On June 2, 1913 Carl Stearns Clancy, on a 1912 Henderson motorcycle, and his then riding pal, Robert Allen, left San Francisco on the last leg of Clancy’s record-setting ‘round the world tour. Allen, on a 1913 Henderson, had abandoned his own vacation tour to help Clancy chart part of a new northern transcontinental highway to New York City – including a visite to Yellowstone Park.
100 years to the day, on June 2, 2013, my riding pal, Richard Livermore, and I will start an attempt to follow the route Clancy and Allen took across America on the first leg of our own motorcycle adventure, a modern day ‘round the world tour.
Officially Livermore and I will have started our world tour a day earlier in Los Angeles, the site where we will return at some unknown date in the future. But in a salute to Clancy and Allen, we will follow their connected dots from the wharf area in downtown San Francisco to Chicago. While Allen vectored off in Chicago and Clancy proceeded alone to his start point in New York City, Livermore and I will proceed together to Penn Station, Clancy’s departure point in October, 1912.
Livermore and I expect crossing America will be the easiest part of our global circumnavigation. Clancy, when interviewed after the completion of his ‘round the world tour, said “the road conditions in the United States are far worse than in any other country” he had ridden over. Today many of the horrible road conditions Clancy encountered in northern California, eastern Idaho and western Montana have been paved over and are silky smooth interstate highways often six lanes wide and allowing for speeds of 75 mph. 450 miles in a day will certainly be achievable for us. 100 years earlier, Clancy recounted falling 17 times and managing only 20 miles in a dismal day on the same route.
A century ago this track would have been tough work for Clancy’s one speed Henderson, especially when wet.
After Livermore and I tag Clancy’s start point in New York City, we turn south towards South America with an extended pit-stop in Florida while we return to our daily lives, earn and save enough money for our South American adventure.
Unlike Clancy, we are not paying our way by writing articles for a weekly publication, choosing to spend our non-riding time meeting people and exploring points along our route. Nor are we attempting to establish motorcycle dealerships for brands we are using, as Clancy did for the Henderson Company. We are also not sponsored by a motorcycle manufacturer with free motorcycles. The motorcycles we will be riding are what we can afford. It they break, are stolen, wrecked or confiscated along our journey we will, hopefully, replace them within our limited budget. This follows one of my Globe Riding Rules: never take into foreign countries that which I cannot afford to lose.
Like Clancy, we expect to make repairs and do routine maintenance along our route. A flat tire or broken clutch cable are within our personal repair parameters, as are routine maintenance items like changing oil or cleaning air filters. Hopefully, we will not find ourselves, as Clancy did, needing to find a way to replace a connecting rod. The cost of doing so on our more modern motorcycles could bust our budget and may result in changing mounts on the road.
Roadhouses or cabins were what Clancy and Allen found crossing the Rockies. Livermore and I hope for more upscale accommodations, but are prepared for the worst.
Clancy, 21 years old when he started, obviously had the advantage of youth over Livermore and me, both of us now entering our Golden Years. While we do not plan to spend much time sleeping with only a blanket and tarp covering us as Clancy did, we will be carrying a thin sleeping sac and plastic cover for possible emergencies, or nights when we are not able to find a room at the inn.
As with sleeping, we will have an emergency can of pre-cooked spaghetti and can opener for when we cannot find at least a fast food outlet, eliminating the need for bulky cooking equipment and saving our old knees and backs from cracking or popping while stoking a campfire or washing cups and plates in a stream. Both Livermore and I have done our share of cooking and sleeping along trails or in campgrounds on earlier motorcycle adventures. We have agreed to work towards a budget that incorporates sleeping indoors with a shower more than once or twice a week.
The dangers and perils Clancy encountered while circling the globe are likely similar in degree, although different in nature. While Clancy faced everything from wild animals to gun-wielding political adversaries, Livermore and I can expect wild car/truck/bus drivers and two-legged urban or jungle guerillas. Clancy armed himself with a 12-shot revolver. Livermore and I will arm ourselves with information, humor and the common sense necessary to, hopefully, avoid physical confrontations.
Richard Livermore is pictured here practicing for the eventual stream crossings we will encounter as we explore some off-pavement sections of our world tour.
Livermore and I have done some limited road and off-pavement training. I honed my staying alive techniques on roads in Southeast Asia, where the daily kill rate in countries like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam or Thailand are said to be as high as seven during peak periods. Livermore honed his off-road riding skills by using a Kawasaki KLR650 to practice serious off-road riding, sometimes through deep streams.
Our tour across America in June is planned to be more of a comfortable stroll rather than a 1000 mile-a-day race to bag miles. Livermore and I want to taste America, appreciating the environment and scenery as close to what Carl Stearns Clancy and his riding pal did 100 years ago. We also both know we have only one chance to pursue this opportunity, that our age, timing, business commitments and costs will likely prohibit any future adventures of this nature. Our schedule and occasional updates can be found at: www.HorizonsUnlimited.com/clancyride.
June 2, from Lat: 37.8907506, Long: -122.421896, we will be headed out on the highway, looking for adventure. Motorcyclists on any year, make or model motorcycle are invited to join us for a minute, mile, or days as we celebrate one man’s adventure on a portion of the longest, most difficult, and most perilous motorcycle journey ever attempted.