ALONG THE SHORES OF THE GREAT LAKES AND DOWN THE HUDSON TO NEW YORK

 

Editor note: Richard Worsham is the founder and CEO of Janus Motorcycles, a small outfit hand building vintage-looking and feeling motorcycles in Goshen, Indiana. We’ve written about them and their unique bikes, as well as their old-school approach to construction and assembly. You can read all about them in our story HERE.

Richard had the opportunity to make a cross-country sojourn in the tracks of the legendary George Wyman, the first to cross the United States on a motorbike. Richard has been kind enough to share his story with us, in several parts, which we have featuring here in recent months. Check out his previous episodes by beginning HERE. This is his final installment of that epic trip. We hope you’ve enjoyed Richard’s travelogue as much as we have.

 

“As I have said, I did not want to remain in Chicago one minute longer than was necessary, and accordingly I left there at 5:30 p.m., on June 23, and made my way to Kensington, 23 miles east. In the morning I ordered and paid for some gasoline. What I got was a vile mixture of gasoline and something that was much like linseed oil. I believe it was that, but I did not discover the imposition until after I had started, and I did not go back. A man who will sell such stuff has no conscience. Only a club will appeal to him, and I had no time to waste in fighting. I simply went on and made the best of it till I could get fresh gasoline elsewhere. The roads were heavy from recent rains when left Kensington at 6:45 a.m., and here in the smooth and “built up” east I had to resort to the trick I learned in the deserts of Nevada and Utah. I took to the railroad track, and rode 20 miles along the ties to the lake. I saved a considerable distance by following the railroad, and as I was seasoned to such riding, the bouncing did not hurt so much as the thought that I was having the same sort of traveling east of Chicago that I had west of Omaha. Well, it as a big country to build up and supply with good roads. Anyone who has made such a trip as I made can appreciate this in a fullness that others cannot. When this country is eventually built up with good roads it will be truly great and wonderful.” – George Wyman

Early on Thursday, May 30th, I once again donned my riding gear and walked out to where Halcyon 250 #68 was waiting under its cover in the parking lot. I was just west of Chicago in Naperville, Illinois and would be commencing the last leg of George Wyman’s 50-day transcontinental ride. Unlike George, my plan was to complete this last leg in just two days. I was looking forward to the day’s ride as it would take me on a brief detour back through my hometown of Goshen, Indiana and a stop at our Janus Motorcycles headquarters. 

It was at this point that I had a strange realization of the scale of the North American continent.

Up until now, I had been putting in 500 to 800 mile days and the vastness of the mountain ranges, deserts, and plains had made a mere hundred miles feel like nothing but a short jaunt.  Now, however, riding from Chicago to Goshen (a trip I had made many times), I realized just how far a hundred miles is, even when traveling in a car! My plan was to reach the Janus shop around 9:30 that morning. The ride was cooler than the previous day’s and relatively uneventful traveling along a route I knew well.

Picking up coins for my toll. Convenient.

I took Interstate 294 South around the city. I realized too late that I had entered a toll road without the digital pass or change handy. However, looking down I realized that the road was covered in coins that other drivers had dropped or that had missed making it in the toll basket. I simply leaned over off the idling motorcycle and collected enough change for the gate to lift and I was on my way east into Indiana, past Hammond, Gary, and Michigan City where I left the highway to follow Route 2 straight east towards South Bend. There I picked up Highway 20 towards Elkhart with a brief run down 30 to Goshen. Along this portion I was following very closely the original route of George Wyman as he rode into Goshen. The Wyman Memorial Project plaque on the outside of the Janus shop has this to say about Wyman’s visit:

“On Wednesday, June 24th, Wyman departed Kensington Il., at 6:45 am. Riding along the railroad tracks, he passed through Portage and on to La Port, where he stopped for lunch. From there, he made his way along the bad roads to Goshen, arriving late in the day at 5:30 pm. He pushed on to Ligonier, where he stopped for the night. He rode over 130 miles in about 12 hours and remarked about being ‘saddle sore’ at the end of this day of hard riding.”

Riding up to the Janus HQ in Goshen, Indiana.

My visit to Goshen was a bit different as I turned one block off the main street that George had ridden down 115 years earlier, making a right onto 5th street where the Janus shop is located. The parking lot was full with the Janus team, family, and well wishers. I stopped long enough to grab a bite while the crew took the opportunity to go over the bike. A little more than an hour later I geared back up and headed northeast out of Goshen.

The Wyman waypoint signs at the Janus shop.

My route would take me a bit north of Wyman’s route but would save me precious time. I decided to take Highway 20 east towards Toledo. It was nice to be off the interstate traveling on roads that better matched the speed of the little 250. Just over the state line into Ohio I ran into a brief rainstorm and took shelter for a few minutes while I topped up my fuel tank.

Continuing on across the flat midwestern farmland, I eventually reached the outskirts of Toledo and decided to stay off the highway a bit longer, riding through the city rather than getting on the bypass. On the other side of the city however, it was time to rejoin the fast-moving interstate traffic and follow I-80 another 70 miles to where it splits off of I-90 and continues on a more direct route to New York City. I on the other hand would follow Interstate 90 around Cleveland and on up the coast of Lake Erie towards Buffalo, New York.

The Cleveland skyline before me.

By nightfall I was across the border into Pennsylvania making it the fourth state I had been in that day. The New York state line was marked by significantly bumpier roads that had me bouncing around on my hard-tailed Halcyon 250. About ten minutes in, one of the hairpin seat springs gave out causing the seat to slant to the right. Tired and determined, I didn’t even slow down, but just kept on going. Late that night I pulled into our hotel in Buffalo, unloaded, covered the bike, and headed to bed after a quick bite to eat. 

I awoke the next day still tired, but with the excitement that came with the realization that this would be the last day of my journey and would likely see me in New York City well before sunset. I replaced the seat spring and headed back onto Interstate 90 through the Finger Lakes region and past Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany. Aside from the more frequent crossing of state lines as I reached the east coast, New York provided a welcome return of hills and terrain that had been absent since I left the Rocky Mountains.

The broken seat spring.

At last, I left I-90 to take Interstate 87 south down the picturesque Hudson River Valley toward New York City. The ride down the Hudson River was beautiful with my growing fatigue after five days in the saddle tempered with the promise of the completion of my ride and the ability to rest and relax without the constant pressure of maintaining my grueling pace on the little 250. I could understand why George Wyman, though likely more saddle sore than I was, had decided the last day of his trip to simply pedal on through the night to reach the city! 

“As I could not make the motor work, I concluded on the morning of July 5 to make myself work. I started to pedal into New York. That last 150 miles down the Hudson from Albany is a part of my trip of which I will always have a vivid recollection. I had seen some hills before, but the motor climbed them for me. In the hills along the Hudson, I had to climb and push the motor along. They seemed steeper than the Rocky Mountains. This I will say, though – from the time I left the Pacific coast I saw no grander scenery than that along the Hudson River. While other sights were not up to expectation, the scenery of the Hudson was far beyond it. So enthusiastic was I that I pedaled along all night on July 5. It was a long, dreary and strenuous ride, but I was well seasoned by this time and fit to do a mule’s work. After riding two days and a night under leg power or rather over it, I reached New York in the middle of the afternoon on July 6.”

As I rode closer and closer to the city the roads turned to parkways with scenic bridges until I spilled out with the city’s skyline in the distance. I took the Lincoln Tunnel across to Manhattan and sped down the Hudson River Greenway with surprising ease. 

The few experiences I have had driving into New York City (I have usually taken public transportation) have been fraught with traffic and the shock of such a packed and busy metropolis. This motorcycle ride into the city was however completely different. I don’t know if it was the time of day, the direction I entered the city, or just the ease of travel on two wheels, but before I knew it I was blocks away from Wyman’s destination of 1904 Broadway, the then home of the New York Motor Cycle Club. The current building was covered in scaffolding, but I nipped into half a parking space to record a short video celebrating the completion of my ride.

In front of 1904 Broad Street.

By this time my wife was on her way out with a van to pick me and the bike up. I picked a hotel outside the city, made reservations, and without much more time in the city, headed back up the island and over the George Washington Bridge. I was tired, sore, and ready to not worry about waking up early the next morning! I felt a well-deserved sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of relief not only in having all those miles behind me, but in the knowledge and proof that our little 250 was more than capable of a transcontinental trip under much more grueling conditions than would typically be the case in normal riding. All in all, the trip had been a tremendous success. 

That night, like Wyman, “all I wanted was a hot bath and a bed”. He had this to say of his first night at his destination: “Of all the sleep I had during my trip, none was more profound, or sweeter than the one I had that night of July 6 at the Herald Square Hotel, just 50 days after I left San Francisco for my ride across the continent on my motor bicycle.”

The IBA George A. Wyman Memorial Grand Tour certificate

A few days after getting back home to Goshen, Indiana, Tim Masterson gave me a call to let me know that Michael Kneebone, president of the Iron Butt Association who I had met back in Naperville had agreed that my ride counted as Iron Butt material and I was to be granted finisher status in the George A. Wyman Memorial Grand Tour! This would be the first of several IBA rides I would make on trusty Halcyon 250 #668, but it will always be the most memorable!

For more information on George Wyman, the Iron Butt Association, and the Wyman Memorial Project, visit their webpage at: https://wymanmemorialproject.blogspot.com/

Thanks for joining me on my cross-country adventure!

Richard Worsham

Janus Motorcycles

Check out Richard’s ride summary video here:

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