By car, the only way into, or out of, Hyder, Alaska, is a road that starts in British Columbia, Canada. Hyder is the only town on that road, which is why Dave Schaub laughed when he got to the border, crossing from the United States into Canada, one day after coming the other way.
"I have some questions," the checkpoint agent announced. "Are you carrying any firearms?" Dave said no. "Do you have any bear spray?" Again, no. Then she smiled and asked, "Where have you been?"
The reason Dave laughed is partly because there is only one place he could have been on that road, and partly because his route to Hyder had been almost 10,000 miles long, through every state of the continental United States.
He'd been everywhere.
On Your Mark
Dave's wife Carol photographed...
Dave's wife Carol photographed him all smiles as he pulled into their driveway at the end of the trip.
Dave's idea originated with some friendly bragging between himself and another hot rodder about driving a reliability run to put their cars to the test. Dave came up with a route that covered most of the United States, to be completed in 10 days. To his friend, it seemed like an unrealistically ambitious challenge. To Dave it seemed like a realistically ambitious one. He was familiar with the long-distance motorcycle rides undertaken by the Iron Butt Association and figured that what could be done on a bike could be done in a hot rod. Soon, the concept had become an actual plan, the trip had changed to "49 in 9" days, and the motivation had evolved from testing his own endurance and that of his '32 into doing something significant for a worthy cause.
The Ronald McDonald House at Stanford is a quarter of a mile from Schaub's Meat Fish & Poultry, the butcher shop Dave owns in Palo Alto, California. Like other Ronald McDonald Houses around the world, this one provides housing for families of children being treated at a nearby hospital. Turning his cross-country cruise into a fundraising effort gave the trip a purpose and gave Dave a chance to help out.
Sponsorship started to pick...
Sponsorship started to pick up at the L.A. Roadster Show in June.
The plan drew supporters early on, including Gary Meadors from Goodguys and Roy Brizio, who had originally built the car for Dave. When Brizio contacted Edelbrock about getting a set of Street Rod shocks for the roadster, Vic Edelbrock insisted on contributing a brand-new small-block. As the word got out about what Dave was up to, more sponsors began showing interest.
"As sponsors lined up, a buddy of mine said, 'You should sell space on the car like NASCAR does.' The next day Chuck Browne from Golden State Foods [a fast food restaurant supplier] called me and said they'd heard about what I was doing and wanted to make a large contribution. I said, 'You just bought two doors on the car!'"
When Dave ran out of sheetmetal...
When Dave ran out of sheetmetal real estate, he sold louver space.
Dave divided up the rest of the roadster sheetmetal and came up with a fair price to charge for spots. Most sold for $1,000; some went for $500. When Dave displayed the car at the L.A. Roadster Show last June, he encountered even more interest. "We were selling spots like crazy," he remembers. "When we ran out of room, I sold louvers for $100. We sold all 148." There was no turning back now.
"The concensus was that I'd bitten off more than I could chew." If Dave was going to cover 49 states in 9 days, he needed a plan.
An efficient 49-state route, calculated at 9,800 miles, meant a daily average of approximately 1,100 miles-or eighteen hours of driving at an average of 62 mph. Food stops would be five minutes. Gas stops would be eight minutes. With a custom 35-gallon tank, and by moving the filler from the trunk to the outside, he could save valuable seconds. In the weeks prior to the trip, Dave practiced making these pit stops as quickly as possible. He would travel at night, when traffic was lighter and temperatures cooler-and if the car broke down, it'd be better if it happened at the beginning of the day than at the end. Days typically ended in the afternoon, when he'd arrive at his hotel destination for five or six hours of sleep, waking at the next midnight to get back on the road and keep going.
Travelers in 49 states must...
Travelers in 49 states must have been scratching their heads when Dave's roadster drove past, covered with the names of his many sponsors. If they visited the website promoted on the 'rails, their questions were answered.
Dave's '32 had made a lot of road trips, but never one like this, and would need preparation that went beyond the basic fluid change, belts and hoses, and tire inflation road trip checklist. He put 10,000 miles on the Edelbrock engine to make sure it was up to the task. Then it was back to Brizio's for new U-joints, axle bearings, brakes, and some upgrades specific to this trip, including cruise control and heavyweight racing oil that could withstand 16-18 hours of non-stop daily duty. The rear gears were changed to 2.55s. BFGoodrich contributed a new set of tires, Vintage Air donated a heater. The windshield was replaced and a small, hand-operated wiper was installed. Sid Chavers, who had done the interior, reupholstered the seat, and PIAA driving lights were added. Dave bought a couple of GPS navigation devices and had extra 12-volt power ports wired into the roadster.
In addition to mechanical preparations, Dave started preparing himself. He walked 30 miles a week, watched his diet, lost weight, and weaned himself off of coffee and other stimulants. He accustomed himself to sleeping less until he could function on five or six hours of sleep.
As the trip approached, he started spending extended periods of time in the small cockpit. After accompanying Roy and Andy Brizio on a cross-country run to the Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, Dave continued to the Atlantic, then headed west on a three-day endurance trip through Florida, on up toward Oklahoma City and back to California. "Those three days gave me a taste of what this nine-day adventure would be. I was pretty confident."
The roadster was built at...
The roadster was built at Roy Brizio Street Rods, and went back to get some upgrades and to prepare it for the nine 18-hour days that lay ahead. The only mechanical problem Dave encountered was a burned out tallight bulb on Day 1 in Oklahoma, which he fixed in a rainstorm.
On September 9, 2009, the timer started ticking on Dave's cross-country, beat-the-clock ride. Leaving Needles, California, he clipped the southern tip of Nevada, then U-turned down into Arizona. Three states down, 46 to go.
At night, he occupied himself by listening to music and exercising, using dumbbells, and turning on cruise control so he could move his legs around. With no time for restaurants, Dave consumed beef jerky, energy bars, trail mix, fruit, and lots of water, throughout the day. He said he never felt hungry and he never felt sleep-deprived.
Dave reserved daylight hours for plotting his course, setting the GPS for his next stop. His progress was logged with gas and food receipts, and occasionally by photos taken by himself or by people he met. He sent daily emails to his wife Carol and to John Drummond from Goodguys, who posted his updates on the www.49in9.com website.
A SPOT real-time GPS tracking device posted location updates to the web every several minutes, so that people all over the country could monitor his progress. "It fact," Dave laughed, "we almost blew up the system." Some people used the information to encourage Dave in person, such as one fan in Nebraska. "I was in the middle of nowhere, 50 miles from the nearest town. Coming around a corner, I saw a late-model T-Bird convertible with the top down and a lady standing on the seats holding a big sign that said Go Dave!"
Success in the Cities
Vic Edelbrock donated this...
Vic Edelbrock donated this Edelbrock Performer Hi-Torq small-block Chevy crate engine. This engine, a Turbo 350 automatic, and a 2.55:1 rearend were a successful combination, providing good mileage, driveability, and durability.
Knowing that traffic congestion and toll roads along the crowded Eastern Seaboard could gobble up time, Dave planned those miles for the weekend. As it turned out, this was one of the smoothest portions of the trip, thanks in part to a police escort and in part to a donated electronic transponder, which automatically deducted tolls from a prepaid account. Despite a Boston traffic jam that forced Dave to backtrack, and added an unanticipated 56 miles to his trip total, he made it through New England three hours ahead of schedule-cause for celebration "The jubilation I got from kicking New England's butt was so wonderful that when I got to Bennington, Vermont, I actually went out to dinner, then soaked in the tub for an hour. The next morning I was heading west on familiar roads."
End of the Road
Dave spent a long time planning...
Dave spent a long time planning this 49-state path.
The intense itinerary and nocturnal traveling didn't allow for much siteseeing, but there were some highlights. "The sunrises were incredible," Dave said. "My whole demeanor changed at dawn, as the sun came up and I could look around at the scenery. I loved the Southwest-and that whole area from Montana through the Dakotas and into Nebraska is just wild country."
On Day 8, Dave crossed the Washington border into Canada. He'd covered 48 states, but 900 miles separated him from the 49th. The following afternoon-eight days, 16 hours, and 48 minutes after leaving Needles-Dave cruised into Hyder, Alaska. He'd driven 9,856 miles. He'd been everywhere.
Here's the first gas stop...
Here's the first gas stop of the trip at Terrible Herbst in Laughlin, NV. Dave kept gas stops down to eight minutes, and installed a 35-gallon tank to keep them to a minimum.
Since September, Dave has kept traveling, continuing to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford by selling T-shirts and posters, and encouraging people to go to www.49in9.com to make a contribution. Stops included the SEMA Show in November and the Grand National Roadster Show in January.
Now, Dave is thinking about more trips-but these won't be solo endurance runs. The Driving For The Kids program is still in the planning phase, but the general idea calls for nationwide cruises starting from different points and converging at one spot, with every participant getting sponsorship.
"This is a chance to let the public know that hot rodders care about doing something, to step up and support an important cause, and to add some goodwill besides burning up tires and gasoline."
Cops and Rodder
Dave had two run-ins with the law-and appreciates both of them. In New Mexico, a friend who works with the Albuquerque Police Department had arranged an escort through town. Dave met the cops at this truck stop west of the city; even the commander was there. From there, several police cars surrounded the well-marked roadster and rode for 22 miles to the town of Moriarty.
The next day, a friend in Prescott, Arizona, notified Dave that her brother, a policeman in New York City, had set up an escort by the New York State Police. When Dave arrived in New Jersey in the middle of the night on Day 4, he got a call from one of the troopers. When he got to the George Washington Bridge to Manhattan, he was to get in the left lane and blink his headlights as a signal. From there, he was escorted through the city all the way to the Connecticut border.
Dave took this photo outside...
Dave took this photo outside of the 49, on the 900-mile run through British Columbia to Alaska.
Hyder, AK, was the end of...
Hyder, AK, was the end of the road. Dave arrived several hours ahead of his nine-day goal. That's the border checkpoint ahead.
"The scale of Alaska is immense...
"The scale of Alaska is immense and Hyder is a unique town," he told us. "Photos don't do it justice." That glacier looks close but is about 1/8 mile across the emerald green water.
The Sealaska Inn in Hyder...
The Sealaska Inn in Hyder welcomed Dave with a free room and a cold beer-and a hand-lettered sign made from an only slightly-used pizza box. It includes a greeting from the Franklin Syndicate ...
...Car Club, Dave's friends...
...Car Club, Dave's friends in Stockton, CA. A club member had called Hyder and asked to be included on the sign. Dave borrowed a screwdriver to remove it and take it home.
Ronald himself greeted Dave...
Ronald himself greeted Dave at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, where Dave received an "Angel" award for his help in raising more than $110,000 to date.