Monday, August 19, 2013

Valdez or Bust, 100 Years Later: Part 2

 by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

A continuation from Part 1 of the commemoration of Robert Sheldon's pioneering drive from Fairbanks to Valdez in 1913.

As our travels continued, the nice weather stayed with us as we made our way south to the Sourdough Roadhouse. There is not much left of the original buildings due to several fires, but we stopped long enough for a photo in front of the rebuilt lodge. Sourdough was a popular stop for travelers on the old Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, thanks to its clean rooms and excellent food. 

We had no trouble crossing the rivers and creeks (unlike Sheldon), so we made good time. We also had no car troubles until we reached Tonsina Lodge, where we had our second flat tire. Don, having the good sense to think ahead, had procured some "Green Slime" in Fairbanks while we were dealing with the first flat tire. Here was our chance to see if it would work on a tube type tire. Lo and behold, it worked great and is still holding today. We will order and install new tubes prior to the next adventure with the old Dodge.

After leaving Tonsina, the old Dodge ran like a fine Swiss watch, ticking off the miles with little effort. This photo was taken as we neared the top of Thompson Pass. Steve said, "I bet people seeing this old car coming out the fog are thinking it must be a ghost from the past." Once we reached the summit, the heavy fog and truck traffic convinced us to load the Dodge in the trailer and haul it down the pass. Safety first!

I am not sure that this was the correct turn, as we made the trip without a GPS. We did however, come thru with no damage, didn't even scrape the fenders! Wait, didn't we have an outside mirror on the car when we entered the tunnel?

This actually wasn't part of the old Trail, but was a tunnel in Keystone Canyon hand cut for a railroad that was to run between Valdez and Copper Center. Much controversy and a feud--culminating in a shootout--led to its demise. You can read about it here.

After the tunnel we decided to do some minor brake adjustments. My job was to make sure Steve didn't get run over while he crawled under the Dodge.  We agreed that we may make a few changes to the brake system before the next big trip in 2016, when the Dodge turns 100 years old.

Here's Don in front of Horsetail Falls in Keystone Canyon, on a sunny warm day just outside of Valdez. We couldn't have asked for better weather. This was a great trip with good friends, in a great old car that once again has made memories for a lot of people.

Here's the Dodge at the end of its road trip in Valdez. The town made us feel welcome, as did the great folks at the museums. This trip took a lot of work and time to make it come together, and I wish to extend a big thank you to all who made it possible, and for the opportunity to be involved with this project.

I'm really looking forward to the Dodge's next big trip in 2016. Don and Ray will be in charge of the food again, Dave can handle the weather, Steve can make sure the Dodge is ready, and I will just enjoy the trip....

Top left photo of the Sourdough Roadhouse and Robert Sheldon courtesy of Frances Erickson, Sheldon's daughter.

All other photos were taken by Bobbie Hasselbring, a travel writer for Motor Home Magazine.

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