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Book Review: Carl Stearns Clancy's Gasoline Tramp

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Book Review: Carl Stearns Clancy's Gasoline Tramp

Gasoline Tramp Front Cover 450Title: Gasoline Tramp

Author: Carl Stearns Clancy

Produced by: Dr. Gregory Frazier

Publisher: BooksMango

ISBN: 1633230473

ASIN: B00G1Y2MG4

Available in print, ebook and Kindle formats


Like the previously reviewed in ADVMoto, “Motorcycle Adventurer: Carl Stearns Clancy—The First Motorcyclist to Ride Around the World,” Gasoline Tramp was also produced by Dr. Gregory Frazier. This follow-up was made possible when Clancy’s unpublished manuscript was discovered in Australia, where the American adventurer spent his later years. Frazier, who’d invested considerable time and effort vetting the authenticity of Clancy’s claim, took on the task of getting the manuscript to print, which is how, 100 years after it was penned, Gasoline Tramp finally came to be released.

At first glance one might assume the two books represent the same story. Although that is true to some extent, Frazier’s original title was a compilation based on magazine stories published during Clancy’s ride. Gasoline Tramp, in contrast, contains substantially more detail, as it is the story Clancy had intended to publish one day.

Not only was Clancy the first to ride, haul, drag and ship his turn-of-the-century motorcycle, a four-cylinder Henderson, around the planet, but he did it before both World Wars, less than 60 years after the American Civil War, and during the dawn of the automobile era—a time when entire countries might have only a single motorcycle or two. You can only imagine what the roads must have been like and the challenge of acquiring resources such as gas and oil (when they existed at all).

This is no great literary work, but it is a historically significant document, a record of a world that is no more. Here we have a man on the ground, writing about his experiences back then. It’s a fascinating read for those who can appreciate the books-as-time-machines aspect of such a remarkable story.

Gasoline Tramp focuses on riding the British Isles, western Europe, northwestern Africa, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Malaysia, Japan and across the U.S. But mostly due to the lack of navigable roads and time constraints, a great deal of the author’s journey was by sea, and his descriptions also offer a captivating glimpse into ocean crossings of the period. In total, he rode about 14,000 miles in foreign lands, plus another approximately 5,000 miles across North America.

By itself, Clancy’s narrative of crossing the U.S. is a wide-open picture window into just how much our infrastructures have progressed since 1913. His route took him from San Francisco to Portland, across to Montana and on to New York. Much of the northwesterly section was often nothing more than a mule trail at best, where even the “good” roads of the day likely have no contemporary equivalents—not unlike crossing the more primitive sections of Africa today. The modern adventure rider is absolutely no rival to Clancy’s feat. Entire days consumed to gain a mere 20 miles; mired in rain and mud; unstable, sheer-drop mountainous ascents and descents; miles of deep sand; hundreds of freezing water crossings; and days collapsed from exhaustion; all were endured through much of that leg of his journey.

Compared to all the resources a typical RTW adventurer has at their disposal today… well, this is an extraordinary story of how a young, resourceful, 20-something year old American with $250 in his pocket was THE first to pull it off. If you aspire to ride the world or are curious about a first-hand view of our planet around 1910, this is a book you should read.


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