The George A. Wyman Centennial Recreation

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The George A. Wyman Centennial Recreation

Rif Addams
This post was updated on .
editor's note, by augidog:
This thread will eventually evolve into the new home for Rif Addams' complete story of his 2003 Centennial Recreation, I expect this will likely take a while. As he writes his story, I will be editing in his media, of which he has a TON of fun and cool pics. Stay tuned.
Here is the finalized article:
And below, for now, is the first draft of his article.

Well, I was beaten to the punch on this one! But I feel it important and necessary to say my piece, as it truly is a great honor and a pleasure to have been asked to write the blog for the 113th anniversary of George A. Wyman's departure from San Francisco, to journey eastward to New York, and to firmly plant his place in history as the first person to cross America with a motor vehicle. Thank you Tim Masterson, and all involved in the G.A.W.M.P. for this great priveledge!

 "Little more than three miles constituted the first day's travel of my journey across the American continent. It is just three miles from the corner of Market and Kearney streets, San Francisco, to the boat that steams to Vallejo, California, and, leaving the corner formed by those streets at 2:30 o' clock on the bright afternoon of May 16, in less than two hours later I had passed through the golden gate and was in Vallejo..."
May 16, 1903
George A. Wyman

 Thus began one of the greatest chapters in American Motorcycling and transportation history. Nearly 100 years later this history was to collide with my own path, to draw me in, to instill in me the desire to chase these old ghosts, to eventually follow that same path across America on my own motor bicycle.
 My Name is Rif Addams, and in 2003, on the centennial of George A. Wyman's historic crossing, I followed as close as safely possible, George's original route and time schedule. It is with great honor and pleasure that I write the blog entry for this day, the 113th anniversary of Mr. Wyman's great journey. I would like to thank all those of the G.A.W.M.P. not only for this privilege, but for all the hard work, and effort put forth in the research and promotion of recognition for George Wyman. It truly is an honor to be able to contribute to such a worthy cause. Thank you all for this opportunity.

 It was during October of 2001 when I received by way of old fashioned postal carrier, a photocopy of the complete story of George A. Wyman's incredible odyssey, sent from a fellow two wheel enthusiast, and friend, Sam Lingo.
 Autumn can be a particularly peculiar time for me personally, as a time when leaves turn and fall to ground, this wondrous time of year when spectres of times past wander, giving rise to the imagination and wild dreamings of not only children, but also to those  adults who remain young at heart, and remain steadfast in the grip of that ability to wonder at the world around.  
 So on this Fall afternoon, taking no leave for my usual distractions, I sat in my shuttered and dimly lit living room, comfortable in my overstuffed chair with my coffee steaming from the mug. I absorbed every word, captured and enthralled, I was lost in the imagery of the paragraphs, completely immersed in the story. I was, in all sense but the physical, riding with George through hardships and triumphs of fortune. As the story came to a close I paused, hung on every word, transfixed on the tale, lost deep in thought. Something was stirring and rising deep within, much more deeply than one may ever be able to give proper word to. In the marrow of my bones, a burning began, a desire not yet known. Once the impact of what I had just experienced, what I had just read, began to level, I immediately began again, page one, first paragraph.
  This is how I first met George A. Wyman and became consumed with his story, how I became obsessed with trying to learn everything I could about not only the man, but also learning every nut and bolt of his trusted steed- the California motor bicycle. So further fueled by this, I desired to get his story told; to get George the recognition he so deserved for his great feat. From that Autumn day in 2001 , from that first reading, forever a life could never be the same...
 In the spare time away from my working for wages job as a machinist, I was freelancing as an aspiring writer in the unpaid position of being  a contributing editor to the now defunct webzine 'Bike Rod & Kustom', submitting articles and interviews concerning bicycle engines, both current and vintage, Motor-assist Kustom bicycles, and the like.
 I mentioned this historic tale to the now late Jim Wilson, Editor In Chief. in short time, the story was published and was the lead cover for that issue, and George Wyman was introduced to a whole new generation, and genre, of two wheel enthusiast.

 How does one make the leap from reading a story, to throwing all caution to the wind for the sake of adventurer? I say with all truth and honesty, that the very spark which lit the powder keg for this whole event began as most things of such a nature do- that it was entirely me shooting off my big mouth again. I was Bench racing and having the usual big mouth talk of gearheads with another enthusiast about bikes, and being very naive,  I was romanticizing some vague Kerouc-esque notion of the open road. It was merely a verbal daydreaming of such an adventure of my own. Well before you know, in the quickness of a wink, it became time to put the money where the mouth had led.
 The Wyman centennial team came together in quick fashion from different corners of the country, through various channels and networks. I being young in my trade, and having bills to pay, was not able to finance this whole operation , but through the generosity of the bicycle and Motor-assist Bicycle community, it all began to come together- the supplies, the parts, everything needed was being donated, with a fair share from my own stash of vintage parts.   Through the generosity of my parents, the Brown family, funding for the actual trip was in place. My Father Bob Brown took a leave of absence from his job as a truck driver, to drive the support vehicle.
 Amongst everything else we were doing in research- clothing of the time, mapping the route, George's genealogy, etc., We were researching the California motor bicycle in order to build a near replica, something 'close enough' to replicate the vehicle for the ride.
 From Texas, a 1905 Schwinn built Mead Pathfinder frame was located by Sam Lingo, modified, by expert welder and fabricator Robert Box, to accept the belt sheave for a 2003 Whizzer wc-1 engine kit. Bob Johnson, who donated the correct period handlebars, and who is a master fabricator, also built the hanging box tank and gave answers to countless questions. He was dealing with all this while also building his own replica from scratch, for a celebration of Wyman's 100th anniversary, which is in fact how I became acquainted with Mr. Johnson, through his own efforts scratch building a California engine replica.
 It was frantic work preparing, researching, coordinating, and building the bike all the while, and at this time, back in school. Yet at one o'clock A.M., with the help of my friend Jacob Barnhart, the final electrical work was done on the vehicle, ready for inspection at the state patrol for licensing at 7:00 A.M. sharp, May 10, 2003.

 It had finally all come together, even though at times it felt as if it were all falling apart. On May 14th, 2003 I pulled out of the driveway in Roy, Washington on that Mead/California semi-replica to do an initial distance ride to check all systems, then load up and drive to San Francisco, for departure on May 16.
 And as with George, little more than just a few miles constituted my days first ride. I kicked off the curb at the corner of Market and Kearney, fired the engine and promptly almost hit the back of a transit bus!  I maneuvered my way to the the ferry terminal without becoming immortalized as a hood ornament, and made my way onto the ferry and traveled through the golden gate to Vallejo, Ca.
 We camped along the roadside just outside of Vallejo that night, and the next morning, with the copper penny taste of excitement in the back of my throat, the journey began in earnest!
 There is a saying I use, which I took from an early 1900's Flying Merkel motorcycle advertising slogan, "For those who know thee not, no words could ever paint. For those who know thee, know all words are faint." This is the best way to describe this sort of adventure. So how can I, in only a few paragraphs, tell such a tale as to give a true impression as to what it is to ride a motor bicycle 3,800 miles across America, at 35 miles per hour? I can not, it is impossible to boil down such a personal journey to a narrative of a few paragraphs. However there are a few points I would like to make that could hopefully give a slight impression.
 There were times when I could almost feel George's spirit on that ride, travelling with me. It sounds weird, I know, but many times I swear I could almost see him pounding on the tracks alongside the road I was riding. Many of my break downs occurred at the same places, and were of similar, if not exact, in nature to the problems George had with his California. As an example, my coaster brake was problematic, and gave out completely in Ogden, IA. The same place where George had his coaster brake become a coaster broke. In 2003, the building which housed the blacksmith shop that George repaired his brake at was still standing, just a few blocks down the street from the motorcycle shop where I was repairing my brake and head gasket at.
 My handlebars broke, as his did, I had to repair and replace spokes in my wheels, all the flat tires of course, which was an expected occurrence, and on and on it went, with the frame cracking, and then finally at the New York state line, the frame broke in half with the bike falling out from under me. Numerous times I felt a "presence" with me as I rode. Now this could be purely the imaginings of my own self getting into the spirit of the ride, or perhaps not, I would not be so brazen as to say one way or the other, all I know is It was eerie a couple of times, and kept me pushing on at those lowest of times, when I wanted to quit, to go home and forget the whole deal. From that first triumph of pedaling a motor bike to the summit of the Sierra Nevadas, helping a choking motor along, up, up, up, to an elevation of 8,900 ft. I knew my life would never be the same, I knew I would never be the same. On through to getting lost in the Wyoming desert outside of Evanston, WY with no supplies- no water, food, no phone, no compass or map, and nearly out of gasoline, this was when the face of death on such a trip suddenly became very real to me.  There were certainly the highs and lows, and a journey of this nature takes its toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. It strips away all pretense, all notions of ego and self importance, it deconstructs so as to show the real and true self, and you learn fairly quickly who you really are, as well as the difference between necessity and luxury.
 Another facet of the journey is the people you meet along the way. Many folks, including friends and family, were genuine in concern for our not carrying a firearm for protection. Not once did we have any cause to worry for this. It is very easy to become fearful, as well as jaded, in our daily lives, watching the news talk of the horrors of our world, but when you get out there on this sort of adventure, it shows you the reality that generally people are still good and there is a generosity in the average, everyday American people that cannot be matched.  Every person we met gave something, whether it be a wish for our well being on the road, or hot meals and hot showers to use, to a place to set up camp for the night. Police officers, shop owners, regular sort of everyday folk- All were the sort of people who make this country the great place that it is.
  The reactions of everyone we met was one of genuine good will. From motorcyclists commenting that I must either be crazy or have balls of brass to ride the distance on that contraption, to the young man at the truck stop saying he always wanted to do something like this. There were the old farmers gathered at the barber shop in Ames, IA drinking coffee and talking all variety of topic from fishing to the weather, who thought I was odd but were genuine in the admiration of my "old fashioned american spirit". And they all, every person we met, every one of them, found a fascination in George A. Wyman- though most none had ever heard of him, or his story. They know now though, as we did our level best to spread the word.
 Because of George A. Wyman, great American Hero and Motor Bike Pioneer, I returned home a completely different me than the me who kicked off that curb in San Francisco, headed for New York City, on May 16, 2003, and I am forever grateful to him for the favor.
Let the solution be the revolution
"I just wanna have some fun, before they throw me in the sanitarium!"