1917 Endurance Motorcycle Run: Seattle, Yakima, White Salmon, Hood River, Portland

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Thor Rider Is Credited with First Place in Terrific Endurance Grind, Although Some Checking Sheets Are Still Missing; Smith, the Excelsior Veteran, in Second Place; Thor Team Wins, Firestone Cup; Remarkable Performance by Harley-Davidson Sidecar Outfit

 Photo: G. C. Austin, Thor Dealer in Seattle, the High Score Man

SEATTLE, Wash., August 20. — The Seattle - North Yakima - Goldendale White-Salmon-Portland course again proved to be the hardest endurance run route in the country when but two of the twenty-one starters in the Seattle annual M. C. Contest arrived here tonight at the conclusion of the second day of the run with scores intact.

Checking sheets are still out in the distant localities, but indications point to G. C. Austin, Thor agent of Seattle, and Ray Smith, of San Diego, admittedly one of the best endurance riders in the country, as the winners. Smith rode his Excelsior as usual. Walter Steinhart and Ed Berreth Indian riders of Portland, lost several points between North Yakima and Goldendale, as did Jack Meagher, Thor. They probably rank third, fourth and fifth in the order named.

Photo: North Yakima Contestants Hitting the Sand—Note the Tandem Outfit in Background

Of the five Excelsior’s entered, Smith was the only rider who checked into Seattle tonight. Louis Von Wasmer and "Bud" Armstrong, the other two members of the Excelsior team entered for the Firestone cup, are still out, probably somewhere between North Yakima and Goldendale. The only Harley-Davidson entries to finish were O. V. Schott and wife, who drove a Harley-Davidson sidecar outfit in a remarkably consistent manner over the entire 604 miles and checked into Seattle tonight on time. They lost their chance of making a perfect score because of the hard going.

Two other sidecar outfits either failed to check in at North Yakima, 188 miles out, or checked in too late to figure in the scoring. The performance of the Schotts and their Harley-Davidson sidecar outfit is all the more remarkable when the number of solo machines manned by expert riders that went out is considered. This is the first time a sidecar has made the course in two days.

The Firestone cup was undoubtedly won by the Thor team by a few points, Austin being perfect and Meagher having checked in but a few minutes late, at two different controls. John Davis, the third member of the Thor team, bumped into an automobile and put his machine out of commission.

The Indian team, composed of Mercer, Berreth and Steinhart, gave the Thor team a hard fight for the cup, but Mercer had trouble with his transmission and before he could remedy it became *ick from the terrific desert heat beyond Satus Hill and was forced out. Steinhart and Berreth finifhed a few points behind the Thor team. The Henderson folks did not enter a team, but "Wild Bill" Wilson entered the run on a 1917 Henderson and made a remarkable ride for a perfect score; however, a combination of troubles forced him out. He became lost, as did several others, between North Yakima and Satus Hill, and later was delayed by a puncture. He took a different route over the hill than did several others and was in a fair way to make up for lost time when his gasoline line broke and his machine caught fire.

Cline's Good Fellowship

Cline, an Indian rider, towed Wilson for several miles after assisting in putting out the fire and left Wilson to repair the damage. He readied the subsequent controls late and did not leave Hood River, Oregon, until nearly 8 a. m. The others rhecked out at S a. m. With 279 miles before him, Wilson set out to make up lost time and arrived in Seattle at 6:30 p. m. an hour ahead of his schedule.

Photo: Looping It on One of the Sandy Turns Where the Spills Were Numerous

Cline, Indian, threw away his chance of making a perfect score after climbing the Satus Hill, because he considered his duty to his fellowmen in trouble greater than the glory of hanging onto his 1,000 points. Several miles beyond the hill he discovered Mercer in a pretty sick condition. Cline stopped and assisted Mercer to Satus Creek, then stayed with him until he had made arrangements for him to be sent back to North Yakima. A little farther on he encountered Wilson trying to extinguish his flaming motorcycle. Cline stopped, helped to put out the fire and then towed Wilson to the nearest town.

The Thor victory is very popular as Ellis and Austin. Thor agents, have just taken over the Thor agency this year and every other dealer had a far greater number to select a team from than did the Thor. The men selected are all local riders, and the fact that they practically held their own with an experienced rider like Smith is a source of the utmost satisfaction to Austin and Meagher. They will hold the cup for one year, and it will be contested for again next summer. The dealer winning the cup three times becomes the permanent holder.

Smith Made a Game Run

Smith is entitled to a great deal of credit. He not only rode his usual clean run, but started on a course over which he had never ridden, without either lights or speedometer. His teammates went out at the Satus Hill and this left him to cover the remainder of the run, nearly 400 miles, alone so far as teammates were concerned.

Twenty-one riders checked out of Seattle at 3 :30 a. m. Sunday. Aug. 19, as follows; one Henderson, three Thors, four Indians, five Excelsior’s, five solo Harley-Davidsons and three Harley-Davidson sidecars. Frank Hawkins, local Firestone man, acted as checker.

The riders left in pairs, one minute apart, and immediately headed for Cle Elum, the first control, 108 miles away. To their surprise they immediately headed into a heavy fog, which had made the pavements exceptionally slippery. At Woodinville, twenty miles out, the leading rider skidded on a turn and in their efforts to stop, five riders behind followed him into the ditch. Aside from a cut on Berreth's knee and several bruises here and there no one was hurt and all proceeded to Cle Elum.

From North Bend to Cle Elum the road runs through the Snoqualmie Pass, and while as a whole it was very good, —too good for an endurance run—in places it was very rough, with sharp turns that bring out the best there is in the rider who makes a perfect score. The majority, including the Schott sidecar, checked in on time, stopped fifteen minutes and then headed for North Yakima, the second control, 80 miles away. The other two sidecars checked into Cle Elum late, as did Jack Meagher, who miscalculated his time and remained outside of the control several minutes before checking in.

The first riders were due at North Yakima at 11:15. Smith and Von Wasmer, Excelsior; Berreth, Steinhart and Mercer, Indian; and two Harley-Davidson riders, dashed into North Yakima along different streets at 10:30 a. m. The road between North Yakima and Cle Elum included some mountain riding, but was mostly along the sagebrush foothills over sand and rutty roads.

A stop of three-quarters of an hour was made at North Yakima; then the riders were off for the Satus Hill, the mound of sand, ruts and dust that puts the crust on the run and places it at the top of the list of nearly impossible contests.

Many Routes to Satus Hill

The twenty miles between North Yakima and Satus Hill is good going if one takes the right road, but there are so many different roads that few of the riders managed to stay on the right one all the time. The hill could be seen from a distance and the majority made a "bee-line" for it, which resulted in many pilgrimages through farms, barnyards and over or through irrigation ditches. Steinhart and Berreth, Indian riders, arrived first and commenced the four-mile climb. Austin, Thor winner, came third, took a lovely spill and was off again before the dust settled. The remaining riders arrived a few minutes later.

Half-way up the hill the Shuk brothers, the hospitable Indian agents at North Yakima, were stationed with a car containing watermelon on "ice, ice cold beer, or water as the rider desired. It was a grateful relief after the struggle with sand. ruts and dust. The majority stopped long enough to rest up for the remainder of the grind. Several riders who took different routes could be seen riding the sage brush in the distance and missed the refreshments entirely.

A few riders who arrived at Goldendale anywhere near on time all state that the IS miles beyond the hill was worse than the hill itself, and all had to stop repeatedly and lift the machines out of the ruts. The 76 miles between North Yakima and Goldendale called for an 18-mile per hour schedule, but Smith and Austin were the only riders to arrive on schedule time and neither had many minutes to spare.

At Goldendale, Meagher and Berreth were both arrested for speeding. A small town busybody standing on the sidewalk saw them go by and immediately swore out warrants. Through the good sportsmanship of the sheriff, the judge and the garage man, the boys were allowed to proceed to White Salmon, much to the disgust of the busybody.

Nine of the twenty-one starters checked into White Salmon, the night control, on Sunday night, but many of them checked in so late as to be permanently out of the running.

Headed for Portland

On Monday the riders crossed the Columbia River and checked out of Hood River, Oregon, at 5:30. The 71 miles to Portland was easily covered at the scheduled time of 25 miles per hour. The Portland control was at the Interstate Bridge, which the riders crossed and were again back in Washington. Roads in the vicinity of Castle Rock have improved slightly and 18 miles per hour was easy. In fact, no difficulty was experienced by any of the riders in keeping on scheduled time for the remaining distance to Seattle, and the majority checked in nearly an hour early.

Smith, the veteran Excelsior rider, who has tackled all of the hard western courses, pronounces the route to be the hardest he ever saw. He says, that while most of the course was average and could easily be covered by any real endurance run rider, the 74 miles between North Yakima and Goldendale gave such hard going and required so much effort that a rider was tired out and the remainder of the run appeared doubly hard. As to the Satus Hill, "that's the worst I ever saw anywhere," remarked Smith.

Photo: "Bud" Armstrong, on the "X," and Ed. Berreth, the Indian Rider, Snapped in the Control at North Yakima

The riders who covered the course this year are all in favor of using the same course next year.

Machines as well as riders were penalized, but those that came through were all together and escaped penalties as a result.

Equipment Details

  • George Austin, Thor—Firestone tires, Bosch magneto, Schebler carburetor, duckworth chains.
  • Ray Smith, Excelsior—Firestone tires, Bosch magneto, Schebler carburetor, duckworth chains.
  • Steinhart, Indian—Goodyear tires, Splitdorf generator, Schebler carburetor, duckworth chains.
  • Berreth, Indian—Goodyear tires, Dixie magneto. Schebler carburetor, duckworth chains.
  • Jack Meagher. Thor—Firestone tires, Bosch magneto, Schebler carburetor, duckworth chains.

Austin and Smith were perfect; the others lost between ten and thirty points, the number being uncertain until the White Salmon and Goldendale checking sheets are in.

Frank Richardson Pierce, August 1917

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