CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. NEW YORK TO BUFFALO
UP THE HILL
It was Saturday, the 14th, at nine o'clock, when we left New York for Albany, following the route of the Endurance Contest.
The morning was bright and warm. The roads were perfect for miles. We passed Kings Bridge, Yonkers, Hastings, and Dobbs Ferry flying. At Tarrytown we dropped the chain. A link had parted. Pushing the machine under the shade of a tree, a half-hour was spent in replacing the chain and riveting in a new link. All the pins showed more or less wear, and a new chain should have been put on in New York, but none that would fit was to be had.
We dined at Peekskill, and had a machinist go over the chain, riveting the heads of the pins so none would come out again.
Nelson Hill, a mile and a half beyond Peekskill, proved all it was said to be, - and more.
In the course of the trip we had mounted hills that were worse, and hills that were steeper, but only in spots or for short distances; for a steady steep climb Nelson Hill surpassed anything we found in the entire trip. The hill seems one-half to three-quarters of a mile long, a sharp ascent, - somewhat steeper about half-way up than at the beginning or finish. Accurate measurements were made for the Endurance Contest and the results published.
The grade was just a little too much for the machine, with our luggage and ourselves. It was tiresome walking so far beside the machine, and in attempting to bring it to a stop for a moment's rest the machine got started backward, and was well on its way down the hill, gaining speed every fraction of a second. It was a short, sharp chase to catch the lever operating the emergency brake, - which luckily operated by being pushed forward from the seat, - a pull on the lever and the machine was brought to a stop with the rear wheels hanging over the edge of a gulley** at the side. After that experience the machine was allowed to go to the top without any more attempts to rest.
At Fishkill Village we saved a few miles and some bad road by continuing on to Poughkeepsie by the inland road instead of going down to the Landing.
We inquired the way from an old man, who said, "If you want to go to P'keepsie, follow the road just this side the post-office; you will save a good many miles, and have a good road; if you want to follow the other fellers, then keep straight on down to the Landing; but why they went down there, beats me."
It was six-thirty when we arrived at Poughkeepsie. As the next day would be Sunday, we made sure of a supply of gasoline that night.
Up to this point the roads, barring Nelson Hill, and the weather had been perfect, but conditions were about to change for the worse.
Sunday morning was gray and drizzly. We left at eight-thirty. The roads were soft and in places very slippery; becoming much worse as we approached Albany, where we arrived at half-past three. There we should have stopped. We had come seventy-five miles in seven hours, including all stops, over bad roads, and that should have sufficed; but it was such an effort to house the machine in Albany and get settled in rooms, that we decided to go on at least as far as Schenectady.
To the park it was all plain sailing on asphalt and macadam, but from the park to the gate of the cemetery and to the turn beyond the mud was so deep and sticky it seemed as if the machine could not possibly get through. If we had attempted to turn about, we would surely have been stuck; there was nothing to do but follow the best ruts and go straight on, hoping for better things. The dread of coming to a standstill and being obliged to get out in that eight or ten inches of uninviting mud was a very appreciable factor in our discomfort. Fortunately, the clutch held well and the motor was not stalled. When we passed the corner beyond the cemetery the road was much better, though still so soft the high speed could be used only occasionally.
The tank showed a leak, which for some reason increased so rapidly that a pail of water had to be added about every half-mile. At last a pint of bran poured into the tank closed the leak in five minutes.
On reaching Latham it was apparent that Schenectady could not be made before dark, if at all, so we turned to the right into Troy. We had made the two long sides of a triangle over the worst of roads; whereas, had we run from Albany direct to Troy, we could have followed a good road all the way.
The next morning was the 16th of September, the sun was shining brightly and the wind was fresh; the roads were drying every moment, so we did not hurry our departure.
The express office in Albany was telephoned for a new chain that had been ordered, and in about an hour it was delivered. The machine was driven into a side street in front of a metal roofing factory, the tank taken out and so thoroughly repaired it gave no further trouble. It was noon before the work was finished, for the new chain and a new belt to the pump had to be put on, and many little things done which consumed time.
At two o'clock we left Troy. The road to Schenectady in good weather is quite good, but after the rain it was heavy with half-dried mud and deep with ruts. From Schenectady to Fonda, where we arrived at six-thirty, the roads were very bad; however, forty-five miles in four hours and a half was fairly good travelling under the adverse conditions. If the machine had been equipped with an intermediate gear, an average of twelve or fifteen miles could have been easily made. The going was just a little too heavy for the fast speed and altogether too easy for the low, and yet we were obliged to travel for hours on the low gear.