Houston to Dallas – By Trinity River in an Amphicar! (Part 2)

“Amphicar Crew Goes Bumming” Cleveland Grammer

The next article seems to also be from Tuesday, September 27, 1966.

Tuesday was a walking, shoveling, and bumming day for the two-man crew attempting to navigate the Trinity River from Houston to Dallas.

It was at Oakland 18 miles southwest of Palestine that the Amphicar pilot George Butler and this reporter arrived in the bumping back of a pickup truck.

We had hitchhiked 10 miles after running out of fuel in a remote river bend in the northern part of Leon County. We were about 10 miles north of that spot earlier in the day, but a jog in the twisting river brought us southward again.

But any kind of civilization was a pleasant sight to the two-man amphibious car crew late Tuesday. We had spent Monday night on a wet and rocky shoal surrounded by swirling river water. There wasn’t a dry stick of wood on the shoal, but with a little Boy Scout technique we heated a can of chili con carne over a pair of paraffin logs brought along as emergency fuel.

Sleep in the cramped quarters of a floating sports car isn’t impossible but it has its disadvantages. At least it gave us both an opportunity to watch the sunrise. In the dawns early light, Butler put the Amphicar in gear and drove into the increasingly swift current. We picked a spot on a grassy slope for breakfast and docked the Amphicar beside a high mud bank.

We made sure there was plenty of wood before stopping and had a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, smoked sausage, fried potatoes, and coffee - all cooked over a wood fire.

Farther up the river, we approached a seemingly impassable shoal. This is where the shoveling began. The current running over the sand bar was too swift to drive against so with the wheels in gear the Amphicar climbed onto a dry, rocky shoal in midriver but was stopped by rocks.

After about an hour of shoveling and rearranging the shoal, we drove the Amphicar across and reached the still water on the other side.

Late Tuesday night while we were still in Oakwood at Greer Brothers Chevrolet for a phone and fuel stop, the first rain of the trip started.

As of this writing the little Amphicar is still in the river moored to a tree 10 miles downstream from here with it’s top down, the rain pouring in, and a herd of menacing looking goats looking on.

“Amphicar Runs into Trouble” Cleveland Grammer

Wednesday, September 28, 1966.

It took eight hours to navigate five miles of the Trinity River in a northward swing of a south dipping bend near Palestine Wednesday in the attempted 500-mile river run by amphibious car from Houston to Dallas.

The Amphicar, being tested by George Butler, a salesman from Garden Motors of Dickenson, ran something of an obstacle course Wednesday with results that tested both the ruggedness of the car and the crew, consisting of Butler, and this reporter.

The car came through the ordeal much better than the crew. The negotiation of the big bend started Tuesday with a five-mile southward cruise which ended on a sandbar late that night after a hitchhiking journey for gasoline to fill the empty 14-gallon tank.

After the trip for gasoline, we returned to the Amphicar moored to a tree during a heavy rain, to find all our gear and clothes thoroughly soaked. We neglected to put up the convertible top.

After refueling the soggy car, we continued up-stream, until a level bank suitable for a campsite was sighted well after darkness.

Fortunately, we got a good night’s sleep before facing the unexpected challenge that Wednesday offered.

The five-mile upstream push was started with the hopes of reaching the U.S. Highway 79 bridge over the Trinity River 12 miles southwest of Palestine. We crossed under a railroad bridge where the river was clogged with debris and felt fortunate to be able to bulldoze through it.

We pushed around the bend – and were confronted by an eight-inch pipeline spanning the river just barely above the surface of the water.

The pipeline was too low to go under at mid- stream and there was no way to drive out on the steep banks and go around it.

But perseverance prevailed. At the bank, the pipeline rose about 3.5 feet above the shallow part of the riverbed.

By lassoing the end of a big log and pulling it into the middle of the river, we cleared part of the channel. Then butler removed the right wheel of the car so it would not touch bottom. With emergency paddles used as levers, we pried the windshield under the pipeline.

Removing a submerged wheel is something of a job but getting it back on to drive over a shallow rapids was even more of a task.

Both crew members were tired by the time the Highway 79 bridge was reached.

A winch truck fetched the Palestine warped car over a muddy bank into which we sank up to our knees in mud while attaching the tow chains.

After a grease job and thorough cleansing of the car – and its occupants – the water safari will continue Thursday with Corsican 50 miles upstream as the next objective.

“Amphicar Running Again” Cleveland Grammer

Thursday, September 29, 1966.

The little red floating car en route to to Dallas from Houston by way of midstream on the Trinity River splashed back into the water like an overweight duck Thursday.

The launching from a mud bank at the U.S. Highway 79 bridge over the Trinity, 12 miles southwest of Palestine was accomplished with some anxiety eased partly by some handy lifejackets near the two-man crew of the West German Amphicar, a sportscar with a watertight bottom and twin propellers for propulsion in water.

It’s a publicity stunt, but an interesting one, devised by George Butler, the driver who is sales manager for Garden Motors in Dickenson, which sells Amphicars.

When the Amphicar carrying Butler and this reporter splashed back in the water Thursday after pulling out for servicing, the ninth day of the river voyage was begun.

With each stop the car has been taking on a little more weight. We splashed in Thursday 220 pounds overweight according to the factory recommended load limit. The car weighs 2,460 pounds empty, but the weight now is up to 3,180 pounds, which includes 30 gallons of gasoline.

With all the spare gasoline on board, we are almost afraid to smoke.

Above the splash-in point, the maps show a long, desolate twisting river stretch of about 150 river miles to our destination.

Our speed against the current, shoals, and protruding logs has been cut to an average of about four miles per hour. At this point, the Trinity River is about three feet below normal level, making the car’s bottom closer to the riverbed.

So far, the biggest problem encountered in the 240 miles from Houston has been the lack of fuel. The extra weight taken on Thursday included another seven gallons of spare gasoline and a fresh supply of groceries for the next section of river that is extremely remote and without any roads or towns.

“Amphicar Runs Into Flood” Cleveland Grammer

Monday, October 3, 1966.

The sometimes docile and sluggish Trinity River appears irked at the unlikely little red floating car that is grinding its way up the Mid-Texas stream.

On Sunday, the 13th day of an attempt to navigate the 507 river miles of the Trinity, from Houston to Dallas by amphibious car, the river started throwing things.

The river, on the rise after heavy rains in the Dallas - Ft Worth area last week, was sending down debris and huge logs downstream at an alarming rate of speed and frequency.

The cruising auto, called an Amphicar by its West German manufacturers, is being tested on this river run by George Butler of Garden Motors at Dickinson, distributors for the aquatic auto.

This reporter is the second man of the crew which has logged 422 miles so far. We were within 83 miles of our goal Sunday.

Trinidad, on the right bank of the river in Henderson County, was reached after a run from near Corsicana when rising river mists, accelerating currents, and floating logs brought a halt to progress Saturday night. The Amphicar was wedged into a narrow slough and the two-man crew leaned back in the bucket seats and slept some until dawn.

Most of Sunday was spent crossing the vast Creslenn Ranch, beginning in southern Henderson County, and flanking the Navarro County line.

We saw no people along the river but waved to a few apathetic cows. Two of the cows we saw were lying dead in midstream, but the river was lively enough. Rapids ran over shoals, and occasional whirlpools swung the car off course.

But as soon as we reached the State Highway 31 bridge at Trinidad, tied up to a tree on the bank and started walking up to the roadway a boy came running to ask,” Are you in trouble?”

His mother, who was driving by, had seen the car floating below the bridge and stopped to offer aid.

We assured the boy we were fine. When the two bearded, muddy crewmen reached the roadway, the mother and son drove off before we could thank them for offering aid or get their names.

But that was understandable. We were a pretty motley looking crew.’



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