By “Cannonball” Baker
WHILE I was in Los Angeles last September preparing to go after the transcontinental speed record with the Ace, I happened into Rich Budelier’s place one day and saw a Neracar standing there. Although I previously had seen it at the Chicago Show last November, I had not looked it over very closely then. However, there seemed to be considerable interest in it out in Los Angles and most everyone who came into the Harley-Davidson store, noticed it, looked it over and made some remark about it. This rather unusual interest in it, somehow impressed me and I took a ride on the little jigger, just to see how it behaved.
I want to say right now that I was very much surprised with the way it handled. I never had ridden anything like it before; in fact never had ridden any lightweight machine since the early Indians which were in style when I broke into the game. That ride left me with a very friendly feeling for the Neracar and the thought came to me, “Gee whiz! There's quite a kick in this thing. It’s different from a motorcycle and is mighty fine to get around on. I'd like to own one and probably there are a lot of other people who would, if they could try it and find out about it.” I noticed that I attracted a lot of attention from people on the sidewalk and in automobiles when I was taking a jog on it. That showed that people recognized it as something new and different and were ready to look at it anyway. Of course, they joked about it and apparently regarded it as a freak machine, but that was to be expected, because it is so different in looks and in construction from the ordinary motorcycle.
Anyway I got thinking about that Neracar after I returned to the hotel and the next day the inspiration came to me, “Jiminy crickets! I'd like to take that jigger across the continent, not for speed, but to show how cheap the trip could be made.” The more I thought about it, the stronger I was convinced that I could turn the trick. I thought a lot about it for the next few days and nights and when I satisfied myself that I could ride a Neracar from coast to coast cheaper than it ever had been done before, I inquired the address of the factory and wired them a proposition.
They wired back that they were interested and to send them full details of my plan. So I wired them again that I would be in New York soon and would go and see them after I finished my Ace job and talk it over. After I had knocked over Bedell’s five year old transcontinental record for Ace, I went home to Indianapolis to rest up a bit and get acquainted with my family again.
Then, one day I wired the Neracar people that I was coming up to see them. I was met at the train by President J. Allan Smith, Vice President E. K. Gordon, Engineer Carl Neracher and several others, all of whom gave me a first class welcome. They whirled me out to the plant where I met some more of the factory heads and then I went through the place and got a line on the organization and what they were turning out.
It didn’t take long before we all were calling each other by their first name and then we got down to brass tacks. I told them my plans which of course were more complete since I just had been over the road and was more sure than ever that I could put the Neracar across. I want to say that it took some real talking to “sell” Allan Smith and E. K. Gordon that I could put the Neracar over the way I had planned.
There weren't afraid of their machine but they thought that I was biting off too much and trying to do a heavyweight job with a lightweight. They said Benny Leonard was some fighter but they wouldn’t bet a copper on him against Dempsey and that's the way they felt about sending the Neracar over the transcontinental. They just felt that it was trying to do too much with the little job.
Finally I convinced them that the trick could be done and I stayed around Syracuse for a week getting familiar with the assembly of the job and working out my plans. I rode a machine every day, trying it out on hills and in sand and experimenting with everything for I wanted to be dead sure that I knew what I had under me and what it would do when I got going.
After talking things over with Messrs. Smith and Gordon, we decided to try for economy and reliability and to forget all about speed. My schedule was flexible. I planned to ride only during daylight and to go as far as I could each day, according to roads and weather and my own judgment on what might come up. If I rode 50 miles or 250 miles on any particular day well and good. They left everything to me.
However, I didn’t plan either to loaf or to set any records. I aimed to make a fair mileage each day and keep the running expense as low as possible. I was out to bring the machine through under such average running as the normal type of owner would give it and to handle it so I would get the most mileage out of my fuel and have the least expense for fixing anything.
We had some cards printed showing where I started from and finished each day, the time I started and finished, the mileage, how much gas and oil I bought and what repairs I had. At the bottom there was a place for the signature of whoever I bought fuel of or who did any repair work for me. These cards were in duplicate and after being filled out and signed by whoever checked me at my stops were mailed by him. One went to the factory and the other went to J. J. O'Connor, editor of Western MOTORCYCLIST AND BICYCLIST, Los Angeles.
The machine I used was picked off the floor from stock, and nothing special was put on it except a cross-bar on the handlebars to stiffen them for the rough stuff that I knew I would be up against. The machine was fitted with a Corbin-Brown speedometer and was only run enough to make sure that everything was OK, When I started my speedometer registered just 29 miles.
I got a surprise when I was saying goodbye to the officers and boys at the plant. For a minute I thought everything was knocked into a cocked hat, for at the very last minute, President Smith said to me, “Now ‘Cannonball’ do you honestly believe down in your heart that you can do this job the way you have planned it?”
I held out my hand to him, looked him right in the eye and said, “Mr. Smith, I KNOW I can do it. It may look impossible to you, but I've just come over the road, and if I wasn’t DEAD SURE that I could put the Neracar across to Los Angeles, I’d have taken the train back to Indianapolis before now.”
That clinched things and his face lighted up. He gave me a regular he-man handclasp and we said good-bye. I went down to New York on the train and my machine was shipped. I rambled over to Philadelphia for a day to visit the Ace people and then went back to Perth Amboy, N. J., where I met Vice-President Gordon who was riding back to Syracuse from Washington.
My machine reached Perth Amboy at 8 o'clock on the morning of the 24th of October. We unloaded it, dumped in a gallon of gas and a pint of oil and she coughed on the second cranking. I did a couple of errands with it and then we took the ferry to Tottenville, Staten Island, my official starting point. At Tottenville, we drained the tank and put in two gallons of gas and two pints of oil, which gave me a full tank. Then we took the speedometer reading.
It was just 11:42 a. m. when Walter Bardgett of Motorcycle and Bicycle Illustrated oflicially checked me out and the big job with a little job, was under way. We got on the ferry again and when it docked on the Jersey side, I kicked her over and headed for Philadelphia. The weather was cold and blustery and the wind was so strong that Gordon and I had to lay down at times to buck the breeze and make headway. It was some wind I’ll say. Gordon said he would go as far as Philadelphia and I was mighty glad to have his company.
In Newark we got some fine service from Fred Willard the Ace dealer, who went ahead of us with a sidecar and broke a passage through traffic for us. This saved us from having to zig-zag back and forth over ten miles of bad streetcar track, which would not only have slowed us but probably produced some spills. At New Brunswick we found some rotten roads and a bad detour but made everything ok.
On the outskirts of Philadelphia a squad of motorcycle cops were waiting to escort us in and on Broad street we were greeted by C. W. Plass, Bill Henderson and Paul Bailey of the Ace plant who gave us a fine welcome. Here I took on some fuel although I didn’t need it but figured on filling my tank at every stop no matter how much I had in it, It's best to play it safe I've found.
Gordon said good-bye to me here and Alex Morrison, the Philadelphia Neracar dealer took his place as escort. We also had two motorcycle cops who showed us the way out of town, with Lancaster as our next stop. It was just 6 o'clock when I checked here and having started so late from New York, I decided to keep going a little longer. At 8:50 that night I was in Gettysburg and decided to call it a day having ridden 188.4 miles.
I left an early call for I planned to make Wheeling if possible Wednesday night the 25th. I checked out at 5:08 in the morning and I can tell you it was pretty blame cold. I wrapped myself up in newspapers to keep warm and it sure did help a lot.
At 7:10 a. m. I was in Hagerstown, Md., and hunted up my favorite eat shop there to take on some hot groceries. When I rolled in, several of the old bunch there whom I knew well from previous runs, nearly fell off their feet when they saw who it was. They kidded the life out of me and looked on the machine as a toy. When I came out after eating, a crowd was standing around the machine and in it were some cops who gaped with wonder at it. They asked me if I thought I’d ever get the little job across the continent and everyone seemed chiefly interested as to whether I’d even be able to get over the Alleghenies with it.
I took their joking good naturedly of course and got some fun out of it myself as I knew what I had under me better than they did. I solemnly assured them that I was going through to Los Angeles and that they'd know it when I got there if they'd watch the newspapers whereupon everyone laughed. I saw their eyes stick out and their jaws drop as I pulled away with a wave of my arm and they hollered “Good Luck" after me.
In Cumberland I stopped at Charlie Zembower’s motorcycle shop to check and again the boys all gathered around and looked the machine over and laughed and joked about it. They didn't believe either that I’d ever get anywhere near Los Angeles with it. But I kidded ’em back just as hard as they did me. Some of ’em rode out of town a ways with me to see for themselves if it really would climb hills and they saw it do it.
I decided to eat again at Uniontown, my next stop and when I racked the machine at a garage the crowd gathered like flies at a molasses barrel. There were a lot of automobile people in this bunch and they asked a lot of questions but most of them seemed chiefly interested in the mileage I was getting and how the machine got over the hills. They certainly had something to think about when I told them and I know lots of ’em didn't believe it.
It was 7:30 when I checked in at Wheeling and as this was the place I planned to make that night I laid over, having made 245.1 miles for the day. When I came out from an eat shop I found a crowd around, of course, and among them were some taxi drivers and motorcyclists. They asked me a lot of questions and when I answered them, they said if anyone else had told them they wouldn't believe it. After the garageman where I stopped listened a bit, he got so interested that he called up the local newspaper and had them send a man over to get a story.
For Thursday I wanted to make Indianapolis, if possible and as this was some ride for such a little motor, I got an early start. It was mighty cold again when I turned out so I bundled up in the good old newspapers. I decided to push the machine along wide open from point to point, mainly to make time and also to see how she would stand the gaff.
"Where Did You Get the Watch Charm?”
I got a smile at Linnville, 0hio, where I stopped for fuel, when a fellow who saw me pull up, stopped to look and then asked, “Where did you get the watch charm?” The roads over the National Old Trail from Wheeling to Indianapolis were in fine shape; the best I've ever seen them. All the detours were out and I made good time between towns. I was in Dayton at 11 o'clock and checked out an hour later.
Naturally it was a grand and glorious feeling when I began to get near Indianapolis and I checked into the old home town at 5 p. m., at Donald Pope's store. Bill Freeman, of Indian, and several of the old bunch were there with the glad hand and a crowd commenced to gather around. Don put the machine on exhibition with a sign on it and I beat it out to the house where the folks were waiting and made a fuss over me.
The next day when I came down to the store the machine was all decorated like a Christmas tree with comedy stuff. George Briggs and Ed Harter were on hand to check me out when I left at 1:25 in the afternoon for Terre Haute. I wired my old crony J. E. Sayre, the Indian dealer, that I was coming and he gathered a big crowd to meet me when I wheeled in at 5:46 pm. Sayre had write-ups in the local papers and put the machine on exhibition and it drew the usual interested crowd just as it had everywhere else.
They almost talked my arm off asking questions and when I told them I thought so well of it that I was going to back it with my own money in Los Angeles they nearly keeled over. They said they had never expected me to go into anything like this but I replied that I felt sure that it would sell like hotcakes after people found out what it was and what it would do.
I left Terre Haute at 6:45 Saturday morning October 28th. George McMullen of Sayre’s store hopped on a Scout and went out 15 miles with me. He said he wanted to see it perform on the hills. He previously had ridden it around the block and when George waved good-bye I know he was all sold on Neracar.
The morning was just swell, the sun being bright and just warm enough to make one feel fine. Things went ok and I was in Greenville before noon. As I passed through the small towns, people stopped and gazed and pointed and I knew about what and angular, straddling a little jigger that they thought. I could see myself so big it looked like a roller-skate and it certainly must have been funny to others.
Knowing Missouri as I do I wanted to get across it as quick as possible and dodge any rains which might be due so I set St. Louis for my night stop. Roads through Illinois were perfect and I pushed Neracar along for all she had and she took it nobly. Towns flickered by not so fast that they looked like one city stretched out but they were left behind quite regularly, I can say.
When I pulled up at the Neracar agency in St. Louis at 3:07 in the afternoon, George Rehm, the dealer, had big signs up announcing my coming and his window was filled with clippings from the trade papers with dope of my start. Rehm sent for a photographer and when he got there, there was a big crowd around.
Of course I had to stay around a while and answer all the questions that were flred at me. Then girls began to come into the store, look the machine over, have me pointed out to them and then come over and ask questions. Several wanted to be taken out tandem riding but I said I didn’t have time and referred them to Mr. Rehm for demonstrations.
The interest shown in the machine and what it had done so far, by St. Louis folks, impressed me that there were lots of good prospects there. I also noticed that when I told them King Gillette, the safety razor king, was one of the big backers of Neracar, they didn’t regard it as a joke so much and indicated that his connection with it meant to them that it was a good thing.
When I left St. Louis I figured that I had talked to crowds numbering no less than 5,000 people total, at all my stops to this place. The interest shown by many was very real and they seemed to be looking for just such a machine. I certainly feel that dealers have a lot of fine prospects across the country judging from the talk I heard and interest shown wherever I stopped.
The Fair Sex Fall for Neracar, Too
I certainly was surprised at the amount of interest shown everywhere. It was more than I ever found on any previous trip, although, of course, in all my other runs, I was in more of a hurry and didn’t have time to stop and talk with anyone. Another thing I noticed was the number of women and girls who noticed the machine, stopped and looked and said, “Oh, isn't that cute,” or something along that line. There’s one thing sure, the Neracar caught the eye of lots of people who probably never before stopped to take a second glance at anything on two wheels.
Although I got down to the store early Sunday morning there was another big crowd waiting around. I checked out at 7:55 a. m., and several of the local boys went out for about 20 miles to see how the machine behaved. I crossed the toll bridge over the Mississippi at 9 o'clock, checking with the bridge-keeper.
Missouri roads were in better shape than I expected; in fact the best I’ve ever found them in all my runs, and naturally I had no kick coming on this. I noticed that in the small towns people seemed to know of my coming before I arrived, and I soon learned that the word was being carried ahead by auto tourists who passed me on the road. That they were enough interested to talk about the machine after leaving me behind, was a good sign, I thought. Advertising like this certainly does no harm.
When I got to Warrenton, 65 miles from St. Louis, there was unusual interest shown. Automobile people particularly asked lots of questions and showed _astonishment at my answers. Of course they never had seen a Neracar before, most of them at any rate, and it was entirely new to them. Being used to heavy expense on their cars, they couldn't see how anything with a motor in it could be built to run so cheap.
He’s Seen “Bake” on Most Everything
At Fulton and at Columbia, it was the same old story. I had got used to it, of course, but the way people's interest boiled over as soon as they spotted the machine and sold me more and more on its selling possibilities. The more I heard them talk the more I became convinced that here was something that a lot of people want and will buy.
When I got into Columbia, I ran past the garage where I planned to stop. The garageman, Waldo I. Proctor, who is an old friend of mine, however, spotted me somehow, and ran out the door and yelled after me, “Hey, Baker, what the hell are you going to put across next!” I smiled as I turned back to his place and answered, “A wheelbarrow!” Parking the machine in his garage, I hunted up a place to eat, and when I got back Proctor had a crowd around and was telling them all about the machine.
Monday, October 30th, I decided to try to make Kansas City that night. So, I checked out of Columbia at 6:00 a. m. I took on some fuel at Fayette and got to Lexington at 12:40 pm. There was a lot of funny stuff pulled by the crowd which looked us over at Lexington.
One fellow asked, “What is it, a four-cylinder?” I replied with the question, “Your eyesight is all right, isn’t it brother?” He said it was and I pointed to the single barrel.
Next, this same party wanted to know what she would do on a gallon of gas, and I told him, that the best she had done so far, with me, was 106 miles to a gallon. In less than a minute after I said this, I heard another fellow in the crowd say to someone, “She’ll do 106 miles an hour!”
“How much does it cost?” he wanted to know. I answered, “$185 at the factory.”
“Gee! that’s some speed for $185,” was his comment.
I parked Neracar at a gas station and went to grab some food. When I came back several of my friends were in the crowd and stepped up to say hello and ask about my trip. There must have been 300 people around when I pulled out for Kansas City.
Twelve miles out of Kansas City, I was met by Vincent Mellon, Neracar factory man for that territory who rode in with me to OK. Newby’s store where I made my headquarters. Newby had a royal bunch out to meet me and was delighted with the showing the machine was making.
One of the first things Newby did, after I arrived, was to phone my old friend, Al Crocker, Indian dealer, that I was in town. “On what?” asked Crocker. “On a Neracar,” said Newby. “What!” exclaimed Crocker, “one on each foot?”
"Cannonball” Baker near Kansas City, Mo.
I called on Crocker that night and we had quite a chat. He was keenly interested in my story on the way the lightweight was behaving and asked lots of questions.
Monday, the night I arrived in Kansas City, the dealers staged a big banquet for me, and every one of them declared that the Neracar’s performance was nothing short of sensational, and that if it got to Los Angeles, it would be the talk of the whole country and I agreed with them.
Heavy rain here, the first on my trip, held me up two days. I was now out of Missouri and knowing what it's roads are like after rain, I was mighty glad of it. Missouri roads had been the best I had ever found them and I had crossed the state, 313 miles, in 18 hours, 34 minutes.
One of the first things Newby did after I arrived was to get some facts on my trip. Next day I saw them in a story on the front page of the Star which told about Neracar bringing me from New York, 1357 miles, on $4.40 for fuel with not one cent for repairs. Several of the other dealers couldn’t understand this big league publicity as they said motorcycles never were mentioned on the front page except when they were mixed up in an accident.
The rain finally stopped and I left Kansas City, Nov. 2nd, being escorted to the city limits by Mellon and Newby. When I got off the pavement the going became very rutty as a result of the heavy rains a few days before. To Olathe it was fairly good, but beyond it was awful rough and bumpy.
Overbrook, one of those “Speck” Warner Kansas towns was my lunch stop. The population, mostly farmers, gathered like grasshoppers when I racked the machine to hunt up a chow counter. Folks in Overbrook certainly were curious.
One thing which amused me was the antics of a kiddie who, on discovering the machine looked it over and then rushed into the restaurant and gave his parents no peace until he had dragged them out to see the “automobile-motorcycle.” His persistence and pleadings reminded me of the advertising for Castoria which said, “Children cry for it.” That youngster almost cried to get his folks to look at the Neracar.
I bucked more awful roads to Staffordsville, the mud being knee deep. If I had the job of renaming that place when I finally splashed into it, I’d have called it Sapville. The roads sure were sappy. It was dark when I arrived and between the cold air and the wet boggy roads I felt none too kindly toward the place.
There was one hotel, and only one, and because I had come through mud in which cars were stuck I was the chief attraction. The movie house closed early that night because the whole town seemed more interested in the Neracar. An auto party at the hotel, whose machine was out in the mud, developed some conversation. I found they had come from Ottawa, 65 miles, that day. They nearly threw a fit when I told them I had left Kansas City that morning and had ridden 151.7 miles. Really I had worse going than they did because I took a detour hoping to avoid the rotten main road and got into meaner stuff than if I had stayed on the main line. But I got through it just the same.
By this time I had become quite accustomed to the mileage the Neracar was getting but outsiders couldn’t get it at all. This auto party almost yelled in amazement when I told them the size of the motor and what it was doing on gas and oil. I don’t think they’ll ever forget it.
The next morning the whole town was out to watch the little Neracar dance down the road over the ruts, when I left Staffordsville at 7:30 for Cottonwood Falls, where it is so dry they spit cotton. Bill Wrigley could do well with a Spearmint counter here I reckon. I rolled into Cottonwood at 8:18 a. m. and pulled up at a feed shop. To a fellow coming out I said,
“Can I get breakfast here?”
“Yes,” he replied, “but it will cost you 25 cents.”
“Nix,” said I. “I'll go down a bit to the next one.” I did and it cost me more than two bits but it was worth it.
Cottonwood is in the oil field region of Kansas and the truck drivers who stopped to look Neracar over were hard-boiled in panning it. But that didn't faze me any. I visited a bit with old friends in the garage and the never-absent crowd were on hand to look, and ask questions and have their little joke.
Soon after I left Cottonwood I ran into more mud and worse mud. I crossed the railroad track and stopped a minute to talk with the foreman. His gang laughed at my little job but he was a very decent fellow and when I handed out my usual card, said he had heard of me.
Behind me and in front of me, cars were stuck in the mud, some of them steaming like locomotives trying to pull through. The foreman told me to get on the ties as I never would have been able to plow through the mud.
So I put Neracar on the ties and turned her on to 25 and sailed along gaily, giving the laugh to the passengers in the big cars that were hung up. This was the first time I had ridden the rails with Neracar and the front end action was a big revelation to me. The spring action of the front end was the candy and the bumping didn’t affect the steering a bit. After riding the ties for five miles I noticed the highway had become pretty fair again and switched over to it once more.
Many a car was stranded in this Kansas mud but Neracur came through.
Here's a sample of what Baker found between Cottonwood Falls and Florence
Soon after getting on the road again I heard a wicked Klaxon growl behind me and shortly after a big Stutz speedster snorted up alongside, driven by one man, all alone. He stopped, held out his hand and introduced himself as Roger Fowler, businessman and cameraman, and said that he was going through to Hollywood. He was a very nice fellow and we chatted for awhile.
I told him I had driven two of those old battleships across for “trans" records and that it made my hands itch to get at the wheel of one of ‘em again when I learned that he was going across.
Fowler said that he had left New York, Oct. 25th and that some of the ferry hands had told him “Cannonball” Baker had started the day before and that he would pick me up somewhere on the road. Yet, here I was nearly 1500 miles West of New York before he caught up with me and when we compared notes, I found that I had laid over longer than he had. We laughed over that and he said it looked as if the Neracar had been making a monkey of the big Stutz. He admitted that he had been stuck in the mud several times and wondered how I ever had gotten through. I smiled and said, “Light weight and enough power to keep shoving what I’ve got.”
He had a wonderful Graflex and took some pictures of the machine and I in the mud. Fowler trailed along behind me for about 25 or 30 miles, and occasionally shouted to stop when he felt like taking a picture. He certainly got a fine collection of mud stuff while we were together between Peabody and Florence.
Finally, he said he'd have to be making time and we said adiós to each other with a promise to meet up in Los Angles. I got into Florence at 11:45 am after floundering around in black gumbo that was GUMBO. You could pick up a handful and stretch it a foot just like rubber before it would break. The only way to move about in Kansas after a rain is by airplane if you want to get anywhere within a decent time.
I didn’t see anything of my Stutz friend in Florence, but Neracar and I were the usual circus attraction. I had lunch and left at 1:30 pm, with the usual small town audience gaping at me. I was a little different from the usual visitor there, so naturally came in for more notice.
My sole aim was to make Newton 40 miles ahead even though road conditions were reported very bad. They told me in Florence not to try it as I couldn't possibly get through. I’ve heard that before and never pay any attention to it but this time I want to say that the stretch from Florence to Newton was real HELL. The farther I went the worse it got.
Finally the long blue prairie grass and gumbo got together in my rear wheel and locked it solid. I dug it out and took the machine off the road, across a ditch and rode a hedge parallel to the railroad. Pretty soon, along came a fellow on one of those gasoline inspection handcars. He hollered to me calling my name. I didn’t recognize him but stopped and he told me he had seen me go through on several previous trips.
He also told me that I never would get through ahead although I had been bucking that same ‘stuff and licking it. But I took his advice and got on the ties and he rode alongside on the irons. We chatted all the way into Newton, 15 miles. As soon as he got in he passed the word around and soon there was a crowd out to see us.
All reports showed the roads ahead to be so bad that I decided the wisest thing to do was to lay over until things got a little better. I stayed in Newton two days and leaving there, Nov. 6th. I killed time visiting friends and showing the Neracar to garagemen and motorcyclists. It created lots of talk, but the big thing they couldn’t seem to understand was how I had got to Newton with the roads behind me in such awful shape. I admitted they were awful, but there I was in Newton, and the Neracar got me there under it's own power. "Nuf said".
I left Newton on the 6th, determined to make Dodge City by night. The air was chilly and the roads were oceans of mud and the fields were the same. I made Stafford for lunch and the town was full of farmers killing time because they couldn't do any work until the roads dried up. The Neracar was the candy for them. They had time to kill and it was something new in motor stuff for them to gaze on. And gaze they did, brother, until their eyes nearly popped out.
The mud wasn’t so bad after I left Stafford a ways back and after a while I ran into sandy going for which I was grateful. At Kinsley, 40 miles east of Dodge City, I had dry roads and wired the City Cycle Co., Ace dealers, at Dodge City, that I would be in that night. Some of the local boys rode out to meet me and I checked in at the old Short Grass race burg at 4:52 pm.
The machine proved quite a kicker and the dealers held open house with it for the town folk who turned out strong to look over the Neracar. Among those who got an eyeful were numerous garagemen and auto owners.
I left Dodge City on the morning of Nov. 7 all set to make La Junta, Colorado that night. This meant 234 miles to go and a mighty good headstart, I considered as it is a continuous climb.
Lakin, Kans., was my first stop. I drove into a garage and handed the man my card and asked him to check my time and fill my tank while I got something to eat. The garageman proved sociable and while I was eating he hunted up everyone from the constable to the undertaker and dragged them down to his place to see the Neracar. He seemed particularly proud that I had stopped at his place and acted as if I had done him a big favor. Maybe it was the biggest crowd that he ever had at his garage. Anyway, it was a good sized bunch for Lakin.
After leaving Lakin I gave the Neracar full throttle again and found the roads good with the exception of a few detours. I wired the Indian dealer at La Junta and he had a big crowd out to meet me when I got in at 5:55 pm. He filled the tank and after I got supper I went back to his place and told the boys about my trip up to that point. They hung around looking the Neracar over and asking questions until the dealer said he wanted to close up and chased them out. I felt pretty good over the day’s run.
Next morning at 7:10 I checked out of La Junta for Trinidad. It was very cold and there was snow on the mountain tops and it looked like more. The road was good except for some rough spots, about a couple of hours out I met a bunch of cowpunchers and rode alongside them a bit.
“How’ll you trade?” I asked. Some said all right and made as if to dismount and others said they wanted something to boot. We swapped farewells and I pushed on. Shortly after that I came on some country schoolteachers riding horseback and stopped and chatted with them a bit. They asked a lot of questions and said they wouldn’t mind riding Neracars if they had better roads.
After lunch, I left Trinidad at 12:40 pm, Here began the climb over the famous Raton Pass, a 25 mile pull all up grade with an elevation at the summit of 7888 feet. “I made it in 2 hours, 12 minutes, and was in the saddle all the way. This was one of the best performances of Neracar on the whole trip and the first really stiff climb I had put it to. I liked Neracar better than ever after I got to the summit, after passing Fords headed West which were boiling as if they were ready to blow up. The way I sneaked around them sure tickled me but I guess the drivers didn't feel very funny about being shown up by a roller-skate.
On reaching the summit of Raton Pass I stopped to take a few pictures, then I began the coast down into the town of Raton, New Mexico and here I had a chance to test the Neracar’s brake good and plenty. I came down the pass just as fast as I usually do on big machines and I tramped on that brake quite a bit but it held every time and it never got hot, take it from me, Neracar has a better brake than many high priced automobiles. It stays put and it’s there when you want it and it wears even and it don't wear out. That’s all I want from any brake.
On entering Raton I made for the Old Trails Garage, parked the machine and went looking for a meal. The usual crowd, of course, sprung up, and they kidded me for picking on such a baby outflt for such a rough trip but I told them that Neracar wasn't complaining any.
On leaving Raton I headed for Springerville, where I intended to stop over night. This is a cattle town and was filled with cowpunchers when I rolled in. They had a fine sense of humor and sprung a lot of comedy on me. One of them, after looking the job over, asked, “Hey, pardner, how much does it cost to shoe that animal and how often do you have to do it?”
“These are the same shoes I left New York with,” I told him but he wouldn’t believe me. Still, he was no worse a doubting Thomas than a lot of folks I had met further East and was to meet later.
At 9am the next morning I rolled out of Springer. I was in the mountains now and encountered a lot of high wind. Roads were fair. Being in the mountains naturally the altitude was high and I was riding at an elevation ranging from 4,000 to 7,000 feet. Between Springer and Las Vegas I found a lot of newly graded road which was tough going.
I decided to lay over for the night at Pecos which is 6,700 feet up. The mountains all around were snow capped and it was darn cold. There being no hotel there I put up at a ranch house.
The next day, I dropped down about 2,000 feet from Pecos to Albuquerque via Santa Fe. I was in the snow country now and previously had ridden through patches of the white stuff. Santa Fe is the oldest town in the U. S., as all Westerners know and abounds in old missions and historic remnants of a civilization which measures its age by centuries.
After a Fred Harvey lunch, I pushed Neracar along right smart for Albuquerque and turned 65 miles in 3 hours, 10 minutes, arriving at 3:10 that afternoon. My old friends, Danielson & Simonson, Indian dealers, welcomed me royally and pressed me to stay a bit. They were keen for the Neracar when they saw it and after they had ridden it around a bit they positively went wild over it. They made my stay so pleasant that I did not get going again until 4 o'clock the following afternoon.
From Albuquerque to Belin, 36 miles, I found very good roads. I stayed over night here and swapped reminiscences of previous auto record runs with old friends I ran across in a garage there. Belin is a cattle town and the population is mostly Mexican.
I left Belin on Nov. 13th for Socorro over sandy foothill roads. At Socorro began the climb over the Continental Divide, the highest altitude I reached on the entire trip. From Socorro to Magdalena it was up, up, up, all the time, the road winding through Blue Canyon Pass. It was very cold when I came through and it snowed all day.
I ran into the snow at Magdalena and again on the Divide. From Socorro to the summit it is a 77-mile climb to an altitude of 8,500 feet, and the day I climbed it, I bucked a heavy wind. Here was the hardest test of the Neracar on the whole trip and anyone who has been over the Divide cannot be blamed for disbelieving that Neracar came over it on her own power if they didn’t see her do it. After I got to the summit I said to myself, “Neracar you are the greatest job of your kind that’s ever been built.”
While crossing the Divide I met a couple of Eastern sidecar parties headed for St. Louis and we stopped and talked a bit.
Near the summit I came to the little Indian town of Datil, but there being no place to put up, I kept on, intending to make Quemado. Darkness caught me ten miles out but I got in all right. I hunted up the hotel-keeper who was an old friend and we sat up kind of late talking over old times. Believe me it was so blamed cold up there that when it came time to turn in I just pulled off my shoes and leggings and piled in with my clothes on and only my nose sticking out from under the covers. Sometimes a fellow has got to do something desperate in an emergency and I felt that this was an emergency.
Next morning when I tumbled out and began to “dress” my breath turned to steam in clouds that reminded one of a freighter pulling a long string over the mountains.
Bidding goodbye to my hotel friend, I left Quemado for Springerville. This is cattle country and miles and miles from a railroad. I had lunch with friends at Springerville and then put Neracar to work again aiming for Holbrook that night. All afternoon I rode through snowstorms and once or twice it came down so hard and so blinding that I thought I’d have to stop, but I managed to keep going and reached Holbrook at 6:12 that night, putting up with a hotel friend.
As I walked into the oflice to sign up the proprietor looked up, recognized me and said, “Hello, Baker. Your advance agent was here and is just ahead of you and he has some dandy mud pictures of you.”
This was Fowler in the Stutz who had caught up with me in Kansas. He left Holbrook the morning of the day I got there.
From Holbrook to Winslow, 35 miles, it took me 3 hours, 15 minutes, to make it without a stop. The roads were bad. I had silt dust, rock, rough stuff and deep ruts and two inches of snow in a layer on top of the dust. I had to take this stuff kind of easy to avoid choking the carburetor, but got through all right and went around a lot of high priced cars that were fighting their way through slowly, very slowly.
I was in Winslow for an hour and met a lot of old friends there. The garage was crowded with natives who were curious to see the new fangled motor. West of Winslow the roads were covered with snow but it was not very deep until I approached Flagstaff. There was plenty of snow hereabouts and the roads were rough, very rough. I can say they were positively rotten. Until I reached the timberline I had rocks and potholes galore. The scenery around Flagstaff was really enchanting with the snow covered mountains all around glistening in the sun.
Flagstaff was one of my night stopovers and the Neracar came in for lots of attention. I pulled out next morning for Kingman, a ‘mining camp, and, boy, it was cold! It would have frozen the pipes in a brass monkey. I had snow covered roads and icy ruts to Williams and snow as far as Ash Fork, the Santa Fe mainline junction to the Grand Canyon.
Along here I began to come down off the high altitude, and as I descended it got warmer, which was most welcome. At Seligman, where I stopped for lunch there was another cordial welcome from friends and the crowd which assembled as if by magic were all wrapped up in Neracar. From Seligman the roads to Kingman were good and I rode Neracar wide open. When I got to Kingman I had done 172 miles for the day on two gallons of fuel including considerable climbing.
At Kingman I entered the Mojave Desert. The railroad men here showed a special interest in Neracar and several of them remarked about how handy it would be for them in various ways. There are Neracar prospects and good ones in Kingman, I'm sure.
Leaving Kingman at 6:35 am., on Nov. 16th, I made Needles, at 11:07 over the famous Oatman Pass. I now was in California and not far from the end of the trip. The worst had been left behind and knowing how bad it was I was tickled with the thought of how the Neracar executives would feel when they learned what I had come through. The time from Kingman to Needles was mighty good for a little machine and the hotel people at Needles said I had done it in better time than the average auto tourist. This stretch is bumpy, full of potholes and rutted sands.
At Needles, the railroad men there were hot for Neracar and three of them wanted to buy one right away. I told them I’d be ready to take their order in a little while.
After lunch at Needles I started for Goffs, a 2900-foot climb in 30 miles. Bucking fine deep powder-like sand I made it in 2 hours, 18 minutes and put up there for the night.
On the 17th I left Goffs for Daggett and had fairly good desert roads to Amboy. Although they were rutted I could ride the grooves wide open so they didn’t bother me. From Amboy to Ludlow and on to Daggett the road is all lava rock. Imagine riding over a lot of chipped glass and you have it, this was the worst piece of the whole trip on tires yet I didn’t have a cut or a puncture. At Daggett the old desert rats there found a lot to talk about in the Neracar.
Although I had sand ruts and poor roads from Daggett west I could have come farther than Victorville, Saturday, Nov. 17. But, being scheduled to finish in Los Angeles Sunday afternoon, I laid over at Victorville after doing the 58 miles from Daggett without any trouble.
When I got to Victorville, I found J. Allan Smith, Jr., Paciflc Coast representative for Neracar, there to greet me and tell me all about the plans for the finish. I told him the highlights of my trip across and his eyes glowed as he listened to the wonderful feats of Neracar. Well as he knew the machine and what it had done in the East, I knew it better by this time and we both agreed that Neracar had tackled a he-machine job and put it over with a bang.
Smith and I jogged in over the foothill boulevard Sunday morning, and reached the Los Angeles city line on the Mission Road at 2:12 pm. Here I had my last time card filled out, as this is the starting point of Eastbound “trans” runs.
Auto Show crowd cheering Baker just after his arrival from New York on the Neracar.
The movie folks in the Templar are Ruth. Hyatt and Lloyd Hamilton to whom Baker delivered letters from Mrs. Sydney Drew of New York
We then ticked along into the city and over to the Auto Show where I found some movie folks waiting to receive the letters I had received from New York and a bunch of my automobile friends who heard I was due came out of the big tent show to give me the grand slam. After the camera man used up all his plates and the newspapermen had grabbed their stories and a score of friends had pumphandled me, Allan Smith grabbed my machine and rustled it off to the Neracar exhibit in the show.
Then I turned to J. J. O’Connor, and said, “I don’t want to go in yet, drive me to a hotel so I can hop out of these duds and get dolled up in street clothes. We’ll take in the show tonight, the first thing I want to do is wire E. K. Gordon and cable J. Allan Smith that the Neracar came across and is a more wonderful job than they know about... Let’s go!”