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Old 06-20-2008, 03:50 PM   #1
kjolly OP
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1924 Coast to Coast

In 1924 my wife's grandfather - Phil Gooding - (who was 20) rode his 1923 Indian Scout from Baltimore to Los Angeles - and back. This is an article that appeared in the Dec 1924 issue of the Baltimore Trolley Topics - the newsletter of the Baltimore Transit Company - where Phil worked as a bus driver. Phil took these photos with a brand new Brownie box camera he bought for the trip.

Motored to the Pacific
Blue Bus Man Tells of The Thrills of Trans_Continental Motorcycle Trip

"I guess the only thing that stopped me was the Pacific Ocean," declared Phil Gooding the other day when he was discussing his motorcycle trip to the coast and back.

Phil and his 1923 Scout

Phil, or rather Phillip N. Gooding, is a Baltimore Transit Company man. Along towards the end of last May Superintendent Martin told Phil that he might have a vacation, and the young man, who had always had an intense desire to see some parts of America, decided to hop on his trusty motorcycle and go from one end of the land to the other. So, on May 30th he started on the trip that was destined to occupy 65 days and to cover 9,478 miles. It was an adventure full of interest, and excitement.

Leaving Baltimore, Gooding went across the Alleghenies, and over the fine roads of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. It was not until he had left St. Louis that he ran into "gumbo" mud, and in an experience with this he met his first mishap. He burnt out his clutch at a stretch of road 12 miles from Columbia, Mo. It looked as though he was in for a long walk, pushing a heavy machine over a heavy road, but happily he came upon a gang of road workmen. They had a mule, a white mule, and they agreed to hire the mule and a rider to Gooding for $10 to tow him into Columbia. There repairs were made at a garage and the trip was continued.

Gooding left the National Highway at Kansas City and went north to Topeka and then followed the Union Pacific Highway which is along the trail used in the early days by stage coaches, across the state of Kansas into Colorado. "The road across Kansas was all dirt," says Gooding. "But as it was graded and hard I made fairly good time. The road over Western Kansas is very mountainous and going west it is a slight grade all the way into Colorado. I arrived at Colorado Springs, which is at the bottom of Pikes Peak on June 9th.

"I spent the day touring through the Garden of the Gods and going up the Pikes Peak Highway to the summit of the Peak. The Garden of the Gods is a large reservation of queer rock formations. Most of the rocks are brown in color and very brittle. The wind and rains have cut them into images resembling animals' heads and bodies. "The road to the summit of the Peak is 18 miles long and very steep in places. From the top you get a beautiful view of the surrounding country and of the highway that you have just come up twisting back and forth up the mountain side. There is snow on the Peak both winter and summer and it is very cold. The Peak's altitude is 14,108 feet.

"The next morning I left for Denver, and after touring the city I went to Lookout Mountain, which is about 20 miles distant. The grave of Buffalo Bill (William F. Cody) is at the summit, and also a large museum containing his guns and relics of his Indian fighting days and of his Wild West Circus. To the west of the grave are to be seen the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies and on the east Denver in the valley below. The altitude of the grave is 7,700 feet above sea level.

"The roads through Colorado are mostly all gravel and in fairly good condition, but the state of Wyoming does not keep them quite as good. At Shoshoni, Wyoming, the auto bridge over a small river was washed out and I had to push my motor over a railroad bridge for about a half-mile. As railroad ties and motor-cycle wheels were not built to run together, it wasn't much fun.

On the plains in Wyoming

"After crossing the bridge, I struck the first stretch of desert. It was only 16 miles across, but it was so sandy that it took three hours to cross on my motor-cycle.

"The road from Cody to the entrance to Yellowstone Park is 60 miles and runs through the Shoshone Canyon which averages 1,500 to 2,000 feet deep and 200 to 500 feet wide. The Shoshone River runs through it. The river has been dammed in the canyon for irrigation purposes. The dam is 328 feet high and 200 feet wide. It irrigates 300,000 acres of land.

The road into Yellowstone

"I arrived at the Yellowstone National Park on the afternoon of June 14, and camped for the night near Yellowstone Lake, 7,800 feet above sea level.

"The lake is fairly alive with large rainbow trout and is a real fisherman's paradise. The Yellowstone, with its wonderful variety of falls, canyons, lakes, geysers is the most wonderful place in this country.

"Most of the park is volcanic and has acres of ground which is full of holes giving off gases and steam. There is a small mud volcano which bubbles up mud and steam. The mouth of this volcano is about 10 feet across. There are several geysers which shoot up hot water and steam. The largest of these is 'Old Faithful.' Every 55 minutes 'Old Faithful' shoots up steam 165 feet in the air, and keeps this up for about three minutes.

"After three days in Yellowstone Park I took the highway south into Pocatello, Idaho where I got on the old Oregon Highway which was used by the first Oregon wagon trains, through the cities of American Falls, Burley, Twin Falls, and Mountain Home to Boise, the capital of Idaho. The roads are very bad in places across Idaho, and there are distances of 40 to 50 miles between houses. It is the northern part of the Great American Desert.

"Near Twin Falls I crossed the Snake River on the highest suspension bridge in the world.
"From Boise I went by the way of the Oregon Highway to Pendelton, Oregon, then took the Columbia River Highway into Portland, Oregon. The Columbia River Highway follows the Columbia River for 150 miles. The road is never more than 100 yards from the river, sometimes being on the shore, then on the cliffs 300 feet above the river. It has several water falls that are 300 feet high. It is considered the most beautiful highway in the United States.

"After touring Portland, I took the Pacific Highway south through the state of Oregon, into California, the land of palms and oranges. At Vallejo, California, I took the ferry for San Francisco. I was at the Presidio when Lt. Maughan arrived from New York by airplane, flying from dawn to dusk.

"Chinatown in San Francisco is about seven blocks long and two blocks wide. I went on a sight-seeing tour there which included a trip through two blocks of tunnels leading into deserted opium dens.

The Golden Gate - No Bridge!

"Leaving San Francisco on June 26 I headed for the Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Mountains. The climb into the park is over fairly good roads with 25 percent grades, just wide enough for one auto. The road is cut into the side of the cliffs and is very dangerous. A slip means a drop of 3,000 feet.

At Yosemite

"The Yosemite Valley is 3,000 feet deep and eight miles long. The valley contains some of the highest falls in the country. The Yosemite Falls drops 2,680 feet into the Valley.
"There is a large hotel on the cliffs 3,000 feet above the valley and every night a large fire is built on the edge of a projecting rock over the valley. At nine o'clock they throw the burnt embers over the cliff into the valley below. By throwing them off slowly it makes a stream of sparks 3,000 feet long and about thirty feet wide which lasts for about 5 minutes. This Fire Falls is watched every night by several thousand people camping in the valley. It is a beautiful sight to see. There are two roads into the valley. Both roads are very dangerous, but by driving carefully few accidents happen. I went down into the valley by the Big Oak Flat Road and came out the Wawona Road. On the Wawona Road, four miles after leaving the valley, is the Wawona grove of big trees. Both roads are very dangerous, but by driving carefully few accidents happen. I went down into the
valley by the Big Oak Flat Road and came out the Wawona Road. On the Wawona Road, four miles after leaving the valley, is the Wawona grove of big trees. There are two of these trees that have holes cut through them so that buses and autos can drive through them. The largest of them is about 29 feet in diameter and between 300 and 270 feet high.

"I arrived in Los Angeles on July 1, and during my week's stay there visited Pasadena and Berkeley Hills. In Hollywood and Berkeley Hills most of the moving picture stars live. They have the most beautiful homes I have ever seen. Most of them are bungalows with palm trees growing all around. The rose and flower gardens are very pretty. On July 4th I went down to Tijuana, Mexico to a real bull-fight and rodeo.

"I left Los Angeles July 8, for the Grand Canyon of Arizona across the Great American Desert. The first 100 miles from Los Angeles to Victorville is paved, but the rest of the way across was sand. I had a great deal of trouble riding through the loose sand and could only average about 5 miles an hour.

"When I got about 50 miles east of Victorville, the road was so sandy and rough that it broke the frame of my motor-cycle and front spring. As I was fifty miles from the nearest garage or house, I had to wait in hopes some passing tourist would have enough wire to hold the cycle frame

"It was 4 p.m. when I broke down, and I had to camp for the night on the desert all night. At 7 a.m. an autoist came along and supplied me with the much-needed wire. I spent the second night on the desert near Needles, California. At 10 a.m. the next morning it was 120 degrees in the shade and very little shade. Crossing the Colorado near Needles, the road starts rising until at Flagstaff, Arizona, which is near the Grand Canyon, the altitude is several thousand feet.

"There are very few towns on the desert and they are about 50 to 60 miles apart. At Flagstaff I repaired my motorcycle and got my first drink of good water since leaving Los Angeles. I had to weld my cycle's frame myself, and used just about twice as much material as an expert welder would have found necessary, but the job was so well done that the machine brought me all the way home without another break.

At the entrance to the Grand Canyon

I arrived at the Grand Canyon July 11 at 10 a.m. The Canyon is over a mile deep and 13 miles across. There is a very narrow foot and mule trail leading from the top to the Colorado River at the bottom.

"I walked seven-and-a-half miles down the Bright Angel Trail to the river. The trail is so steep that it is hard to keep your feet and most of the time you slide instead of walk. In most places the trail is about 3 feet wide and a slip means a drop of a few thousand feet. Halfway down the trail is a spring of good water and several small buildings. The Colorado River in the canyon is about 75 feet wide and very muddy and swift. After taking several pictures at the bottom I started on the way up. It took two hours to go down, but took me ten hours to climb up. During the day about 50 people on mules went down into the canyon and few hikers. It was 15 miles of hard walking, but the scenery is well worth the trouble.

"I stayed at the Grand Canyon three days, and then started east on the Santa Fe Trail by way of Holbrook. Eighteen miles east of Holbrook is the Petrified Forest. There is a road about two miles long through the forest and a small museum. Some of the petrified trees are very large, but are broken in pieces of five to fifteen feet long. I got several specimens of wood and bark and brought them home with me.

Leaving the forest, Gooding went through New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, to Niagara Falls.

The Detroit-Lincoln-Denver Highway in Nebraska

"During this trip," says Gooding, "I traveled alone on an Indian Moto- Cycle and camped out most every night. Most of the time I camped on public camping grounds near towns and cities, but if I could not get to one of these by night I camped wherever night found me. In most large tourist camps would be autos from most every state in the Union, and every night it was not unusual to see 50 to 100 tourists assembled around a huge campfire singing songs and telling stories and jokes. The average tourist is very congenial and always ready to help a fellow out of road troubles and in giving information concerning road conditions. I had a wonderful trip, but I must say that there is no place like one's home town.

"Going again?" we asked Gooding as he finished the narrative of his wonderful trip.

"No" He answered. "It was a wonderful experience, and I would not take anything for it, but I do not propose to do it again, in the same way, at least.


Phil took his trip from May 30, 1924 through August 1, 1924, and I'm posting up his journal and some of his photos and postcards more or less week-to-week on my web site

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Old 06-20-2008, 04:10 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by kjolly
Phil took his trip from May 30, 1924 through August 1, 1924, and I'm posting up his journal and some of his photos and postcards more or less week-to-week on my web site

That was so cool... It is so wild to see trip reports that resemble even those of today. I can only imagine running a trip like that with the materials and stuff available in those times. Makes me really think about how people got around without GPS's ,Cell Phones, Etc.
I'll be linking your website to my favorites for future reference.

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Old 06-20-2008, 04:10 PM   #3
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Fantastic reporting! Thanks for sharing it!
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Old 06-20-2008, 04:20 PM   #4
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That was VERY cool. If he could only see Victorville now! All he saw was sand when his frame broke. This was TRUE adventure. Now we are alway less then 50 miles from help!

Thanks again for taking the time to post the story!!!!!!!

PS: I have an idea for you....... Do the same trip today and try and take pictures from the exact locations for a "Then and Now" adventure!!!!!!!
"I am in California, but my brain spends 90% of it's time in South America"

Over 27,000 miles in South America -- which is NOT enough!

Here is a link to the South American Ride Report...

Trip Index Page.... If you are interested in one spot in South America, you can click on this link and go directly to your point of interest.
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Old 06-20-2008, 04:58 PM   #5
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That had to have been a great adventure in itself... I remember reading a young Eisenhour embarking on a similar journey (by army truck) and it took him and his team 2 or 3 months to reach the west coast... inspiring him later when he became president to begin building the interstate highway system.

Thanks for sharing this awesome report
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Old 06-23-2008, 06:46 PM   #6
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PS: I have an idea for you....... Do the same trip today and try and take pictures from the exact locations for a "Then and Now" adventure!!!!!!!
My thoughts exactly. I've just started working on the routing - picking out the historic alignments for the roads Phil most likely was riding. Once I get his journal all online I'm going to start posting up the route info - and maybe slice enough time away from work next spring to do the ride. I think it would be a blast.
"If a hammer doesn't fix it you have an electrical problem"

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Old 06-23-2008, 06:54 PM   #7
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I'm putting together phil's journal with some of his photos and postcards on my website - trying to get a weekly update about the same time he was making his ride - though I'm not always timely. Anyhow - here's the first week of Phil's trip from his journal.

May 30, 1924 - June 5, 1924
Balitmore, Maryland to Marshall, Missouri
1033 miles

Phils' Scout in Baltimore before he left for his trip.

May 30, 1924
Baltimore, Maryland to Bridgeport, West Virginia
270 miles

I started from Baltimore, Maryland on a trip to tour the United States at 6:30 a.m. I had clear weather and dry roads. All the roads were asphalt, cement, and brick in good condition. The mountains between Frederick, Maryland and Wheeling, West Virginia were very steep and long making it impossible to pull some in high with my Indian Motorcycle. I arrived in Bridgeport, West Virginia at 5 p.m. having covered about 270 miles. I am going to spend the night in a hotel here.

The title for Phil's Scout. The engine number - 55V633 - indicates that it was a 7hp, 37 cubic inch (~600cc) 1923 model Scout. It was the 5,633rd Scout built that year

May 31, 1924
Bridgeport, West Virginia to Indianapolis, Indiana
304 miles

I left Bridgeport West Virginia bound west at 7:30 a.m. after having to change all my haversacks from the rear of my motor to the handle bars because it was too much vibration on the rear. After passing through Cambridge, Ohio all the country was level making it possible to see sometimes ten miles of straight, level good road. All the roads so far have been brick, cement or asphalt. I arrived here in Indianapolis, Indiana at 5:30 p.m. standard time and found out that the time had changed at Dayton, Ohio to Central Time, making my time of arrival 4:30 p.m., one hour difference. I covered 304 miles today and am staying at the Indianapolis YMCA.

Phil made it to Indianapolis the day after the Indy 500. He got to run his scooter around the track. In a letter home to his parents he wrote, "I arrived in Indianapolis the day after the big race, and took my moto-cycle around the track. Made the 2 1/2 miles in 2 minutes and 43 seconds."

June 1, 1924
Indianapolis, Indiana to Terre Haute, Indiana
70 miles

It rained in Indianapolis all morning until about 11:30 a.m. I left the city about noon but only succeeded in getting to Terre Haute, Indiana before the rain started again. I was about two miles from the town, so I spent the night in a barn, getting my supper and breakfast from the farmer after talking about the East with him. I hit the hay about 6:00 p.m. and slept very well. I covered about 70 miles in the day over good roads.

The bridge over the Mississippi at St Louis.

June 2, 1924
Terre Haute, Indiana to St. Louis, Missouri
177 miles

I woke this morning at day break (3:30 a.m.) and started on the road, getting to St Louis, Missouri at 10:00 a.m. The Mississippi River runs right by city. I spent most all afternoon riding on the double-deck buses and streetcars. I worked out in the gym of the Y about 2 1/2 hours getting down to my wrestling weight of 159 pounds. The match came off at 8:30 p.m. sharp in the Y building at Grand Ave. and Sullivan St. I was matched with a local Y man who had much more ex- perience that I. We wrestled for 18 minutes and they decided it a draw. There were six other bouts and then the judges asked that the draw be wrestled off. We went on the mat again for 18 minutes and the judges gave the decision to my opponent, Mr. George R. Littleton, of St. Louis, Missouri. In the days ride I covered 177 miles, all was good but 1 mile of mud.

The St Lousis YMCA

June 3, 1924
St. Louis, Missouri to Calwood, Missouri
110 miles

I left St. Louis, Missouri at 6 a.m. and had fine roads for about 25 miles. From the end of the paved road to Calwood, Missouri the road was nothing but mud. I had a hard time getting through and took quite a few spills but did not hurt me much. I covered 110 miles in 12 hours. I am staying at a hotel here in town.

June 4, 1924
From Calwood, Missouri to
Columbia, Missouri
32 miles

I left Calwood early in the morning in a sea of mud. I only covered 25 miles and burnt my clutch on [the] motorcycle out. Had to be towed by a mule for 7 miles to Columbia, Missouri to a motorcycle garage where I telegraphed to St. Louis for parts. The roads in most places had just been graded and they said it had rained every day for 3 weeks. I am staying at the Y.M.C.A here.

June 5, 1924
From Columbia, Missouri to Marshall, Missouri
70 miles

From Columbia to Marshall is all dirt roads like the others, but I covered 70 miles after getting my motorcycle repaired. I camped out in Marshall in a camping grounds. Had no trouble with the motorcycle after getting on the road.


I've got more of Phil's journal up on my website -
"If a hammer doesn't fix it you have an electrical problem"

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Old 06-23-2008, 06:58 PM   #8
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That was very cool! Early pioneer advrider!
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Old 06-23-2008, 06:59 PM   #9
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Thank you for sharing this, a real bit of history.
Ken you are awesome - "But when Obammer calls a dick sucking football player a hero for sucking dicks"
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Old 06-23-2008, 07:05 PM   #10
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THAT'S an adventure ride!
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Old 06-23-2008, 07:06 PM   #11
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WOW! What a treasure to have the journal, pics and postcards from this trip. Please keep posting.... this is fantastic!

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Old 06-23-2008, 07:53 PM   #12
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Now this is the real deal!!

Thanks for letting us share this cool history with you kjolly !!
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Old 06-23-2008, 08:03 PM   #13
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So spectacular! This belongs in a museum.
5f? Is that like riding down a 90 degree cliff face into a lake of fire? I thought 4f was bad. Abdelhub

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Old 06-23-2008, 08:14 PM   #14
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thank you so much for posting this
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Old 06-23-2008, 08:39 PM   #15
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Just goes to show, the only real preparation and equipment one needs is an Adventuresome spirit.

Way to go Phil!
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