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Title: Across America by Motor-cycle
Author: Shepherd, C. K.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ACROSS AMERICA BY MOTOR-CYCLE

[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR.]



ACROSS AMERICA
BY MOTOR-CYCLE

BY
C. K. SHEPHERD

ILLUSTRATED

NEW YORK
LONGMANS, GREEN & CO.
LONDON: EDWARD ARNOLD & CO.
1922
_All rights reserved_


_Made in Great Britain
by_ Butler & Tanner, _Frome and London_



PREFACE


A few months after the Armistice of 1918 was signed, when the talk of
everyone concerned was either WHEN they would be demobilized
or what they would do when they WERE demobilized, two young
men were exchanging views on this same subject in the heavy atmosphere
of a very ordinary hotel somewhere in London.

One was wondering how near, or how far, were the days when he would see
the old home-folks once again "way back in Dixieland."

The other was wondering what form of dissipation would be best suited
to remove that haunting feeling of unrest, which as a result of three
or four years of active service was so common amongst the youth of
England at that time.

"How about getting married?" suggested the one.

Then followed a long pause, wherein the other was evidently considering
the pros and cons of such a unique proposition.

"Nothing doing," he replied eventually--"not exciting enough, old
man." Another pause--"And when I come to think, I don't know of any
girl who'd want to marry me even if I wanted to marry her." And as
if to give a final decision to any proposal of _that_ nature, he
added--"Besides, I couldn't afford it!"

"But I tell you what I will do, Steve," said he, "I'll go back with you
across yon herring-pond and have a trot round America."

So that was how it happened.

Two or three months later, when I arrived at New York from Canada,
I purchased a motor-cycle and set out to cross the continent to the
Pacific, and I have it on the best authority that this was the first
time an Englishman had ever accomplished the trip on a motor-cycle. If
it is so, I don't wonder at it!

The whole trip, which covered just fifty miles short of 5,000, was
undertaken quite alone, and although spread over about three months,
constituted a day or two short of a month's actual riding. For the
benefit of brother motor-cyclists who may be interested in such
details I may add that I dispensed entirely with the use of goggles
from beginning to end, and except at stops in large towns on the way
I wore no hat. I think that when the motor-cyclist gets accustomed to
doing without these encumbrances he will find the joys of motor-cycling
considerably enhanced.

The total number of replacements to the engine alone comprised the
following: Five new cylinders; three pistons; five gudgeon pins; three
complete sets of bearings; two connecting rods, and eleven sparking
plugs.

The machine was entirely overhauled on four occasions between the
Atlantic and the Pacific, and on three of these by the recognized
agents of the manufacturers. The engine cut-out switch was the only
part of the machine that did not break, come loose, or go wrong
sooner or later. I was thrown off 142 times, and after that I stopped
counting! Apart from that I had no trouble.

Contrary to what the reader may think, I paid considerable care to
the machine, particularly in the early stages. For the first three
hundred miles I barely exceeded twenty to twenty-five miles per hour
in order to give the machine a good "running-in" before submitting it
to harder work. At the end of the trip I had spent more in repairs and
replacements than the original cost of the machine, and I sold it at
San Francisco for just over a quarter of the amount I paid for it three
months before.

And I am still as keen a motor-cyclist as ever!

The machine was of the four-cylinder, air-cooled type, and I have
nothing but praise for the smooth running that this type affords. I
have ridden scores of machines at one time and another, but never have
I driven any motor-cycle that for luxurious travel could I even compare
with the one mentioned in this narrative. As regards reliability,
however, I must leave the reader to form his own opinion from the
facts, which occurred exactly as I have stated them. Nothing in this
book is set down in malice, and I can only hope that my case was
exceptional so far as the frequent breakdowns were concerned. I must
admit that the conditions were exceptional and that anyone crossing the
United States on a motor-cycle might expect trouble sooner or later.

The reader may observe that I say little of tyre trouble throughout the
story. That is for two reasons: the first is that there is nothing at
all interesting in the narrative of repairing a puncture, for instance;
the second is that I had very little trouble indeed to complain of.
With the smooth, even torque that is so characteristic of four-cylinder
engines, tyre trouble is easily halved, and practically all that one
has to fear is the terrible condition of most of the roads. I arrived
in San Francisco with the same tyres as I had when I started, and they
were still good for several hundreds of miles more.

Petrol consumption, too, was excellent. Those who have not known
high-powered, four-cylinder motor-cycles would probably think the
consumption would be about forty miles to the gallon. On the contrary,
I found my machine much more economical than the same-powered V-twin.
As far as I know I averaged about 75 m.p.g. "all on."

The journey was comparatively uneventful. I never had to shoot anybody
and nobody shot me! In spite of the relative wildness and barrenness
of the West, there were always food and petrol available in plenty.
I spent most nights at the side of the road and experienced neither
rheumatism nor rattlesnakes.

In the following pages I have endeavoured to portray America and
Americans exactly as I found them and as they appealed to me. If at
times I perchance may give offence to any who are lovers of all and
anything American, I do it without intent. Suffice it to say that
before I went I had the highest opinion of anything that came from that
worthy country, so that it cannot be claimed that I am one of those
"Pro-British-every-time" individuals who delight in criticizing other
countries and other peoples in order to gratify their own sense of
national or other superiority.

Finally, I will ask the reader to be patient, or at any rate, not
over-critical when he or she may confess to being bored. For the sake
of making this a complete record of my wanderings I have included that
which may lack interest, and as I can lay claim to no graceful diction,
I may, I am sure, rely on the reader's indulgence towards the narrative
of quite an ordinary, unaspiring, British motor-cyclist.

                    C. K. S.

BIRMINGHAM, 1922.



CONTENTS


                                                                  PAGE

PROLOGUE      1


     I. TRAFFIC IN NEW YORK

My Efforts to Become Americanized--Reflections on New
York Traffic--Dissertation on American Roads--Coney
Island--Equipment for the Journey                                    5


     II. NEW YORK TO PHILADELPHIA

Companions in Distress--"The Playground of the World"--American
Proclivities towards the Superlative--A Lapse into
Philosophy--Introduction to the "Detour"--The Good Samaritan
Rewarded--Philadelphia--Adventures with a Garage Proprietor         12


     III. PHILADELPHIA TO WASHINGTON

Prosperity in New England Villages--Motor-cycling de
Luxe--Peregrinations of a "Tin Lizzie"--Insights into the Inner
Life of an American Highway--Humouring a Negro--Self-conscious
Scruples--Illuminated Signs--Hotel Life in Washington               22


     IV. EXCEEDING THE SPEED LIMIT

Experiences of Brick Roads--Approaching the Alleghanies--The
Lust for Speed--And Its Consequences--Queer Methods of Enforcing
the Law--Stranded                                                   32


     V. ACROSS THE ALLEGHANIES

Soliloquies of the Humble Poor--The Subtleties of Advertisement
Hoardings--Corn in Egypt--The Peregrinations of an English
Sovereign--A Whiff of Good Old London--Appreciation of
Nature in America--Lizzie Reports Sick--Lead, kindly
Light--Auto-suggestion as an Aid to Sleep                           42


     VI. THE DIXIE HIGHWAY

I Make the Acquaintance of the Ohio River--Lizzie develops
Acute Indigestion--The Irony of Henry Ford--I administer
First-aid--Hero-worship to a Rag-and-bone Merchant--A New
Use for an Old Tree--The Ubiquitous Columbus--The Friendly
Tram--The Dixie Highway--Eulogy to the City of Dayton--My
Extravagant Taste for Cake--An alfresco Meal--A Final Burst
of Extravagance--Home Once More                                     51


     VII. CINCINNATI AND ONWARDS

Cincinnati--A Memorable Day--Aspersions on an American
Repair Shop--Chess-board Roads--The Humour of Decorated
Telegraph Poles--Soliloquy on the Pike's Peak Highway--Effects
of State Boundary Lines--Indian Corn--A Luxurious
Bathe--Indianapolis--The 3 A Club--What Constitutes a Good Road     60


     VIII. INDIANA AND ILLINOIS

How Dirt Roads are Cultivated--A Brush with a Road-plough--How
Flivvers "get through"--A Bad Patch and a Good Samaritan--The
Subtleties of General Merchandise--I attract a Crowd in
Springfield--Taken for a Movie Actor--Future Cities of
Illinois--Illinois River--The Mississippi at Last--I sleep on
a Railway Embankment                                                70


     IX. STORMY WEATHER IN MISSOURI

Hannibal--Infantile Automobilation--Rain in Missouri--I get
Annoyed--Railroads v. Highways--Kansas City                         83


     X. RESULTS OF A BREAKDOWN

Kansas City--I visit Lizzie on her Sick-bed--I visit an Editor
in his Lair--Kansas City gets My Story                              89


     XI. THE SANTA FÉ TRAIL

Westward Again--The Santa Fé Trail--Mosquito Nets--Into the
Great Prairies--I sleep in a River--Pie--Prairie Towns--In a
Thunderstorm--Colorado Reached--The Map proves not Infallible--A
Detour to the Heart of the Rockies--Rain Again                      94


     XII. THE ROYAL GORGE OF ARKANSAS

A Strange Dwelling--I am Taken for an American--Supper in
Style--Sleep in Style--Breakfast and Lunch in Style--The Sun
Once Again--Housebuilding at Speed--An Appreciation--The
Rockies--Pueblo--Pike's Peak--The Royal Gorge--The Lust
for Taking Pictures--Picturesque Names--The Worst Road in
America--A Mud Bath--The End of a Perfect Day                      106


     XIII. IN SOUTHERN COLORADO

Strange Mountain Forms--Trinidad--A Flivver to the Rescue--The
Raton Pass--A Wonderful View--At the Feet of the Rockies--A
Phantom Road--Prairie-dogs--Companions--Lizzie sheds a
Sprocket--A Tiring Search--The Biggest Thing in Mud
Lakes--Wagonmound--Argument with a Linemaster                      118


     XIV. NEW MEXICO

Adventures with a Railway--Stuck Once Again--Assistance
from California--House-hunting by Caravan--Las Vegas--A
Wonderful Ford--A Mexican Village--Lizzie Clean Again--The
Travelling Tinsmith--Santa Fé at Last                              132


     XV. SANTA FÉ

Santa Fé--Adobe Architecture--The Art Museum--Where
Americans Hustle Not--In the Limelight Again                       148


     XVI. THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY

Departure from Santa Fé--La Bajada Hill--Albuquerque--The
Rio Grande--Indians--The Morals of Mountains--Socorro--Camping
in the Mountains: A Farmyard Episode                               155


     XVII. THE PETRIFIED FOREST OF ARIZONA

Magdalena--A Strange Metamorphosis--I Sport a Camp Fire--A
Strange Sight--The Petrified Forest of Arizona--Holbrook--Lost
in the Arizona Desert--Mosquitoes Again--Winslow--An Ingenious
Anti-speeding Stunt--That Cylinder Again!--A New Use for Old
Sign-posts--Meteor Mountain--The San Francisco
Peaks--Fairy-land--Flagstaff                                       163


     XVIII. THE GRAND CANYON

The Lowell Observatory--Wonders of Mars Hill--Ptomaine
Poisoning--Flagstaff Dwellings--Towards the Grand Canyon--A
Wonderful Ride--The First Approach of Loneliness--The End of
the World--The Greatest of all Natural Wonders                     178


     XIX. THE MOHAVE DESERT

Lizzie Comes to Grief--Etiquette of the Road--The Tragedy
of Peach Springs--Kingman--Desert Vegetation--Yucca--The Art
of Rut-riding--The Tomb of a Town--The Colorado Needles--A
Marvellous View--Oiled Roads--Ludlow                               192


     XX. I REACH THE PACIFIC COAST

Comrades in Arms--Lizzie begins to Complain--Death Valley--An
Unfortunate Caravan--The End of the Desert--The Cajon
Pass--Los Angeles is Startled                                      210


     XXI. LOS ANGELES TO SAN FRANCISCO

Los Angeles--Friendly California--Towards 'Frisco by Night--I
Dream a Dream--The Californian Missions--The Salinas
Valley--The Last Sleep--Lizzie gives it up Again--The Struggle
for 'Frisco--4,950 at last!                                        224


EPILOGUE                                                           241



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                           TO FACE
                                              PAGE

Portrait of the Author              _Frontispiece_

A Common Occurrence                             26

An Awkward Stretch of Road in Indiana           74

The Midnight Couch                              74

The Oldest House in America, at Santa Fé       150

The Art Museum at Santa Fé                     150

Pueblo of Taos                                 158

The Rio Grande, New Mexico                     162

A Petrified Leviathan                          170

Lizzie in the Petrified Forest, Arizona        170

The Trail to the Grand Canyon                  178

The Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff              178

San Francisco Peaks from Flagstaff             178

The Bottom of the Grand Canyon                 188

Cactus Trees near San Bernardino               206

In the Mohave Desert                           206



PROLOGUE


One bright morning in June--to be exact, the thirteenth (the
significance of that number will be apparent later), in the year of Our
Lord 1919 and in the year of American Prohibition 1, a small assembly
of mechanics, passers-by, and urchins witnessed my departure from a
well-known Motor Cycle Agency in New York.

The machine, a perfectly new and very powerful motor-cycle, was
dazzling in her pristine beauty. No spot or blemish could be seen on
her enamel of khaki hue. No ungainly scratch or speck of rust marred
her virgin form. Her four little cylinders, gaily murmuring as the
engine joyfully sprang into life, seemed to hide a world of romance
as if they were whispering to each other of the days that were to
come, the adventures and experiences they were to encounter, and the
strange lands they were to see. The purr of her exhaust, healthy though
muffled, smooth and even in its rhythm, was music in my ears. A thing
of beauty is a joy for ever, and to those who know the call of the
open road and who love to feel the rush of the wind and the glamour
of speed, such was this machine. Although she was in reality but an
organized combination of various pieces of unfeeling, soulless metal,
without even a name, and known only by a sordid number embossed on a
tinplate provided by the Law, she was soon to develop a character and
personality of her own. She was to play the rôle of sole companion in
the weeks and months to follow. There would be times when I should
curse her profanely and at the same time love her passionately. I
pictured vast prairies and deserts where we should be alone together,
far from the haunts of man or animal or perhaps of any living
thing--times when it would depend upon HER to bear me on to
civilization. So I trust, reader, that you will not think I was waxing
too sentimental on that memorable day in June.

       *       *       *       *       *

The mileage indicator just flicked to 4,422.

I was hungry, hungry as a dog. I was thirsty too, and tired--oh, so
tired! The skin on my face was tanned dark with the desert sun and bore
the dirt of many days' accumulation. The growth of the previous week
was upon my chin. My hair was bleached and dishevelled, my clothes and
boots laden with the sand and dust of Arizona and California. With a
bandaged, broken finger, and the rest skin-cracked and bloodstained
with the alkali sand, I held the handles with the palms of my hands.
The sole was missing altogether from my right boot, and the left
contained many a piece of stone or gravel from far away. A couple of
empty water-bags flapped up and down on the handlebar, and as the
old bus dragged her weary way on three cylinders through the crowded
streets of Los Angeles her hideous clatter told many a tale of woe. I
decided at that moment that the best thing in all the world was to get
something to eat and drink.

"What's the day of the month?" I asked, when with a final "clank" of
the engine we drove into the Agency Garage.

"The seventh."

"The month?"

"August."

"And what's the year?"

"Nineteen nineteen."

"The seventh of August nineteen nineteen," I mused, and relapsed into
contemplative silence....

Some one spotted the registration plate "N.Y.8844" and "rumbled" that I
had come from New York.

"When did you start?" they asked in curious tones. The question
pulled me up with a jerk and brought me back to normal existence, so
inadequately measured by time.

"Oh, seems like ten years ago!" I replied, and relapsed once more into
reverie.



CHAPTER I

TRAFFIC IN NEW YORK


I spent the better part of two days in the survey of New York City
from all points of view. In the Pullman from Niagara I had decided
that America would probably be just as bad as any European country
for robbing the alien. I would therefore simulate the gentle habits
and customs of these (hitherto) worthy people. Having some slight
knowledge of their language I would endeavour to acquire perfection in
the art of American self-expression. I would cultivate the correct pose
of the hat and wear boots with knobbly toes. Only a little practice
would be required before I should be able to gyrate a cigar at the
accepted velocity from one corner of my mouth to the other. In a little
while, methought, I should feel much more at ease in tight-fitting
clothes with ridiculously small sleeves and three inches of projecting
shirt-cuffs. Maybe I should improve my outlook on the world if I viewed
it through a pair of large, round, ebony-rimmed spectacles. There was
just a possibility that I should some day appreciate the soothing charm
of a much-overworked morsel of chewing-gum. With all these splendid
accomplishments I could no doubt dispense with the less attractive
habits of Modern America.

Let me say at the outset that I proved a dismal failure. I would sooner
master the Chinese than the American lingo. The infinite variations of
nasal accomplishment outnumber by far the tribal dialects of India
and leave the poor student to wonder and despair. Why! the number of
orthodox ways of translating the plain English word "Yes" is probably
beyond the scope of mathematical deduction! The shades and blends
between "Yep" and "Ye-oh" alone are sufficient to put a spectrograph of
the sun to shame.

For four months I travelled through the wilds of New York, Ohio, and
Illinois, and even into the civilized states of Colorado, New Mexico,
and Arizona, in a vain search for the man who pronounced "Yes" with a
final "s." In the end I found him, lurking in a little restaurant in
Los Angeles. I gazed in wonderment intense and rapturous when I heard
it. I have his pedigree. He said he came from Boston. Boston, according
to all well-informed Bostonians, represents the acme of perfection in
all things relating to education, etiquette, and propriety. As such it
is unassailable by any other city in America.

There was a time early on when I thought I was succeeding well. I found
that I did better by dispensing with speech altogether. If I dressed in
a "Palm Beach" suit, walked on people's feet, elbowed my way through
passers-by, and continually repeated to myself "The earth is mine
and all that therein is," there was never any doubt but that I was a
"Native Son."

It is superfluous for me to say, however, that after many trials and
more rebuffs, I ultimately abandoned the idea of becoming Americanized.
"After all," thought I, "what sane Englishman wants to be an American?"
The project had been but a brain-wave to combat the "H.C. of L." To
the uninitiated, that is the recognized "Hearst" abbreviation for the
"High Cost of Living," a topic which so frequently appears in American
newspapers that editors were forced to face the question of either
referring to it in symbols or of cutting out the "Want-Ads." Finally,
therefore, I consoled myself that it was better for hotel bills,
cinemas, ice-cream sodas, petrol, and other necessities to rise 200 per
cent. on my approach than for me to lose my own soul. Incidentally,
virtue does not always have its own reward. On my return to England I
heard many accusations against me. "What an awful American accent you
have!" was the greeting of many one-time friends.

... Some have recovered. Others are still in hospital!

       *       *       *       *       *

It took me some time to get accustomed to the traffic of New
York--rather should I say, to its habits and practices. New York itself
consists of a network of streets and avenues ingeniously arranged on
an island which is about five or six times longer than it is broad.
The avenues run the length of the island and the streets run at right
angles across them. In addition, "Broadway" wobbles across from one end
of the island to the other, cutting the avenues at a weird angle of
anything between nothing and twenty degrees.

At all the important street crossings was stationed a "traffic cop"
whose duty was apparently to hold up at the most inconvenient intervals
all the traffic going one way until all the traffic going the other way
had passed. Then he blew his whistle and Hey, presto! the traffic in
the other street began to move. It was fatal to move before the whistle
was blown. I didn't know that!

I had been sailing down Sixth Avenue, just trying the machine for the
first time, as a matter of fact. Everything went smoothly. I felt at
peace with all the world. Here was I on my iron steed of ten little
horses, about to begin a long holiday wherein I should forget the
Kaiser and his deeds and the four or more years of my existence that
had gone in helping to bring about his everlasting undoing. But all of
a sudden:

"Why the jooce don't yer stop, yer Goldarn young son of a gun?"
bellowed an irate "cop" who gesticulated but a few feet from my front
wheel.

"Well, why the blankety blank SHOULD I blankety well stop,
anyway?" I returned, not to be outdone, as I pulled up in the exact
centre of 34th Street, Sixth Avenue, and Broadway.

I could see a crowd beginning to collect. I don't like crowds at any
time. I have a keen antipathy for publicity. My friend the "cop"
drew nigh. "See here, young fellar: whar yer from?" he inquired,
evidently anxious to investigate further the mental condition of this
unique defier of the Law.... To cut a long story short, I was finally
constrained by good judgment to avoid further constabulary hostilities
and, in accordance with the somewhat over-ardent desire of the "cop,"
retired like a whipped schoolboy to the corner where there was already
a long queue of waiting automobiles and taxis. In a few seconds the
whistle was blown and the procession sailed across 34th Street, headed
by a much-humbled motor-cyclist.

I should explain at this juncture that a motor-cyclist is an altogether
despised individual in America. Motor-cycles are not popular over
there. With few exceptions they are owned by delivery men, newspaper
boys, "traffic-cops" and sundry other undesirables. Personally I do
not wonder at it. The roads and streets in the cities are bad enough
to ruin the constitution of any but the most confirmed young "blood"
who does not mind risking a few broken bones. I have seen places
in Broadway where the tram-lines wander six or seven inches above
the surface of the road and where the pot-holes would accommodate
comfortably quite a family of dead dogs within their depths.

So much for the cities. The roads that traverse the country are with
few exceptions nothing better than our fifth-rate country roads on
which no self-respecting Englishman would ride.

Here and there, in the far East and the far West, are found stretches
of concrete or macadam. Somehow, the Americans think they are great
road-builders. A couple of inches of concrete laid over a garden-path
or a sheep-track, with the cracks filled in with tar, represents the
zenith of road construction in this country of ninety odd million
inhabitants. I should like to see some of those concrete roads when
they have had a few years' solid wear with heavy lorries and occasional
traction engines.

Ninety-five per cent. or more, however, of America's highways are dirt
roads, or what they are pleased to call "Natural Gravel." In many cases
they comprise merely a much worn trail, and as often as not a pair of
ruts worn in the prairie. Very often, instead of being a single pair
of ruts, there are five or six or perhaps ten, where individual cars
have manifested their own personality. When this multiplicity of ruts
crosses and re-crosses in a desperate attempt to achieve the survival
of the fittest, the resultant effect on the poor motor-cyclist is
somewhat disconcerting. But of this more anon. Suffice it to say that
on the whole journey of 4,500 miles from one coast to the other, I only
saw FOUR other motor-cyclists on the road anywhere. So the
reader will perhaps understand why the poor human who travels in this
fashion is to be pitied, and why his associates in the towns and cities
are despised by the rest of the community.

When I had acclimatized myself to the traffic of New York and could
worm my way successfully in and out of the "hold-ups" or dart between
trams, taxis, cars, and other impedimenta without danger either to the
community or to myself, I felt that it was time for me to commence my
peregrinations in earnest.

I decided first, however, to visit Coney Island, which is within easy
reach of New York (it is only a few miles away), and, with a plentiful
supply of trains, trams, and 'buses, is fed with a never-ending stream
of pleasure-seeking humanity. It has one avenue of perhaps a couple
of miles' length running parallel with the beach, and every nook and
corner on both sides accommodates a "fun palace" of some kind. There
are dancing-halls by the dozen; mountain railways, switchbacks, and
roundabouts by the score; soda fountains by the hundred. Fronting
the beach are hotels, boarding-houses, and restaurants of all types
save the best. Coney Island is decidedly not a place for the _élite_.
Hither flock young couples, married or single, representatives of the
American democracy, for a week-end of frivolity. The beach is at all
times sprinkled, as by a human pepper-box, with specimens of the "genus
anthropomorpha" of all sizes, of all ages, of all shapes, and in all
stages of dress and undress. I opined that indeed 'twas no place for
me, and with one push of the starting pedal the motor was a living
thing. "Enough is as good as a feast," and an hour at the Playground
of New York was an hour well spent; but I left it for ever behind me
without the slightest desire or intention of ever returning to its
whirl of plebeian gaiety.

Arrived once more at New York City, I prepared to make my adieux. I had
two handbags only, one a beautiful new dressing-case, resplendent with
pig-skin writing pads, ebony brushes, and glass bottles, and the other,
a slightly larger one, which accommodated my spare clothing, boots,
etc., and the miscellaneous collection of junk that every globe-trotter
inevitably carries around with him.

Now I have an inherent contempt for side-cars, although had one been
available at New York when I bought the machine I should have taken
it and carried all my luggage with me. That would have been the acme
of luxury. As it was, however, I contented myself with a good strong
carrier and with many straps; the dressing-case, surrounded by a good
thick blanket, was securely attached to the back of the machine. The
other bag I "shipped" on by train to my predetermined stops across the
country.

That dressing-case must have weighed fifty or sixty pounds, and with
the blanket around it looked an alarming size when _in situ_. There
was no hope for it. I'm that kind of individual who always likes
plenty of silk shirts and pyjamas and things, so it didn't occasion me
the slightest worry if the people did stare wildly at me as I passed
through their towns and villages.

And they "sure" did!



CHAPTER II

NEW YORK TO PHILADELPHIA


"Gotter match?" he inquired as I pulled up near him.

I had left my palatial sky-scraper hotel only fifteen minutes before.
Soon, I contemplated, my experiences in and around New York would
be past history. Happy and light-hearted, I was humming along that
boulevard with the truly wonderful surface which runs along the edge
of Manhattan Island. It is known as "Riverside Drive," and here dwell
many of America's millionaires. A young fellow and his companion with
a Harley-Davidson and side-car at the side of the road attracted my
attention. Neither of them looked as though he were a resident of that
district. A khaki-coloured shirt, thick corduroy breeches, leggings,
and boots were their only attire. One of them held up his hand when he
saw me.

"Maybe these fellows know something about the roads," thought I; so I
stopped.

To stop a motor-cyclist and ask him for a match seemed quite a unique
departure from the well-established English customs with which I was
familiar. Feeling benevolent, I silently proffered a box of "England's
Glory" wax vestas. Without a word he took one, scrutinized it closely
as though it were something wonderful in the art of match-manufacture,
and slowly lit his pipe. A dozen puffs ensued. He broke the silence.

"Where you from?"

"When I left it they called it 'England,'" I replied.

Another dozen puffs.

"Where you goin'?"

"I may get to San Francisco some day."

"You sure got some bit of pavement in front of you. I said it."

"Well, I guess it's never so bad but what it might be worse," I hinted.

He spat twice, puffed a few clouds, spat again; took another look at
me, then glanced at my machine.

"You got SOME bird there," he ventured, and then added, as if
to place the assertion beyond all doubt,--

"I said it."

I agreed that it ought to be able to get along.

"Yew said it.--See that bird thar?" he asked, pointing to his machine.
"Waal, I guess she can move some too; she done eight thousand miles on
them roads, an' I guess they warn't mos'ly booleyvards neither."

In the conversation which followed, mainly in reference to many
inquiries on my part as to the various "National Highways" which I
had learnt were occasionally to be found throughout the country, I
gleaned from this worthy native son that it would be better for me to
"go back 'ome and pick strawberries" than to continue farther with
such an obviously insane desire as to cross the American Continent.
I persisted, however, that having come thus far, I would at any rate
continue while sanity remained, although I should certainly bear his
good advice in mind for future reference.

With a final injunction from him that I should know him when next I saw
him if I were fortunate enough to subsist in the land of the living, we
parted, and after a trip on the Ferry across the Jersey River, I was
soon winding my way out of the drab and dreary suburbs of Newark.

It would be incorrect to say that the best people do not go to Atlantic
City. Americans, I believe, reckon this well-known seaside resort to be
one of the nine wonders of the world. No free-born American citizen, I
do not doubt, would give the credit of the other eight, whatever they
may be, to any foreign country. On this assumption I felt I should have
no difficulty in identifying the other eight when I had seen more of
"God's Own Country."

Now Atlantic City is just one hundred per cent. American. It would be
impossible to associate it with any other country but America. To begin
with, it has the inevitable "million-dollar" pier. Let me explain that
nothing in America is worthy of popular patronage unless it costs at
least a million dollars. When I was at Niagara I was told how many
million gallons of water flowed over the falls in a year. No one (on
the American side) seemed to worry very much about the magnificence
of the falls or the grandeur of the river. Such sordid interests do
not appeal to them. But ask someone how many million horse-power will
be developed in a year, and see with what eagerness he relieves you
of your ignorance! The American public WILL have millions in
their calculations and their lust for the superlative MUST be
appeased.

In Atlantic City there are naturally many objects of interest to the
budding student of modern life like myself, but, on the whole, the
amusements of this nation do not differ considerably from the modest
efforts of our own. There one can see the usual bashful maidens whose
main delight is to recline on the sand or parade the beach in the
latest thing in bathing costumes,--but never under any circumstances to
get them wet. Also we find the usual stores where every conceivable
variety of picture post card or "present from ..." can be bought.

In two hours I was aweary of Atlantic City. In a very superior frame
of mind I trod on my feelings and the kick-starter of "Khaki Lizz"
(my soubriquet for the machine, which was finished entirely in that
delightfully-reminiscent hue) and turned her nose towards the west.
Philadelphia, I decided, was to be my resting-place that night.

To be hot on the scent of Philadelphia was one thing; but to get there
was quite another. A glorious three-mile stretch of macadamized road
out of Atlantic City was indeed a tempting bait, and I admit for a
few luscious but brief moments I set at defiance all limits of speed
imposed for the general welfare of the public by worthy law-makers upon
the motoring population of New York State. I have always contended
(privately, not in public!) that laws are only made to be broken. I
might perhaps add that I was destined afterwards to supplement this
somewhat outrageous dictum with a further--"He only is entitled to
break laws who thoroughly knows and understands them!"

As every wanderer in this vale of tears discovers, all good things
come to an end some time. That three-mile stretch of macadamized
road very soon came to an end. It ended, as far as I remember, in an
abrupt right-angle corner where in an endeavour to get round at about
forty-five miles an hour I nearly met myself coming back, and from that
point the road gradually bore resemblance to an elongated dust-heap.
They call it "natural gravel," which means that in the opinion of the
road engineers of that time the natural surface of the road did not
need any reinforcement in the way of metal. I should imagine that about
99 per cent. of all the roads in America are of this construction, the
remaining 1 per cent. being either covered with a layer of concrete, or
macadam, as in any civilized European country. At times, very few and
far between, this natural gravel forms quite a tolerable surface where
there is not much traffic, but it must be remembered that motor-cars
are used in the States on a far greater scale than is ever dreamt of
in England. I was, in fact, simply amazed at the tremendous number
of cars in the various towns and villages through which I passed. I
have sometimes been in a town, and quite a large one too, where it was
almost impossible to find a place at the side of the pavement where
I could leave my machine. Every available space was taken up with a
car, and in some towns, Salt Lake City for instance, I have seen cars
"parked" along the side of the road two-deep, so that to cross from one
side of the road to the other one has to traverse four separate ranges
of automobiles. In the summer, thousands of cars are travelling all day
long between Atlantic City and the adjacent large cities, so that the
reader can perhaps imagine the state of all the main highways in that
direction.

I was here introduced to a diversion which at first seemed quite an
interesting one, but which continued familiarity certainly turned to
contempt. I refer to the "detour." The unfortunate motorist is perhaps
ploughing his way steadily along through the gravel, dust, and sand.
He encounters a barrier across the road bearing a notice that repairs
are going on and that he must follow the detour indicated. The road
selected, I believe, is generally the one with the most pot-holes,
ruts, mountains, canyons, etc., in its formation in the surrounding
district. Sometimes in these detours one finds further auxiliary
detours until finally one has to use the utmost intelligence and a
compass in order to get back to the main highway.

I did not, therefore, arrive in Philadelphia strictly to schedule.
I was many times tempted to take up my abode at a convenient spot
on the side of the road. Several times I dismounted and examined a
promising spot, but always there was some very serious objection. This
objection either took the form of frogs or of mosquitoes or of both.
As we used to read in the days of the War, "the enemy was present in
large numbers." I did not relish either the prospect of being kept
awake indefinitely with the objectionable gurgling of a battalion of
bullfrogs or of being eaten to death in my slumbers by a nation of
bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

So I spun onwards, ever onwards towards Philadelphia. Meanwhile the
sun was sinking lower and lower in the west. The nearer I got to
Philadelphia the more numerous became the cars on the road. It seemed
as though the whole of Philadelphia frivolled at Atlantic City on
a Sunday afternoon. I was working my way along, dodging tremendous
pot-holes and ruts, imagining myself in an hour or two's time reposing
comfortably between clean white sheets. All of a sudden a most
distressing noise came across my ear. It appeared to be a motor-cycle
in pain. At times there was only one cylinder firing. Sometimes there
were two. At other times there was none at all. I drew in to the side
of the road and waited for the unfortunate author of this disturbance
to arrive.

He soon emerged from the darkness. He had no lights, and was only too
pleased to stop at the sight of another motor-cyclist.

"Why, I thought I was the only madman about here," I greeted him,
surprised but gratified to know that there really were other seemingly
sane people who rode motor-cycles in America.

How delighted he was to meet another Englishman! He had, he explained,
been in America only a year or two, having come from my old home town
of Birmingham during the War. He had got so "fed up" with Americans
that it was a treat to set eyes on anyone from the Old Country.

He was a youth of eighteen or nineteen years, and after I had fixed him
up with a couple of sparking plugs and attended to a few other urgent
requirements, he asked me abruptly, but quite politely, the inevitable
question, just as I might have expected. "Where you from, an' where you
goin'?"

I explained that I was making for Philadelphia, where I hoped to find
somewhere to lay my weary head.

"Well, if you don't want anything very luxurious," said he, "I think I
can fix you up all right, if you don't mind going on ahead to light the
way."

I gladly assented, and by this means, with my brilliant headlight
illuminating the road, it did not take us long to reach the Delaware
River, on the opposite bank of which stood the fine old city of
Philadelphia. It took a quarter of an hour to cross the river by the
ferry, but once in Philadelphia my friend was happy. "Now you follow
me," he said.

He had no lights whatever, but his engine was running well, so I agreed
and followed. This was not in itself very easy. I am perfectly certain
that I have never seen ANY motor-cycle ANYWHERE
dash along at such a rate through a city. Although it was dark and I
could not see my speedometer, I am sure that he must have travelled
about forty-five miles per hour through the streets of Philadelphia.
They were certainly good and straight and wide. There was a little
traffic here and there, but this did not seem to worry our friend in
the slightest. Occasionally we saw a "cop" or two standing on a street
corner make a half-hearted attempt to step into the road to hold us up.
Our friend, however, was desperate and would stop for no one. After
about a quarter of an hour's riding, dodging round corners and shooting
past obstructions at a tremendous pace, he pulled up at a small corner
house in a secluded portion of the town and we dismounted. He lived
with his mother, he explained, but she was away in New York. Also he
had lost his latchkey. Also it was really a florist's shop, but he was
sure I wouldn't mind. "There is nothing for it," he said, "but to climb
the fire escape and get in through the front window."

I shouldered him up to an iron frame projecting from the house. Thence
he clambered on to a rickety fire escape leading up the wall into
blackness, and he was soon lost to sight. A few moments later the front
door opened and we pushed our muddy, dirty machines on to the clean
linoleum of the front room, where they remained overnight surrounded by
pots of roses, carnations, palms, and ferns. This, he explained, was
quite the usual procedure and his mother would not mind a bit!

It was then about 11.30, and when we had washed some of the dirt from
our faces we sallied forth in quest of a meal. We had no difficulty in
picking up the scent of a flourishing cafeteria. Neither did we have
any difficulty in disposing of disgusting quantities of hot coffee and
"waffles," a commodity peculiar to America, resembling pancakes and
eaten with jugfuls of maple syrup.

Well after midnight we returned to our domicile, and I laid me down
to sleep the sleep of the righteous. At seven o'clock in the morning
I bade farewell to mine host. Not a cent would he accept in payment
for my night's lodgings. So, with the parting assurance that he would
drop in and see me when he was next in England, we each took our
several roads--he in the direction of a neighbouring works where he was
employed as a mechanic, and I towards Washington, drifting meekly along
the streets at certainly nothing like the speed of the night before.

The road for some distance was good, the sun came out, and the day
promised to turn out fine and hot. I soon began to feel an inward
content. Everything was going smoothly. I was expecting some money to
be waiting for me at Washington, and then I should have nothing to
worry about for a long time to come.

As it usually happens when one begins to pat oneself on the back,
I immediately had a puncture. It was of course in the back wheel.
Meanwhile the sun was rising higher and higher, and when, after about
half an hour, I had repaired the wheel, I was feeling very thirsty.
Another five miles further on I had another puncture. This time it
happened to be exactly outside a garage.

I have known places in England where a certain amount of trade is
always guaranteed by the ingenuity of some of the garage proprietors
who regularly and systematically throw tacks and nails along the road
in their vicinity. It occurred to me that this was a practice not
confined to England, as examination revealed the cause of the puncture
to be a nice long nail driven through from one side of the tube to the
other. Not feeling of a very arduous disposition at the time, I wheeled
it into the garage to be repaired.

I am afraid I was rather annoyed at the result. In the first place, I
had to supply the mechanic with solution. In the second place, I had
to take off the tyre for him. In the third place, I supplied a patch;
and in the fourth place, I actually had to do the job for him. After
settling his account, I finally explained in language as polite as I
could muster that in my opinion the practice of strewing discarded
nails and other implements on the highway, while not being exactly
meritorious in itself, was just as commendable a method of obtaining a
business connection as many that were frequently resorted to in other
trades or professions of a higher standing. I explained, however, that
after having been so successfully victimized by such an artifice, one
would consider oneself justified in expecting a much higher standard of
workmanship than was apparently forthcoming in his establishment.

Then we parted, the mechanic expressing the hope that he would never
(crimson) well see me again, and that if I ever did happen to be coming
back that way and got a nail in my (unspeakable) tyre that he would see
me in (Arizona) before he would (smoking) well repair it for me!



CHAPTER III

PHILADELPHIA TO WASHINGTON


The scenery now began to look charming. Rolling ranges of hills
extending into the distance clustered around as we drew nearer to the
Chesapeake River, which flows into the well-known bay to which it gives
its name.

"All aboard for Chesapeake Bay."

... I hummed the air to myself as the road abruptly ended and a
suspension bridge continued the course across the broad, peaceful mouth
of the river. The whole country around seemed to be permeated with a
comfortable, wholesome vigour. Nothing seemed shabby, discontented, or
poverty-stricken. I passed through many small towns and embryo cities.
All were prosperous and all extended a hearty welcome to the traveller
or visitor. Stretched across the road between two poles, just before I
entered one little town, was a huge white banner bearing the words:--

  "CONWAY CITY WELCOMES YOU.
WE LIKE TRAVELLERS TO VISIT US.
HAVE A GOOD LOOK AT OUR CITY."

Conway "City" did not prove to be exactly a metropolis. It was probably
nothing more than a well-to-do farm town. But the houses were clean and
neat, indeed some of them were very beautiful, perfectly up-to-date but
never objectionably modern. The roads were a bit bumpy in places but
not at all bad as American roads go. As I passed out of the town I saw
another notice similar to the first:--

"THANK YOU FOR COMING.
 WE HOPE YOU LIKE US.
     COME AGAIN."

I got so used to being welcomed to every town I came to that I forgot I
was a "stranger" in a "foreign land." There was not a town or village
that did not publish its welcome in some form or other. In the main it
was by advertisements. But if I stopped at a wayside store to quench
my thirst (oh, the sun was hot!) I was met neither with scowls nor
incivility. I am reminded of the old joke of _Punch_ many years ago:--

"Oo's that bloke over theer, Bill?"

"Dunno; stranger, I think."

"'Eave 'arf a brick at 'im."

That is typical of what we _English_ think of strangers. The man
of better education or more refinement perhaps expresses himself
differently, but he feels just the same as a rule.

At this juncture in my reveries the macadam road stopped and gave
way to "natural gravel." That was quite sufficient to postpone any
soliloquies I may have been indulging in until a later date. The
entire sixty seconds in every minute were employed in keeping myself
substantially upright. Small pot-holes gave place to larger ones,
and they in turn to larger still. The loose sand, which was an inch
or two deep at the start, soon assumed more considerable depths. As
the detective books of our youth used to say, "The plot grew thicker
and thicker." I was floundering about from right to left, prodding
energetically on the ground each side with my feet to maintain some
kind of balance. At times the back wheel churned up the sand aimlessly
in an endeavour to get a grip on something solid. Here and there the
sand and gravel were heaped into great ridges as if a mighty plough
had been along that way. Getting through this stuff, thought I, was
no joke. Furthermore, it was warm work; very warm work. Now and then
I would find myself directed absolutely without control from one side
of the road to the other, and only with the greatest strain could
I keep the machine on its wheels. And with all this the "highway"
still maintained its regulation width of 90 feet! The casual observer
from an aeroplane above would in all probability be attracted by its
straightness, its whiteness, and its apparent uniformity. "What a
splendid road!" he would think.

Not so I. I was on the point of physical exhaustion with the
seemingly-endless paddling and pushing and heaving (and don't forget
the half-hundred-weight bag on my back!) when I was thrown on to a
steeply-cambered part of the road at the side. The back wheel just slid
limply sideways down the slope and left everything reposing peacefully
in the natural gravel of Maryland.

When I had extricated myself from under the machine, I surveyed the
position with a critical eye. What a road for a civilized country!
These Yanks must be jolly-well mad to tolerate such roads as this!

       *       *       *       *       *

Just then an old Ford came by. It was shorn entirely of mudguards,
running boards, and other impedimenta. As he wallowed past me, swaying
to this side and that, sometimes pointing at right angles to the way
he was going and with his old engine buzzing away in bottom gear and
clouds of steam issuing from his radiator (it had no cap; it must have
blown off!) the driver seemed perfectly at ease. He rolled a cigar
stump from one corner of his mouth to the other and gazed nonchalantly
ahead. I don't think he even noticed me and my recumbent motor-cycle.
I could not repress a grin as his old box of tricks disappeared slowly
up the road, wagging its tail this way and that and narrowly averting a
catastrophe at every few yards. "You ragtime bunch of tin merchants!"
I mused (not so much in reference to the driver as to the nation in
general!) as his diminishing form finally side-slipped into the ditch
at a bend in the road.

And then a distressing thought struck me: "They'll never believe me
when I get back home and tell them!" So I took my little camera out of
the tool-box on the top tube and snapped the worst bit of road there
and then. A five minutes' struggle followed, in which "Khaki Lizz" was
withdrawn from her ditch.

By way of nourishment to sustain me in any further fights with the
road, I slowly and meditatively consumed one only orange before
proceeding once more.

But things did not improve. Here and there, where the ridges of soil
and gravel had not been disturbed, grew tufts of grass and weeds. Huge
ruts, crossing and recrossing in the remaining sand, showed where cars
were wont to pass as fancy dictated, and with only two wheels it was
barely possible to maintain any progress at all.

"Hang it all! This is TOO much!" I exclaimed, after a few more
precipitate dismounts,--and took another photo and ate another orange.

A mile or two farther on I came to a weird-looking machine at the
side of the road. It was a sort of combination of steam tractor and
automatic plough, but very much bigger and more complicated. Its main
function was to chop down _en masse_ the sides and banks of the road
and shovel the debris into the middle. Grass, shrubs, bushes, and young
trees alike fell victims to its activities. Now this really was the
limit! Not satisfied with the condition of the road as it was, they
sent forth this "Heath Robinson" mechanism to improve it. I stopped and
left the bike standing in the road where it was--there was no need to
prop it up against anything--and went back to question the driver of
this implement as to its function in life.

He was not perturbed in the slightest either at my question or at the
heated state of mind and body in which I approached him. Punctuated
by intervals in which he slowly masticated a worn-out chunk of
chewing-gum, he explained that all good motorists liked wide roads;
that the State Council had decided that motorists should have wide
roads; that they had provided machines for widening roads that at
present were not up to standard width; and finally that he was there to
see that this machine did its work properly!

[Illustration: A COMMON OCCURRENCE.

_By permission of Dr. F. Rolt-Wheeler._]

So I took another photograph, ate another orange, kicked the
self-starter once more, and pushed on again. The road got worse and
worse. Sometimes there were ruts and sometimes there were strips of
unploughed field in the middle of it. But I spent no more films on
it. The people at home, I decided, would have to take my word for
it after all. About ten miles farther on I came to a cross-road.
It was perfectly straight and beautifully paved with concrete and
stretched from one horizon to the other. With what joy I gazed upon its
countenance! There was a wooden shack on one corner, evidently a
saloon. A negro sat on the doorstep, gazing indolently at me.

"Is this the road to Baltimore?" I inquired, indicating the concrete
highway.

No reply. But he continued to gaze at me, and spat twice.

"Must be deaf," thought I. "How's this for Washington?" I shouted.

Still no reply.

"Say, brother, which is the road to Baltimore?" I inquired as politely
as convenient.

The appellation "brother" had its effect. The negro jerked his thumb
over his shoulder, indicating that I was to go straight on (and
incidentally follow that excruciating stretch of natural gravel).

Fortunately, Baltimore was not many miles away, and when I got there I
breathed many sighs of relief. There were paved roads, good and true;
macadam and concrete for miles and miles, all the way to Washington.
I picked my way by instinct through Baltimore, the capital of the
State of Maryland, not stopping for food or rest. I would reach my
destination before I gave way to such physical necessities. I certainly
had an appetite, but I always feel that more than two meals a day when
on tour are not only unnecessary, but mean a dead loss of time, money,
and distance.

The reports on the state of the road ahead turned out to be true
in every detail, and throwing to the winds all respect for such
trivialities as speed limits, I made up for at least a good fraction of
the time wasted on the road.

When, about 5 p.m., I pulled Lizzie on to her stand outside one of
Washington's "cafeterias," I began to feel an incipient timidity. I
doubted whether I should be able to get into any respectable hotel.
I was covered in dust, and dirt. Headgear of any kind I had dispensed
with altogether. My hair was dusty and knotted with the wind. Owing to
the heat, I had also found it advisable to remove my collar and tie, so
that the wind could circulate as much as possible. How could I in such
a condition maintain my self-respect in Washington, the magnificent
capital of the United States?

Fortunately, it did not take long for me to overcome such scruples.
Another day or two on the road, and I was perfectly at ease during the
intervals in which I had intercourse with civilization. Occasionally I
experienced a difficulty in entering a drug-store for an iced drink,
and sometimes I felt a trifle shy at my bare, sunburnt neck, but no one
seemed to mind. I soon found that in America, and particularly when
travelling in the West, one could wear absolutely anything that one's
fancy might dictate without rousing the slightest disturbance.

After satisfying my requirements at the "cafeteria," the second item on
my programme was a visit to the Post Office. This revealed the sordid
fact that there was no money awaiting me. It can easily be understood
that such a discovery might have proved most distressing. I had been
advised not to take much with me, but to cable for a draft from home at
intervals. My adviser, as I was afterwards to find out to my cost, had
overlooked the utterly chaotic state of the post-war transatlantic mail
service.

I still had a little left, however, quite enough to get me comfortably
to Cincinnati, my next financial depot, so why worry? I could always
work for a living, or at any rate, if I did not feel inclined to that,
I might pawn something.

I found a hotel that, from the outside, just suited my fancy. Plain,
large and unpretentious, it described itself in an illuminated sign as
the "National." I booked a room at three dollars (12_s._ 6_d._) and
sallied forth to see the sights.

I was impressed with Washington. It is truly a city of beautiful
streets and magnificent buildings. Undoubtedly it is the city _de luxe_
of America. Being the capital, wealth is lavished upon it. No factories
or barren wastes disfigure its graceful countenance. Every street or
avenue glistens at night with a bewildering multitude of illuminated
signs. This method of advertising is typically American. The first
impression of a stranger visiting a large American city at night is
that he is in a children's luminous palace. There are illuminations
and decorations of every conceivable nature. Sometimes a single sign
advertising perhaps some particular brand of chewing-gum or cigarette
or motor-car has thousands and tens of thousands of lights wonderfully
displayed in different colours and arranged in different series, one
series flashing into view as another disappears, then a few seconds
later giving place to another still more wonderful, and finally there
comes a grand climax in which all the colours and all the series and
all the figures blaze forth in an indescribable orgy of light.

When I found myself finally back in my hotel I was to be the victim
of still another disillusionment. No country anywhere could rival
America for hotels, I had thought. But I had not then experienced the
"National" at Washington. The room allotted to me was literally an
outrage. It was of the very poorest that one would expect to find in
an East End boarding-house in the Old Kent Road. It had one window,
which faced on to an unimaginably dreary "area." The carpet was
threadbare and colourless. The furniture, consisting of one bed, one
dressing-table, one wardrobe and one chair was obviously suffering from
advanced senile decay. There was a washbasin in one corner that boasted
of two taps and a piece of wood to stop the hole up with. The door
showed signs of having been minus a lock for many a long day. I was too
tired, however, to bother about trivialities of detail, so putting my
revolver under the blanket near me in case of possible eventualities, I
laid me down in peace to sleep.

Nothing occurred, however, to disturb my peace of mind or body
throughout the night. The following morning found me hot on the warpath
after a bathroom. After sundry peregrinations I unearthed a clue. It
was in the form of a very corpulent negress--evidently a chambermaid.
"Bathroom?" "No, dere am no bathroom h'yar," she informed me. But I
persisted in my inquiries, suspecting her reply to be a mere excuse
for sheer laziness. Finally, as a last resort, I absent-mindedly took
my "life preserver" from my hip pocket and looked at it vacuously. Its
effect was magical. "Yes, saar, yes, saar, come right h'yar!--I find
you bathroom!"

When I came to square up that morning I paid my respects and three
dollars to the management.

"See here, Mister Manager," I said in such a tone that everyone
within hearing distance had the benefit of it as well, "I've done a
bit of travelling here and there, but never in ANY city at
ANY time have I struck ANY hotel that for sheer
rottenness compares with THIS one!"

I have an idea at the back of my mind that that manager-man doesn't
love Englishmen!

Now that I had seen America's capital, I turned my face to the west,
and began to make rash estimates and frivolous promises to myself
concerning my destination for the day. Could I get to Cincinnati
next day? How long would it take to do the odd 550 miles or so? And
what would be my reception when I got there? I had some friends in
Cincinnati, friends that I had never even seen. What would they think
when they saw THIS specimen roll up to their front door in
Clifton Avenue? Was Lizzie going to stand up to it all right? When
should I get to the coast? What kind of roads should I meet "out West"?
And so I wondered on.



CHAPTER IV

EXCEEDING THE SPEED LIMIT


I did not waste much time on the road. Fortunately there was a good
proportion of concrete road, although the inevitable natural gravel
was not by any means conspicuous by its absence. I also passed many
stretches of brick road.

This variety is confined in England mainly to city streets, and is
associated nearly always with trams. Not so in America. On the main
roads of the East I have passed many a ten-mile stretch of splendidly
paved highway made solely out of good red brick, and of the correct
size and shape and camber of surface that literally made one's
tyres hum and sing as each brick was momentarily touched in endless
procession. I need hardly say that for every good stretch of brick road
there are UMPTEEN bad ones though, just to add a spice of life
_à la grande route_. Here and there one would encounter by no means
solitary patches where apparently some enterprising farmer had torn up
a few bricks from in front of some one's house to repair his cowshed
or to build a new pigsty, or maybe to help put another storey on his
house. There would seem to the lay mind such as my own to be a most
decided disadvantage in this method of road construction! To put it
mildly, it is disheartening when one is enjoying a fifty-mile-an-hour
sprint on a straight stretch of road visible almost from horizon to
horizon, to be rudely awakened from swift but peaceful contemplation
of the beauties of nature, the loveliness of the atmosphere and the
joys of motoring by being mercilessly thrown on top of the handlebars
with one tremendous thump. At one spot of which I have very vivid
recollections, the road took a short dip down and up again. In the
bottom of the "valley" thus formed was a young but aspiring cañon where
a wayward stream had left its prosaic path to strike out in life on its
own across the road. Its presence was unfortunately undiscernible until
close acquaintanceship was made.

When I came round I was vaguely conscious of something having happened,
but as the engine was still running and the front wheel was still
fairly circular, I got up and rode on, but not until I had arrived
definitely at the conclusion that had I been doing sixty instead of
forty-five I should have jumped across the bit of road that wasn't
there and been hardly the wiser of it!

Here it was that I began to scratch crosses on the top tube to keep
count of the number of times I was thrown off on the whole trip.

When the top tube got too short I put them on the front down tube.

When that was full I scratched them on the bottom tubes.

After that I trusted to memory. But that was when I got to the "Far
West."

I made good time, however, in spite of an occasional set-back, and
looked forward to completing three hundred and fifty miles that day.
With luck I should reach Cincinnati the next, and then, oh for the joys
of a good hot bath, clean clothes, well-cooked food, and last, but not
by any means least, good company. And I wasn't forgetting either that
I had only about twenty-five dollars in my pocket. With no mishaps I
should have enough and to spare for even three or four days' travelling.

It was not yet midday, and the sun was getting very hot indeed.
Moreover, I was getting hungry. Although I believe the two-meal-a-day
system to be an excellent one, one sure gets a roaring appetite for
breakfast at the end of a hundred-mile ride. So if I had not a moral
excuse for a little real speed work I at least had a physical one. The
road surface now changed from red brick to dazzling white concrete
as in the far distance the Alleghany Mountains, that inexpressibly
beautiful range that stretches parallel with the Atlantic coastline
from Maine to Georgia, loomed gradually higher on the horizon, its
varying tints growing deeper and deeper as mile after mile flew by.

There was hardly a soul on the road. Occasionally I would pass a
touring car loaded up with human freight and with luggage bags,
bandboxes and portmanteaux piled up and strapped (and sometimes I
think glued!) to every available mudguard, wing or projection that was
large enough to accommodate them and quite a lot that weren't. Then
a hay wagon flew by, and then, after a few miles, a solitary farmer
on horseback--not at all a common sight in this land of Fords and
motor-cars. And after a few more miles a tiny black speck came into
view on the horizon. It took a long time to catch up. When I got closer
I made it out to be a Buick roadster, its two occupants, a young man
and his (apparent) fiancée, evidently enjoying a little spin in the
country. And he wasn't crawling either. A touch of my electric horn
(oh, a beautiful horn it was!) aroused his soul from its soliloquy and
he drew in to the right, waving me on vigorously as he did so. And
as I passed him he seemed to quicken a little. I glanced sideways for
an instant and spotted a gleam in his eye. So I accepted his unspoken
challenge and glanced now and then over my shoulder. He was hanging on
well, his six cylinders to my four. A mile was passed and he was still
just a little way behind. The road was clear and straight, so I opened
out a little more.

Another glance. He was still there. My speedometer hovered around fifty.

Not to be outdone I twisted Lizzie's right handlebar grip as far as it
would go, and like a bolt from the blue we darted ahead. Fifty-five,
sixty, sixty-one, sixty-two, sixty-five. The wind was simply screeching
in my ears.

Another glance back, our friend was slowly losing distance. A minute or
two more and he was fast dwindling behind. In ten miles he was almost
back on the horizon.

I had visions of breakfast in "Hagerstown," the next town of importance
not so very far ahead. And so I forgot our friend of the Buick. In ten
minutes' time I came to a village. As usual the good surface of the
highway stopped and the roads through the town turned from the perfect
concrete to an infernal hotch-potch of holes, gullies, ruts and mounds.
Ironical notice boards warned the traveller that he must reduce his
speed to fifteen miles per hour. It was purgatory even to go at four!
To plunge into a seething mass of soil-waves at speed is disconcerting.
It annoys you. But it is a custom that grows on you in Eastern America.
You flounder about from side to side; you take a hop, skip and a
jump here, there and everywhere; your very bones are shaken in their
sockets; your temper approaches a frenzy of despair; and your language!

Time was when I would blush with shame at the sound of a word that
was bad. Then a war came along and I learnt to experience the
soothing charm of an occasional flow of language. Occasionally I met
a sergeant-major who could swear freely for five minutes without even
repeating himself!

And then I motor-cycled across the States. And my heart rejoiced within
me that I had received such an excellent education. I found that with
very little provocation or practice I could, had I the desire, have
graduated to a very much higher stage of perfection in the United
States than with the British Army in France. Indeed I will go so far
as to aver that when ultimately I reached San Francisco not only could
I have put to shame the most cultured sergeant-major that ever drilled
recruits on a square, but in his moments of greatest enlightenment his
powers of speech would have appeared as the futile prattle of childhood
compared to what _I_ could have taught him.

So that is why I slowed down when I got to "Victorville."

In a few minutes, who should come alongside but our friend with the
Buick racer. He slowed down and put up his hand. "Mind stopping here a
minute?" he asked.

"Not at all," I replied, thinking he wanted to ask the way or borrow a
sparking plug--or maybe beg a match.

He got out of his car and came along.

"Say, d'ye know what speed you were doing way back there?" he asked
casually with a kind of ten-percent.-solution smile.

"Well, I don't know exactly, but I guess I got YOU beat,
anyway!" I chuckled.

Whereat he pulled a pocket-book from his coat and opened it. (Going to
give me his card, thought I.)

"I'll trouble you for your number," quoth he, as he came to a page that
was all nicely printed in columns ready for use.

From that moment I saw things in a different light. Verily the workings
of the Law would seem to be getting interesting.

"And your licence, please?" after he had obligingly removed a layer of
dust from my number-plate.

"What licence?"

"Your driving licence, of course. What y' think?"

"See here. Mebbe I do look a bit of a mug, but I do know you don't have
to have a separate licence in New York State, s'long as your machine is
registered. The number-plate is the same thing as a licence."

"Oh, is it? I didn't know that." (Pause) "Well, do you mind following
me a short way down the road--next block but one. It isn't far."

Whereat he got in his car again and moved slowly forward, while his
lady friend protruded her arm from one side as if to stop me if I was
inclined to dash past.

I did think of it in fact, because I knew I could give him a run for
his money, but America, I recollected, was noted for its telephone
service and I couldn't quite fancy having to resort to a hiding-place
near the banks of the Ohio or perchance a field of corn somewhere in
Indiana.

So I followed them down to the corner.

We stopped at a small wooden shanty on the door of which was a board
bearing the sign "DANIEL S. TOMKIN, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW." My
friend the "speed cop" pushed open the door and ushered me into a
passage. On the right was another marked "JUSTICE TOMKIN."
"Come in: come in," shouted a shrill seedy voice as the "cop" knocked
at the door.

"I've got a case for you, Judge," said he, when we got inside.

"Oh yes, oh yes!"--and then to me--"Take a seat, sir, please, and
er--make yourself at home."

I'm afraid at that juncture I began to laugh. The "Judge" was just
the kind of man that we love to see "on the pictures" in England, but
who we never believe really exists. I had seen his prototype dozens
of times before. Tall and wiry, thin legs and tight trousers, "Uncle
Sam" physiognomy with the usual goat's beard and with stars and stripes
printed in indelible ink all over him. He sat at a desk bare of papers,
books, letters or other impedimenta. How long the desk had been cleared
for action I know not, but his duties as a Justice of the Peace
evidently did not involve any overtime from the look of things. The
room was small and dingy and its walls were covered with shelves piled
with books of all colours, shapes and sizes.

JUDGE.--"And what has this gentleman been doing?"

SPEED COP (producing notebook and reading
therefrom).--"Driving a motor-cycle in excess of the legal speed limit,
namely at forty-five miles an hour."

JUDGE (after reaching from a bookcase a large red book marked
"Laws, Bye-Laws and Regulations existent in the State of Maryland,"
or words to that effect).--"I will proceed to read Statoot number
51, article 13, section 321b, subsection 2a of the 'Regulation of
Traffic in the State of Maryland Act, 1898.'"--(Submerged chuckle
from self)--"And it is hereby enacted that anyone found guilty of
exceeding 25 miles per hour but not exceeding 30 miles per hour will
be liable to a fine of not less than 5 dollars for the first offence
and of 50 dollars for a second and any subsequent offence; and anyone
found guilty of exceeding 30 miles an hour but not exceeding 35 miles
per hour will be liable to a fine of not less than 10 dollars for
the first offence, etc., etc.; and anyone found guilty of exceeding
35 miles per hour but not exceeding 45 miles per hour will be liable
to a fine of not less than 25 dollars for the first offence, etc.,
etc."--(Considerable amusement visible on the face of self)--"and
anyone found guilty of exceeding 60 miles per hour will be liable to a
fine of 100 dollars, etc., etc."--(Feeling of merriment subsides)--"but
anyone found guilty of exceeding 60 miles per hour will be liable to
a fine of 250 dollars for the first offence and of 1,000 dollars and
imprisonment for any subsequent offence. I am afraid, sir, in view of
the evidence and of the dictates of Statoot number 51, article 13,
section--etc., etc., I shall have to administer the minimum fine of 25
dollars." (I breathe again).

SELF.--"Say, Judge, we seem to have got a bit ahead, don't we?
Aren't I going to have a chance to say anything?"

JUDGE (a little "peeved." Evidently that aspect of the case
hadn't occurred to him).--"By all means, sir, by all means. Say jest
what you like."

Now I have neither the eloquence of a Disraeli nor the declamation of a
Demosthenes, but I do claim to have no small power of persuasion when
it comes to an argument or a question of opinion. So I mustered up
every effort and summoned every resource to convince this malevolent
Judge that he had been reading his "Statoots" upside down and that,
far from being incriminated, I should, on the contrary, be granted a
handsome award. I invoked the aid of every artifice known to humanity.
Every inflexion of the voice; every modulation of speech; every appeal
for sympathy, innocence, ignorance and youth known to me was conjured
up.

And to what purpose? Did the Judge budge?--I might as well have read
him Gibbon's _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ in five minutes for
all the good it did.

"I am very sorry, sir," he said, "but the Statoot says that the minimum
fine is 25 dollars, so it must be 25 dollars."

"But, my dear good Judge," said I, "I've only got about 25 dollars in
the world at the present moment."

"Well, I'm very sorry, but the fine is 25 dollars"--(and then an
afterthought)--"Oh! and costs as well."

"Costs!" I gasped in amazement.

"Yes, my costs will be 75 cents, and that makes 25 dollars 75 cents
altogether."

Then ensued more argument, more persuasion, more eloquence, more
appeals, but it was all in vain. I took out my wallet and counted out
my belongings.

I had just 25 dollars and a few odd "bits."

And then the humour of the situation appealed to me once more, and
stronger than ever before. I laughed at the Cop and I laughed at the
Judge and I laughed at myself for laughing and paid over the 25 dollars
75 cents.

"Thank you very much. Good-day, sir," said the Judge as he put the
"bucks" loosely in the drawer in his desk.

Here the Cop spoke up: "I have another charge against the defendant, of
riding without his registration certificate, but it's getting late, and
I think we might as well overlook it in view of the circumstances." (He
was evidently thinking of his girl waiting outside.)

I suggested it _would_ be as well and left the Judge to gloat over his
ill-gotten gains.

The idea of that goat-faced Judge and his sleek-eyed friend the "speed
cop" having a good dinner together at my expense did not appeal to my
better self. How was I going to travel 450 miles, buy petrol, oil and
food with about tenpence in my pocket? On the opposite side of the road
stood Lizzie with her carrier piled high and dusty, waiting, patiently
waiting, for her lord and master. Ah, pathetic sight!--An idea--I
return to the sanctum of the "Attorney-at-Law."

He was counting over the notes again.

"Say, Judge. S'posing you give me those notes back again. What'll it
mean in imprisonment?" I had always since childhood cherished a wild
desire to spend a night in prison. "The Statoot stipulates that there
will be an equivalent of one day's imprisonment for every dollar fine."
(Depths of despair once more, then enlightenment.) "Can you show me the
statute that says that?"

"Sure," and he reached for the volume.

"All right, don't bother," said I, and left him once more to count his
25 dollars 75 cents.

Somehow I couldn't help laughing at everything. Such interesting
sidelights into the workings of the ragtime laws of America are not met
with every day of the year, I mused. But what fun to be all alone in
America with nothing but a motor-bike and tenpence!

I guess the Judge was wondering what I was laughing at as he watched me
through the fly-net at his window while I kicked the engine to a roar
and rode away.

Truth to tell, I didn't quite know myself.

I was wondering when the petrol would give out.



CHAPTER V

ACROSS THE ALLEGHANIES


Strange to say, I felt not the slightest bit "peeved" about this
occurrence, but facts have to be faced, and anyone who has ever found
himself in a strange land 4,000 miles from home, with a motor-bike
and tenpence, will agree that something has got to be done about
it sooner or later. All sorts of ways and means of making money
quickly--the eternal problem!--occurred to me, but I dismissed them
all for one reason or another. I could hold up the next car I passed
and shoot the occupants after relieving them of their surplus cash.
But that I thought was a distasteful way of getting money. I had seen
it done in the "movies," but decided to leave that _modus operandi_
for a last extremity. What was it to be--a week's work or "trading
away" the watch? I pondered. I got very little inspiration from my
surroundings on a problem of such moment. Instead I was exhorted at
almost every hundred yards to "Say it with flowers" or to "Chew our
famous Smello'mint Gum." A huge yellow sign would then loom in sight
bearing the legend "Playtime Biscuit." Every mile or so would appear
another and more ominous inscription, "Sell it and buy a Ford." "For
all internal ailments 'Kewrit' is the Sovereign remedy," blurted forth
another placard. "The Sovereign remedy," I mused.--But say! What was
that? The SOVEREIGN remedy?--Inspiration at last. Lizzie's
throttle seemed to close its eyes with a snap. The brakes went on of a
sudden and in a few moments I was taking off my tunic at the roadside.
The memory had dawned upon me of a kind sister sewing some golden
sovereigns in the lining of the belt of that very same tunic months ago
way back in good old Brum. She had no doubt imagined me falling into
the hands of Mexican bandits at some period in my peregrinations. At
first I remembered I had protested against such a seemingly unnecessary
precaution. Thank Heaven that argument against a woman is never of any
avail!

I searched and I found; a few stitches carefully removed with a
pocket-knife revealed two glittering "yellow boys" to my anxious gaze.
On we sped once again, bounding, spinning ever faster onward. Truly we
toiled not, but we sure did spin. If the sky was blue, it was bluer
than ever before. If the road had been good, 'twas never so good as
now. Refreshing breezes rolled down from the hills; sweet vistas sprang
into sight; charming dells and streamlets flitted by, and never did the
call of nature sound so strong.

And all because of two forgotten coins.

Hagerstown hardly welcomed me with open arms. A fair-sized, prosperous
little town, it boasted a tramway service and two banks. My heart went
not forth in joy at the contemplation of the tramway service. It did at
the sight of the banks.

Dusty, dishevelled, and of dilapidated attire, I leant Lizzie up
against the kerb and mounted the marble steps of the "First National
Bank." The massive swing-doors frowned back as they squeaked and
groaned to my command. I stood in the midst of a gilded palace replete
with austere-looking deities in white shirt-sleeves behind marble
counters and fancy-work grids. Nothing daunted, I flicked my precious
sovereigns on the counter before the very quintessence of immaculate
manhood with a "Change those, please" as if it were the kind of thing I
did every day of my life.

Once upon a time I had often with swelling pride expanded my chest at
the thought of a British sovereign being honoured in every country
of the world and any corner of the globe. I had reckoned without
Hagerstown. It seemed that the austere-looking deity before referred
to was not at all impressed by my view of the situation. It must have
been the personal _tout ensemble_ that put him on his guard. He might
oblige me by sending it along to New York to the Head Office, he said.
"Couldn't wait a couple of days?" he supposed.

It was no use. He didn't like my face and didn't want my gold.

I scraped the dirt from my boots on his marble steps and crossed the
road to the "Incorporated Bank of Holland."

After conducting a lengthy battle of argument and exhortation with
all the clerks in succession and all to no avail, I began to realize
that British currency was of no more worth than the little sea-shells
that in the earliest days of trade were supposed to be used by the
enterprising natives of prehistoric communities. With a gallant show of
indignation I demanded that the manager be produced forthwith. Strange
to say, he appeared. I took him on one side and into my confidence.
"Look here, old man," quoth I, "I'm in a bit of a hole. All your worthy
satellites here think I'm a sort of cross between a rubberneck and a
highway robber. Fact is, I've been rushed for speeding at the last
village and I've only got two sovereigns to take me to Cincinnati. Now
don't tell me you won't change them." Whereupon he looked warily at
me and then at the gold, examining it minutely. "Guess I might fix it
for you, but just hang on a minute till I can get some one to identify
them. We never see such things as these, y'know."

In a few minutes he returned with an accomplice, who glared with
amazement at the coins as they lay on the counter. "Gor' blimey!" said
he, "don't that do yer blinkin' eyes good! Strike me pink, an' you've
brought these ole yallerboys orl the way from England?" and he picked
them up reverently and gloated over their merry chinkle as he dropped
them again on the counter. "Lor', I've spent many a one on 'em! How
much d'ye want for them, gev'nor?"

"Four dollars eighty each," I replied.

"Done! Pass him the 'oof, boss. Nuthin' wrong wi' them."

Verily is it said that music hath charms for the savage breast. Once
again Lizzie burst into a roar, and once again I turned her nose to the
west.

Music? That Cockney's dialect seemed like a wonderful fragrant melody
pealing forth through the strains of a ponderous fugue. It was like a
sudden rift in the thunderclouds through which burst a cheering shaft
of sunlight. It was sacrilege even to think of those nine paper dollars
that I had thrust so anxiously into my hip-pocket. "Thank Heaven there
is at least one spot in the U.S.A. where the King's English is spoken
undefiled," I murmured to myself.

       *       *       *       *       *

The road to Cumberland was good going. We had now to commence crossing
the Alleghany Mountains. This wonderful range, which also goes by
the name of the Appalachians, has, in my opinion, no rival in the
American Rockies as regards the loveliness of its scenery and the
infinite variations of colour of its slopes. "The best scenery in the
world, sir," an American would say, and he would not be so very far
wrong either. Perhaps its heights are not so majestic as those of the
Rockies; there may be no glaciers on its slopes nor crests of eternal
glistening white on its peaks, but there is an unparalleled wealth of
natural beauty in the blue and purple pine forests of its less aspiring
heights and the myriad glistening streams and rivers that find their
source in the thickly-wooded foothills clustering around its borders.

"Cumberland" is a comparatively large town in the middle of the hills
and is well named. Undoubtedly the surrounding district reminded
the early settlers so forcibly of our own lake district that they
were inspired to perpetuate its memory, as they have done in so many
other districts, towns and rivers in the far-eastern or "New England"
States. Although the descent from the mountains was in places almost
precipitous, the road was excellent, and excepting the concrete
boulevards of California, afforded undoubtedly the best running that
I met in the whole country. Although I stopped several times for
considerable periods to allow the brakes to cool, there was nothing
left of the brake-linings when ultimately I arrived in Cumberland,
where I ministered adequate and well-earned refreshment to the inner
man of both Lizzie and myself.

The road now lay clear of obstructions ahead and led over undulating
country for several hundred miles. Once more thoughts of Cincinnati
in the distance with a vague anticipation of something approaching
"England, Home and Beauty"--and money as well--occupied the hours as
we sped along, leaving the mile-posts quickly behind us. In places
travelling was good. In places it was distinctly bad. Here and there
were stretches of several miles of brick road, and now and then would
reappear our old friend the "Natural Gravel," that so much conspired to
make life on two wheels not worth living. At times even that provided
quite a respectable surface. My firm intentions not to be baulked in my
aim to reach Cincinnati next day, however, kept up the pace even if to
our mutual discomfort, and made the going good.

At Uniontown, about seventy-five miles past Cumberland, various trivial
little knocks and rattles in the engine disturbed my peace of mind.
The speedometer registered only about 800 miles, and I had hardly
expected to commence tightening things internally at that stage. A
little farther on and one cylinder, after a few peremptory misfires,
gave up the ghost altogether, and I proceeded a few miles on three
only. I changed the sparking plug, hoping for better results, but in
vain. After a few more miles I tried another plug and then another,
but always with the same result. After travelling a few dozen miles in
this unsatisfactory manner, I put Lizzie once again on her stand. This
time I examined closely and found the valves, tappets and clearances
all in good condition. There was apparently nothing wrong with the
ignition either, or the carburettor, and there seemed no reason at all
why such a trouble should arise--particularly, I reflected, as I was
anxious to lose no valuable time. On trying still another plug out of
one of the other cylinders and finding that No. 1 was still obstinate,
I got on again, determined to do the journey on three cylinders only.
I found I could touch well over forty-five even at that, so after all
there wasn't much to complain about. Every motorist, however, who has
a regard for his engine and can sense the "moral fitness" of even
running and good rhythm will understand that travelling under such
circumstances is decidedly unpleasant and monotonous.

At Waynesburg I passed Pittsburg some miles to the right, the
"Birmingham" of America, the centre of a huge coal and iron industry
and, next to Philadelphia, the largest town in Pennsylvania. A few
miles farther on, and I crossed the borderline and entered West
Virginia once again. It was now quite dark and I had to pick out the
road as best I could by my headlight. I was getting tired and was
very hungry, not having had anything to eat for ten hours. After half
an hour the headlight flickered and went out, leaving me with only
a "dimmer," as the Americans call the small auxiliary light, with
which to keep on the road and find the way. The engine, which before
sounded pretty loose, now emitted noises signifying extreme agony of
mind. Then a thick ground mist settled over everything, making it
next to impossible to keep on the road at all, much less to keep on
the right one. Occasionally I dismounted in an endeavour to bring the
headlight back to life. Frequently I narrowly avoided being run down
by large cars with powerful searchlights that couldn't see me at all.
It generally meant pulling into the side of the road, getting off and
waving my arms frantically to signify my presence. Between time I got
more hungry and more tired, and kept asking myself the same question,
"Why, oh why did I leave England?" The answer always came: "Search me!"

Shortly before midnight I reached the small town of "Moundsville," on
the Ohio River and on the borders of West Virginia and Ohio. Every
shop in the place was closed except that of a corpulent Italian
dealer in bananas, oranges and ice-cream sodas. I entered his door
with thanksgiving. The worthy proprietor scrutinized me open-mouthed.
Finally he gave it up. I could see he had been wondering to himself,
"What is this thing, and whence came it?" I sat on the counter in his
presence and consumed three ice-cream sodas, four bananas and two
oranges. After witnessing their consumption, he let drop his bottom jaw
and ventured, "Whare yer from?"

"Doanchew worry your old think-box about where I'm from, brother, but
just tell me where I'm goin'. I wonna get to Cincinnati. Now for the
love of Mike don't tell me I'm not on the right road."

His jaw dropped through a further angle of ten degrees. Finally he
volunteered the information that I was miles and miles from the road
to Cincinnati, and that he hadn't the "goldarnest notion" how I should
ever get back on it again. In disgust I filled my pockets with bananas
and oranges and presented one more ice-cream soda to the minister for
the interior and quitted his establishment.

My next duty was to find somewhere to lay my weary head. I decided to
choose a spot where water was convenient, so that I could wash in the
morning. The river was quite inaccessible from the road and the only
places where there chanced to be a stream were infested with frogs
and mosquitoes. After a half-hour of weary searching and climbing of
long winding hills in the thick damp fog, I eventually gave it up in
disgust. I found an open space at the roadside sheltered by a few
trees, and here laid down my rainproof coat with the thick blanket
doubled on top of it, and with my suit-case as a pillow, soon convinced
myself that I was comfortably settled down for sleep. In a few minutes
I was well in the land of dreams. I dreamed that I was journeying to
the North Pole on a twelve-cylinder Ford which went so fast that it
melted the ice as it passed and ultimately crashed into the Pole at
such a terrific velocity that the equilibrium of the earth was entirely
upset, as also my own. At this point a lusty mosquito inflicted a
tremendous bite on the very tip of my nose, and I woke up with a start.
Then I dreamed that I had undertaken a banana-eating tournament with
an army of Italians, and was just finishing off the ninety-ninth when
another bite in the middle of my left eyelid brought me again to normal
consciousness, and thus the night passed.



CHAPTER VI

THE DIXIE HIGHWAY


In the morning everything was wet with dew. The mist was disappearing
quickly, and I arose refreshed in body and mind. Specialists would have
prognosticated acute rheumatism. Doctors would have foretold death
within forty-eight hours. But I was never so free from rheumatism as
I am now; moreover, I live to tell the tale, with the probability
of continued existence for several years to come. Lizzie looked
disconsolate and rusty in every nut and bolt, but with a few kicks she
rattled into life once more. The driver of a passing Ford informed me
that I was twenty miles from the right road, which meant returning into
Moundsville and crossing over the broad, muddy Ohio River, spanned
by a lofty suspension bridge made almost entirely of wood. The Ohio
River, once seen, is never to be forgotten. It is verily a flowing mass
of dirty, yellow-brown mud. The natives of Ohio refer to it as the
"Golden" River, I believe, but when I first made its acquaintance, I
was in no mood to appreciate such poetic nomenclature. Instead I was
bent on reaching Wheeling and breakfast.

Wheeling was reached in a couple of hours' riding along the banks of
the river. It need hardly be said that I did justice to a substantial
breakfast, which put an entirely new aspect on affairs in general. I
struck the main "pike" through to Cincinnati, and continued hopefully
on three cylinders with the best of intentions of reaching it that
evening, although it meant a ride of over 300 miles.

I did 150 in fairly good time and reckoned on having my
lunch-tea-dinner-supper meal at Columbus, the State capital, about
five in the afternoon. But about twenty miles from that city a most
distressing sound arose from the engine. I had previously slackened
down to a steady thirty miles an hour so as to give Lizzie the best
chance of holding out over the journey. But now a series of violent
thumps and bangs disturbed once and for all my hopeful frame of mind.
Undoubtedly there was a big breakage somewhere and it was evidently
quite impossible to continue another mile. With a final thud the engine
stopped and the machine came to a standstill near a little bridge where
a tiny streamlet trickled under the roadway. Near the bridge was, as
might be expected, the inevitable hoarding: "SELL IT AND BUY A
FORD." Strange that Fate should at times be so ironical!

I made myself comfortable on a grassy slope and proceeded to take the
engine down. This I soon discovered was no mean task. It took nearly
three hours to remove the cylinders. Woe be unto the man hereafter who
puts nuts where they cannot be loosened or places cylinders where they
cannot be removed save by an Indian sword-swallower! The result of my
investigations was that I found the front piston in fragments, mainly
in the bottom of the crank-case. The gudgeon pin was broken in half and
the connecting rod was waggling about merrily in the cylinder. All the
bearings were loose, and although there was plenty of oil in the sump,
one was devoid of metal altogether. This was discovered at the bottom
in the form of powder. An encouraging outlook indeed!

Although my motto where a refractory motor is concerned--"to get it
home somehow"--could have been ignored, I was not even in walking
distance of anywhere. There was no town or village for miles around,
and only a solitary farmhouse here and there. Further, an empty stomach
does not improve one's outlook on life under such circumstances, and
mine was very empty. I took stock of the whole situation. What should
it be? Walk to Columbus and take the train, or stick by Lizzie and get
along somehow? I counted out my money. It amounted to three dollars and
thirty-five cents, not even enough for the railway fare. "No, I've set
out to cross these infernal States on a motor-cycle, and I'll do it," I
resolved, and sat down again to patch Lizzie's engine together.

The rumble of cart wheels on the brick road attracted my attention. The
cart was drawn by a weary horse in the charge of a more weary driver.

"Hi, brother, got anything edible on board?" I shouted.

"I gotta lot o' old boots here," he replied, evidently in ignorance of
the meaning of the word "edible."

"No, thanks, I gotta good pair of my own to start on before I come to
that. Aincher got any oranges?"

"Yep, I got one box left, four fer a quarter."

Bang went seventy-five cents for a dozen, leaving me with two dollars
sixty. Now, thought I, I have enough provisions to last a couple of
days. Let Old Harry do his worst.

The vendor of boots, furniture, and oranges went on his weary way.

From a bough of a willow tree I shaped a neat gudgeon pin that fitted
dead into the loose end of the connecting rod to guide it up and down
in the cylinder. I fished out all the big lumps of the broken piston
that remained in the crank-case and tightened up the bearings as well
as I could. By the time it was dark I had everything replaced ready to
start on the road once more.

Before daybreak, I was up and on the road; my plan was to keep on all
day at a steady twenty miles an hour and reach Cincinnati about five
in the afternoon. The machine ran well considering its wooden gudgeon
pin, although it was not easy to avoid being reminded continually of
Lizzie's indisposition, and as time went on the rattles became worse,
the clanks became gradually louder, and I began to wonder where my next
stop would be.

I passed through Columbus about breakfast-time, but did not stop for
breakfast. There was no money for breakfasts. Now, although I did not
stop at Columbus, I cannot with but a few words dismiss it entirely
from consideration. Although not by any means the largest town in Ohio,
it is the State capital. That feature, as I have pointed out before,
is not at all unique in the States. In fact, I do not think I could
name a single State capital that is the largest town of the State,
without referring to the authority of one Baedeker. Not only are there
over 125,000 people in Columbus, but it appeared to me to be a very
fine city. The streets are wider and are better paved than those of
most American cities, and in places are illuminated by large electric
arches. Although there are seven towns throughout America boasting this
title (each one in a different State), I think Columbus, Ohio, must be
the _élite_ of all the Columbuses.

Outside Columbus I stopped, had lunch--three oranges--and continued.
There was really no necessity to stop, but I liked to feel that lunch
was just as important an occasion as when it wasn't oranges.

The engine was by now getting rather noisy. People who passed in
cars, many of whom I had passed two days before, slowed down as they
approached and looked at me wonderingly, as if to ask if I knew
anything about it. They probably came to the conclusion that I was a
deaf-mute.

Then we got to Springfield, and a noticeable feature at the side of
the road, on a special track of its own, was an electric train service
connecting up all the large towns in the district, even though the
distances amounted to thirty and forty miles, in some cases even
fifty, as is the case between Columbus and Springfield. Perhaps I am
complimenting them by referring to them as trains, as they are more
in the nature of single or double-coach trams, but I was surprised
not only by the speed at which they travelled, but also by the number
of passengers who availed themselves of the service. In a way, the
presence of that track was comforting, particularly when some new noise
or rattle emanated from my thrice-weary steed. On the other hand it is
distinctly humiliating to be astride a 10 h.p. motor-cycle de luxe,
jogging along side-saddle (to ease the growing soreness!) at fifteen or
twenty miles per hour on three crotchety cylinders, when a tram-load
of disinterested Americans flies past with a shriek at forty or fifty.
Generally the driver realized the position and sounded a piercing
whistle with a supercilious air, as if to say: "Make way for the fast
traffic, please!"

At Springfield the speedometer flicked off the 1,000th mile, and
I branched away from the "Pike's Peak" Ocean-to-Ocean Highway
(for such it appeared to be), and turned south-westward towards
Dayton, a flourishing manufacturing and business centre. "Detours"
and sub-detours were the order of the day and were conspicuous by
their presence, as also by the general looseness and rottenness of
their surface. In theory I was travelling upon the "Dixie Highway,"
reputed (by advertisements thereon appearing) to be "the finest and
most luxurious highway in the States." As far as my experience was
concerned, I found it paved with good intentions and bad cobblestones.
Sometimes, when the paving blocks had been pulled up preparatory to new
ones being laid down, the surface was tolerably good, but then would
appear a "detour" heralded by an insolently-improvised notice-board
which led the unfortunate traveller miles and miles from his appointed
path and over the most disgusting road-surface imaginable.

I was pleased with Dayton. As I left it behind me, I wished it
prosperity. It seemed to have the right kind of air about it. A
friendly policeman held up a bunch of traffic for two minutes for me
while he put me "wise" to the road to take. He noticed my New York
number-plate and finished his chat with "Well, good day, brother, and
the best of luck to you." I wouldn't even have killed a mosquito in
Dayton!

It was now well after midday. Cincinnati was still about sixty miles
away. Would it be safe to have a meal in the next town? I had filled up
with "gas" and oil in Dayton and had about fifty cents (2_s._) left.
With a three days' diet of oranges, I had cultivated an appetite of
great latent possibilities. I determined to be rash. Next stop, I told
myself, I would look around for a "bakeshop."

An hour later I arrived at a little town called "Lebanon." It was
very small, very picturesque, and very unpretentious. But it boasted
an excellent "bakeshop." I leant Lizzie against the kerb outside and
pressed my nose against the window-pane. The sight of all those nice
cakes was almost as good as a feed--but not quite! I espied one, plain
and large but tasty-looking. I valued it at twenty-five cents. "Well,
it'll last a long time," I thought, and entered meekly to inquire the
price. "Five cents," replied the lady of the counter. "Done! It's mine,
_all of it_!"

Long live Lebanon!

A few miles out, I halted near a bridge under which ran a little stream
of crystal water. It was a treat to be out of the glare of the baking
sun, so I sat down on the bank underneath the bridge and settled down
in earnest to a sumptuous dinner. The bill of fare was as follows:--

_Hors d'oeuvres_   Gâteau de Lebanon (varié).
_Consommé_         Eau Naturelle.
_Entrée_           Gâteau de Lebanon.
_Plat du jour_           Ditto.
_Légumes_                Ditto.
_Dessert_                Ditto.
_Wines_            Vin blanc d'Adam (direct
                     from the distillery).

And oh, what a meal was there, my countrymen! There was enough and to
spare. The cooking was excellent, the service irreproachable, and there
were no gratuities.

After a leisurely half-hour I stuffed what little cake I couldn't
contain into the tool-box, took one last, lingering draught from the
cool crystal stream, and again kicked Lizzie into a rattle.

Once more towards Cincinnati! Two hours only, now, I reminded myself,
and all the trees and birds in hearing. Gradually those two hours
became shorter as mile after weary mile rattled past. Sure enough, in
about the time I had reckoned the pot-holes in the road grew larger and
the ruts deeper, a sure sign of approaching civilization. Then a huge
signboard appeared, "CINCINNATI, THE QUEEN CITY OF THE WEST.
Make your home in Cincinnati."

The Cincinnati Speedway was passed on the right, and after a couple of
miles or more I struck tram-lines. The reader can well imagine how glad
and relieved I felt when I spotted trams and tram-lines, those things
which in normal life I rightly detest and abhor. Whereas once upon
a time I considered them to be the motorist's greatest enemy, I now
smiled upon them with friendly gaze.

By the time I was actually on the outskirts of the town, I was "baked
to a frizzle." And such a thirst! For three days I had been amassing a
good thirst. Ohio mud is not really a good beverage. It might perhaps
"put one over" the "near" beer that I have tasted in various American
towns, but that's not to be wondered at. The man who first called it
"near" beer wasn't much of a judge of distance! Never could I remember
having been so hot, so thirsty, and so fed up, all in one. I pulled up
at the first drug store and literally squandered twenty-five cents in
an orgy of ice-cream sodas. I took the precaution to retain ten cents,
however, "in case anything turned up."

At about half-past four WE ARRIVED. A wealth of meaning rests
in those two words. My friend Steve heard the noise as he sat reading
on the verandah of 3,450 Clifton Avenue. "That can't be Shep. That's
somebody wheeling a lawn-mower," he said to himself without looking-up,
and went on with his book. But when the lawn-mower had overrun itself
and turned round and came back and continued indefinitely to lawn-mow
outside the same 3,450, he looked up and saw that it was indeed a
motor-cycle or, at any rate, the unmistakable remnants of one. When he
saw the rider, he thought: "No, that can't be Shep after all; that's
the dustman."

But fact will always triumph over fiction. In the same way soap,
thank Heaven, will always triumph over dirt. But what a relief to be
once again in a comfortable house, that could almost be considered
"home," and once more to know the joys of a good hot bath and feel the
luxurious embrace of clean clothes again!



CHAPTER VII

CINCINNATI AND ONWARDS


I spent in all twelve days in Cincinnati. They were twelve happy days;
days of leisure, days of interesting experiences, followed by days of
longing to be on the road again.

The first of July, 1919, will live in the mind of every free-born
American citizen as the day when Prohibition became law throughout the
entire States. Not by design, but by coincidence, was it also the date
of my departure from my friends in Cincinnati to explore the "perils"
of the West. My sojourn there was brought to a sudden close by the
astounding discovery that Lizzie's overhaul was completed. I had a few
warm things to observe when I was presented with the repair bill. It
amounted to a mere seventy-five dollars, half of which represented the
alleged value of the somewhat indifferent labours of a more indifferent
mechanic and a small boy. On the various occasions when I had visited
the shop, the mechanic was generally conspicuous by his absence, and
were it not for the occasional activities of the small boy, who seemed
to delight in "salivating" at frequent intervals on every available
inch of the floor surrounding Lizzie's remains, I feel inclined to
think that I should even now be enjoying myself in Cincinnati. The
other half of the bill represented sundry replacements which, to my way
of thinking, should have been made free under the firm's guarantee,
which had still three-fourths of its term to expire. After much
argument, the proprietor and myself agreed to differ on this point.

The early afternoon witnessed my departure. The kindly attentions of
mine hostess had provided me with good things for the journey. Meat
sandwiches in boxes; fresh butter in tins; fruit and nuts galore.
Little packages were squeezed in here and big ones strapped on there.
Odd corners and crevices revealed an unsuspected orange or banana and
hard-boiled eggs or biscuits in twos and threes lurked amongst the
shirts and socks.

With a light heart I spun down the beautiful, well-paved avenues
that set at defiance the rigid, straight-edge avenues of more modern
American cities. I hummed over the cobble-stones of the lesser streets
and swung past trams and over bridges and was soon speeding along the
road to Indianapolis, thinking like a true pessimist that Lizzie didn't
feel as well as I had hoped, and that I should be hung up again at a
not far-distant date.

In America, in the east, it is the easiest thing in the world to take
the wrong road. Moreover it is generally the most difficult thing to
find out whether one is on the right road or not. I have no objection
to make when roads in towns and villages will run either north and
south or east and west, because for town life this arrangement spells
efficiency. In the country, however, the _raison d'être_ of these
chess-board roads is somewhat obscure. When combined with old-time
roads that originally followed goat-paths or sheep-tracks, its effect
is confusing. But when taken to the extreme, and one finds the main
highways connecting large cities abound with sharp right-angle turns at
every few miles, sometimes going north to make up a little latitude,
then continuing west, then returning south to lose the latitude gained,
and afterwards continuing west again, the result is ridiculous and
sometimes exasperating; very often two, three, four, or more roads run
parallel and only a few yards distant, all leading to the same place.
Sometimes they lead to different places. Sometimes they lead nowhere at
all. Sign-posts are not popular anywhere in the United States. Instead
the roads are identified by painting every third or fourth or tenth
or _n_th telegraph pole with different colours. When properly carried
out, this principle is a very commendable one, and without it travel
would be absolutely impossible. But when followed only imperfectly, or
when the colours become faded and obliterated, so that one trail can be
easily mistaken for another, the traveller has many troubles and trials
ahead.

I had ample moral consolation, therefore, for completely losing my way
only ten miles out of Cincinnati, and wasted a full hour in trying to
get on the right "pike" without going back.

Incidentally the system of decorating telegraph poles in accordance
with the trail they follow has its humorous side. There are, all told,
over a hundred different trails or "National Highways" in different
parts of the States, and each one is supposed to have its distinctive
sign. Thus the "Pike's Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway" is identified by a
circle of scarlet above a circle of white, and the "Lincoln Highway"
by circles of red, white, and blue. Sometimes, as in the cases of the
"Blackhawk Trail" and "Mackinaw Indian Trail," the sign is of a more
or less complex nature, including the profile of an Indian's head, for
instance. The humour of the situation will be apparent when a single
stretch of road coincides with say four or five separate trails. Each
telegraph pole is truly a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, with its
inscriptions, circles, squares, profiles, bales of cotton, etc., etc.,
painted on in various colours from top to bottom!

In large towns and cities where several trails meet, it requires the
quintessence of alertness and deduction to find one's way by the
telegraph poles, which, save for a few exceptions, represent the only
means of identification. Strange, in a country using twenty times the
number of cars per head found in any other country in the world, that
facilities for using them should be so meagre as at times to be almost
prehistoric!

It is strange also that some of the roads that were constructed even in
modern times were the achievement of personal enterprise and are even
now "boosted" and advertised by their "promotors." An outstanding case
is that of the "Pike's Peak Highway" just mentioned, which is one of
the three trails that cross the Continent from east to west. This road
boasts a President, three Vice-Presidents, and a Secretary-Treasurer!
Between them these worthy gentlemen are responsible for the proper
maintenance of the road (experience compels a sarcastic smile), and
for the furnishing of information to travellers thereon, etc. Where
the money comes from I wot not, unless it be from the various motoring
clubs in the country. In a booklet, published apparently by them, it is
described as "The Appian Way of America." Permit me to quote passages
from this remarkable publication:--

"Increased attention is this year being focussed on the 'See America'
idea, and motorists planning a trans-continental trip will naturally
select the route of greatest scenic and historic interest. That is
why the discriminating tourist will travel over the Pike's Peak
Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, the improved central route from the Atlantic
to the Pacific coast. From New York it follows the National Old Trails
Road to Indianapolis; from that city to Salt Lake City, it has its
own DISTINCTIVE ORGANISATION; and west of Salt Lake City it
follows the line of the Lincoln Highway. History places the stamp of
approval on this as the LOGICAL trans-continental Highway.
Etc., etc. (pages of it).... The trip has no dreariness and no
monotony.... (More pages)."

Never was such a grossly misleading impression of ease, comfort, and
luxury perpetrated upon an unsuspecting Englishman! It was well said
that the pen is mightier than the sword. If ever again I find myself
so utterly demented as to motor-cycle across the United States before
proper roads have been constructed, may Heaven preserve me from "The
Appian Way of America"!

The reader may think that I am dwelling unduly on the subject of roads,
but I do so at this juncture because it was a subject which now became
of increasing magnitude. Practically the last sign of paved road of
any kind between this point and the Pacific Coast (some 2,500 miles
away) would be encountered at Indianapolis, and from there onwards
were universally the execrable "dirt" roads that so seriously threaten
not only the comfort but the safety of motor-cycling. I was not even
disappointed at the outlook, because I came to America without even
expecting any form of trail or route across its entirety to be at my
disposal. But I feel the natural resentment of the Englishman when I am
led to believe that there is a luxurious "highway" ahead, only to find
an aggravated series of dust-heaps, mud-pools, and cow-paths!

The road, however, to Indianapolis was not of the "Appian Way" variety.
It was comparatively good in places, and ran for many miles along the
valley of the Miami River, amidst beautiful scenery of ever-changing
variety. After a few miles, the Ohio-Indiana boundary was crossed, and
here, as many times afterwards, I was struck by the apparently sudden
change of landscape, the same as the home tourist can almost always
discern by the "feel" of the country whether he is in England or Wales,
no matter if he be without his map for reference. I do not mean that
either Ohio or Indiana is particularly mountainous. On the other hand,
the latter is on the whole somewhat flat, as if in preparation for the
weary stretches of monotonous prairie that are to be encountered the
more one travels westward until the Rockies are reached.

I made little headway that afternoon, and at 10.30 in the evening I
was still some distance from Indianapolis, the capital of the State.
I therefore looked around as best I could in the pitch-darkness, with
only my lights as a guide, for a likely spot for my night's abode.
Water is a _sine qua non_ for the camping vagrant, and when I came
to a large steel bridge I decided that that was the place for me. It
evidently spanned a pretty big river, but it was so far below, or
seemed so far, I could not see the water. A lengthy reconnoitre from
the road led me to the edge of a field of corn whence I could hear the
river but could not see it for dense masses of vegetation.

I propped Lizzie up on her stand and found to my dismay that when
the engine stopped the lights went out. Not feeling in the mood
for investigating the cause of the trouble, I was satisfied to keep
the engine running slowly as long as illumination was necessary in
unstrapping my baggage and "making" my bed. Then I set out to find the
river and enjoy the luxury of a wash.

Easier said than done! I could find openings in the thick undergrowth
where I deemed the river should be, but could find no way of making
closer acquaintance with its waters. As I continued my search, the bank
suddenly gave way beneath me, and I was plunged up to the waist in the
river I had been so diligently seeking!

My exit was more difficult to negotiate than my entrance. The bushes
and weeds on the banks were not strong enough to enable me to pull
myself out, but came away, roots and all, and left me sinking in the
muddy river-bed. I eventually extricated myself, however, and decided
to retire unwashed! Pulling off my soaking top-boots was a herculean
task, and this done, I hung my wet breeches on a tree to dry in the
warm summer night.

I passed a splendid night and awoke with the dawn, only to find my
clothes wetter than they were the night before, thanks to a heavy dew.
Such conditions, I reflected, were of mere trifling importance in the
life of a bona fide tramp, and I was soon humming along once more
through the fresh, crisp morning air.

We arrived in Indianapolis at breakfast time and with a hearty
appetite. I remember Indianapolis chiefly as a city with long wide
streets full of cobble-stones, tram-lines, and traffic policemen. My
first duty was to take Lizzie to see the vet. I didn't like the sound
of her at all, and she seemed but a rickety shadow of her former self.
I was taking no chances now. As if by instinct we went "right there."
The Henderson agent took Lizzie under his protecting wing, and while I
settled down to consume a hefty breakfast of cantaloupe, puffed rice,
and coffee, he took her for a spin along the few miles of concrete road
that I had left behind with such regret.

"Waal, I guess there ain't very much wrong with her, boy," was the
verdict, although he did not seem over-exuberant about it.

"How far you goin'?" he added.

"Just to the end of the road," I replied.

"Hm, and a tidy ride too, I'll say so. I've done it, but not on one o'
them."

Then, after meditation, he added, "But I think she'll take you there.
Give my love to 'Frisco, won't you, boy?"

I promised, paid him a dollar, and left to track down the offices of
the local branch of the "3 A." Club, or Automobile Association of
America, whom, I was informed, I must see before going any further, to
inquire about the roads ahead. Dirt roads, it will be understood, vary
with the weather. Hardly ever does the English motorist hear of a road
being washed away with the rain, but the idea of its being borne away
on the wings of the wind would indeed appear strange to him!

I found the "3 A." Club located at one of the large hotels, all alive
with "bell-boys" and commissionaires and elevators. I was greeted by
the hotel staff with haughty aloofness. "Put that gink outside," I
could imagine the desk clerk saying to the hall-porter. But I was being
whisked up the elevator to the umpteenth floor before he had the chance.

At the "3 A." Club office I was greeted most cordially. The gentleman
at the desk was a human encyclopædia of roads and places. Beneath
the dirt and dust he believed he perceived some person of high rank,
a brigadier or something, and my brown tunic and field-boots must
have borne out this assumption. However, that may be, he certainly
did his best to give me every assistance. But when I told him I was
motor-cycling to the Pacific and wanted to know which was the best road
to take, his jaw dropped suddenly. There were two alternative routes to
Kansas City, the "Pike's Peak" through Springfield and the "National
Old Trails Highway" through St. Louis. Which should I take?

"Well, sir, the National Old Trail is impossible just now. The rains
have been very heavy and there are several places where you couldn't
possibly get through. And as for the other--well, I shall have to
think."

Which he did. He hummed and ha'd and stroked his chin and hummed and
ha'd again, as if struggling with some momentous problem. He spread out
maps in rows before him and followed the route with his finger. Then
silence.

After a minute or two of this, in which the merits of "washouts" and
hold-ups and detours by the score were being weighed together in his
troubled brain, he spoke:

"Yes, sir, I think you can get through"--and, more deliberately--"I
_think_ you can get through. Yes, it's a good road," he added.

I learnt then for the first time one outstanding principle in the
road-study of America. I confirmed it on innumerable occasions later.
There are two classes of roads and two only. They are good roads and
bad roads. Any road, ANYWHERE, in the whole of the United
States of America (and, I presume, her Colonies as well) is a "good"
road if you can "get through." The remainder are bad.

I thanked my benefactor and accepted sheaves of maps and guide-books
for which he would take no payment. He was indeed the quintessence of
obligation. I on my part was the quintessence of gratitude.

"Now for the fun," I chuckled as I kicked Lizzie to a roar and set out
for the highway with red- and white-circled telegraph poles.



CHAPTER VIII

INDIANA AND ILLINOIS


The first bit of fun was not far ahead. In places the road was passable
if one ignored the six-inch layer of loose sand and soil that covered
it. The country was flat and uninteresting. Diversion was occasionally
encountered in the form of side-slips and here and there an unexpected
spill. The quicker I went the easier I got through, as the soil did
not cling to the wheels so much and hinder steering. At thirty it was
almost impossible to maintain balance. At thirty-five it was tolerable,
and at forty it was comparatively simple.

Now and then I would pass a kind of harrow the width of over half the
road and drawn along by a team of horses. The function of this was to
break up the big lumps of solid mud formed by the recent rains. After
this would follow a similar team of horses dragging a "grader"--a kind
of snow-plough arrangement which scraped the surface flat and shovelled
the surplus sand and mud-lumps into the side. In these districts the
farmers are held by law individually responsible for the condition of
the roads their farms adjoin, and the process of grading is expected
to be carried out within three or four days after the rain. When the
farmers are busy with their crops this doesn't get done, and when they
aren't, it sometimes does, according, I think, to whether the farmer
is a sheriff or a justice of the peace and has to set an example to
others. Fortunately all farmers are motorists as well; they have to be
able to get about, so when they wish to travel, they grade the roads
for their own use if for no more altruistic object.

Once I was passing one of these road-ploughs drawn by a team of three
horses abreast, which took up most of the road and showed not the
slightest intention of drawing in to the side. In endeavouring to pass
it, I struck at too small an angle the huge ridge of solid mud-lumps
that it had formed. I was going fast, of course. The handlebar was
wrenched out of my hands and I was thrown with great force over it and
on to the bank at the side. Lizzie herself lay roaring on her side in
the dirt. The horses took fright and galloped off. The only damage done
showed itself in some nasty cuts and scratches, some small areas of
skin missing from different places, and a few bent levers and controls.
From past experience I had learnt that in all such cases the clips and
brackets and sharp corners of Lizzie's profile ALWAYS seemed
to be in the path of my flight over her handlebars.

A handkerchief bound tightly round the cuts, a few adjustments made,
and on we go with smiling faces, only to overtake the wretched thing
again!

After twenty or thirty miles of this, we came to mud in earnest--mud
measured not by the inch in depth, but by the yard. Never was it soft
and squishy and respectable, but always baked rock-hard into ugly
contorted shapes that simply defied progress on two wheels alone.
The diabolical effect had been heightened by the passing of numerous
cars through the roads when the surface was still plastic, and great
ruts and cracks and ridges were thrown up at every point between
the road-boundaries, each one representing an eternal struggle to
"get through." When the fierce sun came out and poured down for days
unceasing upon such ugliness as this, the hideous surface was as if
petrified by its glare, and the efforts of a "grader" would be futile
to alter in the slightest degree its abominable condition.

Riding was out of the question. It was haulage work that had to be
done, and many times when I got into a huge solidified "crevasse,"
I had to leave the machine standing in it on the tubes of its
cradle-frame and proceed ahead to chip the edges down until the wheels
would reach to the bottom again.

Anyone who has stood on the "Glacier des Bossons," looked upwards
towards the summit of Mont Blanc, and seen the contorted, fantastic
shapes that the ice assumes as it swells over the ridges in its path,
can perhaps imagine the same effect on a smaller scale applied to the
dirt roads of Indiana.

Fortunately there were stretches of road, generally when there was a
slight gradient, where the surface was well-drained, hard, and flat,
and going was good. But invariably at the foot of every slope, or at
the dip between two hills, there was a stretch of excruciating "agony"
that would reduce the most defiant motor-cyclist to submission.

Thus it was for eighty or ninety miles. The truth began to dawn on
me that a fellow has to be a "tough guy" to motor in these parts.
Sometimes I would stop and rest awhile to let an occasional car get by.
It was funny to see how they all went! The big heavy touring car would
roll along as if to devour all that came its way. It would meet a nasty
patch and with broken dignity would heave and sigh from side to side
as it slowly crawled on bottom gear over the ridges and furrows; and
then it would rear proudly into the air as it surmounted some huge lump
of solid mud and suddenly flop down with a dull thud on the bottom of
the springs as it plunged into the hollow beyond. One could hear every
joint groan under the strain and could sometimes see the bottom of the
engine scrape ridges in the chunks of earth and watch the little bits
knocked off an unfriendly obstruction as the back axle dragged its
weary way along.

And then perchance would come some cheeky Ford, the essence of
impudence as opposed to the dignity of its wealthier brethren. With a
hop, skip, and a jump, it would scramble over the furrows, swinging
gaily from side to side, wagging its tail in the air and rattling in
every sinew as only a Ford knows how! But the "Flivvers" got through
easier than any.

The worst patch I struck was near the small town of Hume. I have never
seen in the space of 200 yards a more apt imitation of a volcanic
lava-bed. The thick mud of two days before had been churned up into the
most fantastic shapes that ever a main highway has taken. Every square
inch of the ninety-foot-wide road bore signs of the passage of some
vehicle or other. Some of the ruts were so deep that the machine rested
on the engine and the frame and not on the wheels at all. Pushing it
anywhere but in one of the best ruts was impossible. When the rut got
too deep, I had to lift up the back of the machine bodily and wheel it
foot by foot, while the rut took the front wheel whither it listed.
Here and there were signs where car-drivers, in similar predicaments,
but a day or two before, when the mud was not yet baked quite hard,
had shovelled away large quantities of the road to allow the engine
and chassis to clear. Half-way through was a large hole, deep and
broad enough to allow a small car to be hidden therein from view. In
this hole the mud was still soft and plastic. A good Samaritan of the
road had procured a piece of old corrugated iron from somewhere and
propped it against two poles to warn any others who might follow of its
presence.

Lifting four-cwt. Lizzie across this whole stretch took three-quarters
of an hour all told, and at the end I was faint with exhaustion. The
sun was never hotter and I never perspired more, not even in the middle
of the Mohave Desert in California, where the thermometer rises up to
140 degrees or more! I begged a glass of milk from a farmhouse a mile
farther on, and thanked God that He made cows and that I was still
alive to appreciate them!

And thus we toiled and thus we spun for many miles until late in the
afternoon, when I came to parts where the sun had not yet had time to
do its work. Every inch of the road was thick, black, slimy mud; mud
that stinks with a smell peculiar to itself alone; mud that clings to
the tyres and wedges in the forks and fouls the chains and blocks the
wheels; mud indeed that sticketh closer than a brother. I stopped at
a ramshackle little village of a few dozen shops and houses, all made
of wood, and boasting the name of "Murdock," to partake of afternoon
tea. Outside an old rickety "store" (this term includes any conceivable
kind of retail shop in America), I saw a notice: "HENRY T. HODGES,
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE; DRY GOODS STORE; GENERAL MERCHANDISE; POST
OFFICE; REAL ESTATE; REFRESHMENTS."

[Illustration: AN AWKWARD STRETCH OF ROAD IN INDIANA.]

[Illustration: THE MIDNIGHT COUCH.]

Henry T. Hodges beamed on me benignly from behind a pile of preserved
fruit tins as I entered his gloomy establishment.

"See here, dad, I want a good meal," I said; "money's no object. Get
me?"

"Sure; an' have ye come far, brother?"

"I should reckon about a thousand miles to-day. Dandy roads you've got
in these parts, dad."

"Aye, but you'd 'a seen 'em when we 'ad the rains, brother; they wuz so
mighty slick the hottymobiles sunk right down in 'em and 'ad to be dug
out wi' a shovel and dragged along wi' a team of four 'osses."

"Why, I shouldn't have thought there were four horses in Murdock," I
replied.

"Aye, an' I know there is, brother, 'cause they're my 'osses."

"Um! Guess you make a pretty good living out of them, don't you, dad?"

"You've said it, brother. Ten dollars a time is my charge, and if a
chap don't pay I jest leave 'im there till 'e does!"

"Well, what about this meal, dad? I'm mighty hungry--and, say, who's
the road commissioner about here?"

He essayed no answer, but disappeared hurriedly to boil the tea. I had
no doubt now who the road commissioner was!

After leaving the "Store" of Henry T. Hodges, J.P., I did another
twenty miles or so until dark, and sought out a comfortable secluded
spot near the road, but far enough from it to avoid the smell of
it, and settled down for the night. Mosquitoes were the only source
of worry now. Otherwise this roadside sleeping was getting quite a
commonplace event.

Up at dawn in the morning! On the road once again; labouring, pushing,
hauling, heaving, lifting, cleaning off the mud, speeding a mile or two
and then more labouring and more pushing.

At breakfast-time I reached Decatur, a flourishing town of 20,000 or so
inhabitants, and had breakfast at a "get-fed-quick" eat-house where you
sit on a stool in front of the counter and the man at the range behind
fries you a mutton steak, bakes the "waffles," or poaches the eggs as
per your desire.

Then on again towards Springfield, the capital of Illinois State. The
mud changes to sand and the sand to dust. More spills, more cuts, more
bruises. The country as flat and uninteresting as they make it. More
right-angle bends, more losing of the way and more frizzling in the
sun. Two villages are passed in forty miles. One has a population of
417 and the other 59.

At 11 a.m. we draw into Springfield, hot, tired, dusty, and sore.
Springfield is a mass of roads, trams, telegraph poles, and people. I
leave Lizzie leaning against the kerb and go for an ice-cream soda;
when I return, Lizzie is no longer visible. Instead there is a large
crowd. They are all examining something. Those on the outside elbow
their way to the middle. Those in the middle try to keep them out. The
passers-by wonder what it's all about and stop to see. They in turn try
to make their way to the middle. Many are disappointed and pass on. The
traffic cop, seeing the crowd, strolls over to see what's wrong.

When he had moved the crowd away, I got astride Lizzie's saddle and
rode away, amid murmurs of astonishment.

"Come quite a ways, I reckon."

"That's the kind of bird to go travelling on."

"Looks as though he's seen some mud somewhere."

"Look, Bill, he's got 'igh boots on like they have in the movies!"

"Ah, that's what 'e is, 'e's a dolgarn movie actor," etc., etc.

All the trails in America seem to go through Springfield, Ill.
Consequently the telegraph poles and tram poles were a mass of
hieroglyphics. It took a few minutes to get into Springfield. But it
took the best part of two hours to get out of it satisfactorily. Once I
thought I was well away, but found that for ten miles I had followed a
trail that had white stripes on a red background instead of red stripes
on a white background, or something of the kind.

Jacksonville was the next town, some forty miles away. There are six
smaller towns on the way. I don't remember passing six, but my map
vouches for this number. Their respective populations, taken from the
said map, are as follows:--Riddle Hill, 25; Berlin, 251; New Berlin,
690; Alexander, 200; Orleans, 38; and Arnold, 15. So America is not
full up yet. But fancy showing a village of fifteen inhabitants on
the map! If it were in Arizona instead of Illinois they would have
called it Arnold "City." Here are some more names, taken at random from
the map, to show the endless variety that the American cartographer
has drawn upon:--"Daisy," "Whitehall," "Quiver," "Cuba," "Golden,"
"Siloam," "Time," "Pearl," "Summum," "Birmingham" (population 76),
"Illinois City" (population 80), "Bible Grove" (population 10),
"Enterprise" (population 7).

After Jacksonville the road seemed to change its mind. It refused to
be a road any longer. It turned instead into a sea-beach and dodged
in and out, here and there, to evade the approaching traveller.
Everywhere was to be seen white sand. It lay feet deep on the trail,
making progress almost impossible. It covered all the vegetation at
the roadside, and it filled the air as well. Here for the first time I
encountered the type of road that can disappear with the vagaries of
the wind. It was easy to imagine that in æons of time this self-same
road would help to form some great geological strata deposited in the
Gulf of Mexico or elsewhere. The country became hilly and thickly
wooded, and sometimes the trail would narrow down to just a few feet in
width and then just as quickly open out to fifty or sixty. The trees
grew thicker, the sand grew thinner, the trail dodged around boulders
and trees, shot up little sandy slopes, and then, all of a sudden,
without any warning whatever, stopped at the bank of a great wide
silent river.

It was the Illinois River, a tributary of the great Mississippi, which
itself was only fifty miles away. About a couple of hundred yards wide,
it was navigated by a ferry-boat of unknown antiquity pulled across the
river by a cable wound round a drum. Every man, woman, and child, and
every vehicle that crosses America by the Pike's Peak Highway, swells
the funds of the man who owns that ferry-boat.

"Which is the road now?" I asked him when we eventually reached the
other side. I could see no signs of any continuation of the trail. He
had better eyes than I, however.

"Go straight ahead; you can't miss it."

There was certainly visible a little pathway that scrambled up the
bank and then wound in and out among the trees, and as I could see
nothing else, I followed it. Sure enough it led to "Valley City"
(population 52), and thence onwards, through "New Salem" and "Barry"
towards "Hannibal" on the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi! Long had I conjured up visions of this mighty river of
over 4,000 miles total length that cuts through the United States from
north to south, and drains nearly 1-1/2 million square miles of land!
I had imagined its vast breadth and followed in my fancy the great,
silent, moving river as it flowed from west to east and north to south
through ever-changing scenery and ever-widening banks. And here I was
within a few miles of it! The thought was almost absurd.

Just when the sun was about to set the road made one more swerve to the
left. The trees and the surrounding country fell away as if by magic,
and there was nothing beyond, save a massive bridge of steel. Beneath
and from horizon to horizon flowed the majestic river.

The other end of the bridge was probably some 3,000 feet away in the
town of Hannibal and the State of Missouri. Hannibal bristles with
statues, tablets, posters, placards, and picture-postcards. They all
have the same theme for a subject--"Mark Twain." The Hanniballians, if
such they are called, are just as bad. I believe it is not possible
for a stranger to be in Hannibal for five minutes without being told
that Mark Twain was born there. If the "clerk" at the refreshment
bar doesn't tell you, the man at the post office does. If the young
"fellar" who pumps a couple of gallons of "gas" into your tank forgets
to tell you, the old girl at the fruit-shop doesn't. They must have a
secret code in Hannibal whereby they arrange these things. And I will
guarantee there aren't two out of every dozen picture-postcards on sale
in Hannibal that don't show Mark Twain's birthplace or his cave or his
statue or his ass or his ox or something that he either did or did not
"immortalize."

Seeking a quiet little spot by the river where I could spend the night
and fulfil one of my long-cherished hopes--to bathe in the River
Mississippi, I turned down a little road that ran along the bank and
reconnoitred the country. To my dismay a railway ran between the road
and the river, almost at the very water's edge. Nothing daunted, and
hoping that it would sooner or later swerve away and leave me in peace
with my river, I continued for miles, long after it was dark, but with
no success. The road itself was on a ledge high above the railway,
and the railway was on a ledge built some six or eight feet above the
river. Eventually I left Lizzie at the roadside, camouflaged her with
leaves and branches, and scrambled down with my bags over the ledge on
to the bank below. I found a comfortable little spot about ten feet
from the rails and laid my bed. And oh, what a glorious bathe I had in
the river!

It was the eve of July 4th, the American "Day of Independence." Sounds
of revellers from far away were wafted over the calm, silent waters.
Now and then would be heard the faint swish of a canoe as it glided
past in the darkness of the night, and soft music crept up the river
from time to time, now clear, now faint, as if from its dark and mystic
depths.

I tucked myself under the blanket feeling like a good Christian that
night, with never a worry in the world--a world that was good and kind
and comfortable always.

Nevertheless I should have liked to know when a train would be coming
past to disturb my slumbers.

Just as I was dozing over, I heard footsteps along the rails. They came
closer and closer, but I could see nothing. The night was pitch-dark.
As the footsteps came opposite to me, I made out the form of a man
against the starlit sky. He did not see me.

"Say, bo, can you tell me how many trains pass here to-night?" I asked.

He jumped as if struck in the back.

"Only a couple, brother," he replied to where the air had spoken,
"one of them in about half an hour and the other about one in the
morning;--but they won't worry you," he added.

Sure enough in half an hour's time I heard the distant rumble of a
train. I began to wonder if I had not rolled any closer to the rails
than when I lay down. The earth shook and a red glare appeared in the
distance, and with a mighty roar the huge train came thundering through
an opening in the trees. Although I knew I was at a safe distance, the
feeling of impending annihilation swooped suddenly down upon me. "Don't
be an ass," said I, "what's the use of getting the wind up?" And the
next second it seemed that the rushing torrent of steel and fire was
but an inch from my head. Clatter bang-thump, clatter-bang-thump, for
twenty long seconds, and the intruder was gone. In another minute not a
sound broke the silence of the midsummer night.

Thinking what an excellent test of self-control it would be to pitch
my bed between the rails, but disinclined to do so on account of the
possibility of a cow-catcher being in front of the trains, I rolled
over into heavy slumber.

In half an hour I was awake again and the same process was repeated. I
deemed then that I should be left in peace for the night. But my friend
had not reckoned on the freight trains. Only the passenger trains were
of account to him!

Regularly every half-hour they thundered past. At dawn I had counted
thirteen in all. I resolved not to sleep on a railway embankment again,
even though it be in company with the Mississippi.



CHAPTER IX

STORMY WEATHER IN MISSOURI


Hannibal is a nice, clean, respectable place; were I an American
tourist I would call it a "cute little city."

I found an eating-house with a tempting smell around it, and ordered a
hearty breakfast. After polishing off this meal, I mounted Lizzie and
started off once more.

We were now in Missouri, the State of the small farmer. Not that the
farms are so very small, but they are not on so large a scale as
further on in the west, where the hundred-square-mile ranch is the
order of the day.

Again the scenery experiences a quick change; the country becomes hilly
and rough; one sees maize growing almost everywhere and very often
pigs (or hogs as they are termed in the States) turned out to pasture.
Nevertheless there is much uncleared and uncultivated land to be seen;
the towns and villages are clean, modern, and well laid out, and all
give an air of prosperity and plenty. Every farmer has his car, and
it is generally a Ford; youngsters of twelve and fourteen can be seen
driving them, and generally with as much skill as their parents, if not
more.

But for all its hills and vales and the luxuriance of its natural
beauty, Missouri has one great drawback. There is a very big fly in
the Missouri ointment--RAIN. And when it rains in Missouri,
it rains properly, not in tantalizing little showers as it does in
England. It is as though the whole sky had burst its water-mains. It
falls not in inches but feet; not for hours but for days. Then suddenly
the sun breaks out and scorches everything with renewed vigour. If
a car is out far from home when the rain comes, it generally has to
"stay put." The rain sinks into the road and so does the car. Every
car carries a set of chains for its wheels, but although they improve
matters slightly, they are often futile in ploughing through the
thick slime. Then come the teams of horses at five and ten and twenty
dollars a time to drag the unfortunate automobile to some garage where
it "lays up" until the rain has gone and the sun has dried the roads
sufficiently for further progress.

Sometimes enterprising individuals do not wait for rain to bring
in the shekels. I have often heard of perfectly authentic cases of
a farmer deliberately flooding likely patches of the road and then
waiting patiently with his horses to drag out some unfortunate victim.
This seems absurd, but care is always taken to select a spot where it
cannot be definitely proved that natural conditions are not entirely
responsible for the result!

In the early afternoon, after a hard ride from Hannibal, punctuated at
every village with a stop for the consumption of ice-cream, I reached
a small town called "Bucklin." No sooner was I there than a huge black
cloud appeared suddenly in the sky and a terrific windstorm rose which
blew everything that was not fixed to something in all directions. For
half an hour it raged. The air was thick with dust, leaves and bits of
paper. Then, as suddenly as it had come, the wind subsided, and rain
commenced in torrents. So fast did it fall and so heavy were the drops
that the surface of the road was beaten into a froth which hovered
all the time a few inches above the road itself. Even to walk across
it was a test of skill; so slimy was the mud that one's feet slid
aimlessly about in any direction but the one desired. For this reason
concrete pathways are invariably provided so that pedestrians can
move with comparative ease and can leave their homes and visit anyone
anywhere in the town without actually touching the mud at all. These
concrete pathways naturally have to cross the road in places, and when
the road surrounding them is washed away, as very often happens, the
result to a passing vehicle can be imagined.

Further progress being out of the question that day, I hied me to the
only hotel in the place and prepared to while away the days that were
to follow in writing letters, studying an obsolete almanac, and eating
bad food.

It rained in a continual deluge all that day, all night and all next
morning. At midday it stopped with a bump, the sun came out with
another, and the birds began to sing again. At three I ventured forth
with Lizzie. I had not gone a dozen yards when the back wheel slipped
sideways round to the front and left me reposing in the half-baked mud.
Back again for another hour's wait while the broiling sun did its work.
Next time I got as far as the outskirts of the town before I decided
to turn back. After another hour we started out to do or die, come
what might. During the remainder of the day until dark we covered ten
miles, going hard all the time. When I was not extricating myself from
a spicy bit of quagmire, I was poking semi-hard mud out of the wheels
and mudguards.

On one occasion I came to a sudden dip in the road, followed by an
equally sudden rise. As usual there was an uninviting "slough of
despond" in the hollow. After trying two or three different ruts in
an effort to "get through," giving up each one in turn as hopeless,
and pushing back again to where still another rut branched off from
the one I was in, I eventually worked my way through. The struggle up
the slope on the other side was a formidable one and was being slowly
accomplished by a combination of bottom-gear driving, pushing, lifting,
and "paddling." Just before the summit was reached I was thrown by a
steep furrow into the ditch at the roadside, breathless, exhausted, and
extremely bad-tempered.

As I was extracting myself, a young man in shirt-sleeves strolled
leisurely over, hands in pockets, from a stationary car a little
further on. When I had safely extricated my right leg from under the
machine and hauled Lizzie on to her wheels again, the stranger spoke.

"Say, fella, does that front cylinder get hot? I've heard say that's
the weak point about them four-cylinder motorsickles."

Here follows a flow of language from self entirely unprintable. The
stranger opens his eyes, whistles softly, then adds, as if to turn the
subject:

"Where you from?"

He remained with his hands in his pockets staring at my diminishing
form. He was still there when I looked over my shoulder half a mile
further on. He is probably there now!

As time went on, black clouds appeared in the sky; the sun went in; the
wind rose, and a repetition of the events of the day before commenced
just as I arrived in the small town of "Wheeling." The only thing to
do was to eat ices until the climatic conditions adjusted themselves.
This took the best part of two hours. Once again I sallied forth with
Lizzie. This time in the short space of five yards I reposed gently
but thoroughly in the Missouri mud, much to the amusement of the
population, who had all turned out to witness my departure. Again I
tried and again I fell. The whole machine seemed to act as though it
were made of jelly. I gave it up on the third attempt.

"Try the railway," jeered the village comedian, pointing to
a level-crossing in the distance. This amused the onlookers
"considerable." For myself, I discerned a glimmer of wisdom in the
suggestion.

"Look here, you guys," I retorted, "what about giving me a hand to push
this as far as the depot" (I never made the fatal mistake of referring
to it as a "station") "instead of looking on and grinning like a lot of
schoolboys?"

It had its effect. Three or four volunteered at once. We all pushed; we
slithered to right and left; we slipped over each other and ourselves.
But we got there.

Riding on the sleepers was hardly humorous, but it was better than the
road. They were not filled in and were very irregular. Consequently
progress was slow and a trifle disjointed. The "depot" was not far
away. The "line-boss" looked at me curiously, as though I were a
strange offshoot from some wayward train.

"Many trains coming along this way?" I queried, wishing to know what I
should have to meet, as there was only a single track, double tracks
being seldom, if ever, laid in the States, and if one was unprepared
it might prove embarrassing to meet a train coming in the opposite
direction just in the middle of a tunnel or a bridge. American railway
bridges are remarkable for their narrowness. Very often the sleepers
themselves project into space, and never is there any track beyond
them.

"You said it, brother," he replied, "dozens of 'em." "And what's more,
there's a couple of long tunnels just a mile away--look, you can see
the beginning--and beyond them there's a bridge pretty nigh half a mile
long--and trains is mighty funny things to play hide and seek with, y'
know!"

I was of that opinion myself. As I looked, I saw a train emerge from
the tunnel ahead. I reflected that I should have been just about there
by now if I hadn't stopped. I went back to Wheeling.

The next day I covered twenty miles in four hours and found myself back
in Wheeling again, but this time by another road. Nothing daunted, I
said nothing, clenched my teeth, and polished off another twenty until
dark.

The day after I did better. The nett progress at the end of the
day's work was twenty-five miles instead of twenty. I arrived at the
conclusion that Missouri had one great advantage that I had hitherto
overlooked. It was an excellent place to get out of!

On the next day I covered five miles in six hours, and although only
forty miles or so from Kansas City, which marks the commencement of the
historic Santa Fé Trail leading to the Pacific Coast, I made a solemn
vow that I would "ship" everything there by train at the next town.
The next town happened to be "Excelsior Springs," twenty miles further
on. The road improved considerably, and the comforting thought of
civilization at so short a distance urged me on and I broke that solemn
vow. I rode into Kansas City late that afternoon, a mass of bruises
from head to foot, just as the speedometer showed 1,919 miles from New
York. I ferreted out the Henderson agent and left Lizzie in his tender
keeping.



CHAPTER X

RESULTS OF A BREAKDOWN


It took three days for me to find that the Kansas City I was in was not
the Kansas City I thought I was in. I took it for granted that Kansas
City would be in Kansas State. But it was not. _My_ Kansas City was in
Missouri, but after searching diligently at the post office for mail
that wasn't there, I found there was another Kansas City on the other
bank of the river. All good citizens of Kansas City, Mo., turn up their
noses at the mention of Kansas City, Kan.,--"no connection with the
firm opposite" sort of thing.

Of the two, Kansas City, Mo., is by far the more commendable town. It
hustles and bustles just as every good American city should do. It is
exactly "one hundred per cent American." The advertisements in the
papers said so. I believe it, because any city that boasts of being
four times larger than it really is must be 100 per cent. American!
But I must give Kansas City its due. It represents the essence of
keenness and enterprise in business and farming circles. It has that
"breezy" air that is so healthy in city life, compared with the dull,
gloomy inertness so characteristic of most manufacturing towns,
especially here in England. Kansas City has some excellent streets and
some magnificent buildings, and has undoubtedly grown at a remarkable
rate during the last ten years. Being the last city of really large
dimensions that one meets until the Pacific Coast is reached, it is
the connecting link between the East and the Far West. Grain and farm
produce from the vast States of the West flow unceasingly through its
warehouses and stockyards. A network of railways concentrates to a
focus at Kansas City, railways bringing in and taking out millions of
tons of produce annually.

The next day, when I visited the motor-cycle agency, Lizzie was
standing disconsolately where I had left her the day before. I begged,
entreated, exhorted, and threatened that she be given immediate
attention. I lied abominably to the manager that I was putting up a
record between the coasts and every minute was important.

How could I expect to beat all existing records if they kept my machine
in dock for a week? I was promised that it would be started on "right
now." That term "right now" has a significance unknown to Europeans. It
is subtle and evasive, intangible and incomprehensible. It conveys a
sense of such utter obligation on the part of the speaker that one has
not the heart to query its exact purport. As far as I can ascertain, or
at any rate as far as I have experienced its application, it is more
similar to the French "tout de suite" than any other expression I can
identify, in that it might imply anything between the immediate present
and the indefinite future.

Lizzie required several replacements, including a new set of bearings,
a cylinder and two gudgeon pins, these latter being broken in half at
the middle. The agent told me that they always were liable to break. If
they were put in upside-down, as he always fitted them, so that the oil
hole was at the bottom instead of the top, they would not break at all.
Further he hinted that my particular machine was turned out while a
good fat strike was in progress at the factory.

"Well, you can stick it together so that it will take me to the coast
all right?" I queried anxiously.

"Well, yes, I guess I can," was his studied reply.

"Go right ahead then, boss, but do it quick! I'm running short of money
and can't afford to stay in your metropolis right here for the benefit
of my health."

Being destined then to remain in Kansas City for four or five days
more, I found myself with ample leisure in which to collect my thoughts
and prepare for the journey through the "wild west" ahead.

One result of my leisure was that I paid a visit to the editor of the
_Kansas City Star_. This is one of the most progressive newspapers in
the United States, and circulates everywhere in the West. The extent of
its circulation and the results of its progressiveness I was, however,
still to learn.

The editor was found as usual at his desk in the middle of a large
room, surrounded by his myrmidons in typical American style. He greeted
me with extreme cordiality. "No need to tell you I'm English, I
suppose?" I said.

"See that door over there?" (pointing to the one in the far distance
through which I had entered). "Well, I spotted you were an Englishman
the minute you came in there."

I explained with complete humiliation that I was travelling across the
United States of America on a motor-cycle and wondered whether his
readers would be interested in the point of view of such a despicable
object as an English motor-cyclist on this great and wonderful country.
"Not for the love of the thing, you know," I added, "I don't see why I
shouldn't earn a dollar or two on the wayside."

He pointed to a typewriter standing idle at a desk. "Let's have the
story right now, and give us something about roads. There's a big
movement just started to get good roads, so you can just hand out the
straight dope to everybody on the subject. Get me? Something good and
snappy."

I explained that while no one was more eminently capable of writing
about American roads than myself, I had never graduated as a typist in
the course of my business career. I should, therefore, have to retire
and push the modest pen.

"What! a business man who can't use a typewriter? I didn't know there
was such a thing," was his rejoinder.

I let them have it about roads. I referred also to their commendable
system of arresting road-hogs. This with a few pro-American
embellishments such as "wonderful country," "indescribable beauty,"
"inexhaustible wealth," etc. etc., rounded off the theme.

My friend the editor not only rewarded me at the noble rate of a dime
a line (5_d._), thus assuring the hotel expenses for my stay in the
city, but also gave me about an hour of his valuable time in talking
about almost everything under the sun--mainly American. It is rather
surprising to an Englishman to find that practically any worthy
American business man, no matter how busy he may be or how valuable the
time lost thereby, will entertain a visitor for an incredible length of
time. If the visitor happens to be an Englishman, he is all the more
pleased to do so because then he can talk uninterruptedly about America
and what a wonderful country it is. All the noted men of Europe, I
learned, had been in the office and sat in that same chair. The editor
told me so. Lord Northcliffe spent all his leisure hours there while
in the States. So also did many other notorieties, some unknown to
me. Leastways, so the editor told me. I took his money and bade him
farewell.



CHAPTER XI

THE SANTA FÉ TRAIL


On the fifth day after my arrival in Kansas City all was in readiness
for my departure. There was another big bill to meet for Lizzie's
overhaul, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that the bearings had
all been replaced, as well as a few cylinders and pistons and things,
and that there was just a chance of getting to the coast before
something else went wrong. Once again I wrote polite letters to the
factory at Chicago, paid many dozen "green backs" over the counter,
and started off once more, this time with only thirty-five dollars in
pocket. Once again fate and the post office had been unkind. Not a
suggestion of anything was there at either of the post offices at any
of my calls thereon. Amid vague wonderings and oft repeated doubts
I promised myself a big cheque at Santa Fé, next stop. I was just
beginning to know the ins and outs of the postal service.

The Santa Fé Trail is the oldest and most interesting highway in
America. Rather should it be said that the pioneers over what later
became known as the Santa Fé Trail were the first to leave permanent
marks on routes that have since become "highways" between the
Central-Western and the Far-Western States. In the days of the ox
team and prairie-schooner, the plains and mountains were crossed by
trails, usually along the lines of least resistance, keeping as close
as possible to bases of supplies and water. Travel over the Santa Fé
Trail began about 1822, starting from Little Rock, Arkansas (pronounced
Arkansaw), and following the Arkansas River west. A few years later,
this trail was superseded by a more permanent one going west from
Kansas City (then called Westport) to "Great Bend," a base situated,
as its name implies, on a great bend of the Arkansas River, and thence
to Santa Fé by a choice of two routes. An important trade with the
Spanish population of the south-west was early developed, reaching its
zenith in the '60s. This route, the one which I followed, has now been
marked a considerable part of the way by stone monuments erected by the
"Daughters of the American Revolution" and constituted the chief inroad
from the East to the Far West. Santa Fé itself, next to St. Augustine,
Florida, is the most ancient city in America, having been founded in
1605 by Spanish settlers on the site of a "pueblo" or Indian village of
far-distant origin. Naturally, therefore, it was the centre of trade
for years numbered by hundreds, and traders from afar brought their
goods and supplies in boats up the rivers as far as navigable and then
in teams across the dreary plains and over the steep Rockies to this
one destination.

Later, in the gold-rush to California in 1849, emigrants reached San
Francisco, the "Golden Gate," via this same Santa Fé Trail, undergoing
indescribable hardships on the way, and at all times subjected to
frequent onslaughts by the hostile Indians.

The first railroads were built across the plains alongside the old
trails. The first automobile trips (and I take off my hat to them!)
naturally followed the railroads, from the necessity of keeping near
to supplies. But the motor-car of to-day frequently makes either short
cuts or detours--leading perhaps 100 or 200 miles away from the
railroad--in order to visit sections offering unusual attractions, or
places of historical interest, even when located in desert regions.

Thus, with Kansas City behind me, the journey begins to be really
interesting from an historic, if not from a scenic point of view. The
hand of modern civilization at last is seen to relax its grasp. Now,
instead of the prosaic, the conventional and the luxurious, are we to
find the unique, the heterodox and the primitive. After the tainted
breath of huge cities and the seething, crushing, maddening turmoil of
wealth and modernism are to follow the pure unbounded atmosphere of the
giant plains, the mystic call of the great mountains, the vastness, the
fearfulness and the rapture of the scorching deserts. Which shall it be
for me?

Before me lie 500 miles of perfectly flat and uninteresting country
before I leave the State of Kansas and enter Colorado. Then follow
another 200 equally flat, equally drear, to be crossed before the
Rockies loom into sight. Seven hundred miles of endless weary prairie,
stretching always, everywhere, as far as the eye can see, with never
a hill nor a dale nor hardly a tree in sight!--Nothing but boundless,
illimitable corn, wheat and prairie.

That night, after an afternoon's run of 120 miles, I rested in a
cornfield. The road had ended abruptly. An old bridge had been
demolished and a new one was about to be erected. A heap of debris
in the middle attracted my attention, and I was fortunate. Here the
road ended; there was a little chasm some thirty feet across; beyond
was the road again. Nothing for it but to turn back. Turning back is
always objectionable. I deemed that it would be less so in the morning.
That is why I wrapped myself in my mosquito net behind a hedge in a
cornfield and offered up thanksgiving.

The mosquito net--I have not mentioned it before! I purchased three
yards of it in a little store back in Missouri while waiting for the
road to dry up. I also bought a cap. Having worn no headgear since
leaving New York, I soon discarded the cap and later gave it away to a
little urchin who looked as though he needed one more than I. But the
mosquito net remained for a longer spell. Nightly was it unfolded and
wrapped around my unworthy self, and daily was it folded carefully up
again and packed into the bag once more.

I shall never forget that mosquito net. It was white. Leastways it
was when I bought it. I tried countless ways of enveloping myself in
its folds, but never with any great measure of success. The _tout
ensemble_ when struggles had subsided, with self in pyjamas surrounded
by wrappings of white chiffon on a black background (my waterproof
groundsheet) must have presented an extraordinary spectacle to the poor
birds above. No doubt they mistook me for some miscreant angel served
with an ejectment order without notice from the star-lit sky! At first
all went well. I breathed the calm midnight air unmolested. "It can't
be true," I told myself, "there is a catch in it somewhere." There
was. I discovered that whereas it was comparatively difficult for a
mosquito to get inside the net, once he did get inside it was an utter
impossibility to get him out again. One mosquito inside a mosquito net
is worth much more than two outside. He is worth at least forty!

Then I tried various stunts because, when I did get properly wrapped
up, I invariably rolled out of it in my sleep. I rigged up poles and
sticks and cut little pegs from twigs to hold the net down like a
tent. I had it stitched up the sides like a bag and wriggled into it
nightly, only to find it wrapped around my feet in the morning and my
face and arms a mass of bites. Finally, in the heart of the Rockies I
think it was, I gave it up as a bad job and resorted to the Citronella
method once again. For aught I know that old mosquito-net is still
hanging to the fence of a cow-ranch at the foot of Pike's Peak, Colo.!

Up at dawn in the morning and away. I found another road some three
miles back and continued on my way westward rejoicing. Sixty miles were
covered before breakfast. The towns and villages became very few and
far between, and Council Grove, where I enjoyed my morning repast, was
practically the first town to be encountered. I had set my mind on a
good day's run and prayed for good roads. On my map, which was said to
be the only road-map of the United States published, and was hopelessly
inaccurate and inadequate, there was a huge river, the Arkansas, a
couple of hundred miles ahead. I judged it to be about half a mile
wide. Verily, thought I, the Arkansas River shall be my resting place
to-night, and Great Bend my destination.

After a long day's ride I toiled into Great Bend at sunset. The journey
had been monotonous and the road fatiguing. I longed to stretch
my weary bones on the banks of yon mighty river and bathe in its
refreshing waters. While I was devouring my evening meal, on a little
high stool in the one and only café of Great Bend, I was consoling
myself with this prospect.

Outside, a little group of men were sitting on the pavement eyeing
Lizzie propped up against the kerb. It is the general thing to sit on
pavements in the Far West. They are much higher than those we are
accustomed to and afford adequate and comfortable accommodation for the
weary population. Often one can see a row of men sitting on the kerb
for the whole length of a "block" when the sun is in such a direction
that the sitters are sheltered by the buildings behind them. I made a
mental note: "Another good idea for importation to England." I pictured
tired Londoners sitting down in rows on the pavements of the Strand or
clustered leisurely around Piccadilly Circus chewing "shag"!

My pockets bulged with bottles of "Buckeye," an imitation root beer
sold extensively in the States (since prohibition) and alleged to have
a "kick" in it. A suspicious swelling elsewhere on my person indicated
a tin of pineapple chunks (a delight of my youth).

"Goin' far?" inquired one of my scrutineers.

"Down to the river to-night. This the right road?"

"Right slick in front of your nose half a mile away."

I came to a long wooden bridge arrangement, but could find no river.
After going two or three miles and finding no Arkansas, I returned to
Great Bend to try another road. This time I inquired at the café.

"Straight ahead, you can't miss the bridge."

"Oh, is there a river there? I didn't see one."

Back again to the bridge, but no signs of a river. Instead there was a
great stretch of white sand like a sea-beach, but with little trees and
shrubs and tufts of grass dotted here and there.

"Well, this is no Arkansas River," said I to myself, "but I'm through.
This sand looks pretty comfortable, so here goes."

In amongst the sand dunes I made my bed and never did traveller camp
in more delightful surroundings or rest in more peaceful conditions.
The stars shone out with unusual brilliancy in the heavens, and the
moon rose at the setting of the sun, enveloping all in a magic sheen
of silver. A soft cool breeze played gently over the plain and little
birds of unknown song and uncounted variety slowly sang themselves to
rest. This indeed was no night for sleep; more was it a time for quiet
contemplation of all the things that make life good and noble and
worthy of the living. How terrible, how awful it would be when I should
in the end return to the narrow beaten track of city life, and once
again be fettered to "the trivial round, the common task" that knows no
magic spell and thrills with no mystic breath. Could it ever be that
the duties that bind and numb, the needs that hamper and clog, the
tasks that chill and estrange, should once again enshroud me in their
toils? Such I suppose are the meditations of everyone who breaks away
from home to enjoy for a spell the bounties of nature and whose canopy
is the sky.

In the morning I awoke as fresh as the merry sandpipers and
waterwagtails that ran and hopped about in dozens. There was no trace
of fatigue, no thought but of the glorious day that was opening, no
regret but that every day had not brought and would not bring this
rapturous dawn.

I learned in the village that I had indeed slept in the middle of the
Arkansas River! The summer had been excessively dry and that part of
the river which, several hundred miles away, had risen boisterously in
the heart of the Rockies and had not been dried up with the heat, had
drained through the sandy bed, never to emerge again. This though was
one of many rivers that I was to meet with no water in them. Sometimes
even, I was to see fences and railways erected across would-be rivers
to prevent the cattle straying!

The farther westward I travelled the fewer became the towns.
Nevertheless, albeit they were sometimes thirty and forty miles apart,
they were all prosperous, new and inviting. Of gasoline there was
always an abundant supply at 22 cents (11_d._) per gallon. Of garages
there were enough and to spare. Indeed, it was surprising what palatial
garages were to be found everywhere. Outside each was the familiar
"Bowser" pump communicating with a 1,000-gallon tank below the pavement
from which anything from half a gallon to six gallons at a time could
be pumped up by the garage hand at one turn of the handle. A flexible
pipe with a cock at the end leads from the pump, and one's tank can be
filled in a few seconds without a drop being spilt. Not once in all my
travel through the States have I seen a petrol tin. I do not believe
they are used at all because nowhere in the States is it necessary to
travel by road with spare petrol on board, provided, of course, that
one is careful to fill up regularly at the different towns or stations
on the way. Even in the heart of New Mexico and Arizona, even in the
terrible "Death Valley" and Mohave Desert of California, stations are
found where "gas" and oil can be bought in plenty to carry one well
beyond the next to be reached.

At Larned I made a hearty breakfast from canteloupe, coffee and "pie."
Now "pie" is one hundred per cent. symbolical of America. In the States
they have attained the absolute limit of perfection in the manufacture
of pies; indeed I think it must be a "key" industry. Not only can pies
of every conceivable kind of fruit (and many inconceivable ones) be
obtained, but the cooking thereof is perfection itself.

On the road again, ever westward, ever looking forward to the day when
from the dreadful monotony of the plains the Rocky Mountains would loom
high and faint upon the horizon.

I passed a few small towns at long intervals, towns with picturesque
names such as "Cimarron," "Garden City," "Lamar," and "Las Animas." In
every case an approaching town was heralded by an unspeakable stretch
of road. With the passage of traffic of all kinds the road was ground
up into powder. Every inch of it was loose sand, sometimes a couple or
three feet deep, sand that would be impassable to any but horse-drawn
traffic. As a saving grace it was generally less deep at the edges of
the road than in the middle, and locomotion was just within the range
of possibility with frequent assistance by way of "leg-work" and with
occasional spills and crashes. The only use I had for these towns
lay in the unlimited scope for ice-cream consumption which they all
afforded. As time went on, Lizzie showed signs of further disrupture.
Gradually little noises and rattles developed and slowly her power fell
off by almost imperceptible degrees. Of course I had ample power even
at that to cover the country, which, with few exceptions, was level,
and the road, where dry, was good. I averaged no more than twenty-five,
and as there was hardly any stop to make or traffic to slow down
for, this did not mean travelling more than thirty at any time. A
good conscientious motorist, I told myself, would stop and examine
everything. I had got far beyond that stage. "Let the old crock go on
till she busts," I muttered inwardly and opened up to avoid an oncoming
thunderstorm.

Thunderstorms travel quickly in U.S.A. They get a hustle on and don't
mess about generally. There's never any doubt about it when you
see one coming. It means business; there is none of that burbling,
gurgling, gloomy overture that hangs around for hours in England
and very often comes to nothing at all. No, no. In U.S.A. you see a
thundercloud on the horizon and before you've got "George Washington"
off your lips it's on you with a crack and a bump and a splash and woe
betide any innocent motor-cyclist who is riding in his shirt-sleeves
with his jacket strapped on the back.

But that rain was good! Kansas can be hot when it likes and it's mostly
liking all the time, so that a shower-bath is a gift from the gods.
When it stopped, and fortunately before it had had time to do its foul
work on the surface of the dirt road, I arrived in Syracuse, a small
town with not much of a population to substantiate its artistic name,
and but twenty or thirty miles from the Colorado State Line. Net result
150 odd miles that day and to-morrow with luck I should behold the
Rockies. Oh, those Rockies! How I longed to see them!

The rest of the evening I spent adjusting Lizzie's tappets (they had
all worked loose, hence the noise) and eating pies and ices at every
café in the place. The night was spent in a dirty inhospitable little
inn calling itself, I think, the Broadway Temperance Hotel. Heaven help
Broadway, and the Devil take all temperance hotels! I shivered as I
compared this with the night before.

Westward once more. In an hour I crossed the State Line. Invariably
there is a large sign-board denoting this fact. "THIS IS THE STATE
OF COLORADO, THE MOST PICTURESQUE AND FERTILE STATE IN THE UNION,"
it read on this occasion. This time there was not such a marked change
in the country. It was still flat, still dismally uninteresting.
Everything looked dried up. At times the trail, which hitherto had
followed the Arkansas "River," crossed and re-crossed it by long low
creaky wooden bridges. There was still no water flowing underneath
them. "Water? That was only meant to flow under bridges," says the
confirmed toper. The Arkansas River "puts him wise" on that point!

Flagrant mistakes now appeared on the map. Roads and towns which
in reality lay on one side of the river were alleged to be on the
other. Distances became either grossly exaggerated or hopelessly
underestimated, so much so that I only expected to get to a place when
I found myself already there. If it turned out to be another place than
that I had expected--well, there, that made it all the more exciting.

Later on the trail became very dishevelled and forlorn. Great waves of
sand were piled up in ridges and furrows defying all comers. Sometimes
a benevolent signpost advised all drivers of automobiles not to risk
travelling thereon, but to follow such and such a detour which would
lead back to the road ten or fifteen miles farther on. I saw many
such notices. At first I scorned them, but the sand grew so thick and
deep that it enveloped the frame of the machine and the projecting
footboards brought progress to a standstill. For several hours I pushed
and heaved and skidded and floundered about on highways and detours and
pathways that baffle description. If I averaged ten miles an hour I was
content with that. I got through many places that passing pedestrians
swore were impassable. In short I was beginning to reduce locomotion
over American roads to a science.

At La Junta, the Santa Fé Trail swerves to the south-west towards New
Mexico, but another trail continues westward and northward towards
Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver, the three "cities" of Colorado
State, and Pike's Peak, one of the highest points of the Rockies.
I decided to leave the trail for a day or two and go sightseeing
in famous Colorado. So I continued westward, scanning the horizon
all the time for a vision of a vast and rugged mountain range. The
sight of mountains would be as balm to a sore wound; as welcome as
a spring of water in the desert; or even as the sight of land to a
shipwrecked mariner, so heartily tired was I of the endless plains and
the inexhaustible flatness and monotony of the country for the past
thousand miles.

Instead of mountains came a cloud. Soon the whole horizon was black. I
knew what that meant. It meant "laying up" for a day or two and looking
round for a good place to lay up at "right slick." But I was in the
midst of nowhere. Not a house or a shack could be seen anywhere. Even
as I scanned the country the rain came. The road was not sandy enough
for it to soak through. Instead it absorbed it greedily and changed to
mud. I rode as far as riding was practicable and then I pushed. In a
few miles I came to a little wooden shack at the side of the road near
a large dyke already swollen with rain. The shack looked as though it
had recently been thrown together with matchboarding and liberal use
had been made of tarpaulins as curtains instead of doors. I left Lizzie
in the road and went to explore.



CHAPTER XII

THE ROYAL GORGE OF ARKANSAS


There were two huts. I drew aside the tarpaulin and peered in one of
them. It was stuffy and dark and filled with beds, tables, cupboards
and piles of odd furniture and miscellaneous clothing, boots, blankets
and mattresses. In a clearing amongst the general debris sat a
middle-aged woman on the top of a trunk before a sewing machine.

"Hope I'm not intruding, but is there anywhere I can get out of the
rain until it goes off?"

From a heap of assorted oddments under my very nose came a voice, a
man's voice.

"Sure; come right in, brother. You're welcome to any shelter we can
give you. Guess you've gotten a little wet out there? Jim, go you into
the kitchen and bring a chair for this gentleman."

A pile of musty books rocked on its foundations in another corner and a
young lad of fifteen or sixteen rose as if from out of the earth.

We talked for an hour, but the storm showed no signs of abating. The
wind whistled through the tarpaulin doorway and gloomy blobs of water
dropped from the ceiling from time to time on all and sundry.

Strange to say I did not betray my nationality. I presume that by that
time I had unconsciously acquired in a small degree the language of the
race.

"You're from the East, I suppose?" queried mine hostess after half an
hour, the first words I had heard her speak.

"Oh, sure, I'm from the East, the far East--in fact, the VERY
Far East!" I replied.

"Boston?"

"You've said it," was my rejoinder. "Ever been to Boston?" I added.

"Yep, I was there I reckon fifteen fall. All I remember now was the
railway depot. What do they call it, the South Union?"

"Sure, it's the South Union all right. Why, I was born only a couple of
blocks from the South Union depot."

Miserable liar that I am, I have never been in Boston in my life.

"Fine city, Boston," interjected the male voice from below.

"The finest in the world, sir," I effused.

Meanwhile the rain continued, with not the slightest sign of abating.

"You best bring your motor-sickle under shelter and stay the night
right here," suggested the man of the house when the shadows deepened
and still the rain went on.

"I'm sure that's very good of you, sir, but I'm afraid I'd better not
trouble you any more."

"No trouble at all; we're delighted to have you; we can soon make a bed
up with a few chairs and some of these blankets."

I was only too pleased to avail myself of their hospitality and agreed.

At supper I had a chance of studying the various members of the family.
Apart from the man and his wife, there were two boys, and quite a few
more people rolled in afterwards from a source unknown to me. Supper
consisted of stewed beans, with plenty of bread and water, and more
beans.

That night I slept on four chairs in a row near the door. The two boys
were elsewhere in the gloomy darkness within. All through the night
I waged war upon mosquitoes and slapped myself vigorously for many
hours until the guerrilla warfare grew so tiring that sleep overcame
its anxiety. The mosquitoes then nibbled my face to their hearts'
content--if they have hearts, which is doubtful.

In the morning breakfast consisted of stewed beans with plenty of bread
and water, and more beans.

By lunch-time it was still raining, but slower. I stayed to lunch. It
consisted of stewed beans, with plenty of bread and water, and lots
more beans.

In the afternoon the sky cleared, the sun opened his eyes with a snap
and began his work of drying up the roads. Throughout the day I had
employed my time with giving Lizzie an overhaul. I had the cylinders
off, examined the bearings, and tightened things generally. Meanwhile I
discovered that my friends were building a house on an adjoining field.
They were doing the work alone, with the help of a few friends, who
no doubt accounted for the other partakers of stewed beans. A pile of
timber lay in one corner of the field and the foundations had already
been laid and the uprights erected.

It was well seen that the house was for themselves to live in. Never
have I seen a house grow so quickly or watched the progress of one so
keenly. Moreover the walls were not all out of the vertical or the
windows far from square as one generally gets in home-made houses (and
very often other kinds too!)

"You'd better stay and have something to eat, brother," said mine host
as I was strapping my bag on Lizzie's back in preparation to depart.
"We've only got stewed beans, but they're a mighty wholesome food."

But I had visions of apricot pie in Pueblo, thirty miles ahead, and
urged my desire to be getting on the road "right now" while the weather
lasted.

They were good folks, those house-builders of Nepesta. Not a cent would
they accept under any circumstances for their hospitality to me. They
worked hard and feared God, and every time they partook of their frugal
meals grace was said beforehand and afterwards as well, in thanksgiving
for the blessings that rewarded their toils. One could not refrain from
comparing the civilization of the West with the sordid life-scramble of
the East.

Once on the road again the despondent sort of gloom that seemed to
surround everything became a thing of the past, as gradually the
Rockies loomed up on the horizon; at first faint and mysterious
they gradually deepened in colour and sharpened in outline. What a
refreshing and soul-inspiring sight after nearly 1,000 miles of travel
across the dusty, dreary, tiring plains!

In the late afternoon a thin cloud of curling black smoke was seen
upon the horizon. This is invariably the forerunner of a western town.
Long before one actually draws near to one's destination, if that
destination be a town, it is discernible sometimes twenty and even
thirty miles away by the tufts and clouds of smoke that hang over it.
The sight is as that of a huge Atlantic liner no more than a fraction
above the horizon. One cannot discern its hidden size or form, but the
smoke from its funnels threads upwards into the heavens like a sentinel
in the engulfing vastness of the sea.

Thus does one approach a town set in the heart of a bewildering plain.
Gradually it is possible to discern here and there a chimney-stack and
sometimes the reflection of a solitary window in one of the tallest
buildings will scintillate on the distant horizon.

The busy town of Pueblo drew nigh. With a rapidly increasing population
of over 50,000 and nearly 300 factories, some of which are among the
largest steel-manufacturing plants in the States, Pueblo is known as
the "Pittsburgh of the West." But let not the reader be misled by this
title into thinking that Pueblo is miserable and gloomy and odoriferous
as is the wont of most towns of its character. Its streets are wide,
clean and well-lit with electric lamps; its buildings also are clean
and of comely architecture; there are no slums or poverty-stricken
quarters, and with the giant mountains looming in the distance Pueblo
is an ideal manufacturing town in ideal surroundings, besides being the
centre of a rich mining district.

From Pueblo, after ministering to the wants of the inner man, I turned
again westward towards Canyon City, some forty miles away in the heart
of the Colorado Rockies, in order to visit the famous Royal Gorge,
known also as the "Grand Canyon of the Arkansas," thence to return by
a large detour through Colorado Springs, another Western city like
Pueblo, and with perchance a side-trip up the automobile road that
has been cut to the summit of Pike's Peak (the highest highway in the
world), to return to the trail to the south into New Mexico.

That rise from Pueblo into the Rockies will linger ever in my memory.
Surrounded in all directions but behind with glowering mountain
ranges, the road cut across vast rolling plains and prairies that
spoke of desolation immense and wonderful. As the sun set behind the
mountains they became tinged and fired with every shade of colour,
and darkness slowly crept through the valleys and filled the air with
vague wonder and glorious contentment. In front and slightly to the
right rose Pike's Peak high above its fellows, thrusting its massive
splendour 14,000 feet and more into the ruddy heavens. An eerie feeling
of intense loneliness crept through my veins as mile after mile was
passed through naked prairie in the midst of such awful surroundings,
with never a soul to be seen. I travelled thirty miles before the
chilly breezes and the growing darkness constrained me to stop. (The
headlight was _hors de combat_; only the "dimmer" would work.) In all
that distance I saw no living thing save the tufted grass and the black
pine-trees peppered over the sides of the foothills.

When progress was no longer possible, I pulled Lizzie to the side of
the dusty road, propped up her stand, and unfolded my blanket on the
grass of the prairie at her side. Once again I should enjoy the sweet
luxury of Nature's bedchamber in the heart of Nature's best.

But Dame Nature's bedchamber is oft a chilly and inhospitable one, and
despite the invitations she tenders to all who count themselves her
lovers. "Bring your own blankets" is the one stipulation. She will
provide the rest. She will bring the magic sleep, the fairy dreams, the
golden dawn and the thrills of ecstasy as one wakes again fresh and
strong into her lovely world of health and beauty.

From rolling plains we passed to bounding foothills where the road
twisted and turned and crossed torrential streams, spanned by
picturesque stone bridges, until the delightful little town of Florence
was reached. Here came a short stop for breakfast and thence on again
towards Canyon City.

From Canyon City to the Royal Gorge has been built a wonderful piece
of road, winding and climbing into the very heart of Colorado's rugged
bosom. The gradient in places is terrific. Every ounce of power
was sometimes necessary to surmount certain stretches, and blind
=S=-bends carved from the solid face of the rocks made travelling
a danger as well as a test of skill. At every bend and every turn
some new panorama would spring to view and farther and farther away
would fade the distant horizon of the east. Whither the road led was
impossible to see. Frowning cliffs and wooded crags seemed to be the
only goal ahead. After half an hour of heavy toil we reach an opening.
There is a turn to the left, a flat plateau and a slight dip down; the
trail dies away to nothing and a sign "Royal Gorge" is announced from
a bungalow near its end. The gaunt pine-trees also end, there is a
huge gap in the earth and the plateau beyond is seen a clear half-mile
to the westward. We clamber over the rocks and boulders, carefully
and gently, where the ground has suddenly stopped, and peering down
from the brink we gaze upon a tremendous cleft in the crust of the
earth. Some 3,000 feet below we see a raging torrent like a huge white
snake lashing with a sullen roar along its tortuous path, hemmed in by
vertical walls of cold relentless granite. The rushing torrent is the
Arkansas, a mighty flood although but a few miles from its source, and
the same river whose bed 700 miles away towards its mouth had afforded
such excellent nocturnal accommodation a week before!

It is as though one is peering into the very bowels of the earth. That
this gigantic chasm has been cut out by that river which now is over
half a mile below seems almost incredible. As we gaze there is another
surprise in store. Like a tiny plaything, a train emerges from a bend
in the cliffs and with little infantile puffs of smoke crawls along the
rails which one now sees running along the narrow river bank. Clinging
close to every twist and turn the train proceeds. There is scarcely
sufficient space between the rugged walls and the surging river for the
single track. At one point the width of the ledge is but 10 yards and
the track has been built out over the water. The river dashes madly
through; the engine sways from side to side as it drags its heavy load
onward. Down there, it is said that the sky above is but a thread of
light and the stars can be seen at midday as in a mine.

One moves one's gaze and scans the rugged boulders that lie heaped and
stacked and strewn about as if but a push would suffice to send them
hurtling down into the chasm below. Here and there are stunted growths
of sage, cactus and prickly pear, or a giant fir-tree springs from a
grassy cleft in the rocks.

Retracing the trail, we find ourselves soon descending the precipitous
winds and turns that lead back to Canyon City. On the left we pass
"The Famous Sky-line Drive," which announces itself by placards here
and there as "The greatest scenic highway wonder of the world." But
a little distance from here is also "the one-day trip that bankrupts
the English language" and such beauty spots as are suggested by the
names "Hell Gate," "The Frying Pan," "Roaring Fork," "The Devil's
Thousand-Foot Slide," "Cripple Creek," "The Garden of the Gods," and
other similarly euphonious and onomatopoeic appellations.

It would be tempting to explore all these places and to see more of
Colorado and the immense fund of natural beauty which she displays
in endless variety. But impatience draws me again towards Pueblo, so
that I can once again strike the trail that leads to California. I am
already getting anxious to see the blue sea, though yet only half-way
between the oceans!

That afternoon as I paused beneath a "bowser" in Pueblo while Lizzie
was filled to the brim, I inquired the condition of the road to
Trinidad, some 100 miles to the south on the Santa Fé Trail.

"Trinidad? The worst road in America, sir!--ab-sol-oot-ly the worst
road in America, sir."

The prospect was not pleasing. There was certainly an element of
interest about it because it would be fascinating almost to see for
oneself exactly what Americans did consider a bad road. My formula so
far had been that when an American said a road was good, it was bad.
When he said it was bad, it was damn bad! But what would the "worst" be
like?

As I sped along, the sky deepened and a severe thundershower
threatened. Heavy black clouds glowered around the mountain-tops
and every moment I expected a sudden outburst from the heavens. On
my right the Rockies rose higher and higher. In the distance, but
gradually approaching, rose Blanca Peak, a dreadful, ponderous giant
amongst its brethren, its gloomy crest piercing the very vaults of the
sky and hardly visible in the sombre blackness that so often hangs
in the neighbourhood of these western mountain peaks. Now and again
a streak of lightning would flash through the heavens, and the dull
thud that followed, belated and awe-inspiring, would rumble backwards
and forwards along the valleys, reverberating from peak to peak until
finally it was lost in the depths of the firmament.

On the left spread the rolling plains as far as the eye could reach,
like as the sea stretches up to the shores of Dover whence the cliffs
rise sheer and stubborn. In front lay the road, skirting the borderline
twixt plains and peaks.

I soon came to the conclusion that that garage hand in Pueblo had
been "pulling one over me." The road was just splendid. Laid in
hard flat well-made macadam, its surface was excellent, passing all
understanding. As I sped on ever quicker to avoid the gathering storm,
the non-skid pads of the tyres hummed a merry tune. Could I be on the
right road? I asked myself once again. I must be, for in these parts
there is only one road to be taken. No others exist. There must be a
catch in it somewhere, I told myself.

An hour went by and still the thunder rushed around Blanca Peak the
Mighty, now receding from view. An occasional shower just on the edge
of the storm would hasten me on my way. Still the road was perfection
itself, and still it fringed the chain of minor peaks that runs from
north to south, the boundary of the vast plateau of over 1,000,000
square miles that includes, in those unassuming words, "The Rockies."
Another hour flew by.

And then it came, like a thief in the night, sudden and unexpected.
The smooth grey macadam vanished, as though the magic wand had ceased
its power. Instead lay ahead a villainous track in the dark brown soil
of the prairie, a track beaten with sorrow and stricken with grief,
here battered into ugly patches, there heaped into fearful ridges and
seething masses of mud and rock. It had rained. Those words alone
express a world of sin and shame, when one speaks of a trail "out
West." Here once more were the old agonies, the old discomforts,
the old tortures, the old haulings, heavings, pushings, joltings and
bruisings. The sky again became overcast. The rain began to fall
tormentingly. I had still twenty-five miles to go to the nearest town.
The sun sank lower behind the mountain ridge. The rain fell faster; if
I did not reach Walsenburg that night I should have to rest among the
prairie-dogs in the pelting rain. And what chance was there of reaching
Walsenburg before dark with no lights and at an average of six miles an
hour "all out," with only a paltry hour before dusk?

I will not attempt to describe that ride. I feel it should not be
described. "The ride that bankrupts the English language," indeed,
thought I. Many times I left the road altogether and pursued my course
whither I listed over the rough prairie. Strewn with boulders, rocks
and ugly stones, carved here and there in fantastic shapes, with
mysterious hollows and quaint prairie-dog holes, it was just possible
to scramble along. From a distance the "road" I had left looked better
and I returned to it, only to find that the prairie still looked more
enticing. How I leapt over the smaller stones and skipped round the
larger ones always intent on nothing but the few yards that were to
follow, I shall never completely remember. Again and again I returned
to the road and endured its agony for a spell, and again I swerved away
from it, my every bone shaking in its joints and my teeth rocking in
their sockets with the vibration.

Let me forget. These things are not good to gloat upon! I remember
but one amusing incident, which was but the forerunner of many more
to come. I had returned to the road for a spell. I came to a slight
dip. It was like a lake full of fluid mud where a wayward stream had
swollen with the rains and encroached upon the sanctity of the road.
"Not negotiable" was the unspoken verdict. Strange to say, the prairie
was now fenced off from the road boundary, so there was no avoiding the
coming struggle. "It's got to be done, so here goes"; slowly I dived
into the yellow mass. Just half-way the back wheel turned to jelly and
seemed to crumple up to nothing. With one big splosh the whole five
hundred-weight of us flopped gaily over into the mire. Pinned down by
the weight of the machine, the mud had ample time to soak through all
my clothing, into my pockets and down my neck. Lizzie's submersion
would have been entire instead of partial had I not intervened....
After a short struggle I ultimately succeeded in extricating my right
foot from between the brake-pedal and the engine, and heaved the bulky
mass from its repose. No sooner was this done than we slithered once
more and fell over _en bloc_ on the opposite side.

Oh, the joys of motor-cycling in Yankeeland!

I did get to Walsenburg that night. As luck would have it, the two
hotels were full. At least the desk-clerks avowed by the bones of their
saintly grandmothers that there wasn't a room left. Probably they
were moved to anxiety lest their worthy name should be soiled by this
mud-covered intruder!

I found a room after a long search at a fifth-rate "doss-house" devoid
of furniture, where the landlady demanded my money in advance before
giving me the key to my room.

Thus passed another day.



CHAPTER XIII

IN SOUTHERN COLORADO


There is only one road in the States as bad as that from Walsenburg to
Trinidad. I refer to the road from Trinidad to Walsenburg.

In spite of that it was a good road; I got through. It took endless
patience, perseverance and a morning of time to do those fifty weary
miles. The scenery was strange, almost to the point of weirdness. From
the surrounding flatness would rise sudden plateaus, with dead vertical
sides and perfectly flat tops. Even the hills and mountains where they
occurred (save in the distant Rockies) were modelled on the same plan,
rising abruptly from the plain and ascending in two, three or more
sudden steps. The effect was just as though the land architecture had
been entrusted to some aspiring cubist or futurist instead of to the
well-disciplined laws of Nature.

I do not profess to have attained much learning in the science of
geology, and speak, therefore, as one without authority. But it seemed
to me on many occasions that to study the geology of the Far West, the
English scientist would have to forget all he had ever learnt about
physical geography and start all over again in Southern Colorado.

At first I was puzzled in the extreme to see how the mountains rose
suddenly out of the great plains, without any warning almost, and
without the customary foot-hills and valleys that one would expect to
see clustering around a mountain range of several thousands of feet
in height. Afterwards I became accustomed to this unusual formation,
when I found that mountains always grow that way in the Far West, and
particularly farther on in New Mexico and Arizona. All their ranges
seemed like elongated "Wrekins" set in a plain of gigantic dimensions.

At Aguilar, half-way on the road to Trinidad, I met the first really
Mexican town. It will be remembered that all the south-western States
once belonged to Mexico and one by one they have been ceded or bought
or otherwise appropriated until Mexico now is only a shadow of its
former self. Nevertheless a large proportion of the population is
still Mexican, in spite of the continued influx of American settlers,
and consequently Mexican is spoken almost universally in addition to
English as the national tongue.

Trinidad styles itself "The industrial and commercial centre of S. E.
Colorado." With a population of something in the region of 14,000,
it stands at the base of Fisher's Peak (10,000 feet), and it is an
admirable example of the inextricable mixtures of Old Mexico and New
America in the cities of the West. I took its picture and left its
shining well-paved streets to track down my old friend, the Santa Fé
Trail.

I got one mile away from the town and then struck. The trail climbed
rapidly, skirting the Peak all the time in preparation for the Raton
Pass soon to follow, which cuts right over the Rocky Mountains into
New Mexico. That in itself was nothing. I am always game for a good
hill-climb. But I had thought better of the Santa Fé Trail. After
climbing 1,000 feet in just over a mile, it changed into the most
absurd hotch-potch of ruts and mud-heaps that ever eye witnessed, and
this for as far as one could see. The condition of the road strained
my credulity to breaking point. Getting through the far-off mud-hole
at Hume in Indiana was a child's tea-party compared with this. In half
an hour I did just 100 yards and then, after resolutely determining to
return to Trinidad and take the train, I found that to go back was as
much out of the question as to go forward. It simply couldn't be done
single-handed. To turn Lizzie round would require nothing less than a
sky-hook and pulley-blocks.

I left her standing in a huge rut in the middle of the road and
reconnoitred to see how far this appalling state of affairs continued.

Fortunately a Flivver appeared round a bend in the road ahead,
coming in the opposite direction. It heaved and swayed and bumped
and side-slipped and hiccoughed its way along. I watched it until it
finally reached the spot where Lizzie blocked the way. Then something
had to be done. The car had two occupants, both hefty-looking men, whom
I enlisted to my aid. Together we lifted and pulled and heaved and
pushed until the worst was past, and then I struggled on alone.

Farther into the mountains we travelled; higher and higher we climbed.
In places the trail was hewn out of the rugged mountain sides, and
except in a few places there was hardly room for more than one vehicle
to pass. Occasionally a "washout" would be encountered where a mountain
stream had encroached on the road and washed it away altogether.
Then would come a short detour over a gap in the bank, with the
grassy slope strewn with branches and small tree-trunks to prevent
the unfortunate vehicle sinking in and thus permanently blocking all
progress that way.

The ascent of the Raton Mountains by the Raton Pass is made amongst
some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. The trail is only
visible a few yards ahead and is lost in sudden twists and turns as
gradually the mountain slopes are devoured. On the right, almost
behind, are still to be seen the famous Spanish Peaks towering like
twins in solitude above the rest of the Sangre de Cristo range, some
forty miles away. Soon we shall be leaving Colorado State behind
us--Colorado the Glorious, the Beautiful, the Great.

It is said that "amongst all the mountain kingdoms, Colorado seems to
stand easily first in physical adornment: not even Switzerland and her
Alps offering more than a fair comparison." Mont Blanc, the highest
peak in the Alps, is 15,784 feet high, while Colorado has many peaks
lacking little of this height. The lowest depths of some of Colorado's
famous parks are higher than the average height of the Alpine Chain.

Upward we climb, amid thickly-wooded mountain tops, round thrilling
bends and tortuous precipices and over the rockiest of roads. The end
is in sight. A depression in the sky-line ahead shows where the Raton
Pass (7,620 feet to be exact) reaches its highest point and gazes
forwards into the heart of New Mexico and behind into the vastnesses of
Colorado.

A gradual bend, a sudden swerve, and then--the summit is reached.
Colorado is passed. Before us lies a great and thickly-wooded valley,
broad and deep and beautiful. Beyond lie the great plains of New
Mexico, plains so vast that in their utter defiance of limit and
dimension they beggar description. The eye could not follow the
great expanse. So immense were the distances that the earth merged
indefinitely into the sky at the horizon. Dotted and strewn here and
there were hills and mountain ranges that seemed to have sprung up so
suddenly out of the plateau to have really no connection with them.

Here I stood at the gate of another world. Before me lay a land of
mystery and romance, a land of health for body and soul; a land of
desert and sage-bush, of cactus and strange vegetation; a land of
antiquity unparalleled by any other in the world. Here at my feet lay
New Mexico and beyond, Arizona, the two States that at the same time
are the oldest and the youngest in America. Although only admitted to
the Union in 1912, their history dates from remote ages when they were
peopled by a race unknown to-day but nevertheless well advanced on the
road to civilization, a race that built cities while Babylon was as yet
unknown, and laid down irrigation systems that puzzle the engineers of
the present day.

Arizona and New Mexico, you are the pearls of great price that no human
being has ever yet valued at your true worth. When the day shall come
that man can say of you, "I have seen you in all your moods and have
discovered all your secrets," then this old earth will be a lifeless,
soulless, aimless globe, its purpose fulfilled, its course completed.

A five mile descent through the scented pine-trees brought me to
Raton, another half-Mexican, half-American town, small but modern
and well-arranged. "No more 'rooming-houses' for me," I resolved and
turned my gaze to the far-distant plains where the darkness was slowly
gathering.

Even in New Mexico, one need never go without a meal. The way to
an Englishman's heart is through his stomach (this applies also to
Americans and most human beings in general!). My heart was greatly
touched by Raton in this manner, and shortly before dusk I was speeding
on my way southwards towards Santa Fé.

Ten miles out the trail crossed a river. It must have been the Canadian
River, a tributary of the Arkansas, which it joins several hundred
miles to the east. The surrounding country was desolation and solitude
itself. Half prairie, half waste, almost desert, it was a country of
new sensations. Just to the west, from horizon to horizon, stretched
the gaunt and rugged Sangre de Cristo range, dark and threatening
always in their aspect. Not a living thing was in sight, not even a
suggestion of life. I ran Lizzie off the road to the brink of the river
and laid down my bed in the silver rays of the rising moon.

At 6.30 in the morning the sky was ruddy and the air pure with the
fresh breezes of the dawn. From minute to minute the myriad colours of
the mountains changed their tints as the sun rose higher in the Mexican
sky. I continued on my way.

The road was broad and good, but a surprise was in store. After a few
miles there appeared a dilapidated signpost where a bedraggled pathway
joined the broad highway through a gap in the fence which now ran
alongside. It bore the legend "To Santa Fé" and pointed through the
fence to the left. My first impression was that some small boy had been
playing pranks. It was inconceivable that these two ruts but a few
inches wide in the coarse green grass should lead to Santa Fé while
there, straight on, was a good broad highroad that led nowhere. It ran
clear ahead and was lost over the brow of a hill. I never found where
that road went. I have never seen it on any map and have made many
inquiries since. Some travellers, like myself, had seen that road and
wavered, but not one had gone that way and could enlighten me.

New Mexico is not a nice country in which to lose oneself. Towns
are very few, and often one can go a hundred miles without seeing a
village or meeting a soul. So in spite of the temptation I swerved
to the left and entered the field that was without corn or pasture,
following those two ruts that cut deep into the prairie soil and were
not visible more than 50 or 100 yards ahead at the most. In places the
two ruts had become too deep for further use and another pair had been
started at the side, running parallel with the original ones. When
these had worn too far another pair had sprung up, and in many places
I counted eight distinct pairs of ruts running side by side across the
prairie, each representing a distinct phase in the evolution of the
Santa Fé Trail. At any point, if one looks far and long enough, one
can find the original tracks that centuries ago were formed by the old
prairie-schooners as they journeyed westward across the plains to Santa
Fé.

The next town lay far across the plains beyond the horizon. I should
have to hurry if I were to get any breakfast, but the riding was rough.
Tufts of coarse grass and sharp stones covered the prairie and held
back the speed; here and there were the holes of prairie-dogs, who
respect no one in their choice of a site. If it pleases them to build
their front-door entrance where your favourite inter-rut strip happens
to be, well, they build it there. Their holes are generally about six
inches in diameter, the mouth being funnel-shaped. Passing vehicles
smash them in until the opening is sometimes two or three feet across.
Our friend the prairie-dog doesn't mind in the least. He continues to
live there in spite of the traffic and never a curse escapes his lips.
He is a dear little animal. One cannot help loving him. In stature
these animals have the characteristic of both a squirrel and a rabbit,
and are about a foot in length. They sit on their fat little haunches
like a squirrel, but have only a little bobbed tail like a rabbit. I
believe they are the most friendly rodents in existence, and have the
reputation of dwelling in friendship even with rattlesnakes, who never
harm them! If you surprise one when he is away from home, he watches
you, motionless, to see if he has been seen, if only a few feet from
the intruder. And when he sees that you have seen, away he runs with
his head well down and his little tail well up until he reaches his
burrow in the flat prairie. This done, he considers himself safe, turns
round, sits on his haunches and stares inquiringly at you. But if you
dare come too close he disappears in a second and is seen no more.

One cannot help laughing at the antics of these amusing little animals
as they scamper off like month-old puppy dogs. Ofttimes I have chased
one to his hole in the road and watched the anxious look on his face as
for a brief moment he turns his head before flashing into the ground
below your front wheel. No true traveller could harm one of these
innocent little beasts; they are often his only companions for hundreds
of miles.

Ten, twenty, thirty miles I travelled over the almost trackless
prairie. Occasional mud-pools barred the way, but when the trail was
unfenced, these were easily avoided. Later on fences appeared, limiting
the road from some neighbouring ranch. I judged I was getting near to
Springer.

An old shack of a two-seater car hove in sight, coming in the opposite
direction; I had an opportunity of studying it in detail as it came
close up. Naturally we both stopped. All travellers are friends in the
Far West, where distances are great and people are few.

"Guess you'd better follow us if you want to get to Springer this
week," essayed the driver.

"Why, is there any mud about?"

"Mud? There's a hole down there outside the town that we've been trying
to get either in or out of these two-and-a-half hours. Had to get some
hosses to pull us backwards out of it in the end. Gosh, I've never
seen a mud-hole like it in all my days. We kin get around another way
though, I'm told. Where you headin' for, stranger?"

"Santa Fé."

"Oh, we was expectin' to get to Santa Fé this mornin'. We're bound for
El Paso, and must get there by to-morrow."

I reflected that El Paso was in Texas on the Mexican border, some 500
miles to the south! "Well, if you don't mind, I'll come along to Santa
Fé with you, so then we can each help dig each other out of any holes
that happen along."

"Righto, glad to have your company, but we're not speed merchants like
I guess you are with that 'oss there."

"Don't make any mistake, brother. I passed the speed craze a thousand
miles back. It doesn't pay."

So we retraced our tracks, the car leading. It was shorn entirely
of mudwings and footboards to save the wheels becoming clogged or
the running boards fouling the road. On the back was strapped a
large trunk. This I found is the usual way of travel by "auto" in
the West. Seldom does one see wings on a car that is driven for any
distance from home. Running boards, if present, are generally of an
improvised variety made by planks suspended and fastened in place by
ropes around the body work. Thus the road clearance is increased and
the necessity for constant cleaning removed. By far the most popular
"machine" is the Ford. You can buy one cheap and sell it as scrap when
the journey, if a long one, is finished. Owners of large expensive
touring cars very often have a Ford as well for emergencies and for
long distance travelling. In New Mexico and Arizona I have seen scores
of huge touring cars stuck helplessly in the road and often abandoned
altogether until the seasons permit of their removal.

I followed my friends from Texas along little pathways and rough
tracks strewn with boulders, through gaps in fences, across fields and
back gardens, all, to my mind, at an alarming pace. It was only with
difficulty that I kept up with them at all, owing to the many ruts and
rocks and other obstructions that are far more hindering to two wheels
than four.

Arrived eventually in Springer, I resolved to postpone the promised
meal until later in the day.

We passed many ranches and crossed many mud-holes, some of alarming
width across. In most I managed to fall off at least once and wallowed
in the mud. Sometimes the car got so far ahead as to be lost
altogether, but after each encounter with a mud-lake I managed to make
up the lost time.

Thus passed nearly thirty miles in which I realized the utter absurdity
of two wheels compared with four. At one place I lost so much time that
I began to give up as hopeless the attempt to keep up with the car
ahead. After all, what was the use? Once out of the mire, however, the
trail became better and turned into loose sand for many miles.

Over this sand I made good progress. It was now nearly midday, and I
had visions of a meal in Wagonmound, a small village some twenty miles
away. The appetite was there all right, and as I trimmed off mile after
mile at good speed I forgot all about mud-holes and the like.

All at once the engine burst into a wild roar and Lizzie began to slow
down. What new trouble was this? A broken chain, or something worse? I
stopped as quickly as I could and proceeded to an examination of the
transmission. The chain was all right, but the engine sprocket had
almost come right off the driving shaft. The key and nut, where were
they?

For an hour I searched up and down in the sand and in the grass at
the roadside for the missing parts, but without success. The sun was
almost vertically above and its rays poured down unmercifully from a
cloudless sky. There was not a sign of water or of any living thing in
any direction.

I returned to another examination to discover whether I could remove a
nut from any other part of the machine to replace the defaulter. Not a
nut was there anywhere that at all approached either the size or the
thread required. I searched once more, wondering in how many days'
time another vehicle would pass that way, and half resolved to walk the
next twenty miles.

What! Leave Lizzie and walk! NEVER!

Another hour elapsed. I had explored all the ruts and searched every
inch of the road for half a mile back. I stopped, and wondered where
I could find water to drink. Water would be even more acceptable than
the nut and key now. I scanned the sun-baked prairie in all directions.
From horizon to horizon there was nothing but the solitary distant
mountains, and here and there a lonely parched-up hill. Truly a nice
outlook! Henceforth I would carry a water-bag with me.

I decided to return to Lizzie, push her off the road and try walking.
But just to think of coming 3,000 miles in her constant company, and
then having to forsake her! "Poor old Lizzie, she's a dear old crock,"
I murmured to myself.

What was that? I stooped down to see, and there hidden in a crack
in the hard mud was the missing key. That put a different aspect on
matters altogether. The nut would in all probability not be far away.
I set out to explore every stone and every rut and every crack. Sure
enough I found it not very far away.

In a few minutes the midsummer air was whistling past my ears once
again.

In ten minutes I found myself surveying the biggest thing in mud-lakes
that it has ever been my misfortune to negotiate. The road was fenced
in, naturally. There was a ranch on either side of it. The lake of mud
extended sideways to the very borders of the road, ninety feet wide.
The distance across was about fifty yards. I estimated that the mud and
water were waist-deep in the middle. Ridges and furrows of harder mud,
where passing cars had churned it up, in a desperate attempt to get
through, led into the sickly mass and then were lost.

"This requires a scientist, not a motor-cyclist, to cross," I averred,
and, propping Lizzie upon her stand, went to reconnoitre.

I then created a precedent in the art of crossing mud-holes by which
I benefited on all future occasions. I was wearing water-tight field
boots which came up to my knees. The _modus operandi_ was this: I would
select a likely-looking rut and walk along it as far as I could without
the water coming over the top of my boots. If it came over I went back
and tried another one. This process was repeated until I had a good
idea how the land lay. If I could possibly get through without the mud
reaching my knees, I knew I could get Lizzie through all right. This
manner of prospecting in advance I found indispensable and at the same
time perfectly successful.

I got through somehow, but prayed that I should never meet another like
THAT.

I rolled into Wagonmound about three in the afternoon a very weary
and mud-stained traveller. When I got there, it started to rain; it
naturally would.

There is but one restaurant in Wagonmound, which enjoys a population
of 200 or so Mexican-Americans. Here I learnt that there had been a
"cloud-burst" near Santa Fé but a few days back; also that the oldest
inhabitants of New Mexico had never known so much rain to fall as this
summer; also that the roads ahead were almost impassable; also that
at one place on the other side of Santa Fé and at a distance of fifty
miles between two towns there were one hundred cars stranded in the
mud and abandoned! I was proof against it all, however. I considered
that by now I could get through anywhere. I was not to be daunted
by fancy yarns and sceptical reports. Time was when I cursed the
Americans for being optimistic about their roads. That stage had long
since been passed. Now I was proof against even their pessimisms and
discouragements.

The rain stopped and I proceeded once more, determined to make a big
effort to reach Santa Fé that night, though still ninety miles away.

At Wagonmound there was a station of the Santa Fé Railway, which for a
good distance ran close to the trail. I inquired at the "Depot" what
were the chances of travelling on the track. I did not want to try
conclusions with any trans-continental trains if avoidable.

"What! Ride in the track!" ejaculated the line-master. "You can't do
that!"

"Oh, I guess I can if I'm careful," was my response.

"Waal, I jest guess you _can't_, my friend," was his rejoinder. "I'll
have you arrested if you try to work that stunt."

Argument was useless. "D'ye think I want to damage your bloomin' old
track?" I asked him heatedly after much discussion. We settled the
matter finally by my tendering the information that I would ride up
and down his track all day long if I wanted to (not much fear of such
a desire developing!) and if he liked he could "write to _John Bull_
about it"!

The humour of the situation was lost upon him.

"You'll get shot," was his reply, whereat we parted.



CHAPTER XIV

NEW MEXICO


I set out from Wagonmound with a light heart and a heavy stomach.

The road ran parallel with the rail for a mile, then crossed over by a
level crossing and continued parallel on the other side. I did not get
far. No doubt there had been unusual rain; great fields were now lakes
with the grass bottom not always visible; little streams, normally no
more than the size of a small spring, were now swollen rivers. These
crossed the road in places. The road was fenced in. And thereby hangs a
tale.

After precisely half an hour I found myself just three miles advanced,
and in the midst of a hopeless chaos of sun-dried emaciated mud. I
had "explored every avenue" of the road, but found none possible
of negotiation. Bit by bit I dragged Lizzie back and returned to
the level-crossing. Come what may I would try the track. Even if
the sleepers shook my very bones to powder it would be better than
eternally forging through the mud of New Mexico.

On each side of the road where it crossed the rails the track was
guarded by a satanic device in the form of spikes and knife-edges
skilfully arranged and extending to a distance of several yards. The
function of these was evidently to prevent cattle and other animals
straying on the line. Traversing these was no easy task. If one did
not ride on top of the spikes, one's tyres wedged in between the
knives. Once past, the rest seemed easy. But things are not what they
seem, especially on railroad tracks. The sleepers were not ballasted
and were anything but level. There was no room outside the track, for
it was steeply banked, and the sleepers projected beyond the rails into
space. At every few hundred yards the track ran over a brick bridge
spanning a bog or a stream. The bridge was just the width of the rails
apart. But when it came to riding--ugh! As every sleeper was passed,
the wheels fell momentarily into the intervening space between it and
the next, and a series of sudden, sharp shocks was hammered through
Lizzie's poor frame as each sleeper in turn was struck by the front
wheel. The faster I went the quicker and smaller were the shocks, and
above a certain speed it was quite tolerable running.

I was just getting up a comfortable speed when I imagined I heard the
whistle of a locomotive behind. This was discouraging and certainly
unexpected. I stopped quickly and looked back. Sure enough there was
a train coming, but it was easily half a mile away. To go forward in
the hope of out-pacing it would be useless. There was not even room to
get off the track, for once I got down the steep bank, I knew it would
be next to impossible to get back again, or to get anywhere, for that
matter.

Neither was there room to turn round and go back.

More than ever before did it appear to me that discretion was better
than valour.

So I commenced to push Lizzie backwards to the level crossing, prepared
to roll sideways over the bank if I found the train got there first.

I was just beginning to feel sure about winning the race, and judged
that I should get there with a good hundred yards to spare. I reached
the crossing, but as naturally as one would expect, the back wheel
wedged tight between the knives of the cow-guard.

Would she budge? No.

As I struggled and heaved (I could not look on and see Lizzie go west
in such an absurd fashion), the "California Limited" bore down upon me.
Fortunately American trains do not always go so fast as they might; at
any rate, not so fast as one thinks they should when one is travelling
in them.

With a final desperate lunge, Lizzie yielded to my efforts and came
unstuck. No time was lost in getting out of the way. Fifteen seconds
afterwards the train rolled by at a modest thirty. She had evidently
not got properly under way since her stop at Wagonmound.

I returned to the mud-hole like a smacked puppy with its tail between
its legs, and reflected on what might have been.

But it was no use. I stuck again.

This time I was well armed with refreshments. I had bought six bottles
of a ginger-pop concoction from the last village. I carried one in each
pocket and the other two as reserves, only to be used in case of great
emergency, enveloped in the blanket strapped on the carrier.

I drank one bottle at the close of every engagement with the road. But
after an hour I was still no farther ahead. I reclined on the bank and
waited for something to turn up.

Fact revealed itself stranger than fiction once more. Something turned
up very speedily. It came in the form of a "Marmon" touring car,
bearing a Californian number-plate. I had taken the precaution, of
course, to leave Lizzie in the right spot, so that no disinclined
passer-by could get through if he wanted to. After all, one musn't
RELY on everyone playing the Good Samaritan.

The two occupants of the car were courtesy itself. They not only
assisted me in lifting Lizzie over the _pièce de résistance_, but also
showed considerable interest in me. Out here, where friendship between
motorists is much more marked (almost as a matter of necessity), there
is seldom any need for anxiety, and it is remarkable how potent a
thing is this roadside courtesy. Practically every town I stopped at
afterwards had heard of the strange traveller who was coming along on a
10 h.p. motor-cycle, and awaited my arrival with interest.

"Had a fella in here on his way to California told us about you," said
one garage hand, in the heart of Arizona. "Said you'd be here sooner or
later."

"Oh yes? And how long ago was that?" I queried.

"Um--guess well over a couple of weeks ago." (The word "fortnight" is
unknown in America.)

Such little incidents happened many times, and these, coupled with the
amazing reports that had been circulated by the Western Press about
me since that inflammatory article on "Roads," etc., in the _Kansas
City Star_, had generally managed to achieve for me quite a notorious
reputation in most towns long before I ever rattled into their midst.

It was now nearly fifty miles to the next town. I pushed ahead as fast
as I could to reach it before dark. Progress, however, was slow. In
places where the road was not fenced, I rode upon the rocky prairie.
It was, for the most part, a considerable improvement, and one could
ride around the bogs and mud-holes instead of crossing them.

Never had I been in such wild and barren country. It was quite beyond
hope of cultivation in most places, being strewn with rough stones,
rocks, and boulders, and only sparsely covered with meagre-looking
grass which, in its efforts to keep alive at all, had to arrange itself
in small tufts dotted here and there in order to derive the maximum
nutriment from the scanty, unfruitful soil. The country itself changed
from flat to hilly as the Sangre de Cristo range once more drew nearer.
When it became hilly, great rocks projected through the surface of the
trail, which seldom or never swerved to avoid them.

The trail itself resolved itself later on into no more than a mere
medley of ruts and grass-bare strips of all widths, running and
crossing each other at all angles and in all directions. There was
no time to look around and enjoy the wild scenery or study the
ever-changing sky-line; it was "eyes on the road" all the time. It
was quite impossible to dodge more than a fraction of the rocks and
boulders, and one was always abruptly brought back to stern reality,
if for an instant one's thoughts diverged to other things, by a sudden
shock from one's front wheel, or a sickening crash on the bottom or
side of the crank-case.

It was a slow job, and travelling was more in the line of a mountain
goat than a motor-cycle. I was ultimately satisfied if I could average
eight or ten miles an hour.

After thirty miles of this, I was surprised to discern ahead something
which looked like a caravan. There were two vehicles, apparently
joined together, but with no visible means of locomotion. Nevertheless
they moved slowly. I judged that some enthusiast of the "See America
first" order had converted a Ford into a travelling home, or maybe
a wandering tribe of gipsies had become sufficiently modernized to
appreciate the benefits of auto _v._ horse transport.

I caught them up and stopped to have a chat. Both sides seemed curious
at the other's means of locomotion, and wanted to know the why and the
wherefore.

The team, I found, consisted as I had surmised of a Ford chassis, on
which had been skilfully built a caravan body. Behind was a trailer,
on two wheels, and of construction similar to, but smaller than, the
other. Evidently one was the parlour, kitchen, and store-room, and the
other the bedroom.

The driver stopped his engine and jumped down.

"Good day, sir; how do?" I inquired.

"Very fit, thanks; you the same? How in Heavens'n earth d'you manage to
get along on THAT?"

"Mostly by plenty of bad language and good driving," I returned.
"And what in the world are you doing in this benighted place with
THAT?"

"Oh, I'm goin' west...."

"Shouldn't be at all surprised at that!"

"I'm bound for somewhere in Arizona. Come from Chicago. Fed up with
the life there, so I'm out for a change. Looking for a likely spot to
settle down where there's plenty of fresh air."

"What! You've come all the way from Chicago on THAT?" I
inquired incredulously.

"Sure enough."

"How long has it taken you?" (I was already becoming sufficiently
Americanized, the reader will observe.)

"Best part of three months."

"How many with you?"

"Wife and two children. Here they are."

"Well, I wish you luck, brother; but it doesn't strike me that the
roads are ideal from a furniture-removing point of view, so to speak."

"Roads?" (Here he waxed furious: I had touched a sore spot.) "Don't
talk to me about roads. The gor-dem Government oughta a' bin shot that
provided roads like this. Just think that across a civilized country
like America there isn't a dem road fit to drive a cow on to!"

"Ah, I've thought that way myself; but there's a fallacy in the
observation, old man."

"What d'ya mean?"

"Just this--who told you America was a civilized country?"

Long pause.

"Aye, you've said it," and he relapsed into a stony silence.

I bade him farewell, and left him scrambling slowly over the rocks and
mounds, while the caravan rocked from side to side and jerked its weary
way along. I reflected also that, after all, THAT was the way
to see the country.

At dark I was but a few miles from Las Vegas. Once again heavy clouds
rolled over the sky. Rain began to fall. My spirits did likewise. I
wondered whether it was a habit. But what cared I for rain or mud? By
now surely I was proof against them. I struggled on. And ultimately I
got there.

Las Vegas is a fair-sized town. In order of merit it is the second
largest in New Mexico. The first is Albuquerque and the third is the
capital, Santa Fé. There are no more towns of any size in New Mexico.
Including native Indian villages there are, in addition, in the whole
of New Mexico, some seventy or eighty small towns and very small
villages, making the total population of the whole State about 50,000.
When it is understood that New Mexico is about four times the area of
England, the reader will be able to form an idea of the sparsity of its
people.

Now most people would have predicted that immediately on my arrival in
Las Vegas I would have sought out the best hotel and consumed a big
square meal. I did no such thing. I went to the movies instead.

Then I returned and went to bed, half wondering whether to standardize
the one-meal-per-day experiment for future requirements.

In the morning it was not raining, but all the time until midday it
showed signs of just commencing.

At midday I became impatient and started out for Santa Fé. I had just
left the outskirts of the town when it did finally and irrevocably
decide to rain after all. I continued for five miles, when a Ford car
hove in sight. "Here goes for a chat and some straight dope on the
subject of roads to come," said I to myself and stopped. The Ford
stopped also. It had two occupants, a man and his wife. They both
looked bored, so we made a merry party.

"What's the road like back there?" I inquired.

"Mighty rough--mighty rough. They get better the further east we come."

"Do you think I shall be able to get through to the coast?"

"Well, it's mighty hard riding, but I guess you ought to be able to get
through. Oh, but stay a minute, there's a big wash-out before you get
to Santa Fé--big stone bridge washed clean away with the floods, not a
trace of it left. I don't know much about motor-cycles, but I guess you
could get across the river all right. You'll want to be careful though.
There was a whole cartload of people washed down the river last week,
so they say; all of 'em went west, horse and cart and all!"

"Ah well, that'll add a bit of excitement to the trip. I'm good at
crossing rivers."

"Ugh! Guess you'll not be looking out for any excitement time you've
gotten to Santa Fé!"

I was particularly interested in these people's domestic arrangements.
Without a doubt I have never seen an ordinary touring car, much less a
Ford, equipped and arranged in such excellent style. They carried with
them a portable stove on which could be cooked any dish they required.
They carried ample supplies of vegetables, fruits, eggs, butter, bacon,
bread and tinned goods, and even tanks of fresh water for culinary and
drinking purposes. This is certainly a wise precaution, because it is
never safe to drink water from even the most tempting of rivers in the
West. Furthermore, they had two collapsible beds, which could be laid
upon the top of the seats from back to front, and which were fully
equipped with feather mattresses and blankets! One would think that
all this paraphernalia would have taken up an enormous amount of room.
Not so. Apart from the fact that the back part of the car was neatly
covered in, there was not the slightest sign that the car was anything
but an ordinary Ford with a lot of luggage in the back.

I bade them farewell only on the strict condition that if the rain
continued I should return and share their supper. They would not be far
away, they told me. The _plat du jour_ was salmon and Mayonnaise sauce,
above all things!

Still, it is a habit of mine never to go back, however tempting the
circumstances. At intervals I passed a few Mexicans driving teams of
horses, and once more I was alone with Lizzie. As a compensation for
the drizzling rain, the scenery was perfect. The trail had now swerved
into rugged, mountainous scenery, thickly wooded, wild and picturesque
in the extreme. It was almost ridiculous to watch how the narrow
trail dodged in and out of the trees, cutting across small forests of
cedar, aspen, and pine, curving to right and left round some awkward
prominence, now dipping down suddenly into a little valley, and then
darting up over hilly slopes all strewn with loose rocks and broken
with jutting crags.

We were approaching the Pecos, the haunts of the bear and
mountain-lion, and the headquarters of numerous tourists and campers
attracted thither by the fine fishing, shooting, riding, and
mountain-climbing.

Occasionally, as one took a sudden swerve around the face of a
projecting hill, one would see, away there in the valley beyond,
a Mexican village set back from the road, and would marvel at the
strange sight of the square mud buildings, congregated together in such
unique and regular formation. The brick-red hue of the houses was so
near to that of the surrounding country as almost to hide the village
altogether from view, even though it was right "under one's nose."

My first impression of a Mexican village was one of amazement. To think
that several hundred people can live together in those single-storied
mud huts in peace and comfort, with ne'er a sheet of glass in the
windows and seldom a door within the door-posts--well, it was absurd!
But my second impression absorbed the first entirely, and was one
of appreciation for the primitive beauty of these native dwellings.
It is a beauty that lingers in one's memory, a beauty that lies in
natural flowing forms, defying the unrelenting sharp corners of modern
architecture. And I have seen many "adobe" houses in New Mexico that
would be far more comfortable to live in than many that have sheltered
my bones in Europe!

I was meditating thus when the sound of rushing waters reached my ears.
Sure enough, the road ended abruptly, like a cliff, and continued in
like fashion on the opposite side. Between, and several feet below,
swirled the River Pecos. It was still swollen with rain from the
mountains, although it had evidently been much higher recently.

Not a soul was about. There was a solitary Mexican house on a hill
to one side. I contemplated the river in silence, save for the sound
of its waters as they swirled over the rocky bed and now and then
dislodged a weighty boulder.

To the right two rickety planks had been erected, supported partly
by ropes and partly by vertical props from rocks in the river, for
pedestrians to cross. I wondered what pedestrian would find himself in
these parts!

To the left, a detour had somehow been dug at an angle of about 20
degrees to the water's edge. In the opposite bank a similar detour
had been dug, but at an angle of about 30 degrees. Evidently several
cars had already passed through the river that way. But a car is not
a motor-cycle. I meditated. A car on four wheels could not only hold
its own better in the middle of the torrent, but could also get up
the opposite bank easier. One thing was quite certain--even if I got
through the river all right, it would require a superhuman effort to
push the machine up the steep, greasy incline on the opposite side.

I reconnoitred up and down the river bank in the hope of finding a
better place to cross, but the quest was in vain. The banks grew
steeper and higher and the river-bed wider and rougher than ever. I
returned to Lizzie and said a prayer for her. Then I took off my tunic
and removed the bag and blanket from the carrier.

I judged that it would be expedient to rely upon momentum as far as
possible, as the engine would certainly not run for long under water,
so, starting the engine once more, I put in the bottom gear and charged
down the greasy slope into the river.

There was a tremendous hiss, and a cloud of steam went heavenwards.
The engine stopped long before I reached the middle, and the smooth
nature of the loose rocks that formed the river-bed was treacherous
for two wheels. There was nothing for it when the engine stopped but
to dismount quickly and push. When I reached the middle, the water was
up to my waist, and it took most of my strength to keep the machine
upright and hold it against the force of the river, which swirled
around the cylinders and washed up against the tank. I managed to avoid
being washed away, however, thanks to the great weight of the machine,
and got her to the opposite bank.

It was a relief to be out of the water, but the task still remained
of climbing up the bank. I exerted all my strength, but the slope was
so greasy that neither my feet nor the wheels would grip on anything.
Twice or thrice I got it half-way up, only to slither down to the river
again _tout ensemble_. Then I tried the expedient of wedging a huge
stone under the back wheel and pushing an inch or two at a time. But it
was no use. The grease was impossible. I laboured with it for a quarter
of an hour.

I was just on the point of giving it up after we had all slid down to
the bottom once again, when a huge Mexican appeared on the scene. He
was evidently the owner of the house on the opposite bank, and looked
hefty enough to lift a tram.

We pushed with our united effort. We slipped and slithered and wallowed
about, but we got to the top. I breathed a sigh of relief, rewarded the
Mexican liberally, and walked across the plank to bring my tunic and
luggage.

Lizzie had never been so clean since the day she came out of the
crate. Every speck of mud and dirt had been washed clean away, and her
pristine beauty was revealed once again. It was an hour's task to dry
the carburettor and the magneto and get the engine running. It was
getting dark when I got going again. The rain had stopped, but the mud
was terrible. Every half-mile I had to stop and poke it out of the
mud-guards with a screwdriver.

Eventually, just before dark, I reached the tiny Mexican village of
Pecos, called after the river in the locality. It consisted mainly
of a general store and "rooming-house" for the benefit of stranded
travellers. A rooming-house, by the way, is a kind of boarding-house
but with no accommodation for meals.

At Pecos I was surprised to see an Indian motor-cycle and side-car
"parked" on a strip of green, which in generations to come would be
the _plaza_ or square. Examination revealed it to be a most remarkable
machine. It was equipped with tool-boxes galore at every available
place and, strange to remark, there was a small emery wheel mounted
skilfully on the top tube and driven by a round belt from a pulley
on the engine shaft. There was also a small hand-vice clipped to the
frame, and numerous other small tools and fitments, which, to say the
least, were not usually found in the equipment of a motor-cycle.

"Well," I said to myself, "if all this paraphernalia is required to get
a motor-cycle across to the coast, I'm in for a rough time."

But I was relieved to find that it was the property of a tinsmith
who, out for a holiday, combined business with pleasure, and repaired
people's tanks and pots and pans wherever he went! In this way he not
only defrayed his travelling expenses, but made a far better income
than he used to get in his home-town in Ohio.

He was a tall, burly-looking chap, and greeted me with effusion. In
like manner did I welcome him. The sight of another motor-cyclist
removed my worst apprehensions.

"Strike me pink!" quoth I, "I thought I was the only madman in this
part of the world!"

He glanced at my number-plate.

"Gee, brother, put it right there. I wuz beginnin' to think I'd never
see another motorsickle agin; you goin' to the coast?"

"That's where I'm heading for, but of late I'm not so sure about
getting there as I was when I left New York."

"Oh, boy, yew'll git there all right if yew've come this far--I said
it; but say, there's some smart bits o' travellin' to do ahead on yer!"

"What? Is it worse than what I've passed?"

"Waal, I've bin there an' got back--travellin' with the missus
here--an' I tell you, the road gets better the further east I come.
And what's more'n that, brother, yew've got some mighty warm times
ahead before you see California--like goin' through Hell, it is. Wait
till you find yourself in the middle o' the Mohave Desert with the
sun beatin' down at 130 in the shade, and no shade--no nothin' except
prickly pears and funny-lookin' cactuses and a bit of sage-bush here
and there. Say, boy, wait till you see piles o' bones and carcasses
by the score lyin' at the side o' the road, an' yew'll begin to think
it's warm, all right. Whatever you do, boy, take water with yer. Yew'll
drink GALLONS of it!"

"How long have you been here, then?" I asked.

"Nigh on a couple o' weeks, brother. We've bin waitin' fer the rain to
clear off."

Truly a bright prospect.

I slept well that night, in spite of the fact that my day's mileage was
only thirty, and awoke to find the sky clear and promising.

I spent the morning in tuning Lizzie and making minor adjustments
and preparation. I commissioned my tinsmith friend to make me a new
accumulator box, my own having become entirely disintegrated with
the vibration. For 1,000 miles it had been held together with straps
fastened tightly round it to the frame.

The distance to Santa Fé was only twenty-five miles, so I judged I
should be able to reach it that day.

Those twenty-five miles took four hours. I will not attempt to
describe those four hours. They were filled to the brim with mud,
rain, wash-outs, and bridgeless rivers. In many places there were
great "washes" of sand brought down from the hill-sides that nearly
completely obliterated the trail as it struggled across the mountains.

It was a very weary motor-cyclist indeed who rattled into Santa Fé at
5.30 that afternoon. And that motor-cyclist had quite made up his mind
to have a few days' rest before anything else happened his way.

With a deep sigh of relief I leant Lizzie up against the pavement
opposite the "Montezuma Hotel." With heavy, aching limbs and sodden,
mud-stained clothes, I walked towards the door.

It opened ahead of me.

"Ah! how do you do, Captain Shepherd? We've been expecting you for over
a week. Come right in. We know ALL about you. Here, James,
take Captain Shepherd up to his room at once. No, don't bother to say
anything. Just go and have a good hot bath."

It was the voice of an angel that spoke!



CHAPTER XV

SANTA FÉ


Santa Fé is the most delightful of places. It has a charm all its
own. It is small, quaint, and intensely old. It is far removed from
other American towns--just as far as west is from east. It represents
the quintessence of New Mexico, and at the same time--so it is
alleged--sets the standard of art in America.

The first words of a mediocre Easterner when he enters the _plaza_ of
Santa Fé are "Heavens'n earth! what kind of a hole have I struck now?"
But if he has a soul underlying that eastern veneer of his, if he
has an appreciation for art and beauty in architecture unimpaired by
familiarity with gigantic skyscrapers, he will repent those words. His
disdainful grin as he first catches sight of the Art Museum and sees
an edifice of mud with ne'er a corner that could be called sharp, will
fade slowly from his face, and once he has recovered from the shock of
the "sudden uniqueness" of everything, his look will turn to one of
wonder and admiration.

Santa Fé is small. It contains no more than 6,000 inhabitants--a
curious mixture of Mexicans, Indians, and Americans. Its population,
moreover, is at a standstill. As the capital of a State of 160,000
square miles, it seems ludicrous, until one reflects that there are but
50,000 people in the whole country. Of Spanish origin, it is laid out
in Spanish style, with the _plaza_ or public square in the centre.
Around the _plaza_ are arranged most of the more important buildings.
These, with few exceptions, follow closely the "adobe" architecture
of the "Pueblo" Indians, combined with the architecture of the later
"Franciscan" Missions that were instituted by the Spanish Friars, who
in the early days of colonization penetrated far into the continent.

In the forefront of every march and every exploration there was always
the brown-robed Franciscan, bearing along with his crucifix the trowel
and the book. To convert, to build, and to teach--these were the
self-imposed tasks to which he consecrated his life. Especially do we
honour him as a builder. Living among a passionate people, who resented
the intrusion of strange gods among their own, often surrounded by
cruel and relentless foes, the type of his structures was determined
by the conditions of his existence. There must be a church in which to
preach the new religion, a convent in which to live, and along with
these, a school in which he might give instruction. These must be
connected and compactly placed to serve as a fortress against present
enemies; and they must be massive, to withstand the ravages of time.
There were eleven such churches in New Mexico alone prior to the
landing of the _Mayflower_--and more than fifty others were established
during the century which followed.

This is the only type of architecture that can be referred to as truly
"American," saving perhaps the unenvied skyscraper of the East. This
latter, however, belongs to no school and knows no creed; it is not
indigenous to the soil or produced by environment, native material, or
climate. Instead, it defiles the heavens and cuts the landscape into
futuristic nightmares of edge and angle.

By far the choicest flower of this renaissance style is the New
Art Museum at Santa Fé. Recently completed, it is admired by all,
architects and laymen alike. It embodies the designs of six of the
ancient Spanish Missions, three centuries old, some of which have now
disappeared. The others are fast decaying with the ravages of time.
The outlines of the Museum are plastic, smooth, and flowing, rising
in curves and terraces, without stiffness, sharpness, or repetition.
There is a noticeable lack of symmetry, contrasting so much with the
style of the Californian Missions. Consequently, there is a different
composition and an added charm with every new position or change
of aspect. Inside are paintings and sketches of Indian, Mexican,
and desert life and scenes, specimens of native handiwork, and an
exhaustive library.

Across the road, on the opposite corner, is the Governor's Palace, the
oldest governmental building in the States. Its appearance would in
modern eyes hardly justify the term "Palace." It is a very unimposing
building of native architecture but contains relics, trophies, and
works of art brought from all corners of the Western world. Within its
adobe walls are housed prehistoric remains of the extinct civilization
that thousands of years ago thrived in Western America.

[Illustration: THE ART MUSEUM AT SANTA FÉ.]

[Illustration: THE OLDEST HOUSE IN AMERICA, AT SANTA FÉ.]

But not only the public buildings of Santa Fé are of Pueblo
construction. Many of the latest private edifices, both residential and
commercial, are of this strange architecture. The offices and works of
the "Santa Fé Water and Light Company" give one the impression of its
unique application to business buildings. But for sheer delight give
me the private dwellings. It is beyond my power to convey an adequate
impression of the soft beauty of one of these exquisitely-designed
houses, with its smooth-flowing profiles, its shady "patio," open-air
bathing pools and well-planned garden. One must go and see to
understand and feel the charm of it all.

But from the Mexican houses as residences Heaven preserve me! Seldom do
they boast more than one story; the roof is flat, and very often grass
and weeds are found thriving thereon. The "adobe" walls are recovered
from year to year throughout the ages as the hand of Time and the
ravages of weather work their destructive way. It can almost be said
that a Mexican house never grows old. The sun-baked mud that forms
its walls withstands the weather to an extraordinary extent. There is
a little house in a little street in the outskirts of Santa Fé, now
uninhabited, from whose roof rises a notice-board: "This is the oldest
house in America," it reads. It was supposed to have been built over
250 years ago.

The citizens of Santa Fé are not progressive. The climate is against
them. They do not run any risk of over-exertion; a considerable time
is spent in eating ices, drinking cold concoctions, and lounging about
the _plaza_ in the early hours of the afternoon. Here it was that I
developed this Western habit. In almost every Western town there is a
central square shaded with many trees, or palms in the hottest places.
The good citizen and the weary traveller alike are welcome here. They
lie about on the grass, or sit on their toes as only a Westerner knows
how. Thus pass the blazing hours. It is a treat to find oneself away
from the eternal hustle and bustle of city life and in the midst of
languid, easy-going freedom. I had several photographs that I took to
the drug-store to be developed and printed.

"Shall I call in to-night for them?" I said.

"To-night? Why, We won't be able to get them through for four days," he
replied, amazed at my ridiculous presumption.

"But in New York they develop and print in one day only. Surely you're
not behind New York?"

"Oh, we don't do things like that in this part of the country, friend;
you've made a big mistake. Nobody hurries in New Mexico!"

By dint of special pleadings, I got the photographs in three days. They
were nearly all ruined with having been hurried!

For three days I created quite a furore in Santa Fé. The news of
my doings and misdoings was published daily in the _Santa Fé New
Mexican_ during my stay. I evidently afforded just the right kind of
newspaper fodder that New Mexico wanted. My fame had spread all the
way from Kansas City long before I actually fell upon the anxious
population. My article on Roads, etc., was reproduced immediately after
its publication in Kansas, together with several caustic editorial
comments. Here is one example:--

     "SEES AMERICA BY COW-PATH."

     English Warrior gets little rest touring America by Motor-cycle.

     "Roads? What roads? I haven't seen any roads. I have been
     following a place where cows had been walking...."

Here is another heading to a two-column "article":--

     "COW-PATHS"--and not roads in America:--Verdict of British Royal
     Airman here on Motor-cycle.

And again (this headed a quarter-page "Report").

     "BALLOON"--Only way to get over New Mexico roads, declares British
     Aviator.

I was pounced upon immediately after my arrival. No sooner was I
settled down in a good steaming hot bath (oh, joy untold!) than the
telephone bell in my room rang. I let it go on ringing for two or three
minutes. It would not stop. I jumped out and lifted the receiver.

"A reporter is here to see you, sir."

"Och, Hell! Tell him I'm having a bath," and I banged the receiver down
and plunged again into the tub.

In a minute there was a knock at the door. "No use trying to shake off
an American reporter," I told myself.... "Come in!"

The result appeared in next morning's paper--not the result of
MY observations, be it noted, however. Amongst other
statements the following was laid to my charge:--

     "In my opinion the old Prairie-Schooner is far superior to a
     motor-car (for travelling in New Mexico). If you can't get a
     schooner, try horse-back travel. I really believe some horses
     could get through the mud and dodge the boulders. (It was almost
     funny there!)... But the ideal form of transportation over these
     United States is a big dirigible, say 700 ft. in length, modelled
     on Great Britain's R.34. (It had just recently crossed the
     Atlantic, hence the introduction.)... I might have suggested the
     use of an aeroplane, but I have been told two aviators got stuck
     in Santa Fé last winter owing to the deep snow in the environs. So
     then, after seeing your roads, I should recommend the R.34 type of
     machine in which to travel...."

Suffice it to say that I never mentioned Prairie-Schooners, dirigibles,
or aeroplanes! We talked (or rather our friend the reporter did) about
the many notorieties that had passed through Santa Fé of recent years,
and the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff some 500 miles away.

Every day during my stay our friend the reporter called in at my
hotel. Every day appeared in the press a lengthy report of an alleged
interview.

What an interminable worry it must be to newspaper editors of the West
to provide adequate copy for their hungering readers!



CHAPTER XVI

THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY


My stay in Santa Fé was a pleasant one. At the Post Office I found
a few letters and some money, the former forwarded from Cincinnati,
and the latter from Washington (it had been cabled there two months
before). On the morning of the fourth day my weary frame was
sufficiently rested to warrant my continuing once more. I bought a
two-gallon water-bag in preparation for the 700-mile desert journey
ahead, and once more set out westward. A crowd of interested citizens
witnessed my preparations outside the hotel, plied me with questions
as to how far I was going, how long it would take, and how old I was,
and finally bade me farewell as Lizzie burst into a roar, and we moved
sadly, if noisily, away.

The next town was Albuquerque, some sixty or seventy miles ahead. The
road in between lay over a barren wilderness of sand and prairie. The
blazing sun poured down upon it fierce and unrelenting; nowhere was
there a sign of any living thing. Hardly a hill or a swelling relieved
the monotonous flatness of the trail. In the distance, on my right,
rose rugged mountain ranges suddenly out of the trackless plains.

After twenty miles appeared La Bajada Hill, crossing the trail at
right angles. There was not much climbing to be done, but going down
the other side was a different matter. It seemed that a great "fault"
or outcrop had appeared in the plain, making it much lower on the
one side than the other. No less than thirty-two acute hairpin bends
conducted the trail down the precipitous slope. The gradient in places
was terrific. At the bottom was a cemetery!

Here and there we crossed the sandy wash of a one-time river, leaping
over bumps and boulders and picking the road as well as possible.
Occasionally a wooden shack was passed, with a few dirty-looking
Indians hanging around: Indians dressed not in native garb but in
pseudo-modern style. The only things that betrayed them were their
faces and lank dark hair. He that goes to the West and expects to see
the landscape decorated with Indians dressed in multicoloured garbs of
picturesque pattern, is doomed to disappointment. The first impression
of a modernized native is disheartening if one has lingering thoughts
in one's mind left from childhood's days when one read with ceaseless
delight of stalwart Indians with huge muscles and painted bodies
galloping along, bow and arrow in hand, on a fiery white mustang in
pursuit of an unfortunate "pale-face."

Ah, no!--_Nous avons changé tout cela!_ The Indian as a rule is
not stalwart, and decidedly not picturesque. Having had the gentle
arts of civilization thrust upon him, and being naturally of a lazy
disposition, he is content to loaf around chewing shag and disfiguring
the landscape generally with his presence.

As Albuquerque was approached, things looked more flourishing. The land
was cultivated where possible, and in places corn and wheat appeared.

It is very strange to find a prospering city in the midst of such
desolate surroundings as Albuquerque has. It came as a pleasant
surprise to me to see the electric trams, the wide streets and the
clean modern buildings. I was puzzled to know just what it was that
kept the place going. Albuquerque, however, although the largest town
in the State, has only 10,000 or so inhabitants, and is the nucleus
of a very extensive ranching district which undoubtedly largely
constitutes its _raison d'être_. I left it rather sadly, because, with
the exception of Flagstaff some 500 miles away, I should not meet
another town of anywhere near its size until I reached the Pacific
Coast.

Shortly after leaving Albuquerque the trail crossed a very wide shallow
muddy river--the famous Rio Grande. It was spanned by a low wooden
bridge which creaked and rattled in its planks as we rumbled across
it. We saw quite a lot of the Rio Grande and got to look upon it as
a friendly sort of river. That is not to be wondered at, because in
a wilderness that is next to being called a desert one can become
attached to anything that has life or movement, even if it be a muddy
stream! Probably in consideration of the feelings of weary travellers,
but for no other apparent purpose, the trail from time to time crossed
and re-crossed the same old river with the same old friendly wooden
bridges until finally, eighty miles farther on, it was left to wander
southward unmolested through the plains and deserts of New Mexico and
Texas into the Gulf of Mexico.

At Isleta there was a surprise in store. Isleta is a charming Indian
pueblo, built wholly of "adobe" mud and populated entirely by native
Indians. So unique, so bewitchingly attractive are these pueblos, that
I must digress awhile to describe their nature and origin.

The history of the American Indians since the advent of the White Man
is an unsatisfactory one from all points of view. Different authorities
on the subject have widely different opinions as to the eventual
outcome of the American domination, which from generation to generation
has vacillated in its policy and, sometimes with bloodshed, sometimes
with bribery, has gradually reduced the red man to subjection, occupied
his country and enforced an unwilling civilization upon him. But
all are agreed that the Indian of to-day is in a far lower stage of
civilization than when the early settlers first drove him from his
rightful property.

There are, however, a few tribes which advanced much farther along
the road to civilization than the others. Moreover theirs was a
civilization quite their own, not acquired through contact with the
whites. Chief among them are the Pueblo (pueblo-building) Indians, and
the Moqui Indians, the town-building natives of New Mexico and Arizona.

The "Pueblo" Indians include several different tribes, each speaking
a different language. Each tribe, with only one exception, comprises
a number of separate "pueblos" or villages, generally built on the
"community dwelling" basis, that is, the houses are in a large and
solid mass, several stories in height, each one receding from the one
below and approached by ladders. In these houses, which look like great
pyramids, live a number of families. In some pueblos most of the houses
are on this plan and as many as 1,600 people have been known to live
in one house. The houses are built of adobe, and sometimes of stones
cemented together with adobe.

[Illustration: PUEBLO OF TAOS.

_By permission of Dr. F. Rolt-Wheeler._]

Several of these Indian villages are clustered together in the vicinity
of Santa Fé, often on the banks of the Rio Grande. Each has its own
customs and makes its own laws. All are centres of interest. Artists
flock to them from all parts of the Continent to paint and sketch
them. Travellers tramp for miles to see the Indians in their native
costumes and conditions. Some make jewels; some make vases, ornaments,
idols, and all manner of earthenware goods; some work in silver, while
others make blankets and rugs. With hardly an exception they all make
an excellent living out of the things they make and sell.

Each of the pueblos has its own feast-days, or "fiestas," when, for a
time varying from a day to over a week, the whole population devotes
its time to feasting, dancing and games. The religious rites that are
performed and the strange customs that prevail at these feasts and
dances form in themselves a vast and interesting study.

At Isleta the road again crossed the Rio Grande. This done, it found
itself in a dry sandy wilderness, with the Manzano Range running from
north to south in the distance. In patches the ground was white with
sandhills, and the trail became two straggling white lines, where
the wheels of passing vehicles had left their imprint in the soft
white sand. These two white ruts were my only guides. All around was
desolation. Nothing was to be seen anywhere, save those two thin
white lines straggling aimlessly ahead, the sun-scorched desert with
its ragged stones and evil, scanty, tenacious vegetation, and on
the horizon that fiery stretch of mountain range, whose peaks rose
rugged and defiant and glistened with red as if roused to anger by
the eternally raging sun. I had never before realized the great depth
of feeling that a mountain range is capable of evoking. The Alps are
majestic beyond description. They awe the observer to a sense of his
own utter insignificance as he gazes upon that glistening majestic
sky-line, and feels the overwhelming influence of those mighty
mountains upon him. But if it is an overwhelming influence, it is
a friendly one--at least I have found it so. Although there is an
instinct in me, as in most people, impelling me to guard and protect
myself against anything that is tremendous--a relic, I suppose, of
prehistoric days--I feel towards the Alps always like a little boy
feels towards his "big brother." The same feeling is seen reflected in
the "Sierra Madre" (Mother Mountains) of California.

But in New Mexico I have seen huge ranges that one could truthfully
call nothing else but "wicked." They seem to gaze and glower with a
cruel, terrifying gleam upon the wanderer who defies their hateful
solitude. The hours of travel that followed were hours of weary
monotony. A brief lapse every thirty miles or so when a tiny Mexican
village on the Rio Grande was passed, and once more the two white ruts
came into view, the stones and cactus, and again the evil mountains.

Later, the sand turned to rocks. The trail began to climb the
mountains, and the sun sank low in the sky. If ever there was a place
to starve to death, thought I, it is here. I reflected upon what the
consequences would be if I ran out of petrol or had a bad smash.

I didn't run out of petrol and I didn't have a smash. Instead of that,
after about eighty miles from Isleta, the trail descended the mountain
pass, re-crossed the Rio Grande for the last time, and swerved at
right angles, to continue its course westward. Shortly before sunset
I arrived at a little Mexican town called Socorro, where both man and
machine were rested, while the man that kept the "C'fay" in the _plaza_
got busy with some "eats" for weary me.

After dinner away once again we go. The sun is setting. We must find a
resting-place before dark sets in, for in these countries where the
air is clear and mountain ranges hem in every horizon the darkness
comes quickly and the sinking of the sun below the sky-line means
almost the final close of day.

There is another range to climb: it lies right ahead of us. As we
approach, it looms its massive bulk like a wall before us. The trail
bends and turns as if hesitating before it tackles this difficult feat;
up there in front is a great gap. The road cuts through it, and is seen
no more. Beyond are much greater heights to climb. Shall we attempt it
now or leave it till the morrow?

The smell of petrol, which the last few minutes was a suggestion,
became a reality. I look down in the fading light and find the precious
fluid spurting out from the carburettor union. Evidently the pipe has
broken away with the vibration. So I swerve off the road (almost easier
done than said) and stop at the flattest patch of earth that I reach.

Oh, the joys of the open life once again! Never shall I forget that
night in the desert past Socorro. The sun as it set behind the range
that I had commenced to climb plunged everything around into gloomy
blackness. Across the valley, from north to south, stretched the
Manzano Range that I had already crossed. It shone like fire throughout
the whole of its length. Gradually the rugged shadow of the range
behind me crept farther and farther away, crossing the river and
mounting up the opposite side of the valley. Slowly, slowly it mounted
up, higher and higher as if a great black cloak were being drawn
by an unseen hand over that fiery ridge that glistened in its evil
splendour. In five short minutes there were but a few of the highest
peaks remaining above the inky shadow. They enjoyed their splendour for
a few brief moments and then were gone, as though wiped suddenly out
of existence. All was blackness: silent, heavy blackness. The stars
appeared, one by one.

I prepared my bed for the night.

What was that? A faint tinkle reached my ears. It sounded like the
noise of a cow-bell, such as one hears in the Swiss valleys. Yes, there
it was again. It must be a cow! But what was a cow to live on here? No
doubt there was a well near by. I felt then that nothing in the world
would taste better than a drink of pure fresh milk. The heat of the day
had been intense, and one can always drink in New Mexico.

I slipped into my field-boots, took a collapsible cup from my bag and
set out in search of the cow. I was quite determined to milk that cow,
come what may.

I stumbled over the rough stones, picked my way between the cactus
plants and sage-brush. I arrived at a fence. The tinkle, tinkle seemed
to come from just the other side. Cup in hand, I climbed over, very
gingerly so as not to tear my pyjamas. Pyjamas in a desert, think of it!

"Now, where are you?" Ahead I saw dimly a large black form.

"Come along, girlie, come and be milked," quoth I in my most bewitching
manner. She moved not. I advanced slowly, trying to discern which was
the business end. Meanwhile I pictured the cow asking herself, "Wot's
the big idea milking me in py's at this time o' night?"

I drew closer and looked....

It was a bull!

I returned hurriedly to my bed, and cursed when a prickly pear caught
me on the left shin!

[Illustration: THE RIO GRANDE, NEW MEXICO.

_By permission of Dr. F. Rolt-Wheeler._]



CHAPTER XVII

THE PETRIFIED FOREST OF ARIZONA


In the morning I patched up the broken petrol pipe as well as I could
with insulation tape, and started again on my way. I had to do forty
miles before I should see a soul--forty miles before breakfast could be
thought of.

It was as well that I had stopped where I did the night before. The
road twisted around precipitous bends and climbed up rough rocky slopes
into the mountains. Down on the other side we found ourselves in a
great sandy plain, stretching due west and bounded by parallel ranges
of rugged mountains. There were frequent washouts and frequent spills.
In places the little streamlets that flowed from the mountain sides cut
great chasms across the road, sufficient to crush one's wheels if one
leapt into them at too great a speed.

Magdalena is a typical cow-boy town. In the heart of ranching country
and hundreds of miles from anything but a few similar towns, it was in
the early days (before prohibition) one of the "warmest" places in the
West. Cow-boy outfits are seen advertised at all of the few "Stores,"
but there has been one big change--the notorious saloons are no longer.
New Mexico adopted prohibition several years before its universal
approval. Consequently Magdalena had had ample time to settle down by
the time of my arrival.

I was directed to a "C'fay" that had the reputation of providing the
best meal in the town. I pushed open its swing doors and beheld a
picture of cleanliness and tidiness. The tables were all spick and span
in their clean white tablecloths and not a vestige of dirt was visible
anywhere.

The small boys of the town displayed a lively interest in me as
I disported myself with my camera at the expense of their public
buildings (to be exact, one wooden church). "Look at 'is boots, Jem,"
said one. "Looks like as though he's a gor-dem buck-jumper." "Aye, but
'is pants don't look ter be the right stuff, Joe."

I left them wondering and fell upon the trail once more. A few miles
out I came to a "round-up" of steers. There were ten or twelve cow-boys
on horseback, and some 5,000 or 6,000 steers grouped together in a
large dense mass, blocking the road altogether. "Tough guys, those
cow-boys," I remarked to myself and pretended to ignore them. But I
couldn't help thinking what MIGHT happen if I barged into one of their
animals or if for any reason they didn't like the look of my face!

Slowly, very slowly, the great mass of cattle moved, like a tide
sweeping over the plain. Carefully I picked my way along and felt
relieved when I left them right behind. I opened out and prepared for a
long weary jaunt. The next town of any kind was ninety miles away.

The first thirty were dead flat but hard going. There had evidently
been considerable rain recently. Emaciated mud-holes were now rock-hard
contortions in the road. Often I rode on the prairie in preference.

Another thing was evident. There had been a great drought the previous
year. Ranching is impossible without water, and even now, in spite
of the recent rains, could be seen here and there a great lake-bed
completely dried up. Nothing remained but a great mass of sun-baked
hoof-marked mud, and here and there a skeleton lying upon it. The
ranches of New Mexico are of huge size and cover enormous areas. True,
a few good years mean a fortune to the rancher, but one bad one means
ruin. Hundreds of ranches had been ruined the previous year, I found,
and several thousand head of cattle had died from the drought. As I
passed along, their skeletons lay strewn at the roadside, sometimes
singly, sometimes in groups of a dozen or more. Hardly a refreshing
sight for a poor innocent motor-cyclist!

At the end of the thirty mile stretch we entered hilly, thickly-wooded
country. The scenery was wild and rough. I met no one and saw no one.
After another fifteen miles was a shack at the side of the road.
The occupation of the owner was selling petrol and oil to passing
travellers. I opined that this was probably not an enviable vocation
from a financial point of view. I filled up, and found to my dismay
that the price, instead of being twenty-five cents per gallon, was
seventy-five. It was 100 miles from the railway, and all supplies had
to be brought by road, hence the trebled cost.

I have never been through wilder country than that which followed for
100 miles. Hilly, densely-wooded, and fertile, it was most difficult
to believe that it was so thinly populated. Strange rock-formations
appeared. Grotesque boulders of leviathan size lay strewn and standing
in grass-covered openings. Wild pigeons by the score darted in and out
amongst the trees. Merry squirrels scampered up the pine trees and eyed
me from above. Huge "Jack Rabbits" and young antelopes bounded here
and there, and, seeing the intruder, disappeared. It all seemed such a
change from the desert journey of the day before.

At Quemado, about ninety miles from Magdalena, I felt hungry. Quemado
consists of a wooden shack of an "hotel," and one "general merchandise"
store. I stopped at the "hotel" and fed. Meanwhile it commenced to
rain. My spirits sank with the barometer.

The rain stopped three hours afterwards.

I set out full of energy and perseverance an hour after that. We
slipped and slithered and slid in the miry road. Ten miles was enough.
All the energy and perseverance had flown to the winds. I rode up
on to a hill-side to a spot on the fringe of a forest of cedar and
yew. Propping Lizzie up on her stand, I went in search of fuel. I had
decided on the luxury of a camp fire.

Fuel there was in abundance. Withered trunks and broken boughs lay
strewn about the hill-side. I soon had a roaring fire and passed away
an hour or two before dark in writing letters and ruminating on the
delights of a camp fire.

As the sun sank down in the valley, I slipped under the old blanket
and watched the flames as they leapt from the burning embers. Just
ahead, almost in sight from where I lay, was the western borderline of
New Mexico. Just beyond there, where the golden sun was slowly sinking
in the valley, was Arizona; the Arizona that I longed so much to see.
I had heard much of Arizona; its wonderful climate, its ancient,
unknown ruins, its extinct volcanoes, its stupendous gorges, its great
thirsty deserts. What would Arizona have in store for me? I wondered.
And the fragrant smell of the burning cedarwood wove a magic charm
about my thoughts as they slowly drifted into the mystic realm of the
unconscious world.

Morning brought a smiling dawn. I rose early and returned to the trail.

In ten minutes I was in Arizona. A large signboard indicated the fact.
The road grew wider and better. Even the scenery seemed to change
perceptibly. I somehow felt at home in Arizona.

At Springerville I breakfasted and bought picture post-cards. When
travelling the latter operation is equally as important as the former.

Here the road makes a sudden turn to the north, bearing afterwards
to the north-west. After twenty miles of riding, the country became
flatter; it seemed as though it were now an immense plateau. After
another twenty, I reached a little town known as St. John. Here I
filled a half-hour in the commendable process of consuming ices. I had
now to traverse some difficult country, as the great desert of Arizona
was approached. There were more mountains to climb, but when the summit
was reached there was little or no decline on the opposite side, the
altitude grew higher and higher, and as it did so, strange as it may
seem, the earth grew flatter and flatter.

There is but one ridge ahead to climb. The rocky trail bends and twists
as it slowly swallows up the gradient that connects us to the horizon.
A final swerve, and we commence a slight descent. There is a gap in the
hills; the trail skirts around one side, and behold, a vast, unbounded
plain lies before us, stretching to left and right as far as the eye
can see.

But what is this strange sight? On our right, barely a half of a mile
from the road, is a gigantic mound. Its presence there, rising abruptly
out of the mathematical flatness of the plain, seems ridiculous,
absurd, uncanny. It gives the impression of having been just dropped
from the sky. It is a mud volcano--an uncommon sight, and formed by
the ejection of sand under pressure from below the surface of the
earth. All around, the plain is of distinctly volcanic formation.
Indeed, we have now entered a vast volcanic region, extending for
several thousands of square miles. Many of the mountains that we shall
see, some of them giant peaks, and some only little hills, are extinct
volcanoes of other ages. They were young and active while man was in
his barbaric infancy on this weary globe, perhaps even before that.

But soon is to appear a far more wondrous sight. In a few miles we
enter a country of strange shapes and magic colours--the Petrified
Forest of Arizona. The first signs of approach are chains of little
lava hills of grey and white. They also have an air of abruptness. One
wonders how they came to be there at all. Flowing down to the flat
plain in graceful, mathematical curves, they look like mounds of chalk,
although they are softer still. Composed of soft, fine lava-dust,
they weather rapidly away. Now all the plain is lava-dust and a tuft
of lean grass here and there has found a spot wherein to make a home.
Further on one notices great blocks of stone, like pillars of marble,
lying strewn about the plain, some half buried, some barely projecting,
and some perfectly naked. Here is one, there is another--they are
everywhere, in every direction, of all shades of colour and varying in
size from fragments an inch in diameter to pillars twenty or thirty
feet in girth and over 100 feet in length. Every fragment, every
massive block of marble once formed part of a great forest that spread
for hundreds of square miles. The trees of this great forest were huge
leviathans, unlike anything we know of in the Old World and similar
only to the giant Sequoias of California (but a few hundred miles
away), that send their mighty trunks hundreds of feet into the air--the
relics of a bygone race.

This great forest of Arizona was at its prime. The stately pine trees
rose towering into the sky. Birds of wonderful plumage lived in those
mighty branches, and wild animals roamed amongst its undergrowth. Then
something happened; no one knows exactly what--this great forest was
enveloped in volcanic dust that in time buried it completely. To the
eye, if eye there was to witness the scene, the forest was no longer
visible; it lay buried in the bowels of the earth; it had passed away;
as a mighty, living forest it would exist no more. But those monster
trees remained awhile, preserved by the all-surrounding lava. What
happened then took thousands of years to achieve, though it can be
recited in a few brief words. The trees in substance disappeared, but
their forms remained in the hardened lava, like huge moulds waiting
to be cast, their every crack and wrinkle preserved with inexorable
accuracy. In time, it may have been æons, the moulds were cast, by
some inexplicable phenomenon, and where once were timber and vegetable
tissues came fluid marble rock that filled the hollows and cracks
and wrinkles and reproduced the forms that ages before had been so
suddenly arrested in their growth. Further ages passed, and gradually
the soft lava was removed by the action of wind and rain and other
causes. Gradually the harder material was laid bare, and the giant
trees once more saw the light of day, but this time they were trunks of
solid marble instead of pine wood. The work of denudation continued.
The marble pillars, unsupported, fell to earth. Some broke into huge
blocks, while others remained more or less intact through the whole of
their length, and unless one examined them at close quarters and saw
the nature of their texture, they could not be distinguished from a
tree that had been recently felled.

There are hundreds of these marble pine and spruce tree trunks, whose
cross-sections, revealed where they have broken, glisten with every
colour of the rainbow. In places, where they lie tumbled and heaped
together, it is as though a whole quarry of onyx had been dynamited
out. In one place a fallen trunk of marble, nearly 200 feet in length,
has spanned a gorge and formed a natural log bridge that all who dare
can walk across.

Such is the fairy tale that scientists tell. The traveller whose
privilege it is to journey across the Petrified Forest of Arizona will
be lost in amazement at this fact which is so much stranger than any
fiction.

I left the wonderful scene behind me with a feeling that I was bidding
farewell to one of the prime mysteries of the world. Trunks and
fragments of trunks could be seen projecting even from the surface of
the road over which I passed, and a few blades of fine grass, with
here and there a stunted cactus plant, were the only sign of life in
any direction. I passed out as suddenly as I had entered. A double
=S=-bend, where strange contorted rocks lay piled up in confusion
on either side--and the Petrified Forest was left behind.

[Illustration: A PETRIFIED LEVIATHAN.]

[Illustration: "LIZZIE" IN THE PETRIFIED FOREST, ARIZONA.]

The sun was nearly setting when a couple of hours later I set out from
Holbrook, well fed and well refreshed. From my map I judged I should be
able to reach the Little Colorado River, on whose banks I could spend
the night. But in Arizona the sun sets quickly. It can almost be said
to get dark with a bump. The result was that in half an hour I was
completely lost in the outskirts of the Great Arizona Desert. The trail
had somehow disappeared, I knew not where, and but for my headlight, I
should undoubtedly have ended in difficulties amid the inky blackness.
Loth to turn back, I continued over the almost trackless waste
of rock, sand, and prairie. I arrived at the rocky bed of a small
stream. There were a few inches of water here and there, but it was not
perceptibly moving. It could not possibly be the Little Colorado. I
walked across to the other side. There I found a large ditch, more like
an artificial dyke, that I knew I could never get Lizzie across. There
was grass growing near, however, so I laid down my bed for the night,
resolving to leave further investigations till daylight.

I should have known better than to camp by an almost stagnant stream,
but I was so utterly tired that I defied the counsel of my own
experience. Mosquitoes literally filled the air. Never have I known
them so thick and so tenacious. The vibration of millions of wings kept
the air in a constant shriek--a wild yell that never abated. I could
only obtain relief from their attacks by enveloping my face completely
with the thick blanket, and breathing through it. Then everything
became so hot--the night itself was very sultry--that sleep was next to
impossible. I snatched an hour or two of rest, but was a mass of bites
and itching lumps next day.

In the morning, I returned to Holbrook, had breakfast, and searched for
information about the road. It appeared that a bridge had collapsed
somewhere, so a new trail had been formed to circumvent it. I had
missed the turning the night before. At the garage where I made
these inquiries, I took the opportunity of removing Lizzie's wheels,
and of cleaning and adjusting the spindles. I packed them with new
grease in preparation for the sandy journey to come, and removed and
re-aligned the chain sprockets; I wanted no breakdowns or searches for
missing parts in the baking, sandy desert. It was as well that I had
taken precautions. I found the lock ring of one chain wheel missing
altogether, and the sprocket half-way unscrewed from its shaft. The
only item for regret was the charge of one dollar for the use of the
garage! Having already had experience of American garage mechanics, I
resolved not to allow any more to learn their trade at Lizzie's expense.

I had no difficulty in picking up the trail in the full light of
day. Once again I set out to cross the great Desert of Arizona. The
next town, a kind of oasis, was Winslow, about forty miles away. The
barren prairie soon gave way to bare limestone rocks and shifting
sand; vegetation disappeared altogether, save for occasional clumps
of greeny-grey sage brush dotted here and there over the rocky waste
that ever met the eye. The air was hot but clear. On an elevation one
could see for tremendous distances. The little tuft of black smoke that
hung over Winslow looked clear enough to be a mile or two away. It was
thirty; in the distance was a great silver line, threading its way
intermittently across the plain. I knew it to be the Little Colorado,
which, like its mother, the Great Colorado, flows nearly the whole of
its length in a canyon and seems deliberately to choose the path of
greatest resistance, cutting through rocks and gorges of limestone and
granite with ne'er a murmur.

As Winslow drew near, the narrow sandy track gave way to a broad
concrete highway. I had not seen a made road of any description for
many days. The appearance of concrete here in the middle of a desert
seemed ridiculous. I would enjoy it to the full. Lizzie's throttle
jumped open unexpectedly and away we sailed through the breeze.
"There's a catch in this somewhere," I told myself. There was! It
nearly meant grief. The city architect had foreseen the goading lure of
that cold flat stretch of concrete and made up his mind that speeding
should not exist thereon. So he made several dips therein at intervals,
each dip about five or ten feet below the normal level of the road. Any
attempt to travel at more than twenty would mean damage to the vehicle
when it hit the opposite side. Unfortunately these obstructions were
absolutely invisible until but a few feet ahead. Sometimes there was a
warning. More often there was not. The first I came to quite unawares
and at a high speed. The machine with its momentum nearly leapt clean
across the space, and had I been going much slower it would have struck
the opposite side lower down and inevitably have caused a serious
crash. I went warily after that and wondered what ingeniously contrived
anti-speeding devices I should meet next.

Arrived at Winslow, I ate heartily of ices. The busy modern town seemed
a most remarkable contrast to the sandy wastes that surrounded it.

I now had a long journey ahead. Flagstaff, the next town, was over
eighty miles away, and the trail ran across some of the most arid
country of Arizona. For mile upon mile there was nothing to be seen
but yellow sand and, on the horizon, a rugged range of hills. Ahead,
nearly a hundred miles away, loomed up the San Francisco Peaks, dark
and threatening. Overhead the sun beat down with unrelenting fury.
One could see the shimmer of the air above the baking sand as the
tremendous heat oozed out of it into the atmosphere. Here and there,
one could see spirals of sand hundreds of feet high whisked up by some
strange whirling motion of the air, and carried for hundreds of yards
across the wilderness, gathering in volume and height as they moved,
only to collapse again and give birth to others. Not a sign of life
or vegetation was visible anywhere. What a place to be stranded in
without water! But I had plenty with me. I stopped to drink from the
bag on my handlebar every few miles. The heat and the glare were awful.

A few miles out of Winslow one cylinder ceased to fire. I had been
wondering when the next instalment of misfortune was to arrive. Like a
true pessimist, I expected it would come in a place like this. So I was
not disheartened.

I stopped two or three times to change plugs and examine the engine.
It was of no avail, and the heat grew so intense when I was not moving
that it was impossible to stop for longer than a few minutes at a time.
There was no shade, not even a rock to hide me from the fiery sun. The
frame of the machine seemed red-hot, and even the tools in the tool-box
were too hot to handle unprotected.

"Another overhaul at Flagstaff," I told myself, and continued again
on three cylinders. Ploughing through the loose sand absorbed much of
the power of the engine, but I was content, so long as we kept moving.
Slowly the metal sign-posts of the "Touring Club of California" that
marked the miles were passed. They were the only items of interest in
this barren country. Many times they were missing altogether. Often
they lay prone upon the ground, the strong, eight-feet-long steel
tubing of the post bent in strange forms. They had been uprooted by
some unfortunate traveller and used as levers or crowbars to extricate
a car that had left the beaten track and sunk in the loose sand of the
desert. Some even bore conflicting particulars, and it was quite usual
to notice the distances increase instead of decrease the nearer one
drew to one's destination! Often the signs themselves had been riddled
with bullet-holes "just for fun" by some blasé traveller with a taste
for shooting. Splendid amusement, to shoot at a sign-post put there at
enormous expense by a private club for the benefit of all!

Slowly the hours went by and, as they did, a huge thunder-storm could
be seen brewing over the San Francisco Peaks, now only forty miles
away. The whole sky became dull and overcast. The loose yellow sand
gave place to rocks and shingle, and gradually the desert was left
behind. As the altitude increased--we were climbing slowly all the
time--signs of life appeared. Lean grass, parched with thirst and brown
with the heat, was seen once more, and later a few sheep were noticed
sheltering behind rocks and boulders.

I pushed forward with all haste. Flagstaff was at the foot of the San
Francisco Peaks and there would certainly be a deluge very shortly. The
road was abominable. In most places it was so rocky and the gradient
so steep that it was like riding up great flights of rugged steps. The
sharp rocks dug in the tyres down to the rims, and the vibration shook
the very sockets of one's bones.

On the left, barely a mile from the trail, we passed the "Meteor
Mountain." This is a most remarkable sight. Situated in the midst of
comparatively flat or rolling country, it looks at first sight like the
crater of a great volcano. But its origin is not volcanic. It gives
the impression of having been formed by artificial and not by natural
means. The crater is half a mile across and the interior of the crater
is saucer-shaped. An air of mystery envelops its origin, and many
theories have been put forward to explain it. But the theories have
either been disproved or have never been definitely accepted.

"Meteor Mountain" remains to this day a mystery of geology. In its
crater is a ranch-house and hundreds of sheep graze in its vicinity.

A dozen miles farther on the trail led on to a magnificent steel bridge
spanning the "Diablo Canyon"--a wonderful gorge in the limestone rocks.
Far, far below ran a little stream of clear water.

The sky grew blacker still. We continued climbing over the sharp, rocky
trail. The mighty peaks ahead were almost lost in a sea of blackness.
Distant thunder rumbled and groaned across the desolate waste. Sharp
flashes of lightning lit up the heavens for a moment and revealed the
sharp, lurid outlines of the three giants around whose peaks centred
the fury of the skies. Slowly the storm abated. I thanked Heaven for
that.

Then we came to the fringe of a wonderful forest that covers the
plateau and clothes the mountain sides almost to the summit of their
peaks. The sight of the trees, the sound of the breezes as they rustled
through the branches bearing with them the magic scent of the pines,
was like passing from death to life. It was a new world, a world of
new sensations and pleasant forms. The broiling wastes, the dazzling
yellow sand, the strange and sometimes ugly shapes, the grotesque, the
mysterious, the incredible: these were left behind--for a while.

The storm had almost passed. Much rain had fallen, but fortunately the
trail lay through a stretch of volcanic dust. The rain when it fell did
not dissolve it, but soaked through as quickly as it fell, leaving the
surface almost as hard and dry as it was before. I thanked Heaven again
for that. Closer, closer, ever we climbed, until often the mountains
were hardly to be seen; we were amongst them, climbing them, in them.
Here and there the clustering trees grew thinner and fields of wild
flowers, mauve and purple-coloured, would burst into view, clothing
the valleys and the slopes like a great carpet. Then a glade would
appear of fresh green grass--grass so fresh and so green that it would
seem to have been meant more for a child's fairy-book than for a real
live world. Then a beautiful mountain would appear through the trees,
its sides and its angles glistening with every colour of the rainbow
and changing with every new aspect. This would be an extinct volcanic
cone and the colours would be reflected from the loose cinders that
formed its whole. Then amongst the lofty pine trees the traveller would
see--as a last remnant of the grotesque--vast fields of lava, great
beds of solid cinder, thrown up into monstrous shapes with strange,
sinister outlines. And onwards, ever onwards, ever nearer to Flagstaff
we went, the wheels gliding noiselessly over the smooth lava-track
that wound its way in and out of the pine trees and up and over the
foothills and valleys towards the West. We enter a large valley,
from which a wonderful view of the San Francisco Peaks delights the
traveller. They are barely a half-dozen miles away now; their great
volcanic cones, over a couple of miles in height above the sea, can be
seen as sharply and as clearly as though they were but 100 yards away.
So mighty are they, and so pure is the air of Arizona, that on a clear
day they can be seen for 200 miles in any direction.

At last the small town of Flagstaff is reached. It is clean, modern,
and laid out in pretentious square blocks, some with only a few
bungalows built thereon. Evening was drawing on. Not having had a
meal for over twelve hours, I hied me to a restaurant where puffed
cereals and apricot pies and mugs of good coffee effected a miraculous
disappearance. Thereafter I followed the scent of a comfortable hotel,
where once more I slept the sleep of the righteous.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE GRAND CANYON


I woke up next morning feeling very groggy, for no reason accountable
to myself. It was Sunday. My first endeavour would be to fulfil one of
the desires of my boyhood. It lay at my very door.

The Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff is known throughout the whole of
the civilized world. Years ago, hundreds and thousands of people read
with unabated interest of the theories and discoveries of Professor
Lowell concerning the planet Mars. In his book, _Mars and its Canals_,
he recorded the researches of a lifetime on this most interesting of
planets. He announced his conviction that civilized life of a very high
order was present and flourishing on Mars, and supported his theory
with exhaustive data and series of beautiful photographs of the planet
at different times and under different aspects--the result of the work
carried out at the Lowell Observatory which he himself had founded,
built, and maintained at his own expense.

In my boyhood's days that book read like a wonderful fairy story,
illustrated with photographs that were far more wonderful and far more
strange than the merely pretty pictures of fancy. Some day, I promised
myself, I would see the Lowell Observatory, and look through the giant
telescope that revealed to the human eye, millions of miles away, so
much of the mysterious and the unknown.

[Illustration: SAN FRANCISCO PEAKS FROM FLAGSTAFF.]

[Illustration: THE LOWELL OBSERVATORY, FLAGSTAFF.]

[Illustration: THE TRAIL TO THE GRAND CANYON.]

And here I stood, at the door of the hotel, but a few hundred yards
from that same Observatory. Looking up the main street I could plainly
see the white dome, perched on the summit of a hill overlooking the
town, surrounded, but unobscured, by the tall pine trees that clustered
thickly on its slopes.

An hour later I was standing inside the great dome. The dream had come
true.

The astronomers of "Mars Hill" treated me, like all visitors, with the
utmost hospitality. My wishes to see this and that and the other thing
had only to be expressed, and they were granted. I was shown the result
of years upon years of tireless, ceaseless research. In the library,
a magnificently designed and equipped building, I found myself in a
veritable Monte Cristo's cave. Arranged around the walls, and lit from
behind by a wonderful system of electric lights, were treasures of far
more value than would appear to the casual, disinterested sightseer.
There were transparent photographs of planets, star clusters, nebulæ,
and comets by the hundred, some but a fraction of an inch in diameter,
and others several feet across. There were volumes of records and
reports of every Observatory, besides astronomical and other scientific
works of all classes, sizes, and tongues.

Hours afterwards I slowly descended the path that wound down the
hill-side through the pine trees, wrapped in thought and proudly
conscious of having at last achieved something that for so long had
been but a vague vision of the imagination.

Unfortunately my indisposition of the morning did not disappear. It
increased. I surmised that somewhere or other I had drunk some poisoned
water--an easy thing to do--and must suffer the consequences.

The consequences I suffered were those of ptomaine poisoning. The
next day was spent in the throes of it. I crept out of bed for an
hour or two, with just enough courage to visit the garage to whose
charge I had confined Lizzie for an overhaul. Finding her once again
in pieces, but with no parts broken, I returned, with a sigh of relief
and a body full of pains, to bed. I had discovered that many patrons
of a certain restaurant--the one which I had so heartily greeted upon
my arrival--had also suffered from ptomaine poisoning. I reflected
that this was an ailment that often proved fatal. But I determined
that it would not be so in my case, at any rate not until Lizzie and
I had gazed down on the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. That
accomplished, anything could happen!

The next day found things much brighter. The sickness was fast
disappearing, and I was consoled towards midday by the sight of
Lizzie erected, tested, and passed O.K. I was, however, sceptical of
the youth to whom, in my indisposition, I had entrusted her delicate
body. He had sworn that he had overhauled Hendersons until he could
do them blindfold. With characteristic American modesty he claimed to
be the only man between Kansas City and Los Angeles who knew anything
at all about the breed. That made me a trifle suspicious at the
outset. Furthermore, he had agreed to turn in on Sunday and commence
operations, but when Sunday came he was hardly conspicuous by his
presence--the garage door was locked.

However, I paid over the required quota of dollars with Spartan
stoicism and took Lizzie once more unto my bosom. Being naturally of
a lazy disposition and a firm believer in the futility of walking
whenever there is the remotest opportunity of some form of mechanical
transit being available, I had deferred an extensive survey of the town
until I could execute it in comfort.

Originally a stores depot on the early trail through the West,
Flagstaff soon became a ranching centre and a kind of "Mecca" for
cow-boys, globe-trotters, wasters, drifters, Indians, Mexicans, and,
of late years, speculators and East-weary business men. Although
boasting only a few thousand inhabitants, the town is growing fast,
and naturally where towns grow fast--a thing known only in the west of
America and the Colonies--the "real estate" agents flourish in their
legions. The people of Flagstaff are "boosters," and so do all they can
to encourage and quicken the growth of their neat little town. Many
come there, buy a plot of land in one of the outlying blocks, build
a bungalow and settle down for good, charmed with the climate, the
atmosphere, the surroundings, the great pine forests, and the view to
the north of the mighty Peaks that are almost always capped with snow
and seem to look down and protect the little town that lies scattered
at their feet.

Next morning I had concluded all preparations for the fulfilment
of another life-long desire. My next ambition was to see the Grand
Canyon of the Colorado, of which I had read much in school-books in my
childhood.

In and out through the pine trees we swung once again, darting down
sudden dips in the road and skipping up little hills all fresh with
grass and thick wild flowers. In ten or fifteen miles of exquisite
woodland scenery we had come once more to the fringe of the forest.
Ahead lay plain, prairie, and desert, with never a town or a village or
a house to be seen until the Canyon was reached seventy odd miles to
the north. On the left rose the great San Francisco Peaks, clothed in
green and white. On the right lay Sunset Mountain, a volcanic cinder
cone of ruddy-brown hue, that glistened in the morning sunlight.

Slowly they were left behind as we hopped, skipped, and jumped over the
rough trail that swerved and twisted untiringly through the strangest
country imaginable. Here it would be broad and sandy; there it would
narrow down almost to nothing; further on, it would make a sudden bend
and dip across a "wash" or some waterless river that had never known a
bridge; then it would enter a beautiful valley all aglow with golden
flowers that crowded thickly up its sides--there were yellow flowers
everywhere, in each direction as far as the eye could see, and at
the same time so close that they were swept aside by the machine as
it passed. Then that picture passed away and there remained just two
deep undulating ruts that struggled persistently across a wilderness
of sand, rock, and boulder. We passed on either side the remains of
ancient volcanoes, now but solitary hills rising abruptly from the
desert around. Then appeared giant heaps of stone clustered strangely
together, the ruins of ancient towns for many a thousand years
deserted. Then for miles and miles was nothing but barren, arid waste
that tired one's patience and cut one's tyres and shook one's limbs,
while thousands upon thousands of prairie-dogs were ever running,
hurrying, scurrying away from the intruder upon their solitude. Their
holes were everywhere, even in the ruts of the trail that stretched
always like a forgotten, lifeless thing through this land of scorching
loneliness.

Four hours and a half we had now been travelling, and not a soul, not
even a sign of a living being had we seen, save the merry little vermin
that scurried off at the sound and the sight of us. For the first time
in the whole of the trip I felt a great sense of loneliness creeping
over me. The solitude, the peace of the great barren distances at last
made itself known--it was a solitude and a peace that I had never felt
before. It took time for me to appreciate its worth. I amused myself by
bursting suddenly into song. All the old familiar refrains came to my
aid, were they hymn tunes or ridiculous rag-time airs.

Feeling absurd--even positively ridiculous--in my efforts to remain
cheerful at all costs, but comforted by the thought that there was no
one to witness my insanity, I continued thus until my voice rebelled
and I relapsed once again into stony--very stony--silence!

Once again the trail entered a great forest; huge pine trees and cedar
trees closed densely around and the trail branched and split here and
there to avoid them. The vegetation grew thicker. It seemed wonderful
how it could possibly thrive in such a country. Not a drop of water
had I seen for eighty miles, when suddenly a most beautiful vista
appeared directly ahead of me. There was a wonderful lake bordered with
giant pine trees, its waters still and flat like a great jewel. At its
edge a few horses were drinking. It was such a magnificent sight that
I was forced to stop to admire it to the full. I breathed a prayer
that my little pocket camera would do it justice, and convey, if only
a fraction, some of that entrancing charm that hung over its glassy
waters.

On once again we rode, through avenues of pine and cedar; the further
we went, the thicker the forest grew and the greater the stately
trees became. It was possible only to see a few yards ahead in some
places.... "But say, we must be getting near the Canyon soon! How can
all this be?" I asked myself.

Swerving now to the right, now to the left, to avoid some obstacle, now
leaving the trail altogether to ride on the soft green grass at the
side, when a boulder or a fallen branch blocked the way, it was like
exploring one of those magic forests where fairies....

The thought was never finished.

It seemed as if the whole earth had suddenly stopped dead. There, in
front, the great tree trunks stood silhouetted against space itself. It
was as though something dreadful had happened. Beyond was tremendous,
awful nothingness that made the observer catch his breath and sent a
shiver throughout his frame. But see, there, on the distant horizon,
like a dimly-coloured shadow, lies the opposite side of the gigantic
rift, ten, twenty--aye, in places thirty miles away. It is a sight to
enjoy in silence, with reverence and with fear. Once seen, it is never
to be forgotten, that first glimpse of the greatest of all natural
wonders--the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

The trail made a sudden swerve to the left and followed close to its
brink. There were some wooden railings; beyond, a varying strip of
broken, rocky moorland; and then, space. Leaving Lizzie, I clambered
down a narrow pathway carved in the rocks that led to a jutting
prominence known as "Grand View Point." Seated on a huge lump of
limestone that reared like a lofty pinnacle thousands of feet above
the chasm below, I surveyed in mute bewilderment the overpowering,
awe-inspiring sight.

The Grand Canyon has never been described. It is too immense, too
sublime, too unearthly for mere words to convey one iota of its might
and majesty. One struggles with the futility of mere expression
by words where such a spectacle is concerned and finds that all
the known phrases and well-used artifices of speech are useless to
convey to another the sense of infinite grandeur that only sight can
appreciate--and that so feebly!

The Canyon is a titanic rift in the earth, over 200 miles in length.
The Colorado River, hardly ever seen from its brinks, lies 6,000 feet
below the surface of the plain through which it has cut. Æons of
time have been taken in the making of it, and it is yet but young,
its progress still continuing. That sinister river, to reach which
takes a seven-mile walk down the trail that leads to its waters, has
cut down through strata of rock that took untold millions of years
to be deposited, has cut lower and lower until it has come to the
very beginning, the foundation of the earth, and then it has carved
its way even through the granite, the very crust of the earth, to a
depth of almost 1,000 feet. Eternal erosion by water, winds, and frost
has helped it to play its part, and now nigh on 2,000 cubic miles
of limestone, sandstone, and granite have disappeared entirely--all
carried as sediment into the Pacific Ocean by the river that for ever
swirls and rages in its bosom.

The actual settlement that goes by the name of the Grand Canyon is
twenty miles further on. The trail follows closely the rim of the
Canyon, cutting through the fringe of the "Coconino National Forest,"
with its stately pine trees that crowd up to the very edge of the
plateau.

When the end of the trail is reached, it is as though the traveller
had arrived at the edge of the world. On the right is a luxurious,
low-built hotel all but toppling over the edge; on the left is a
railway station; and that is all. The road almost doubles back on
itself, swerving due south towards the Continental Trail eighty miles
away. I do not mean to imply that at the end of this world there will
be either a luxurious hotel or a railway station at the service of
the weary traveller, but the appearance of finality of all things is
complete when one is faced with that terrible chasm ahead.

For three days and three nights I sojourned at the Canyon, content
to gaze upon its ever-changing colours, and to marvel at the wealth
of beauty and variation of spectacle that lay in its mighty bosom,
always changing, always fresh, always more wonderful than before.
One day after breakfast I began strolling down the narrow "Bright
Angel Trail" that leads from the summit to the river. Between two
and three feet wide in most places, it is wonderfully built and kept
in excellent repair for the mule-back parties of tourists that daily
descend its seven tortuous miles in the morning and ascend them again
in the evening. In places it is like a spiral pathway down an almost
perpendicular wall. One looks over and sees it doubling and folding and
twisting on itself like a thin white line until it is lost behind some
prominence thousands of feet below.

I did not mean to walk down. Walking is not my forte; I only set out
to take a few photographs. I have the best of reasons for believing
that people never walk down the Canyon. Instead they bulge upon
diminutive mules in strings of twenty or thirty or more and make the
descent slowly, nervously, solemnly, and more or less in comfort. True,
there are places where the trail is so precipitous that they have to
dismount for safety's sake, but to walk the whole way would be absurd.

Perhaps that was the reason I found myself tramping down the long,
steep trail. The more photographs I took, the further down I went to
take another. One view followed another with endless change. At every
turn there was some new sensation, some fresh vista that just cried out
for remembrance. In this way I gradually found myself descending into
the depths of the Canyon. Truly it is the most wonderful walk I have
ever had.

It was as though the traveller were entering a new world of a new
climate, new scenery, and new sensations. Up on the plateau at the top
the altitude was 8,000 feet above sea level, and the heat there had
been intense. But as I descended thousand after thousand of feet into
the bowels of the earth, the air became more dense and the heat more
intense until at the bottom, over 6,000 feet below, the climate was
almost tropical. Further, the great "temples"--the fragments of the
plateau where the erosion had left isolated mountains remaining within
the gorge--took on a far different aspect when viewed from below.
From above one saw them as one would see hills and valleys from an
aeroplane--with hardly any relief. But from below they loomed up sharp
against the sky, each one a mighty mountain in itself. What seemed
from the brink to be a mere blotch of green mould on the bare rocks
below proved on closer acquaintance to be a luxurious coppice, dense
with trees and shrubs and tall, thick grass. Minute specks of black
scattered broadcast on the slope turned out to be trees that eked out
a scanty but sufficient livelihood on the crevices and the crags. A
brown, inconspicuous carpet from above developed into a huge tropical
plateau several miles across. So clear is the atmosphere and so great
are the distances that magnitudes are ridiculed and illusions raised to
the point of absurdity.

It was well after midday when I reached the bottom and watched the
roaring, rushing Colorado, like a great yellow flood, lashing its angry
way between the steep walls of the granite gorge. Above, it had been
invisible, unknown, and whisperless.

The walk back developed into a tiring, eternal struggle up an
interminable staircase that had no stairs. Sometimes I half decided
to rest until next day. At intervals I grasped my knees in my hands
and helped to lift the heavy, tired feet one above the other. I
abused myself heartily for not having furnished myself with reserve
refreshments before starting, and then remembered that I had only set
out to take a few pictures; I had quenched my thirst at a little creek
six hours before, but felt that a meal of some kind would be acceptable.

I arrived at the top about 5.30. The mule-party had overtaken me a
quarter of an hour before. They had only stopped half an hour at the
bottom for lunch.

"Waal, I've done some walkin' in my time, boss, but I guess you've
gotten the best pair o' legs that ever MY optics did see," was the
remark of one heavily-spectacled American who beamed from his mule upon
me as he passed.

"Aye, that's so," echoed others in the long file with undisguised
approbation.

So the reader will observe that I am already becoming Americanized,
even in true modesty!

[Illustration: THE BOTTOM OF THE GRAND CANYON.

_By permission of Dr. F. Rolt-Wheeler._]

My stay at the Canyon was longer than I had anticipated. Considerable
rain had fallen on the second day, and a report came through that
the road in places had been washed clean away. Just what that meant I
did not know, but I did not fear it in the slightest. My experience of
the roads in Arizona was that they were much better away than present.
But I had no taste for mud, so I waited for the sun to do its work
before starting back again.

I left the Grand Canyon with regret. Everything was so wonderful
and I just seemed to have begun to make friends with it. At first
it all seemed so great, so awful, so grotesque as to give one the
impression of anything but friendliness. I had begun to overcome that
feeling, as everyone does in time. The truth is that it takes a long
acquaintanceship with the giant wonders of the world to form anything
approaching a true idea of them.

Mud there was in plenty on the way back. In the forest going was bad
and slow, for the sun had not had its due quota of time to play upon
the damp earth. But in the open there was a marked improvement. The
only evidence of the heavy rains was an occasional pool of water
between the tracks of the road that had not yet been completely dried
up, and this remained as a pool of muddy water within a ring of soft,
dark-brown mud.

I was glad that progress was not so bad as I had expected. I was tired
of making slow progress, low averages, and big delays, so whenever I
had the chance I gave Lizzie her reins and with many bursts of speed
where the condition of the road permitted, and occasional hold-ups
where it did not, we made pretty good progress for a couple of hours.

Until....

We were about half-way between the Canyon and Flagstaff. The country
was bare and rocky--almost on the fringe of the "Painted Desert." I was
riding on the narrow but level track between the two large ruts that
formed the road. I was furthermore enjoying a little burst of speed, my
eyes glued on the little strip below me, for if I but once missed it
and allowed Lizzie to slip into either of those deep, treacherous ruts
that bordered it, there would be a nasty smash.

I must have been too careful, for I had not noticed a fairly large and
deep mud-pool dead in the centre of the track and only a few yards
ahead of me. There were just about three or four inches between either
side of it and those terrible ruts. If I banged into it, it would mean
a nasty jar to the machine and possible damage. I judged I could steer
round all right without fouling the rut.

The front wheel went through splendidly. The back one, approaching at
an angle as I swerved, did not. It just skimmed the greasy edge of the
pool and commenced momentarily to side-slip down into the hollow. That
was the beginning of the end. I was going fast, and the equilibrium
of the machine had been suddenly upset. The nightmare known as a
"speed-wobble" ensued.

I did my utmost to check it, but it got worse and worse. From one side
to the other the machine swayed, like a great pendulum, swinging faster
and faster and each time through a greater distance. For some time I
managed to keep the swerves within the limits of the track without
fouling the ruts and the rocks at the side, but it was no use; I saw a
fearful crash coming.

The wobble developed at an alarming speed; no doubt the heavy baggage
on the carrier helped. At the end of each oscillation the machine was
at a still greater, a still more ridiculous angle to the ground. The
front wheel caught something. It had to come sooner or later. With
a wild lurch we crashed down on the loose rocks and boulders that
bordered the trail. Our momentum was soon absorbed owing to the rough
nature of the rocks and boulders aforesaid.

"Here endeth the trip to the coast. Farewell, Lizzie; it might have
happened sooner, you know, old girl." That's what I was saying to
myself as I struggled from underneath her remains!



CHAPTER XIX

THE MOHAVE DESERT


I have often thought there must be a guardian angel watching over
mad motor-cyclists. Certainly in my case some theory of that sort is
necessary to account for the almost entire immunity from personal
damage that I have always experienced when fate has led me into crashes
of all kinds. At one time and another I have performed wonderful
acrobatic feats after a bad skid or a sudden encounter in the dark with
a stray horse or a flock of sheep. By all the laws of nature and common
sense, I should long since have ceased to labour on this earthly plane.
Instead of that, I continue to flourish like the green bay tree, the
terror of the country I inhabit, and the bane of the Company that has
the misfortune to insure my machines!

Thus it happened that when I extricated myself from the debris, I found
myself still sound in wind and limb. Apart from one finger having been
crushed between the handle and the final boulder, and the absence
of one or two square inches of good epidermis here and there, I had
nothing whatever to complain of.

Lizzie, however, wore a forlorn look. Her left handlebar was badly bent
and most of the controls and projections on her starboard side were
either bent backwards or swept clean away. The stand, a heavy steel
structure strong enough to make a suspension bridge, had broken away
altogether, and had not the footboard been of the collapsing type, it
would undoubtedly have shared the same fate.

An hour of doctoring, with frequent applications of wire and insulation
tape, and Lizzie was going again. I was relieved in the extreme to find
that after all there was a chance of continuing to the coast under her
own power. My forefinger pained a trifle, and I could not bear to bend
it. I believe always in leaving Nature to carry out her own repairs--it
saves a lot of time and bother and generally gets the job finished much
quicker in the end, so I spent no time in doctoring it.

We got back to Flagstaff all right that evening and, accepting the
hospitality of one of the astronomers at Mars Hill, I spent the night
at his bungalow up amongst the pine trees. It was nearly a month before
I regained the use of my finger and over three months before the sense
of feeling came back to it. Evidently it had been broken at or near the
joint.

Two days afterwards I made an unwilling exit from Flagstaff. I was so
enamoured with the spirit of the West and the cordiality of its people,
as well as the scenery and the climate, that it seemed a shame to move
away. But how could I do otherwise when in three days' good running
I should be enjoying the reality of the deep blue Pacific washing up
against the fringe of some golden Californian valley?

From Flagstaff to Williams, a thirty-mile jaunt, the road traversed
the edges of the Coconino Forest. In places it was almost impassable.
Stretches of rock-hard mud, that had been cut up into fantastic shapes,
hindered progress for hundreds of yards at a stretch. I had often to
resort to the old expedient of chipping the edges of the ruts away in
advance to enable Lizzie's cradle frame to get through. Then for miles
there were stretches of incredible roughness where often I left the
road and scrambled over the rough prairie at the side, leaping over
gullies, mounds, cracks, and rocks in preference to the treacherous
trail. But the wild scenery compensated for everything. It was
exquisite.

Town after town slowly but surely went by, and as they did so, the
country grew wilder and the climate hotter. The trail wound through
great gorges with towering cliffs that obscured most of the sky.
Mad rivers would come rushing down from mountain sides and seldom
were there bridges with which to cross them. Vegetation became less
plentiful and here and there were stretches of barren prairie land with
great boulders and masses of rock spread indiscriminately about them.

Past Ashforks, some sixty miles from Flagstaff, I came upon a Ford car
by a wide, rough-bedded, unbridged river. The owner, dressed in blue
combination overalls (the standard garment of the West) was playing
round it with a "monkey-wrench."

"Want anything, brother?" I asked.

"No thanks, nothing wrong," he replied, eyeing Lizzie and me
curiously up and down. "Gee! What the ..." (his eye caught the number
plate)--"Well, I'll be goldarned!"

"How's the road ahead?" I asked, ignoring his evident amazement at one
so young having come so far!

"Pretty tough in places. You've got a fairly good run for a hundred
miles, but you've got to keep your eyes skinned for washouts. There's a
big one about ten miles further on, just before you come to Pineveta.
You can't miss it. It's just beyond a big cliff on the left side where
it says 'REPENT YOUR SINS, THE END IS AT HAND.' And by G--,
you'd better repent 'em quick in case anything does happen!"

Washouts there were, good and plentiful. Great gullies had been cut
across the roads by the rains. Many were not visible much before they
were felt. On the whole it was exciting running.

Pineveta was a most "movie-looking" town. I could easily have imagined
myself a Gaumont operator on several occasions. Every building, whether
a house, the village church or the town hall, was of wood and of the
simplest construction possible. Everything seemed loose, ramshackle
and toppling. It was a good home for the tough guys of the West,
where towns spring up in a night, prosper awhile and then fade into
insignificance.

After Seligman, another twenty miles further on, the trail showed signs
of nervous prostration. It led into a great canyon whose grey walls
towered high on either side. Then it seemed to say to the traveller,
"See here, Boss, you can go on if you like, I'm staying right here;
had enough of this." It had already dwindled down to a couple of ruts
in the sandy bed of the canyon and now it was besieged on all sides
with dense growths of grey scrub, like sage-brush. Even the ruts were
barely visible and now appeared only in white patchy blotches through
the scrub that grew a foot or a couple of feet high in dense, clustered
tufts. It seemed as though something would have to be done about it
soon.

Finally we came to a wooden fence, rudely but effectively constructed
and barring the way entirely. Behind the fence was a railway track.
Evidently it was necessary to cross the track somewhere but not the
slightest opportunity did there appear of doing so. I explored awhile.

On the left, where the trail had ended, the fence showed signs of
having been pulled down and ruts in the ground bore witness to traffic
having gone that way at some time or another more or less remote. But
stay, what is this? A large post had been torn down from the fence and
laid right across the track of the apparent detour. In the middle of
it, and fastened on by a piece of wire, was a scrap of paper bearing
the following anonymous inscription in scrawled handwriting--"DOANT
GO THIS RODE CANT GET THRU."

Now wasn't this kind of some one? I began to wonder if I would have
gone to the same trouble if I had struggled through a fence on an old
Ford car (I was sure from the writing that it was a Ford) and after
proceeding half a mile or so over interminable boulders and gullies had
found it necessary to come back again. I came to the conclusion that I
WOULD, at any rate, if I was in the West, and thus consoled, I
proceeded to search for another outlet.

Yes, here were a pair of ruts leading off backwards at a tangent. Where
they went was not possible to see, for they were overgrown with scrub.
I started Lizzie once again, put her front wheel into the deeper of
the ruts and set off whither it should take me. It was faithful and
true. Brushing the bushes sideways with the machine as we passed, we
arrived in half a mile at a gate where a good wide road appeared. It
was the entrance to the "city" of Nelson, consisting of a few shacks,
a ranch-house and a railway station. After opening a few more gates we
crossed the rails at a level crossing and were going once again swiftly
westwards.

"Dinner in Peach Springs," I told myself. Peach Springs on my AAA Map
was a fair-sized town fifteen miles ahead. Evening was drawing on and
there would not be much light left for travelling, but where dinner was
concerned it was another matter. Proceed we must, until fodder hove in
sight.

Slowly the canyon was left behind. The country opened out and became
flatter. Vast rolling plains appeared, with cedar woods creeping down
their slopes. The air was sultry, hardly a breeze stirred in the trees;
wild pigeons in hundreds flew hither and thither; occasionally a young
antelope or a great jack rabbit leaped across the plains. I hardly gave
them a thought. My mind dwelt upon an imaginary tin of pineapple chunks
somewhere in the distance!

Peach Springs showed no trace of materializing when required. There was
no sign of it anywhere where it should have been. I stopped at a wooden
shack near the roadside. There was a Bowser pump outside the door.

An old man with a goat's beard appeared at the door.

"A couple of gallons of gas, please," I shouted, and while he pumped
it in I surveyed the surroundings; there was another little shack not
far away and two dirty-looking Mexican women were sitting down outside.
Here and there, round about, lay rubbish, pieces of timber, tin cans
and other débris.

"Guess you get mighty lonesome here, dad?"

"Aw, dunno," he replied. "Bin here nigh on forty years. Guess I got
purty well accustomed to it now."

"Forty years! I should say so!... Thanks. Say, how far's Peach Springs
from here?"

"Peach Springs? This is Peach Springs. You're in it right here," and he
pointed to his shack.

"_This_ Peach Springs? I thought it was a big town with umpteen
thousand people in it."

"And so it was, till they moved it."

"Moved it?" I stood aghast at the thought of such a horrible thing.

"Aye, I mind the time when there was over 40,000 people in Peach
Springs. They'd all come in a heluva sweat lookin' for gold, and what's
more, they found it. Then the gold begun to give out until in the end
there warn't none at all, an' when the gold went the people went with
it. I'm the only one as didn't go and I guess I'm not much concerned
about it neither. Provisions and gas and oil are better'n grubbin'
after gold all yer life."

"Provisions?" I queried. "Got any pineapple chunks?"

"Sure thing. Got everything."

Overcome with emotion, I filled my pockets with tinned fruit and
biscuits.

That night my camp fire burned in a glorious spot sheltered by high
cliffs. Fuel was scarce, there were just a few dried-up bushes to burn,
but it was splendid, camping there with the beautiful clear sky above,
the stars shining as I had never known them shine before.

On again we went at dawn. This time it was to leave behind the cedar
forests and the towering canyons. We were getting near the fringe
of the great arid desert that stretches for nearly 300 miles to the
heart of California. Gradually the ground became flat, almost as flat
as the proverbial pancake. On it grew no vegetation at all, save the
scanty sage-brush that can flourish where all other things die. Miles
away, but clear enough to be only a few hundred yards, rose ranges of
saw-toothed, evil-looking mountains, as barren as barrenness could be.
Ahead lies the trail stretching beyond the traveller's vision to the
horizon. On the left runs a fence. Beyond the fence is the Santa Fé
Railway. The telegraph poles and the distant mountains are the only
objects that break the interminable flatness. The sky is cloudless and
the heat of the sun intense. At every five or ten miles a stop is made
to drink water from the bag on the handlebar. One has a glorious thirst
in these parts.

Mile after mile goes by, and hour after hour. The sun grows higher in
the heavens, its rays pour down upon my back with unrelenting fury.
When shall we get to anywhere? The inner man grows weary of fasting in
this infernal heat. A massive rock, lying all alone in the vast plain
on the right, asks: "Why will ye not repent?" Oh, the irony of it! The
man who painted that rock was a fanatic, but he knew what he was about.

Kingman at last! Kingman meant breakfast. Breakfast meant water melons
and coffee and pies and other good--nay, beautiful--things. Kingman
meant drinks and ices and sundries to one's heart's content, and one's
pocket's contents.

On again I pursue my way, feeling like a new man. Next stop Yucca,
thirty miles. Gee! the sun is hot. Nearly eleven. My stars, what
will it be like at one? Everything is sand now--underneath, around,
everywhere. The wheels tear it up in clouds as they skim through.
Sometimes they slip sideways in it and flounder about, trying to grip
on to something firm. Sometimes we slither over altogether but the sand
is soft and spills do not disturb one much. But the sun--I wish it
would stop working a bit!

Vegetation appears once again, but of a very strange kind. It is a
vegetation that is different from any we know in Europe. It is at the
same time grotesque, mysterious, ridiculous, wonderful and luxurious.
It is desert vegetation. You have always thought of deserts as devoid
of every sign of vegetation? It is not so in the great deserts of
America. Life abounds but, as if in recompense for the privilege of
living, it has to take strange forms. Yet, if they are strange, it is
only in comparison with the vegetation to which in temperate climes we
are accustomed. The unnumbered varieties of cactus plants and trees are
in reality beautiful and strange beyond description. They are always
green, always fresh and always beautiful. It is a kind of "Futurist"
beauty that adorns them. The cactus trees, for instance, have their
leafless branches projecting almost at right angles to the trunk, and
they in turn branch out in a similar manner, presenting a grotesque
appearance. The tall and beautiful Ocatilla--one can almost refer to
it as a desert "shrub"--springs directly from the ground like several
long waving feelers bunched together below and spread apart above. The
prickly-pear, with its needle-covered fleshy leaves, each one joined
on to another without stem or stalk, presents a most weird aspect.
Even the modest and unassuming sage-brush, the poor down-trodden "John
Citizen" of every desert, seems to have been arranged on the barren
plain in regular rectangles and rows, spaced at mathematical distances
apart.

The secret is that each one has to think of only one thing--water. Each
cactus plant or tree is provided in itself with the means of storing
a reserve of water. Moisture is the one great thing that dominates
them all. That being so, the constitution of desert vegetation has
to be altogether different from that of humid climates just as our
constitutions would have to be entirely different if we lived on Mars,
where there is hardly any water at all.

This was truly a world of wild fancy. It would be ridiculous--I
thought--to try to explain a scene like this to people who had
never seen anything but ordinary trees and plants and flowers. They
would laugh in scorn when I tried to describe to them that strange
conglomeration of fanciful shapes, those mad-looking cactus trees with
every joint dislocated, those weird Ocatilla waving their long slender
arms twenty and thirty feet above the ground. And look at that great
organ-pipe cactus over there, nothing but a huge light-green fleshy
trunk, with two or three other trunks all perfectly straight and
perfectly vertical on top of it! How could one possibly describe things
like that?

"With a Watch-Pocket 'Carbine,' of course. What else?" I mused and
stopped to take out my camera from the toolbox. It was not so easily
done as said. The toolbox lid seemed red-hot to my fingers. I could not
bear my hand on the top of the tank even.

Oh, water, water: how beautiful thou art! Even when imbibed under
hand-pressure from a smelly canvas water-bag!

Could it EVER get any hotter than this? The only way was to
keep going, the faster the better. Then the heat, with frequent drinks,
was just tolerable. When I stopped, it was like being plunged suddenly
into a great furnace. Never mind; there would be ice-creams at Yucca.
On again, as fast as we can, leaping over gullies, ploughing through
the loose white sand. Lower and lower we get as we travel. The gradient
is not noticeable, for there are ups and downs all the way, and ridges
of hills here and there. All the same, we are making a steady descent.
In a couple of dozen miles we shall cross the River Colorado. That
morning we were over a mile high above it. Now we are at its level.
That explains the increasing heat the further we go, and further on for
hundreds of miles the road lies but a few feet above the level of the
sea; in places it is actually below it.

In the distance appear trees--poplars, eucalyptus and cedars. They
denote the small ramshackle town of Yucca, like an island in the plain.
The trail widens into a road. Living beings are seen, horses, carts
and motor-cars. It is the civilized world once again. What Yucca does
for a living I am at a loss to know. It cannot certainly be a ranching
town. Probably there is a little gold in the vicinity and it is a small
trading centre. Probably it is more important as a thirst-quenching
centre!

A short stop and on we went again into the desert, leaving behind
us the little oasis, and plunging ahead into a still hotter region.
The strange cactus trees and desert plants gathered round once more.
Rougher and rougher the road became. The sand gave place to sharp
loose grit interspersed with rocks and jutting boulders. As it did so,
gradually the luxurious vegetation of the desert grew thinner and the
dull miserable sage-brush took its place. The trail divided up into two
deep and solitary ruts and in between them lay loose shale and grit
that absolutely defied progress. The wheels would sink in freely and
churn the road up aimlessly. It was necessary then to ride in one of
the ruts. Where they were broad this was not difficult, but when they
narrowed and deepened a spill was almost bound to occur if one wobbled
but a fraction of an inch from the dead centre of the rut. Negotiating
a road of this nature was something new in the sport of motor-cycling,
but it was exasperating. I was to find later that riding continuously
in a rut was like riding on a greasy road, in that the more carefully
one went and the more timid one grew, the more dangerous did the riding
become. Time and time again I was thrown off by fouling the side
of the rut and plunged headlong over the handlebars into the road.
The slower I went the more often was I thrown. If I travelled about
ten or twelve miles an hour I could maintain my balance by using my
feet where necessary. Riding at that speed, however, was out of the
question. It was better to go faster and risk the frequent spills than
to be roasted alive. So I went faster. The faster I went the easier
was it to maintain balance naturally, because the steering became more
sensitive and only a very small movement of the handlebars within the
limits of the rut would suffice to correct any deviation from perfect
balance. I found that at between thirty-five and forty miles an hour
it was moderately easy to follow the rut through the swerves in its
course. But even then, occasionally there would be a nasty spill, a
few bent levers and some scratches. (I learned a week or so later from
"Cannonball Baker," the famous American racer, that he travels in these
same ruts at between fifty and sixty!)

Here and there the trail would cross a "wash" or a dried-up lake bed
and then the sand régime would reappear. And ever did death speak from
all around--desolation in bewildering intensity almost cried aloud
from the fire-swept waste that lay all about me. Often I passed the
remains of derelict cars left at the side of the road; sometimes it
was a mudguard or a spring, a tyre or a broken wheel; sometimes it was
a complete chassis, stripped of everything that could be taken away.
For what could be done in a region like this if the breakdown were too
large? Nothing but to push the car off the road and leave it to its
fate. Almost without exception the remains were of Ford cars. That
shows the wisdom of travelling in a machine that bears no great loss if
it is damaged or forsaken!

Occasionally I passed a gigantic heap of small tins all rusty and
forlorn. I was puzzled at first. How did they get there? And why had
they been heaped up if they were the discarded food-tins of passing
travellers? But no. They are the sole remains of a "mushroom" town of
the West. In them one can picture the sudden growth and the almost
equally sudden decay of a settlement that thrived while there was gold
to be found in the vicinity.

Here and there, too, were little heaps of bones, bleached white as
snow--the remains of a horse or a cow that had strayed. To lose
oneself, be it man or animal, is sure death in the Mohave Desert.

It is just midday. The sun is vertically above. It beats down on my
shoulders and dries up the skin of my hands. My hair, over which I had
never worn a hat since I left New York, is bleached to a light yellow
colour and stands erect, stiff and brittle. The alkali sand and dust
have absorbed all the moisture from my fingers and gradually cracks
and cuts are developing in my finger tips and at the joints. I find
it easier to grasp the handlebars with the palms of my hands alone.
My clothes are saturated with dust and my trench boots are cut and
scratched, with the seams broken away; the right sole has pulled away
and threatens to come off altogether unless carefully used. I feel that
the sooner I get out of the Mohave Desert the better it will be for me.

But the heat! It seems to know no shame, no pity. It is terrific. Every
five miles I stop and drink from the water bag. There is just enough
to carry me to the next stop. For the first time I begin to long for
shelter from the burning rays. There is none around anywhere--not as
far as the horizon. I must push on quickly.... The rut suddenly breaks
and swerves away.... CRASH!... Up again, lose no time. On once
more; what matter if the footbrake doesn't work? A motor-cycle is made
to go, not to stop!

In front, to the left, rise pinnacles of purple granite. They stick up
sharply into the sky like the teeth of a great monster grinning over
its prey. They are the "Needles," and they fringe the Colorado River.
What a glorious sight it will be to see a river again, with water
flowing in it.

Now on the horizon appears a blotch of green. Its beauty in that yellow
wilderness is beyond description. It is the green of the stately poplar
trees that surround the railway station of Topock. That is where the
road and the railway and the river all meet, and where we leave Arizona
and enter the State of California. Thank Heaven it is not far away. The
pinnacles rise higher and higher, the little oasis grows bigger and
bigger, and the trees greener and taller.

At last! Lizzie's rattle is silent. We come to rest under a great
shelter thatched with straw that has been erected by the roadside
opposite the restaurant--the only building in the town beside the
railway station. A few yards further on was a massive steel bridge 400
yards long that spanned the Colorado. Beyond lay California, but I was
satisfied with Arizona and the straw-thatched shelter for an hour or
two.

       *       *       *       *       *

At two we crossed the great bridge. What good fortune would California
bring, I wondered. It brought even worse roads than I had seen in
Arizona. There still remained over 200 miles of desert to be crossed.
The trail was very rough, like a mountain track at the start, full
of ups and downs and swerves and washes. Twelve miles further on I
arrived at the town of Needles, so tired and hot that I decided to
abandon travel until the evening. Then I would ride out into the desert
and make my bed under the steel-blue sky. I was too enamoured of the
wonderful sunsets and the glorious sunrises of the open plain to allow
them to pass unseen in a musty, stuffy hotel bedroom.

Needles, I was surprised to find, was very much bigger than I had
expected. It is now a good-sized town and its main street a bustle of
activity. After disposing of a steak at a Chinese restaurant, I bought
a book and retired to the square. There I took off my tunic, rolled
up my shirt sleeves and lay on the grass beneath the tall, thick palm
trees and whiled away the hot afternoon hours.

At evening as the setting sun was drawing a magic cloak over the
tropical sky, I stole out of Needles along the lonesome trail that I
had learnt to love. Except for low-lying mountains all around, there
was nothing but the everlasting sand and sage-brush. Behind lay the
gigantic plain and across it, like a silver snake, crept the great
silent river. It was the most impressive scene that I have ever beheld
from my bedroom window. My mattress was the sand with a waterproof
sheet laid upon it. Never did Monte Cristo with all his wealth sleep in
such luxury as that.

[Illustration: IN THE MOHAVE DESERT.]

[Illustration: CACTUS TREES NEAR SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA.]

He who all his life has associated the dawn with the soft greetings
of birds and the mellow noises of awakening nature, is struck at
once with the vast difference of desert countries. I have read that in
unexplored Africa and South America, the dawn is heralded by a mighty
tumult of millions of voices, a great chorus of every soul in the
great populace that lives in forest and jungle. In the Mohave Desert
the majesty of the dawn unfolds itself in deathly silence. The entire
absence of sound of any kind is awe-inspiring, almost weird, and the
observer can but watch and wonder at it as he sees the whole firmament
set ablaze with colours and shades that he never imagined existed, and
gradually the silent grandeur of the spectacle is revealed.

It was with just such feelings that from my bed I watched the unfolding
of another day from the depths of the great silent plain which lay
beyond that thread of silver in the distance.

And then, on again. There was a low range of mountains ahead to be
crossed. It was slow work and very tiring. The constant looseness of
the surface, the need for everlastingly keeping one's eyes glued to the
trail, and the terrible monotony of it all for mile after mile, made
me long all the more for a sight of the orange groves and the blue sea
beyond that to-morrow I might, if nothing unforeseen happened, enjoy.
Thus went fifteen, twenty, thirty miles. The first halt was reached.
It was only a railway station, a "hotel," a garage and two or three
houses, but it meant breakfast, and a good one at that, for the journey
that was ahead. Feeding over, out we went once more to brave the ruts
and the rocks and the sand, for miles and miles unending. The morning
sun grows slowly into a midday sun.

We have been climbing a little. Low-lying ranges of absolutely bare,
purple-brown jagged hills seem to hem us in. Soon we shall be across
them. Beyond there will be--what? More, perhaps. The road here has been
"oiled," that is, the sand has been levelled and then crude mineral oil
poured on. This hardens the crust and prevents the road from blowing
away, giving to the uninitiated the impression of well-laid macadam. It
is a relief after the loose sand, and it looks so strange for a black,
broad highway to be going across a desert! It does not last long, but
comes and goes in patches. Where it does appear it is often lumpy and
cut into grooves and slices. Nevertheless it is welcome.... The road
turns when it reaches the crest, continues for a few yards, and then....

A marvellous sight has suddenly appeared, viewed from the meagre height
at which we stand. A great plain lies beneath and before us, greater
and flatter and more desolate than my imagination could ever have
conceived. All around it are mighty saw-toothed ranges of mountains
pressing close upon the horizon and fading away into nothingness. In
it is nothing, not a prominence of any kind, save the omnipresent
sage-brush that seems to stretch in streaky uniformity like a great
purple-brown veil above the cream-white sand. It is impossible to go
on--to do anything but stop and wonder that over so great an area
nature can be so desolate. It is wonderful, mystifying in its intensity.

Did I say there was no prominence? What are those two minute specks
away over there in the heart of the plain? They must be a tremendous
distance away, but in their very minuteness they are conspicuous. It is
obvious that they are not there by the design of Nature.... As I look,
a tiny white speck appears further still to the left, as though it
emerged from behind the range of mountains that I have just crossed.
Look! There is a short black tail behind it. It is a train!

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, it moves across the great wilderness. The
black specks then are stations, small man-made oases where water has
been brought to the surface. Yes, it is true. Ten minutes elapse, and
the little white speck merges into the little black speck. Thus are
sizes and speeds dwarfed into insignificance when Nature has the mood
to show her magnitude!

On again we go, spinning smoothly awhile over the smooth, oiled road.
It stops in a mile or two and leaves nothing but the old heart-rending,
twisting, wayward ruts and sand to guide us. Hours go by. They are
hours of wild effort, maddening heat, and interminable boredom.
Generally, every fifteen or twenty miles, there was a railway station
and a restaurant where one could stop for drinks, ices, and petrol.

Four o'clock saw me in Ludlow, a small town, larger than the other
stops. I was dead tired. Come what may, I was not going to work myself
to death. I had done 200 miles since daybreak. That was enough for
anyone in a country like this.

At eight o'clock I set out with Lizzie in the deepening twilight to
find a resting-place for the night. The road was oiled, but in most
places the sand of the desert had blown over it, covering it for
several inches in depth, and sometimes obliterating it from view for
many hundred yards.

"I will sleep at the foot of yonder hill," quoth I, and saw visions of
concrete roads and orange groves beyond the horizon.



CHAPTER XX

I REACH THE PACIFIC COAST


I saw something else on the horizon too. It started as a little black
speck on the road, seeming to swerve now and then from one side to
another. It emitted a strange noise that at first was scarcely to be
heard, but increased until it reverberated indefinitely from the bare
angular mountain ranges.

It was a motor-cycle!

An inexpressible feeling of sympathy and comradeship surged through me,
as I realized that here was another fool starting to do what one fool
had already almost done. I wondered vaguely whether he knew what he was
doing.

We both stopped, dismounted, and looked at each other for a few moments
before either spoke. The sight of another motor-cycle seemed to take
both of us by surprise. The stranger, a young man of twenty-four or so,
had an old twin-cylinder Excelsior that looked very much as if it had
seen better days. I led off the conversation.

"Where do you reckon you're going on that?"

"New York."

"Ever done it before?"

"Nope."

"Insured?"

"Nope."

"Pleasure or business?"

"Both." Here he fumbled around a huge bruise on his forehead.
"Leastways, that was the idea. I'm writing it up for the _Adventure
Magazine_ when I'm through"--and he added guardedly, "That is, if I
don't kill meself with a few more headers like this."

"How'd you get that?"

"Oh, Boy, I came such a crash on a bit of oiled roadway back there by
that salt-lake bed. Don't remember anything of it except being chucked
clean over the grips about fifty. My Gad, it was some crash! I came
round about half an hour after. Say, Boy, you look out for them ruts;
ride plumb in the middle of the road, and you may miss 'em, 'cause
they're filled in and blown over with sand. Jest the right width of
your wheel, they are."

"Sure, I've made their acquaintance already; kind of keep a man fit,
don't they? But, say, you've got many more like that coming between
here and New York. Take my tip, old man. If you've got anyone depending
on you for a living and you don't want to knock the 'X' and yourself to
little pieces, you had better go back home right now and tootle up and
down the Californian coast for a holiday. And if you still want to get
to New York--well, all I can say is, there's a dem fine train service,
and you'll find a depot right there in Ludlow."

"Don't you worry, Boy; I've done a heap of motor-cycling in my days
and I guess I don't get scared at a header or two, and s'long as I can
fix anything that happens along, I guess I'll git to Lil Ole Noo York
before a couple of weeks is gone."

"Young man," said I in a fatherly tone, "you don't know what you're
saying. You're talking blasphemy--sheer heresy. Your crash has turned
your wits a little."

"Thanks, but I've made up my mind to go by road, and go by road I will."

"That's the spirit, but just a few more words of advice. Sell it and
buy a Ford. Then you'll be able to take some one with you."

"I'm taking some one already, Boy. He's back at Ludlow. Shipped him on
from Barstow, the road was so dog-gone bad and he got scared at the
desert."

"What! You're taking him on the carrier?" I cried aghast.

"Sure enough. What's against it?"

I was speechless. His youth and innocence held me spellbound for a
moment. Then I burst forth:

"Man, you're mad! ABSOLUTELY MAD! Here, c'mon, Lizzie, before
it gets too dark and before this lunatic gets unsafe." I kicked her
into a roar. "Cheerio, old man! Give my love to the Angels to-morrow!"

Then his open exhaust burst into a clatter and I saw him no more. I
often thought about him, though, and wondered how, when, and where he
ended up.

Next morning I shook the desert sand from my blanket for the last
time. By hook or by crook I should be sailing through the streets of
Los Angeles before nightfall. I judged I looked pretty fierce on the
whole. I had no looking-glass, having left my suit-case to be shipped
on back at Santa Fé, but I had the best part of a week's growth on my
chin and I had not known the joy of a wash for four days. My hair, my
boots, my clothes, my everything, were saturated with sand and dust. My
tunic, which in its earlier days had been a green tweed, was now white
at the back, bleached almost colourless with the sun and then soaked
with alkali dust. In the front and below the sleeves it maintained
something approaching its original colour. My boots? Well, they had not
been off for four days, and the right sole, which had been threatening
revolution, had so many times nearly tripped me up by doubling
underfoot, that I had removed it near the instep with my pen-knife!

And Lizzie was in no better condition. Externally she was a mass of
string, wire, insulation-tape, mud, oil, and sand. Internally she
was a bundle of rattles and strange noises. Everything was loose and
worn; the sand had invaded her at every point and had multiplied wear
a thousandfold. Latterly the tappet rods had had to be cleaned and
adjusted over a sixteenth of an inch every day until there was no more
adjustment possible. The valve rockers were worn half-way through, some
more than that. One had worn right through until it had broken in the
middle. I began to be afraid that the engine would not hold out even
for the 200 odd miles to come. By handling her carefully and giving her
ample oil, I hoped to "deliver the goods" and get across the remaining
half of the great desert tract that borders on the Sierra Madre Range
running parallel with the coast from north to south. Once across that
range, everything, I told myself, would change abruptly, the roads, the
scenery, and the climate.

Mile after mile of rock and sand went by with the sweating hours.
Often little patches of oiled road appeared, stayed awhile, and then
miraculously disappeared below the white, loose surface. Nearly always
there were two ruts, beautifully sharp and well cut, sunk three or four
inches below the rest of the surface, caused by the fierce rays of
the midday sun converting the oiled surface into a plastic condition
easily moulded by passing cars which, once given the lead, follow
blindly in the others' "footsteps." Many a bad swerve and an occasional
spill did I have when my front wheel found such as this. But the major
portion of the road was just the bare, loose sand and gravel of the
desert.

I had by now become so used to my own company that the sense of
loneliness almost disappeared, and I felt as perfectly at ease here as
anywhere else. I felt that the great wastes had a charm, nay, even a
lure, that eclipsed all past sensations and gave a mental satisfaction
that no other phase of Nature could ever reveal. I cannot describe
the ineffable something which made me love the great solitude and the
mighty spaces, but it is there nevertheless, and, like the greatest
of passions, it gives extremes. After one has lived but a few days in
the desert, either he loves it passionately or he loathes it. There is
nothing in between.

On the right there lies the great "Death Valley" that stretches a
hundred miles to the north between the Armagosa and the Paramint
Mountains. Its name is suggestive of the many people who have miserably
perished of thirst in its clutches. It is the remains of a long-since
dried-up inland lake and parts of it are 150 feet below the level of
the sea. There is nothing in it save bare rock and shifting alkali
sand, with here and there a cactus or a little sage. The heat is
tremendous and the thermometer sometimes rises to 140°. In all, not a
pleasant place either to live in or to die. But there are those who in
the search for gold live here for months at a stretch.

Confound it! There goes No. 1 cylinder again. Why doesn't she fire? Am
I to start overhauling the engine in this terrible place? I stop to
change a plug.... Nothing doing.... Try another.... Still no result.
For ten minutes I tinker with red-hot tools. Gee! the blessed machine
will be melting soon if we don't move quick. In disgust I go on again
with only three cylinders working. Past memories crowd into my mind,
but the eternal battle with the loose sand suffices to keep them out.

It was too bad, to start playing pranks like this within a few hours of
the coast. The sand of the road absorbed most of the power I now had
left and often I had to change down to bottom gear to get along at all.
It was wonderful what a difference just that one cylinder made, and it
was most annoying that it should happen just here, where the earth was
nothing more than a confused mass of rocks and sand, and the sun stood
vertically above in the sky. "Thank Heaven, I've some water left, if
anything happens," thought I.

"What in the world is that thing?" I asked myself. Closer acquaintance
proved it to be a motor lorry, dressed up as a caravan and minus a back
axle--a most remarkable sight in most remarkable surroundings. From the
numerous loop-tracks that swerved around it, it had evidently stood
there many days. Its owner was lying underneath on his back.

"Pretty place to change a back axle, old man," I remarked intelligently.

"Yep. Not the kind o' thing a feller does for the fun of it, either,"
he retorted, scrambling out from his resting-place in the sand.

"Well, is there anything I can do for you, anyway? I don't quite
like to see a chap stranded in a blankety-blank country like this on
blankety-blank roads like these." I forget just the adjectives I used,
but I know they were hardly of the drawing-room variety. Imagine my
surprise when a feminine voice from inside chirped out:

"Yes, that's just about got 'em sized up! I've never heard such a
mighty cute description of 'em."

Five days they had been there. The back axle had broken under the huge
strain of dragging the load through the deep, loose sand. A passing car
had taken it to San Bernardino to be repaired, and other passing cars
had kept them well supplied with water. They expected to have the axle
back the next day and then had nothing to fear. As I could do nothing
for them, I propped Lizzie up against the side of the lorry and tried
once more to persuade No. 1 cylinder to join hands with the rest.

After half an hour of useless toil, I bade farewell to the caravan and
its occupants.

"Quite sure I can't do anything?"

"Plumb sure, thanks. Mebbe we shall be there before you, y'know,"--with
a wicked twinkle in his eye.

Then followed hours and hours of ceaseless toil. We climbed hills and
crossed great lake-beds that glistened white with a dazzling glare.
In some of these there was nothing to be seen in the vast stretch of
alkali deposit where once, thousands of years ago, rested the briny
waters of lakes and inland seas--nothing, not even a plucky bush of
sage-brush, clinging valiantly to its life-hold.

We came to Barstow, a growing settlement, a railway centre and with
great alkali factories. Here, after nearly 100 miles' running, I had a
substantial breakfast-lunch-dinner meal and filled my water-bag for the
last time. We were nearing the end of the Mohave Desert.

Here the trail turns sharply to the south to "San Berdoo," the
colloquial abbreviation of San Bernardino. At one time the trail had
crossed the desert by a different route altogether, in places almost
100 miles from the railway line. So many souls had perished with the
heat and lack of water--perchance through some breakdown or through
losing their way--that later a new road was "constructed" following
closely the track of the railway so that travellers by road need never
be in difficulties for long. It is an unwritten law in any of the
American deserts that anyone can hold up a train anywhere if he needs
water or supplies or other help. It is willingly given, whether it be a
freight train or the "California Limited" express from New York to San
Francisco!

The San Gabriel Mountains now rose high on the horizon. They had but to
be crossed, and then all our troubles would be over.

So I thought.

At Victorville, a growing town at the north base of the range, the
desert had almost disappeared. Eucalyptus trees became strangely
intermixed with cactus trees, and the aroma of their long, grey-green
leaves filled the air with a new sensation. It was the approach of
civilization once again.

And then followed the long, winding climb up to the Cajon Pass. In the
thick sand and with only three cylinders, it was hard work and slow
work. I thought we should never get to the top. Looking back, I beheld
a wonderful panorama of desert plain, and a glistening sea of sand;
looking forward, I saw just a gap in the great black wall and a rocky
pathway winding through it.

Are we NEVER going to reach the summit? We must have climbed
nearly a mile high already, I argued with myself, when, of a sudden,
the twisting, rocky trail ceased to exist. It vanished like magic, and
instead there was before us a magnificent, broad highway of smooth,
flat concrete that made me yell with delight. It was wonderful. I
laughed and sang with childish glee to think that after 4,000 miles
of mud and sand and soil and rock and rut and unspeakable goat-track,
I was at last on a concrete road once again, with a surface like a
billiard table. I swerved madly from side to side to make sure those
two haunting ruts had really disappeared, and laughed again when I
found I was not thrown off. It was just glorious.

One more turn, and a great valley lay at my feet. It was green with
grass and the mountain sides were clothed in pine trees. Pine trees!
How beautiful they looked! It was surely a dream, a vision, a trick
of the imagination. There was a long, winding gradient down into the
valley. I shut the engine off and we coasted down the smooth concrete
without even a whisper or a jar of any kind. It was like a sudden entry
into heaven--and almost as silent.

There were now seventy miles of concrete leading between avenues of
eucalyptus and groves of orange trees into Los Angeles. Further, the
road was almost perfectly flat, although bordered by the San Gabriel
range, and, with a few right-angle bends here and there, cut straight
across from east to west, with hardly a swerve from the straight line.

Truly it was like a new world, this fruit garden of California. For
miles unbroken save by little avenues, one passed row upon row of
orange trees laid out in perfect symmetry and exactitude in the rich
flat soil. A narrow ditch, dug parallel with each row and having small
branches to each individual tree, communicated with larger ditches
along which flowed a constant stream of fresh water led from the
mountain sides.

Interspersed would be groves of prunes, peaches, and apples, then a
plantation of water-melons and cantaloupes of all shapes and sizes.

And then, as if to snatch away the enjoyment of all these pleasant
things, a great clatter arose from the engine. Something had broken at
last, and it seemed that the whole was a revolving mass of loose pieces
all knocking up against each other. Then, before I had been able to
slow down--it all happened in a few seconds--there was a metallic thud,
the back wheel locked dead, and the machine dry-skidded itself to rest.
Once again Fate had decreed against me, angry that I should have got so
far in spite of all her efforts.

Well, well! There was plenty of time to spare now; no need to hurry.
I sat down on the grass at the roadside in the shade of an orange
tree, ate two oranges--from the tool-box--and smoked a pipe. Feeling
refreshed in every sense, I then proceeded to take the engine to pieces.

No. 1 piston had broken in fragments and a large piece had jammed
between the big end of one of the connecting rods and the crank-case.
It was strange that it had not punched a hole through it.

It was far too long a job to take off the sump at the roadside--it
would have meant taking the whole engine out of the frame--nearly a
day's work--so I removed as many of the pieces of piston as I could get
at through the inspection window. The piston-head was floating loose
like a flat disc above the small end. This I removed and packed the two
halves of the broken gudgeon pin apart, so as to guide the small end
up and down in the cylinder. It was impossible to remove the connecting
rod entirely, even with the cylinder off, without removing the whole
engine from the frame and taking off the sump.

In a couple of hours I was going again, but very very gingerly, lest
another piece of piston should be caught up and cause another jamb.
The noise of the rattle too was terrific, and I could hear the warning
of passing cars (of which there were now several) only when they were
right behind me. Sometimes it would get suddenly worse and a further
disrupture would appear imminent, and then it would go suddenly back
again to its normal. Thus we toiled for thirty miles, at an average
speed of twelve miles an hour.

At Ontario--the towns were as numerous as they were prosperous--I
feared another and final episode. A Ford car that was passing slowed
down to offer me assistance, and putting Lizzie in "free engine" I
hung on to his hoodstays with my right arm as a tow-rope. This lasted
for ten miles, but I could stand it no longer; my arms were stiff and
aching with the uneven strain. I thanked my benefactor and let go.

The remaining twenty miles into Los Angeles were endured and
accomplished under our own power at about eight miles an hour. The
attention I attracted was considerable. Hundreds upon hundreds of cars,
buses, and motor-cycles passed, hurrying here and there, their tyres
making a continuous low hum on the concrete road. Luxury, wealth, and
happiness abounded on every hand. No greater antithesis to the aching
void of the desert back behind the mountains could be imagined.

Every house was a picture, a model of cleanliness and homeliness. The
art of building bungalows is reduced in California to the irreducible.
It is amazing to see the variety of design and the characteristic
beauty of them all. They made the modern English bungalows of my memory
seem like enlarged dog-kennels by comparison.

At five o'clock in the afternoon we rattled into Los Angeles, the New
York of the Far West. Lizzie's clatter rose above the noise of the
trolley cars that thronged the busy streets. Here at last was the
long-sought-for goal--the goal that for nearly three months had urged
me westward! And my steed? Poor Lizzie, she cried aloud for a respite
from the long, weary journey!

Had I known where the Henderson Agency was I could not have found my
way there quicker. It seemed as if Lizzie's instincts had taken her
there just as a lost cat, transported hundreds of miles from home,
slowly, painfully and perseveringly drags its tired body back again.

A quarter of an hour later I was sailing in a side-car towards the
"Clark Hotel." That was where my hotel at Santa Fé had recommended me
to go and had forwarded my baggage.

We drew up at the door of a palatial establishment--the "posh" hotel
of Los Angeles. Once again, after many a long day, my knees began
to quake. Brushing by the magnificent door-porter, I swung into the
luxurious lounge. Afternoon tea was just finishing. I strolled across
to the reception desk, trying hard to maintain an air of complete
innocence as regards my personal appearance. I endeavoured to assume an
attitude of perfect congruity with my surroundings.

To say the least, I was lamentably unsuccessful! Little groups of
people chatting together stopped and gazed at the dishevelled
intruder. Imperfectly disguised smirks were evident on all sides.
Pages, bell-boys, and porters quickly brought their grinning faces to
attention as I glowered upon them in turn. At last I reached the desk.

"You've got some baggage for me, I believe--a couple of grips--sent
from the 'Montezuma' at Santa Fé. Shepherd is my name."

Meanwhile the manager appeared on the scene. Resting himself with both
hands on the desk as if to steady himself against any possible shock
that he might receive from the contemplation of so strange a spectacle,
he gazed at me in silence. Then, below his breath, he found words to
convey his astonishment:

"My Gad!" he said, and paused deliberately. Then he continued
explosively, "I've seen some sunburnt faces in my time, but never,
NEVER, NEVER have I seen a man anywhere with a face
like yours!"

"It's nice of you to say so," I retorted.

"Heavens, man!" he continued, ignoring the interruption, "your hair's
nearly white and your chest is nearly black. Where in hell have you
been?"

"Oh, I didn't stay there long," I replied, "no longer than was
necessary to get here from New York."

"New York!" (I was quite expecting him to say "Whar's that?" but
evidently its existence was known in well-informed circles in Los
Angeles). "Have you walked it or swum it or what?"

"Only motor-cycled it, Old Bean!"

"Well, now, if that's not.... Here; I'll give you your key. Go and have
a good bath RIGHT NOW."

I thanked him. A porter had got my bags and stood waiting. His face was
the essence of staid immobility when I looked at him. Together we went
in the elevator to the _n_th floor. Eager to see what I really did
look like, my first indulgence was to look at myself in the glass, a
thing I had not done for many a day.

It certainly was a shock. I could barely recognize myself. I really
was the most remarkable creature I had ever seen. I could not refrain
from bursting into uncontrollable laughter. The hitherto straight-faced
porter did likewise, and we both felt the better for it.

A hot bath! Wonder of wonders! I tumbled into it and the past was
forgotten in the inexpressible ecstasy of the present.



CHAPTER XXI

LOS ANGELES TO SAN FRANCISCO


In full, the real name of Los Angeles is "La Puebla de Nuestra Señora
la Reina de los Angeles"--"The City of our Lady the Queen of the
Angels." Founded by Spanish settlers about 1780, it is built upon the
plains that roll from the foothills of the Sierra Madre down to the
sea. It represents the very last word in the civilization of the Far
West.

Los Angeles is a city of which to be proud. It is a hustling
metropolis, but not too hustling. Its streets are wide and well-laid,
its buildings clean, and its residences are just too wonderful for any
words of mine. It is moreover the "movie centre" _par excellence_ of
the world. "Duggie" and "Mary" and "Charlie" are not merely familiar
characters on the screen. They are your neighbours. You see them pass
in the streets and go shopping with them in the stores, like ordinary
human beings. Undoubtedly the development of Los Angeles in recent
years is due largely to this industry. So also is the amazing beauty
of its feminine population. Going deeper still, we find that the
secret of its success lies in the wonderful climate. There is but one
rainy season in Los Angeles during the year, and that is the month of
December.

Strange to say, Los Angeles is not on the sea-coast. It is twelve miles
to the nearest part of the beach. This seemed rather extraordinary
to me, particularly as San Francisco, with whom they are so eagerly
competing, stands on one of the finest and largest harbours in the
world. I remarked so to the _Times_ reporter one day. "But why," I
asked, "did they build Los Angeles so far from the sea?" "Oh well, you
see," he replied in all seriousness, "they had a mighty good idea about
things. They reckoned that by the time Los Angeles had really started
growing she'd be right on top of the Pacific, so they gave her a chance
and laid the place out twelve miles away." "Oh, was that it? I see,"
was my innocent retort.

Be that as it may, there is a network of beautiful, straight, concrete
roads leading from the city down to the coast in all directions.
Dozens of small residential towns are springing up amid this network
of roads--towns that some day will be suburbs of Los Angeles. At least
that is the way to think of them. And the roads themselves? On Saturday
afternoons and Sundays they are like great living arteries along which
flows an endless stream of motor-cars. The Californians know how to
enjoy themselves. There is not one fragment of the art of exterminating
boredom that they have not studied. They frivol _en masse_, and to do
it they naturally choose the sea-beach as a habitat. Consequently the
coast is strung with dozens of seaside resorts of every type and shade
of description, and with only a mile or two between them.

A trip to one of these "Los Angeles Beaches" is essential to the
education of the true student of Southern Californian civilization.
Never at any time have I seen public highways so completely covered
with motor-cars. The number seen approaches the incredible, in the eyes
of the astonished European. Frequently there were two almost endless
rows of cars with but a few feet between them, moving slowly along like
a gigantic procession several miles in length. Occasionally there would
be a hold-up, and the whole string of cars, one after the other, would
pull up, each car close upon its forerunner. Without exception, all
American cars are provided with buffers at front and rear so that the
car does not suffer any damage when one touches another even with quite
a severe impact. The obstruction is removed, and on the procession goes
again. Perhaps some unfortunate is changing a wheel at the roadside.
Then there is a big curve in the long, straight line where the more
fortunate Fords and Maxwells and Buicks and Overlands, etc., etc.,
swerve round him. And thus we carry on until the coast is reached.

Naturally the first glimpse I had of the Pacific Ocean gave me feelings
of unbounded joy. I even confess to having obeyed the childish instinct
to pick up shells and seaweed on the beach. It was a sight to look upon
until the majesty of the breakers and the infinite expanse of the deep
blue ocean eclipsed one's sense of magnitude altogether and one became
lost in a world of vision and fantasy.

I spent over a week in Los Angeles. During that time I was almost
overwhelmed with hospitality. The Californians I found easily the most
hospitable people in America. At every hand I found people, whom I had
neither seen nor heard of before, inviting me to dinner, and taking me
rides in their cars. Further, I found I was friends with the police,
and that without any difficulty either! In fact, the very air of
California is charged with friendliness. Consequently, I was sorry when
the day came when I should leave it behind.

Lizzie was finished. She had had a complete overhaul and several parts
of the engine replaced. Numerous telegrams and letters had been flashed
across the States to the works at Chicago. They were in vain. Although
still under the makers' guarantee, they would accept no responsibility.
I paid the last bill that made Lizzie's repair account just exceed the
amount I originally paid for her three months before and started out
to complete the journey to San Francisco. I cannot, however, omit to
mention the extreme courtesy and hospitality with which I was met at
the Henderson Agency itself. I could never at any time wish for better
attention or hope to make better friends in foreign countries than I
was fortunate enough to do in the "City of Angels." I left it with a
pang of regret.

It was late in the evening when I started. I found to my annoyance that
the lights were defective. The headlight was _hors de combat_. Only the
"dimmer" remained to light me on my way. I had about sixty dollars in
my pocket, though, so I was the perfection of happiness withal.

I am afraid those sixty dollars need some explanation. I arrived in
Los Angeles a week before with about twenty. The Post Office, as ever,
maintained an inexplicable silence. Having now quite reconciled myself
to being mailless wherever I went, save for a letter or two forwarded
through my friends in Cincinnati, I decided to direct my energies to a
profitable purpose while waiting for Lizzie's return from hospital.

I scanned the newspapers night and day. Had I been a tram-driver or
a page-boy I could have made a hit at once without any difficulty.
There was also a big demand for boot-blacks, but for anything that
suited my tastes and inclinations there was nothing. My small stock
of "greenbacks" (paper dollars) was slowly diminishing the while.
Something had to be done.

So I started in on journalism. Strange to say, I made money at it. With
the one exception of Kansas City, it is the only time I ever have.
Americans seemed interested in the impressions of stray Englishmen
through "God's own country." Better still, Californians seemed
interested to learn what one stray Englishman in particular had to say
about California on the one hand, and all the other States on the other!

I have the best of reasons for believing that they were perfectly
satisfied with my report. So that is how, after paying for Lizzie's
operation, I still had sixty odd dollars left to my credit.

The broad, well-lighted city streets with their trolley-cars soon were
left behind, and we rode for miles along boulevards of wondrous surface
through the residential quarters of Los Angeles. There were magnificent
bungalows of countless variety, the homes of both poor and rich.
Further on, we passed through Hollywood, the home of the homes of the
"movie" people. Occasionally would be seen a great block of buildings,
unpretentious in architecture but palatial in extent. These were the
"studios" where the films are made that instruct, amuse, and annoy the
world's population.

Finally, the last bungalow receded into the background and ahead was
inky blackness, a beautiful concrete highway, and the faint forms of
mountain ranges. In the darkness, dispelled only within a radius of a
few feet by the small pea-lamp that remained in service, everything
looked mystic, shadowy, and strange. It seemed just the night, just the
surroundings for adventure, the kind of environment that makes the
vagrant life so much worth living.

The road ran parallel with the coastline, some ten or more miles away,
but in between lay the Santa Monica Mountains, whose feet the highway
skirted. Sometimes the hill-sides were barren and rocky; other times
they were clothed in gloomy cedar forests. I wondered what strange
animals lurked in them and whether I should make the acquaintance of
any mountain lions, bears, wolves, wild cats and other animals that
still are plentiful in the mountain regions of California. Occasionally
a car passed, the glare of its headlights transforming the sombre
surroundings into a still stranger world of silver and gold. The road
for a few moments changed to a path of glistening white leading to
the unknown. And then, when the car dashed by, everything plunged
instantaneously into a sea of blackness so intense that it could almost
be felt.

I had intended to polish off a couple of hundred miles before morning.
I love nothing better than a long night ride on a good road. But lack
of illumination defied my intentions. After thirty miles I pulled in to
the side of the road where a great beech tree overhung its branches,
and laid down my ground-sheet upon the soft bed of dead leaves and nuts
that lay beneath.

It was the softest mattress that I have ever lain upon in the open. In
a few minutes I was fast asleep.

In the early hours of the morning I began to dream. I dreamt that some
great animal was walking slowly around me as I lay. It snuffled about,
grunting at intervals in a most dissatisfied manner. It is not a habit
of mine to dream about anything. I remember reflecting subconsciously
that I had ceased to dream of bears and such like when I reached the
age of four. Why then should I dream about them now? Oh, hang the
fellow! What is he making that confounded noise for?

A few minutes later I discovered that I was not dreaming at all. I
was wide awake. Without moving anything but my eyes I peered into the
darkness that still enshrouded everything. Sure enough I could make out
a huge black mass somewhere near my feet, but could not discern its
actual form.... Slowly, gently, I slipped my hand underneath my pillow.
At last, I thought, I shall have a chance of shooting at something
bigger than prairie-dogs! And then the thought struck me, how strange
it was that in all these thousands of miles of travelling through
plains and deserts and forests, my slumbers had never been interrupted
by any nocturnal visitor--I had not even SEEN anything that
could possibly annoy the most domesticated young person who loves his
feather-bed.

The big black thing became more distinct as I looked. His head was down
and he was engaged in wondering just exactly what my feet were and who
put them there; whether they'd be nice to eat if vegetable, and if not,
whether they were animal or mineral, and if so, why? I waited my time.
He put his head closer to smell the offending object. With a sudden
kick I landed out straight for his nose with my right foot. A yell rent
the air and the big black thing leapt away squealing into the darkness.
A 33 bullet followed him there just for luck.

His squeaks gradually died down as he scampered helter-skelter down the
road. It was only a poor harmless pig looking for nuts--but he had no
right to disturb my slumbers!

In the morning we continued towards the west. The end of the Santa
Monica Range came in sight and soon the road descended in long winding
"grades" towards the sea-coast. For the first time by daylight I saw
California in its true colours. Here I should mention that the height
of summer is not the best time to explore California. It is in the
winter and the spring that the country is arrayed in its greatest
glory. The lack of rain, even near the sea-coast, is so marked that
by the time summer is reaching its zenith, there is not a green
blade of grass to be seen. The face of the country, where it remains
uncultivated and unirrigated, is an eternal brown. At first this
brings a sense of disappointment to the traveller who has heard so
much of California's meadows of wonderful green mingled with the hues
of countless kinds of wild flowers. In summer-time there are none.
But in spring-time, when the sun has not started to blaze and the
rain has worked its miracles, the charm of the country must be beyond
description.

At Ventura, a pretty town on the sea-coast, Lizzie's speedometer ticked
off the 4,500th mile. There remained another 450 to be done, and the
journey would be at an end. I had little doubt now of getting there.
The roads were so good that motor-cycling was child's play. Indeed it
often became monotonous. At most times one could travel at almost any
speed of which one's machine was capable, and still the straight, flat
roads would be tiring to the point of boredom.

The towns and villages one passed, however, were full of charm. The
most famous road through California, El Camino Real--which means
"The Highway of the King"--was one which I was following and had its
origin in the old trail which the historic padres followed in the
romantic days of the Spanish occupation two and three hundred years
ago. This trail, blazed by the padres "by God's will for the reigning
monarch of Spain," stretches for 900 miles from Mexico to Oregon,
and along it there still stand the old Mission Houses that are so
prominent a feature of Californian history. There are nineteen of them,
each "a day's journey apart," and each of an entirely distinct and
characteristic type of architecture.

These Missions stand to-day, having with few exceptions been maintained
intact in their original form, and they serve as beautiful testimonies
to the genius of their builders. So admired is their style of
architecture that they are religiously copied, more so now than ever
before, in public buildings and sometimes private dwellings in all
parts of the West. One even sees railway stations and tramway termini
modelled in the form of one of these ancient Franciscan Missions!

If I was charmed with Ventura, I was thrice charmed with Santa Barbara,
another wonderful coast town of modern style built on an ancient site.
The old Santa Barbara Mission stands away up on the hill-sides of the
Santa Ynez Range above the town and looks over the blue waters of the
Pacific towards the craggy islands of Santa Cruz that lie beyond. For
sheer delight of climate, scenery, and surroundings I would forsake any
home in any town in any country that I have yet seen to live in Santa
Barbara, had I the wherewithal to do so.

Following the coastline, and in many places separated from it only
by a ridge of stones or a strip of vegetation, the road continues on
its happy way for many miles. On the left splash the deep blue waters
of the Pacific. On the right rise steeply the Santa Ynez Mountains,
which like a link in a great chain form, with many others, more or
less disjointed, the "coast range" that fringes the sea from Mexico
to Oregon. Sometimes the road is bordered with Yucca palms, sometimes
with pepper trees, and sometimes with eucalyptus. One even sees, almost
simultaneously, cactus plants and prickly pears growing amid the
parched-up grass on the sun-swept side of some unfriendly hill!

At Caviota, a few miles south of the famous "Point Conception," the
road leaves the coast and swerves inland. Across the tip of the Santa
Ynez Range it goes, swerving now to the left, then to the right,
climbing, dipping, and swerving again for sixty or seventy miles until
once more it catches a glimpse of the Pacific at El Pismo beach.

Near here I left the beaten track and followed a narrow pathway that
led around a hill-side to the cliffs. Here I made my bed down once
again in the long, dry grass that clothed the top. I could say with
tolerable certainty that never before had a motor-cycle followed that
path. It was soon no more than a little rut scarcely visible in the
grassy slope. But I achieved my objective. With the murmur of the sea,
as it dashed against the rocks a few hundred feet below, singing always
in my ears, I passed one more night of exquisite repose and magic charm.

I awoke in the morning and sniffed the sea air. It was very attractive
certainly, but was there not something the matter with it somehow? Or
was it my imagination? I wriggled half out of bed and peered over the
edge of the cliff. I stopped; I looked; I listened. Down there, on a
little bed of white sand, lay a dead seal stretched out flat, as one
would lay a tablecloth. He looked a dismal sight, poor fellow.

Ten miles more, inland again, and it was breakfast-time. We were at San
Luis Obispo, a fine little town at the foot of the Santa Margarita--one
more link in the coast range. San Luis Obispo took its name from an old
Mission founded in 1772, and once was the centre of wealth among the
Spaniards of the country.

Afterwards we cross the hills and continue northward. Always the
Southern Pacific Railroad is on our right, sometimes just a few feet
from the highway. The concrete has stopped and at intervals we have
our old friend, the natural gravel. The laying of concrete is being
proceeded with at many places, a hundred yards or so at a time, and
detours running parallel at the side connect us up with the road ahead.
Many little seedling towns are passed--all of them well planned and
well advertised--and at last we come to Paso Robles (Pass of the Oaks),
a larger town which derives its name from a great natural oak park. I
should mention that oak trees are abundant in California and they grow
often to a very great size.

We are now in the Salinas Valley, in proportion like a long, narrow
groove 100 miles long cut in the face of the country. Through it runs
the Salinas River, winding and bending with great sweeps through its
sandy bed. At midsummer it is dried up completely, and, from the
long wooden bridges that cross and re-cross it, looks like a sandy
sea-beach, with fences across from one bank to the other to stop the
cattle straying!

Along this valley blows a constant cool wind from the sea in the
north. All day long it blows, week in, week out. The further north one
proceeds the stronger it becomes, until it approaches almost a gale
that whistles down the narrow channel like a cold blast, even in the
broiling heat of the cloudless sun. Where, here and there, were to
be seen bunches of poplar trees and eucalyptus, they were invariably
leaning distinctly to the south, their gaunt trunks permanently moulded
by the inexorable wind. On the smaller trees, the sycamores and the
cedars, there was often not a branch nor a leaf to be seen on the
northern side of the trunk, the foliage almost touching the ground on
the southern side. Those hundred miles were the coldest I had known in
the whole journey, and always I found the head wind so strong that the
power of the machine seemed half absorbed in merely combating it.

San Miguel, San Ardo, King City, Soledad, Gonzales, and finally, at
five in the afternoon, Salinas was reached at the end of the valley.
San Francisco was now but little more than 100 miles beyond. To-morrow
would be the last day. The end was in sight.

But what of Lizzie? Alas, she was in a sorry condition. Gradually since
we left Los Angeles two days before she had fallen off in power. The
old rattles and noises had recurred with astonishing alacrity. I had
had many stops for minor adjustments and examinations, and even feared
another breakdown before the skyscrapers of 'Frisco loomed in sight.
The reader may be in as good a position as I to judge of the merits of
American compared with English motor-cycles, but he will admit that
seldom could occur a worse combination of bad luck and pig-headed
pertinacity than is witnessed in the wanderings of Lizzie and me
through the United States of America.

At Salinas I ate and drank right heartily, and drowned my sorrows in
wistful contemplation of the blue eyes of the gentle damsel who served
apple pie across the counter of the "quick-meal" luncheon bar.

"Lizzie, would you like to sleep by the sea to-night for the last
time? Think we can get there, old girl? It's twenty miles there and
twenty back, y' know!--Righto, c'mon!" and she burst once again into an
animated confusion of noise and life.

Monterey is on the coast. It stands surrounded by hills on a
magnificent bay which, with its yachts, motor-launches, and
fishing-boats, is one of the most famous beauty-spots of the
Californian coast. Monterey was once an important centre of history in
the early days of Spanish and Mexican sovereignty. Later, it enjoyed
the distinction of being the first spot in California where the
American flag was hoisted. Now it is little more than a seaside resort,
but as famous in California as is Naples in Italy.

A splendid highway leads from Salinas and cuts through beautiful hills
clothed in cedar and oak. The journey was worth doing, if only to
breathe the sea air again and sleep to its murmur.

It was rather a pathetic affair--that last night out. I hated to
leave Lizzie propped up on her stand on the low cliffs while I made a
comfortable bed in the sand on the beach. The tide was out, but I was
determined to get as near to the sea as possible. I chose a spot where,
nestled in a sandy cove in the rocks, I could see the breakers just a
score of yards from my feet.

I awoke in the early morning to find the sea barely a foot from my
feet. The tide rose higher than I had expected, but I had time to enjoy
a few delightful minutes of lying half awake in bed before I finally
proved discretion to be better than damp bedclothes and dragged my
belongings to a less obtrusive spot.

Thus dawned another day, the day that was to see the end. I had ample
time and lingered on the way, now administering friendly attention to
Lizzie, now stopping for a light refreshment or to take a leisurely
photograph. It was all too glorious--that last day.

But poor old Lizzie again showed signs of exhaustion. I nursed her
tenderly and rode as slowly as I felt inclined throughout the day.

Monterey was left behind after breakfast. Then Salinas was reached once
more, and now we were again on the road to 'Frisco.

Over the mountains to the east once again, down the San Juan Grade,
that wound and screwed itself round the rocky slopes, and we got to San
Juan, where the tall eucalyptus and waving pepper trees gave an air of
majesty to the fine old Mexican town it proved to be.

Then we turn to the north once more and enter another valley, the
valley of Santa Clara. The towns become larger and more frequent, the
country more developed. Orchards and fruit-groves are frequently seen.
At the roadsides, built up on trestles, are great water-tanks that are
used for irrigation. I notice that here and there, where the pipes that
lead to them have leaked a little, the dark brown soil below has burst
into great masses of fresh green grass, while all around is parched and
lifeless.

At San José we find a great fruit-growing centre, and at the same time
a beautiful city of many thousand inhabitants. Its streets are lined
with palms and its suburbs extend into the orange groves that abound on
every hand.

Simultaneously one cylinder starts to misfire, and then another. Soon
they are all missing. At intervals they would all chip in for a second
or two, and as suddenly chip out again. I smelt magneto trouble.

I also smelt prunes, millions of them. O Californian Prune, how often
have I eaten of thy tasty endocarp in far-off England! And here thou
art in myriads about me!

I stopped a dozen times, changed plugs, examined leads, and tinkered
with the magneto. Evidently there was something the matter inside the
magneto. I would trust to luck to get to 'Frisco--only forty miles more.

And thus we continued, sometimes dawdling along at fifteen and then
suddenly bursting into full power and shooting along at forty for
a minute or two, as Lizzie's peculiar whim would have it. It was
annoying, tiring, disheartening, but I felt I should get there. I had
long since planned a trip to the Yosemite National Park, returning
thence to the north across the border and eastward through Canada back
to New York. That little project would certainly never come off. I had
had enough already. I made one great big oath to sell Lizzie's carcase
for what it would bring in San Francisco. Poor old Lizzie! I pitied her
in a way. She must have been born with a curse on her head. But she
would have to go, if only for 100 dollars. Already I began wondering
who would get her after we had parted.

After ten miles appeared the southern tip of the great harbour that
stretches inland to north and south from San Francisco. This bay is
fifty miles long and ten miles wide and forms one of the grandest
harbours in the world. All the navies of all the nations of the earth
could be comfortably tucked away in a corner of it. The road follows
within a few miles of the western shore of this inland sea, and at
every few miles are small, fast-growing cities comparable with nothing
but their prototypes that cluster around Los Angeles. For here we
are absolutely in the centre of the wine-making district. Sixty
years ago cuttings and rooted vines of every variety found in Europe
were brought to California and planted, mostly around this great bay
of San Francisco, where the frequent sea-fogs contribute so much to
the maintenance of perfect conditions for the growing of vines. They
flourished, and now we have Médocs and Sauternes and Moselles and
countless others from California, as well as from France.

For miles and miles we see nothing but vineyards and fruit-groves.
There is no fence, no ditch, no railing. The orange trees and plum
trees fringe the very road. It is not possible to say where one estate
ends and another begins. The owners probably know.

The towns are now so thick that with them also it is difficult to say
where one ends and another begins. Only another fifteen miles! Poor old
Lizzie, she may peg out altogether.

But no. She keeps at it. Sometimes she ceases firing altogether,
but only for a moment. On she goes again, now on one, now on four
cylinders. Hey ho! We shall get there all right.

'Buses and cars in hundreds pass in both directions. We shall soon be
in 'Frisco now.

Tram-lines appear and then trams. Trolley-cars, they call them in
America. 'Frisco at last!

I dodge in and out of the traffic as best I may. It is very thick
indeed, and in very much of a hurry. I sail down Market Street, the
"Strand" of San Francisco. What matter if Lizzie clatters and rattles
and stops and shoots on again? She has brought me here. And as I say
so, the little indicator on the speedometer moves to 4,950. Just 50
miles short of 5,000 from New York! Gee! it seems like an extract from
another life, that departure from far-off New York. And how long? Three
months? It feels like twelve at the least!

I found the post office and sang out for mail. Sure enough there was
some--forwarded from Cincinnati. I learnt for the first time that the
detailed "Schedules" that I had dispatched three months ago at New
York had not yet reached England. Hence the reason for the seeming
unkindliness of the Post Office en route. But where were they? I was
not to know until a week after my return to England, when they arrived
suddenly, without any warning, and simultaneously, to all my friends
and relatives there. They had been all round British East Africa;
Heaven and the New York postal authorities alone know why! I had not
counted on such waywardness on their part when in my innocence of
American ways I had dropped them in the post-box at New York.

Thus ends my tale of woe. It is a strange thing, but nevertheless true,
that now I have done with it and written about it and done with writing
about it, I still think what a glorious trip it was and what a perfect
ass I was to do it, and what a still greater ass I was to say anything
about it!



EPILOGUE


SCENE I

SCENE.--_Outside the Post Office, San Francisco, Cal._

TIME.--_August_, 1919.



CHARACTERS

LIZZIE.
MYSELF.
AN ARMENIAN.
CROWD OF LOUNGERS, SMALL BOYS, AND WOMEN OF VARIOUS NATIONALITIES.

     (SELF _emerges from portals of Post Office. Chorus of
     voices from crowd._)

"'Ere'e is; look at his face; look at his chest. You're one
globe-trotter, I'll reckon. How long did it take? How much has it cost?
What did you do it for? How'd you like San Francisco?" etc., etc., etc.

MYSELF (_dangerously ruffled at not having received a
cheque_). "Well, and what are you all gaping at, like a lot of
half-witted school-kids? Never seen a motor-cycle before? Here, you (to
ARMENIAN), where's the Clift Hotel?"

ARMENIAN. "Do you vont to zell zis machine?"

MYSELF (_successfully concealing rapture at the suggestion_).
"Sell her, after she's brought me all the way from New York? SELL
HER? Why, I'd sooner sell my mother-in-law."

ARMENIAN. "I vill gif you 'undred dollar right 'ere."

MYSELF. "Hundred dollars be damned, and you with 'em! Where's
the Clift?"

CHORUS OF VOICES. "Up the hill here and second on the right.
Von 'undred dollar. Follow the trams. Give us yer water-bag, boss. Look
at his boots. There's a cop on the corner. Von 'undred ten dollar,
right now. Look at 'is 'air," etc., etc.

     (_Exit slowly in procession_, SELF _leading; Alarums and
     Excursions._)


SCENE II

SCENE.--_My room at the Clift Hotel._

_Half an hour has elapsed._

(SELF _discovered, washing face. There is a knock at the
door._)

SELF. "Come in."

(_Enter_ ARMENIAN.)

ARMENIAN. "Ah, 'ere you vos. Ze manager tolt me your room. I
come right up."

SELF. "Apparently."

ARMENIAN. "I vont to buy your motorsickle; vot you vont for
'im?"

SELF. "Speak respectfully, please. I want 500 dollars for
HER."

ARMENIAN (_throwing up his hands in horror_). "Ah, zat vos too
much, my frent! Dot vos more zan you give for 'im--for 'ER."

SELF. "And how the devil do you know what I gave for her?"

ARMENIAN. "I haf made enquiries, jhust. I af bin to ze aghency
'ere. Zey say it vos 480 dollars."

SELF. "Well, any fool knows a machine improves with running
(the blush is unnoticed beneath my Indian complexion); and what's more,
if a machine can stick it all the way across THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA it must be a dem good one. I should have asked 600, but I
like your face (_cold shivers down spine_), so I only want 500."

ARMENIAN. "Ah, zat vos far too much. I vill gif you von
'undred fifteen--no more."

SELF. "Nothin' doin', bo. Five hundred. Here's my card; you
can call round any time between now and to-morrow midday with the
money. If you can't do it by then, you can drop in and see me at
Salt Lake City after next Wednesday, or Chicago after next Saturday.
Cheerio; close the door as you go out."

ARMENIAN (_reading card and much awed by same_). "Ah, you vos
Mistaire Sh---- Captin Sheffer, R.A.F.? I tink you vos vaire rich man.
You could afford to GIF me ze machine! Not so? Me vaire poor
man, Captain Sheffer, R.A.F."

SELF. "If you knew as much about the Air Force as I do, you'd
know better, my friend. Now, for Heaven's sake, BUZZ OFF, and
don't worry me."

(_Exit_ ARMENIAN _with bows, shuffles of the feet, and
salaams_.)


SCENE III

SCENE.--_The same._ _Half an hour later._ _A knock._

SELF. "Come right in."

(_Enter_ ARMENIAN.)

SELF. "What, again? Got the 500?"

ARMENIAN. "Grieved to trouble you vonce more, Captin Sheffer,
R.A.F., but all ze money I 'af in ze world vos von 'undred twenty-five
dollar. Me vaire poor man, Capt----"

SELF. "Yes, I've heard you say so. I believe you. Now we're
both liars."

ARMENIAN. "Ah no, you insult me, Captin Sheffer, R.A.F. I am
poor, but I am 'onorable man. I tell always ze truth. Zat vos all I 'af
in all ze vorld."

SELF. "Look here, Mister--I don't know what your name is, but
I guess you're a Hebrew of some kind----"

ARMENIAN. "My name is Mistaire Karachan, and I come from
Armenia."

SELF (_aside_--"I might have guessed it."). "Well, Mr.
Karachan, I'll take your word for it. Give me 125 right now and you
can take the machine away with you. She's outside on the pavement. But
mind, I shall never want to see your face again."

ARMENIAN (_moved almost to tears_). "Ah, you vos a torough
zhentleman, Mistaire Sheffer; all ze Englishmen are zhentlemen. Zer is
only von contry in all ze vorld vaire zer are such zhentlemen."

SELF. "Well, you can hand over the wealth right now, here."

ARMENIAN. "Ah, but I 'af not got it wiz me, Mistaire Sheffer.
It is too much to carry about in my pocket. But I can gif you fifty
dollar and bring ze rest zis afternoon. Zat vos alright? I can take ze
machine now, yes no?"

SELF. "You can take the machine when you've paid me 125
dollars IN CASH, and not till then. Get me? I shall be in
again at two this afternoon. You can meet me in the hall with the
money. Good-bye till then."

ARMENIAN. "Vell, you vill gif me written undertaking not to
sell it to anyvon till then, Captin Sheffer, R.A.F.?"


SCENE IV

SCENE.--_The same._

TIME.--_3 p.m._

(_A knock on the door, followed by_ ARMENIAN.)

ARMENIAN. "Mistaire Sheffer, I 'af come to make you a good
bargain. You see zis gold votch? It vos giffen me by my fazer and it is
solid gold wiz twenty-von jewels. You could sell it anywhere for fifty
dollar. Now you 'af bin zhentleman to me, I vill be zhentleman to you.
I vill give you ze votch and von 'undred dollar for your motorsickle!
Is it not a bargain, Mistaire Sheffer?"

SELF. "Get out!"


SCENE V

SCENE.--_The same._

TIME.--_An hour later._ _A knock on the door._

(_Enter_ ARMENIAN.)

ARMENIAN. "Oh, Mistaire Sheffer, I 'af jhust von more offer
to----"

SELF. "Look here, Mr. Karachan, I'm getting fed up with you.
Better quit before I bang this water-jug on your head. You've wasted
all my day as it is."

ARMENIAN. "Ah, you vill not do zat. I know you vill not do
zat. You are too much zhentleman. But wait, Mistaire Sheffer. Hear me
vot I say. I 'af von great big suggestion to make for you. I make my
living viz growing fruit. I 'af small plantation only five mile from
'ere. I vill pay you for your motorsickle viz grapes. I vill gif you
five ton of beautiful grapes and send them wherever you like in United
States. Or if you not like zat, I vill gif you 'undred dollar and von
ton of grapes. Is zat not good offer, yes no?"

SELF (_recovering from momentary speechlessness at the thought
of swapping Lizzie for five tons of grapes_). "Look here, Mr. Karachan,
I've had enough of this fooling. I've undertaken to sell you the
machine for 125 dollars, and if you don't bring me the money, and all
of it, right now, I'll report you to the police. Now there's an end of
it. Get out."

(_Exit_ ARMENIAN _amid more alarums and excursions_.)


SCENE VI

SCENE.--_The same._

TIME.--_7 p.m. A knock._ (_Enter_ ARMENIAN.)

ARMENIAN. "Oh, Captin Sheffer, R.A.F., I 'af got your money
'ere, but I 'af bin to ze police to register ze machine and zey say I
'af stolen it and vould not let me come away. After much trouble we
telephone a big frend of mine who know police and zey let me come away.
But zey vont your address and ze registration certificate you 'af in
New York."

SELF. "But, Good Lord, man, who the devil said you could
register it? It isn't yours yet! Give me the money."

ARMENIAN (_handing me fifty dollars and a cheque for
seventy-five_). "'Ere it vos, but you vos not angry, Captin Sheffer,
R.A.F? I vonted only to save time, because I vont to use ze machine
to-morrow."

SELF. "Yes, but this is no good (_showing the cheque_). This
isn't CASH. How do I know this'll be honoured? Besides, the
banks are closed now and won't be open till Monday, and I'm leaving
to-morrow."

ARMENIAN. "Ah, but no, zey vill 'onour ze cheque. Mistaire
---- is vaire well known in San Francisco. You can speak to 'im on ze
telephone if you like and 'e vill tell you ze cheque is all right."

SELF. "No doubt, but all the same I'll see if the hotel
manager here will cash it. If he won't, that's good enough for me. Come
along, and we'll see him together."

ARMENIAN. "But you vill gif me receipt now, yes no? Ah, but
vot is zis? _(picking up a small adjustable spanner that lay on the
dressing-table)._ It is part of ze machine! You vould not surely make
me pay for a motor-sickle vizout no tools? Ah, Captin Sheffer, R.A.F.,
it is not jhust; I must 'ave everyzing. Are zer any more----" (_At
this juncture_ ARMENIAN _is successfully extruded through the
doorway, still protesting volubly._)


SCENE VII

SCENE.--_In the hall of the Hotel. Manager behind desk._

SELF. "Excuse me, but I have a favour to ask. I have just
done a deal with this gentleman, but as all the banks are closed till
Monday, I am wondering if you would be good enough to cash this cheque
for me as I am leaving for the East to-morrow."

(MANAGER _looks closely at me and proceeds to open till; then,
looking at_ ARMENIAN, _pauses for a moment. Ultimately the
money is paid over._)

(ARMENIAN _and_ SELF _walk toward door opening on to
street_.)

SELF. "What the blazes! Where's Lizzie? I left her up against
the pavement. She's gone!"

ARMENIAN. "Oh, zat vos alright. I move 'er zis afternoon to a
garage round ze corner. Jhust zink how terrible it would be if some one
stole 'im!"

SELF. "Well, I'll be goldarned!"


SCENE VIII

SCENE.--_Garage "round the corner." Lizzie stands surrounded
by darkness_, ARMENIAN, _and_ SELF. SELF
_discovered explaining to_ ARMENIAN _how the wheels go round
and why._

SELF. "Well, good-bye, Lizzie, old girl. I grieve to let you
go into the hands of this being, but it is all for the best. We've had
some jolly times together, but the time is come to part. Good-bye, once
and for all; good-bye, GOOD-BYE----"

ARMENIAN. "Ah, Mistaire Sheffer, you 'av forgot ze adjustable
spanner!"



Transcriber's Notes


Minor punctuation errors were silently corrected, and oe ligatures
were spaced out.

Page 39: In the sentence: "and anyone found guilty of exceeding 60
miles per hour will be liable to a fine of 100 dollars, etc., etc."
"60" may be a typo for "50" because the following sentence says the
fine for exceeding 60 miles per hour is "250 dollars for the first
offence...."

Page 48: "Pittsburg" may be typo for "Pittsburgh."
  (At Waynesburg I passed Pittsburg some miles to the right,)





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