Fix 'er Up Boys
(You are here.)
this is your first
visit, please stop by:
Available in Française, Español, Português, Deutsch, Россию,
日本, and others.
Sheepshead Bay, Cal angled north to Brooklyn, then flew across midtown
Manhattan at an altitude of 800 feet. In New Jersey, the chase train began to
follow the aircraft. The Vin Fiz and the Vin Fiz Special both
arrived at Middletown, New York that evening a little over a hundred miles
from Cal's starting point. On take-off the next morning, he snagged a tree
and completely wrecked the airplane. Cal was dazed by the accident, but
unhurt. Despondent, he poked through the wreckage and found the bottle of
Vin Fiz unscathed. Taking it as an omen, he told his incredulous entourage
that this was not the end of the line. "Fix her up, boys. I'll be
ready." It was a phrase they would hear over and over again
throughout the adventure.
The Wright Company sent its best mechanic, Charlie Taylor, to help
rebuild the Vin Fiz. Taylor had built the engine the Wright's used
in their first aircraft and had been with them ever since. Now he would
accompany Cal Rodgers most of the way across the United States. With
Taylor's help, Cal was back in the air by September 21. He broke the skids
when landing at Hancock, wrecked upon landing at Elmira, and smashed the
machine again on take-off from Redhouse, near Salamanca,New York. There were more major
crashes in Huntington, Indiana, Spofford, Texas, and Compton, near Pasadena, California.
The engine exploded over Kyle, Texas, and again over Imperial Junction,
California. Cal was lost over vast stretches of Pennsylvania, Indiana,
Illinois, Texas, and Arizona. He was nearly electrocuted in a thunderstorm in
Indiana. But the bottle of Vin Fiz survived every mishap, the boys kept
fixing up the airplane, and Cal kept flying.
If the flight of the Vin Fiz was a heroic tale, the story of the
Vin Fiz Special was a soap opera. Near the beginning of the trip,
the train picked up Cal's twice-widowed and indulgent mother, Mrs.
Sweitzer. Cal's mother had little regard for Cal's wife Mabel, who
was along in her semi-official capacity as "postmistress." Mrs. Sweitzer didn't think that Mabel was good
enough for her son — and she had no qualms about saying so. Mrs.
Sweitzer left the adventure when it reached Chicago, rejoined it again in
Kansas City, and left it again in San Antonio. When she joined it for the
last time in El Paso she had a "traveling companion" in tow,
Lucy Belvedere, a 22 year-old heiress. It soon became obvious to the Vin
Fiz entourage that Mrs. Sweitzer thought Lucy would make a more
suitable daughter-in-law than Mabel. In the wilds of the Arizona
Territory, after Cal had paid Lucy just a little too much attention to
suit his wife, Mabel stuffed Lucy's designer gowns in a trunk and put them
on a train going east. Lucy soon followed her clothes.
Cal's first mishap came on the second day of the expedition, when he
all but destroyed the Vin Fiz.
On take-off from Middletown, NY, Rodgers clipped a tree and
came down in a chicken yard. The farmer was paid for the damages.
And the third was in Huntington, IN. The
Vin Fiz suffered five
major wrecks and a host of smaller accidents on its trip across
America, but each time the bottle of Vin Fiz emerged
The "hangar car" on the Vin Fiz special carried spare parts for the
EX, among them six spare wings. Rodgers and his crew would use them
Cal and his wife Mabel Rodgers. Mabel had to contend
with both her mother-in-law and the Vin Fiz for her husband's attention.
"Sometimes," she said, "I suspect that Calbraith thinks
showing affection to a woman would be unfaithful to his machine."
Despite the massive damage in Middletown, the airplane was back in
the air after a few days of hurried repairs.
The second major wreck was in Redhouse, near Salamanca, NY.
Cal and master mechanic Charlie Taylor rebuild a
wing of the Vin Fiz. Charlie, who had worked for the Wright brothers
since 1901, left their employ to participate in the
Vin Fiz adventure. Had it
not been for Charlie's expertise, it's doubtful that Cal could have
completed the journey.
Getting ready for a take-off, Rodgers and his crew start the engine
and check its performance.
The Vin Fiz takes off from Olean, New York trailing a little hay after
a close encounter with a hay stack.