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7/5/2002

Trek by fire truck to end today
Lincoln Highway trip 'links' U.S.
By Lakiesha McGhee AN OHIO MAN WHO spent the last two days resting at an Oakland fire station is expected to complete a two-year
two-month trek across the country today in a bright red 1964 Maxim open-cab fire truck with a 100-foot ladder.
Staff Writ


AN OHIO MAN WHO spent the last two days resting at an Oakland fire station is expected to complete a two-year, two-month trek across the country today in a bright red 1964 Maxim open-cab fire truck with a 100-foot ladder. , Staff Writer Craig Harmon's cross-country trip began as a way to commemorate the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway in the nation. It stretched from New York to California and once passed through Oakland at Jack London Square.

But Harmon's journey gained new meaning after Sept. 11.

Now the trip, dubbed "Link Across America," is also one that honors firefighters throughout the nation -- especially those in New York City.

At 10 a.m., Harmon will be escorted by Oakland firefighters across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island. He will then be met by San Francisco firefighters and escorted to California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco's Lincoln Park. He said he will claim the park as the end of the Lincoln Highway.

Harmon, 46, of Galion, Ohio, and San Francisco firefighters will participate in a ceremony that includes raising four flags at the park: the American flag, the 13-star colonial flag, the Union Pacific flag and the Lincoln Highway flag. The firefighters will also help Harmon unload some 80 firefighter helmets he collected along his journey. The helmets were

signed and donated by fire chiefs in 12 different states. They will be on display at the Legion of Honor until 4:30 p.m. today.

Harmon said he was on the road during the terrorist strikes. He is the founder and director of the Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives in Galion, Ohio. He calls the highway a "living memorial" to Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862. Harmon said it was Lincoln's dream to ride on the Union Pacific railroad to California, but he never got a chance to do it.

"I'm sort of acting as the surrogate Lincoln," said Harmon, who carries a lock of Abe's hair in his truck. Harmon said he plans to travel to Ocean Beach after the ceremony at Lincoln Park and dip his big toe in the water as a symbolic gesture.

Harmon began his journey July 29, 2000, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He then drove to New York City, where he took a nighttime photo of his fire truck with the lighted twin towers of the World Trade Center and a raised American flag as his backdrop.

Harmon initially intended to complete his trip last year, as a celebration of the 85th anniversary of the 1915 Lincoln Highway Film and Flag Trip -- when the Lincoln Highway Association traveled from New York to San Francisco.

On July 29, 2000, Harmon took a yearlong break.

Since Sept. 5, 2001, he has been traveling -- for 10 months straight.

Harmon said he set out on the 14,000-mile drive with only a few necessities: a toothbrush, five pairs of jeans, eight T-shirts, lots of notepaper -- and of course his digital camera and laptop computer. He said the spirit of the American people has helped him along the way.

"The American people will give and extend their hand when needed, and this journey embodies that spirit," said Harmon, who hasn't paid for lodging while on the road. "Everyone has a unique gift to give, whether it's a tank of gas or an upside-down cake and a bottle of water."

Harmon said the truck he drives has been called "America's Fire Truck" by people he meets along the way. The truck made an appearance at President Bush's inaugural parade in January 2001 and at the Lincoln National Birthday Celebration in Washington that year. Harmon said he has talked by phone to the staff of late-night talk show host Jay Leno, who recently bought a fire truck and wants to restore it. He said he plans to visit Leno in Los Angeles and share his experience with him.

This journey is Harmon's second cross-country trip on the Lincoln Highway. In 1998, he made a commemorative trip with the Boy Scouts of America for the Lincoln Highway safety tour.

After doing some research in the Bay Area, he was able to contact members of a Berkeley family related to David R. Lane, who wrote "The Lincoln Highway: The Story of a Crusade That Made Transportation History."

Harmon said he was so inspired by his findings on his first trip that he founded the museum.

"If it wasn't for the Oakland Public Library, none of this would have ever started," said Harmon.

Part of his future plans include returning to New York City, where he will display the fire truck and the helmets for the 9/11 anniversary.

Harmon and "America's Fire Truck" will be in the Bay Area until the end of August. He said he will be happy to participate in more local community events.

Information about Harmon's journey and the museum can be found at http://www.lincoln-highway-museum.org/



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