Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Touring Tuesday - The Little Train of the North

Have Native Americans traded in their horses for bicycles?
You might want to put this trip on your schedule for next summer. There is a 200 kilometer (124 miles) bike trail north of Montreal, Canada called the P'tit train du Nord. The name translates to "little train of the north" in English. It's a popular trail, so it has all the amenities you would expect. Things like bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, restaurants and bars. The trail winds through the Laurentian Mountains, but since it's built on an old rail line, the grade is very gentle. The northern part of the trail is paved, while the south end is crushed limestone. If you just want to ride the trail one direction, there are shuttle buses that can take you from one end to the other. If you are going to ride one way, the prevailing wind in the area is out of the northwest.

You can find more information about the trail at - Cycling in Ottawa-Gattineau. One thing they don't mention is the tee-pees you can camp in along the trail. According to information on Oopsmark, they camped in tee-pees all three nights they spend on the trail. Here's a four minute video of a three day ride on the trail:

Monday, October 16, 2017

McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club

1896 Campaign button for the McKinley and Hobart Club
Bicycling was a crucial component of the 1896 presidential election, and not just because cyclists advocated for better roads. The Panic of 1893 and widespread dissatisfaction with Democratic President Grover Cleveland seemed to indicate an easy win for Republican William McKinley. Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan threatened to pull off an upset with a radical new campaign strategy. Up until this time, presidential candidates did little traveling for two reasons. First, it was very difficult in those days. Secondly, by the standards of the day, it was considered beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate to actively campaign in that manner. In regards to the first point, Bryan realized that railroads made travel much easier. As far as the second point was concerned, he just didn't care. He was going to take his message to the people with a "whistle stop" campaign and establish a new norm.

McKinley stuck to his "front porch campaign," where he remained at home and made speeches to supporters who came to visit. He reminded an aide, "Don't you remember that I announced that I would not under any circumstances go on a speech making tour?" Over 750,000 people would come to his home in Canton, Ohio before election day. Republicans came up with the idea of flooding the country with their campaign literature, much it transported and distributed by cyclists. They also formed the McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club (Hobart was the Republican vice-presidential candidate). The club was formed on August 5, 1896 in Chicago, and chapters were soon springing up all across the country. Members of this club took part in many parades, and also escorted Republican candidates and speakers. On October 9, three hundred cyclists rode through Indianapolis before getting on a train to Canton, Ohio for a speech by McKinley at his home. Along the way, the train stopped at other cities to pick up additional cyclists heading to Canton. On October 30 one hundred Indianapolis cyclists rode to former President Benjamin Harrison's home and escorted him to Union Station, where he embarked on a speaking tour supporting McKinley. The McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club was prominent in smaller towns also. By the end of October, the Terre Haute chapter had 850 members. Thirty-five members of the Rockville chapter attended a rally in the town of Montezuma.

So did the McKinley and Hobart Bicycle Club make the difference in the election? It's hard to say. The 45 states were split pretty evenly. McKinley took all of the Northeast and most of the Midwest for 23 states. Bryan took all of the South and most of the sparsely populated West, totaling 22 states. Since McKinley carried the more populated northern states, he won the electoral count handily, 271 to 176. For more information, check out The Bicycle Boom and the Bicycle Bloc: Cycling and Politics in the 1890s.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Photo - Heading to that Great Bike Path in the Sky

Gordon Thorpe's family transporting his body to the funeral
Avid cyclist Gordon Thorpe died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 49. He never liked coffins or hearses, so his family took him to the funeral on a modified tandem bicycle. His coffin had a window in it so he could see the sky during the ride. Gordon liked to ride BMX bikes, so two of his riding buddies followed behind, holding onto opposite end of the handlebars on Gordon's riderless bike, which was between them. Other riders followed them.

You can find more photos and information at Here's the video of Gordon's final ride - May he rest in peace.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday Video - Bike Lanes by Casey Neistat

Beware of obstacles in bike lanes!
This week's video is by Casey Neistat from 2011. He had just received a ticket for not riding his bike in the bike lane. This isn't illegal, but the cop told him he always had to ride in the bike lane. So he made this video to show that there are often hazards in the bike lane that make it dangerous to ride there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Weird Bike Wednesday - Bicycle Powered Washing Machine

Go for a ride and wash your clothes (photo courtesy of Design Buzz)
Now here's an interesting bicycle that was created by industrial designer Mitch Shivers from the Philippines. It's a 30 gallon drum attached to the bike that washes your clothes while you ride. The best part is that you don't have to be stationary like other systems I have seen. You can just go on your normal ride (at a slower pace) and wash your clothes at the same time. Also the washing attachment will force cars to give you reasonable clearance when passing. Additional photos can be found on the Design Buzz website.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Touring Tuesday - Cycling in Tennessee

River crossing by ferry in Tennessee (photo courtesy of Peter C. Koczera)
Tennessee is a very picturesque state with friendly people and drivers who are patient and courteous to cyclists. If you are looking for a place to do some bicycle touring, it's a  good choice. While touring, you might come across a river ferry like the one above. The state operates one on the Tennessee River, and one on the Cumberland River. According to their fee schedule, a car is one dollar and a person on foot is fifty cents. It doesn't say what they charge someone on a bicycle.

If you would like to be part of an organized tour, the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (BRAT) is held each fall in mid-September. It's a five day ride with camping each night at one of Tennessee's state parks. The route varies, and visits a different part of the state each year. If you would like to tour on your own, the Tennessee Department of Transportation lists five bicycle routes in different sections of the state. Turn by turn directions are available for each route. These routes are all from previous BRAT rides.

There are many interesting sights to visit in Tennessee, such as:

Monday, October 9, 2017

Newby Oval - The 1898 Indianapolis Velodrome

Advertisement for opening races (photo courtesy of Indiana Historical Society)
Indy's Major Taylor velodrome opened in 1982 and hosted track cycling events that were part of the 1982 U.S. Olympic Festival. Over 80 years earlier, The Newby Oval was opened for the 1898 League of American Wheelmen meet. Considering the state of sports at the time:
  • Baseball's first World Series would be held five years later in 1903
  • The Indianapolis 500 would not be held until 1911
  • The National Football League wasn't formed until 1920
  • James Naismith invented basketball just 7 years earlier. The National Basketball Association wouldn't come along until after World War II
Hosting the LAW Meet was like hosting the Super Bowl today. To get them to come to Indy, Arther Newby built the Newby Oval in the northeast corner of 30th Street and Central Avenue. It was state of the art at the time, featuring electric lighting (Edison demonstrated his first incandescent bulb less than twenty years earlier) and the grandstands could accommodate 20,000 fans (Today Bankers Life Fieldhouse can only seat 18,000 for basketball games (19,000 for concerts). The track was a quarter mile long and made from white pine. It was one of the fastest tracks in the country and numerous speed records were set there. The LAW meet went well, but railroads raised ticket prices, and the attendance was less than anticipated.

They say timing is everything, and Newby's timing was terrible. After years of rapid growth, LAW membership peaked in 1898. Automobiles were starting to appear, and they drew attention away from cycling. The facility was used for other purposes as well as bicycle races, but it was never able to generate enough revenue to pay its operating expenses. Demolition on the Newby Oval began just four years after it opened.

So did Arthur Newby declare bankruptcy and die penniless? Oh no - He and three other investors later built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1915 the state of Indiana was outbid by a lumber company for the property that would become Turkey Run State Park. Newby and the other investors donated money to the state so they could buy it from the lumber company. Newby was a prominent Indianapolis philanthropist and later gave $100,000 to the Riley Children's Hospital. He also donated $50,000 each to Butler University and Earlham College.

Nearly everything is more expensive now than in 1898, but a look at the handbill above shows there are exceptions. Note the part that says "Wheels checked on grounds .... 5 cents." Today, with Pedal & Park, you get that free at many major events in Indianapolis.