When the Panama Canal opened in August of 1914, several port cities on the southern California coast became part of a new international s...

10,000 Miles on a 1915 Indian

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When the Panama Canal opened in August of 1914, several port cities on the southern California coast became part of a new international shipping route overnight.  This provided a much needed economic boost after earthquakes in 1906 and a stock market crash in 1907 had left many of the cities in financial straits. To celebrate the completion of the Canal and to increase tourism, San Francisco and San Diego held large Expositions or World Fairs, which lasted up to two years.  These events were major undertakings similar to when modern day cities host the Olympics.  The San Francisco Exposition, for example, covered 635 acres.

Of course, news of expositions of this magnitude spread like wildfire and it wasn't long before two young men in Washington, DC were making plans to ride out to the west coast.  Dick O'Brien and Bud Baker decided to embark on a 5 month, 10,000 mile trip across the country and back, riding tandem on Baker's 1915 Indian.


They left Washington, DC on May 3, 1915 and headed for San Francisco.  It's reported that their fully loaded bike (including both riders) weighed in at a mere 809 lbs.  Compare that to a new Harley Ultra Classic which weighs 889 lbs just by itself.

I've not found a lot of information about their trip, but I did come across a few interesting facts.  The boys reported seeing more motorcycles east of Ohio than they did in California.  On a days ride from Albany to Buffalo, they counted 116 Indian motorcycles, half of which had sidecars.  I bet those sidecars looked mighty tempting to O'Brien as he hung onto the back of that Indian...  

It is also noted that the original Goodyear front tire made the entire trip and the front tube made it to San Francisco and as far back as Fremont, Ohio before needing air.  Based on the Goodyear Tires advertising on their motorcycle, I bet that Goodyear must have partially sponsored the ride and probably got some great advertising out of it as well.

When they returned, the Washington Post did a short article on their trip.  I've included a copy along with a couple more photos of the pair.

Washington Post, Oct. 4, 1915.

10,000 MILES ON MOTORCYCLE
Two Washington Boys Back Home After
Trip to Pacific Coast.

Two former Washington high school boys -- "Dick" O'Brien, of Technical, and "Bud" Baker, of Central -- reached this city yesterday after a trip to the expositions in California on a motorcycle. They were gone five months to the day, and 10,000 miles were covered. The boys left this city May 3. At Denver they gave an exhibition of their proficiency by riding up and down the steps of the statehouse.

"We were, I believe, the first to cross the continent on a motor-driven tandem," said young O'Brien, "and our experiences will prove mighty interesting when we start to tell them. We were stopped for five days by reason of storms in Kansas, and at other points our patience was severely tested by poor roads. The roads of the East are far superior to those of the West, and the installation of the Lincoln memorial highway from coast to coast will go a long ways toward opening up a new country.

"In Reno the thermometer was 110 as we passed through, and an hour later we were throwing snowballs at each other on top of the Sierras. We stopped at the fair for some time. We are glad to get back home. But it was a great trip."

"Dick" O'Brien is the son of Richard E. O'Brien, inspector of plumbing in the District building.


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