29 June 1997

Day 16 - Arvada, WY to Moorcroft, WY

Distance travelled: 50 miles
Winds: Slight back
Grades: Up and down
Weather: Forenoon fair; Slight rain afternoon
Condition of roads: Bad
Delays: Bicycles –30m/Tires – 0/Lunch – 3h 15m/Other – 45m
Actual travel time: 7h 30m
Rate per hour: 6.7 mph
- Lt. J.A. Moss Report to the Adjutant Synopsis of the Trip

Places & times mentioned:
somewhere past “Awado”/Arvada, WY [1 AM]; Powder River; Wild Horse Creek; Stopped to rest; Felix; Gillette [2 –5 PM]; almost to Moorcroft WY

"At 1 o’clock [at night] the corps moved out, crossed the Powder river which a few hours before was 12 feet higher than then, on the railroad bridge, and struck the wagon road near by. The traveling was fair for a mile or two until Wild Horse creek was struck. At this point the road runs along the creek bed and is bad at the best, but especially so after the big storm which was just passed. Gumbo mud and pools of water added to the difficulties and very slow time was made. Several times we were compelled to go around and once to surmount large drifts of hail fully eight feet high. This hard work was too much. It could not prove anything about a bicycle and was merely a test of physical endurance of which tests we had quite sufficient, so it was decided to take to the railroad track which was done at the first opportunity. We walked along in the semi-darkness more asleep than awake until we reached Felix where a stop was made to rest, clean machines and get breakfast. As it was impossible to roll our machines over the hard section more than half the time no correct distance was obtainable but our nights travel was estimated at 25 miles including what was ridden on the railroad track.
The lack of water also added to our trouble, no good water being had since leaving Sheridan.
From Felix to nowhere was our next day’s ride, the hardest yet experienced. After very little sleep the corps started for Gillette, 19 miles away. For 9 miles we rolled our wheels over the railroad track, subjecting them to the most critical test. The road was fairly passable from here on so we started to ride again. The alkali vapors, up hill, and lack of water made hard work of it and slow progress was made. Gillette was reached at 2 o’clock where we stopped for lunch. Many of the men were so tired that they fell asleep while eating.
Gillette Wyoming in 1904
The reports received here were encouraging enough to warrant resuming our march. Assembly was called and we were on our way by 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The roads were really good and for twenty miles good time was made and the prospects for a record breaking run was good. Suddenly the sky clouded and darkness was upon us before we knew it, a drizzling rain fell and the road became a mass of gumbo compelling us to walk all the time. Our destination was Moorcroft and all energies were put on to make that point until by some means one of the men broke a front axle and caused some delay in replacing it. Our way lay across a large hill; the writer was leading the way when suddenly a yawning abyss presented itself in our front, breaking the road in two. Only a few inches more and the whole corps would have gone over this cliff and met with some serious accidents. Fortunately, the right road was discovered in the nick of tie. About a mile from this point we struck the railroad track and tried to build a fire with which to warm ourselves; it was a dismal failure, not a sliver of dry wood being obtainable. The corps was getting pretty well scattered over the prairie by this time, many of the men having given out. Rather than stay where we were we pushed ahead, not knowing what adventures were before us. We plodded along until 2 o’clock in the morning, when the three leaders gave up the ghost and went into camp. We spread our tent on the wet ground and covered up with a single blanket. We had no fire and no supper but fell asleep without thinking of our troubles. We slept for two hours until frozen out and daylight came, when there, only a mile away, lay our objective point. We looked at our bicycles but hardly recognized them, the mud covered every part of the machine, not a spoke was to be seen, the wheels were simply discs of gumbo. We reached Moorcroft at 6 o’clock having been two hours going one mile, and being without sleep for the previous 45 hours.
By 9 o’clock the entire corps had gathered and a half-days rest was taken.”
- E.H. Boos Daily Missoulian Nebraska is Reached [under Marching On on second page, July 17, 1897

[This article was also published in the St. Louis Daily Globe Democrat, July 18, 1897. The head line for that paper was THE MILITARY BICYCLISTS.----- They Find a Hard Road to Travel in Wyoming.]

“On June 29th, after having ridden somewhat over twenty miles up an almost continuous grade, under a broiling sun, we stopped, about 2 P.M. at Gillette, Wyo for lunch. The next point along the route where water could be obtained, was Moorcroft, 30 miles away. Being told at Gillette that the road to Moorcroft was very good, and slightly down grade, I thought the run could be made easily in four hours; and at 4 o’clock we left Gillette. By 7 o’clock we had covered about sixteen miles, and were bounding along at an eight-mile gait, when all at once the clouds began to gather thick and fast, and almost immediately darkness was upon us. The road being
entirely unknown, we were compelled to decrease speed considerably, and a few minutes later, one of the soldiers broke his front axle.
As we had no extra ones he had to roll his bicycle the whole way to Moorcroft. I then turned the Corps over to the Acting First Sergeant, and taking with me one cook and two soldiers who had flour, bacon and coffee in their luggage cases, we started out ahead, intending to reach Moorcroft an hour or more before the command and have supper ready as soon as they arrived. We had not, however, ridden more than four miles before the intense darkness and the condition of the roads forced us to dismount and roll our wheels along. While almost feeling our way along a road wet and muddyfrom a rain of the previous day, we walked, and walked and walked, pushing our wheels before us.
About mid-night, we struck the B & M track. The night air was damp, chilly and penetrating, and we were cold, hungry and tired. The soldiers tried to make a fire, but could find no wood, and we then stopped for a rest. About half an hour later, the report of a rifle was heard: I had one of the soldiers discharge his piece in reply, and shortly afterwards three soldiers, who had pushed on ahead of the command and lost their way in the darkness, came up. We then resumed the march for Moorcroft—it was then about 1 o’clock. Almost exhausted from fatigue, we wearily walked along a mile or two further, when a soldier a few yards behind me exclaimed, “My God I can’t go any further” – and stopped: the rest of the party continuing. It now began to grow lighter, and I was so tired and sleepy that the horizon appeared like a clothes-line –I was really sleeping on my feet. At about 2 o’clock I was completely overcome from sheer exhaustion and laydown on the west mountain side, with a shelter-tent half under me, and a blanket over me.”
- Lt. Moss Report to the Adjutant General (pg. 5-6)

TRIP OF THE BIKE CORPS. Gillette, Wyo., June 29 – Tired and muddy the Twenty-fifth infantry bicycle corps, Lieutenant Moss commanding, arrived here at 2:30 today en route for St. Louis. Wild Horse creek, near Arvada, was a mass of mud. Hailstones which fell Sunday were drifted seven and eight feet high. The weather was very hot and no good water could be obtained. The corps is making a forced ride to get out of the Bad Lands.”
- Idaho Daily Statesman Wednesday, June 30, 1897

“On June 29 we had about our hardest experience. After having ridden and walked somewhat over twenty miles up an almost continuous grade, under a broiling sun, the corps stopped about 2 p.m. at Gillette, Wyo., for lunch. The next point along the route where water could be obtained was Moorcroft, thirty miles away. Being told at Gillette that the road to Moorcroft was good, and slightly down grade, we naturally thought the run could easily be made in four hours, and at 4 o’clock left Gillette. By 6 o’clock the command had covered sixteen miles and were bounding along at an eight-mile gait, when, all at once, the clouds began to gather thick and fast, and almost immediately darkness was upon us. The road being entirely unknown, we decreased the speed considerably. A few minutes later one of the soldiers broke his front axle, and as we had no extra ones he had to roll his bicycle the whole way to Moorcroft. The corps was then turned over to the acting first sergeant, and taking with me one cook and two soldiers, who had flour, bacon and coffee in their luggage cases, we left the command, intending to reach Moorcroft an hour or more before they did, and have supper ready upon their arrival. We had not, however, ridden more than four miles before the intense darkness and the condition of the roads forced us to dismount and roll our wheels along, and while feeling our way over the road wet and muddy from a rain the previous day we walked and walked. About midnight our advance party struck the B. and M. track. The night air was damp, chilly and penetrating, and we were cold, hungry and tired. The soldiers wanted to make a fire, but as no wood could be found, and an effort to tear up a wagon crossing over the railroad track proved futile, we stopped for a rest—and incidentally a game of “freeze-out.” About half an hour later the report of a rifle was heard. One of the men discharged his piece in reply, and shortly afterward three soldiers, who had pushed on ahead of the command came up. The march to Moorcroft was then resumed—it was now 1 o’clock a.m. Almost exhausted from fatigue, we wearily walked a mile or two further, when a soldier a few yards behind me exclaimed: “My God, I can’t go any further!” and stopped, the rest of the party continuing. It now began to grow lighter, and we were so tired and sleepy that the horizon appeared like a clothes line just about to strike us above the eyes. Three or four times, within an interval of twenty minutes, I threw my hands out at this imaginary line—I was actually sleeping on my feet. About 2 o’clock the Associated Press reporter and myself, completely overcome from sheer exhaustion, lay down on the wet mountain side. We woke up about 4 o’clock and beheld scarcely a mile away, a small, red building—Moorcroft! Our bodies had made impressions in the soft, muddy mountain side, and the shelter tent was wet with moisture. It took the corps an hour to reach Moorcroft, through gumbo mud and water, and there we laid over until 2:15 o’clock that afternoon.”
- Lt. Moss, Los Angeles Times The Army A-Wheel, Nov. 21, 1897

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