SI Vault
September 16, 1968
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September 16, 1968


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What is the fastest way to get from Joliet to Bloomington, Ill. and back again, without being "attached, pushed, launched, pulled, catapulted or in any other way transported by a motor or motorized vehicle?"

Evidently the fastest way is in a wheeled sailboat—followed closely by a truck carrying a huge fan. The second-fastest way is to jump on a bicycle and ride like fury.

In the Illinois Sesquicentennial's "Great Race," held last week under those trying conditions, a 36-year-old engineer, Carl Johnson, literally sailed home in front of the field to take the $1,000 first prize. Johnson's time in the 220-mile race was 9 hours, 2 minutes and 52 seconds. Dennis Blair, the cyclist who came in second, finished 8 minutes behind Johnson. Among the other competitors were:

A man who, after learning that everything had been entered but the kitchen sink, entered a kitchen sink. He mounted it on wheels and put up a shower curtain as a sail. He failed to finish.

A man who created a vacuum in front of his bicycle—placing a three-sided plastic shield ahead of it and a "vacuum tube" apparatus behind. A fan, attached to a car that followed him, blew into the tubes. He attained speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, was the early favorite, but was delayed by two slow freight trains.

A man who claimed to have developed "the copper-coated aspirin, the solid mahogany windshield, steam-powered television and the hyperbolic duck (i.e., the duck that floats)."

A girl, 18-year-old Maureen McCoy of Joliet, who cycled and swam the distance. She was riding along a back road when she came to the Mackinaw River and found the bridge was out. So she swam the river with her bicycle hooked on her arm; and then cycled on.

Even the race judges had a high old time. They observed the race from a giant balloon.

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