The Tale of the Vin Fiz
Help That Man Fly

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 The Tale of    
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omewhere south of Muskogee, Oklahoma, the clock ran out on the Hearst Prize. Cal had spent the 30 allotted days crossing the continent, and he was still over a thousand miles from the western shore. As the days ticked down, the crowds that greeted him had grown thinner and his crew more despondent. All expected him to concede. Cal, however, would not hear of it. "This is no longer a race against time," he told the reporters and crew aboard the Vin Fiz Special on 17 October 1911. "It is not against a competitor. This is a demonstration that man is not held down by the dead hand of the past."

Jasper Allen, one of the mechanics in the Vin Fiz crew, recalled, "Somehow, when the prize was gone, a second wind blew up. The crowds grew bigger and the cheers louder." Chalked messages to those aboard the train began to appear on water towers along the railroad, "Help that man Rodgers fly across America." The Vin Fiz flew on propelled not just by the tenacity of Cal Rodgers, but by the well wishes of a nation.

On 5 November 1911, 49 days from the start of his journey, Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz reached Pasadena, California, just 27 miles from the Pacific Ocean. As his wheels touched the ground in Tournament Park, the assembled citizens of Pasadena rushed him screaming, crying, and trying to touch him. It took Cal twenty minutes to negotiate a few dozen yards through the excited throng to the judges' platform, where officials draped an American flag around his shoulders. He was hoisted into a car and driven round and round the track while people cheered, danced, applauded, and wept with emotion. A reporter from the Examiner jumped on the running board and shouted, "What about the prize? What about the Hearst money?"

"Forget the prize," Cal shouted back. "I did it, didn't I? I did it!

Well, almost. He still had 27 miles to fly. Cal rested for a few days while the Vin Fiz was completely overhauled and spruced up with a fresh set of wing coverings. He took off from Pasadena on 12 November while crowds assembled at Long Beach to witness the end of his journey. But just 12 miles short of his goal, the engine sputtered and quit, forcing him to land. He was back in the air after a quick repair, but the engine continued to give him fits. He lost altitude, banked hard to avoid a power line, and plowed into the ground. Once again, he wrecked the Vin Fiz and for the first time, he was injured in the process. He was diagnosed with one ankle broken, the other sprained, broken ribs, twisted back, severe burns, and a concussion. The flying machine was almost a total loss — but the bottle of Vin Fiz was whole and entire.

The Vin Fiz rounds a skyscraper in Waco, Texas.

Over Imperial Junction, California, the engine exploded, tearing itself apart. Cal's totem bottle of Vin Fiz, just inches away, was unscathed.

Take-off from Marfa, Texas.

Cal Rodgers with an American flag draped around his shoulders after his triumphant landing in Pasadena. The Rose Queen is to his right.

The crash in Compton all but destroyed the Vin Fiz and severely injured Rodgers. The aircraft was completely rebuilt while he convalesced.

The Vin Fiz lands in Dallas, Texas -- the Hearst Prize was lost but the grandstands were full.

Once again, Cal Rodgers wrecked the Vin Fiz on take-off from Spofford, Texas. Take-offs seemed to be the most dangerous time in this aircraft.

Cal installs a new engine in his aircraft.

Cal calls the Associated Press wire service moments after landing in Pasadena.

Cal was all smiles in Pasadena. The quest was all but accomplished -- or so he thought.

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A History of the Airplane/The Tale of the Vin Fiz/After the Hearst Prize is Lost
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