Peggy and I arrived in Bandon on a stormy day and drove over to the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint as soon as we had checked into our campground. Face Rock was shrouded in rain and mist. There’s a legend that says you can hear a woman’s voice in the wind if you listen. It all sounds like an appropriate Halloween tale…
According to Native American lore, the beautiful Indian maiden, Ewauna, arrived with her father, Chief Siskiyou, in the Bandon area for a major potlatch. Ewauna had never seen the ocean and immediately fell in love with it. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the potlatch concept, the object is to give things away to guests, the more you give, the more you are admired.)
“Don’t go near the ocean,” the old men of the tribe warned Ewauna. The evil spirit of the ocean, Seatka, lived in the waters along the coast and apparently had a thing for beautiful young Indian maidens. But what young woman full of life listens to old men? That night there was a great feast as part of the potlatch. After being stuffed with bear and deer and elk and berries, and mussels and clams, everyone drifted off to a deep sleep. That is, everyone except Ewauna.
She quietly got up, careful not to wake anyone, and slipped off to the ocean taking her dog, Komax, her cat, Tenas Puss Puss, and Tenas’s kittens with her. She carried the cat and kittens in a basket. Ewauna ran up and down the beach with joy and jumped into the ocean for a swim, telling Komax to look out for the cat and kittens. Out she swam, farther and farther, as Komax barked louder and louder, warning her of the danger. Suddenly an ugly monster surfaced and grabbed her. It was the evil spirit, Seatka.
Komax stopped barking, grabbed the basket in his mouth and swam madly out to rescue his mistress. Dropping the basket, he sank his sharp teeth into Seatka’s arm. Good boy! The evil spirit screamed in anger and pain, grabbed Komax, and threw him far out into the ocean. For good measure, he also grabbed Teanas Puss Puss and her kittens, tossing them as well. He then increased his grip on Ewauna, squeezing her tight.
“Look into my eyes,” he demanded. He could only possess her if she looked at him.
“Never!” she had replied, staring steadfastly up at the sky and moon. And that is how Chief Siskiyou found her the next morning, still staring up at the sky, refusing to let the evil spirit to possess her. And that is where you can find her today.
While Face Rock gives its name to the scenic viewpoint, there are a number of other sea stacks to admire.
NEXT POST: After a thousand posts, it’s time to consider changes in my blog.
My first participation in elections is close to ancient history. It started when Adlai Stevenson ran against Dwight Eisenhower for President in 1952. My parents were dedicated Republicans. Family loyalty dated all the way back to Abe Lincoln and the founding of the Party. It’s not surprising that they sent their 9-year-old child off to school proudly wearing an I Like Ike button on election day. Another set of parents, equally devoted to the Democratic Party, sent their fourth grader off to school wearing a VoteforAdlai button. It was inevitable that we would meet up for a debate.
It took place in the boys’ bathroom, conveniently away from adult supervision. Neither of us knew enough about the issues to carry on a rational discussion, however. After about five words, we reverted to describing the other person’s candidate with as many expletives as we knew. Sound familiar? I was well-practiced in the art form. When I was younger, my brother and I had often held swearing contests where we creatively cussed each other out for fun. My opponent lacked this experience and I easily won the debate. I was still teasing him when we went outside for recess.
Unfortunately, his sense of humor had gone south and he was carrying a baseball bat. He reared back and smashed me across the thigh. (I’ve often suspected he had a slightly higher target in mind.) As it was, I ended up in the hospital with my thigh muscle the size of a softball, or was that a basketball. I was ever so glad that my man Ike won. Revenge can be sweet.
It was a painful lesson, but I learned two things from the encounter.
The first was quite obvious: Never get in a political argument with someone carrying a baseball bat. The second was more complicated. There had to be a better way to resolve political differences.
The best answer that we have been able to come up with as a nation is democracy.
There is nothing guaranteed about our form of government, however. As astute leaders have noted for the past two hundred years: The price we pay for our liberty is eternal vigilance. There are always people who will rob us of our independence for their own personal gain or ideological beliefs. But there is more, our system of government is based on a few simple concepts. These are some that came to mind.
Reflects the majority view of Americans while, at the same time, protects the basic right of minorities.
Provides stability while adjusting to new challenges and changing needs.
Is more pragmatic than ideological when it comes to solving problems.
Recognizes that compromise, coalition building, and across-the-aisle cooperation are essential to the decision-making process in determining the nation’s best interest.
Provides for a peaceful transition of power.
More than anything else, people have to believe that democracy works, that their concerns and interests are represented and addressed, and that they receive a fair hearing. When they lose this faith, our democracy loses. We all lose.
The single most important element in protecting American democracy is our right to vote and an uncompromising commitment to a smooth and peaceful transition of power.
While getting out the vote is a time-honored practice in American democracy, suppressing the vote of those who don’t share a particular perspective is a dark and dangerous path that will inevitably lead to a dark and dangerous future. Numerous examples of suppression exist today in the 2020 election from tampering with the mail system, to making voting difficult, to spreading misinformation, and to threatening voters via the mail, phone and internet. When direct physical intimidation of voters is encouraged, whether it is people carrying AR 15s— or baseball bats— to polling places, the dark times are that much closer.
There are reasons why the Putins of the world, both outside and (sadly) inside our country, wish to reduce our faith in the democratic process. It weakens our nation and points toward an autocratic future— a future that few of us want to see.
Americans are a hardy breed, however. We have been fighting for our rights ever since the founding of the nation with an ever increasing and inclusive definition of citizenship that reflects the changing world we live in.
And we are not going to stop now.
Millions of Americans have already voted regardless of how many hurdles have been thrown up. In fact, they are dancing and singing in the multi-hour-long lines that voter suppression has played a role in creating.
If you haven’t voted yet and are a citizen of voting age— regardless of your sex, ethnicity, color of skin, age, health, economic position, religion, sexual preference, occupation, other differences, or political party— PLEASE VOTE. Our democracy is depending on you.
If place names are any judge, the Devil does get around. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of locations in the US named after him. New England seems to win the prize for the most, which is understandable since the Puritans were among its first settlers. They saw Hell in just about everything.
The Oregon Coast has more than its share of Devilish locations, however. There are 10 places along the coast alone that bear his name. Among them are the Devil’s Punch Bowl, Cauldron and Churn and various body parts including his Elbow and Backbone. I was reminded of the various cathedrals in Europe that stock up on the bones of saints to impress the holy and solicit their offerings.
Peggy and I dropped by his Kitchen on our visit last week to Bandon, Oregon. I’d been there before and speculated in a blog on how the Kitchen got its name. The answer provided by the sign-board seemed a little prosaic in comparison to my speculation. It had to do with the cold waters of the ocean bringing a rich brew of nutrients to the surface that were eaten by plankton, that were eaten by small fish, that were eaten by bigger fish, that were eaten by still bigger fish, that were eaten by seals, otters, and a whole host of seabirds, not to mention people and anything else that could sink their teeth into them.
Possibly if you were on the receiving end of this long chain of being eaten, you might think that the Devil was involved.
Mainly, Peggy and I saw a beautiful beach with some great sea stacks, crashing waves, impressive homes, driftwood, a quiet stream, and two driftwood forts that had either been built by energetic kids eager to fight pirates or adults reliving their childhood. I could see our son Tony enthusiastically joining his three sons on such a project.
Piles of kelp and other sea treasures had been ripped away from their firm attachments to rocks by the stormy seas the day before and were left behind on the beach.
NEXT POST: We will be traveling up to the next beach north, Face Rock with its marvelous sea stacks.
I’ve blogged about Bandon before. And will undoubtedly do so again. The coast with its crashing waves and towering rock sculptures calls to us. And the town is charming. It comes with good restaurants, fun art, cranberries, cheese, and a bookstore—no town should be without one. While Winter River Books is small and doesn’t include a book-store cat, it is well-stocked for its size.
I am going to do three posts on Bandon this time. The first is on art in Bandon. Next will be the Devil’s Kitchen State Park. There are interesting houses hanging out on the cliff, sea stacks, and forts made of driftwood. I am also going to take a look at what the recent storm tossed up, mainly kelp, piles and piles of it, plus a bouquet of sea palms for Peggy. I’ll conclude the series with a visit to Face Rock State Park and its famous name sake. While there, I will include a number of other sea stacks/rock sculptures that we admire and can never get enough of. As always, our cameras were quite busy!
The art of Bandon: Not surprisingly, it comes with an ocean emphasis.
NEXT POST: Peggy and I visit the Devil’s Kitchen State Park where the ocean crashes against the rocks, interesting homes hang out on the cliffs, forts are made of driftwood, and storm-fared kelp is tossed up on the shore.
It was George Schuster’s turn to drive as the Thomas Flyer was loaded onto a freighter to be shipped to Valdez, Alaska. The race committee had envisioned the racers making their way from Valdez across Alaska following dog sled trails and frozen ice covered rivers to Nome where they would cross the frozen Bering Strait into Siberia. There was a slight problem. The race committee had made its decision while sitting in Paris without a clue about what driving across Alaska in March would entail! Or whether the Bering Strait would be frozen. None of them had ever been to the remote Territory that America had bought from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. All they knew was it looked good on a map. Who needs roads?
The Flyer had a substantial lead when it left San Francisco— the three remaining competitors were several states behind still making their way across America. Schuster intended to maintain that lead. He arrived in Valdez with the whole population out to greet him. The Flyer was the first car to make it to the town and most residents had never seen one.
George wasted little time basking in the glow of his new role as driver. He immediately borrowed a horse and sled to check out the beginning of the route. He found it was impossible and concluded that the only way the vehicles could get across Alaska would be if the cars were taken apart and shipped by dog sled. The Great Auto Race would have been turned into an early day Iditarod, which in itself, is an undertaking of massive proportions— even in modern times.
Once again the route was changed. Return to the lower 48, the race committee told Schuster, and ship to Japan on a freighter and then on another one to Vladivostok, Russia. Which he did. The next day, the Flyer team and Flyer were on a boat heading south from Alaska. His challenge when he arrived in Seattle was that the other three cars were now ahead of him on their way to Asia.
The Race Committee decided to award Schuster with an extra 15 days for his lost time in checking out Alaska. The Italian Zust and the French Dion would have to beat him to Paris by two weeks to win the race. The Protos would have to beat him by a month! Lieutenant Koeppen’s car had broken down in Utah and he had shipped it to the West Coast via rail and on to Vladivostok for repairs. Unlike Goddard, he had asked permission. And there was some confusion over the rules. Instead of disqualifying him, the race committee chose to penalize him an extra 15 days for the rail trip and for skipping Japan.
The four competitors met up in Vladivostok where they were confronted by Russian officials who advised them to take the Trans-Siberian Railway to Europe. They would be “met on the road by Chinese brigands, Manchurian tigers, fever, plague, pestilence, famine—to say nothing of the mud after three months of rain, mosquitoes as big as locusts and other similar delights,” the Russians warned. It seems that the owners of the De Dion-Bouton company took them at their word. Or maybe the race appeared unwinnable or too expensive. Whatever the reason, the De Deon was withdrawn. Now there were three competitors: The American Thomas Flyer, the Italian Zust and the German Protos.
The racers apparently avoided the brigands, tigers, fever, plague, pestilence, and famine, but there was plenty of mud— they kept getting stuck. And, I imagine, encountered the locust-sized mosquitoes when they were digging out.
When they reached Europe, they were finally rewarded with a decent road system. The race became a down-to-the-wire sprint between the Americans and the Germans. The Italian Zust was still in Siberia, likely stuck in the mud, some 3,000 miles behind. ER Thomas sent Schuster a telegraph urging him to turn the driving over to Monty Roberts, the race car driver who had driven the Flyer from NYC to Wyoming. “This made me so mad I could have eaten nails,” Schuster would later write. His response at the time would have been more colorful. After everything that he had been through with the Flyer in Siberia, his tense no-thank-you reply to Thomas was that he would be driving the car across the finish line. Period. Which he did.
The Protos had arrived four days earlier. Given the 30 day penalty, it was still 26 days behind the Flyer, however— a fact that really irritated the Kaiser. The Americans rolled into Paris on the evening of July 30 to crowds shouting, “Vive le car Americain!” There was one last challenge. The lights on the Flyer had gone out and Schuster was driving after dark. A policeman stopped the car and threatened to arrest him on the spot. A quick-thinking Parisian threw his bicycle with a light onto the car. The policeman relented and Schuster drove on to the finish line. And fame. He’d even be invited to meet with Teddy Roosevelt on his return.
The win had a significant impact on America. For one, it showed that American automobiles could match the best coming out of Europe at the time. The successful drive across America also proved that the car could become a serious form of transportation, something other than a rich man’s toy. And finally, it created a demand for better roads in America. Asphalt was invented in 1910, and the Lincoln Highway, Americas first cross-country road, was started in 1912.
Schuster was promised a life-long job with the E.R. Thomas company for his role. Unfortunately, the company went out of business in 1912. (Schuster would live on to 99.) When the company went belly up, the Flyer was sold and more or less disappeared. It was granted a second life in 1963 when Bill Harrah of the gaming empire tracked it down for his classic car collection and returned it to its pre-race condition. He even brought Schuster out to verify that it was the Flyer that the won the race. (Schuster recognized some of the on-road repairs he had made.) The Flyer became part of the donation that the Harrah family made to the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. It was there that I found the vehicle and was inspired to do this series.
When Donald Trump came to California two weeks ago to comment on the devastation caused by raging wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington, he was asked about the impact of global warming on the fires. Here is his response:
Well, I don’t think science knows, actually… When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick… And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires… It’s a management issue… It’ll start getting cooler… You just watch.
Peggy and I don’t buy the ‘It’ll start getting cooler” argument, but we do take forest management seriously. We spent $20,000 this past year doing what we could to fireproof our property. And it didn’t involve ‘sweeping the floor’ as the President recommended a couple of years ago, cleaning up the leaves and fallen branches. We had forty, 80-100 foot trees cut down on our five-acres removed. They were dead as in d.e.a.d. Ten years ago when we moved in, they were happy and healthy. The years of drought and excessive heat killed them. As it has millions of trees across the west. Yes, good forest management is important, but all the management in the world will not save forests when draught combines with 100° F heat, high winds and fire. Nor will it save towns, as Talent and Phoenix learned.
Peggy and I prepare for fire, obviously. We live in a forest. Fire comes with the territory. We spend countless hours working outside and doing what we can to reduce the danger. But we are also prepared to vacate the premises, to ‘get out of Dodge,’ to skedaddle! When a level two warning is issued, we will be packed and out of here. Forget level three. We have lists. Things are organized so we can grab and go. The greater the danger the less we will grab. Quivera the RV is packed and ready right down to clothes, tooth brushes and tooth paste, everything we need to live. If our house burns down, it will be sad, but not tragic. “We’ll just buy a new RV (sorry Quivera) and hit the road,” Peggy says.
People who live in towns and cities have different expectations. Homes burn down, yes, but not towns. Back before all of the codes designed to prevent fires were adopted and before modern fire departments came into being, they did. But not today. Except they do. Ask the residents of Talent and Phoenix, or Santa Rosa, or Paradise or numerous other small towns and cities that have been caught in the paths of raging fires over the past few years.
Peggy and I know the communities of Phoenix and Talent well. I was born in Ashland where the fire started. Until recently, our doctor’s office was in Talent. (It still stands about 200 yards away from where I took the top photo.) One of my great grandfathers and a great, great grandmother are buried in Phoenix. She came across the country in a wagon train. I fear, but don’t know for sure, that the graveyard was wiped out.
The fire came on fast and ferocious. So fast that people were literally running down the street, leaving everything behind. “It came like a huge wave,” an 82 year old woman stated. A man reported that he had been working when he heard the first warning. He dropped what he was doing, jumped in his truck, and broke speed limits heading for his home so he could save his cat. He was too late.
My Saturday drive was heart-rending as I looked at the devastation. The following photos capture just a small portion of what I saw.
Global warming is real. Extreme weather will not go away by denying its existence, or by claiming “It will get cooler.” Fires will continue to rage, hurricanes will become more frequent and more powerful, polar ice will melt and the seas will rise. Expect more floods, droughts, tornadoes and other types of extreme weather. We owe it to ourselves, children, grandchildren and future generations to do everything humanly possible on a national and international level to reverse this trend. Playing ostrich and burying our heads in the sand is not the answer.
My posts are few and far between. Part of the reason is the times. There is just too much happening now between the pandemic, the fires, and the election. As noted before, these are scary times, more scary than any other time in my 77 years. The other is that I love research and the Great Race has me fascinated. Just when I think I have exhausted my resources I find another article or more photos. This time it was 350 photos of the race stored in the Henry Ford Museum, a virtual treasure trove. Most of the photos in today’s post are from the museum.
As the participants rolled out of Nebraska, they experienced their first real taste of the ‘Wild West.’ The unending farmlands of the Midwest gave way to the drier, open lands and vast vistas of Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. The terrain also changed. The flat and rolling plains the automobilists had been driving through across the Great Plains turned to towering mountains and deserts. The Rockies, the Great Basin and Death Valley lay ahead. Towns and cities became farther apart. People fewer. The already poor roads the racers had been following became little more than tracks in the dirt.
The animals also got wilder and bigger. The Zust team claimed they were surrounded by a pack of 50 or so wolves that circled their car yipping with anticipation on a dark and stormy night in Wyoming. Blowing the horn and using the spotlight didn’t discourage the hungry predators. They kept circling closer. It was only when the team broke out their rifles and shot several that the wolves decided that they hadn’t been invited to dinner. Local townspeople gathered up the hides the next day and sold them for the bounty paid by the government. The wolves’ taste for an occasional cow would lead to their eventual eradication in the West.
Not everyone made it to the Rockies. Baron Godard, who had driven another car from Peking to Paris in 1907, met his match in Iowa. Between being bogged down in mud and snow, getting lost, and having serious car problems, he decided to ease his journey west by loading his Moto-Bloc onto a train and shipping it to the coast. “San Francisco, here I come!” It broke the rules.
A photographer caught the Baron loading the Moto-Bloc onto the rail car. “Quit the race, sell the car, and return home,” the manufacturer telegraphed him. The French, who had started with three entries, were down to one. The greater glory of France now depended on G. Bourcier de St. Chaffray driving the French De Dion-Bouton— which is quite a mouthful to say.
The Thomas Flyer team had other ideas about who would win the glory. When they reached Cheyenne, Wyoming, the Flyer was a week ahead of its nearest competitor, the Zust. The De Dion was in third. And the Protos fourth. Given the quality of the vehicle, Monty Robert’s driving ability, and George Schuster’s mechanical talent— not to mention sheer determination— the team had been ahead for most of the race. It was a position they had every intention of keeping. The car was about to lose its driver, however. Monty had other race commitments back east and in Europe. He hoped to rejoin the team when it entered Europe to drive over better roads and, I imagine, harvest the fame of crossing the finish line first. E. Linn Mathewson, a Thomson Flyer car dealer, took over the driving from Cheyenne to Ogden, Utah. Harold Brinker, an auto racer out of Denver, drove the car into San Francisco. Schuster would take over then.
Getting into the spirit of the West, George bought a Colt six-shooter pistol before leaving Cheyenne. Who knew what lurked out in the wilds of Wyoming? Wolves or outlaws, perhaps? Best to be prepared.
Peggy and I had followed the route of the race in Nebraska from Grand Island to North Platte where we spent the night at Buffalo Bill’s ranch as the Flyer had in 1908. We then continued to follow the route to Ogallala where we detoured to follow the Oregon Trail, which early pioneers had used in the 1840s, 50s and 60s. (Posts coming.) I was eager to check out the route that ancestors on both sides of my family had travelled looking for a better life— either by farming in the Northwest or striking it rich in California. So, we missed Cheyenne. We rejoined the race route for a brief time, however, between Rock Springs and Fort Bridger, Wyoming, when the Oregon Trail dipped south.
Ely, Nevada was the next point where our summer road trip crossed paths with the race route. We passed through the town on our way east when we were following Highway 50, the “Loneliest Road in America.” (Another post.) Ely feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. And it is. It would have felt much more so in 1908. The Flyer had made its way south from Wendover, Utah following what is now Highway 93 (more or less) to Ely and then continued southwest across the Nevada desert following today’s Highway 6 (more or less) to Tonopah.
Along the way, it passed by what would become Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway. Think UFOs. I’ve been interested in flying saucers ever since I saw one in 1969. The participants in the Great Race didn’t report seeing any, however. Darn. (As an aside, I found it interesting that both the Pentagon and Japan’s military have set up task forces in the past couple of months to track UFOs. A little Twilight Zone music might be appropriate here.) But back to the race.
It was in Tonopah and the town of Goldfield 27 miles to the south that we first learned of the Great Race. In fact, we’ve driven the route followed by the Flyer from Tonopah south through Goldfield, the now ghost town of Rhyolite, and across Death Valley many times. I’ve actually ridden my bicycle over most of the route the race followed through Death Valley and on to Bakersfield, California.
When the Flyer was late in arriving in Tonopah, several residents drove out the road to see if there was a problem. They found the Flyer broken down and Schuster sleeping in a bunkhouse. (Another version of the story has him walking toward Tonopah.) He was roused out, given a ride to town, borrowed parts from a Thomas Flyer owned by a local doctor, fixed the car, and arrived to a jubilant welcome. Pretty much the whole town greeted the team.
Cowboys and miners shooting their pistols into the air welcomed them to Goldfield. It was a cast of characters. There is still a cast of characters living there! (And a speed trap.) Crossing Death Valley, the Flyer had to put on balloon tires to get through the deep sand. Stovepipe Wells offered its only water.
The Thompson Flyer rolled into San Francisco on March 24th, the first car to travel across America in the winter. The team was given a hero’s welcome. Factories blew their whistles and cars honked their horns. Its nearest competitor, the Zust, was still 700 miles away. The first phase of the race was over for the Flyer. Schuster was now to become the driver. He was eager to get to Alaska for the next phase of the race.
NEXT POST: Schuster travels to Valdez, Alaska to check out the next section of the race and the route is once again changed. Cars will be shipped to Japan and then on to Vladivostok, Russia where their next challenge will be crossing Mongolia and Siberia.
Since I am still working on my next post on the 1908 Great Race, I decided to throw in a quick update on life here on Oregon’s Upper Applegate River. First, fall has arrived. Leaves are beginning to turn and the white oaks have produced a bumper acorn crop— a fact that has the deer all but climbing the trees.
NEXT POST: We will rejoin the Great Automobile Race of 1908 as it makes its way to San Francisco.
I ended my first post on the 1908 Great Race from New York City to Paris with the six competitors zooming down Broadway on their way out of New York City as a crowd of 250,000 roared them on. Their original route had already been changed by the organizers. Instead of driving half way across the US and then up though Canada to the Bering Strait, they would work their way across the nation and then take a boat up to Valdez where they would continue the Alaska portion of the race over dog sled trails and ice-covered rivers.
But first they had to get across the US starting in winter, no small task considering no one had ever accomplished it. Roads would be rough to non-existent. There were no maps or gas stations, or asphalt— it had yet to be invented. In some areas the drivers would be forced to drive over railroad tracks, a guaranteed bumpy ride! Remember the ads when automobile manufacturers would show how good the shocks on their cars were by driving down railroad tracks with an egg balanced on a spoon? You would have to fast forward to the 60s and 70s for that level of suspension.
Problems began immediately. The one-cylinder, small French Sizaire-Naudin dropped out of the race on the first day at mile 96 with a broken differential. The remaining five vehicles soon found themselves plowing through two feet or more of snow in a blizzard. Except in cities, no handy-dandy horse drawn snow plows were around to clear roads. George Schuster, the mechanic for the Thomas Flyer, walked ahead of his vehicle poking a stick into the snow to measure its depth. Or maybe he was looking for the road!
The slow progress came to a dead halt in Dismal Hollow outside of Auburn, New York. The name alone suggests a horror-story-level disaster. The cars became hopelessly bogged down as night approached. Fortunately, horses hired by the Italian Zust team came to the rescue of the automobilists, as they were known then, and pulled them out.
At first, the teams worked together, taking turns at leading. That didn’t last long. It was a race, after all. You can imagine how the Americans, or the Germans or the Italians reacted when the driver of the French de Dion, St. Chaffray, ordered them, “When you wish to go ahead to a city, you ask me.” Right.
The Europeans were soon complaining that the Americans had unfair advantages. When the Thomas Flyer had a problem, dozen of patriotic volunteers jumped in to eagerly help out for free. When the European cars hit a glitch, they had to pay. “They even charge us to sleep on the ground,” one of the drivers whined. A more legitimate complaint in terms of the race outcome was that the railroad and trolley companies favored the Flyer in allowing track usage. Out West, the Union Pacific even scheduled the Flyer to use its tracks like it would a train.
My sense is that the great advantage the Flyer had was George Schuster, however. For one, he had the ability to fix any problem the car had. Each night he would tune the engine and work on whatever else was needed to get the car ready for the next day. The competition complained to the race committee that Schuster had rebuilt the whole car. Possibly. But the complaint was rejected. One of the nightly chores that all of the car mechanics performed was draining the radiator so it wouldn’t freeze. Anti-freeze had been developed but it was used in making bombs, not protecting cars on cold nights
Schuster’s support in keeping the vehicle operating went far beyond his mechanical abilities, however. If someone had to walk 10 miles in a freezing weather to get gas or a part, he did it. If the car needed rescuing from a snow drift or was stuck in a gully, he figured out how to free it. He was dedicated to doing whatever it took to keep the Flyer running.
I suspect a fair amount of money exchanged hands when the racers reached Chicago. Many felt that the cars would be lucky to get out of New York and even E.R. Thomas, the manufacturer of the Flyer, never expected his vehicle would get beyond the Windy City. T. Walter Williams, the New York Times reporter assigned to the Thomas Flyer, bailed out when the cars arrived in Chicago. “It’s insanity” he proclaimed. And it was. But all five cars made it to Chicago and continued on. Snow continued to plague the drivers as they made their way across the Midwest. And when they finally got through the snow, they were faced with hub-deep mud. Lots of it. Tensions soared.
When the De Dion got stuck in a snowbank and Hans Hendricks Hansen, who claimed he had piloted a Viking Ship to the North Pole solo, couldn’t get it out, St. Chaffray exploded. The men decided a duel was in order and went scrambling to find their pistols. Fortunately, they were buried deep in the gear and St. Chaffray had time to decide that it would be better to fire Hansen than to kill him— or be killed by him. Hansen joined the Thomas Flyer, pledged allegiance to the American flag it flew, and swore that he could walk to Paris faster than St. Chaffray could drive there.
Our recent 8,000-mile journey around the US was bound to cross the route of the Great Race. It happened in Nebraska as we followed US 30 along the South Platte River. The racers had been following what would become Highway 30 through Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. We joined the highway in Kearny and followed it on to North Platte where we stayed at Buffalo Bill’s ranch. Signs along the road proudly proclaimed it had been part of the Oregon Trail and the Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental highway. Before that, it had served as a major path for Native Americans and mountain men. When the route had passed through Omaha on entering Nebraska, the Flyer team met Buffalo Bill who had invited them to stay at his ranch on the North Platte.
On Tuesday, our whole county was on a Level 1 fire alert, “Dangerous fires are lurking in the area.’ Level 2 is ‘Pack what you need and prepare to leave.’ Level 3 is ‘Get out now.’ The sheriff’s office called to urge everyone in the county to stay off the roads unless they were being evacuated. Portions of Ashland and Medford plus all of the communities of Talent and Phoenix were under a Level 3 alert. I-5, the major north-south freeway for the West Coast had been closed near Ashland. Truckers had abandoned their big rigs on the road.
We had started our morning with a power outage. Extreme winds were playing havoc with the power grid in Oregon as well as creating extreme fire danger. I walked up to where we park Quivera, our small RV, and brought her down to the house. At a minimum we could make coffee. At maximum we could power up the van’s generator and turn on the air conditioner. Temperatures around here have been soaring over 100 degrees F. Fortunately, the power was back on around 10 AM. I quickly filled the bathtub so we would have an emergency supply of water. We have our own well and pump. No power, no water, no toilet. Quivera works in a pinch— and then there is the mountain side. Years of backpacking have trained us. Our shovel is handy…
At about two, we saw a huge plume of smoke southeast of our home boiling up above the mountains where Peggy and I had backpacked two years ago. We watched nervously and discussed putting together our emergency evacuation packet of necessities and a few treasures— like Bone and Eeyore (grin). If the flames topped the mountains we’d be out of here. Bye, bye. The fires can move at incredible speeds. Where we’d go was something of a question since so many areas in California and Oregon are burning. But with Quivera, at least we would have our vacation home with us.
The plume was back yesterday. I did a quick internet search and discovered it was the Slater Fire that had started in Northern California on Monday night. It has now crossed the border into Oregon and burned over 120,000 acres. Fortunately for us (not so much for others), it is not moving in our direction. So far.
We are used to fire danger in our area since our home borders on national forest land. Four years ago, we had to evacuate under a level 3 alert. Towns and cities have always seemed safer. Not this time. Talent and Phoenix, which had been under the level 3 alert, were devastated on Tuesday night. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, including possibly our doctor’s office. National news coverage showed footage of the fire. It looked like a war zone.
Meanwhile, the pandemic hasn’t slowed down. Jackson County which started off with one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 in the state, now has one of the highest. We’ve been moving backwards in our reopening status. Our masks won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
And then there is the incredibly weird political situation America finds itself in. I cringe each time I read the news. Each day there are new revelations on the national level. And then there is the local scene. Peggy and I were at the Bi-Mart in Medford on Monday doing our weekly shopping when a guy came in wearing a Trump mask. He asked the woman checking people in if the store carried ammunition for his assault rifle. Who knows what his motivations were, but we kept our distance. Have I mentioned that these are scary times?
NEXT POST: I’ll get back to the Great Race— assuming the fires, Covid-19, and all of the scary people out there behave.
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