Fraser John Foster
Round the World on a Wheel
This treasure trove of a book was originally published in 1899, a year after the cyclist Foster and his two companions had returned from a two-year-bike-tour around the world. As seen on the title photo, they started with a minimum of luggage and a maximum of laid-back courage.
They covered almost 20,000 miles and were neither deterred by hostile people nor forbidding roads or climate. It is thrilling reading, sitting in a comfortable armchair and following these daredevils on their tour around the world.
Fraser, a London journalist, wrote this travel diary with a sophisticated, ironic voice and without the least complaints about their numerous hardships. The most intense, ghastly part of their journey was the ride through western China, where they were met by natives, who tried to stone them and threw mud at them, hardly anyone was prepared to offer any assistance, even worse than in Iran, where they were persecuted as Christian sons of dogs.
Before entering China they loaded up their bicycles:“ Altogether the bicycle…weighed 70 pounds; and as my riding weight was 161 pounds, altogether the machine with cyclist turned the scale at 236 pound.“ (p. 256)
In comparison to their adventures in Asia, the cycling from San Francisco to New York went without greater mishap, if you do not count bumpy cycling on railroad lines and unfriendly Germans in Chicago. This seemed a bit unfair, as they had been overjoyed, whenever they had met competent Germans in Asia, that helped them along efficiently.
But it seems, the nearer the three came to reaching their beloved Britain, the less they were prepared to put up with people of different origins: „ The Californians are men of British blood, improved by transplantation to the ozone-swept hills on the Pacific coast; the Chicagoans are Germans, deteriorated in the infamous atmosphere of unscrupulous money-making“ (S.496).