From the January 1935 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine
There must have been a little confusion in Heaven the night the shipping clerk sent me out and he did not notice he was sending out a boy in a girl’s body-or, it might have been the confusion was here on earth where I was welcomed by three brothers who proceeded to bring me up in their boyish fashion. Along with them I fell from horses, from windmill towers, from house tops, and from all the other millions of places that boys fall from but still survive.
The banner day, however, was undoubtedly the one when my oldest brother taught me to ride his 1915 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Women and girls lived sufficiently restricted lives in those days that my motorcycle riding brought forth much comment.
Then along came the war, and with it a new world for women. With my first job came a new feeling of independence and I immediately began to dream of a time when I would be able to own as well as ride a motor. Along with that dream was another, a desire to travel. The two went well in hand, but I realized the first sooner than I did the second.
This last summer came the opportunity to fulfill both dreams. A motor was available for my use and by scraping together a little money I was able to slip away. No one guessed what I had in mind when I packed the little saddle bags on my motor but everyone supposed I was going to see my mother. Preparations were simple and I was off. (I might say here that I live in San Antonio, Texas, and it was from there I started my great experience.)
Passing through Dallas, Texarkana, Little Rock and Memphis it seemed as though the cities departed even more quickly than they appeared upon the horizon. With the breeze blowing my hair back, and my heart pounding, I was happy beyond description.
All went well along the early part of my route. I had swept across the south and was swinging north. Near Adkins, Virginia, I stopped for a cold drink and some gas. Waving goodbye to a couple of well wishers I departed only to hear a loud clatter just as I started down a hill. I tried all gears, and gunned the motor- but, there was no power. I pulled over to the side of the road and parked. There flashed through my mind a cartoon I had seen in The Motorcyclist. Maybe my motor had decided to go nudist, and had stripped the gears. About the time I had some tools dragged out a car drove up and stopped.
“Lady, did you lose this?”
Alas, he was holding out my chain.
Assuring him that its installation was a simple matter I thanked him and he drove on. Hardly had he disappeared from sight when along came a lone motorcyclist. No sooner said than done. The chain was on and I was on my way.
I skipped Roanoke, Virginia, being anxious to see the Natural Bridge in Virginia as soon as possible. Night overtook me at Buchanan so I found a nice room wherein I relaxed and poured over my maps.
Early next morning I was on my way and had crossed the Natural Bridge before I knew it. Paying my entrance fee I walked down the long lane to the river. One of my first surprises came before I got far. A quaint old lady with a monocle and what I presumed to be a New England poise greeted me.
She had just visited the Shenandoah Caverns and insisted that I, too, must take the time to see them. Likewise she thought I should try the wonderful meals at the place-only seventy-five cents. Only seventy-five! Who ever heard of a lone lady cycler on tour throwing away that much when hamburgers are so good for only a dime?
Leaving her I strolled on to wonder at two lovely arbor vitaes, one on each side the walk. They were 1,000 years old and measured 56 inches in diameter.
Then a guide joined us, showing us a large stone upon which George Washington had carved his initials and L.F.-the latter standing for Lord Fairfax of England for whom Washington surveyed the ground (Washington following surveying in the years from 1747-1751.) On July 5th, 1774, George III, King of England, conveyed the land, 157 acres, and the bridge to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson built a two room log cabin near the bridge for visitors and parts of this old cabin still remain.
The bridge itself is on the head of a limestone hill. It is supposed that at one time it was a natural dam. As the limestone gave way and was hollowed out by whirlpools the bridge was formed. Now there is a huge electric amplifier near the top of the bridge which throws music to all sides. No cathedral has better acoustics than those under the bridge. The entire canyon seems to sing with the choirs and the pipe organ music almost stills your heart. I don’t know when I was ever under a spell such as when I listened to that wonderful music.
On up the river is a saltpetre cave wherein mining operations were carried on during the wars of 1812 to 1865. Then we came to Lost River. We slipped our heads under a large cave-like rock and could hear turbulent waters rushing somewhere. It seems that many have lost their lives trying to unravel the mysteries of this stream, the source and destination of which are unknown. Farther on up the stream we saw the Lace Falls and I must say they are well named. Don’t ever plan to visit Natural Bridge in an hour or so. It is the kind of a place where you could spend days.
Leaving the Natural Bridge the next day I rode into Washington where I stopped to say hello to “Red” House. Thence I rode on toward the big city-New York. After riding through the Holland Tunnel I stopped to enquire my way.
A small crowd gathered around, among others being a number of small boys. One lad pulled my jacket and said, “Can’t this motorcycle jump 215 feet high?” He had been reading a bumper sign that had been placed on one of the fenders by advertisers of the Natural Bridge.
Riding along under the elevated in the rain was something of an experience for a Texan but I never had picked any particular place in which to die and figured New York would be as good as any. I enjoyed a visit with the Stern Brothers and then set a course for Springfield, Mass.-the home of my Indian. I arrived at the factory just before closing time and gave them a little surprise when I rode up with my Texas license.
Mr. Wright saw that I located comfortable quarters near the factory and for a week I enjoyed a swirl of activity, visiting around the plant and dining. Then came the crowning joy as I rode a new Scout out of Fritzie Baer’s shop. Don’t go to Springfield unless you plan on meeting that Fritzie Baer and his Roamers. You will soon learn why they are always topping the Club Activity list. They really do things. I saw the T.T. races in Agawam, Mass., put on by the Roamers and I came away feeling that no one can stage an affair like that club. Another high spot was a visit to the beautiful New England home of Mr. and Mrs. Hosley. A story could be written about that territory alone.
Finally my new green motor was checked and it came time to wave goodbye to the “Wigwam” and to all whose hospitality I had enjoyed. My plans called for a stop in Hartford, Conn., which I made and while there visited Freddie Marsh. Then I went back through New York. In the Bronx I received full instructions from a police officer as to how to reach a hotel. It turned out that he had directed me to one in Harlem, and being from the South I could not exactly appreciate the selection. The incident did not stop me from enjoying my stay in New York where I had a grand time seeing such things as the Statue of Liberty, visiting the top of the Empire State Building (102 stories high), taking in the Speedway Races at Union, N. J. -the meet was a fine one with thousands of spectators-and last but not least visiting the club rooms of the Gotham Motorcycle Club. I wish you could see the style those New Yorkers put on.
Chicago was my next objective. At Hammond, Indiana, I stopped off to change oil and get a grease job. The dealer was Harry Kelly and visiting him was Walt Korn. Both of them had raced with my husband, Rural. In Chicago I stored my motor and visited the Fair. “Red” Crawford who had been riding the motor drome turned out to be in the hospital with blood poisoning. For three days I tramped around the Fair and three nights I finished up with tired and aching feet. But, it was a grand Fair and I had a great time taking in all the sights.
From Chicago home was 1,000 miles. The motor being limbered up I was able to really make time. In Tennessee I ran into rain. It was not bad enough to stop me and I continued on right into San Antonio.
This should have been the normal conclusion of my trip, but, I was so elated over the performance of my motor and so full of the wanderlust that within a very short time I took off for what I really considered to be a continuation of my trip. This time I headed for California. My route took me through El Paso. About six miles out I met a motorcycle rider who invited me to attend.