As I passed along the Oregon Trail, where you can still see covered wagon tracks in some places, I had the sensation of what it might have felt like to journey across country in that manner. The speed was slow. Most settlers walked alongside their wagons. Backpackers on the Pacific Coast Trail walk at about 4 miles per hour. Twenty to thirty miles a day is considered good. On horseback one can go 40.
It occurred to me that Sunride, my solar powered electric bicycle, is better than a horse. I typically go 80 miles a day with very little effort. Sure beats walking alongside a covered wagon, or weighed down by a heavy backpack, or rocking side to side in a saddle on a horse that has to stop to eat grass and drink water. Generally I travel around 20 mph on Sunride. That would have been at least 5 times faster than a wagon train or a plodding horse.
At the end of the day I feel tired, but it’s a good healthy tired. My butt’s a bit numb and there’s a little tension in the shoulders, but my legs feel great and that old ankle injury never felt better. Peddling gently as I go seems to lubricate the leg and ankle joints so they actually feel better. I can imagine how tired a walker on the Oregon Trail would have been at the end of the day. How many times did they twist their ankles? A year ago I sat in a saddle on a mule for four hours walking the rim of the Grand Canyon and could barely move the next day.
What was it like for John Muir riding the West on horseback? I’m clipping along singing “I’m riding on sunshine.” What did my frontier predecessors sing or whistle? The similarities have to include that sense of being one with the land, that happy feeling when passing a patch of wildflowers, that sense of being a creature of nature like the deer staring back at you across the field or the light-footed coyote gliding away. I even saw a wolverine dart into a cornfield. Animals are a delight. I’ll bet ole John Muir probably had the thought, “I wonder what a wolverine tastes like? Nah, I’ll stick with rabbits and squirrels.” Also, when traveling alone, anyone you come upon greets you and tells you what you need to know about where you are. When you’re riding cross-country in a car you don’t so much see the deer, rabbits or squirrels and the only conversation you might have in a day is, “Fill ‘er up.”Yes, I think Sunride is far better than walking and even better than riding a horse. You can go twice as far in a day with half the discomfort while still enjoying all of the sights. Magically Sunride moves down the road powered by pure sunshine. The ride is smooth and quiet. In a summer month, with the longer days in June and July, I’ll bet Sunride could go 100 miles a day. We’re doing 80 in September! Just think, at 100 miles per day I could travel coast to coast in less than a month. Eat your heart out John Muir, John Powell, Annie Oakley, and the rest of you horse lovers.