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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.

Traftons in Alaska

 

Those Traftons were at it again and this post shows a few more photos and some short video clips of their Alaska adventure. 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on any image to see all of them in larger sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Shucks

Well some mornings you can barely chew through the straps on your straight-jacket. Frustration attacked the Blackhorseracing team as their ALF#1 overheated again and it could not even be coaxed to work for it’s chug down the Alcan Highway. You’d think this car was built in 1915 or something. So here’s the deal: the working ALF #4 was warehoused and left in Glenallen, Alaska, while the ALF#1 is being trailered back to Seattle for a waterboarding torture. The team feels that if they separate the twin classic cars, it’s an appropriate punishment for the difficulty they put the racing team through. 

 

Anyway, the scenery has been lovely, even through clenched teeth.  All four team members are riding in the Dodge Ram as they trailer south to Seattle.

 

 

 

As of about 4:30 PM Yukon Time, the crew was stopped temporarily at Watson Lake, Yukon Territory. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watson Lake is primarily known for its Sign Post Forest…

 

 

 

 

The dry-mouthed boys paused for an anticipated refreshment and went looking for the appropriate recreation. Unfortunately, they found a recreation center, but it was not exactly what they hoped for.

 

 

So they continued south. As of 6:15 PM Pacific Coast Time, they are here:

 

 

At Good Hope Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

After picking up Guillaume Marceau and his father at the Anchorage Airport, and after an extra day of engine tinkering and severe indigestion from ALF #1, a decision was made to trailer that classic-car for a ride back to Seattle. Well, it’s punishment you know. Here is the GPS link for the remaining ALF #4 so you can follow its progress. Steve is driving ALF #4 with Guillaume acting as navigator. The two other fellows will enjoy their views of Alaska in the Dodge Ram with trailer. There may still be downtime repair during the journey, so be forewarned. It’s not as if they are in the middle of nowhere with early 1900 cars you know…..oh…right. Well, it’s not as though they are in the middle of Mongolia you know.

 

Here is Guillaume trying to solve the overheating problem by feeding ALF #1 a bottle of Pepto Bismol.  

 

 

But nope.

 

ALF #1 is much too valuable to become a doorstop (although they threatened it by reminding it of this steam shovel they had seen the day before). So a decision was made to load the sick puppy on the trailer, and drive it back to Seattle.

 

 

 

Brother Byron and Wife Katherine said their goodbyes and winged their way back to civilization as Steve, Dwight, Guillaume and Rick were left to drive south to Seattle along the Alcan highway where traffic signals are just rough guidelines and arrival at your destination is not a foregone conclusion. 

 

Anyway, here are a few photos:

The proposed route for today.

You may want to look at their GPS destination (see the link above), then go over to Google Maps and

Browse the Street View Images to see what they are seeing (as below).

 

 

More when there’s more…

 

 

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.)

 

Ulaan Baatar

Ulaanbaatar, Capital City of Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Capital City of Mongolia


What a Place To Be Stranded! Ulaanbaatar

 


Here is basic information to help you follow:

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  1. Today’s Race begins at about 0700 Mongolian Daylight Time, or 3:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time. But the two Black Horse Race vehicles left the main crowd of vehicles to fix some major mechanical issues here instead.
  2. At about 3:00 PM PDT, you can follow the live GPS signals from the start of the race each day and then watch as the signals move progressively along the mapped route. See this link. 
  3. For more comprehensive directions or to follow one of the other 115 specific vehicles, see this link from our previous blog post.
  4. To view a map of the Peking to Paris Endurance Race progress with daily route updates, go here.
  5. Local Time Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is 16 hours and one day ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).
  6. You can be reminded of regular web site updates when a posting appears on our Facebook page.

 


Here is Katherine Trafton’s diary of what happened on the previous day June 13, 2016:

 

Day 2 found us starting the rally at 0701 as the lead car thru the busy town of Datong, China. Lots of traffic squeezing in and out of lanes. We are the cause of much of the congestion, as cars stop beside us with their smart phones clicking photos and people madly waving at us. We climbed up over passes and down into grassland terrain that reminded us of Ellensburg, Washington! But suddenly our alternator failed! We managed to get local lads to help push us off the road to investigate the problem and begin repairs. After 3 hours we were off and running again!


But for only 4 hours when we noticed steam emerging from the engine. Water pump failure! As it was approaching 2000 hours with 2 more hours to get to the hotel, Steve sent Tim Taylor and Ike Trafton off and we awaited a tow truck. At 0230 the tow truck arrived as did a torrential rain storm. Steve managed to maneuver the #1 ALF onto the tow, but there was no way it could haul us. We were too heavy and long.


It’s now 0558, still pouring rain and the second tow truck has just pulled up. Forget the hotel room and a shower, we will head straight for the Mongolian border, procure another tow truck to take us to Ulaan Baatar. We have one day for Tim to hopefully get us back on track!

 



Here is Ike Trafton’s Update covering the following day:


After a long, uncertain night in the Chinese uplands, Steve, Katherine, and the broken #1 car “Revenant” were picked up. They arrived at the border just in time to see the #4 car “Liver Eater” and her crew before crossing into Mongolia. Steve and Katherine had a far more arduous crossing than Tim and Ike – but that story will be told later.

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For now, the Liver Eater and crew crossed after four hours of courteous, but officious, Chinese and Mongolian processing. And then we were racing across the Gobi Desert.

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Mongolian roads held some challenges…and sites! The Gobi landscape and skies however combined to be beautiful to drive across.

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As the sunset, the massive potholes in an otherwise high speed road resulted in the Liver Eater’s air seats getting a good workout.

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Finally, after one massive pothole put too much slack in the steering wheel, we decided to pull off in the desert and call it a night. Hiding off the road to avoid crowds the Liver Eater and crew settled down for their first sleep in 40 hours.

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Liver Eater was churning along smoothly all day, giving Tim and Ike confidence that Black Horse Racing would get the #1 Revenant repaired and have both cars back on their way to Paris.



The next morning…

After six hours sleep, and steering adjustments, the Liver Eater was back on the road.

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Running smoothly at sunrise, her crew was busy – driving and taking selfies in the mirror.

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We even had breakfast from the snacks we got during a previous fuel stop.

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We were flying  to Ulaan Baatar, the Gobi giving way to upland grassland, when…

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BOOM! Tim turns to Ike and says, “we’re finished.” 100 kilometers from our destination and…

The connecting rod came through the engine block and oil pan.

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The rod is still there. Initial forensics according to Tim is the crank shaft still looks good.

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So, while we wait for the recovery crew in the beautiful Mongolian countryside, the Liver Eater’s race is over – for this year.

 



More messages when they arrive…
 

Welcome to Mongolia

Erenhot, on the Border of China and Mongolia

(with Updates Below)

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Here is some basic information to help you follow the route:

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  1. Today’s Race begins at about 0700 China Standard Time, or 4:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time.
  2. At about 4:00PM PDT, you can follow the live GPS signals from the start of the race and then watch as the signals move progressively along the mapped route. See this link. 
  3. For more comprehensive directions or to follow one of the other 115 specific vehicles, see this link from our previous blog post.
  4. To view a map of the Peking to Paris Endurance Race progress with daily route updates, go here.
  5. Local Time in Eastern Mongolia is 16 hours and one day ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).
  6. You can be reminded of regular web site updates when a posting appears on our Facebook page.
  7. The driving Weather Forecast starting from Erenhot near the China/Mongolia border:

Numerous showers. Mostly cloudy. Mild.

Sprinkles. Overcast. Mild. 64°F / 18°C
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From Stateside the Webmaster Writes: Well, we don’t really know the true facts about yesterday’s problems because Ike Trafton has not been able to update us yet. But here is another view as both cars left the town of Erenhot.
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You’ll notice, that Google Street-View made it into Mongolia. So we have been able to grab some shots that the racing team saw at ground level.
Leaving Erenhot

Leaving Erenhot

.Unfortunately they were met with
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And facing a main dirt road out of town.
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Well. The view did change for the better. Somewhat.
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For now, this is what we can surmise: although both the #1 and #4 cars were to have camped with the group, they took a separate route and will meet up in Mongolia’s fairly large and cosmopolitan capital city of Ulaanbaatar. The #1 vehicle will be repaired there and readied to continue the trip. While they were supposed to be camping for the night somewhere in Mongolia, the GPS rarely lies. (Well, occasionally it may incorrectly send you through someone’s garage, but not often.)
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Below you will see that the larger group of road-ralliers goes off to the left (black arrow), but both the Black Horse Racing vehicles are taking the track north, directly to Ulaanbaatar.

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Going Straight to Ulaanbaatar

Going Straight to Ulaanbaatar

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For most of the drive today, this is what they are seeing.
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 At one point, #1 The Revenant vehicle pulled off the road to get gas:
Probably Self Serve

Probably Self Serve

 

 

And this photo from Katherine confirms what we have often suspected.

 

Camel in the Middle of the Roadway

Camel in the Middle of the Roadway



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 UPDATE at 4:30 PM (PDT) or 8:30 AM Mongolian Time
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The photo above looks like a typical vehicle breakdown in middle America in about 1925. It’s not. However it is a breakdown shot in Mongolia in June, 2016.

Ike Trafton sends a quick update message:


Steve and Katherine are in Ulaan Bataar. Tim Taylor and I were driving from the Chinese border in the #4 Liver Eater to link up with them in order to fix the #1 Revenant. At about 55 miles (90 km) southeast of Ulaan Baatar we stuck a piston and broke a rod. We’re currently awaiting a wrecker. Will send photos and details when I get to the hotel.  IKE


Steve and Katherine are waiting at this site in the Mongolian nation’s capital city…

 

#1 Revenant Location

#1 Revenant Location

 

…which looks like this (in the Google Street-View).
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Remember that these two cars are two of the oldest vehicles in the Peking to Paris Endurance Race (the 1915 “The Revenant” is the oldest vehicle entrant and the 1925 “Liver Eater” is the 4th oldest vehicle), so a breakdown is not unexpected. We shall see what they decide to do when we receive Ike’s further update in tomorrow’s installment.

 

Show Your Inner Mongolia

Day Two. Into Mongolia  (with updates below…)

 

Here is some basic information to help you follow along:

 

  1. Today’s Race begins at about 0700 China Standard Time, or 4:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time.
  2. At about 4PM PDT, you can follow the live GPS signals from the start of the race and then watch as the signals progress along the mapped route. See this link. 
  3. For more comprehensive directions to follow a specific car, see this link from our previous blog post.
  4. To view a map of the Peking to Paris Endurance Race progress with daily route updates, go here.
  5. Local China Time (the country has only one time zone) is 15 hours and one day ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).
  6. You can be reminded of regular web site updates when a posting appears on our Facebook page.
  7. Weather Forecast at Erenhot, Inner Mongolia, China:

 

Tomorrow:

Numerous showers. More clouds than sun. Cool.

Numerous showers. More clouds than sun. Cool.
Hi: 71°F / 22°C
Lo: 63°F / 17°C
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From Stateside the Webmaster Writes: Hmm. No email from Ike yet and it looks like The Revenant #1 may have overheating problems in the desert. See below.
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4:15 AM PDT or 7:15 PM Mongolian Time
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Recalling Katherine’s transmission from yesterday, they had experienced some heating problems in the vehicles. At 4:15 AM Pacific Daylight Time this morning both vehicles (#1 and #4)  are stopped about 114 miles from their destination of Erenhot. At 40 mph, this is about 3 hours from their destination.
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Both vehicles stopped at this location (below). Not your typical Rest Stop.
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You’d think this was Mongolia or something.
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5:10 AM PDT or 8:10 PM Mongolian Time
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#4 Liver Eater (blue arrow) is back on the road to Erenhot, while #1 Revenant (red arrow) stays put. Their destination is Erenhot (black arrow).
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5:20 AM PDT or 8:20 PM Mongolian Time
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#1 Revenant remains stopped. It appears that it may be overheating.
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5:52 PDT or 8:52 PM Mongolian Time
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#1 Revenant remains stopped (at red arrow), about three hours from it’s destination (circled), as #4 Liver Eater goes on ahead.
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The #4 vehicle “The Liver Eater” nears the Mongolian town of Sonid Yougi (you’d think a Mongol made up these names?)…

 

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But #4 appears that is not stopping in this Mongolian town. Instead it is driving on.

 

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Meanwhile, the #1 car remains stopped. Oh Boy. More later…

 

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UPDATES @ 3:15 PM PDT or 6:15 AM Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region

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Here is the update and explanation for the events noted above from Ike Trafton. The #1 Revenant just started its movement on a tow-truck (at 3:15 PDT) going toward Erenhot. That’s about 12 hours after it pulled to the road side. According to Ike, the #4 vehicle will continue on tomorrow, while the #1 vehicle is being transported directly to Ulaan Baatar and will meet up with them there.

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From Erenhot, Ike Writes:  The day started hectic, but we were away at our official start time. The #1 car led off through the early morning rain on a 600 kilometer journey for the day.

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Meanwhile in the #4, Tim enjoyed a relaxing morning drive…

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…while Ike kept the “Liver Eater” on track from his navigation station with the GPS plotter, Monit rally display, and the tulip guidebook for our route.

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While the #4 is running well, the #1 faced a series of mechanical challenges. The first was a sheared key connecting the water pump and alternator that resulted in loss of electrical power. As the Chinese crowd helped push the injured vehicle out of an intersection, Tim arrived and we quickly got it moved to a gas station.

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After three hours of work, the damaged parts were replaced.

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Additionally all the plugs were replaced as a further attempt to preclude trouble.

Unfortunately, only a couple hundred kilometers later, the “Revenant” was down again, with a possible water pump problem – related to the earlier alternator problem.

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Steve and Katherine remained with their vehicle, awaiting a tow, while Ike and Tim continued into Erenhot with the “Liver Eater.” As of midnight here, Steve and Katherine are still alongside the road awaiting their tow. Tim and Ike are prepping the “Liver Eater” for departure tomorrow and awaiting the #1 and her crew.

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The race has moved from the coastal plains and river valleys of eastern China, and is now poised to cross the Mongolian Plateau and the Gobi Desert. As the sheep and goat herder below proves, modern technology of motorcycle shepherding has arrived, at least, in Inner Mongolia.

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Update @ 4:00 PM PDT:  There may be no web site posting from Ike tomorrow June 14, since they are scheduled to camp somewhere in Mongolia. Katherine emails that she and Steve made it to the hotel in Erenhot (remember that it is early morning there).  But both of them will continue on through the next night of camping and then to Ulaan Baatar. The #1 Revenant is still being transported by tow-truck and will meet-up with the group in two days at Ulaan Baatar. It will be there that Tim Taylor (the chief mechanic) will take a look at the vehicle and fix it. Hopefully. Probably.

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Remember, Erenhot in Xilin Gol League, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is completely built on a desert. Here are some travel pictures that they have little time to see…

 

And They’re Off!

Day One. The Race is Underway.

 

Here is some basic information to help you follow along:

 

  1. Today’s Race begins for the Trafton vehicle #1 (named “Revenant”) at 0700 China Standard Time, or 4:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time.
  2. You can follow the live visual progress of the car(s) at this link
  3. For more comprehensive directions to follow a specific car, see this link from our previous blog post.
  4. To see a map of the Endurance Race progress to date, go here.
  5. Local China Time (the country has only one time zone) is 15 hours and one day ahead of Pacific Daylight Time. 
  6. Weather Forecast for today’s race at Datong, China:

More sun than clouds. Hot.

More sun than clouds. Hot.
Hi: 94°F / 34°C
Lo: 69°F / 21°C
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Here is the route they followed on their first day of travel:

 

 

 

 

First Day's Route

. First Day’s Route

Katherine Trafton emails:

 

So happy you are following us! Car #1 and #4 are traveling together. We need to because we cannot travel the speeds of the other cars. We have to watch our temps. We climbed to 220 degrees often today. I could have brewed tea with the water bottles that we stored in the floorboards.

 

Our challenge is to follow the map correctly which we have done very well, and to try to have no mechanical issues. That requires us to not exceed 40 mph.

 
We had a very exciting day today! The Great Wall was spectacular. Weather was warm. Heavy truck traffic during two of the legs. Up at 0330, breakfast at 0500, in the car at 0530 to get to the start line by 0730.

 
No stop for lunch. Worked on car maintenance (tire pressure spark plug checks, etc) till 2030, dinner, shower and bed! We are car # 1 tomorrow with 0700 departure.

Katherine

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And here is Ike Trafton’s daily update:

 

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0300 began our prep this morning; we removed the header wrap and we mounted electric fans on the “Revenant” radiator (#1 car) to enhance cooling.

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Steve and Katherine would start first and have the honors of the big “photo” start of the rally.

 

Katherine and Steve Trafton

Katherine and Steve Trafton

 

Katherine, as usual was a hit with the dragon dancers who entertained before the start.

 

Katherine with Two Dragon Dancers

Katherine with Two Dragon Dancers

 

 

While Steve and Katherine are the beauty team in the #1 car, Tim and Ike are the support crew in the “Liver Eater”, car #4. We provide the car management and navigation services when required, which isn’t too often.

 

Tim Taylor and Dwight (Ike) Trafton

Tim Taylor and Dwight (Ike) Trafton

 

 

Then, after a quick 0500 breakfast, we hit the road for the start from the Great Wall.

 

Approximate Route to Follow on Day 1

Approximate Route to Follow

 

Live GPS tracking while underway

Live GPS tracking while underway

 

Of course the beauty team has the gas station staffs begging for photos; in fact the hardest part of the trip thus far is the hundreds of Chinese drivers trying to take photos of the two cars. We’ve even had them race ahead and walk out on the expressways to get a photo.

 

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Of course the three hole, coed restrooms at the three gas stops we made today all varied in amenities.

 

Oh My.

Oh My.

 

 

Close up view in satellite mode

Close up view in satellite mode

 

After 12 hours of driving, we arrived in Datong and began our preventive maintenance checks. The first 450 kilometers are behind us, and we have confidence that both American LaFrances are up to the challenge so far.

 

(Click to see individual photos.)

 

 

 

 

One question still remains from the day however – did Steve really hit that sheep or not?

 

Of course,  Datong, China has some great things to see, but if you are in a race, you probably don’t have time. Shucks.

 

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Here is the full map of Team Black Horse journey. It’s a long ways to go yet…

 

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Carabunga! The Vehicles Arrived Intact!

Time to Go See the Cars. Oh Goodie!

 

 

Ike Trafton writes from Beijing:

 

Have You Seen This Man?

Have You Seen This Man?

 

 

 

After collecting our Chinese driver’s licenses this morning – and this is Tim Taylor’s shown here on the right (the name says so; just because the picture doesn’t) – we headed to the warehouse to pick up the cars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'll Take That One Over There...

I’ll Take That One Over There…

 

 

 

As you can see, the mad dash to get in the cars and on our way, was somewhat slowed by the number of other entrants admiring the “Revenant” – our car #1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Liver Eater". (Well Every Car Has To Have a Name. )

#4 “Liver Eater”. (Well Every Car Has To Have a Name. )

 

 

Car #4, the “Liver Eater” was parked next to the third American LaFrance entry from Austria, known as “The Beast” from its previous successful Peking to Paris Rally in 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After checking for fluids and leaks, there was a mad scramble to get to the gas station.

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Puffer Bellies

Puffer Bellies in Panorama

 

The two hour drive back through Beijing saw a number of cars overheating, have starter issues, and other assorted challenges. The ALF’s took a couple of breaks on the way to the hotel simply to ensure our water temps were managed well on the 90 degree day. Every time we stopped, traffic backed up as the local citizens slowed to take pictures, honk, and generally marvel at the ALFs.

Gasaholics Anonymous

A Rolls Phantom

 

The drive also presented us with our first chance to navigate via the rally tulip book directions. We had no issues, and even recognized when the directions were incorrect by 1 kilometer as we neared the hotel.

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The Chinese gas station attendants were a bit overwhelmed.

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Gasaholics Anonymous

 

After arriving without issue at the hotel the ALFs again were scrutinized by the competition as unbelievable pieces of work. Some other rally entries parked across from the “Revenant” and “Liver Eater” at the hotel lot were impressive by their character or their design for speed.

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My Other Car is Bright Red You Know…

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The Liver Eater

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The Revenant

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Team Black Horse Vehicles at the Hotel

 

Tonight we are on our way to a cocktail reception, and tomorrow our cars are inspected, as we begin our last prep day in Beijing before the start of the endurance rally.

 

From Team Black Horse Racing in Beijing, all is well.

 

Traftons Leave for Peking to Paris Rally

 

The 9000 mile Peking to Paris Endurance Race is nearing its start date of June 12th!  Katherine and Steve Trafton are meeting with brother Dwight Trafton and crew Chief Tim Taylor in San Francisco for the flight to Beijing, China. From there they will drive their two vintage American LaFrance speedsters across the Asian and European continents together with 120 other rally vehicles. See the full route below (click to make it larger):

 

FullMapPhoto

Their travels will take them through China, Mongolia, Russia, Belorussia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland and France. It’s a long Sunday drive of 36 days.

 

Check back at this site to follow their progress. We expect to have almost daily updates of their trip, with dialog and photos provided by Dwight Trafton. Some locations, of course, have hardly heard of the Internet, so transmission may be somewhat sporadic.

 

For more background information on the retrofitting of two vintage ALF speedsters for this race, see our previous pages at this site. And for more information on this race, go to the official Endurance Rally Association web site.

Peking to Paris Details

Although some of the Peking to Paris race details are more fully explained on the web site of The Endurance Rally Association, here are the facts about the two vehicle entries from The Black Horse Racing Team and Steve Trafton.

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Image003Arriving in Long Beach on its way out to China, the 1925 American La France #4 was winched out of the car hauler onto a flat bed truck. It was then rolled off the ramp of the flatbed. Quite a tense operation. The ALF has 2 inches to clear on each side of the car hauler.

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What is the schedule for the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge?

 

The cars start 1 minute apart. Since Trafton’s vehicles are numbered 1 and 4, they will start the race only 4-5 minutes apart. The route they follow is by map given at the beginning of the race and by GPS in Mongolia.

 

What other kinds of vehicles are entered?

 

Why are certain cars favored over others?

 

How did you decide on this race and why did you choose to move ahead?

 

As in other rallies, there are timed legs in the race. The winner overall is the car with the least deductions for the timed event.

 

There are some preparations for mechanical problems, but if a car breaks down in Mongolia it can ruin your day.

 

 

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The Black Horse Racing Team made a few last minute changes to the two rebuilt American La France Speedsters. They now have cables to easily connect both cars’ batteries together. Why? In case one car needs a jump they can now charge one car without removing the floor and accessing the battery box of the other. They also installed a number of inverters to recharge the cell phones, laptops and camera batteries. Modernity intrudes.

 

And there were a few creature comforts installed to benefit the occupants who will need to drive 10-12 hours per day in order to complete the 300-400 mile legs.

 

Although the trip runs about 36 days there are three or four rest days, when drivers can work on their cars or take a rest from driving. There is accommodation in hotels in the larger cities. But what about remote areas?

 

Although most of the route does not have to contend with security issues, the group is encouraged to stay close to the others when traveling through unknown or potentially unfriendly territory. China, Mongolia, Russia and Siberia are generally safe. Belarus does not have the same negative issues of the Ukraine (and the political situation has changed this years’ route). Driving the larger cities will be more closely monitored. But what about protection from the weather?

 

We will follow Steve and Katherine, Tim and Dwight’s daily progress and post regular Blog Updates of the journey. Dwight (Ike) Trafton is providing team-updates through  email…i.e. when he can access a server. But there are some remote areas that are simply without communication. In Mongolia and Eastern Siberia especially, “broadband” is not a common word. But each car carries a satellite telephone, so in theory an emergency phone-call could be made from any point. If only Marco Polo had known about satellite phones at the time, he could have called ahead for pizza.

 

Most of the gasoline is trucked in along the route and costs about $6 to $8 per gallon. For vehicles that get 3.5 MPG, have 130 horse power, 1000 pounds of torque, and a weight of 8200 lbs each, this amounts to a lotta fuel.

 

 

 

 

ALF Leaves for China

The second rebuilt American La France (ALF) speedster was recently tested north of Seattle and made ready for transport to China. The upcoming Peking to Paris Motor Challenge takes place from June 12th to July 17th 2016. Shown below you’ll see the Number One vehicle in that race, driven by Steve Trafton and his wife Katherine. This rebuilt car will travel overland for 9000 miles with another 119 vehicles registered for that road rally. One of two virtually identical speedsters in the BlackHorseRacing team to make the overland journey, both were rebuilt from old fire engine chassis. The other model will be piloted by Trafton’s crew chief Tim Taylor, with Steve’s brother Dwight as the backup driver.

 

Here, Steve loads ALF#1 into the truck that will carry it to San Diego where it then will be loaded on a ship for China.

 

(Select first image to see them in closeup.)