SPOKANE, Wash. - In 1993, a Spokane man drove across the country to pick up a fire truck he won for 20 dollars in his hometown of Rheems, Pennsylvania, so fire explorers could use it here locally.
"How many people can say they've seen the United States from inside a fire engine," Ron Baer said in a 1993 interview with KXLY.
Baer said the trip wasn't easy. The vehicle topped off at 55 miles per hour and got nine miles to the gallon in gas.
"It took me two weeks," Baer said Sunday. "I drove 200 miles a day because I didn't want to-- well this thing wasn't made to go on the highway. It was made to go five blocks and put a fire out."
Now, two decades later., Baer is getting ready to send what he calls his "mistress" back to Rheems where their relationship first started.
"I drove it to fires when I was in my twenties," Baer said.
The truck became his in 1990 when the department decided to raffle it off instead of selling or trading it. Ron bought four tickets for five dollars a pop.
"Couple months later they pulled my name out of a hat and said you can come get your old fire engine," Baer said.
He was living in Connecticut then. Three years later he and his wife moved to the Inland Northwest. The engine didn't come with.
"My ex-wife hated it as much as I loved it," Baer said. "She said 'since we're moving to the west coast this would be a good time to sell it wouldn't it?' And I said, 'yeah, you're probably right.' And I got so depressed and she said 'oh, keep the damn thing."
Baer chatted with the Spokane Fire Chief about keeping the engine at the fire house. Once the chief agreed that it would be used to train their fire explorers, Baer found himself driving the truck three thousand miles across the country.
"This is the best way to see America," Baer said in the 1993 interview with KXLY. "A fire engine, the mountains and Creedence Clearwater Revival in my ears."
The truck will make the trip again, this time, without Baer and on a flat bed.
"It's time to let it go," Baer said. "It really does make me feel good to see it go back to where it came from."
Baer said it can't afford the maintenance anymore. So now it will go back to Rheems to retire. He'll send it off on Monday at 10 am from the Spokane Fire Station on Perry Street.