TURLOCK -- It's a long way from Stamping Ground, Ky., to Turlock. About 2,300 miles, according to one online mapping site.
Of course, if you take a little detour, say, through Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, to Canada and deep into Alaska, then head south to Turlock to visit your newborn granddaughter before making the trip back home, the miles can really add up.
Mike and Judy Akers are headed back to Stamping Ground with the bulk of their 15,000-mile summer vacation in the rear-view mirror of their 1930 Model A Ford sedan.
Yes, America's fascination with the automobile is alive and well when car buffs are content to forgo air conditioning, automatic transmission, power brakes and power steering to putter along at an average speed of 45 miles an hour.
"You really don't notice it," Judy said.
Other drivers do, though. So rather than hold them up in traffic, the Akers and friends Dan and Tammy Godbey in their 1931 Model A Coupe added thousands of miles to their trip by taking back roads whenever possible.
The highlights of their trip? Too many to count, though none surpassed being in Turlock in time for the birth last week of their first grandchild, Frances Eliza Akers.
Their son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Annie Akers, live in Turlock, where Eric owns a computer graphics design business. Annie teaches school in Keyes. Annie's due date was July 14.
"We'd planned to get here after she was born," Judy said. "We wanted to give them at least a week."
As is often the case with the first baby, Frances seemed in no hurry to make her grand entrance into the world.
Meanwhile, the Akers' trip from Alaska to Turlock went smoothly: no car problems, no real downtime.
"It went a lot faster than we thought, and she (Frances) was a lot slower than we thought," Judy said.
They arrived July 18 and joined Annie's mom, Susan Masellis, in the pacing department.
"It was great to have both of our moms in the waiting room," Eric said. "It worked out pretty well."
Finally, at 5 a.m. July 22, Frances arrived weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces.
For the first time during their trip, Mike and Judy weren't the center of attention.
Mike bought his Model A 13 years ago and needed years to rebuild it.
"I restored this one and another (a 1929 Ford Coupe) simultaneously," he said.
"He's got an entire barn full of parts," his wife said.
The Model A's became part of his restored fleet, which includes a '29 Ford pickup and a '29 four-door sedan.
He also built the couple's travel trailer.
With the Godbeys, they created a mini-caravan that left Stamping Ground, a town of 400 near Lexington, and headed northwest. During many of the stops along the way, they drew crowds of people who wanted a closer look at the old cars.
In Yellowstone National Park, a herd of bison ambled past in the opposite lane.
They reached Alaska on June 19. On an 18-hour round-trip spin from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle on some very rough roads, they arrived in one small town along the way to find that both they and the town's only gas station were out of gas.
The gas truck soon arrived, though, and they were on their way, again becoming a conversation piece at every stop.
After all, it isn't every day in 2010 that you see 1930s Model A's pulling homemade trailers purring along the Alcan Highway and into places like Wasilla, home of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"We were in Wasilla when Palin was here," Judy said, referring to Palin's speech June 25 during California State University, Stanislaus' 50th anniversary gala.
While strolling through a shop in Wasilla, Mike found an original license plate that read "Alaska 1 Governor" and bearing a 1976 sticker. It would have belonged to Jay Hammond, who was the state's governor at the time.
It's now on the back of the Akers' Model A as they make their way back home to Kentucky. No air conditioning or automatic transmission, no power steering or power brakes. Who needs them?
They've got a ton of memories that include being there for the birth of their first grandchild, Judy said. "We saw something beautiful every day."
Visit the Akers/Godbey trip blog at http://ckmarc.com/alaskatrip.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2383.