A Massachusetts man pedaling his way across the United States on an unusual bicycle made his way through Iowa this past week, spending Monday night in Harlan. In April, 59-year-old Kevin McNutt dipped the rear wheel of the bike in the Atlantic Ocean in Lewis, Delaware.
“I’m pedaling a reproduction of an 1885 Victor bicycle, which for someone to look at it, we call ’em high wheels,” he says. “It’s got the very large, 54-inch front wheel and a small rear wheel and it’s a little different than a normal bike.”
It requires a good bit of pedal power, so to speak, to negotiate the hills.
“With this bike it’s direct drive with the pedals, so there’s only one gear and that on my bike because it’s a 54 inch wheel, is about 160 inch — meaning every time I crank the pedals I go forward 160 inches, so there’s no dropping a gear down when I go up an incline or a hill,” he says. “It’s just one gear.”
McNutt started the journey with a friend from Maryland pedaling with him and the friend’s wife following in a truck. It was an effort to raise money for research to prevent juvenile diabetes. The trio made it to Indiana before the couple dropped off, as his fellow cyclist’s diabetes made it impossible to continue. McNutt pressed on, crossing into Iowa over the Muscatine Bridge on Tuesday, June 26. McNutt says he’s faced some challenges in Iowa.
“Not only finding the right roads and places to stay, but the hills are tough and, of course, this beautiful, 90-degree-and-humid weather has been another bone of contention,” he says.
McNutt pedaled from Jefferson to Harlan Monday, where he got a room at the “Settle Inn” in Harlan and answered the question everyone asks: Why?
“I guess the best way of putting it is, ‘If you have to ask the question, you’ll never understand the answer,'” he says. “I don’t know why exactly I’m doing it. It’s a bit of a challenge. It’s a dream of mine. These high-wheel bicycles, there have been a number of people who have cycled across the United States on them. Back in the old days, in 1884, Thomas Stevens was the first person to ride a bicycle across the U.S. and he went from San Francisco to Boston.”
McNutt has already cycled across the country on a modern bike twice.
“It’s probably less than 25 people that have crossed the United States on a high-wheel bike, so it’s a fairly exclusive club and I’m hoping I can join it,” McNutt says, with a laugh.
McNutt plans on finishing the cross-country journey September 1.
“I think that’s a reasonable guestimate, so I’m going to go all the way across Nebraska. I’m going to go all the way across Wyoming, which means some Rocky Mountains and then into southern Idaho and then I want to go all the way across Oregon to the Pacific Coast,” McNett says. “We had dipped our small wheel in the Atlantic Ocean and the whole dream is to dip the big wheel in the Pacific Ocean.”
McNett made it into Nebraska on Tuesday, crossing over the Missouri River on a bridge at Blair, Nebraska.
(Reporting by Joel McCall, KNOD, Harlan)