When we landed in SeaTac near midnight, I knew it was real. We were, once again, doing this crazy “hobby”. After waiting in a depressingly long line at Enterprise, finding our vehicle (I’d wanted a Frontier but ended up with a Tacoma) and driving through the drizzle to Tacoma (lol), arriving at the AirBnB we’d carefully selected around 1:30AM, it all felt very real.
Back in 2014, we had this crazy idea: Why don’t we fly to a place, buy cheap cars, and then drive them on an epic road trip. The first one was meant to be simple: San Diego to Seattle using only coast roads and visiting friends and family along the way. In 2015, we did it. The trip ended up being so much more than we’d expected, and, as a result, we knew we had to do it again.
In 2017 we the same formula but applied it to overlanding. We bought cheap 4x4s, and drove them around 2,000 miles overland/offroad in California, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. Also amazing, but in a different way. That trip also started the new tradition of going on offroading trips a couple times a year. And stickers. We have stickers now.
When it came time to do the next trip we came up with a lot of pitches. Everything from the Lincoln Highway to flying to Iceland or the UK. There was one pitch, however, I was gunning for: Finishing what we started. I wanted to fly to Seattle, buy cheap cars, and then drive them as far north as possible. That is what we did.
Originally we’d planning to drive all the way to the Artic Ocean... but as it turns out that is a lot of additional miles and time that we just didn’t have. So, instead, we settled on Anchorage.
Seattle to Anchorage.
In cheap cars.
God help us.
We awoke in a strange new world. One of light drizzle, no central AC, and handwritten notes thanking us for our stay.
Oh crap. We were in an AirBnB in the Pacific North West!
This is actually happening.
Unlike the last two trips, today was actually going to be pretty simple. Previously we’d be frantically calling, texting, and emailing potential cars like it was two minutes past last call, in hopes of scoring the perfect car for the job.
This time, thanks to some interesting laws in Washington and some international border crossings, we’d already purchased our cars and, somehow, managed to keep them secret from each other. Now we were just waiting on Taylor to finish his work before George and I could pick ours up from the shipping terminal and Taylor could do his reveal.
While we waited, I needed to repack my bags, going from airplane mode to car travel mode, pick up a full size wheel and tire for my car, and get some food in me.
The first two proved to be pretty easy.
I ran by a junkyard that car-part.com had listed as having the wheels I needed. They didn’t, but the had ones that were close enough. They also had a used tire that looked to be in good shape, so I bought that too. They mounted it but couldn’t balance it. They recommended a place up the street that could.
I headed to the tire shop, gave them my $10, and then was politely told my rim was bent.
Back to the junkyard. New rim, same tire. Back to the tire place. Re-balance.
There we are.
On the way back to the AirBnB one of the motion sensors in my house glitched and set off the alarm, which was a fun series of frantic phone calls with the house sitter, alarm monitoring company, and local PD.
We decided to disable the motion sensors for the remainder of the trip.
After a quick, late lunch and much speculation on what each of us had, it was finally time.
George and I left in the rental while Taylor followed about 5 minutes behind in his secret car. While George and I shipped our cars, Taylor drove his from Texas. Insane.
When we arrived at the shipping terminal, I went inside to pay the terminal fees and then met George in the parking lot to wait for the cars.
We had no idea which car was going to come from where first. Where they going to bring George and I’s out now? Wait? How far away was Taylor?
When a white sixth-generation convertible Celica rolled up with Texas plates, we had our answer.
Furthermore, Taylor had surprised us all by not buying a red, high mileage, manual, Japanese small truck, his usual brand. Instead he bought a white, high mileage, manual, Japanese convertible!
Specifically a 1997 Toyota Celica complete with manual transmission, new CVs, and some questionable crash repair.
We were stunned.
As we looked over his sagging roof, peeling clear-coat, screwed in air bag covers, and generally not-bad little vehicle, the shipper came over and told us the remaining cars were just beyond that gate.
Seriously. It is like she knew we were hiding them from each other. But actually they were just understaffed that day.
George walked around the corner into the tow yard first and as such was the first to see my Swedish boat, a 1998 Volvo V70 XC in a truly suburb green that I’d picked up for $2,000 at an estate sale. A coworker had nicknamed it the Box Fan.
And then we got to see his Donut Truck, a 2003 Chevrolet Tracker, aka Suzuki Grand Vitara. The little 2WD SUV sported a 2.5L V6, a leaky oil pan, and a bow tie on the front. Delightful.
To be honest after all the anticipation and waiting the reveal was... underwhelming. We went through so much trouble keeping these things secret from each other and.... yeah it wasn’t worth it. Nothing against the cars! They’re fabulous! But I think we overestimated how wowed we’d be after a long wait vs just knowing when the cars got bought.
Ahh well. Now we know.
With all parties assembled, we set off to return the rental and give the cars a bath. My windshield was covered in oil from whatever was parked above me in the transport... possibly George’s car. It was bad enough I drove to the car wash with my head out the window for visibility. George’s, on the other hand, reeked of burning oil when it was running.
So yeah... bath time.
Cars bathed, we hit the supermarket, the liquor store, and then headed back to the AirBnB to toast to our
We also took some time to watch the car buying videos each of us had prepared and talk about our process a little. (Videos to come later. I am the slowest video editor... :Clarkson voice: in the world.)
Luckily there was beer.
As we gradually awoke from our beer-and-whiskey-induced fog, each of us looked out to the window to confirm that yes, there were indeed three shitboxes in the driveway and yes, we were doing is.
After a heavy breakfast, we set about working on them.
All mine needed was to finish the install of the aftermarket boost gauge I’d purchased. All the plumbing was in order, but I’d had a friend 3D print a gauge holder that looks like a stock vent. Minty.
I also hit a tinting place to get the massive limo tint stripe removed from the Volvo’s windshield. Apparently the 84 year old man I bought it from liked to keep it gangster. After parting with $20 and about 5 minutes, I was done.
George had a small laundry list of things to work on, including some in-op power windows, dimmers, and a foggy instrument cluster. He got most of that done, finally realizing that the switch and dimmer were bad and just needed to be bypassed. The instrument cluster was fixed using a headlight restore hit.
The Celica needed nothing but a good clean... until it started pouring coolant onto the ground. Turns out there was something wrong with his radiator outlet or top hose, but even after a detailed examination we couldn’t find anything. We put everything back, taking special care to make sure the hose clamp was strategically placed, and topped off the system and bled it.
No more leaks!
After a supply run we hit the coast, gorged on food, and concluded our last day in Tacoma.
Tomorrow we’d strike out into the unknown, visit some ghosts of the 2015 trip, and then cross the border into Victoria. Which is in another country.
Provided the cars make it...
Note: All photos are special to us. All the good ones were probably taken by Taylor. Please do not reuse without permission.