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November 11, 2002

Unusual way of honoring veterans ends by U.S. Capitol

From: Reporter-News Online, TX
Nov. 11, 2002

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Just a stone's throw from the U.S. Capitol, a Texas man's unusual way of marking Veterans Day came to a quick end Monday afternoon.

District of Columbia firefighters returning from a call at the U.S. Botanic Garden noticed an odd site behind the building. It was an old Mazda 626 towing a trailer with a 100-gallon fuel tank and a banner proclaiming it was making, "The one pilot drive. A 30 hour nonstop from San Antonio to New York to honor our soldiers and veterans on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2002."

After 1,600 miles, though, the drive ended early.

D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said firefighters stopped to take a look and discovered the Mazda's fuel tank had been removed. In its place the driver had rigged up his own fuel injection system, powered by gas in the massive tank, similar to one used to fuel emergency generators.

He was also conducting electricity from the battery to the trailer, apparently to run the lights, and creating what Etter described as "a potentially very dangerous situation." The contraption was found about 100 yards from the Capitol, inside the Capitol security perimeter.

"He had it hooked up so he wouldn't have to stop for gas," said U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel.

Police questioned the driver, Richard H. Barnes, Jr., 54, a deaf mute dressed in camouflage who told them he was from San Antonio. Etter called it "miraculous" that the driver made it as far as he did without disaster striking.

Communicating with an Associated Press reporter by written notes, Barnes said his goal was "to do honor to our soldiers and veterans," including his late father who served in World War Two.

Police did not press charges, though the car was towed away and the trailer and tank were placed on a flatbed truck for removal to a secure location.

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