VRAIL Stage 25

This stage puts me at the halfway point! Halfway across Illinois!

This 10K stage was along the Greenview Middletown Black Top road, leaving the town of Greenview before heading to, you guessed it, Middletown. I’m not sure what Middletown is in the middle of, but it was a stagecoach stop between Springfield and Peoria, so maybe that’s it. The obligatory “Abraham Lincoln was here” for this central Illinois location is that he surveyed the town back in the 1830s.

Middletown has a nice little post office, pictured below with the bonus of the Google Car reflected in the front window.

Middletown is also known for being a stop on the first coast-to-coast flight in the U.S. in 1911. The whole story is incredible, so I’m just going to quote it from Wikipedia:

The publisher William Randolph Hearst had offered a US$50,000 prize to the first aviator to fly coast to coast, in either direction, in less than 30 days from start to finish. Calbraith Perry Rodgers, grandnephew of naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry, and an avid yachtsman and motorcycle racer, had taken about 90 minutes of instruction from Orville Wright in June 1911 before soloing, and…became the first private citizen to buy a Wright airplane, a Wright Model B modified and called the Model EX. The plane’s 35 horsepower (26 kilowatt) engine allowed a speed of 50 miles per hour (80 km/hr) at 1000 feet (305 meters).

Since the airplane would need a considerable support crew, Rodgers persuaded J. Ogden Armour, of meatpacking fame, to sponsor the attempt, and in return named the plane after Armour’s new grape soft drink Vin Fiz. The support team rode on a three-car train called the Vin Fiz Special…The flight began at 4:30 pm, September 17, 1911, when Rodgers took off from the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Brooklyn, New York. Although the plan called for a large number of stops along the way, in the end there were 75, including 16 crashes, and Rodgers was injured several times. Taylor and the team of mechanics rebuilt the Vin Fiz Flyer when necessary, and only a few pieces of the original plane actually made the entire trip.

On November 5, having missed the prize deadline by 19 days, Rodgers landed in Pasadena, California, in front of a crowd of 20,000. On the 12th he took off for Long Beach, California, but crashed at Compton, with a brain concussion and a spinal twist. He was hospitalized for three weeks. Finally, on December 10 he landed on the beach, and taxied the Flyer into the Pacific Ocean, completing the unprecedented journey of over 4,000 statute miles (6,400 km). Actual flying time totalled under 84 hours.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vin_Fiz_Flyer (click for a map of the route, including Middletown)

I don’t know where to start. The 84 hours? The 16 crashes? The 90 minutes of instruction? The train support crew? The fact that the plane that arrived was not the same plane that took off? Sadly, Rodgers died shortly thereafter in a crash along the Pacific coast. But what a distinction for Middletown to be part of this trip!

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