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“If you’re not moving, you’re standing  still.”

 

Steve Trafton

Time To Drive Home

Time To Drive Home

Steve Trafton's ALF driving Utah.

 

A week after our return from our Fall hike in Europe, Katherine an I left for Rangely, Colorado to pick up where we left off on our (ALF or American La France) tour of the western states. Our plan was that my brother Ike would come with us to drive our truck and trailer along behind to act as a safety net in case some major mechanical issue arose. I also convinced Tim Taylor and his wife Judy to meet us in Rangely and tag along for a few days as we drove the ALF through eastern Utah on the way home to Whidbey Island. Tim was the Manager of the Black Horse Racing team when we set the Land Speed Record in 2010 at Bonneville, and the person responsible for the fabrication of the two ALFs in the Black Horse stable.

 

On Wednesday October 2nd, Katherine and I caught the early ferry boat to the mainland and drove over Snoqualmie Pass. We met Ike in Cle Elem at 7:00 a.m., then drove by Yakima, Pasco, Pendleton, La Grande, Ontario, Boise, Twin Falls, Salt Lake City, and Evanston, Wyoming where we stopped for the night after driving 900 miles. We still had over 200 miles to go, but we were in good position to reach Rangely by noon on the 3rd.

 

The next morning, we pushed on, past Fort Bridger, and Manila. Then we retraced our route from earlier in the year through Flaming Gorge and Vernal, Utah, and finally through Dinosaur, Colorado and on to Rangely. After a quick lunch at a local Café we drove over to the Rangely Automotive Museum to be reunited with the ALF. At noon, Tim and Judy arrived and Bud gave us all a grand tour of his remarkable collection of vintage cars and motorcycles.

 

On Thursday October 4th, Tim and I went to work preparing the ALF for her homeward journey while Ike, Katherine and Judy left to explore a nearby arroyo with interesting sandstone features. Almost immediately Tim found the cause of the misfire that developed during the last leg of our trip to Rangely. The electrode between the distributor cap and the rotor had disintegrated so that we were only receiving a very weak charge…and sometimes no charge at all. After a quick trip to the local NAPA store for parts, we were able to fix the distributor cap. A few miles of road-testing confirmed that the ALF was road worthy.

 

On Friday October 5th, we spent most of the morning doing maintenance on the ALF, checking the brakes, fluid levels, etc. By noon we had the ALF loaded on the trailer and were ready to go. We said our goodbyes to Bud and promised to return next year. We left Rangely that afternoon and headed for Grand Junction. After crossing Douglas Pass, we then took Interstate 80 west across the Utah/Colorado border. We exited the Interstate near Cisco, Utah and then off-loaded the Alf and Katherine and I began our drive along the Colorado River, through Castle Valley to Moab, Utah. Ike drove the truck and Tim and Judy followed as we made our way through the high desert landscape. Castle Valley views included great sandstone mesas and towers reminiscent of an old western movie set. After 40 miles the road entered a canyon and followed the river all the way to Moab. This day had been one of the best “ALF tours” we had ever driven.

 

On Saturday October 6th, we left early for a tour of Arches Nation Park. After entering the park, the ALF started up the steep road to the high plateau that features the spectacular sandstone natural arches and formations for which the park is famous. We stopped to visit Wall Street, Double Arch, the Windows, Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch on our fifty-mile tour.

 

On Sunday Oct. 7th, we said good-bye to Tim and Judy, who needed to return to Dallas, and Katherine, Ike and I loaded up the ALF, then  drove south to Blanding, Utah. At Blanding we turned west on highway 95 heading toward Lake Powell. After a few miles we pulled over, took the ALF off the trailer, and began our one hundred and seventy-five-mile tour north to Capital Reef National Park and Torrey, Utah. Once again, the drive was through beautiful high desert terrain. sandstone mesas, sweeping lake views and narrow canyons which made this trip well worth the effort. Shortly after passing through Capital Reef came to the town of Torrey. This marked the end of the ALF tour. We loaded the ALF one last time on its trailer and headed for home, certain that we would return next year to further explore more of the American southwest.

 

Back Roads Speedster Trip

Taking The Back Roads to Rangley

The Big Sky and the American LaFrance vehicle.

Back in July (2019), Katherine and I, along with our friends Alan and Nancy Bixby loaded our 1915 American La France Speedster on its trailer and left home for a two-part tour of the western states, during which we would drive our old race car over 850 miles. We started by driving to New Halem, Washington where we unloaded “The Revenant” and started up over the North Cascade Highway toward Washington Pass. Our old chain drive ALF performed admirably, chugging its way up through the mountains past Diablo Lake, up to Rainy Pass (4875’) then on for another four miles, past Cutthroat Peak to Washington Pass (5476’).

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The view from the pass was spectacular with Liberty Bell Mountain (7720’) rising above us. From here we began our descent toward the town of Winthrop, pausing briefly to photograph Silver Star Mountain and the Wine Spires just east of the Pass. Soon we reached the Methow River Valley and stopped in Winthrop for lunch and to load the ALF back on its trailer. After our rest stop, we headed down along the river to the town of Pateros, Washington at the confluence of the Methow and Columbia Rivers before continuing on to Grand Coulee where we spent the night camped out on Lake Roosevelt.

The next day we drove to Fort Spokane where we off-loaded the ALF and drove north along the Columbia River to Kettle Falls, Washington. We reloaded the ALF on the trailer and then drove east on Highway 20 to Tiger, Washington and south along the Pend Oreille River to Newport, Washington. From here we drove on east to Sand Point, Idaho where we spent the night.

After having a restful night at Sand Point, we drove north to Bonners Ferry, Idaho then south to Libby, Montana. Just outside Libby we off-loaded the ALF and started on a beautiful fifty-eight-mile drive north along the eastern side of Koocanusa Lake to Eureka, Montana. After searching in vain for a suitable campground, we settled for camping out under the stars in the town park. We should have taken note of the nice green grass we were camped on in an otherwise parched landscape, because at two a.m. the sprinklers came on and Katherine and I had to beat a water-soaked retreat to our truck till the next morning.

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The next day, we trailered the ALF seventy miles to Whitefish, Montana where we off-loaded and started our drive to Glacier National Park. We followed Highway 2, along the middle fork of the Flathead River up through the mountains and then on to Marias Pass (5222’). The climb up to the pass was a long one and the ALF’s 14.5-liter engine overheated several times which meant that we had to stop occasionally to add water to the radiator and let the engine cool down. But the old warhorse chugged on and by mid-afternoon we had made it to East Glacier Park Village where we stopped for the night.

We got an early start the next day and, with the ALF back on its trailer we drove on to Browning, Montana then south to Choteau and on to Helena, Butte and finally Anaconda. We off-loaded the ALF here and drove the last forty miles up into the Big Hole where we made camp at Fish Trap Campground along side the Big Hole River.

 

 

After a restful night at a beautiful campsite next to the river, we decided to drive the ALF on a “Grand Tour “of the Big Hole Valley and the Pioneer Mountains. First, we drove south along the Big Hole River to the Town of Wisdom, and then on to the town of Jackson. From Jackson we followed the road up and over Big Hole Pass (7360’) then to a back road running north through the Pioneer  Scenic Byway to Wise River. This section of the tour was challenging with its steep up and down hill sections and many hairpin turns. I should mention here that the ALF weighs in at 8000 pounds and has no power steering so it is not a trivial undertaking to drive it. But all the effort was well worth it, given the scenery which surrounded us.

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After our drive through the Pioneer Mountains we came to the town of Wise River. From here it was but a short drive back to our campsite and a welcome cocktail hour.

On the day after our “Grand Tour” we packed and departed the Big Hole for Salmon, Idaho. First, we drove down the valley back to Wisdom and then due west for twenty-six miles, over the Continental Divide at Chief Joseph Pass (7252’) and then over Lost Rail Pass (7014’) before heading south toward Salmon. Once again, the road was steep and there were numerous hairpin turns, but soon we were in the Salmon River Valley. Here, the going became easier. We stopped at the outskirts of Salmon and loaded the ALF back on the trailer before driving south to Idaho Falls and then east to Alpine, Wyoming. We pulled over into a rest stop, unloaded the ALF and drove south along the Idaho/Wyoming border for eighty-one miles to Cokeville, Wyoming. After a short rest stop and reloading ALF on its trailer we drove on to a campground at Manila, Utah where were spent the night.

The next morning, we off-loaded the ALF once again and left Manila and then entered the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. We turned off the main road, Highway 44, at Sheep Creek and drove the “road less traveled”. This drive was well worth it. While we had to contend with poorly maintained sections of primitive road and a steep winding drive to 8300” before returning to the main road, this loop drive was spectacular. Bright colored sandstone, beautiful aspen grooves and vistas of the surrounding mountains combined to make this portion of the trip literally the high-point.

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After returning to the main road we drove on along a high mountain plateau before coming to the long steep descent into the town of Vernal, Utah. Once again, the challenge of a steep descent, punctuated by many hairpin turns made this section a struggle.  But to rest is not to conquer! At last we reached Vernal. During this arduous day, ALF had started misfiring occasionally and by the time we reached Vernal this misfire had become progressively worse. An electrical issue had arisen and we would have to deal with it before we drove much further. In addition, the weather had turned hot. Afternoon temperatures were nearing 100 degrees.

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As we left Vernal, I was trying to come up with a Plan B. How to fix the ALF, and how to deal with the heat, which would only get worse as we headed south to Moab, Utah. While I mulled this problem, we drove on heading southeast, crossing the Utah/Colorado border at Dinosaur. We maneuvered through the Coal Oil Basin and arrived at Rangely, Colorado where we stopped for gas. As I was pumping fuel and doing a safety check of the trailer, a tall, lanky fellow, about my age (73) came over to me and  asked the usual questions about the ALF. As we talked, he mentioned that he had a car collection and that we should stop by and he would show it to us before we left town.

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I really did want to get moving down the road right then, but there was something about this guy that piqued my interest. So I agreed to follow him. We drove about a quarter mile and he turned into the parking lot of a beautiful building with a sign out front that said Rangely Automotive Museum. This guy was for real!

He introduced himself as Bud Striegel and he had been collecting cars and motorcycles for decades. As a businessman Bud had run an oil pipeline construction company. Now that he was semiretired, he was devoting more time to his car collection. He recently had finished building his museum which he opened to the public and was just enjoying life. After we toured his collection I said, “How would you like to have the ALF on loan for a few months in your collection?” So, we struck a bargain. He could have the ALF at the museum till October, when we would return, after the weather cooled down to pick it up and continue on our way to Utah. In the meantime, I wouldn’t have to trailer the ALF home and trailer it back to Colorado to finish our tour after the weather cooled.

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And so, thus ended the first leg of our tour. We had driven the ALF five hundred miles, were in position finish the tour in the fall, and had meet a new friend along the way.

Once Again Twice Another Time

 

At about 6 PM PDT, this was their progress. You can see exactly where the boys are now by checking their GPS.

 

 

Of course, nothing much happens in Alaska or the Yukon, or B.C. You just see an occasional cow by the road, and then you move on. 

 

 

 

 

With typical American originality, one of the boys yells, “Hey!”. No wonder this cow made no motion to acknowledge them. It should be “MOOO”, you know.

 

 

 

They decided to drive ALF #4 for a-ways and then trailer it, even though the 1925 classic speedster gave them no problem. You can just imagine the strange looks they received from an occasional oncoming vehicle, as they drove a very isolated Alcan Highway. Martha! What was THAT?”  Those oncoming cars may have thought they were entering the Twilight Zone.

 

Anyway, here are some photos that the Alaskan Pony Express just delivered. From Christochina to Fairbanks, to the Yukon and south:

 

 

 

More Later…

 

 

Pick Yourself Up and Start Again

Refusing to accept defeat, the Blackhorseracing.com team took the sick 1915 ALF #1 classic speedster all the way back to Seattle (on a trailer) and are immediately returning to Alaska to retrieve ALF #4. This time, they are taking a different route up the Alcan, from Cle Elum, Washington north all the way back to Glennallen, Alaska. Here are photos of some of the crew who participated including Steve and Katherine, Matt, Guillaume, Dwight and Byron.

 

 

As of 2:15 PDT, Steve, and Dwight had crossed back into Alaska on their way to Glenallen and ALF #4.  Follow along here.

 

 

 

The plan, hatched over a hearty meal, is to drive the ALF #4 part of the way down the Alcan and then trailer it back to Seattle. 

 

 

Here are a few photos from their journey.

 

 

 

 

Getting Ready to Drive the Alcan

At Whittier, Alaska both American LaFrance vehicles

 

unload to begin the journey down the Alcan Highway to Seattle 

 

 

 

The Traftons (which include Steve, his wife Katherine and two of Steve’s brothers Dwight and Byron) are “LollyGagging” Alaska until other Blackhorseracing Team members (Guillaume Marceau and his father Rick) arrive on Monday. So here is their LollyGag Map:

 

Since it is considered disgraceful to allow grass to grow beneath the feet of any Trafton, the four travelers drove north from Anchorage to explore Alaska. They started on Thursday by temporarily shedding the two ALFs at an airport hangar in Anchorage. They had to mark time until their team would land-launch toward Seattle on Tuesday. So why not head toward the Arctic Circle like any average person would do? Through noon on Saturday (August 25), they drove 1150 miles.  Staying the first night at Healy, then driving to Manley Hot Springs, reversing direction to touch base at the Arctic Circle and then going beddy-bye at Fairbanks on Friday night.

 

 

It just so happens that Katherine has a connection to Manley Hot Springs. 

 

This is what she wrote:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Married at 25, my grandfather’s young bride (age 19) eventually joined her husband at Manley Hot Springs by traveling alone from Seattle by boat, then railway, then barge and overland stage in 1914. While there she worked for his uncle Frank Manley who had established a gold mining camp. 

 

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My grandfather’s job was to carry the saddlebags of gold on horseback over the Chilkoot Pass down to the boats headed to Seattle. He used to tell us the story of how he met a group of men en route who offered him a drink by their campfire. They had spiked the drink in hopes that they could steal his saddlebags! Fortunately, my grandad recognized his impairment and jumped off the horse to run alongside and sweat it out! 

 

He managed to prevent the robbery! 

 

 

My grandparents left camp on a dogsled to head for Fairbanks on 28 November 1914. Never made it to the hospital! My dad was born on the dogsled, in the snow! Needless to say, he was an only child!

Frank Manley was quite a character. Left Texas with some reputation. Established a better one in Alaska as “having taken more gold out of Alaska than any other single individual”. He then moved on to California and discovered oil in Bakersfield.”

 

 

But hey, the Arctic Circle still waits. So the Trafton’s backtracked their route, traveled across the Yukon River and then stopped at the exact location of the Arctic Circle for a tourist shot.

Steve checked-off another bucket list item by standing next to the Alaska Pipeline.

 

 

 

Then all four Trafton’s headed for sleep in Fairbanks.

As of noontime on Saturday, they headed south through Delta Junction and the Alaska Range. And here’s what they saw:

This is not fair. More tomorrow…

 

 

Inside Passage and ALF Arrival

From the Inside Passage and ports of Ketchikan and Juneau, we have received word that blue skies and great weather accompanied the Alaska ferry on its winding way north. (At least the Trafton Crew has escaped the smoky skies of the northwest.)

 

The ferry has now docked at Whittier and both ALFs vehicles (American LaFrance) have disembarked. Click on the GPS live links below to follow the touring progress of both ALFs (displaying  numbers and 1 and 4) through Alaska:

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ALF1 (Click Here)

Alf4 (Click Here)

 

Here are a few photos from the ferry ride through the Inland Passage showing the harbors at Ketchikan and Juneau. Then pictures showing a personal tour of the ferry’s diesel engines, to the 56 mile drive up to Anchorage from the port at Whittier, and finally parking to wait for other team members arrival by air on Tuesday, August 28th.

 

North to Alaska With Both Alfs

 

 

 

 

Both the 1915 and 1921 American LaFrance Speedsters are now being ferried to Alaska for an adventurous driving tour back to Seattle! 

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Before the trip, new decals changed the driver’s names and destination.  “Alaska to Seattle” replaced the older “Peking to Paris” stickers and both vehicles were serviced for the 2500 mile journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ferry ride started from Bellingham, Washington and will disembark in several days at Whittier, Alaska.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will follow that journey with live GPS, video and photos from the adventure.  So watch this space!

 

 

 

 

ALF Tours Southwest Montana

 

 

 

 

The 1915  American LaFrance Speedster was driven by Steve and Katherine Trafton to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where they started the tour.

 


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Everywhere they went, the ALF became a surprising center of attention

to the many tourists who had only expected to see wildlife.

 

 

 

The Grand Tetons provided a magnificent backdrop,

even though smoke occasionally intruded.

 

 

 

A welcome rain came on just one day

and did not affect the drive north to Yellowstone Park.

 

 

 

 

It was across the park and up the Bear Tooth Highway

to the 11000 foot summit for incredible views.

 

 

Then it was time to trailer the ALF and drive on to

Earthquake Lake, Beaverhead Rock, Three Forks and its museum,

Ennis and over the hill to Virginia City.

 

 

 

It was on to the Big Hole Basin and

isolation near Wisdom, Montana.

 

 

 

While jumping off the trailer Steve broke his foot in two places.

But after it was attended to in Anaconda,

Steve was back to the more serious business of touring for Blackhorseracing.com.

 

 

 

Time to head back to Washington State,

so Katherine helped load up the ALF to head back.

Pretty good trip. Yes it was.

 

July 4th Parade on Whidbey Island

 

Maxwelton’s July 4th Parade on Whidbey Island was a typical small town affair. As a matter of fact, Maxwelton doesn’t really have a town. But nevertheless, a fun time was had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 4th, 2017 was as good an excuse as any for the ALF and the Black Horse Racing Team. Here are a few photos from that day, some contributed by David Welton of WhidbeyLife Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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See some of the photos we took below. Click on any one to see it in close-up.

 

 

 

 

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ALF Wins All Wheels Weekend

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A small central Washington parade and Combine Demolition Derby sounded oddly interesting. So Steve and Katherine Trafton took their 1915 American LaFrance (ALF) vehicle east across the mountain highway to Lind, Washington.

 

 

 

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Later, touring Washington’s  Palouse country, they stopped in at Dayton for the All Wheels Weekend and surprisingly won the highest award. See the photos below.

 

Click Photos to Enlarge the Collages

 

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ALF at Classic Auto Show in LA

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The Classic Auto Show in Los Angeles played host to one of our two ALF (American LaFrance) vehicles on January 27-29, 2017. Some of the Black Horse Racing Team was in attendance to answer questions put to them by attendees. Steve Trafton was also interviewed for the podcast at HorsePower Online.  (The podcast is also available online for both the iPhone and Android.)

 

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See some of the photographs from that event in our Gallery.

.(Click to view in close-up.)