W. E. Garrison’s 117-year-old Bicycling Classic Back in Print

March 29, 2019

Wheeling Through Europe by Winfred Ernest Garrison, republished by Nabu Public Domain Reprints

One hundred seventeen years ago, on April 26, 1900 (p. 534), the following notice appeared in the Christian-Evangelist, a religious news magazine published in St. Louis and distributed to more that 20,000 subscribers  in the United States and Canada:

“Wheeling Through Europe,” by W. E. Garrison, will be ready for delivery by the time this issue reaches our readers. During the summer of 1898 and 1899 the author traveled extensively through England, Scotland, Wales, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. All of this touring was done on a bicycle, and he was thus enabled to see Europe as it cannot be seen by the tourist who rushes through the several countries on railway trains. He has written of his travels in a most entertaining and fascinating style. “Wheeling Through Europe” is a beautiful volume of 263 pages, handsomely bound and illustrated with half-tone cuts from photos taken by the author. Price, postpaid, $1.

Most readers of this notice would have been familiar with the travel narratives in this book because they already would have read them. During the summers of 1898 and 1899, as the cyclist-author was taking these two long bicycle journeys, he had sent reports home to his father, J. H. Garrison, owner, publisher, and editor of Christian-Evangelist, who published them in his magazine. Since his father also published books, the young Garrison (he was 24 and 25 years old when he took these “vacations,” as he called them), it was a logical next step to republish these reports as a book.

During the closing years of that century, W. E. was completing his Ph.D. degree at the University of Chicago, and in 1900 his father also published his dissertation entitled “Alexander Campbell’s Theology: Its Sources and Historical Setting.” It too was priced at $1.00.

Garrison had well-developed ideas about traveling by bicycle, as can be seen in the first chapter of Wheeling Through Europe, which carries the title “About Bicycle Touring.” Traveling by bicycle provides “an unrivaled opportunity for seeing the picturesque in nature and observing the life of people out of the beaten path of travel.” You can tailor your travels to do exactly as you please; it can fit your desires. “But don’t forget,” he adds, “that you are out to enjoy everything, sunshine and shower, down hill and up, smooth road and rough. . .If you can be happy only when physically comfortable, then do not risk a bicycle trip, for there will be many hours when there would be more actual comfort in the aforesaid hammock than in pushing a wheel through the sand of a country road or ploughing through the mud in the premature dusk of a rainy day to reach a gloomy inn before it is absolutely dark.”

The bicycle touring that Garrison describes has an easy-going feel to it that obscures the aggressive character of his travel. In a prefatory note Garrison writes that it “may interest wheelmen to know that the exact amount actual bicycling involved in these tours was 6,150 miles.”

I discovered Wheeling Through Europe in the library of Christian Theological Seminary, where I taught, in the early 1970s, read it with great interest, and in recent years have been turning again both to this book and to other bicycle-related travelogues that Garrison wrote. Soon after this book was published, he discontinued his cycling adventures and focused attention on his career as church historian, academic administrator, writer, and multi-talented senior statesman. While he is known for his many accomplishments, Garrison’s early life as remarkable cyclist has been largely overlooked. Not surprisingly, his book published more than a century ago is held by only a small number of libraries.

This summer, to my great surprise and delight, I discovered that Wheeling Through Europe can once again be purchased from online and local bookstores as a Nabu Public Domain Preprint. A note by the publisher explains that the book “may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process.” The new publication enlarges the size of the pages (7.5 x 9.75), and therefore the print is easy to read and photographs are fairly clear. The cover photo is not from the original and is not identified by the reprint publisher. Nabu Press is an imprint of BiblioLife in Charleston, South Carolina.

Winfred Ernest Garrison was born in 1874 and died in 1969 at the age of 94. He was elected president of the American Society of Church History for 1927-28. Among his books are Catholicism and the American Mind (1928); The March of Faith (1933), which describes the role of churches following the Civil War; A Protestant Manifesto (1952); Christian Unity and the Disciples of Christ (1955); and The Quest and Character of a United Church (1957). He is described in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (2004).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bicycling from San Diego to St. Augustine

March 21, 2019

Remembering a solo bicycle journey from California to Florida–March to May, 1999

 

East of Safford, Arizona

Twenty years ago this week, on March 18, 1999, I began a solo bicycle trip that began in San Diego and ended nearly two months later in St. Augustine. During the first half of the journey, I cycled for eighteen days and rested two, traveling through the dry lands of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas for a total mileage of 1,496 miles, averaging 83 miles per day on the days I cycled. At San Antonia I interrupted the bike trip by driving in a rented car to Fort Worth to lead a workshop for ministers.

Returning to San Antonio, I continued cycling through the wet lands of East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and northern Florida. In fifteen days on my bicycle, I traveled another 1,312 miles, averaging 87 miles, and rested two days. My last night on the road was in Stark, Florida. After attending Mass at a Catholic Church, I rode the final 55 miles, dipped my wheels in the Atlantic Ocean at St. Augustine, and waited for my son to drive up from north of Orlando to take me to his home.

These memories were rekindled on Tuesday of this week—March 19, 2019—when I traveled with my son, who now lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida, to Saint Augustine to wander through the oldest European city in the United States. We had planned to make a three-day bicycle trip there and back, but an unfavorable weather forecast and a chronic sore leg that I am nursing back to health made a one-day trip in his BMW Z4 roadster the better alternative.

We glanced at the ocean along the way on Florida A1A and spent much of our time exploring the Castillo de San Marcos, established nearly 350 years ago to protect Spanish trade routes and the village of St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in the United States. We also toured the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine which continues the oldest Catholic parish in the United States.

We wandered through the streets in Old Town that have been continuously used since 1572. More like cultural trails than city streets, they were crowded with people walking along, with ancient residential buildings on either side. No automobiles here, only a few bicyclists moving through the walkers as best they could.

A few days before making the trip in 1999, I gave a preview of my plans and purposes to friends at the Surprise-Grand-Bell Rotary Club in Surprise, Arizona. While eating breakfast before I made my speech, a fellow Rotarian, with disbelief in his voice, asked “Why? Why would anyone do such a crazy thing as that?”

Maybe the fact that I was 67 years old and would be riding all alone were reasons for his question. Fortunately, I have preserved a copy of the remarks that morning as I made ready for the longest bike ride of my life.

How better to feel the texture of the southern tier of the United States than to bicycle from San Diego to St. Augustine—from the community where in 1769 Junipéro Serra founded the first of California’s chain of missions to the oldest European settlement in the nation, founded in 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. This is the plan I have laid out for me and Bluecycle, my faithful two-wheeled steed, for this spring. We will begin our journey on March 18, the day after the festival honoring St. Patrick, and plan to complete our travels in early May near the day honoring St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. Half way through the journey we are to spend a week in Grapevine, Texas, where I am to lecture at a church conference. Read more . . . . . . . Bicycling from San to Saint


“Our Towns” by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows

March 8, 2019

A Bicyclist’s Response to Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America, by James Fallows and Deborah Fallows (Pantheon, 2018)

During a four-year period, 2013 through 2016, James Fallows and Deborah Fallows flew back and forth across the United States in the single-engine prop plane that James had bought in Duluth, Minnesota (which is one of the reasons why they chose to study that city; another reason being that Deborah had strong childhood associations there). They visited 42 towns and cities—some large, like Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; others small, like Eastport, Maine and Chester, Montana.

Some of the places they studied are especially interesting to me, including Ajo, Arizona, Fresno, California, and Duluth, Minnesota, because I have bicycled through them, lived nearby, or have historic family connections.

Chapters in the book vary in length, from the twenty-page portrait of Greenville, South Carolina, to the three pages devoted to Guymon, Oklahoma. The shorter accounts usually are subsidiary to the longer ones, sometimes as examples of similar dynamics taking place in nearby locations, sometimes as evidence that renewal may not extend to neighboring communities. The Fallows speak respectfully about the places they visit even when what they describe is less than positive.

This book brings to mind other travelogues across the country. The one the Fallows cite is Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. He was interested in seeing the America he had written about one last time and drove 10,000 miles with one question foremost in his mind: What are Americans like today? I think of Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. He too was traveling around the country, but he stayed on lesser roads, and visited only small towns. Because Steinbeck and Heat-Moon traveled in their own campers, they carried a fairly sizeable volume of personal supplies, were largely self-contained, and could come and go wherever and whenever they wanted.

The Fallows traveled 100,000 miles in their own small airplane but could only stop at places where they could land. They then had to find a way to get downtown where they usually stayed at a motel or hotel. When it served their purposes, they would rent a car, but they also walked and used  bicycles they could rent in the community they were visiting. Read more. . .Our Towns