Ocean-to-Ocean Endurance Race Re-enacts Trip Taken 100 Years Ago
Story by Kelly Sprute
Traveling 4,200 miles in a car is a long, exhausting and tiring experience, even sitting in today’s luxury automobiles. Try it coast-to-coast at 30 miles an hour in an antiquated rickety vehicle with hard bench seats, rattling doors, crank-up windows, and drafty interiors with no radio. But for 55 Model-T drivers, it was the dream of a lifetime.
The Ocean-to-Ocean Endurance Race re-enacted the 1909 event, starting in New York June 14, with Model-T’s representing every state in the union and five foreign countries, all hoping to reach Seattle in 30 days. In the original race, a 1909 Ford Model-T in its first year of production won, crossing the country in 22 days, and providing the momentum Henry Ford needed to launch the ideal car to the American consumer.
The journey began for many of the drivers five years ago when the sign-up was announced for the race. Within a month all entries were filled and a waiting list started according to Doug Hauge, Model-T owner from New York. He said it is tricky driving a classic in today’s traffic. “Gotta keep your eyes open and drive defensively,” said Hauge. “People are not used to driving next to a vintage Model-T. They tend to rubberneck and ogle,” he said.
Racers followed the original route established in the 1909 race, deviating only when the old road had disappeared, using alternative interstate highways as necessary. “We are trying to duplicate all the experiences of the original drivers, except we stop every fourth day to make repairs and relax,” Hauge said.
Crossing the last mountain pass through Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest was a relief for the drivers, knowing Seattle was within a short 40-mile reach. “The original route over Snoqualmie Pass was Sunset Highway, now named Denny Creek Road,” said Jim Franzel, Snoqualmie district ranger. One of the watering troughs for the Model-T’s can still be found on the west side of the pass, he said. “Model-T’s would flat-out boil over when ascending mountain passes,” said Franzel.
After passing through the forest the procession of Model-T’s traversed a small section of Interstate 90 to reach the Meadowbrook Farm in North Bend for lunch and to commemorate crossing the pass, giving people a chance talk to the drivers and examine a Model-T up close.
According to Hauge, traveling across 12 states can wear down both man and machine. “Ninety-nine percent of us have made it this far,” he said. The race ended Sunday, July 12, at the original finish line: Drumheller Fountain on the University of Washington campus site of the 1909 Alaskan Yukon Pacific Exposition.
Michael and his father Mick Kemp traveled farther then most of the drivers. The father and son team flew from Essex, England, an extra 3,471 miles, before starting the race. “For us it is a chance to represent the British Model-T owners,” said Mick Kemp Sr. To ship the Crusty Loaf, their 1912 Model-T Bakers Van manufactured in Manchester, to America required filling out piles of paperwork, testing their stamina. “It’s about everyone being here,” said Kemp Sr. “The trip takes a bit longer with more wear and tear, but worth the experience,” he said.
After the race Hauge said he will finish touring America. “This whole country is beautiful. We’ve been treated like kings. It is hard to believe 30 days are almost over, it went fast, even in a Model-T,” said Hauge.