The Akers and Godbeys spent several days in Denali National Park.
[Photo from www.ckmarc.com/alaskatrip]
The round-trip journey to Alaska by Model A for two Kentucky couples is coming to an end. Mike and Judy Akers and Danny and Tammy Godbey left their homes for Alaska on June 2, spending nights in their homemade trailers of 1930s design. They arrived back in the lower 48 on July 11.
As this was being written, the Akers were visiting family in California and waiting for their first grandchild to arrive, as the Godbeys were taking a side trip to Yosemite National Park.
Since last checking their progress, the couples had visited Denali Park, the gold rush town of Skagway and the “Valley of Eagles”, before heading back to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California.
Following are some of their recent blog postings.
June 23, Mike & Judy
As of today we have driven 5,305 miles and have enjoyed every one of them.
June 24, Mike & Judy
We have experienced our first casualty due to a rock that managed to catch Mike’s driver’s side headlight lens almost exactly in the center. He kept the glass in place with good old duct tape until we got to the campsite. Fortunately, we have a replacement lens with us! We are early in the trip with a lot of rough road conditions ahead so we needed to engineer a type of protective covering. The law requires running headlights on during daylight hours in many areas. We purchased clear vinyl floor mats from the local Walmart and cut lens-sized ovals to cover the headlights. The protective covers were secured with duct tape and packing tape. We will let you know how it works out down the road!
June 27, Danny & Tammy
Since the beginning of this trip Mike’s sedan has used less gas than our coupe at each fill-up. At first we thought it was just a matter of topping our tank to a higher level. After several fuel stops it was obvious that Mike was getting better gas mileage. We adjusted our carburetor as lean as we could to the point where it would barely idle but still couldn’t match his mileage. We were puzzled since he was pulling as heavy a load if not more. We attributed the difference to our recently overhauled engine still breaking in. Later in the trip the sedan began to lose power on the hills. The engine showed signs of fuel starvation eventually stalling out on a long steep grade. As usual with breakdowns it happened on a busy fast paced road with rain and fog. We suspected water in the gas since this had been a previous problem but the settling glass bowl looked good. Also all the filters looked clean. The supply of gas through the line was very weak but a quick puff of air opened it up and the car ran fine. Unfortunately on the next long hill the problem reoccurred and the same procedure got us on the road again. We began to fear the high alcohol content of the fuel used in northern climates was causing the lining of the gas tank to disintegrate and clog the fuel line. This would be a major problem on the road. The liner supplier advertises the product is resistant to such damage and we hoped the claims were true. When we arrived at camp the rain had stopped and the sun was out allowing further investigation.
With the help of a flashlight it was possible to see what appeared to be a shiny new BB resting in the depression of the gas drain. A magnetic stick was not attracted to the little orb and a wire hook could not wedge beneath it. In final desperation a sharp point was cut on the end of a stiff wire. Like a spear fisherman, Mike jabbed the wire into the occlusion amazingly snagging it. What emerged from the tank was a perfectly round bead of solder centered in a tiny brass washer. Anyone experienced in replacing or repairing a Model A gas gauge would immediately recognize what holds the cork or rubber float on the gauge arm and Mike remembered losing them in the last repair. It had taken several thousand miles and the rough road to the Arctic Circle to wiggle and jiggle this miniature flapper valve into a matching seat. As we’ve all done when making repairs and what we need isn’t readily available we make it work with the intent to come back and replace everything perfectly and then forget. You can bet the gasoline filter inside the fuel shutoff will be replaced when we get home. In the meantime Mike is considering applying for a patent for his fuel restrictor valve he accidentally invented. If he can figure out how to control it he may have a Model A Prius on his hands. Today the sedan is zipping up the hills with no problem and still getting better gas mileage than the coupe. It looks like the restrictor valve idea is a fluke, however in the future you may still obtain one as an added bonus to your Sham-Wow purchase, as seen on TV!
Mike Akers drives through a redwood in Redwood National Park with
his 1930 Ford Model A tudor. [Photo from www.ckmarc.com/alaskatrip]
July 10 (Mike & Judy)
Today was a unique day. We had extreme changes in scenery. We drove 300 miles from Williams Lake, with lake after lake until getting to Cache Creek in the Camelsfoot Mountain Range. The Milepost refers to this range as the Arizona of Canada, with very hot dry summers and dry winters. The only thing missing was the cactus.
We stopped at a scenic view and Danny decided to check his car’s water. When he took the radiator cap off, the neck came with it. An on the road repair from several years ago with J-B Weld finally failed. Another coat of J-B weld and we were on our way. Tech tip from Danny, when you get a new radiator before you install it go over all the welds with additional solder. They do not make them like Henry did.
The mountains today were the longest Michael said he had ever pulled before. The cars overheated but we had lots of water and got to our night’s destination OK. We were lucky to find a beautiful campsite by a river and expect to have a great night of sleeping.
July 13: the perils of model a route planning (by Danny & Tammy)
Modern technology has made vacation planning a breeze. Just type in your home address into google maps and then the places you would like to go. In a matter of seconds it will generate all the roads that you need to take, turn by turn including every interstate exit -but wait you’re driving a Model A Ford! You want nothing to do with interstate traffic.
Let’s get out the GPS. Again enter your location and destination. This time enter “avoid interstates”. Now your route looks like a spider web and it will take you three days to go fifty miles. So it’s back to the low-tech atlas. Here’s a nice scenic route that will get you where you want to go but uh- oh, there’s a 6,750 foot mountain range to climb, not the best choice for a Model A pulling a trailer.
It’s a good thing we used our trusty atlas to avoid this road. Instead we’ll take this lovely highway through the Columbia River Gorge. It runs parallel to the interstate so there won’t be much traffic. It is along side the railroad so it must be mostly level and there are plenty of little towns along the way for gas, snacks, and potty breaks. Just to make sure lets ask a local. “Oh that’s a beautiful route through the river gorge”, they say. “You may see wind surfers on the water and be sure to notice the wind powered generators on the peaks above the road, there must be a thousand of them”. Wow, we can hardly wait to get started, if we are lucky there will be a tailwind and we can just glide along snapping pictures of all the wondrous sights along the way.
Here’s a math question for you brainy types. How fast must a Model A travel into a fifty mph head wind before the curvature of the front fenders create enough lift to bring the front wheels off the ground? Thankfully Henry Ford had the foresight to equip the cars with only forty horsepower engines, from our experience it felt like we were getting close to liftoff at about 35. Had it not been for our little box trailers acting as anchors we might have got off the ground. Instead it was like driving a kite. By lunch the drivers were white eyed but persevered to afternoon and called it a day. In fairness even with gale force wind, it was a beautiful drive.
We camped along the gorge with several wind surfers who told us this was considered one of the world’s best places for the sport. We can tell you wind surfing looks like a lot of fun in the water but we don’t recommend you do it in the road.
More postings and photos by the Akers and Godbeys can be found at www.ckmarc.com/alaskatrip.
Other Alaska motoring articles on OldCarsWeekly.com
The Sheldon: Alaska’s first car
The Trails and Triumphs of motoring in the 49th state on display
LEARN MORE ABOUT MODEL A’s
- Ford: 1928-1931 Standard Statistics Download
- Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942, 3rd Edition
- Best of Old Cars Prewar CD
MORE RESOURCES FOR CAR COLLECTORS FROM OLDCARSWEEKLY.COM