The year was 1939. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and the World’s Far was underway in Flushing, New York.
In Rock Hill, S.C.
, a local businessman and an avid cyclist, James Spratt White II, would begin his journey as a goodwill ambassador from Rock Hill to Flushing to promote the message that “Rock Hill is a Good Town.”
Making the trek on his favorite bike, “Old Betsy,” he traveled through 10 states and over 800 miles in 12 days.
Fast forward to 75 years later and on Saturday, July 19 at 10 a.m., White’s great-grandson, James “Jay” Spratt White V, is setting out to retrace the historic bike ride
on a rebuilt “Old Betsy II.”
“I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet about recreating his bike trip,” says White, a mental health therapist in Mount Pleasant. “It’s something fun and adventurous.”
His goal is to travel 70 miles per day, weather permitting, at 10 to 11 mph. It’ll take him about two weeks to arrive in Flushing.
As for training, he points out that his great-grandfather didn’t train, he just rode. However, White has made it a point to ride his bike to
work or whenever he can every day since Christmas. He does admit using a one-speed bike for long distances has been interesting.
“You can’t go too fast.”
Executive director of Historic Rock Hill
, Annemarie Beebe says they are excited about the ride and the upcoming public exhibit, “Riding Through Rock Hill: A Retrospective on Cycling,” that looks at the rich cycling history of Rock Hill and the White family’s love for cycling.
“Rock Hill has a great cycling history that dates back as far as the 1890s. All the interest in cycling may seem new, but it is really a resurgence,” comments Beebe. “Jay’s ride is important because it is a reminder of that rich history in Rock Hill, and that we are the place to be for all types of cycling.”
As for White, not only is he honoring his great-grandfather, but also says he has the same reasons his did for his trip 1939: to promote Rock Hill.
“I have meetings lined up with newspaper reporters and town mayors during my trip. The same things that were important 75 years ago, shaking hands and meeting in person still applies today.”
Keep up with White and his trek through Facebook
For those nearby, there is a send-off celebration
, beginning at 9 a.m. on July 19 at the Giordana Velodrome
at the Rock Hill Outdoor Center. Cyclists are welcome to ride along as White begins his trip.
Did You Know
…Rock Hill has recently added bike lanes to streets from Winthrop University to downtown to make the city more accessible and safer for those not wanting to drive, according to Beebe. She adds the town is also part of the Catawba Thread Trail
and the Central York County Bike Route
that offers over 50 miles of cycling trails( not including the mountain biking trails at the Riverwalk.)
In addition to the Giordana Velodrome, this summer the town will be opening the new BMX super cross track.
photo credit: courtesy of Jay White, (top left) James Spratt White II and "Old Betsy" with Senator Jimmy Byrnes; (middle right) James “Jay” Spratt White V with "Old Betsy II"