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Man drives fire engine from Ohio to Roseville

By Lois Gormley / The Press-Tribune

After 10 months on the road, Ohio resident Craig Harmon was just days away from completing the last leg of his journey when he steered the 1964 Maxim fire truck into Roseville Monday afternoon.

Raising the truck's ladder, Harmon hoisted two American flags, a Union Pacific flag and a Lincoln Memorial flag high above the Roseville Fire Department's Oak Street station.

In the past 2 fi years Harmon, founder and director of the Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives, has made more than 400 pit stops at fire stations in the small towns that dot the path of the old Lincoln Highway across the nation.

The Lincoln Highway cuts through Roseville on what is now Atlantic Avenue, Harmon said.

Harmon and the engine, dubbed "Spirit of the Lincoln Way," have made the journey with part of Abraham Lincoln himself - a lock of hair on loan from Miami University in Ohio - taking the esteemed former president to all the places he never got see before his assassination.

The trip, which began in 2000 and was made in three segments, is in commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the 1915 Lincoln Highway Film and Flag Trip. The goal is to raise the flag in each of the 450 towns on the highway and reclaim Lincoln Park at its end on July 4 in San

Francisco, he said.

"Lincoln wanted to travel after he left office," Harmon said. "He wanted to visit California and dip his big toe in the Pacific. When I finish raising the flag on the Fourth I'm going to go down to the beach and dip my big toe in."

Harmon said the tour has a multitude of purposes, not the least of which is to honor all firefighters.

"In my mind, (firefighters) kind of represent the spirit of America," he said. "They are always there to help out."

The tour is also designed to set the stage for the 2009 bicentennial celebration of Lincoln's birth, Harmon said. There will be yearly events over the next six years leading up to that celebration, he said.

The journey began on a whim and seemed to take on a life of its own, Harmon said. With little more than a sleeping bag and no itinerary to speak of, he has relied on the generosity of firefighters and citizens across the country to fund the trip.

"A lot of the fire departments back east offered to fill me up with fuel," he said. "I've stayed with firefighters most of the time."

When he stopped in Colfax, firefighters there donated $100 to the trip fund. The largest donation from any department has been $200, Harmon said.

Rocklin Fire Department made him dinner Monday night and offered him a place to stay, he said.

At each stop, the various departments have donated a fire helmet to the tour, signed by all the firefighters.

Harmon said he has collected about 70 helmets and hopes to display them in New York at the site of the World Trade Center when the engine returns to the East Coast.

Harmon's return trip to the East Coast may not take quite as long if Union Pacific officials agree to his plan to have the engine transported on a flat car back across the country in celebration of the rail company's 140th anniversary, he said.

If that happens, it will leave California out of UP's Roseville yard, Harmon said.