Before leaving Idaho Falls on Sunday morning, we made a detour to the local Big O Tires to have the front tire balance checked. I described our trip and the problem we were having and the manager had the car in the bay in under 5 minutes. Following a road force balance of both tires, the manager reported that the balance was dead-on, which left us all perplexed. They re-mounted both tires for me and said the work was on the house, wishing me luck and hoping that I could figure out the issue.
By the time we arrived in Jackson, I had an idea. I set the kids up with the TV in our hotel room and headed off to find a parking spot in the shade to jack the car up. Once I had the right front tire off the ground, I rocked the wheel and discovered that the right front wheel bearing was loose—the very same bearing that I replaced in the parking lot of an O’Reilly Auto Parts in Eureka, California on Man vs. Machine IV. It didn’t make sense. Having a wheel bearing fail again in less than 10,000 miles meant something was very wrong. The bad tires from last summer had clearly destroyed one set of wheel bearings, but had they also destroyed this one? The worst tire from last summer was in the left rear, but maybe the right front was bad too? Possibly, but I didn’t think it was bad enough to have killed this wheel bearing. Regardless of the cause, I was reasonably certain that I had found the problem, and this time, I had a spare set of front bearings in my toolbox in the trunk. If need be, I could change it anywhere, but at the moment it wasn’t strictly necessary. It wasn’t making noise, so I popped the cotter pin out, cranked the axle nut until it was tight again, and slipped the cotter pin back into the hole. In five minutes, I was cruising down highway 89 south of Jackson satisfied that the shimmy was much improved. Not gone entirely, but much, much better. Enough that the latent anxiety that had been with me since leaving LA was put to rest.
The Oehmkes arrived about an hour later and we spent Sunday night and Monday doing all the usuals in Jackson—the stage ride, the shootout, Moo’s ice cream, Persephone and Pinky G’s Pizza. We were now two dads and five kids, and the energy level was considerably higher. You could hear us coming a mile away everywhere we went.
On Tuesday morning we set the GPS for Grant Village, just inside Yellowstone’s south entrance. I have a preference for Canyon because it’s more centrally located, but I’d waited until early April to make the reservations and Canyon was completely sold out. The drive is exceptionally pretty and we decided to take the inside route through Grand Teton, which was new for us. We got in about 4pm, pitched our tent and settled in for the next few days of campfires, s’mores, hot dogs and sightseeing. Yellowstone is such a beautiful place.