Junction woman retires globe-trotting bicycle
Beth Littleton said there was only one proper way to say goodbye to her 1950 Raleigh bicycle.
On the road.
Saturday morning, Littleton, along with friends and family, saddled up for a roughly five-mile ride from her home to downtown Grand Junction, where Littleton’s storied ride will join the existing museum of classic bicycles at Brown Cycles, 549 Main St.
“I didn’t want it brought down here on some truck,” Littleton said. “If the bike’s 61 years old, you figure I’m no spring chicken.”
The bicycle, with a slight rip in its leather seat, is the same one that carried Littleton across North America and Europe over two summers in the early 1950s.
Long predating the era of commercial saddlebags, the bicycle came with a refashioned leather convertible car top when the New Jersey native purchased the bicycle in Philadelphia in 1950.
In 1951, she set her sights on Europe, looping the North Sea in a journey crossing England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, from July through September.
Over 11 weeks, Littleton and a group of riders lived on $1.50 per day.
“We couldn’t get off the train in Germany ... too soon after the war,” Littleton said.
In 1953, Littleton and her “rolling youth hostel” trekked from New York City, reaching as far west as Yosemite National Park before looping back and finally stopping in Montreal, Canada.
“We were warned about bears,” Littleton recalled of one rural stop during the trip. “This one guy walked into a log-cabin type gas station, but when he came back, his saddlebag was torn to shreds.”
The group’s travels were chronicled in a 1950s era newspaper account that included excerpts from a diary:
“Saw a moose at dusk,” an entry read. “Rode through wind and sand blowing. Then came the rains.”
The nationwide trek lasted from June to August 1953.
“On top of Mount Norquay (Canada) via chair lift ... went to location of filming ‘Saskatchewan’ ... ate lunch,” another diary entry read.
Brown Cycles owner Chris Brown said Littleton brought her Raleigh in for repairs in 2003. Littleton remains active as a volunteer at Orchard Avenue Elementary School.
“I told her when you want to get rid of it, give me first stab at it,” Brown said.