By on February 3, 2009

When I called Las Vegas home, massive towers were going up, traffic was bad (especially on the Blue Diamond Highway), tourists were annoying and gas was cheap. Now, leaving Las Vegas, massive towers are going up, traffic is bad, tourists are annoying and gas is—once again—cheap. But it’s always worth saving a few gallons. After all, that $1 could win you the $1m payout at the Luxor’s giant slot machine. It’s thinking that makes both Sin City and the VW Jetta diesel so great.

I’ve combined the last few days into a single blog post; I didn’t drive much. Saying that, my personal CO2 levels soared during my stay, as I ascended Frenchman (Sunrise) Mountain. Looking at, and then leaving, the smog choked valley, I headed for Colorado’s ski resorts, resuming TTAC’s one-man, one-car Eco-Challenge.  And quite the challenge it is: mountains are to hypermiling what smog pumps are to 70s muscle cars.

Driving north on I-15 towards St. George, Utah, I surmounted and plumbed several familiar passes and canyons. To preserve precious dino juice, I couldn’t deploy my usual technique: mash the throttle to maintain my speed. I had a planet to save, dammit! Well, a pocketbook to protect. And a blog to write. So I followed a simple formula: slow up, coast down.

Local conditions prevented successful implementation. Driving the little Jetta at 60mph in heavy traffic—all of whom were busy ignoring a 75mph speed limit—proved downright dangerous. My law-abiding ways forced all manner of vehicles, from Toyota Corollas to full tractor trailers, to swerve, merge or otherwise move around me. Common sense and TDI torques (just kidding) prevailed.

Upon reaching St. George, I finally replaced the tire I punctured in Kingman, Arizona. I’m not brave (or foolhardy) enough to tempt crossing the San Rafael Swell without a spare; driving 120 miles without a plan B sounds like a fool’s errand to me.

The stretch from I-15 to the I-70 junction was pretty, and pretty mundane. The blast east on the I-70 towards Grand Junction (my stop for the night) was equally uneventful, if more aesthetically intimidating. Bathed in the salmon-colored glow of winter’s setting sun, the snow-topped Rockies are awesome—in the original “standing mute before God” sense of the word (as opposed to “Wow! That’s an awesome sweater!).

My fuel mileage was not quite as spectacular. The mountain driving, higher speeds and a tank of totally bogus diesel torpedoed my mileage figures for this leg of the trip. In fact, I “achieved” the worst mileage to date.

513 miles for this leg of the trip

13.1 gallons of diesel consumed

39mpg average

2 Starbucks Soy Mocha Lattes drunk

1 new Bridgestone Weatherforce tire

1 new pet peeve (matching my speed whilst 5 feet behind me, at night, in a SUV, causing lights to shine in my eyes no matter how fast or slow I go. I hate you Mr. Toyota Sequoia Driver, yes, you, in the blue one on I-70!)

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10 Comments on “TTAC Desert-to-Burning-Desert Eco-Challenge, Days 5, 6, 7: Leaving Las Vegas...”


  • avatar
    menno

    I know of a solution to the a-holes who insist that it’s safe to sit a few feet from your bumper in their SUVs and pickemup trucks (lights right in the face via mirrors).

    Obviously, dim the inside rearview mirror.

    Then, click the power driver’s mirror on, and tilt the mirror “out” as far as it will go then tilt it up juuuuust a tad, so their headlights reflect back right into their face.

    Works every time, and before long, you’ll be quite adept at it. If necessary, ease over to the right in the lane juuuuust a tad, do it discretely so as the imbecile in control of deadly projectile behind you doesn’t notice.

    Learned that in the UK and I can tell you it works about 80% of the time.

    The other option is to put your 4-way flashers on, and if the tailgater doesn’t take the hint, slow down 10 miles per hour (with brake lights on the whole time – slow down very gradually). Repeat.

    Trust me, once you get down to about 45 mph in a 75 zone, 99% of the idiots will finally get the picture and pass (but then, there are always more damned idiots ready to tailgate you even when one finally goes past). Watch out of the ex-tailgater as they have a nasty habit of wanting to try to tear off your left front fender as they pass you, btw.

    That’s when a nice cell phone plainly visible and literally in hand (as they pass) is a really good thing to have.

    BTW yes, I do now drive the speed limit most of the time, unlike my younger years. Why? Several reasons.

    1. I simply get taxed to death enough, already. I don’t need another few hundred blown out of my wallet.
    2. I don’t like being stopped by the folks who are supposed to serve and protect when their real intent is to make some kind of quota. (Quota? What quota…)
    3. I don’t want to talk to any representatives of the governmental regime unless it is absolutely necessary for my benefit or the benefit of others. This doesn’t include being harrassed for driving no differently than 99% of the drivers, but just being the wrong person in the wrong spot in the wrong time (snagged for speeding)
    4. Don’t need any more excuses for my car insurance to go up.
    5. With traffic so crappy bad, even once I pass someone, most of the time I only get to my destination a second or so faster anyway – so with age and wisdom, it has occurred to me – why in hell bother? If I want to go fast, take a fast car and go to the racetrack. The road is no place for speed-driving unless I’m lucky enough to visit Germany and take to the Autobahn. (And yes, I should be competent for that – I did pass the British driving licence test, which means I have true capabilities and have proved it – not like the American drivers license, which they may as well dispense in cracker jack boxes).

  • avatar

    What the hell has happened to the TDI? The more VW has “improved” it the worse it gets – at least MPG wise.

    I have never, ever seen that low in my (2002 pre-PD TDI)… even going 80+ MPH into a 40-something MPH headwind all day. I get royally po’ed if I see under 45 MPG, which is a rarity.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    menno

    Chuck, are you old enough to recall how poorly gasoline engined cars “performed” in the early 1970′s when they were strangled by crude emission equipment?

    With the technology envelope stretched as far as it has been in an effort to clean up the diesel, little wonder the MPG is down on the new rigs.

    Ironic, isn’t it, that in the 1970′s, diesel engines with absolutely no emission equipment (other than a PCV valve) were literally twice as clean as gasoline cars of the same era (even from 1975 with the first of the crude catalysts on gasoline cars).

    Now cars can only pollute about 0.02% of the air pollution of a 1960 car, or some such figure. It’s amazingly low amounts compared to the old cars, anyway.

    The PCV valve introduced in most cars by 1963 reduced air pollution by 50%. The next 50% reduction cost considerably more than 50 cents per car, and the next 50% reduction more again, etc etc ad nauseum.

    With BO in the white house, I think you’ll find the diesel is going to be outlawed in road cars if emissions are tightened even further. Perhaps not, if CO2 is the next, sole, target of emissions.

    BTW my Prius? The MPG meter is saying “I’M BAAAAACK”. Since I’ve found a place to buy 100% gasoline (ethanol-free, unlike the E10 sold virtually everywhere else in town), my MPG is back from 33 mpg to about 40 plus, and rising.

    Despite 18 degrees F. this morning on the commute in.

    Once and if ONLY E10 is sold, I’m selling the Prius. With BO’s affinity for his ethanol industry campaign donors, I strongly suspect this will be happening within a year. Or less.

    BTW Chuck, I’ve got my eye on a 1993 Mercedes Benz 300SD turbo-diesel car for $2200, and was considering it as a sort of a “classic funmobile.”

    Know anything I need to watch out for if I get a chance to drive the 5 hours to check it out?

  • avatar
    srogers

    Doesn’t the TDI have just about double the power of the old one? Maybe that’s why it doesn’t get the same MPGs. Seems like a fair trade to me.

  • avatar
    menno

    More power doesn’t necessarily mean less MPG’s, especially with hybrids and diesels. The new Prius (2010) is more powerful and will get better MPGs than my 2008.

  • avatar
    red60r

    Westbound out of St. George, down the Virgin River Canyon, I was cruising at about 80 when some swell in a red Maserati blew by at some unseemly velocity. Everyone on that stretch seemed in a hurry to lose money at the slots. Never a cop in sight on the whole stretch.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    I know of a solution to the a-holes who insist that it’s safe to sit a few feet from your bumper in their SUVs and pickemup trucks (lights right in the face via mirrors).

    I know of an even better solution: make light trucks meet the same headlight requirements as cars when they are running on a public road. Vehicles designed to run off-road and in need of higher mounted headlights can have a second set of headlights to be used only for that purpose.

  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    wow what a photo that is

  • avatar

    Menno: go buy this book. There is a whole chapter on Diesels, and a wealth of info i the rest of the book about what to look for in every specific MB chassis when buying used. From Gullwings to Oelmotoren, it is all in there.

    srogers: What is more power going to get me that I don’t already have and can’t really use? I can drive my 90 HP 2002 TDI @ 110 MPH. I’d rather have 50 MPG @ 90 HP than 39 MPG @ 130 HP any day. So who needs more than 90 HP anyway?

    –chuck

  • avatar

    @ Chuck,

    My Jetta TDI is an 06 1.8L model with only 100bhp, not the newer one with 130bhp. It uses the old Pump Duse instead of the Direct Inject the newer one has.


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