Bert Wilson's Twin Cylinder Racerñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Spoken like a sport, all right,” grumbled Tom. “But it makes me sore at fate. You’ll need something more than Reddy’s shamrock to make up for it.”
“You might hunt me up the hind foot of a rabbit, shot by a cross-eyed coon in a graveyard, in the ‘dark of the moon,’ if you want to make sure of my winning,” jested Bert. “But, seriously, fellows, I’m not going to let that rattle me a little bit. It may be harder, but if I do come in first, there’ll be all the more credit in winning. As for the heat, I’ll make my own breeze as I go along, and I’ll take my chances on the roads.”
“Well, I suppose there’s no use growling,” admitted Tom, grudgingly. “At any rate, we’ll see a section of the country we’ve never seen before.”
“We,” cried Bert. “What do you mean by that?”
“Just what I say,” answered Tom, looking a little guiltily at Dick.
“What,” yelled Bert, leaping to his feet. “Are you two rascals going along?”
“Surest thing you know,” said Dick, calmly. “Did you think for a minute that Tom and I would miss the fun of seeing you scoot across the continent and win that ten thousand dollars? Not on your life. We were going to surprise you, but since this dub has let the cat out of the bag, we might as well own up. There’s nothing to do, now that we know the route but to go out and get the tickets.”
“Well, you’re a pair of bricks,” gasped Bert. “The finest pals a fellow ever had. That’s the best news I’ve had ‘since Hector was a pup.’ I didn’t know that I’d see a friend’s face from the start to the finish. Talk about shamrocks and rabbit’s feet! This news has got them skinned to death. It won’t be any trick at all to toss off a few hundred miles, if I can figure on seeing you fellows when I turn in for the night. Say, fellows, I can’t put it into words, but you know how I feel.”
“Pure selfishness on our part,” said Dick, airily, to mask his own deep feeling. “We want to see the San Francisco Fair, and figured that we’d never have a better chance.”
“Yes,” mocked Bert, delightedly, “I size up that selfishness all right. But now let’s study the route and figure out the schedule. Then you gay deceivers can get through tickets with stopover privileges, and I’ll know just where to find you along the way.”
“You see,” explained Tom, “we figured that we could get into the big towns ahead of you and act as a sort of base of supplies. You can keep tab on the way the ‘Blue Streak’ is running, and if anything goes wrong – if a tire bursts or a fork breaks or you have engine trouble – you can wire ahead and we’ll have everything ready for you to make a lightning change the minute you heave in sight. Of course, you may have to do some temporary patching and tinkering along the way, but in really big things we may come in handy. But now let’s cut out the hallelujahs and get down to brass tacks.”
Which they did to such good effect that before they turned in for the night, they had outlined a plan that covered every probable contingency.
Of course there was no such precision possible as in the case of a railroad schedule. A hundred things might happen to cause a change here, a delay there, but, between certain elastic limits, the route and time were carefully worked out. If they should have to revise it, as they doubtless would, the telegraph and long distance telephone could be depended on to help them out.
Starting from New York, Bert figured that the first leg of the journey would take him as far as Philadelphia. This, of course, would not be typical of the regular distance he would have to cover each day, in order to beat the time record. But the race was not to start until noon, so that a half day was all that would be left the riders. And that half day would be slower than the average, because they would have to thread the streets of the greater city with all its hindrances and speed regulations, and would have bridges and ferries to cross before they could fairly let themselves out. Of course this would not count for a day in the timing, as they would be allowed a half day at the end of the journey to make up for it. In other words, the day ran from noon to noon, instead of from midnight to midnight.
From Philadelphia the route would lead to Baltimore and Washington. Then he proposed to strike down through West Virginia and into the famous Blue Grass region of Kentucky and thence swing down toward Little Rock, Arkansas, which would mark the extreme southern point of the journey. After that, he would be going almost directly west, with a slight trend to the north. He would cut through Oklahoma on a direct horizontal, and then for a short time traverse the upper part of Texas. Leaving the Lone Star State, he would strike in succession Santa F?, New Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona. Then, at last, he would be in California, getting a glimpse of the sea at Santa Barbara, and then sweeping up the valley to San Francisco.
The record he had to beat was twenty days. He planned to do it in fifteen. That is, he was confident that as far as mere time were concerned, he could reel off enough miles every day to take him over the route within that limit. But that was assuming that everything went smoothly, and, in a trip of this length, he knew that such an assumption was absurd. He gave himself three days for accidents and delays. This, added to the fifteen of actual running time, would still give him a comfortable margin of forty-eight hours. But, on the average, despite accident or breakdown, wind or rain, sickness or health, mistaken roads or dangerous spills, flood or freshet or tempest, he must make from two to three hundred miles every day. Not only he must be in shape to do it, but the “Blue Streak” also. There were two machines that had to take all the chances of wear and tear and mishap – the physical machine above the saddle, and the steel and rubber machine below it.
He wanted to make the most of the good roads that he would have at the very beginning of the trip. The first three days would be the best ones, as far as this feature was concerned. The Eastern and Northern States were far ahead of the rest of the country in this respect. Their wealth and population, as well as the vastly greater number of motor vehicles in use, had early turned their attention to the value and necessity of the best kind of roads that money could buy and science invent. After he left Louisville, the going would be harder. While, at places, there would be magnificent turnpikes along the main arteries of travel, these would be more than counterbalanced by roads where clay and sand predominated. But, to make up for this, would be the fact that for long distances the roads would be clearer and the speed regulations less stringent. And, on these stretches, Bert promised himself to “hit it up” hard enough to compensate for the inferior quality of the road. It was “all in the game,” and, in the long run, things would about even up.
“It’s a good deal of a lottery, when all is said and done,” was the way he summed it up, as they rose from the maps and papers spread out before them; “I may get knocked out on the first day, and then again I may turn up smiling at the finish.”
“Of course,” assented Tom, “there’s no telling what may happen before the race is over. But I have a hunch that in this lottery you are going to draw the capital prize.”
“Well,” laughed Bert, “if you’re as good a prophet as you are a pal, I’d be sure of it.”
A Flying Start
The day of the race dawned bright and clear. There was just enough breeze to temper the heat of the sun, but not enough to interfere with the riders. There had been no rain since three days before, and the roads, while a little dusty, were firm and fast. Everything bespoke ideal conditions for the event that, it was hoped, would hang up new records in one of the most modern of sports.
The three friends had left college the day before, and had taken up their quarters at one of the hotels near the beach. They were full of health and hope and enthusiasm. The work of the college year was over, and they felt like colts kicking up their heels in a pasture. Dick and Tom were looking forward to the trip across the continent and the wonders of the great Exposition. This of itself would have been enough to account for their exuberance, but there was the added excitement of watching the progress of the great race, and, in a sense, taking part in it. And, with all the optimism of youth, they did not let themselves feel the shadow of a doubt that their comrade would come in triumphant.
And Bert, although somewhat sobered by the weight of responsibility that rested upon him, was almost as jubilant as they. He was a born fighter, and his spirits always rose on the eve of a contest. He was “tuned to the hour.” The muscles of his arms and legs glided like snakes beneath the white skin, his color was good, his eyes shone, and he had never in all his many contests felt in better physical trim.
Early in the morning, he had hurried to the garage to which the “Blue Streak” had been consigned, and was delighted to find that it had made the journey without a scratch. No one but himself was permitted to give it the final grooming. He personally filled the tank, looked to the oil, and went over every nut and bolt and valve. Then he sprang into the saddle and took a five-mile spin around the neighboring race track. And even his exacting criticism could find no shadow of defect. The “Blue Streak,” like its master, was in perfect condition.
“Well, old boy,” said Bert, as he patted the beautiful machine, after the test, “we’re going to be pretty close companions for the next few weeks, and you’ve got a big job cut out for you. But I believe you’re game for it, and if your rider is as good as you are, I won’t have anything left to ask.”
As the hour drew near, a great crowd assembled to see the start. The contest had stirred up a vast amount of interest among motor enthusiasts, and many of the motorcycle clubs were represented by big delegations. One or two of the entries had dropped out at the last moment, and there were ten contestants who faced the starter. Each had his coterie of friends and well wishers who had gathered to give him a rousing send off. But none were greeted so uproariously as Bert, who had a reception that “warmed the cockles of his heart.” Undergraduates of the old college flocked around him, and these were reinforced by hundreds of alumni, living in or near the city, who scented one more victory for the blue colors that they loved so dearly. They swarmed about him, grasped his hand and thumped him on the back, until if he had been in poorer condition, he would have been black and blue. It was with difficulty that he could tear himself away from the multitude whose enthusiasm outran their discretion. But many a day thereafter, in loneliness and peril and the shadow of death, the memory of that boisterous farewell was an inspiration. The last hands he clasped were those of Tom and Dick and Reddy, whose face was as red as his hair from excitement.
“Good luck, me bye,” he called. Then in a whisper, “Ye haven’t forgot the shamrock?”
“You bet I haven’t,” laughed Bert, and lifting the cover of his tool box, he showed it lying on top. Whereat, Reddy heaved a sigh of relief, and fell back satisfied.
And now everything was ready for the start. The wheels had been dipped in the Atlantic, whose surf curled up to meet them, as though to whisper a message to its sister ocean. Then all the riders, standing by their machines, were drawn up in line on the boulevard that came down almost to the beach. The conditions of the race were read aloud and all of the racers with uplifted hand swore to observe them. A letter from the Mayor of New York to the Mayor of San Francisco was delivered to each contestant. Only the one who reached there first was to deliver his. The others would be of value as souvenirs of perhaps a gallant but unsuccessful struggle.
Then there was a moment’s silence, while the excitement grew tense. The starter lifted his pistol and glanced along the waiting line. There came a flash, a sharp report, and before the echoes died away the riders were in the saddle. A tremendous roar from the exhausts made the crowd shrink back, and it scattered as the great machines leaped forward. It was like the bursting of a rainbow. Blue and red and black and white darted forward in flying streaks of color, spreading out like the sticks of a gigantic fan. Before the startled spectators could catch their breath, the racers were vanishing from sight up the boulevard. The dash from coast to coast had begun.
For the five mile ride along the parkway there was no need of observing the speed regulations. The road had been kept clear of all other vehicles, and policemen placed along the route kept the crowds to the paths on either side. The “motor cops,” who were personally interested in that race, that involved their own pet machine, waved greetings as they passed.
In a few minutes they had left this atmosphere of friendliness and enthusiasm, and were getting into the stream of the city’s traffic. From now on, there was need of constant vigilance. The riders began to separate, each steering through the street that they figured would bring them most quickly and easily to the bridges that spanned the river. By the time Bert had crossed the old Brooklyn Bridge, he had lost sight of all his competitors. By different roads, from now on, they would fly toward the common goal, so many thousand miles distant. The spectacular features were in the past. Now each one, alone and unaided, was to “work out his own salvation.”
But there was no sinking of the heart, as Bert, after crossing the bridge and winding through the packed streets of lower New York, stood on the ferry boat and watched the irregular sky line of the great city. What would happen to him before he saw it again, it was fortunate that he could not guess. But just now, his heart beat high with the delight of struggle and achievement. He had his chance. And he was determined to make that chance a certainty.
He was the first one off the boat when it swung into its slip, and as soon as he got beyond the business quarter of Jersey City, he began to “eat up” the space across the meadows. He was flying when he reached Newark, where he again had to let up in his pace for a few minutes. But luck was with him and gave him an unexpected pace maker, just as he drew into the open spaces beyond the city limits.
The broad road ran right alongside the railroad track, and just as Bert let out a link and got into his stride, a limited express came thundering along at a high rate of speed. The racing instinct woke in Bert and he let his machine out until it was traveling like the wind. For a mile or two they went along like a team, neither seeming able to lose the other.
The passengers, gazing listlessly out of the windows, gradually woke up to the fact that this tiny machine was actually racing with their train. At first they were amused at the seeming impudence, but as mile after mile passed, with the “Blue Streak” holding its own, they became excited. The sportsman spirit that seems characteristic of America was aroused, and all the windows on that side of the train were filled with crowding faces. It was like a pygmy daring a giant, a tugboat challenging the Imperator.
The engineer, at first looking languidly at the impertinent racer, made no special effort to increase his speed. But when Bert hung to his flank and refused to be shaken off, he turned and said something to his fireman. The latter shoveled desperately, the engineer let out his throttle, and the great train lunged forward.
But Bert, too, had something “up his sleeve.” He had been keeping well within his limit, and he knew the speed of which his gallant mount was capable. A mile ahead he could see where the road crossed the track. With a quick twist of the wrist, he threw in the highest speed and had to grip his handlebars hard to keep his seat as his iron steed responded. He flashed on ahead, fairly scorching up the road, and dashed across the track fifty feet ahead of the onrushing locomotive. Then, as the passengers rushed over to the other side of the cars, he waved his cap to them, shook it defiantly at the discomfited engineer and fireman, and disappeared around the bend of the road. Then he gradually slackened his pace, though still maintaining a high rate of speed.
Bert was hilarious. It was his first race, so far, and he had come out ahead. He took it as an omen.
“Some race, old scout,” he confided joyously to his mount. “You certainly lived up to your name that time.” And he laughed aloud, as he remembered the look on the faces in the cab.
The race had been a capital thing, not only for the many miles he had covered, but because of the added confidence that had been infused into his veins by the successful outcome. He had “ridden rings” around his redoubtable opponent, and his heart was full of elation.
As he neared Trenton, he stopped at a garage to replenish his gasoline. He had plenty left to finish out the stretch that he had mapped out for that day’s work, but he was taking no chances, and always felt better when he knew that his tank was full.
A tall young fellow had preceded him on the same errand, and was just about to mount his wheel when Bert entered. There was something familiar about him and Bert cudgeled his brains to remember where he had met him. The stranger seemed equally puzzled. Then a sudden gleam of memory lighted up his face, and he came toward Bert with outstretched hand.
“Beg pardon,” he said. “But isn’t your name Wilson – Bert Wilson, the college pitcher?”
“Yes,” answered Bert, taking the hand held out to him, “and you – sure I know,” he exclaimed, as recognition flashed upon him – “you’re Gunther of the Maroons. I couldn’t place you for a minute.”
“You placed me all right in that last game, when you struck me out in the ninth inning,” grinned Gunther. “Do you remember?”
Did Bert remember? Could he ever forget? Again the scene came before him as though it were yesterday. He saw the diamond gleaming in the afternoon sun, the stands packed with twenty-five thousand howling maniacs. It was the final game of the season, and the pennant hung upon the outcome. Two men were out when Gunther came to the bat. He was the heaviest slugger of the league, and the home crowd was begging him to “kill the ball.” Bert had outguessed him on the first strike, and snapped one over by surprise on the second. Then, on the third, he had cut loose that mighty “fadeaway” of his. For forty feet it had gone on a line – hesitated – swerved sharply down and in, and, evading Gunther’s despairing swing, plumped into the catcher’s mitt. And the howl that went up – and the mighty swoop of the fellows on the field – and the wild enthusiasm over Bert – and the bonfires – and the snake dances! Did he remember?
“You certainly had me buffaloed that day, all right,” went on Gunther. “It isn’t often that I hit a foot above a ball, but that fadeaway of yours had me going. I simply couldn’t gauge it. It’s a teaser, for fair. You were the whole team that day.”
“We had the luck, that’s all,” protested Bert. “The breaks of the game were with us.”
“It wasn’t luck,” said Gunther, generously; “you simply outplayed us. But we did make you work to win,” he added, with a reminiscent smile.
By this time, the tank had been replenished, and he was recalled from his “fanning bee” by the necessity of resuming his trip. Gunther had heard of the contest and had seen Bert’s name among the competitors, but had not associated it with the Wilson of baseball fame.
“You can’t get away from the game,” he joked, referring to the ten contestants. “I see that you are still playing against a ‘nine.’ If that pun isn’t bad enough, I’ll go you one better – or worse – and bet that you’ll bowl them over like ninepins.”
“Thanks, old man,” responded Bert. “I hope I’ll make a ‘strike.’ But now I’ll have to skip and cut out the merry jesting. Jump on your wheel and set the pace for me for the next ten miles or so.”
“Swell chance of my making pace for that crackerjack you have there,” said Gunther, looking admiringly at the “Blue Streak,” “but I’ll try to keep alongside, anyway.”
He had a surprisingly good machine and doubled Bert’s dare by riding twenty miles or more, before he finally hauled up and, with a warm handgrip, said goodby.
“Two pleasant things to-day,” mused Bert, as he sped on, referring to the popular theory that events, good or bad, come in threes. “I guess the third will be in meeting good old Tom and Dick, when I swing into the City of Brotherly Love.”
And pleasant it certainly was, when, after reporting to the checkers and timers at the club headquarters, and putting up his motorcycle, he turned toward the hotel where his chums awaited him with a royal welcome.
“You’ve surely got off to a flying start, old top,” said Tom. “I hadn’t any idea that you’d hit this burg so soon. We’ve just fairly got in ourselves. But before anything else, let’s wrap ourselves about some eats. Are you hungry?”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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