Setting the Key West to Seattle Record in the Volvo S90
3,456 miles, three drivers, and no second chances.
It’s never been done. Some would call that a reason not to bother trying. I felt otherwise, and I knew Chris Cantle would feel the same way. We’d just driven from the the top of Sweden through France and Spain, all the way to the western edge of the Iberian peninsula. That had also never been done, but our trusty Volvo S90 had worked perfectly.
Record. Record. Record.
One challenge remained. A drive so tough it would make everything before seem like simple practice runs.
Key West, Florida to Seattle, Washington. 3,456 miles. The longest non-stop endurance driving record ever attempted in the lower 48 states. Fifty hours as the crow drives—according to Google Maps. From the sweltering tropical heat of the Keys, through southern thundershowers and strong head winds. And that’s just the first 12 hours. The second? Tornadoes. The third: road closures and traffic.
If we made it to South Dakota’s open plains, our razor-thin calculations of fuel consumption and time management meant that missing a gas stop or getting a flat would spell the end of our effort. And that would still leave another thousand miles across the mountains of Montana, Idaho, and then Washington itself.
There’s no “winning” such a drive. There is only completing it. No two men could do it alone. We needed a third. And we needed the car to run perfectly.
It wasn’t the Volvo I was concerned about. I wouldn’t have volunteered to lead this team if I didn’t think the S90 was the perfect car in which to make this attempt. Cantle and I agreed, and we agreed about our third. Ben Preston — our own Mad Max, before the fall — had the nerves, driving skill and temperament.
Caution. Patience. These are the skills needed for a cross-country effort. Forget the road hazards: If any of us fell ill, or tripped at a gas station, or forgot to pack any number of critical pieces of gear, it was over. Hours and hours of effort: Wasted. The stakes were high.
I had as much faith in the car — and our preparations — as one could have, but mid-summer storms loomed over the first leg from Key West to Atlanta. There is no war with nature. There is only acquiescence. The car could handle virtually any weather, but wind and rain create drag, the enemy of fuel economy. Endurance driving requires endurance planning. Fuel. Time. Focus. Lose one leg, and all must fall.
We delayed departure 24 hours, but couldn’t delay any further. Low pressure systems loomed over the midwest, and we had to reach Seattle before Friday, July 1st and the onset of holiday traffic. It was now, right now, or a hard never.
We chose now. Cantle and Preston checked the oil, tires and supplies one last time. I checked the electronics and Pilot Assist sensors. One. Last. Time. We had everything but the spare tire we needed and we couldn’t wait any longer. We’d go without the tire. Everything we wanted was 3,549 miles away, and there was only one way to get there.
Cross country with the clock ticking. Key West to Seattle. It’s never been done?
Now it has.