Motorcycles to recapture historic ride
By ANDREW MCGINN
It’s hard to believe the sight of two women a century ago traveling coast to coast on two Indian Powerplus motorcycles could have been overlooked.
But local newspapers from the summer of 1916 were strangely quiet if sisters Augusta and Adeline Van Buren did, indeed, roar through Greene County on the Lincoln Highway.
Then again, the highway was getting to be awfully crowded by that point.
According to an August 1916 report in the Jefferson Free Lance, a car carrying tourists was passing through town on the Lincoln Highway every five minutes.
The sight of 100 or more motorcyclists in Jefferson next week — many of whom will be women — should be a little harder to overlook.
The group Tuesday will pass through Greene County on the Sisters’ Centennial Motorcycle Ride, a cross-country motorcycle trip retracing what had been an unprecedented journey for two Victorian-era gals 100 years before.
Sponsors for the ride include BMW Motorrad USA, Indian Motorcycle and Allstate Insurance.
The group left New York on Sunday destined for San Francisco on July 23.
In Jefferson, the group is expected to visit the Bell Tower and lunch at the Peony Chinese Restaurant.
Day riders can join the trip by registering at sistersmotorcycleride.com.
The ride, which celebrates the growth of women motorcyclists, loosely follows the Lincoln Highway — which is perfectly in keeping with history.
After all, in 1916, the Lincoln Highway was still mostly an unpaved route connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific, meaning it didn’t take much rain for the road to turn to slop.
It took the Van Buren sisters of New York City from July 4 to Sept. 2 to complete the trip.
In the process, they became the first women to cross the U.S. — and the fact they did it on motorcycles makes it that much cooler.
At the time, women couldn’t even vote.
The sisters were out to prove that women had what it took to serve in the Army as motorcycle couriers in the coming world war.
Along the way, they became the first women to reach the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak — naturally, on their motorcycles.
They were inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame in 2003.
Whether the Van Burens rumbled through Jefferson is perhaps impossible to know.
But if you’re still not convinced the Lincoln Highway in July 1916 was already pretty crowded as is with tourists and publicity seekers, the Jefferson Bee of July 19 carried a front page story about a stunt being carried out by the Pathfinder car company of Indianapolis.
The company’s “Old Lena” Pathfinder had stopped in Jefferson on July 12 on its trip across the Lincoln Highway. The paper called Old Lena the most famous car in America.
Remember, this was a good 50 years before Adam West’s Batmobile.
The driver carried with him a stack of mail to deliver on his way from West to East, including a letter to President Woodrow Wilson from the governor of California.
In Jefferson, he dropped off a letter for a Mrs. D.W. Oliver from a sister in San Francisco.
But the real purpose of Old Lena was to serve as an advance car.
A shiny new Pathfinder twin six, it was reported, wasn’t far behind on a stunt to drive from ocean to ocean all the way in “high gear.”