On May 2, 1915, the mother-daughter team of Avis and Effie Hotchkiss left Brooklyn, New York on a Harley-Davidson® three-speed V-Twin with a sidecar. Their destination? San Fransisco California and then back to New York.

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Born to run.

  Effie had a reputation of being a lead foot.  She got her first citation when she was caught cruising on her motorcycle at 35 mph on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway.  She later told the story she had given the officer “My machine really doesn’t run well unless it makes over 30,” she sheepishly explained. He had no sympathy, she got a ticket.

Where we are going we don’t need roads!

  Without proper roads such endeavors were often discouraged. Effie said the more dangers people told her about (e.g. indians, atrocious roads,mountain passes, deserts with no water), the more it convinced her to go. She wasn’t about to miss an adventure of this magnitude.

It was difficult just going from one town to the next, much less crossing the country.  Mud ruts and dusty unmarked trails, getting there was questionable at best. Most that attempted it, turned back with the first sign of difficulty. These gals were the exception.  Without GPS, cellphones or proper roadsigns, they along with any other lunatic that attempted it…. were basically on their own.

Effies motorcycle stuck in the mud

Effies motorcycle stuck in the mud

Seeing America was the first priority, not the record.

 The two never intended on setting any records. Effie was quoted saying “We merely wanted to see America”. The trip to California was a leisurely pace, compared to Edwin “Cannon Ball” Baker’s time of 11 days around the same time period.

What boys can do, girls can do better.

 The trip was not easy. Having exhausted their inner tube supply, did they give up? No! The ladies cut a blanket into a strip and rolled it up in the shape of a doughnut.  They stuffed it into the tire cavity to limp the motorcycle into Santa Fe, New Mexico where they replenished their supply of tubes.

Their route included traveling through the San Marcos pass near Santa Barbara California. Not exactly a direct route to San Fransisco. Witness said the temp was 120ºF that day.

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By August the mother and daughter reached San Fransisco. They dipped the front wheel into the ocean. The two rode into the history books as the first woman to cross coast to coast on motorcycle.  

Effie N. Hotchkiss and mother Avis

Effie N. Hotchkiss and mother Avis

Like many, they didn’t stop there – they turned the bike around and drove home to New York.   The duo arrived back in New York in Oct 1915, setting yet another record….the ultimate transcontinental record of them all, the grueling…”Double Transcontinental Motorcycle Record”.

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss in Salt Lake City UT

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss in Salt Lake City UT

Sources: Wikipedia and Rider Magizine article by David V. Herlithy

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