Photographs of my Grandmother’s 1922 motorcycle trip in California astride a Harley Davidson with a sidecar

I began a post a day ago regarding the history of women in motorcycling, and ended it with a couple of photographs that my mother and I had found of my grandmother. She was in moto-garb and astride an old Harley Davidson. Amazed when we found these, it was a total surprise to both my mother and me. We were going through Grandma’s belongings together after she had died, not an easy job, but the discovery of this photo album was extraordinary. What stuck both of us, is that nothing had ever been mentioned about this trip, though here it was in all its glory, presented lovingly in a leather photo album complete with captions under each photo. Sadly, there was nothing noting anyone’s name, but one, Frankie, who was the other female companion/rider. I do wish there had been something to hint more at who the people were, the time of year, the route, the roads, as I had a plethora of unanswered questions!

I have to say though, that this pictures captures her impish smile and let’s me know that she was indeed content making this trip even though she never shared it. It was her secret excursion while a single lady, possibly her last vestige to her adventurous self. The picture makes me smile, you know a kind of secret knowing smile between friends. *wink wink, nudge nudge*

It appears my Grandmother and her friends rode the Harley motorcycles from the Bay Area, over to Yosemite, Tioga Pass, down to Mono Lake and then back over Hwy 50, which at that time seems to be dirt. I have tried to find information regarding when it was paved but alas, have found little actual fact. If anyone has any info, I’d love to hear from you, but for now everyone knows fiction embellishes fact 😉

I enjoy conjuring up stories to fill in the blanks, and I suppose that is exactly what I will eventually have to do, create an wonderful story involving the characters from this treasure trove of photos. They speak and I listen to their nuances both in expression and scene. Whatever their silent tale portrays, I know it’s steeped in excitement and adventure.

Their adventure filled with hardships and bad roads by our current standards, it’s simply amazing how these riders endured. I am proud to be of the same stock, but seriously doubt I would have been as adventurous! BRAVO GRANDMA, you were an amazing woman, one I wish that I had really gotten to know.

Photographs, in no particular order, since I have no idea how they traveled, however some of the photographs were captioned in her album. I have placed the captions where applicable.

Click pix for larger image…

She titled it Redwood, but I believe it was probably a Sequoia

El Capitan and 3 Graces

Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass 2

On 4Mile Trail

Balancing Rock on 4Mile Trail

My Grandmother’s friend Frankie,
Her title-Vanity Fair

Frankie washing Vera’s hair

Tioga Pass Snow

Tioga Pass Snow 2

Snow Capped Nevada Mountains

Nevada Road

Cheerful but Stuck

Overlooking Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Near Bridgeport

Devil’s Gate Pass near Brideport

Lightening Path near Topaz Lake

Near Carson City

At the Summit

On the American River

Near Strawberry

Lake Tahoe near Glenwood

Al Tahoe

Cave on Shore of Lake Tahoe (Caverock?)

California/Nevada Border

American River Whitehall

Near Lover’s Leap on Hwy 50

Near Folsom Prison

Placer Mining

Near American River Falls

We three

Breaking Camp near Folsom

Well, there you have it, the amazing secret saga of Vera Evangeline War, my grandmother. Someday, I hope to share the rest of the story with you and give some closure to this post, but whatever happens, I now know that my motorcycle passion has most certainly been passed down genetically.

The final shot is my mother and grandmother in San Francisco where I was born. My mother was probably about 17 at the time the photo was taken. This is the grandmother I knew…the moto-grandma, was long buried away and silent.

8 Responses to “Photographs of my Grandmother’s 1922 motorcycle trip in California astride a Harley Davidson with a sidecar”

  1. Paul says:

    This is just totally amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Julie says:

    Wonderful photos.
    What adventure!

  3. Mike says:

    Many thanks for posting this. I am gathering historic photos of my property at Devil’s Gate and this is the oldest that I have seen so far. The Sonora and Mono Wagon road is grown over and no longer passable, while US-395 was built on top of the stream seen to the left (constructed in 1933-4). Caltrans widened the gate at that time by cutting away part of the cliff. Let me know if you ever decide to part with the photograph of the Devil’s Gate, I would pay a decent price for it.

  4. Nemo says:

    Wow, what a great set of photos–and what a great hidden aspect of your grandmother’s life. A good reminder that the desire for adventure has run in our veins for a long, long time. Any idea what model and year of Harley she was riding?

  5. Gary says:

    I suspect there was another person on that ride, the photographer.

  6. Donna Rees says:

    Actually Gary, if you looked at all the photos, you’ll see that there are four people on that ride and one guy in only in a few photos, so I’m certain he was the photographer. Sad, I have NO info on these other riders. I have to wonder if their families would enjoy these pictures as much as I do.

  7. […] Tunnel of Love–1997 short film featuring the music of Joe Stummer Photographs of my Grandmother’s 1922 motorcycle trip in California astride a Harley Davidson w… » Jan 29 […]

  8. claire Cates says:

    I loved looking at the pictures and reading what you wrote. It reminded me of my granddad’s trip (he did talk about) but after he died we found his journal and pictures. He too did a trip but in a Model T from NC to Los Angeles and back. He also did his trip in 1922. I put a website together of the trip If you contact me, I’ll be glad to share some of my history of the time and where I got information on the roads….

Leave a Reply