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.

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!

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.

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!


Today (Monday) we arrived in Bakersfield, where our cars have been patiently waiting for us since early April.

We shipped the cars out here from the east coast on a lift of opportunity when another group of cars from the Horseless Carriage Club Of America were headed out to CA for the annual board meeting and tour of Yosemite. Our cars were dropped off in Bakersfield where some extremely gracious hosts offered to store the cars in an airplane hangar.

The reunion with our cars was fantastic. The cars, being covered in dust and with spider webs from the floor to fenders and seats to ceiling were like perfect barn finds of days gone by. But after checking fluid levels and tire pressures, they fired right up.

We weren’t ready to pack the cars for the trip yet but we certainly wanted to drive them a bit, so what better way other than teaching our landlords how to drive a Model T?

Susan and her daughter-in-law Amanda at the controls after learning how to drive the T

Tomorrow, we’ll finish the tuning and preparations, shop for the things we didn’t want to send out on the cars or bring with us on the commercial flights out to CA, and finish packing. We’ll plan on setting out on Wednesday morning.