Meadowmom

Meadowmom

Posted on 04/16/2016


Photo taken on March 19, 2016


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" On the road again " " On the road again "


Tolerance Tolerance



Keywords

Death Valley
first auto
Pope Toledo
Daylight Pass Road


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Adventure in a Pope Toledo Runabout

Adventure in a Pope Toledo Runabout
You’ve been so kind in the past, honoring all my ghosts, patiently looking at my photos of vast Death Valley and allowing me to describe stuff that happened out there long ago. Here’s another story:

It's the early 1900s. Burro prospectors are plentiful in Death Valley. They are the ones who locate the ore, but they rarely develop mines. Successful prospectors almost always sell immediately to speculators.

Over in Goldfield, Nevada, LM Sullivan, speculator, and Jack Campbell, mining engineer, keep a stalwart automobile garaged and outfitted. It's an 80 horsepower 1907 Pope Toledo touring runabout. Its chauffeur is bunked close by. Ready in an instant to investigate any faint rumor of a new strike.

(If you don’t know what a Pope Toledo touring car looked like, look here.)

On a warm night in May,1908, a new rumor comes wafting out of one of the Goldfield bars. The Toledo departs within the hour, whizzing along the narrow dirt road, the chauffeur hunched, behind him two rear-seat cigars burning brightly in the dark breeze. They set all the dogs howling in Beatty. They stop in Rhyolite to pick up gas in 5 gallon cans and additional water in canvas cooling bags. It’s 4 AM.

Now they chug and buck into Death Valley on faint wagon tracks. They bump along down the slope that you see here, through those dark low hills, aware of hotter and hotter layers of air.
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Briefly they fly at 25mph across the rolling flats. The side doors of the engine compartment slip their latches and begin flapping like wings. Then they reach the Mesquite Dunes. They mire down in the hot sand time after time. Throughout the morning, all hands lift, shovel, push. The chauffeur repeatedly guns the “powerful” engine to make the car jump 10 feet forward before it sinks again.

When the automobile finally starts climbing the huge rocky fan you see in the distance, the radiator goes dry. Wisely not touching their drinking water, the chauffeur walks two miles in the merciless afternoon sun to dip murky water from Emigrant Spring.

After more tough travel, Sullivan and Campbell leave the car. They walk further into the Panamint mountains and finally reach the prospect. The mining engineer inspects the ledge. Pronounces it feasible.

They are in the prospector’s darkening tent, finishing the signing of papers, when a distant noise is heard. It’s the irregular putt-putt of another vehicle. Coming, not behind them but along an equally difficult trail from the west. Carrying the confidential agent of Charles M. Schwab, the steel and stock magnate, and his mining engineer.

It’s a close call, but Sullivan and Campbell have gained the right to sell thousands of shares in an unproved and dubious new mine, and will go down in history for making the first automobile crossing of Death Valley. The name of the chauffeur who actually did the driving, is, of course, unknown.

Death Valley from Daylight Pass Highway, looking toward the Panamint Mountains.

(More Death Valley stories in my album, Speaking of Death Valley. )

tiabunna, Don Barrett (aka DBs travels), William Sutherland, Pam J and 2 other people have particularly liked this photo


12 comments - The latest ones
Ron Hanko
Ron Hanko
Another winner of a story, Laurie.
2 years ago.
Pam J
Pam J
Oh Laurie... you tell it so WELL !!!!!!!!!!!
2 years ago.
William Sutherland
William Sutherland
Awesome capture and story! Too bad the chauffer is forgotten. :(
2 years ago.
Anne-Marie(Minus)
Anne-Marie(Minus)
splendide panorama
2 years ago.
Jaap van 't Veen
Jaap van 't Veen
Impressive scenery. Interesting story.
2 years ago.
Judith Jannetta
Judith Jannetta
It's how you tell them.......
2 years ago.
HappySnapper
HappySnapper
Not the best place in the world to run out of water, have to raise you hat to these pioneers.
Must have been hard work for those laying the modern road as well.
2 years ago.
Bob Taylor
Bob Taylor
The story is a perfect complement to the landscape.
2 years ago.
tiabunna
tiabunna
A great landscape image and a top story to match, Laurie.
2 years ago.
Alan Burch
Alan Burch
Wish you'd get back on Flickr...lol
2 years ago.