Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mule Pack Train

This is an interesting picture taken near Valdez, Alaska in the early 1900's. It shows a pack train associated with prospectors and mining working its way up the side of a snowy slope. One of the amazing things about the picture is that it appears that one man has a bicycle! Wow, it is hard to imagine a more useless piece of equipment, and I have to wonder who sold it to him.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading people's comments yesterday about their first bicycles. For people like me who were born in the 1960's, getting that first bicycle was one of the most memorable events of our childhood. Today, I don't think it is much of a big deal any more.

10 comments:

  1. http://charlie8060.fotopic.net/p24153922.html

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  2. This is beautiful gallery old pictures, which i like. I have a lots of old pictures. Part of them You can see here: http://www.vardamir69.blogspot.com/

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  3. Yeah, I wonder what that guy thought he was going to do with the bike?

    Were they going somewhere with no snow? Doesn't seem likely.

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  4. From yesterday: I don't remember training wheels. I had to use the curb to get tall enough to get on the old blue monster. No fenders, coaster brakes, weighed as much as I did or more. Dad would keep me steady until one day I noticed he wasn't holding me up and I promptly fell over, but I learned and I loved it. Got a 3 speed for Christmas 1955. Kept it in my bedroom so it wouldn't get stolen.

    Today: I bought a Jacque Penny 10 speed in College in Missoula. You can ride a bike in snow, but, it's like riding in pea gravel. Not easy. But, it's faster than walking, and gets you to the hard pack or ice or road or sidewalk.

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  5. The guy who sold the bicycle in the picture is the same individual who sold refrigerators to all them Eskimos. ;-)

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  6. This is kind of a sad picture, as so many horses died on this trail going over the pass to the gold fields. It was called "The Dead Horse Trail."

    I think bicycles were used quite a bit getting to the gold fields and were a success. There is an invitational bicycle race on the Iditarod Trail that is held every year. This is the same trail they use for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Riders can go about 350 miles, or all the way to Nome, 1100 miles.

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  7. Interesting, Duene. I don't remember my first bike, but I begged my father for a new Schwinn when I was 12. He thought it was extravagant since I'd have my driver's permit in one year (ND Farm), but he got it for me anyway. I love him for that. JAM

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  8. I can't believe people rode bikes in the cold and snow. What kind of tires did they have?

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  9. From
    http://www.nps.gov/klse/forteachers/hrs3b.htm

    One of the most colorful, whimsical means of getting around the Yukon was by bicycle -- and Seattle merchants advertised them during the stampede. [56] The gold rush coincided with the worldwide bicycle craze of the 1890s, when riding "wheels" became a fashionable pastime. One New York Company considered producing a "Klondike Bicycle," which representatives claimed could carry gold seekers across Chilkoot Pass to Dawson City. For all the impracticality of that particular idea, numerous miners brought bikes to Alaska -- and they were available for purchase in Seattle. Spelger & Hurlbut, dealers operating on Second Avenue, sold bicycles that they obtained from the Western Wheel Works factory in Chicago. By 1900, one Seattle newspaper had reported that "scarcely a steamer leaves for the North that does not carry bicycles." [57]

    This mode of transportation offered several advantages: cyclists could follow the tracks in the snow left by dogsleds with relative ease; they could travel faster than dog teams and horses; and "iron steeds" were less expensive and easier to maintain than animals. Cycling in the Far North was not without hazards, which included snowblindness and eyestrain from attempting to follow a narrow track through the ice, and frequent breakdowns due to frozen bearings and stiff tires. [58]

    also check out the book Wheels on Ice for a collection of stories from the "wheelmen" that used bicycles in Alaska and the Klondike during the gold rushes.

    see AKSPOKES.com and FORUMS.MTBR ("fatbike" and "Alaska" regional pages) to see the modern equivelent

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  10. Great picture. Those sleds are called Yukon Sleds and Sears Roebuck used to sell them. Alaskans would buy them in a kit and have them shipped up from Seattle.

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