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Cross-Country: 1915

Cross-Country: 1915

1915. "Baker and O'Brien, transcontinental motorcyclists, back of White House." Bud Baker and Dick O'Brien, whom we first met here. In May 1915 they embarked on a five-month, 10,000-mile jaunt to the West Coast via Indian motorcycle to see the California expositions. Harris & Ewing. View full size.


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Amazing adventure

It was a different time. I saw a documentary about Indian cycles. One of the selling points of the early models including this one was its ability to go through muddy, nasty, rough road conditions where cars would be stuck. If it got to bad you could get out and push/pull the bike where a car needed a team of horses to get it out. Still, it makes my trip harrowing to 1000/1500 IBA ride to Colorado, Pikes Peak and points west last summer pale in comparison.

Right Write a book? Probably not though they more than likely wrote letters to their loved ones all along the route. It was a different time. Mail traveled by rail. Phones were in 30% of the homes. Tennessee wasn't electrified and these guys road rode two-up on a motorcycle across the same place where barely more than 50 years earlier the Poney Pony Express riders road rode.

I guess we all have hero's heroes. There's two more for my list.

William Crane

Where's their book!?

Dear Lord - what an adventure -- where's their book? I hope these two guys lived to enjoy enormous notoriety and maybe a few $$

Did they really make the trip? The suspense is killing this 76 y-o scooterist!

Indian Powerplus

December 1915 ad from a Kingston, Jamaica, newspaper that mentions the boys' trip.

70 miles....

70 miles a day on dusty, muddy, ungraded country roads or greasy city cobblestones. 70 miles a day on tires regularly puncturing. 70 miles a day over mountain passes with thin oxygen (check that carburetor!) and nighttime temps below freezing. 70 miles a day in Plains thunderstorms, desert dust (check that carburetor again, boys!), across skittery rail and trolley tracks, through piles of slithery horse poop. 70 miles a day without decent roadmaps. It would have been a grand odyssey, but I’d dearly love to know what actually happened.

If they were simply swanning around DC on their cherry Indian looking intrepid and not yet actually prepping to leave, fine, but I wish there were a later picture of them suited, geared, gauntleted, goggles, and ready to roll. I wouldn’t ride around the block dressed this way, sexy puttees or no.

Raindrops keep falling on my shin guards

It's so late '60s, early '70s. This would have made a great property for Paul Newman and Robert Redford back in the day.


Not to further belabor, but 10,000 miles over five months works out to about 475 miles a week, or less than 70 miles a day.

Leather puttees

The "shin guards" appear to be standard-issue Army leather puttees, as used by the cavalry starting in 1911:

Handsome Devil

That one on the left is dreamy. I wonder if he's got a great-grandson...

Cool Boys of the Road

Admire these guys immensely. What an adventure. With a great masculine style. I'm fascinated by those shin guards. Modern armor for the modern man, very chic.

Hard to believe this actually happened....

10 K miles, 5 months--1 K a week? Seems hard to believe--no headlight so no night riding; tires no good for the muddy roads they'd meet with after every thunderstorm; the stone exhaustion riding that unmuffled, suicide-clutched, barely-sprung boneshaker; the flat tires, the dust, the breakdowns.... Where are their goggles (they wouldn't get far without eye protection.) Where are their gloves? Where's their repair kit--that box on the gas tank won't begin to hold their spares? Where's their tent, gear, clothing, canteens? Apart from the breeches and puttees or gaiters and that snappy Indian pennant, they seem woefully unprepared.

[Not to belabor the obvious, but: This not during their trip. They lived in Washington. - Dave]

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