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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Around the World on a Bike

BACK STORY He didn’t take a giant leap for mankind, but Thomas Stevens took a giant spin, becoming the first person to complete a trip around Earth by bicycle, on this day in 1887. Considering that 71 percent of the planet’s surface is covered with water, an explanation is in order. Mr. Stevens moved to the United States from England in the 1870s. He bought his first bicycle, a penny-farthing with one large wheel, in San Francisco and dreamed of becoming the first person to cross America on a bicycle.When he felt ready, he donned a jacket that doubled as a tent and headed for the East Coast on April 22, 1884. He made it to Boston 103 days later. Plans for a global journey began to take shape. The next spring, Mr. Stevens started in England and headed east through Europe and the Ottoman Empire. He continued on to Persia, Afghanistan, India, China and Japan, before returning to San Francisco. Throughout the trip, he sent letters to Harper’s Magazine, which were compiled in the best-selling two-volume book “Around the World on a Bicycle.” But wait: How did he make it across two oceans? He was a passenger on steam ships. It is not known if he rode his bike on deck. Victoria Shannon contributed reporting.

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