Seattle to Ellensburg in 1929: The Motorcycle Run to Save a Life

In Commemoration of Clifford Amsbury and Frank Walter Sagar

Tom Samuelsen and Jack Makey in the Great Serum Ride. Media sourced from the Yakima Herald.
Tom Samuelsen and Jack Makey in the Great Serum Ride. Media sourced from the Yakima Herald.

The Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts (VME) and members of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling (PNMM) are reenacting a motorcycle run from 1929, completed in commemoration of a brave soul that made a jaw-dropping trip to save a life.

The story in question starts with two men; a motorcycle messenger named Clifford Amsbury, and a gold miner named Frank Walter Sagar.

According to a report from the Yakima Herald, Sagar had just a crushed leg in a mining accident in Liberty, and was suffering from blood poisoning. Amsbury – a 24-year-old motorcycle courier who worked at Rubenstein’s Pharmacy – departed from Seattle in the middle of November and ‘rode at break-neck speed with a serum needed to save Sager’s life.’

An illustration of Clifford Amsbury riding through a mid-November storm to get a serum to Frank Walter Sagar's crushed leg. Media sourced from the the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling (PNMM) Facebook page.
An illustration of Clifford Amsbury riding through a mid-November storm to get a serum to Frank Walter Sagar’s crushed leg. Media sourced from the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling (PNMM) Facebook page.

This was 1929, so there weren’t any Kawi H2R’s blasting about – nor, apparently, was there even a proper road accessible to Amsbury.

The story details Amsbury risking his life by riding over Snoqualmie Pass during a violent November storm and traveling up to 70 mph to reach Sagar, with the successful, 100+ mile trip completed in a staggering 2 hours and 45 minutes, thanks to the ride being deputized for maximum efficacy. 

“The serum he carried extended Sagar’s life ten days – but the miner, whose leg was eventually amputated, left this world at 7 a.m. on Nov. 20, 1929,” details the report. 

Tom Samuelsen and Jack Makey in the Great Serum Ride. Media sourced from the Yakima Herald.
Tom Samuelsen and Jack Makey in the Great Serum Ride. Media sourced from the Yakima Herald.

Today, the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts (VME MC) and members of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling (PNMM) remember that momentous effort.

With a headstone now at Dry Creek (provided in November of 2019 to Sagar’s final resting place), the two groups’ next initiative is to make Amsbury’s trip over Snoqualmie Pass and bestow the rider’s grave with a similar headstone, created by Rick Oswald of Cutting Edge Glass Studio in Kirkland. 

The trip (and headstone) will also ‘help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the VME and 30th year of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling.’ 

Tom Samuelsen and Jack Makey in the Great Serum Ride. Media sourced from the Yakima Herald.
Tom Samuelsen and Jack Makey in the Great Serum Ride. Media sourced from the Yakima Herald.

“We’ll make the same ride he did in 1929, take some pictures at Holy Cross to commemorate the day,” enthuses rider Tom Samuelsen. 

“[The route is] still pretty scary even now with guard rails. When Cliff made the run, it was dirt roads and cliffs down the side of the mountain,”

“Frank and Clifford will be back together one more time, for that moment anyway.”

Amen to that. 

Be sure to wish the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts (VME MC) and members of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling (PNMM) the very best on this initiative; drop a comment below letting us know what you think, and as ever – stay safe on the twisties. 

*Media sourced from the Yakima Herald*