Tea at the Michaux Club.
A friend with whom I once made a bicycle tour believes that the expense of such trips could be much reduced by eliminating the hotel, and camping out. His plan necessitates the carriage of some sort of tent, cooking utensils, and food to last for a meal or two. I have never tried it, but may do so this summer. We propose to use a light drill for tent material, the two bicycles forming the ridge-pole, and the tent being thus not more than three feet high, a mere covered hole to crawl into when bedtime comes. Aluminum cooking utensils might be used. Firewood may be found anywhere. If cooking is out of the question, owing to the weight of the apparatus, it would be easy to buy one's meals in the villages. The objections to this scheme are apparent; and except to show upon how few cents a day one may enjoy the pleasures of travel, I have my doubts about it. To make a comfortable bed on the ground will require much clothing, which again means weight. There is also the danger of catching cold, the difficulty of getting washing done, etc.
While talking of weight, it may be worth while to say something of the touring outfit that I have found most convenient. The best clothes-carrier is the flat, triangular bag built to fit between the frame-bars; it is better than a knapsack strapped to the handle-bar, because the weight is carried lower down, making the machine less top-heavy, and it leaves the handle-bar free for any light parcel. My outfit consists of three light outing-shirts, three suits of gauze underclothing, a dark flannel bicycle suit, laced tanned gaiters, light-weight rubber coat, comb, clothes-, hair- and tooth-brushes, soap and towel, cup, writing-pad and pencil, map and matches; and, of course, the regular kit of tools, and materials for road repairs. Another suit of clothes suitable for calls and Sundays would be pleasant to have, and other shirts and shoes; but this means weight. Now that the bicyclist's knickerbockers are seen everywhere in summer, even at the theatre and in church, it is hardly necessary to carry more than essentials. An umbrella is not needed. If one has a rubber coat for stormy weather, he can ride, rain or no rain, while it is next to impossible to ride and carry an umbrella, whether for sun or rain. Gaiters are better than low shoes, which are apt to fill with sand when the road is too soft to ride.
To come back to my point of beginning: When a good and safe flying-machine is introduced at a price that I can afford, I shall perhaps abandon my bicycle. Until that time, - and I am very much afraid that it will not be in my time, - I shall hold fast to it. I see nothing to compare with it, not even the pneumatic skate-roller, upon which experts in England are said to have made as high as twelve miles an hour upon a fair road. How about hills? The slightest rise in the road must compel the foot bicyclist to take off his skates, and carry them over his shoulder.
I shall hold fast to my pneumatic "Safety," thanks to which I have enjoyed scores of days that live in the memory. The bicycle tempts one out-doors. There is something about bicycling and tennis-playing that enables one to enjoy either when the mercury rises to a point where all other exercise seems forbidden. Upon days when I should hesitate to take out a horse, I have enjoyed a quiet turn upon my wheel. There is an independence about it that one doesn't feel in driving.
Keep a note-book, and when your summer's tour is over, count up how many glorious days, how many bits of scenery and of adventure, are well worth remembering. It is only from the top of a hill that one gets all there is of beauty in a fine sunset. Sometimes, when belated, I have enjoyed from my wheel pictures of the dying day so glorious, bursts of color so resplendent, as to make one regret the shortness of life if for no other reason than that such superb triumphs of color have filled the skies before we were here to see them, and will continue to glow for generations after we are gone. To paraphrase Mr. Gilbert's "Pooh Bah," there will be sunsets without end; we may not see them, but they will be there.
To wheel quietly up and down hill and across the valley, miles away from so-called civilization, and yet knowing that with a good bicycle miles mean but little; to wheel along, drinking in the perfumes of the morning with the songs of the birds, and at even, thankful for the matchless glow in the west and the music of the cow-bells, to wheel silently at sunset into some peaceful village where your guidebook bids you expect a welcome, - and at reduced rates, - all this is worth celebrating. The use of travel, says Dr. Johnson, is to regulate the imagination by reality. Thanks to the bicycle, we have the joys and benefits of this discipline almost without cost, and without the fatigue incident to prolonged tramps on foot.