May 2 - Seattle, Idaho, Montana

Packing and departing Seattle

Dad and I finally got to sleep around 230a Tuesday morning, with the plan set to get up at 7a to start the busy day of procuring, packing, and driving east.

We didn’t make it to 7a as the heavy construction crew outside our window got a bright and early 630a start.

Dad agrees: very loud.

Dad agrees: very loud.

We showered, packed, and went downstairs to enjoy the continental breakfast. Going hungry is never part of our plan.

Continental

Continental

We exited the hotel, ready to start on our errands. The first order of the day was to pick up the Volvo towing/trailering wiring harness and control module. Because it was a special order from just yesterday, it wouldn’t arrive at the dealership for pickup until 930a. We had a little bit of time to kill.

Volvo inspection

Volvo inspection

Harbor Freight was one of the planned stops for the morning. Tools are a crucial part of the One Lap journey. Murphy’s law (roughly suggests) that the tool you don’t have is the one you’ll need, so we loaded up at a Harbor Freight on the way to the Volvo dealership.

Tools!

Tools!

Next stop was the Volvo dealership parts department. Our ordering process for this wiring harness was so last minute, we definitely had some concerns.

Fortunately, the parts were there when we arrived and were indeed the correct part numbers. Hooray!

The world's most expensive trailer light harness

The world's most expensive trailer light harness

So far everything was going according to plan. Which was the perfect time for a problem.

Uh oh.

Uh oh.

Dad was driving at the time. We were headed to pick up the trailer from Uhaul. He had been a bit concerned about a vibration in the car that felt an awful lot like unbalanced tires. But that didn’t make much sense, because the tires were installed and balanced just last week.

As we were cruising along the freeway, his concern increased dramatically. With reason. The car was moving all over the road, the vibration grew strong, and the steering response became very odd and detached. It was so extreme, that we pulled over to the shoulder on the freeway to examine what might be the problem.

It became immediately clear that this wasn’t a safe spot, so we proceeded carefully off the freeway and into a motel parking lot. I got out of the car to find the right rear tire was completely flat. No wonder the car felt funny!

The Volvo has a small donut tire for a spare, but we set about swapping it onto the car.

Lots to unload to get to the spare.

Lots to unload to get to the spare.

We had our Harbor Freight load in the back, so we busted out the new race jack, and Dad had the wheel swapped in no time at all.

We figured that while we had the back of the car taken apart, we might as well install the trailer towing harness we had just picked up. The instructions were clear and straightforward; plug and play. At least we hoped. We wouldn’t really know if it worked until we got to Uhaul to get the trailer.

Back on the road to Taylor’s apartment, Dad and I set about planning our new rest of the day. The tire delay and harness install had cost us about 30 minutes. Now we had to squeeze in a visit to Discount Tire to get the 5th (and last) race tire swapped with the now dead race tire. This would cost a lot of time, but there wasn’t much choice in the matter.

We met up with Taylor in his parking garage- I haven’t seen him since Christmas.

We spent a few minutes getting organized- Taylor would stay back at his apartment to finish packing and get some food. Dad and I would take the spare Bridgestone RE71R along with the dead tire and wheel, get those swapped, have all 4 wheel/tire combos rebalanced to see if that helped the vibration, get food while we waited, go get the trailer, back to Taylor’s to do final packing, then hit the road. It was 1145a.

Dad fishing out the spare tire.

Dad fishing out the spare tire.

At Discount Tire, Dad and I explained the situation to the tech, James, who got us set up with an appointment. He estimated it would be 1.5hrs until we would be out of there. It was 1230p.

James and Dad discussing the upcoming event

James and Dad discussing the upcoming event

There was an Applebee’s in the parking lot near Discount Tire, so we had a relaxed lunch. There wasn’t much we could do besides wait.

Lunch!

Lunch!

Tired of Applebee’s, we walked back over to Discount Tire to check progress. The techs were just finishing putting everything back in the car. We reloaded and set off to pick up the trailer. It was 145p.

The trailer was out in front at the Uhaul station. Taylor’s pre-inspection was accurate: the trailer was beauty, but the tires and wheels looked in decent shape.

Inspecting

Inspecting

As usual, the Uhaul experience was brutal. We were there over an hour. It took forever to get the paperwork signed, and then forever again for the Uhaul employee to flip the ball on the ball and ball mount we purchased. 

Good news though: the trailer wiring harness works! A very important piece of the equation; we were relieved. We paid an eye-watering $308 for the harness, but we couldn’t have gone without it. The ball mount was an interference fit in the receiver on the hitch, so we broke out the freshly purchased Harbor Freight 4 lb sledge hammer coaxed it into place.

Finishing the hookup

Finishing the hookup

We drove back to meet Taylor and to do final packing. While planning the trip, it was a difficult and stressful process to nail down this particular trailer, so we were working on plan B, which was to not have any trailer. The other Uhaul options were just too dire for towing dynamics and fuel mileage. With 7,500 miles to travel, cutting our mileage in half would be horribly expensive. 

As we aggregated everything that needed to be packed, it became very clear that plan B would have been almost impossible. Just too much stuff. So thank goodness all the trailer details worked out.

Plenty of room.

Plenty of room.

The packing went pretty quickly, thanks to Taylor’s work during the day, and the fact that Dad and I were pretty much packed since we had to fly to the start. All packed and ready to leave. It was 530p. 

About 5 hours later than we’d hoped.  Most of that time was spent with the flat tire repair and Uhaul drama.

Right before heading out.

Right before heading out.

We declared victory and hit the road.

Headed out.

Headed out.

On the way out of town, we stopped by Blue Origin to drop off keys with Taylor’s good friends and co-workers, Dave and Alice; they’re taking care of Taylor’s cat, Crenshaw, while we’re away. They also put in a ton effort to help get the car ready for the trip. A huge thanks to both of them, as well as Anthony Salvo, another excellent friend who helped prep the car, for their wildly generous and thorough help- Thanks guys!

We stopped for gas and were 20 minutes down the road when Taylor realized we had left the East Coat EZPass in his desk. We consternated whether or not to turn around to get it, but ultimately decided to take the pain early and save the time during the trip. Both Taylor and I have experience with the toll booth lines and delays; we were in agreement that it was worth it to go back.

Right before we realized we forgot the ezpass

Right before we realized we forgot the ezpass

Turning back to get the EZPass cost us about an hour. Our final departure time out of Seattle was 630p. Ouch.

The drive into the night was relatively calm. We have discovered some sort of hiccup with the car: at a feather-light throttle load at around 80mph, the engine will briefly cut in and out. The strange thing is the inconsistency. We can’t induce it ourselves, it just happens. Our first guess is the Mass Airflow (MAF) sensor. We’ll pick up some cleaning fluid and give it a good cleaning when we can.

On the road in Washington.

On the road in Washington.

The scenery was nice as the sun went down and we continued towards Idaho on I-90. We started planning our stop for the night. The difficulty is the lack of places to stop. The towns that have hotels are very far apart in this part (Montana) of the country. Our options were to stop in Spokane, Washington around 1030p, or to push deep into the night to arrive in Missoula, Montana around 230a. 

The decision was Missoula. But first, food. Arby’s at 930p in Moses Lake, Idaho. Taylor and Dad went with the Smokehouse Brisket sandwich. I went French Dip. All was delicious.

Arby's!

Arby's!

Major props to Dad for driving all day. Between the errands and the first 6 hours of the journey, he got us going in solid fashion. I took over just before midnight to take us into Montana.

In preparation for driving deep in the mountains late at night, I bought us some Bulldog Lighting LED lights. A pair of their 4” spots, mounted on a steel license plate mount (thanks to Dave and Alice for doing the install!). 

Light!

Light!

The lights work amazingly well. What a difference. I’ll try to get a picture of them on and off a bit later in the trip. I was really grateful for the extra light.

After one final stop for gas, a lock for the trailer, and some energy drink, we landed at the DoubleTree in Missoula, MT. Dad travels a huge amount for his job, so he has a fat stack of Hilton points- thanks, Dad, for using points to pay for our rooms!

We arrived right on time at 240a. 

But wait, all our phones said 340a.

Wait.

Noooooo!

We lost an hour to a time zone change. Talk about disheartening. With great sadness and great tiredness, we finally got situated in our room at 400a. We had a hard time wrangling someone to check us in at the front desk. Pretty empty at 340am.

We look how we felt.

We look how we felt.

After discussing the options for timing to get to South Bend (and lamenting our late start out of Seattle), we laid down to sleep at 415a. The plan was to get up at 9a, leave before 10a, and try to make it to somewhere in the east part of North or South Dakota.

A couple long days of driving lay ahead, but we’re optimistic.

Damen Hattori

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