Tribune-Courier News Reporter
Heads turned Monday morning as 70-year-old Steve Carter passed through western Kentucky on what appeared to be a unicycle, but was actually a late-1800s-style two-wheeler.
Carter’s ride is an 1891 Columbia Light Roadster bicycle with a 53-inch front tire, 18-inch back tire and a shoe-leather saddle that Carter made himself. He said bicycles of this style are called “ordinaries” because before the turn of the 20th century, this is what everyone rode.
Carter’s dress is also traditional: blue knickers and a white shirt, because that’s what cyclists at that time would’ve worn. He said the sleeve length is optional but he prefers long sleeves because they offer more protection from the sun.
Carter said he’s riding from the American-Mexican border to the American-Canadian border for two reasons. “One, nobody has ridden this type of bicycle from border to border north to south,” he said.
Secondly, he hopes to win an award at the national meeting of “The Wheelmen” in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Carter said the award goes to the person who rides the longest distance on bicycle to reach the meeting, and he’s confident that his ride of about 1,700 miles will guarantee his win.
Carter said he averages about 10 miles per hour, which is pretty impressive since he must cycle the entire time and cannot stop moving his legs or the bicycle stops moving.
His journey started June 22 and he must average between 75 and 80 miles per day to reach his destination by July 16. He has already ridden about 1,200 miles and estimates he has about 600 miles to go.
Carter is a retired firefighter from Indianapolis. He and his wife, Carolyn, were tired of the snow, and he was particularly tired of shoveling snow, so they moved to a town near Brownsville, at the southernmost tip of Texas.
The Carters collect bicycles that pre-date 1900 and at one time had about 60 bicycles but sold about 40 to buy their retirement home. Carter said his wife has two bicycles and he has three that they regularly ride.
What started out as a pastime has developed into a family tradition. Carter said his children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren are dedicated to cycling.
When Carter reaches Wisconsin, he will participate in what The Wheelmen website calls a “four-day celebration of antique cycling” with fellow Wheelmen from around the world. Members participate in various distance-rides, bicycle games, uniform and costume judging and bicycle judging.
Carter is looking forward to another annual meet tradition, the gala banquet. He said everyone attends in Victorian dress, and that each year a couple is chosen for a best-dressed award (which he and Carolyn have won in the past).
The banquet is also the time when awards and certificates are presented so if he was indeed the furthest riding attendant, the banquet is when he will be honored.
Carter, with help from his wife Carolyn, is keeping a daily log of his travel including each starting point for the day, each stop for food or drink, weather and road conditions, interesting people he meets along the way and his stopping point.
Monday morning he started in Murray and said he will stop after crossing the free ferry at Cave-In-Rock, Illinois.
Tuesday morning he will continue his journey along the backroads of Illinois.
Carter encourages everyone he meets along the way to visit thewheelmen.org, click on “message board,” then “Wheelmen Talk,” then “Steve Carter’s Border to Border,” for details of his journey.