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Thomson Stevens Commemorative Ride Across America Display

Since 2018, we have been trying to get Walter Branche to sell us his Victor Bicycle that was used in the 1984 Thomas Stevens Commemorative Ride Across America along with all for the related items that he had. He would always talk about sell the collection, but never give me a price. I was well aware what a big part of his life the ride was and would wait until he would bring up the idea of selling it again.

A few months before his death, he finally gave me a price and this time he was ready to sell. Walter was in the process of locating all of the related item when he passed away. Luckily, his family was aware that his Ride Across America memorabilia was going to Wheels of the Past for a long awaited display showing the story of the 1884 Thomas Stevens Ride and the 1984 Thomas Stevens Commemorative Ride Across America.

We thank the Branche Family and Keith Pariani (1 of the 9 riders) for making this happen.

Thomas Stevens 1984 Commemorative Ride Across America

To commemorate the 1884 Thomas Steven Ride Across America, 9 members of the Wheelmen, an Antique Bicycle Group planned a Commemorative Ride Across America following the route as close as possible to the route Thomas Stevens rode 100 years earlier. Bicycle Playing Cards would be the sponsor.

The Riders:

Paul Grimshaw (Leader) from Detroit, Michigan

Walter Branche from Ocoee, Florida

Nolan Bay from Culver City, California

Sid Damsgard from Marietta, Georgia

Keith Pariani from Sanford, Florida

Rex Little from Mansfield, Ohio

Ashley Molk from Long Beach, California

Martin Potts from Washington, Illinois

Jack Caster from Phoenix, Arizona

They knew that their ride would not take 104 days as it did for Thomas Stevens as this trip would be on better roads. A plan was made to leave San Francisco on May 28th and arrive in Boston on August 4th, 100 years to the day after Thomas Stevens arrived.

One of the Riders, Jack Castor was unable to take time off work at the scheduled time, so he deceived to ride solo across the country just as Thomson Stevens did. Jack choose to leave Oakland on April 22st, 100 years to the day after Thomas Stevens left.

The other 8 riders left Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on May 28th and arrived in Boston on August 4th as planned.

It didn’t take long to figure out that different riders had different speeds and starting times, so much of the ride was in smaller groups that would meet up again at the nighttime stops. Sometimes a rider would get behind making repairs and have to ride hard the next day or so to catch up with the others.

The 1889 Victor Bicycle in Wheels of the Past is the same bicycle that Walter Branche rode for nearly the entire trip except the 1st day when he rode his 55” Columbia Light Roadster which was to be his backup bicycle. In Loomis, CA, Walter sold his Columbia Light Roadster to another rider, Keith Pariani who had an unrepairable problem with his bicycle. Keith was able to finish the ride on the Columbia Light Roadster.

In Batavia, NY Walter had a collision with Sid Damsgard and damaged his front wheel so badly that he would not be able to continue. Walter was able to buy a 54” Gormully & Jeffery bicycle and finish the final 418 miles to Boston.

The 1889 Victor Story

According to Walter Branche, he already owned the 1889 Victor that we have at Wheels of the Past for over 10 years at the time of the 1984 Thomas Stevens Commemorative Ride Across America and had ridden approximately 15,000 miles before the start of this trip.

He had ridden in many rides in the US as well as Germany, Switzerland, France, The Netherlands and Canada. He also rode in the Disney World Easter Parade for the previous 9 years.

In the 1984 Thomas Stevens Commemorative Ride Across America, the Victor was ridden nearly the entire length except the first 11 mile from San Francisco to Oakland, CA when he was testing his 55” Columbia Light Roadster back-up bicycle in case he would need it later. In Batavia, NY a collision damaged the front wheel beyond repair. He finished the final 418 miles to Boston on a 54” Gormully & Jeffery bicycle.

Walter repaired and continued to ride his Victor which he called “Vicky” for many years after the 1984 Thomas Stevens Commemorative Ride Across America had been completed.

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