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Book Title: Around the World on a Bicycle|
The author of the book: Thomas Stevens
ISBN 13: 9780811726535
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 956 KB
Edition: Stackpole Books
Date of issue: December 1st 2000
Read full description of the books Around the World on a Bicycle:I have said before that if you book your travel online and use credit cards then the words “adventure” and “journey” hardly belong in our vocabulary. Two of my favorite books, Two Years Before the Mast: A Sailor’s Life at Sea (1840) by Richard Henry Dana Jr. and Around the World on a Bicycle (1887) by Thomas Stevens chronicle a kind of travel that seem to be at the very end of an era in which travel truly could be defined as adventure. I think that rounding Cape Horn on a square-sailed brig and riding around the world on a bike would still qualify today as thrilling but can’t compare with what these men pulled off well over a century ago. These books will give you something to think about the next time you are complaining about not having enough clean towels in your hotel room.
I remember reading Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents back at university and since then I have felt that because the world is completely known to us our inability to discover goes against our primal instincts just as Freud postulated that civilization is in conflict with man’s instinctual quest for freedom. People make attempts to push the limits of travel and adventure but these seem desperate and phony to me. Who cares who was the first person to climb Mount Everest on a Segway Scooter or whatever? Swimming from Cuba to the United States without the aid of a shark cage was the latest yawn to hit the newspapers.
The protagonists of these two memoirs don’t suffer the fate of inconsequential stunts, at least not in my book. Tom Stevens starts out in April of 1884 from San Francisco and pedals his penny farthing bike with a 50 inch front wheel eastward across the Sierra Nevada mountains. A man who had little to learn about travelling light, he carried in his small handlebar bag some socks, a spare shirt, a raincoat that doubled as a tent and bedroll, and a revolver. Just how he financed the journey isn’t well explained in the book.
As I have stated somewhere else, to judge people from the past on things like our modern thoughts on political correctness makes about as much sense as making fun of the clothes they wore. If you are free of prejudices and racism then you are just reflecting the norms of our societies so don’t be so quick to pat yourself on the back while condemning folks who lived in other times. At least Stevens had a bit of humor to spice up his stereotypes. He refers to a Hungarian gypsy as “unregenerate chicken-lifter.”
Even many generations after the puzzle of determining longitude had been solved ships were still at the mercy of lousy time pieces. The captain on this voyage quickly abandoned the use of the ship’s unreliable chronometer and set longitude by means of dead reckoning and line-of-sight.
He describes in great detail the difficult and sometimes perilous work of a sailor. In this passage below the ship is rounding Cape Horn which is infamous for its high seas and terrible storms:
The crew stood abaft the windlass and hauled the jib down, while John and I got out upon the weather side of the jib-boom, our feet on the foot-ropes, holding on by the spar, the great jib flying off to leeward and slatting so as almost to throw us off the boom. For some time we could do nothing but hold on, and the vessel, diving into two huge seas, one after the other, plunged us twice into the water up to our chins. We hardly knew whether we were on or off; when, the boom lifting us up dripping from the water, we were raised high into the air and then plunged below again. John thought the boom would go every moment, and called out to the mate to keep the vessel off, and haul down the staysail; but the fury of the wind and the breaking of the seas against the bows defied every attempt to make ourselves heard, and we were obliged to do the best we could in our situation.
Fortunately no other seas so heavy struck her, and we succeeded in furling the jib ``after a fashion''; and, coming in over the staysail nettings, were not a little pleased to find that all was snug, and the watch gone below; for we were soaked through, and it was very cold. John admitted that it had been a post of danger, which good sailors seldom do when the thing is over.
Step aside fast-food workers, the definition of “shit job” just took on a new meaning. Or as a friend of mine once said about a climbing trip we took into the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, “Fun is over-rated.”
Read information about the authorThomas Stevens was the first person to circle the globe by bicycle. He rode a large-wheeled Ordinary, also known as a penny-farthing, from April 1884 to December 1886 He later searched for Henry Morton Stanley in Africa, investigated the claims of Indian ascetics and became manager of the Garrick Theatre in London.
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