Aaaaaaannnd They’re Off!!!!

“A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs from a small shoot;  A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;  A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.”  –  Laozi, Chapter 64 of the Tao Te Ching

“Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.”  –  John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Today’s the first “official” day of the trip and we’re headed from Bakersfield, CA to the western gate of Yosemite National Park.  Although it will make for some long days, we’re hoping we can make 180-200 miles per day (+/-).

Here’s a Google Maps link to our planned route for the day, trying to avoid all the wide-open roads where people may be traveling more than twice as fast as us.  Here’s a PDF of the route.    [Note: We’re posting links to Google Maps with our routes, but we’re not sure what’s going on with them.  We’ve discovered that while looking at the link while using a laptop, the link shows our route as planned.  Looking at the link on a hand-held device (iPhone), Google Maps is for some reason showing a different route.  We’ll also post a .pdf file that captures the intended the route, although that file is less useful for anyone who wants to explore the route.] .

Clear skies are forecast, along with a high temperature of 99°F.  Only the first couple hundred Model Ts (in 1909) were equipped with a water pump for the engine cooling system.  Henry Ford soon thereafter decided to go with the simpler (and cheaper) thermosyphon design throughout the rest of engine production.  Hot engine water, being less dense than cooler water, rises up the return hose to the top of the radiator where it cools, becomes more dense, and sinks to the bottom of the radiator and returns into the engine block to complete the cycle.  This system has proven very effective but can be susceptible to overheating when the engine is worked hard at high ambient temperatures.  However, we have an ace up our sleeves…we can easily take the hoods off the cars and put them in the back seats if necessary to allow more airflow around the engine compartment.

Wish us luck, and we’ll see you on the road!

Oakhurst? Check!

Well folks, we’re in Oakhurst, CA after completing our 189 mile drive from Bakersfield today.  A great day of touring with only a minor delay late in the afternoon due to both cars overheating during a hill climb.  It was definitely a warm day but the real problem was that we needed to climb about 2400 feet, seemingly all at once!  The lesson learned was that we need to take a closer look at the topo maps and elevation profiles on the Google Maps bicycle feature.  Regardless, after letting the cars cool down during the climb, we were on the move again and pulled into Oakhurst late this afternoon.

Such a diverse drive today. The flat, expansive crop fields of the Central Valley, the rolling, golden foothills and the mountain lakes surrounded by rocky cliffs. Tonight we’ll sleep at the southwestern gateway to Yosemite Valley. Incredible!

Cruising right along.

Not a bad place to cool off.

One note: touring in an open car allows you to experience both the sights and smells along your journey. Blooming flowers, mountain air, lake winds or, when the manure spreaders are out, eau d’bouef.

Day 2 – Yosemite Valley

We’re getting a later start today than we hoped for due to a flat tire. More on that later.

Today will be one of the most challenging days for the cars.  Up and over Tioga Pass, el. 9945 feet.  Our destination is Lee Vining, CA.

Because it’s the beginning of peak tourist season, lodging is impossible to come by.  And because we can’t just “zip back and forth” between lodging and the sight-seeing destinations, we can really only drive through Yosemite today to give those of us who’ve never seen it before a reason to come back one day. We’ll start out with our car tops up, but as we enter the valley you can bet we’ll be putting them down so we can look up as well as out.

As far as getting up to Tioga Pass, we’ll be using every bit of the 22 horsepower our engines are rated for, although at that altitude they’ll be producing less power than that.

But once at the top, there’s yet another challenge…getting down.

Both our cars have original-style (correct for the period) aftermarket rear wheel brakes to augment Ford’s transmission brake design, but steep descents in a Model T are always approached with caution. Which is exactly how we plan to descend from the pass down to Lee Vining and the 760,000 year-old Mono Lake…cautiously.

Ultimately we may find that on the way up we’ll have to have the kids get out and push from behind, and on the way down we’ll have to have the kids get out and push from in front!

Yosemite Valley? Tioga Pass? Mono Lake? Check!

Folks, we made it over Tioga Pass and it…is…beautiful!!!

All went well until the down slope leg into Lee Vining and the ’11 ended up overheating its brakes on an 8% grade, but we managed to work our way through the issue to get safely into camp. Definitely have some brake and clutch work to do in the morning.

More to follow, after we grab some chow.

Belated Introductions

It occurs to us we’ve gotten this far without proper introductions.

Our group of tourists consists of two fathers, four brothers, four sons, a grandfather, two grandsons, two nephews and an uncle. All packed into just two cars, a red 1910 Ford and a blue 1911 Ford.

AND, on the first day of touring we even threw in another brother, another uncle and two more nephews!

Here’s a picture of the entire group, taken on that first day:

Okay, so maybe we made those introductions a little more complicated than necessary, but it’s true nonetheless.

Here’s a better view of the cars:

That’s the 1911 in front, with the 1910 behind it (and another ’11 behind that)*. This picture was taken on a different tour in Vermont and you see those brass cylinders standing upright on the running boards? Those are acetylene gas generators, the same kind of gas used by welders today, but also by coal miners way back when so they could see in the dark with their head lamps. Calcium carbide was placed in the lower section of the generator and water in the upper section. By dripping the water onto the calcium carbide through an adjustable valve, acetylene gas was produced and routed through rubber tubes up to the headlights. Then all the driver had to do is get out and light the headlights with a flame. (The side and tail lights are kerosene lamps). But we’ve removed those for this trip and installed safer, more reliable electric headlights which also freed up space on the running board for some of our gear.

* The ’11 in the background is owned by the father/grandfather on our trip. Of the approximately 15 million Model Ts built over a 20 year period, that car was built just 3 days after the blue ’11 owned by the father/son/brother!