Black Rock Desert, Nevada.
Sign in front of the Blackrock Saloon. Garlock, Nevada
October 8th, 1997
One morning I heard about the British attempting to break the sound barrier via my local National Public Radio station. They mentioned the word Thrust. I typed Thrust into my Internet search engine and soon I found their homepage. Day after day I checked to see how they were doing. I finally couldn't stand it any longer. Nevada is only one state away. I threw the dog in ROADCOW and headed out at 12:30 pm. Thursday, October 2nd. A nice sunny day for a drive. Nine and a half hours later I arrived in Garlock, Nevada, just after dusk.
I looked at the map of the Black Rock Desert that I had downloaded off the British Website and proceeded fourteen miles on past Garlock to the "spectator area". Soon I saw motor homes and pick-ups and tents loom up in the darkness. I found a place to park in amongst them and pretty much called it a day.
In the light of morning I discovered that the two fiberglass outhouses, provided for the spectators, were over on their sides. One of the folks, wandering around with his coffee cup in hand, told me that the wind had knocked them down the day before! I soon discovered a few more folks that had hand held FM tranceivers and we were able to over hear radio communication from the British and the Craig Breedlove camp. That was the only way to get a sense of what was happening. There were no CB channels set up by either camp.
I ended up staying at Black Rock four days. One day to get there. Four days on site and one day to return to Elk. I did get to see the Spirit of America go 531 mph and the ThrustSSC go 714 mph one way and 727 mph on the return run.
The weather was iffy and some days nothing was happening. Sometimes it was beautiful. At night the temperature got down to 34 degrees but back up into the 70's during the day. It would have been extremely boring and tedious, waiting around between runs, except for the fact that there were a lot of very interesting fellow enthusiasts.
Over time I met some really interesting folks and our conversations filled in the gaps between runs. I discovered that in order to spend some time at Black Rock Desert you have to have a job that doesn't amount to much and you have to have a wife or girl friend that doesn't miss you if you disappear for a while. We were basically nar-do wells, drop-outs, and eccentrics. In talking to these folks I discovered we all had basically the same kind of background; in our youth we built tree houses, soap box racers, and messed around with things that went bang in the night. My kind of people. Nothing like sitting out in the desert with a couple of beers and some like minded folks, waiting for the next run.
This is the British "Fire Truck"! Actually it is an experimental Jaguar sedan that has foam fire fighting tanks where the back seat would normally be located. It also carried the "jaws of life" and other emergency equipment. It would zip down the desert at 140 mph before each run. I was told that one time, when the ThrustSSC was at the north end of the run and a certain tool was required to fix a loose panel it was discovered that the tool was in the trunk of the Jag and no one had the key to the trunk well... They took out a die grinder with a cut off blade and went, zip, zip, zip zip and cut out the lock to open the trunk! But the amazing part of the story was that the Jag is an experimental car and that it is going to be "Crushed" when it gets back to England. According to the story... it doesn't have the right safety equipment designed into it and it will have to be disposed of for liability reasons!!! I don't know how true this actually is but...
This is as close as I ever got to ThrustSSC.
Here the Thrust is with the tow vehicle and "jet start" equipment after the 727 mph run. You can see the solid aluminum wheels, one under each engine inlet and two at the rear staggered in tandem.
In an article
about the Land Speed Record attempt ROADCOW was mentioned in US News
and World Report.
P.S. The British finally did break the sound barrier and set a new world land speed record a few days after I had to leave.
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