Jeff and John 2018: What is This? A Car for Ants?

Day 1: April 24, 2018

Destination: Missoula, MT

Start of Day Odometer: 170,816 km
End of Day Odometer: 171,544 km

Progress Map:

There remains an area of Americaland that I have yet to adequately explore: The Gulf Coast. While researching previous trips down to the US, I had occasionally come across information suggesting that there may in fact be relatively decent beaches located in Texas. Now, while I am sure I have been to better beaches in Florida and Hawaii, the fact of the matter is that Texas is kind of its own thing, and that’s really worth exploring. While I had seen a few places back with Joel in 2011, John had yet to experience the glory of Texas beyond a quick jaunt in to Amarillo back in 2016 (well worth it, I might add), and so we’re headed to Texas!

Sort of anyway, it turns out that our availability didn’t quite line up this year, and while I am able to leave earlier, he wouldn’t be able to leave until April 27. Thinking that was quite lame and that it would limit the extent of our travels, I had the brilliant idea that I should drive down first and get the lame parts of the drive out of the way. John would instead fly down and meet up with me for the excitement that is the World’s Creamiest Root Beer™ at Buc-ee’s, amongst other things. Not wanting to pay for motels by myself, I allowed my uncle Dave to tag along and split the bills.

Our first stop out of town should have been at Dairy Queen in High River, AB; as is tradition since the good service of ’13, but having just eaten before leaving Calgary, we angered the road trip gods and were promptly cursed with an extremely odd noise coming from the left side of the front end of the car. Worried for our ability to make it to the sweet land of barbeque and freedom fries, I pulled over to take a look. Upon confirming that the front bumper was in fact still barely hanging on by the mounting tabs that had yet to break when the previous owner hit things with it, I could not really find much else wrong and so after confirming with the owner’s manual that there was in fact a jack in the car (mounted under the driver’s seat), we were on our way (after only stopping once more to really make sure things weren’t about to explode).

Having seen an advertisement for $3.50 Teen Burgers and A&W earlier in the day, I was quite excited to partake of the Canadian delicacy once more before venturing down into the land of free refills and white gravy. We pulled in for lunch in Fernie, BC before going to meet the nice men and women of US Customs and Border Security.

Now, I’ve had varied experiences when coming and going between Canada and the USA over the years, and while not always pleasant I understand there is a job to be done and that boneheads are ruining it for the rest of us. Still, my story today wasn’t quite as straightforward as it has been in the past… I was driving a car not in my name with an older man, apparently to Colorado where he would be flying home and I’d be picking up someone else to head down and see a beach in Texas. It all made perfect sense in my head when I left the house, I swear. Thankfully all I got was a few extra questions and a bit of an odd stare before being told to be on my way. Success!

Despite the earlier unexplained (but totally probably not a big deal) noises, the Yaris was performing fantastically. I mean unless you came across the ever-elusive slight incline, but that almost never happens. The updates to the car have made it buttery smooth and predictable at speed, often tempting you to take the next curve ever faster than the last. It’s a bit of an odd duck in that the car really wants to go fast, but the engine can only deliver on the downhill; with or without tofu stacked in the hatch. Upon reaching the fine roads of Montana the road trip gods cursed us yet again, not only did we not stop at Dairy Queen in High River, but we also made mention of the fact that the Dunlop summer/track tires weren’t actually that noisy. Well, Montana convinced them to sing us the song of their people, the surface harmonically synchronized with the rubber warbling at us almost non-stop.

While the tires had not given up their song, while stopping to take a picture I was bestowed the gift of knowledge as I peered at the engine under cover hanging off the front bumper. Found that noise we were looking for earlier. I’ll see about fixing this thing up tomorrow I think.

Often times on trips like these, I find it necessary to just find a place to sleep. This has resulted in some… questionable… establishments from time to time. Still, I try to select places with at least decent reviews for the money. So when I booked myself a Motel 6 on Hotwire for a good deal (and an 80%+ review rating) I thought I had done quite well for us! Not only did this hotel come without an eight-legged shower buddy, but there were actual towels! A real delight! Still, I suspect that Dave’s first Team Mondor-style road trip experience may be a bit more rustic than he was hoping for. In order to foster a true sense of teamwork I’ve decided to let him pay for tomorrow night’s accommodation.

After getting settled in, we headed over to the Iron Horse Brew Pub in Missoula, MT for supper. Dave had the chicken schnitzel, which seemed overcooked, and I had their surprisingly excellent special steak sandwich.

Tomorrow we will continue on our way to Denver, CO by following the same path that Joel and I took back in 2011 on our first barbecue adventure in the Spruce Moose. My girl packed me some sunscreen this time though, which is probably a good thing, I don’t think the windows in the Yaris have any UV protection and I was looking a bit red after today’s drive.

Day 2 Destination: Jackson, WY

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