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Avis and Effie Hotchkiss Trip Across the Country

News article

In the 19th Century, America was a big country.

There were still sections of the nation regarded as frontier, and traversing large sections of land, much less the entire continent on your own, was a bold and dangerous endeavor.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the gasoline engine revolutionized travel and America started seeming smaller and smaller with each passing year.

Numerous efforts were to be made in the coming years to cover ground on Harley-Davidson® motorcycles and in some cases, to do it quickly.

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss

On May 2, 1915, the mother-daughter team of Avis and Effie Hotchkiss left Brooklyn, N.Y., on a three-speed V-Twin with sidecar with the intention of reaching the West Coast and returning.

The team had no intention of gaining medals, money or fame by taking the trip, but in the words of daughter Effie, “We merely wanted to see America and considered that the Three-Speed Harley-Davidson for myself and sidecar for mother and the luggage best suited for the job.” 

The duo’s adventure was the first story printed in the first-ever issue of The Harley-Davidson® Enthusiast magazine, and it received plenty of coverage in the The Harley-Davidson® Dealer publication as well.

Reaching California

They had crossed the San Marcos pass in California enduring temperatures in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In an article for The Harley-Davidson Dealer, the Hotchkisses claimed they had run out of spare inner tubes but had planned ahead for this predicament—a blanket, cut down to inner tube length, was rolled and shaped into a doughnut then stuffed into the tire. This got them and their bike through to Santa Fe, N.M., where they were able to re-supply inner tubes.

In August, the team dipped their wheels in the Pacific Ocean at San Francisco. By just making the trip one way, Avis and Effie Hotchkiss became the first women to cross the United States on a motorcycle. 

Making the Round Trip

They immediately began the return leg, which included crossing the deserts of Nevada and Utah and the cities of Reno, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Davenport, Chicago and Milwaukee.

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss finally returned to their home in Brooklyn in October of 1915. Although they were looking forward to their next trips, they had already motorcycled their way into the record books and motorcycling history.

Wrapping Up

Effie and Avis weren’t the only women blazing trails on motorcycles. Check out the Google Arts and Culture exhibit Early Women Motorcycles–In Their Own Words to learn more. 

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