Traveling With a Troupe

By Putt Mossman, Photography by Unknown

We sailed for Yokohama on the Rio de Janeiro Maru, leaving from Wilmington, California. Eleven people comprised our troupe and we were adventure bound, taking tricks and stunts of American motorcycling to the Orient. A sea voyage was a new experience for all of us. There were seven riders among us-five men and two girls; also two capable mechanics with their wives. We were to perform at the Yokohama Rebuilding Exposition. I had chosen my riders carefully for their ability and also for their congeniality. I was not to be disappointed in the choice. Among the men riders were experts of hillclimbing and motorcycle racing. There were Ray Grant, Bert Lewis, Don Westergard and Bob Diehl. The girl riders were my wife, and Mrs. Ray Grant, both exceptionally good stunt riders. The two mechanics were brothers, John and Jerry Fairchild, who were married shortly before the sailing date, and they were combining business and a honeymoon.

The weather on the day of embarkation certainly was not conducive to peace of mind. It was raining and the streets we had to travel going to the dock were shallow rivers. Our equipment had been packed on the previous night and we were a little concerned about arriving on time because of the weather. However, we made it and had the satisfaction of seeing everything stored away in the hold. So with the well-wishes of our friends and relatives ringing in our ears, the ship slowly wended its way out of the harbor into the open sea.

The afternoon was spent in arranging our cabins and exploring the ship. She wasn’t any luxury liner you read about, with swimming-pool, tennis-court, and ball-room, but she was new and in good condition. She was a motor-ship, and had been built in 1929.

The sea was choppy, and the ship soon commenced to roll and pitch. The motion caused most of us to feel a little peculiar, but we all ate dinner together in the dining-room. About six the clouds started breaking up, and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset as the ship passed near the Santa Barbara Islands. The chill wind on deck drove us into our cabins, and being quite tired after our preparations for departure the previous night, we soon retired.

We awoke quite early, to find the uneasy feeling in the stomach still much in evidence. The sun was shining, and much of the day was spent on deck playing the various games provided and just looking around. Gradually we became more accustomed to the motion of the ship.

For five days the weather continued fair, although the sea was choppy. On the sixth day a storm broke. The wind rose to gale proportions, and shrieked about the superstructure. Rain swept down in torrents, and the sea rose as if to gather us up and dash us to the depths. The little ship shuddered and stuck her nose into the seas, as the storm shook and twisted her groaning girders in every direction. Green waves crashed over her bow, and swept along the scuppers. We watched in awe the play of the elements, and wondered. For five days and nights the storm continued. On the sixth we saw the sun! To our uninitiated minds the storm was over, and we were glad. But she cracked down again the following morning, and the Rio churned into the teeth of a fifty-mile gale. The storm doors were again closed, and we amused ourselves in the narrow confines of our cabins and social rooms.

We spent some time on the bridge where we conversed with the navigators, and learned that the storm was really a typhoon, and quite violent. Any consternation we might have felt was over-shadowed by the fact that we were really seeing something. And so we looked on the disturbance with favor, and knew that our initiation was to be complete. The humdrum monotony of an ordinary crossing was not our lot.

By Putt Mossman
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