PONOKA — They’re almost home on a winding trail filled with wonder and fraught with peril.
The Coasters 2010 cross-Canada vintage vehicle tour — run in the opposite direction of a similar cruise held in 2000 — rolled into Ponoka on Thursday, the 40th day of their trip from St. John’s Nfld. to Victoria, B.C.
Altogether, it’s roughly a 24,000-km trip for those who run the entire route, including the return trip.
One couple’s 1959 Cadillac didn’t even make it out of St. John’s, Nfld.
“They said it had a broken piston. So we bought another car,” said Carol Body of Luseland Sask., co-owner of the car with her husband, Jack.
The replacement, a 1969 Impala, was still old enough to qualify for the tour and strong enough to drag their holiday trailer along behind.
The Bodys are having the Caddy shipped home for repairs.
Local organizer Bill Chadderton of Ponoka had his own share of headaches. Chadderton’s trip ground to a halt in Northern Ontario, just east of the Manitoba border, when flames started shooting out from under the hood of his 1957 Ford Monarch.
Chadderton and his travelling companions called the fire department. When they arrived, the crew had already figured out that the problem had started in the carburetor and patched it up well enough to limp into Winnipeg, where they were able to buy replacement parts for a more permanent repair. Of course, extensive body work will be needed to fix up the burn marks inside the engine compartment and on the front end of the car.
Breakdowns are part of the game and were really not that big a deal when you consider the number of aged vehicles and the distance they will have travelled by the next Wednesday, when the Coasters and their cars roll into Victoria, said Fraser Field, one of roughly 40 participants who had completed the earlier version in 2000.
Field and his wife, Dorothy headed for Newfoundland from their B.C. home on May 28 in their 1969 Pontiac ambulance.
Dorothy Field estimated that, by the time the Coasters arrived in Ponoka on Thursday, members had dropped roughly $11 million in the small towns they visited on their way across country. That includes money spent on campsites and hotel rooms and meals along with many, many litres of gasoline.
Most people on the trip drove from home. Along with travelling both ways, they’ve taken plenty of side trips during their travels, said Dorothy.
They are all lured by two common bonds, said her husband. They share a love for vintage vehicles and they share the desire to get a closer look at the rest of Canada through their windshields and through the friends they’ve made along the way, he said.
While Field and his fellow organizers have spent three years on logistics for the trip, including setting up the places where the cruise would stop along the way, members were on their own to chose the routes between stopping points.
It’s much safer to have people travelling separately that in one big group, said Red Deer member Marion Alderson, who had planned on travelling the whole distance with her husband, Jerry, on their bright yellow 1953 GMC pickup truck with its matching Boler holiday trailer.
The Aldersons’ plans were scuttled just weeks before they were due in St. Johns, when Jerry developed heart trouble and had to be rushed to Edmonton for a triple bypass. Jerry is out of the hospital and recovering nicely enough that he and Marion were able to join fellow members of the Oldies for the Alberta leg of the journey.
Marion said that while it was disappointing to miss the trip, she’s grateful that Jerry had his heart attack before they had actually hit the road.
That was exactly what happened to a New Zealand couple that had been on the trip from the time it left Newfoundland. Ruth and Ken Hand had to pull over in Moose Jaw when Ken had a heart attack.
He was taken to Regina for treatment and is recovering nicely. The Hands plan to ride the train to Victoria, where they will meet their fellow travellers for the windup banquet, said Chadderton.
While 105 people will have made the full trip, fellow vintage vehicle buffs have joined them along the way.
Among them was Martial Bérubé of Villeneuve, northwest of St. Alberta, who drove to Ponoka in the bright blue 1965 GMC Pickup truck his father had purchased for him when it was still brand new.
The family had been using a car and trailer to haul farm produce into town for sale, but felt it was about time they purchased a small truck to do the job, Bérubé said while wiping his truck down with a soft cloth.
The truck has been modified over time, especially after taking heavy damage while hauling an antique tractor a few years ago.
Bérubé says a major restoration cost $13,000 — almost five and a half times its original price tag of $2,400.
Coasters are heading for Rocky Mountain House today and go on from there to Fairmont Hot Springs. Anyone interested in watching their progress can follow the tour online at www.coasters2010.com