Day 3 – Austin

Wait, what?  You guys are in Texas already?  Nah, it’s Austin, NV located right on route 50, also known as the “loneliest highway in America”.

While we’re not taking a highway, we’re sure to be more lonely than the cars on route 50.  Today’s trip takes us on the Reese River Valley Scenic Drive.  You can read more about that drive here but we can expect one or two pretty hearty climbs, a ghost-town or two, dinosaurs, dirt/gravel roads, isolation and one of the nicest drives in Nevada.

They should have bought a Ford.

Today’s entire route can be found here.

Let’s Talk About Today

There were many reasons we wanted to make this journey, and arguably at the top of the list was to introduce the youngest of our clan to the Spirit of America.

Happily, our trip does not end today but were that to be we could say with confidence we’ve met that goal.

Today, as you’ve undoubtedly learned, we determined that the six-mile long, eight percent downhill grade coming out of Tioga Pass caused more damage to the ’11’s low-speed clutch than first believed and further travel would not be possible unless the clutch banding was replaced. Amazingly, but unsurprisingly, the eldest traveler among our group happened to bring along a set of Kevlar bands with him “because I had them”, says he. And with those in hand we set out to change all three bands in the 11’s transmission (low-speed clutch, reverse and brake).

Changing bands is, on the face of it not too difficult (the Kevlar band manufacturer states “No special skill required!”), but it can involve digging into the car’s drivetrain to expose the transmission bands if certain “upgrades” have not been accomplished on the past. Our 11’s transmission did not have upgrades.

So here we were, in Lee Vining, CA on the shores of Mono Lake strategizing where and how we were going to change the bands. Our hotel couldn’t host us in their parking lot (next tenants would be there later) and it was going to be another blazingly sunny day.

Which brings us to the Spirit of America. Just down the street from us was Lee Vining Shell (as in Shell gasoline) and we visited them to inquirer about using some of their parking space to effect our repairs, Not only did the owner, Shelley, say yes but he also cleared his one-car bay out for us so we could put the ’11 inside and out of the day’s heat while offering us free rein of the tool boxes and shop supplies. We learned that Lee Vining Shell was a family business, that everyone working there seemed exceptionally intent on helping the countless people who stopped in or phoned with rough-running cars, flat tires, requiring assistance with getting pulled back onto the road (think 4×4) and even people looking for inner tubes with which to go rafting in the local rivers. They enjoyed good-natured ribbing amongst themselves and had stories to tell about the local happenings. And they never blinked when our three- to four-hour project turned into six.

But most humbling, when at the end of the day we offered what we thought was a generous financial “thank you”, Shelley and Debby simply said the pleasure was theirs and we could just pay it forward. They, we know, represent the millions of Americans that make our country great, as opposed to the seemingly handful of people we always hear about in the media that we are supposed to find important. And if nothing else, we hope the youngest of our crowd are learning this, too.

Lee Vining Shell. Go there.

Day 3 Update: Brake and Clutch Work

Oldest son/nephew/grandson here to update on the brake and clutch work mentioned earlier. We thought we may be able to do some tune-ups and get going with a late start, but the problem turned out to be a bit more severe, and we may be taking a day to fix up the transmission bands. However, if we finish early we may head to Hawthorne, a town on our original route.

Behold, the Model T transmission!

We’d also like to sincerely thank Shelley, Debby, Cory, and the entire family at the Lee Vining Shell for allowing us to use their bay to keep the car out of the hot sun. If you’re ever in Lee Vining, make sure to visit their super friendly and helpful service station.

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!