A modern spin on an old dream

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  • Local adventurer Julian Redman stands with his penny-farthing bicycle on the bike path near his apartment off Kathleen Avenue in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday. Redman will be embarking on a cross-country trip Sunday from San Francisco, following the path of Thomas Stevens, the first person to ride a bike across America, in 1884. Redman’s bicycle is a custom-built replica of the bike Stevens rode. LISA JAMES/Press

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    LISA JAMES/PressLocal adventurer Julian Redman rides his penny-farthing bicycle on the bike path near his apartment off of Kathleen Ave. in Coeur d'Alene on Wednesday. Redman will be embarking on a cross-country trip Friday from San Francisco, following the path of Thomas Stevens, the first person to ride a bike across America in 1884. Redman's bicycle is a custom built replica of the bike Stevens rode.

  • Local adventurer Julian Redman stands with his penny-farthing bicycle on the bike path near his apartment off Kathleen Avenue in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday. Redman will be embarking on a cross-country trip Sunday from San Francisco, following the path of Thomas Stevens, the first person to ride a bike across America, in 1884. Redman’s bicycle is a custom-built replica of the bike Stevens rode. LISA JAMES/Press

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    LISA JAMES/PressLocal adventurer Julian Redman rides his penny-farthing bicycle on the bike path near his apartment off of Kathleen Ave. in Coeur d'Alene on Wednesday. Redman will be embarking on a cross-country trip Friday from San Francisco, following the path of Thomas Stevens, the first person to ride a bike across America in 1884. Redman's bicycle is a custom built replica of the bike Stevens rode.

By DEVIN HEILMAN

Staff Writer

No brakes.

No bike light.

No camera crew or support staff.

It's just one intrepid young man and his old-timey bicycle, chasing the dream of putting a modern spin on a historic adventure.

“It’s just me," said Julian Redman, 28. "I don’t know anyone else crazy enough to follow me."

Redman, of Coeur d'Alene, will ride his penny-farthing replica bicycle — the kind with the giant front wheel and small rear — from San Francisco to Boston in a trek he expects will take about three months.

He leaves Coeur d'Alene today and, adventurer pith helmet on, he will embark on this epic journey starting Sunday.

"There is an equal amount of nervousness and excitement," Redman said, standing in the parking lot of his apartment complex Wednesday. "It's something that I've had in my head for a very long time. The fact that it's coming into fruition finally is a little weird."

This isn't the first time such a ride has occurred. Redman has planned his adventure to authentically re-create the first trans-American bike ride, made by British adventurer Thomas Stevens in 1884.

"We’ll have completely different sets of challenges,” Redman said. "He had to deal with the fact that the West was really wild then. Indians and wildlife I’ll never have to worry about, but he never had to worry about cars and 18-wheeler semis trying to run him over."

Redman will ride east from San Francisco, following Stevens' route as closely as possible. He'll travel through cities such as Sacramento, Reno, Des Moines, Chicago and Buffalo and countless little towns along the way.

“It’s really hard nowadays. He basically rode the Transcontinental Railroad," he said. "A lot of that is now ripped up in a highway."

Redman said while reading Stevens' diaries and researching the route, he was surprised to find that many of the towns where Stevens rested are gone.

"Basically every night, he had a place where there was civilization. And a lot of that now is ghost towns, it doesn’t exist anymore," he said. "There are a couple of sections through Utah where I’ll have to go 100 miles without a single thing. There’s a couple sections in Nevada I’ll have to do that. Where he had towns, I won’t. I wouldn’t have expected that, I would have expected it the other way around."

Redman plans to travel about 50 miles a day, and he won't be riding in the dark.

"I’m not riding this at night," he said with a chuckle. "I’m all about being stupid, but that’s where I draw the line."

Redman had about a year to get used to his antiquated choice of transportation. The front wheel stands about 52 inches tall and is connected to the pedals. Most of the weight is carried in the wheels, which have no tubes or shocks. It requires concentration, alertness and a dogged determination to even get up into the seat.

"Getting on isn’t so bad, but getting off is a tricky thing if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once you get the hang of it it’s not so bad," Redman said. "The hardest thing is there is so much you have to pay attention to that you don’t have to pay attention to on a normal bike. I’m pretty high up, so I have to make sure I don't hit my head on branches. This gets pretty wobbly if you’re going too fast, so if you’re going downhill it has a tendency to do that, and that’s not fun."

Redman worked two jobs for two years to save about $5,000 for the $1,200 bike and food and accommodations along the way. He has no sponsors, but his employer, Digital Lizard in Coeur d'Alene, is excited and supportive of his dream. He will be working online from the road.

"What's so cool about this is Julian is a very passionate person. He's a really unique individual," said Josh Jaeger, vice president of Digital Lizard. "For somebody to set their minds to doing something like this and actually following through, I think it says a lot about who he is as a person and his drive to follow his heart and do something only a handful of people in the entire country would be willing to do."

Redman, who already has quite the adventure portfolio, said his friends aren't surprised by his decision to make this trek.

"It's kind of par for the course for me," he said. "When I get to Boston, I’ll ride it to the tip of the water so the back wheel’s in the Pacific, the front will be in the Atlantic.

“And if I really hate the bike at that point, I’ll just keep riding until it drowns and I’ll run away," he said, smiling. "If not, I’ll ship it home.”

Redman said if Stevens could be around today to comment on this trip, "I think he'd be shocked that somebody even knows who he is."

"Other than that, I think he'd enjoy the spirit of the adventure of it," Redman said. "He had kind of an adventurous lifestyle. I think honestly he'd be more baffled about how the world has changed and less about this."

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Julian Redman will be traveling across the country on a replica old-time bicycle. He labeled the adventure, “In For A Penny-Farthing,” an old expression adopted from “in for a penny, in for a pound,” which is used to express someone’s intention to complete an enterprise once it has been undertaken, no matter the time, effort or money.

Redman is excited to make new friends along the way. He will be posting videos and photos to his website, www.offofyourrocker.com, as well as written slices of his adventure. The Press will also be keeping in touch with Redman as he makes this journey, so be on the lookout for updates.

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