Back to Reality- Now that we're back, it's just a matter of sorting through the zillions of photos and notes to find the best stuff to fill in the missing days. Please bear with us as we adjust back into our normal routines. It's nice to be home, but I sure do miss the daily adventures we experienced. To borrow Ray Fowler's favorite line...."Put me in, Coach!"
If anyone has a story to share, participants, or otherwise, please send your pictures and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep checking back as more pictures and stories filter in. It's been fun reviewing what's been posted, filling in some of the blanks.
Please Note that as the "Images From the Road" page has grown, it's become necessary to break it into 3 separate sections:
The Adventure Unfolds | Photos Tell the Story | Daily Travelogue
All content from here on is subject to occasional corrections and edits. Errors and omissions entertained. For corrections,
Photo courtesy of Jeff Mahl
Gentlemen, Ladies, Start Your Engines
Photo courtesy of Jeff Mahl
Pat and Ray start the race in style
Round and round they go...Columbus Circle in NY City
Luke's Chevy in New York City
Driving through Tarrytown
AND THEY'RE OFF!
Day 1-Oct. 18
Times Square, New York City, NY
Though traversing the busy streets of downtown New York City was a bit challenging, the departure from Times Square went smoother than expected. The assembled participants had feared that it would be necessary to stage the trailers elsewhere...but as luck had it, the race started without a hitch. Judi Quan-Rizzuto officiated the "Start", with Luke and his 1918 Chevy at the lead.
Here's the view from Luke's 1918 Chevy V8. You can see the hood at the bottom of the picture. He was able to drive it out of New York City, 160 miles, to the Briarcliff BBQ.
The Genuine Article...well, almost
Now here is a dedicated fellow. Rodney Rucker created his own replica of the original Thomas Flyer that George Schuster drove in the Great Race of 1908, crossing the finish line in Paris to win the race. When Rodney discovered that the centennial celebration was on, he jumped on board as a participant. The fact that we have George Schuster's great-grandson, Jeff Mahl, as a part-time participant, and a replica of the winning auto, serves to make this race even more genuine.
Off to the Briarcliff Road Race Centennial Celebration
The caravan made its way out of the city, enjoying the scenic countryside, heading towards Briarcliff Manor. The backroad route took them through scenic North Tarrytown, now officially called Sleepy Hollow, location of the famous legend of the Headless Horsema. The LARC group gathered and met up with a caravan of local old car enthusiasts at the edge of town...too many beautiful cars to mention here, but the collection did include 2 Stanley Steamers. The Briarfcliff Manor townsfolk then treated our LARC group to an International Barbeque Lunch at the Law Park Pavillion.
Next Stop, Utica
Once back on the road, Luke, had his first breakdown, due to issues with the new, pressurized oil system. Disappointed, but not discouraged, he drove it onto the trailer and continued on. No time for any fixes at this point. It's time to head for the next stop.
Ray checking in with Judi before departure
Photo courtesy of Bob Levitt
A patriotic departure
The LARC group lines up after the Briarcliff parade
Photos courtesy of Bob Levitt
The LARC cars line the street in Canastota
Rodney Rucker & Jeff Mahl pose
next to commermorative sign
Buffalo Transportation-Pierce Arrow Museum
Joe Pendolino's 1962 Corvair
From Utica...Shuffling Off to Buffalo
Day 2-Oct. 19
Left to a chilly 39º, which was quite an eye-opener for the folks riding in open cars. Joe Pendolino's 1962 Corvair had an unfortunate breakdown right after getting on the road. Late morning found the group in Conastota where they stopped to view the plaque honoring George Schuster. We were asked to extend our visit for a photo opportunity. The concierge for the town museum then hastily invited the LARC troop to visit the museum and view a historic canal site, but as it turned out, it was too icy for the Thomas Flyer to navigate. After a quick tour of the museum, the group headed towards Buffalo.
Unfortunately because of all the delays and yet another breakdown, we found ourselves unable to drive through the town of Victor, who had been expecting us as a result of a newspaper article written by Morgan Wesson of the "Daily Messenger". www.MPNnow.com, Friday Oct. 17, 2008, pg. 3A. The LARC drivers wish to offer their sincere apologies for being unable to drive through their town. As it turned out, Morgan Wesson met us at a nearby town enroute to Buffalo, where he photographed the caravan and gave us a copy of the "Daily Messenger" Newspaper.
The group then journeyed on to Buffalo. Since this is participant, Joe Pendolino's home town, he was given the honor of leading the group in his repaired 1962 Corvair. The group saw what remains of the ER Thomas Building where the winning Thomas Flyer was built. They were then escorted to the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum by Museum Director, Jim Sandoro. After taking a tour, the group was provided a wonderful dinner. It was an emotional moment for Ray Fowler, delayed in arriving because of electrical issues with his 1930 Speedster, and significant for Jeff Mahl, because this is the place where it all started.
After an overnight stay in Buffalo, a drivers' meeting was called. Participants were pleasantly surprised and pleased about the efforts and kind gesture of Rodney Rucker who presented them all with a plaque commemorating the Great Race Centennial.This kind gesture was much appreciated by the entire group.
Then it was back to the hotel, to see what could be done about those pesky mechanical issues. Luke spent 4 hours trying to solve the oil problem, then finally retired in the wee hours of the morning, along with his dedicated cheering section of fellow drivers.
Bob Levitt and wife, Liz with his 70's Pantera
Luke NEVER gives up! Sooner or later,
he'll get his pride and joy back on the road
Photo courtesy of Jeff Mahl
Schoolchildren of Springville Elementary School
greet the LARC caravan, with Rodney leading the way
Photo courtesy of Jeff Mahl
Rodney Rucker is happy to show off his Thomas Flyer Replica to the students Springville, NY
Jeff Mahl and Ray Fowler at George Schuster's gravesite
Platefuls of homemade goodies await the racers
A Grand Welcome in Springville, NY
Day 3-Oct. 20
The trip to Springville, NY was truly significant to Jeff Mahl, as this is the birthplace of his great-grandfather, George Schuster. Rodney Rucker came from Winslow, AZ, with a hot rod Peterbilt Truck and towed his Replica Thomas Flyer, which is based on a 1914 American LaFrance Fire engine with an additional truck. Ray Fowler got on back, dressed as Capt. Hansen, along with Jeff Mahl, in period costume. A mixed group joined the cavalcade as it passed the group of 700 children, waving flags, while the song, "New York, New York" played in the background. The Thomas Flyer made a brief, but welcome appearance and then Luke Rizzuto was asked to say a few words. He thanked everyone for the hearty welcome and expressed his surprise at the warm reception. Jeff was asked to provide a brief accounting of the challenges of the race. The children presented Jeff Mahl with a special wreath to lay upon his great-grandfather's grave.
Ray Fowler then was invited to the podium where he mentioned the Super Channel documentary, entitled "The Greatest Auto Race on Earth." www.superchannel.ca
Jeff Mahl handed out a map showing all of the relevant historic stopoff points within Springville. After that, we left Springville Elementary School in convoy, stopping at one of the 3 houses in Springville in which George Schuster lived, and other points of interest on the map.
A Time of Tribute
The Concord Historical Society took the group to view a mural painted in honor of the 1908 Great Race, then it was off to the Chapel Street Gazebo where everyone was treated to most welcome refreshments. The participants were also shown a historic marker on N. Buffalo St., site of Schuster’s original Dodge dealership. They then made their way to the Maplewood Cemetery for the ceremony where Jeff Mahl paid tribute to his great-grandfather, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony, 21 gun salute, and a moment of silence. As a fitting conclusion, local Police escorted the LARC caravan to the town boundary, where they were bid farewell.
from L to R - Jeff Mahl, Rodney Rucker, Ray Fowle
and Pat McKenna
The children gather 'round Pat to ask questions
"Sparky" after a good soaking, sans driver Ray & navigator Patrick
Cleveland, OH to Kendalville, IN
Day 4-Oct. 21
A Cold, Rainy Start from Cleveland
The journey was unventful, except for the brutal weather conditions. We were awed at the fortitude of Ray Fowler and Patrick McKenna, as they suffered the onslaught of driving winds and rain in their open Speedster, while the majority of the remaining drivers traveled in much greater comfort.
Upon arriving in Kendalville, the weather improved significantly, much to the relief of Ray and Pat.
Meet and Greet in the evening
Town officials, local Great Race Historians, along with car enthusiasts from Kendallville came to the motel to greet the drivers. Afterwards, Robert Emerick and Don Bilbee address our LARC group in the hotel community room, explaining how George Schuster had made a U-turn at a local family home and the lady requested that the group should visit the exact site and re-enact the historic turnaround. Robert Emerick brought a copy of a very rare book, "The Great Race", which had attached to its innersleeve, a letter written by Nellie Thomas, who witnessed the actual event of George Schuster's turnaround in her front garden.
A vintage Shell tow truck in Naperville, IL
Just one car in this extensive Studebaker collection
Kendallville, IA to Naperville, IL
Day 5-Oct. 22
A representative group carriied out the historic turnaround prior to their normal departure time. After that, the drivers drove towards Naperville. We were then invited to visit a Shell Gas station, owned by Larry, containing an extensive and impressive collection of gas pumps, along with Shell and Coca Cola memorabilia.
The next stop was at Goshen where the 1930 Speedster, piloted by Ray Fowler symbolically re-enacted the driving onto the tracks, as performed in the 1908 Great Race. We are uncertain if this was the actual place where the original event occurred, but on Feb. 21, 1908, the Thomas Flyer "took to the tracks of the Indiana Railway Company (an interurban rail line)", because the roads were impassable due to heavy snowfall.
Much to their delight, the drivers were extended a special invitation to tour the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, IN.
Ray & Sparky finally escape the rain
Naperville, IL to Cedar Rapids, IN
Day 6-Oct. 23
Enroute to their destination of Cedar Rapids, the LARC group was enthusiastically greeted by the townspeople and Historical Society of Geneva. Refreshments were served, and a tour of the museum followed, then got back on the road.
In Rochelle, an unplanned stop was in order, when Ray accidentally ran over his radiator cap hood mascot. A hasty replacement was put in place, then it was time to continue the trip.
Let it Pour!
The group then departed from Clinton, in the rain, ending up in Cedar Rapids for the night.
Automobilia galore at Bill Preston's on the Lincoln Hwy.
A 1922 Paige-part of the Ames collection
Cedar Rapids, IN to Ames, IA
Day 7-Oct. 24
Leaving Cedar Rapids, the group went to Belle Plaine, IA where they met a gentleman by the name of Bill Preston, who owned an original gas station on the Lincoln Hwy. Because his father was a salvage collector, he amassed an impressive number of automobilia...from the ordinary to the bizarre. As it turns out, Bill's father made an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on March 21st, 1990, due to his notariety as a collector of this vast memorabilia. A reporter from the local press arrived interviewing us and photographing our visit.
We were invited by a collector of fine automobiles to visit his car collection in Ames. The group took the opportunity to call it a night early, and catch up on some much-needed rest.
John & Ray admire the extensive vintage auto collection
Under the Chrysler to make a diagnosis
More trouble for Luke under the hood of the Chevy V8
Here we go again. Time to break out the tools
Alan assists Luke with his 1918 Chevy V8
Ames, IA to Omaha, NE
Day 8-Oct. 25
Shortly after leaving town, the 1930 Chrysler 70 Series suffered not one, but two breakdowns, necessitating a temporary withdrawal from the journey for repairs to the transmission, differential, and overdrive. The driver, John Quam and his navigator Paul Picetti, continued on with the group in a rental car, catching up with the group a bit later. The plan is to receive the repaired Chrysler in Wendover, NV, on Nov. 1.
More Bad Luck on the Road
Next to fall victim was Luke who experienced engine failure, due to a stripped generator gear. He was able to load the car back onto the trailer and continue on.
Later that day in an off moment, Luke suggested to Ray and Pat that perhaps a drag race between the 1918 Chevy and the 1930 Speedster would be in order and a worthy challenge, to which it was pointed out that Ray does not actually have a trailer....
Next to fall victim to mechanical disorder was Ray's temporary overdrive malfunction, which fortunately, self-corrected itself through clever maneuvers by the driver and navigator.
The last auto to suffer was the 1940 Cadillac, which suffered fuel problems. They eventually solved it and rejoined the group. This is just one in a series of many minor mechanical malfunctions that has beset Brian Perry's car.
Luke arrived in Omaha in time to pick up wife, Joan-E at the airport, who flew in from Los Gatos, CA. Since the group was staying in suites with kitchens that night, Ray Fowler announced that he was cooking dinner for the whole gang and proceeded to kidnap Joan-E for a grocery run. While the mechanically inclined worked diligently on their autos, Chef Ray and salad chef, Joan-E put together a terrific dinner that was enjoyed by all.
Maja enjoys some time with "Sparky" and Ray
Ed, Luke and Alan enjoying a home-cooked meal
"Sparky" on a brick-lined
stretch of the Lincoln Hwy.
Our lunch stop at Ogalalla...for Pat and Ray a welcome respite from the incessant Nebraska winds
After a hearty lunch, Harry Sperber braves the winds as
Omaha, NE to Lexington, NE
Day 9-Oct. 26
Where the Winds Come Sweepin' Down the Plains
Wow, were we in for a surprise on Day 9, a day that would put the Windy City to shame! Once again, Ray and Pat drove on, undaunted, in spite of wicked, slicing 60+ mph sidewinds, blowing off the dry cornfields and cutting Ray's face.
Locals directed to a stretch of the historic, scenic, brick-lined Lincoln Hwy., built in 1916, just 8 years after the Great Race drivers passed through. Schuster didn't actually drive on this
We make a lunch/fuel stop, then hit the road to endure the constant, relentless pounding of the winds. While the folks with closed cars only had to keep their vehicles steady on the road, those with no windows (Rodney & Rhonda, in the custom Peterbilt) had to tolerate having a wind tunnel blowing constantly through their side window openings. I'll betcha Rodney gets those side windows installed real soon.
We thought the winds might die down eventually, but they continued all the way to Lexington, NE and into the evening as several of the drivers worked on their cars with icy hands and flashlights, determined to solve any pesky problems and keep their cars on the road. As luck would have it, a local couple stopped to talk to Luke and directed him to a machine shop, who then referred him to another machine shop, who then referred him to a machine shop in Denver who was qualified to make the special type of gear required. Whew!
Happy Birthday on the Road
An impromtu celebration was set up in the motel community room to celebrate participant Ed Howles birthday, complete with some tasty food and a chocolate cake, topped with Ray's "ambience" candles. Ed's daughter also surprised him by sending a lovely bouquet of flowers with a happy birthday balloon attached.
Competition for the laundry room facilities was fierce that night with Harry waiting patiently (NOT!) for Luke's jeans to dry. Ray and some others headed for the Jacuzzi (much deserved after that wind-blasting day).
Happy Birthday to Ed Howle, with wife, Jan
Scout's Rest, where Buffalo Bill Cody entertained his guests
in elaborate style
Let's fix that drip, eh!
We all celebrate the good news that Patrick won't be
leaving us afterall.
Lexignton, NE to Sidney NE
Day 10-Oct. 27
A welcome short day on the road
The group headed out on time while Luke and I made our way to North Platte to a machine shop that we're hoping can make a new generator gear for the 1918 Chevy. Without it, the car will be disabled for the entire trip. Apparently, not all machine shops are equipped to deal with angled-tooth gears, so we must seek out a shop in Denver the following day. We catch up with the group in Sidney that night.
Sparky takes a detour
Team Sparky takes a detour to check out Scout's Rest, built in 1886 as a place for Buffalo Bill Cody to rest between tours of his Wild West Show. Guess the rest of us didn't get the memo, or many would have followed.
To fix or not to fix??
When we arrive at the motel, we find Ray and Patrick have dug into the leaky fuel pump on the 1930 Speedster. They're hesitant to mess with something that's been working, but decide it's best to address the leak now, before the problem worsens. While they work on their car, the rest of the group scatters to answer e-mails, do laundry and perform necessary car maintenance. This seems as good a time as any for me to plop down in the lobby and work on the publicity page of the web site. Before I make much progress, however, the group assembles in the lobby to head for the nearest restaurant. Sadly, Patrick will be leaving the next day for Alberta, and Ray can't let his buddy leave without a proper sendoff. We pile into an assortment of vehicles and comandeer the bar and a very large table to accommodate our group.
Will he stay or will he go?
After much teasing (and I do mean "much"), Pat finally indicates that he's in the race to the end, astounding Ray and rendering him near speechless. We all toast the happy occasion and enjoy a delicious dinner.
A much-relieved Ray smiling at the good news
Patrick renders best-buddy, Ray speechless
Part of the group pose at Ames Monument
Now it's Sparky's turn to pose
Jerry & Chris, the "Dodge Boys" from Alberta, Canada,
join us for the rest of the journey
Sidney, NE, to Laramie, WY
Day 11-Oct. 28
Luke and Joan-E's sidetrip to Denver
We get an early start so we can get to Denver early and find G&K Machine Shop, who we've been assured has the necessary equipment to create the generator gear for Luke's Chevy. With 4 hrs. to kill, we get the name of a chiropractor and head there to get Luke's back adjusted. With that done, it's time for a bite of lunch. Before we know it, the time arrives to go and see what the machine shop has produced. Luke's pleased to see the gear is done, then proceeds to install it in the car. He'll finish up the repairs when we return to Laramie tonight. It's enough for now that we've got the part. We bid the folks at G&K farewell and head for Laramie to reunite with our fellow racers for the evening. We return to find out that they had an unexpected adventure that day at Ames Monument.
About Ames Monument
Completed in 1882, this monolithic, 60-ft. high granite pyramid was designed by the distinguished American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and built by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The monument serves as a memorial to the Ames brothers of Massachusetts, Oakes, and Oliver, whose wealth, influence, talent, and work were key factors in the construction of the first coast to coast railroad in North America.
This monument is of particular interest to the LARC participants, because the Great Racers of 1908 posed in front of this landmark as they passed through Wyoming on their westward journey.
Our night in Laramie
While some work on their cars (a common occurrence, as you see), the rest head for the local Mexican Restaurant to eat and share stories. We're pleased to discover that Chris and Jerry, also from Alberta, have joined the race with their 1946 Dodge 4 door sedan. Little do we know, at this point, how well-suited to this race both the car and drivers are. We're also thrilled to have Tom Goyne and his stunning, all-original 1940 Packard with us for a couple of days. Several of us had the privilege of being chauffered by Tom to the restaurant in splendid luxury.
Tom Goyne closing the Packard's hood before taking us
to the restaurant in style
Patrick checks out what's wrong with Sparky
Not much under THIS hood in Walcott
Sparky loves this ghost town
Laramie, WY to Rock Springs, WY
Day 12-Oct. 29
Off to a slow start
After a brief breakfast meeting, we pack up and leave Laramie behind. We're on the road for just an hour when Judi radios in a rest stop break for the group. Just in time, since Sparky is showing signs of fuel distress. This provides Luke with an excellent opportunity to put some finishing touches on the Chevy. After a short while, sure enough, he fires her up while we all visualize how nice it will be to get her back on the road. Luke opts to keep her on the trailer for the long highway stretches, saving the car for special occasions and shorter rides.
By now, Ray and Patrick have solved the fuel problems with the Speedster, so we all get back on our way. Many in the group have noticed that Ray refers to Sparky as both "he" and "she". After further observation, I notice that whenever the Speedster is acting cantankerous, it gets called "she"...however, when Sparky is humming along nicely, the car is referred to as "he"...hmmmm, I think there's a subliminal message here!
A visit to Walcott...a ghost town revisited
Judi and Joe, our intrepid leaders, take us into Walcott, a ghost town that was deserted way back when Schuster passed through these parts. We stop for some photos and exploration. It's interesting to consider how much of the original Great Race route we've been able to locate and follow, considering how much time has lapsed since the Great Racers passed through this area.
Next stop—Ft. Steele
Within a few minutes of leaving Walcott, Judi and Joe lead us off the highway to Ft. Steele, another of George Schuster's waypoints. The group wanders off to explore structure remains and shoot some photos. The group of vintage autos draws interest from other visitors, something we've become accustomed to by now.
Lunch stop in Rawlins
The group assembles in Rawlins where a local reporter for the Times Daily newspaper interviews us for a story in the local paper. We've come to expect such impromptu interviews as we head into some of the smaller towns. We're not always sure how the word gets out, but assume the press is on the lookout for unusual events to report on.
Ft. Steele-one of the remaining structures
Pony Express Marker in Granger
Old South Bend Stage Station, Built in 1850
The entire Granger class of 12 children come out to greet us
Rock Springs, WY to Evanston, WY
Day 13-Oct. 30
Brief journey with many side trips
Though today's supposed to be a short drive, we plan on taking several historically significant side trips, once again seeking out Schuster's original route. The morning is a chilly one, but clear—ideal conditions for the day's activities. We're well aware that snow or sleet isn't uncommon for this time of year
Greetings in Granger
Our first stop is Granger, a very small town with a historical Stage Coach/Pony Express marker and another one of Schuster's waypoints. The town locals gather round to explain that there is a major effort underway to complete reconstruction of the buildings on the site. There are plenty of photo ops here, but we're urged to drive by the Elementary School so the children can come out and see the lineup of vintage cars as they drive by the school. Luke and Joan-E jump out for a brief visit while Luke hands out cards so the students can follow the story on the web site. We then dash off to catch up with the rest of the group.
After lunch in Evanston
Judi made contact with Dan Bogart, a local Lincoln Highway historian, who offered to lead the group to a railroad tunnel through which Schuster took the Thomas Flyer. Since there were virtually no roads in 1908, Schuster had been given permission to drive on various railroad tracks to give him easier passage. We're not so sure the rough drive over the railroad ties was particularly easy, but it may have been an advantage for him at times during the trek.
That fickle Chevy!
Luke, thinking he's solved all of his mechanical issues (remember the gear?), drives his Chevy off the trailer with the intention of driving it to the railroad tunnel. In anticipation, Harry, Pat and Joan-E bundle up for a cold ride to our destination. It's not looking good, however, when Luke can't get the required amount of fuel delivery needed to run smoothly. After a disappointing and brief ride, the Chevy dies. Like a well-oiled machine, the group gathers to push the car back on the trailer, and we carry on with the Chevy in tow.
Seeking the tunnel
Dan directs us down a long dirt road that leads us to the tunnel we'd hoped to find. We're a bit curious about the dates above the entrance, as they don't coincide with when Schuster would have passed through. We later discover from another historian, that the tunnel had been refaced and dated with the year the work was completed. Needless to say, we were all thrilled to have found another of Schuster's waypoints.
We're told there are several other trackside routes Schuster followed, but since it's growing late, we'll have to explore those tomorrow. Dan agrees to meet the group in the morning and lead them to the remote roads.
At last, the object of our search-The Union Pacific railroad tunnel George Schuster used in 1908
The Thomas Flyer Replica against a stunning sunrise
An abandoned railroad tunnel beckons
Dan Bogart guides LARC participants to railroad tracks
followed by George Schuster in the 1908 Great Race
The Caddy follows Sparky across the Union Pacific RR tracks
We really got a taste of Schuster's experience, being right
next to the tracks
Evanston, WY to Brigham City, UT
Day 14-Oct. 31
Time to head for the tracks
We assemble in the parking lot to a beautiful sunrise. Joe and Judi will drive on to Promontory Point and await our arrival later this afternoon. Looks like Rodney's team is going to drive the Thomas Flyer replica. Well, at least that was the plan. Now it's got some fuel problems, so it goes back on the trailer.
Dan Bogart joins us again in our efforts to locate several places along the Union Pacific tracks where George Schuster took his Thomas Flyer. We're lucky that the rich history of the 1908 race has been so well documented. This is just the type of experience the LARC group's been craving. We have an incredible day, riding right along the tracks with long freight trains passing us on either side about every 15 minutes.
We have a chance to enter and explore an abandoned railroad tunnel, taking some time for photos and exploration, then get back into our cars to get on with the adventure.
One lady, one junkyard dog...
After traversing several routes, we come to private property. Looks like we may have to turn around and leave the way we came. But wait, Dan Bogart, our guide for the day, tries his hand at pursuading her to let us pass. Standing outside her locked gate, he decides that an explanationis in order if we're to gain passage through her property. Sure enough, he chats with her for about 10 minutes, after which she declares that since we were all there in the interest of the historic race, she would allow us to drive through her property. She then stands back and allows Patrick to open the gate We consider ourselves fortunate, as we've heard tales of her turning most folks away. Way to go, Dan!
Destination, Promontory Point
After all of our railroad route exploration, we get back on the highway in plenty of time to meet up with Joe and Judi, who've arranged for a private viewing of the Golden Spike engine Replicas, the Jupiter and 119. We enjoy hearing about the history of joining of the East/West railroads and viewing the beautifully restored locomotives. There's still time to wander through the visitor's center and catch a video, souvenier shop, and peruse the exhibits before we head back to our motel in Brigham City.
Dan Bogart, (far left) poses with the rest of the LARC group
Promontory Point-Locomotive 119 Replica
Promontory Point-Locomotive Jupiter Replica
Our knowledgeable guide for the day, Robert Rampton
We observe points of interest along the route to Kelton
We wait for the return of Sparky and the Dodge
Monument Point, just north of the Great Salt Lake
Brigham City, UT to Wendover, UT
Day 15-Nov. 1
More desert adventures
We luck out, once again. Robert Rampton, a local author and Great Race enthusiast, offers to direct us to some remote desert roads that Schuster followed in the Thomas Flyer. Robert notes several notable points of interest as we make our away along the dirt roads. It's a gorgeous, semi-cloudy day, perfect for a long drive and picnic along the north shore of the Great Salt Lake. After a leisurely lunch, we continue down the road until Robert points to a very faint track that Schuster was known to have traveled. Though he recommends that we skip this detour, Ray, Alan, Pat, and the Dodge Boys (Chris & Jerry), can't resist the challenge. Robert is reluctant, but seeing how determined they are, he directs them to stay to the left at every road fork so that they don't get lost in the vast expanse of desert. If all goes well, they'll emerge in the deserted town of Kelton, where the rest of the LARC group will wait.
A waiting game...
It's been a couple hours now, and still no word from the bold explorers. We take advantage of the time to tinker with vehicles and change a failing tire on Luke's trailer. Being away from all facilities, we all had plenty of opportunities to water the bushes and explore the terrain. At one point, we consider disconnecting Luke's truck to search for our adventurous friends. Then, amazingly, we get a call from someone's cell phone that they did, indeed, get lost, but would backtrack on the trail they followed in and rejoin us in about an hour. Phew! Part of the group leaves for Wendover, while a few of us hang back to escort Sparky to the motel. With the time change, we know it will be dark before we arrive at that night's destination, and Sparky's headlights aren't sufficient for nighttime travel.
A change of plans for Ray and Pat
Our 4 cars make their way back to the highway. Sparky seems tired, straining to make the uphill grades, but we ride on until Montello, with one general store with gas pumps, a Bar and Grill, "The Cowboy Bar" and a very small motel. The store owner and another local gather round, asking the usual questions about the old cars. After awhile, we decide to get back on the road. When the rain starts, and Ray has trouble seeing through his goggles, he pulls over so we can escort he and Patrick back to Montello where they'll stay the night and catch up with us the following day. We bid them farewell and head for Wendover.
John Quam gives it his all with the floor jack so Luke can
change his trailer tire. Nice moves, John!
Sparky just LOVES to go off road exploring
Looks like John and Joe are squaring off
The Currie Hotel as it stands today.
Structure remains at Cherry Creek
Wendover, UT to Ely, NV
Day 16-Nov. 2
That darn time change!
Some of us are still on daylight saving time and awake too early. Oh, well, it's a good time to catch up on e-mails and work on the web site. After a quick breakfast, the group lines up for our departure to Ely, minus Ray & Pat. We know they'll catch up with us later today, as we have a short drive. We all agree that it feels strange not having Sparky's flags waving us on. We're happy to see that Robert Rampton will be joining us for awhile. We've tried hard to pursuade him to join us for the remainder of the trip, but it seems he can't break away for that long a stretch. We discover that the Dodge is taking a side trip and will join us down the road.
A wet and chilly drive
We make our way through the desert, making a brief detour to check out what remains of the Currie Hotel before making another side trip Cherry Creek. As if by magic, the Dodge Boys, Chris and Jerry rejoin us just as we make the turnoff to Cherry Creek. How DO they do that?
We're told that George Schuster stopped off at both locations. Cherry Creek was, at one time, the largest town in White Pine County, NV. Part of the Cherry Creek Mining District, Cherry Creek's years of the largest gold and silver production were between 1872 and 1883. At the peak of its prosperity, the town had an estimated population of 6,000. After a quick drive-through, we get back on the highway toward Ely, where Jan has booked us into the Nevada Hotel, quite charming and a welcome departure from our usual accommodations.
Another stroke of luck
Arriving in Ely around lunchtime, we all check in, take care of business and I get in some good hours on the web site. Around this time, Ray & Pat return, but just barely get Sparky into town. It seems that the throwout bearing has failed, and it's Sunday in a very small town. Lucky for Ray, someone has clued him in about an old parts store in town. A town local makes a call to the owner, who then shows up with the exact part Sparky needs to get back on the road. We, once again, marvel at our good fortune. Ray and Pat get down to business in the parking lot with the sky threatening rain or snow any minute. Luke joins them to work on his V8's carburetor. Sparky's as good as new by dinnertime, ready to head over the pass tomorrow to Tonapah.
Rain on the road and snow on the mountain tops
The Howle's bug seems right at home on this long stretch
Blue Eagle Ranch at last
It didn't take long for these guys to find an old car
Jeff shares some stories with the folks at Twin Springs
This building was likely in place when Schuster was here
Stone House, a structure used for meat storage. Schuster
stayed in a similar structure nearby.
Ely, NV to Tonapah, NV
Day 17-Nov. 3
Ready to hit the road
Sparky's back in the lead and Luke's Chevy, on the trailer for the ride over the pass, will be taken off and driven when we reach Tonapah. Though there was some threat of snow heading over the pass, we encounter chilly but clear conditions on our journey. We all gas up, as there are no services for 167 miles.
A welcome reunion
Enroute, we meet up with Jeff Mahl and Jeanne Howerton. Jeff gave his presentation in Tonapah the previous night, and is now free to join us for the remainder of the race.
A road less traveled and a few surprises
Jeanne has generously offered to take us to several of George Schuster's waypoints. The first stop is Jeanne's home, Blue Eagle Ranch, located down a 60-mile stretch of very remote dirt road. We arrived for a much-needed pit stop and a brief visit with Jeanne's family. The next stop...Twin Springs Ranch, where George Schuster is known to have made a creek crossing, getting the Thomas Flyer mired in quicksand.
After several more miles of dirt road, we arrive at last at Twin Springs Ranch and are greeted immediately by Joe Falini and his family. The working ranch is comprised of a mixture of old and new structures. One outbuilding in particular intrigues us with it's lineup of branding irons hanging along the wall.
The creek is pointed out and we make our way to it in the 1918 Chevy V8. Though this isn't the exact location of George Schuster's creek crossing, Luke decides to re-enact the moment for the heck of it. In the meantime, Jeff and others have pulled out an old photo and are attempting to match it to some of the surrounding landmarks. At last, they determine the exact spot. They'd like to drive across, but the creek is too steep in this area to make it possible. When Jeff attempts to jump across the stream, his foot slips off a rock, surprisingly leaving him up to the waist in quicksand. A quick helping hand from Patrick saves the day. Jeff emerges, a bit soggy and more respectful than ever of the perils of his great-gramp's journey.
With our exploration complete, we say goodbye to the folks at Twin Springs and make our way to Stone House, a remote area where Schuster was allowed to stay for the night. It's easy to picture him taking shelter in one of these old structures, little changed in the last 100 years. After a very full day of exploration, it's time to head for Tonapah.
Luke drives the 1918 Chevy across the creek and up the road
The group, Joe, and Jeanne try to determine where on
the creek Schuster got mired
This is the old photo that helped Jeff locate the historic spot
Jeff's pants attest to his close-call with quicksand. Time
to do your laundry, Jeff.
John Quam braves the morning chill in Tonapah
Rodney and his team roll out the Thomas Flyer Replica
The autos pose in front of the Tonapah Fire Station
The Goldfield Historical Society joins some of the group
in front of the now-deserted Hotel
The famouse "Bottle House" in Rhyolite
Rhyolite's once-splendid train station
Tonapah, NV to Ridgecrest, NV
Day 18-Nov. 4
Early morning photo op in Tonapah
The whole group is up early and ready to go by 7:30. Though the sky is clear, it's pretty darn chilly, especially for those with open cars. The idea is for all of us to drive to a nearby firehouse and have a photo taken in front of it, ala circa 1908. Luke is finally able to get his Chevy off the trailer, so several of us bundle up and pile in for the short drive. We're not about to miss out on an opportunity to get the car on the road. We're happy to have the Thomas Flyer replica take its place in the lineup, too.
To Goldfield for breakfast
After reassembling, the group heads a short distance to Goldfield, where the town Historical Society awaits. We arrive to an enthusiastic greeting from the period-dressed townfolk, anxious for a photo shoot in front of the deserted, once lavish Goldfield Hotel. A peek in the windows reveals what must have once been a luxurious interior lobby. We can only imagine what this must have looked like in its heyday, when the town of Goldfield was alive with mining operations. The air remains windy and chilly as we go through the accustomed poses. The locals barely seem to notice the cold, but we're longing for a hot cup of coffee and shelter from the icy wind.
With the photos taken, we're ushered into what appears to be a vintage saloon, complete with a full bar. It's warm inside and the food smells great, so we dig in, along with our Goldfield hosts. With breakfast completed, it's time for a brief auction. There are two special items up for bid...one is a handmade lap blanket made in tribute of the 1908 Great Race. The other item is a replica of a town panorama photo, nicely framed, which Rodney Rucker bids on and wins.
Judi signals the group that it's time to hit the road for Ridgecrest. Back on the road, we drive towards Death Valley, but not without the usual stops at points of interest.
Joe and Judi, leading the way in their van, take us into the once-thriving town of Rhyolite. We're all intrigued with the structures and weathered building remains. This is the location of the famous bottle-house. A small but sturdy home whose walls are built of various types of bottles, laid horizontally with cement filling the voids. Surprisingly, this very well-preserved structure is probably little changed from 1908 when Schuster passed through the town.
The same can't be said, however, for the rest of the structures. It's obvious that this was once a booming area when the gold and silver mines were producing and prior to the rerouting of the railroad tracks. The only other structure that was in fairly good shape was an architecturally impressive train station,left standing, surrounded by a cyclone fence. We could have stayed longer, but we've still got to head over the mountain passes, so we reluctantly pack up our cameras and get back on the road.
Next stop...Stovepipe Wells for lunch
While eating lunch, Jan show us some lovely cloisonne pins with a Thomas Flyer on them, which she bought as souveniers. It follows that several of us will have to do the same. We suspect that the sales person has no idea what a gold mine she has with our group passing through.
What goes up, must come down!
The next leg of our day's journey brings us up the steep grade of Immigrant's Pass–not a problem for modern-day cars, but for Sparky and the Chrysler, a bit more of a challenge. Reaching the top with no incidents, we realize the real challenge will be keeping the older brakes cool on the descent. Just about the time we're all getting concerned, however, the road levels out. With dusk rapidly approaching, we'd hoped to be closer to our destination, but Ridgecrest is still about an hour away. Part of the group drives on to the motel, while some of hang back and protect Ray while we make our way in the dark, arriving safely around 6:15.
Maja and Klaus' suite dinner treat
The von Deylens have decided to invite the whole group to their suite (with a kitchen) for a tasty dinner spread. Jan informs us as we check in that the food awaits. It's a rare opportunity to sit, chat and view the past week's events on a TV slideshow, courtesy of Patrick's technical expertise. The comraderie we've developed as a group is evident with plenty of joking, reflection, and anticipation of the events to come. We are all aware that only 3 days remain until we reach our final destination...San Francisco, California.
Ray, Sparky and Alan in Death Valley
Bank ruins at Rhyolite
Photos Coming soon
Ridgecrest, NV to Fresno, CA
Day 19-Nov. 5
A long day's drive & more trouble for the Chrysler
Heading out at the usual 8:00 am departure time, Judi has scheduled Mojave for our first stop. Today is a long one for us...249 miles on the road. With an average driving speed of 40 mph on the side roads, covering that much distance before nightfall is no small task. Entering the highway onramp just after leaving Mojave, all of the drivers in back of John's Chrysler witness a huge, white, steamy burst from under his car. We immediately pull over to the shoulder and see if this is a quick-fix or something more serious.
The tools come out and in no time at all, the problem's diagnosed as a blown head gasket. Within minutes, Rodney's on his phone, locating a machine shop in Bakersfield to examine the heads (which ultimately required machining) and hunting down a gasket. That done, Rodney calls his team with the trailer to transport the car to Fresno, where John and Patrick will complete the repairs that night. After all John's been through with his Chrysler, he's determined to make the finish in San Francisco.
While the flurry of activity surrounding the disabled Chrysler is unfolding, Jeff Mahl receives a phone call from Jeff Nachtigal of the Bakersfield Californian [click here to link to the video]. He's asking that we drive Luke's 1918 Chevy V8 to the Bakersfield Museum for an interview and video shoot. If we leave immediately, we can make it. What remains of the group lunches at Noriega's, a well-known Basque restaurant, while Jeff, Luke and Joan-E meet at the clock tower for the interview. As it turns out, a local TV news reporter follows the lunch group to the restaurant and interviews them as well. Unfortunately, we'll never see that story, which airs locally. While we're all scurrying around, Rodney's team is making a beeline for Fresno with John's ailing car on board.
Rendezvous at last
At this point, we're really wondering how Schuster managed without a cell phone. Perhaps the fact that he didn't have a convoy of cars to manage was a big plus. With the interviews finished and lunch consumed, we made some calls to round up the cars (minus the Chrysler) in the museum parking lot and make up for some lost time...and once again, the Dodge Boys are back with us. We still find it uncanny how they rejoin the caravan so seamlessly.
Return to civilization...a rude awakening
After traveling for thousands of miles on deserted back roads, the drive between Bakersfield and Fresno was a bit daunting. The only road available to us was a heavily-driven stretch with some very impatient drivers...in a very tense moment, one such person nearly caused Ray to swerve off the road...not something any of us had previously expected. All the delays add up to another stretch of driving in the dark...a huge challenge for Ray. We surround him with other cars for protection and eventually arrive around 7 pm to find John and Patrick knee-deep in tools and parts.
Luke and Joan-E are pleased to see that friends, Vic and Carol Ramiriez will be driving with us the following day and will join us for the celebration in San Francisco. The group heads for a bite of dinner, takes care of some business, and are thrilled to hear that the diligent mechanical efforts have paid off...the Chrysler is back on the road.
Photos Coming soon
Fresno, CA to San Jose, CA
Day 20-Nov. 6
Our last full day together...off to a rocky start
We wake up to a sunny morning with a chill in the air. Luke has promised Dave of Dave's Performance in Fresno, that the caravan will drive to his shop. Dave performed all of the pre-race work on Luke's V8 engine and is excited to see how the LARC played out. After a brief visit we leave for Los Banos.
Along the Pacheco stretch, Sparky sputters and quits. A quick change of the points and condenser, and we're off again...but now Luke spots a slight mushrooming of Ray's left, rear tire. Before he can radio him a warning, the tire blows. Quickly steering to the shoulder, Ray avoids damage to the wheel. With a new tire in place, we get back on the road once more, looking for a lunch stop somewhere in Gilroy, where Luke and Joan-E's friend, Dave Nielsen, wants to join us for lunch and check out the cars. But now Sparky is having problems again, so we pull into the nearest gas station and see what's up. The rest of the group eventually turns around to join us and we all head for a bite of lunch. Sparky's recovery is short-lived. Luke and Joan-E hang back with Ray and Pat while the rest of the group heads on. A few parts later, Sparky is ready to make it to San Jose.
As a special surprise, the group agrees to drive by Joan-E's mom's house so she can meet everyone and see their cars. We're invited in for refreshments, then it's off to the nearby motel.
Everyone is busy with various tasks...laundry, signing of the banners (surprise gifts for Ray and Joe & Judi), dinner arrangements, and a quick trip to San Francisco for Paul, Luke, Joan-E, Jeff & Chris for a pre-celebration check of the room at Sinbad's reserved for our end-of-trip luncheon. We meet up with Paul's wife, Cindy, who generously made all of the arrangements while we were making our cross-country journey. After grabbing a quick dinner, we help Cindy assemble the table centerpieces, and Jeff checks the AV equipment for tomorrow's presentation. Satisfied that all is ready for tomorrow's celebration, we make the hour's drive back to San Jose. We retire with mixed feelings about the following day, reluctant to face the conclusion of our adventure.
A special banner welcomes the racers after a 4,000 mile trek
San Francisco or Bust! We finally made it!
Ray, Jan, Ed & Patrick are all smiles after our welcome
back luncheon at Sinbads. Yay for Sparky & Stewball
Open Up Your Golden Gates...San Francisco, Here we Come!
Making our way across the Bay Bridge
Though the drive isn't long, we're attempting to arrive at the Ferry Building no later than 11 am. Heavy commute traffic, however slows our efforts and we find ourselves snarled in a major backup. Under such conditions, it's difficult to keep the group together. Amazingly, we eventually meet back up at a prearranged parking spot, not far from our final destination. We make our way to Sinbad's to a group of welcoming friends and family.
End of the road
After plenty of photos are shot, the group and their guests sit down for a celebratory lunch. Luke starts off by thanking the many people who helped make the event possible and the participants for their shared enthusiasm. He then presented Judi and Ray Fowler with Longest Auto Race banners, signed by the entire group. Ray then asked everyone to sign the whitewall area on one of Sparky's tires, to keep as a memento of the trip. Judi has some thank you awards of her own to distribute to the group, after which Jeff Mahl provides a brief comparison of the original race with our recently completed adventure. As a finale, the diners are shown a preview of a 1908 Great Race documentary filmed in Canada.
Well the 3 week-long adventure has come to a close. A few will be lingering for the weekend before heading home, enjoying the freedom of staying in one location for awhile. Some will leave for home the next day, anxious to return to family and friends. Several in the LARC group will come for Jeff's presentation on Sunday, then fly out the following day for home. The shared experience has brought all of us together, but there's no delaying the inevitable return to our pre-race lives.
Hope you all enjoyed the ride. We wouldn't have missed it for anything.
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