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Remembering Parke Snavely
When Parke went to pick up the Model A at Levi Noble's Valyermo ranch astride the San Andreas Fault on the south side of the Mojave Desert, he found the car stored in a barn. It was missing its wheels, which were stored in the ranch house for safekeeping. Mrs. Noble was reluctant to release the car because she said that Chief Geologist Bill Bradley had said that Levi could keep the car when he left the USGS. She finally was convinced, after reading a letter from Bradley, that the car would end up in a proper setting at the USGS' national headquarters in Reston, VA.
After he retired, Levi used the Model A to map on the ranch when he could not get a driver's license to drive on a public road. On several occasions, he asked Parke to obtain a USGS license for himParke had to decline. (As an aside, Levi's personal cars were two Jaguarsone at the ranch and one at the family home in the east.) [For more information about Levi Noble, see Levi Noble: Geologist - USGS Open-File Report 02-422]
Holly Wagner had accompanied Parke to Valyermo, and after they mounted the tires, put in 5 gallons of gas, and rolled it down an incline to get it started, it ran like a top. The tires looked almost white because of small cactus needles embedded in them. As it turned out, the cactus needles were holding the tires togetherone blew up just south of Menlo Park.
The first stop of the trip was at a Shell station in Valyermo for gas and a lube. Never did a car get more TLC than that Model Aincluding blackening the tires and polishing the body. On the way to Bakersfield, Holly followed in the Jeep Wagoneer to make sure that the Model A had no mishaps. En route, several Federal cars came alongside, and, noting the U.S. Government insignia, the drivers said that it was ridiculous to be using a vehicle that old. They were assured that the old Model A was just beginning to earn its keep.
The second stop of the trip was in Bakersfield, where the International Model A Club was having a meeting. The parking lot of the motel where Parke and Holly spent the night was full of Models A. One of the local judges agreed to rate the USGS vehicleit rated an 86, on the basis of deductions for parts that were not original. The running board dated the car at late 1930 vintage.
A decision was made to take the back route northward to avoid the main California Highway 99. The car's performance on steep hills was impressiveno downshifting! It perked right along. The trip along the coast range was great fun. However, by the time the Bayshore Highway [U.S. Interstate Highway 101] was reached, it started to rain. The car was equipped with hand-activated windshield wipersno fun. Near San Jose, with the rain coming down, one tire developed a big balloon and exploded. Fortunately, the spare tire had air, and the Model A arrived in Menlo Park late in the evening intact, just in time to be exhibited with new USGS utility vehicles at a taxpayer "Show and Tell." The Model A was undoubtedly "Best in Class."
in this issue: Seamount Environments off California
Parke Snavely: The Journey of the Model A
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