audaciously indifferent woman in the world. A market woman homeward bound with her empty truck-wagon, recognizes my road-rights to the extent of barely room to squeeze past between her wagon and the ditch; and holds her long, stiff buggy-whip so that it " swipes " me viciously across the face, knocks my helmet off into the mud ditch, and well-nigh upsets me into the same. The woman-a crimson-crested blonde - jogs serenely along without even deigning to turn her head.
Leaving the bicycle at "Isham's "-who volunteers some slight repairs-I take a flying visit by rail to see Niagara Falls, returning the same evening to enjoy the proffered hospitality of a genial member of the Buffalo Bicycle Club. Seated on the piazza of his residence, on Delaware Avenue, this evening, the symphonious voice of the club-whistle is cast adrift whenever the glowing orb of a cycle-lamp heaves in sight through the darkness, and several members of the club are thus rounded up and their hearts captured by the witchery of a smile-a " smile " in Buffalo, I hasten to explain, is no kin whatever to a Rocky Mountain "smile" - far be it from it. This club-wliistle of the Buffalo Bicycle Club happens to sing the same melodious song as the police - whistle at Washington, D. C.; and the Buffalo cyclers who graced the national league - meet at the Capital with their presence took a folio of club music along. A small but frolicsome party of them on top of the Washington monument, "heaved a sigh " from their whistles, at a comrade passing along the street below, when a corpulent policeman, naturally mistaking it for a signal from a brother "cop," hastened to climb the five hundred feet or thereabouts of ascent up the monument. When he arrived, puffing and perspiring, to the summit, and discovered his mistake, the wheelmen say he made such awful use of the Queen's English that the atmosphere had a blue, sulphurous tinge about it for some time after.
Leaving Buffalo next morning I pass through Batavia, where the wheelmen have a most aesthetic little club-room. Besides being jovial and whole-souled fellows, they are awfully sesthetic; and the sweetest little Japanese curios and bric-d-brac decorate the walls and tables.
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