Days 14 - August 24, 2009

Miles Traveled: 128.3 miles

Max Speed: 55.2 miles per hour

Notable Stops: Left Denali, arrived in Fairbanks

Daily High:

Daily Low:

Notable weather: Completely cloudy, rained most the way from Denali to Fairbanks. Stopped raining in Fairbanks


We made last night an early night because we wanted to be in Fairbanks at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum by noon. In order to do this we decided we needed to leave Denali by 8am.


We packed camp up in the rain. This mainly meant we packed the tongue of the trailer and folded up the big blue tarp we strung up over the Teardrop and Speedster.

The other day when we got to Denali we purchased some seam sealant to waterproof the seams in our rain pants. I liberally poured the stuff in the crotch seams of both Matt’s and my rain pants. Although the sealant was completely dry now, Matt and I were both afraid of another day with cold wet behinds. As an added measure, Matt put duck tape back on the seams before we suited up for the day’s drive to Fairbanks.


The Speedster ran poorly this morning while Matt was trying to warm it up. It didn’t want to stay running, which means it was not going to warm up easily. Matt decided that because it was so cold and wet, the Speedster runs so cold and the fabric apron alone did not help the Speedster run warmer in Juneau a plastic bag behind the fabric apron was necessary. Since the plastic was only covering a fraction of the radiator the air restriction should have been just enough to warm the engine up.


Before we even pulled out of the campground the visor on my helmet was already completely and hopelessly fogged up. I tried putting spit on the inside of the visor like I do in my snorkeling mask. Even that didn’t work. I could not see a thing. I complained to Matt repeatedly that I could not see a thing through my visor. There was nothing we could do though, everything was so wet there was no way the visor was going to clear up until it quit raining.


Speedster Protests


Pulling the first grade out of town Matt flipped up the visor of his helmet and looked at the Motor Meter. The car was running very hot. In fact, it was downright boiling over. Matt momentarily forgot I was reprieved from my motor meter monitoring duty due to the fact that I could not see a thing. And he reminded me it was my job to watch the Motor Meter.


Matt jumped out of the car and quickly removed the plastic from in front of the radiator and announced that the radiator was not completely ruined, as it was only partially “oil canned.”


We got back on the road. The car made it to the top of the hill where we pulled into the gravel parking lot of a motel in Healy and barrowed their hose and water. Matt filled the radiator with water because the over heating episode more or less boiled all the water out of the radiator. Matt also hosed down the radiator and cloth apron.


After answering many questions in the hotel parking lot and posing for several pictures we were back on the road. This time only the cloth apron (which did not help the car run warmer in Juneau) was partially covering the radiator. Now I was opening my visor quite often to take a look at the Motor Meter. I reported to Matt that the red line was up to the first set of words. He told me he would like the car to run at that temperature. Seeing the car run at this temperature is alarming to me because it never runs that hot. Even though Matt says he would like the car to run hotter than it does, it seems to run so well without registering a temperature. So I don’t understand what the problem is with the car running so cold. Since I’ve never built a car or worked on a Model T I just have to take Matt’s word that it would be good for the car to run a bit of a temperature.


All that being said, as the car continued up the grade the temperature quickly rose all the way to the middle of the open circle at the top of the Motor Meter. I reported each movement of the temperature to Matt until he told me to stop reporting. At the top of the hill we pulled over and Matt rolled the cloth apron down completely.


“I’m surprised that thing worked,” Matt said referring to the cloth apron. “It didn’t do a thing in Juneau. If the car doesn’t cool down completely we have a problem.”


We did not have to drive far until the car’s temperature returned to normal (not registering a temperature at all). I was relieved and I imagine Matt was too.


Another Speedster Protest


In Nenana we stopped for gas and to warm up. After thawing out over a cup of mocha Matt and I suited up in our rain gear again and prepared to finish the trip to Fairbanks.


Before we could take off we were approached by a number of people with questions about the car and our adventure. We happily delayed our departure to answer questions and pose for pictures. It is so cool to drive around in a piece of history. I’m beginning to feel like a celebrity. However, sometimes I feel like the car is the celebrity and Matt and I are groupies following the car around. Either way, it is fun to educate people about the car and tell them about our adventure.


One of the guys in the parking lot asked what the 418 on the car means. We explained that it is our registered racing number. We told him about the West Coast Speedster Registry too. He told us that 418 was the number of the destroyer he was on in the South Pacific during World War II. We thought that was really cool.


As the questions and photos wound down Matt tried, with no luck, to start the car. What was it doing now? The fuel pump was not running and the headlights did not go on when Matt pulled the headlight switch. So, Matt determined the problem must be electrical. He pulled out his little meter (which looks like a light bulb shoved in the handle of a screw driver with a wire connected to an alligator clamp sticking out the top). After some testing Matt came to the conclusion that the battery shut off switch he bought from a discount tool supplier failed. After bypassing the shut off switch the car started and we were on our way.


Funny the switch failed just then. As we were coming up the last hill to that gas station we were talking about the quality (or lack there of) of various items we’ve purchased from that discount tool supplier.


For a while it quit raining on us and my visor finally cleared up.


Car Museum in Fairbanks


We arrived at the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks at about 1pm. We were about an hour later than we said we would be. Before we arrived the curator stepped out of the museum for a while.


We browsed the collection and took photos and video. Matt and I both agree that this collection is the easiest to enjoy and is the most diverse collection of antique cars we’ve seen. Needless to say we really enjoyed the museum.


Before we left we checked to see if the curator returned. He had. We went back to the shop in the back of the museum and introduced ourselves. Willy (the curator) is a nice guy with the really cool job of restoring and finding new cars for the museum.


After visiting for a while Willy answered a few of our questions and drew us a map of Fairbanks that proved to be more valuable than the other maps we had of the city.


What is the deal with “Sourdough?”


One of the questions we had was, “What is the deal with Sourdough?” We know what sourdough bread is. However, we were sure there must be something more to it because the name appears everywhere in Alaska. Willy explained that the gold minors made sourdough bread regularly. They would not use their entire starter; they would save some so they could continue making the bread. I think he even told us he does this. Knowing that Sourdough was part of the mining history of Alaska made the appearance of the name everywhere make sense.


Yarn Hunt


While we were trying to find the museum we passed a Michaels. Since they usually have a good selection of Lion Brand yarn and it was so close to the museum we decided to look for my blush Microspun yarn there. We did not find it.


Standing in the parking lot with the Mile Post open on the seat of the Speedster, a man stopped and asked what we were looking for. We told him we were looking for the Jo Anne’s. He told us he and his wife had just been there. He proceeded to direct us there. Turns out I misunderstood the address on the internet. It is on 3rd Street not 3rd Avenue. (3rd Avenue is downtown.)


Jo Anne’s didn’t have my yarn in the color I was looking for so I chose a gray yarn because I think it will go nicely with the caribou antler button I’m putting on the sweater.


RV Park


Using Willy’s map we found the River’s Edge RV Park. We checked in and set up camp. Setting up camp entailed leveling the Teardrop, setting up the tarp so it would keep the Teardrop and Speedster dry then bungeeing it to the Teardrop and Speedster.


Our next task was to find Matt really warm and waterproof gauntlet gloves. We figured since we were in Fairbanks this should not be a difficult task.


Gloves and Delays by a Good Deed


We visited a taxidermy shop by the RV park we are staying at. They had all sorts of awesome fur and things made out of fur. They did not have the gantlet gloves Matt was searching for though. They referred us to a place down town on 2nd Avenue. 


While hurrying downtown we spotted a wallet laying in the intersection of Airport and University. It seemed one of the cars near us as we were turning was honking at another car. Maybe the driver of the other car was the owner of the wallet. We didn’t know. We were, however, in a position to pull over and grab the wallet for the owner.


The driver of the other car did not turn around or pull over. Now we had a lost wallet in a strange town that we are leaving tomorrow morning. We decided the best thing to do was turn to wallet in to a police station, fire station or Chamber of Commerce. We wanted to turn the wallet into one of these places because we figured they would actually try to find the owner and return it to him.


The problem was we didn’t know where any of these things were. The commercial maps we had were deficient at best and didn’t show any of the offices we were looking for. The map Willy drew us had no reason to identify these places. So, as we headed to the second fur shop downtown we looked for any of the above-mentioned places.


The Chamber of Commerce was downtown by the fur shop but they were not open. We’d yet to find one of the other two places so we went to the fur shop. The furrier showed us some very nice fur gloves but explained they were not waterproof, no fur or animal hide would do what we wanted. He told us that we need rubber.


A furrier is “a person who buys and sells furs, or one who makes, repairs, or cleans furs and fur garments; a fur dealer or fur dresser” (


Matt got his enormous, bright orange, rubber, hazmat gloves at a work attire supply store near the fur shop downtown. One of the employees also told us where the police station was.


We found the fire station before the police station so we stopped at the fire station. It was closed because it was “after hours” and we didn’t have a cell phone to call the “after hours” number. (Our cell phones were dead at back at the RV park charging in the Teardrop).


We walked to the police station kitty corner to the fire station. The police station was closed too because it was “after hours.” (Who has ever heard of such a thing, fire stations and police stations being closed “after hours?”) We went back to the fire station and knocked on the doors and windows. There was no answer. Just as we were getting in the Speedster to leave a fire department a SUV pulled out of one of the garages but he did not see us. 


Still trying to decide what to do with this lost wallet tonight, so the owner could get it back as soon as possible, we returned to the RV park. Once at the RV park I pulled the Mile Post out of the Teardrop and grabbed Matt’s phone. I had Matt call the non-emergency number for the Alaska State Troopers. He explained to the lady what we were trying to do. The lady gave us directions to the office.


Once at the State Trooper’s office the lady who opened the door for us and came to the counter took down our information, where we found the wallet, told us they’d try to contact the owner and thanked us. We were on our way once again.


Alaska State Troopers Leave a Good Impression


Pulling out of the State Trooper’s office, there were two troopers in front of use also pulling out. Matt and I both found this nerve racking. We weren’t doing anything wrong but in our home state we’ve been pulled over when we weren’t doing anything wrong then sited for violating a law we were not actually violating. (We later won the ticket by the way.)


The Troopers pulled out of the parking lot then immediately pulled over. We pulled out. The Troopers both pulled out behind us. We proceeded down the street nervously expecting the lights and sirens to come on behind us. Instead the first Trooper pulled up beside us. We pulled into one land and he pulled into the lane beside us. The lights for both lanes were red. The Trooper rolled down his window and asked us the same questions about the car everyone else was asking. Matt and I were both relieved. Matt happily answered the Troopers’ questions just as we’d been answering everyone elses’ questions.


Salmon Bake


I’d wanted to go to a Salmon Bake. The locals and those who used to live in Alaska all said it was good food but didn’t seem to think too highly of Salmon Bakes. Matt wasn’t very enthusiastic about doing the salmon bake either. After checking out another restaurant, we realized the Salmon Bake was no more expensive than any other seafood dinner. We opted for the Salmon Bake and Pioneer Park.


A Salmon Bake is an all you can eat dinner with various salads, bread rolls, salmon, other fish, prime rib, sodas and deserts. It is sort of like the Alaskan version of a Luau (I’m guessing anyway, since we didn’t do a luau in Hawaii).


Anyway, Matt and I were both very glad we did the salmon bake. The food was very good.


Teardrop and Speedster In Front of the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks, Alaska Matt In Front of the 1907 Ford Model K in the Fountain Head Antique Auto Museum
This Outfit from the Auto Museum Would Keep Matt and Jess Warm in the Speedster This 1917 Model T Depot Hack was Fitted with a Snowmobile Kit and was Called a T Snow Flyer
Jess Rides a Salmon at the Salmon Bake Matt Rides a Salmon at the Salmon Bake
After Eating Salmon at the Salmon Bake Jess Tries Not to be Eaten by the Salmon She Just Rode After Eating Salmon at the Salmon Bake Matt Tries Not to be Eaten by the Salmon He Just Rode
Alaska 2009

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