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15,000 Miles to Alaska, and Back, in a 1965 Ford Mustang
The Great Mustang Alaska Adventure
[Ed Note: When we first took on Project Road Warrior with Courtney Barber last year, we declared that this was going to be a project car like no other. The goal was to show how to build a cool cross-country, road-trippin’ Mustang, but to also prove it with real road miles ad abuse. Courtney has delivered on that promise in a huge way, racking up about 35,000 miles on her 1965 Mustang coupe in the year since it has been finished. But those were just break-in miles to prepare it for the latest journey—15,000 miles in one shot from South Carolina to Alaska to participate in a Rally North America event, and back. The lady and her intrepid co-driver—and Mustang 360 contributor—Amie Williams have just made it to Alaska with three days to spare. Watch here for more updates from the road as they continue their epic Alaska Adventure.]
On August 11, we started our journey to Alaska. Last year at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, I committed to the journey (yes, a few beers may have eased me into the decision). Everyone thought we were nuts and would never make it—while I knew car issues could be a problem, I never doubted we would make it to our destination. The best motivation for me is when someone says I can't do something. That's when my stubbornness kicks in and I will make it happen one way or another, just for the simple satisfaction of proving them wrong!
With Amie Williams as co-driver, we left Folly Beach, South Carolina after a gorgeous sunrise and headed Northwest. At first the route was familiar considering we just finished up Rally North America from Billings, Montana to Portland, Oregon, and the Hot Rod Power Tour from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Kansas City, Kansas. As we drove by the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and I realized it was the fourth time I passed it by this summer. This time we chose to go up though Minnesota and North Dakota to check the final states off my list before crossing off Alaska—my car and I have now been in every state in the continental United States. Hawaii I'm coming for you!
On the way though North Dakota and Montana we couldn't help but notice the miles of sunflowers everywhere. (Did I mention I love flowers?) The first field we saw was spectacular. We pulled off the highway to check it out thinking we found something unique, but the next thing we know we are passing field after field of endless sunflowers. With our Kicker tunes jamming, we enjoyed the amazing views as we got closer to the Canadaian border crossing in Sweet Grass. Always doubtful of The Man, I let my nerves get to me and different scenarios of running from the border patrol were passing through my head. But they let us in! We gave the officer our passports and moments later we were back on our journey trying to figure out kilometers—it took us a couple days to get it down without doing the math in our heads.
The main reason for heading up through Montana was to hit the Canadian Rockies, home of Banff and Jasper National Parks and the glacier-fed Lake Louise. And let me just say, these should be added to everyone's bucket list immediately. Of all the places I've ever driven this was by far my favorite. The water was a glowing greenish blue—it almost looked like we were in a cartoon with all the colors. The fall foliage was already in bloom and I am sad to say pictures will not do any justice to the views we saw. But we did our best to capture it for you. But please check it out if you ever get a chance, you will thank me for it, I promise! We gave ourselves three hours to play, but eight hours later we finished up and continued our journey North.
The next day, we found ourselves pulling into Dawson's Creek in search for mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. Everyone in the town was so friendly, and it was a great way to start our 1,390-mile trek on the road. After snapping a few pictures and being told we were crazy by more than a few people for taking on the bumpy road, we were off and more determined than ever to make it to Alaska. As we passed into the Yukon I began to see what people had been warning us about. Our first real experience was right after a sign that looked like mountains. We were confused by it because we had been driving through mountains all day, and the next thing I knew we were airborne! Yes, Mustangs can fly! Both our butts left the seats and I am positive the tires left the road. Those weren't mountains on the sign: they were frost heaves and they weren't kidding! Having grown up in New Hampshire I thought I had seen my fair share of frost heaves, but these were entirely different animals. Luckily my suspension from Speed Direct and the BFG tires took the beating and I quickly learned to pay more attention to the warning signs.
As we continued our 5,000-mile road trip, we began to see a lot more signs for wildlife. Right at the top of Summit Pass, the highest point of the Alaska Highway at an elevation of 4,250 feet, we had our first encounter with a moose, just standing there in the road doing his moose thing. We didn't get any closer but did stop to watch for a few minutes. We were happy to be in his world and wanted to take in every minute of it. We stopped that night at the Northern Rockies Lodge with the intention of stopping at Liard River Hotsprings the next morning. Unfortunately the weather didn't agree with our plans and we woke up to cold and rain. Yes I know they are Hotsprings, but the idea of getting out to greet the cold air was terrifying to us southern girls and we decided to skip it and continue on.
And then it happened—we saw buffalo! The first two were huddled by the treeline on the side of the road. We tried our best to take some pictures but they just looked like giant brown rocks and our attempts at buffalo calls were odd to say the least. As we crested the next hill I started to see a lot of movement on the side of the road. And there it was, a herd of 30 or so buffalo just hanging out on the side of the road. As we were watching one roll in the dirt like my dog likes to do right after a bath, the heard started to move. Next thing we knew we had two of the huge beasts passing within 10 feet in front of the car and one checking out the booty of the car. The massive beasts were spectacular to see and I am grateful for the rain that got us there at the perfect moment in time. The animal sightings continued as we found several stone sheep, caribou, and even a porcupine! As a huge fan of animals and watcher of every wildlife show on the Discovery channel, I was in heaven. We were so grateful to be able to have a front row seat to witness the magnificence of nature.
The next day we entered Yukon Territory. We had been warned about 100 miles of unpaved road by a couple we met at a gas station days earlier. We couldn't find anything about it online on any of the Alaska forums and no one we asked seemed to know about it. Not that it would change our route; we just didn't want to end up starting it late in the day with hotels scattered so far from each other. We drove through Nugget City and Teslin as the rain joined our party and we decided to stop in Whitehorse for the night. It's the capital of Yukon Territory and had a Walmart so it was a great stop to pick up everything I needed for an oil change. I like to do it myself because I'm not a big fan of anyone touching my car (but mainly because I'm cheap! Why would I pay someone to do something I can do myself?) Unfortunately the weather the next morning did not cooperate and I got to figure out how to carry even more stuff in my strategically packed pony. We made it work and hit the road headed for the border to re-enter the United States in Alaska.
The sun began to peak through the clouds as we passed by Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon and it was an incredible sight. The colors were breathtaking: blue sky, green trees, and an incredible mountain background mixed with the yellow flowers and clear blue lake made your heart skip a beat. It was so vibrant and gorgeous we had to stop and take it in. After stopping at every turnout possible we headed for Destruction Bay and then we found it... the dirt. Now if you do any research on the Alaskan highway you will find it is all paved and there are plenty of gas stops along the way. But those paved roads have to be maintained and we found ourselves in the heart of it for the next 50 miles. Imagine driving on a washboard and ladies, be sure to wear a sports bra! We survived the rumble by taking it very slow which was made really easy because the gas pedal shook itself loose. After fixing the pedal and checking all my lug nuts we were back on the road. A short hundred miles later we found the sign we had been waiting for, Welcome to Alaska!
As we crossed back into the U.S. the Border Patrol welcomed us home and we couldn't help but smile. Hello miles and goodbye loonies and toonies! That night we found a great little cabin in Tok and sat on the porch watching for bears to watch and it hit us: We did it! We made it to Alaska! After all the horror stories and warnings, here we were enjoying a gorgeous sunset with three days to spare before our 1,400-mile adventure with Rally North America.
Yep you read that right, our journey has only just begun! Stay tuned for more from the road with Team Mustang Girls and Project Road warrior as they take on Alaska!