Across America by Motor-cycle

Book web site:

Shepherd, Charles Kenilworth
Project Gutenberg 1922
Date finished: 2016-08-07

After WW I ended in 1918, C.K Shepherd left the Royal Air Force with the rank of captain. He didn't want to settle down and get married or figure out a business. An American friend was looking forward to getting back home, and Shepherd had the idea to cross the entire country on a motorcycle by going from New York to San Francisco. This enjoyable historical travel memoir was the result, published three years later. Shepherd pokes fun at the American penchant for puffery but enjoys how friendly everyone is, and is stunned by the landscapes of the West, spending several days at the Grand Canyon.

Crossing the US was a serious project in 1919, because there was no Interstate Highway System, and the existing roads were often very poor, especially in the Midwest and West. It's a fascinating view of long-distance travel at this time: there are already gas stations even in remote locations such as Death Valley, even though the roads are non-existent, and he often comments on how many cars there are in the US. Signage is poor: routes are often indicated by painted logos, such as a red stripe on white, placed on telephone poles, which leads to confusion and backtracking.

The motorcycle, perhaps made by the US company Henderson, also runs into lots of mechanical problems; at one point a piston disintegrates completely, so Shepherd has to fish out the pieces and carve a piece from a tree branch to replace it -- the wood didn't work as a piston, but kept the connecting rod aligned so that the motor would still work. It's funny to read, but Shepherd could easily have died if a failure stranded him in the Mojave Desert.

Tagged: travel


%T Across America by Motor-cycle
%A Shepherd, Charles Kenilworth
%K travel
%I Project Gutenberg
%D 1922
%@ 2016-08-07

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