Rody Rodenberg Sets New Transcontinental

By Unknown, Photography by Unknown

From the July 1936 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

When Rody Rodenberg barged into Los Angeles about 5:00 A.M. on June 20th, he not only smashed the transcontinental record but he hung up a new all-time high for solo travel across the U.S. on land. From wheel chair to roller skate artists right on up to the pilots of sleek slithering automobiles, no one driver or rider, doing a solo crossing, has ever even neared the new mark of 71 hours and 20 minutes.

Slipping into Los Angeles through an early-morning fog, Rody was escorted to the historic spot at Lincoln Park where before him Wells Bennett, Cannonball Baker, Roy Artley and more lately Earl Robinson finished famous runs. There is no marker there to designate the place, but upon it stands a monument of accomplishment in the eyes of motorcyclists, old timers and new.

But Rody saw not the physical beauty of the morning with the slanting rays of the sun streaking through the trees and the vanishing mist. Nor did he hark to the unseen heros who in spirit were there to slap his back. He thought only of getting the referee. Al Koogler, to time him and sign that checking sheet.

Getting out of the saddle which had been his chair for those long hours, he tried first of all to get his knees together. It was a job. He stood there in a bow-legged crouch just as though a strong arm had lifted him off the seat all bent to the controls and set him down galvanized in the same position. Finally, with almost audible crackings the legs were sprung back to normal and Rody sat down on the curb. Then he flopped over on his back on the com fortable lawn. “Oh Gee.” said he. Only those two words, but they spoke volumes. That was the let-clown after approximately 3309 miles in 71 hours and 20 minutes. So evident was his relief that the onlookers sighed with him.

Meeting Rody at the state line, Floyd Clymer helped to check him through thehighway patrol station. With Floyd were Jeff Runyan and Mel Stein. In less than 5 minutes they had Rody on his way and escorted him on in to Los Angeles.

Coming in from Barstow, which is still very much in the desert, the desert which during those last hours Rody thought never would end, they finally hit the outskirts of San Bernardino. Rody had seen the word Los Angeles on a road marker and figured the town he was approaching was the one of his objective. He glanced over at one of the escorts and gave a feeble smile. Thinking to be a help the escort said, “Not much farther now, boy, only 60 miles.” That almost got Rody. He sagged until he nearly cut his chin on the steering damper. Later he told that escort: “You should have told me 10 miles. Never say 60.”

But all that is now a laugh to the transcontinentalist. He even laughs about the extra 300 miles he unintentionally put into his run in Kansas and Colorado. With only 4 hours of actual sleep while stopping, there is little doubt that he stole a few cat naps while running. And during one of those naps he took the wrong branch of a “Y” in the road. The result was an extra bunch of miles and a complete change in his route.

Leaving Holland Tunnel in New York at 8:15 E.S.T. Wednesday A.M., the run continued through the following cities in order: Allentown, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis, Springfield, Hannibal, St. Joseph, Kansas City, Manhattan, Denver, Laramie, Provo, Las Vegas, San Bernardino and Los Angeles.

For the most part the weather was good, although a rain was encountered between Columbus and Indianapolis. Then out of Decatur, Ill., more rain was found. When it stopped there were wet spots for another 100 miles. Speeding along, Rodenburg thought only of his road, his motor and his physical condition. Three times enroute he drained oil, finding that he was using less than a quart to a drain. He was using Valvoline. The motor never missed a shot on the whole trip and, believe it or not, was not even touched by a tool before Rody shoved off on his return for Indianapolis after a good sleep. The little Sport Scout did a fine job, equally as good as its rider and deserves a share of the credit.

At this writing it is not known what the gasoline consumption was, but Rody did state that he used better than 3 gallons of milk. Going clear through to Denver before stopping for sleep, he had no solid food beyond 2 cup cakes. But whenever he stopped he rustled up a quart of milk and drank it. He attributed his good health on the run to his diet of milk. It gave him what nourishment he wanted but did not make him feel logy.

In Denver he slept about 2 hours, then again in a lonely gas station part way across Utah he garnered another 2 hours. He suffered most from a sleepy feeling during the last 50 miles of his run which was made through a fog. The combination of knowing that he was near the end, and the added strain upon his eyes made it tough going.

When Rody planned his route he figured on turning at Hannibal and working onto the Santa Fe trail which would have brought him across a southern route through Albuquerque, Gallup and Needles. But taking the wrong branch of the “Y” at Hannibal he forged on for hours and when he awoke to his situation he was close to Denver. Through that Midwest section the southern and northern routes for transcontinentalists are only about 100 miles apart, north and south. So, Rody quickly decided to switch to the northern route. Thus he continued up through Denver to Laramie and then shot westward across Wyoming and Utah, taking the cutoff which eliminated Salt Lake City and turned him south at Provo. Thence on it was a direct southward run through more desert to San Bernardino. As things broke he negotiated that part of his trip at night and was accordingly spared a lot of heat in the vicinity of Baker and Las Vegas.

Of course his speed varied on the trip as he shifted from one State to another. He tried to hold an average of from 60 to 70 most of the way and when he hit Wyoming and Utah he was able to ramble along at between 85 and 90 while crossing some of the desert stretches. Stops for sleep, fuel, oil drains and to check roads naturally cut his average for the trip to around 50 m.p.h.

But it was a great run and now a new seat in the Hall of Fame must needs be dusted off as a new champion is crowned. A salute to Rody.

The Scout was equipped with Firestone tires, Edison-Splitdorf magneto.

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