TTAC Desert-to-Burning-Desert Eco-Challenge. Day 2, Failure

Mike Solowiow
by Mike Solowiow
ttac desert to burning desert eco challenge day 2 failure

My hypermiling techniques failed; my overall average dipped to 43mpg over the leg from Gallup, New Mexico into Las Vegas, Nevada. However, despite my overall drop in economy, fate conspired against me (I’m a victim of coicomstance! Nyaaaaaaaaa). Strong head winds, snow, traffic, fast food, blown tires and deer; they all conspired against my pursuit of incredible fuel economy. Despite today’s trials, the dirty Jetta TDI Eco-Racer caused quite a stir as it limped into the valet lane at the Bellagio Hotel, more likely due to the strangeness of a magnet laden Volkswagen rather than outright coolness.

As I pulled out of Gallup, New Mexico onto Interstate 40, I merged into traffic smoothly, set my cruise control at the speed limit of 75mph (fuel mileage in the TDI between 70 and 75 makes no difference that I can tell) and let it ride. My tires were over inflated to about 42psi in front, and 44psi in the rear, a recommendation on several hypermiling sites. It seems overinflated tires create less of a contact path on the road, and therefore less rolling resistance, something my Bridgestone Insignia H-rated tires desperately needed.

However, this tactic proved to have no effect whatsoever, as I ran into one of the strongest headwinds I have experienced in quite awhile… and I live in Oklahoma. The 35-45mph headwind pushed my overall speed down to 65mph,. The Jetta struggled to maintain its momentum despite the healthy 177ft-lbs of torque the little 1.8L Direct Inject Turbo Diesel knocked out. In addition to the winds, another problem loomed ahead: snow, and lots of it.

The overinflated tires proved my downfall as the car struggled to maintain a stable direction. Stopping at the Meteor Crater by Winslow, Arizona, I deflated the tires to the manufacturer’s recommended 32psi, and marveled at the straightline stability the resulted. As the snow continued to fall, the highway speed fell to 60mph, then 50mph as forward visibility fell drastically. So drastically I failed to see the small grouping of deer crossing the road. Although the little deer seemed to be fine, bounding over the fence and into the blizzard, my fender now sports a ripply momento of the machine-animal meeting.

A short stopover at Sedona, Arizona to pick up some energy channeling crystals, I reached Kingman by dark. As I climbed over the pass, the Jetta’s back-end swung out unexpectedly in a frightening fashion. A LOT of opposite lock steering and some rumbling from my stability control guided the car to the side of the road, where to my delight in the falling snow, I discovered my rear tire had been neatly slashed by who knows what. Another victim to FOD (Foreign Object and Debris) on the highway.

At least the final push over Hoover Dam into Las Vegas proved uneventful.


1408 miles total

32 gallons diesel used

43mpg average

1 ruined Bridgestone Insignia Tire

1 Dented Fender

$5.00 wasted on stupid energy channeling crystals designed to “streamline fuel flow”

7 Starbucks Soy Mocha Lattes drank

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2 of 20 comments
  • Gforce Gforce on Jan 28, 2009
    chuckgoolsbee : January 27th, 2009 at 1:02 pm Indeed, name another car you can buy today that you can swap a wheel roadside and continue at full speed? You can’t! No wimpy donut, or gawd-forbid… “run flat” (aka “wallet eater” NON-spare) spares here! An honest to goodness actual spare. With a boot you can stuff two dead bodies into no less! That’s NSFWing ENGINEERING Chuck, have you checked the Subaru Legacy? it also has a full-size spare wheel of the same design as the 4. I think Audis do as well.
  • Rusty Brinkley Rusty Brinkley on Jan 28, 2009

    Solo...I would by no means call the second installment of your journey a failure! As if you could control what you were going to encounter. You get to stay in the Bellagio, too! As for the fuel economy talk, my `02 Protege does pretty well. I get in the high-20s with my 2.0L petrol powerplant and the 5-speed. Then again, most of my driving consists of driving 1.6 miles from my on-base home to the office, one-way. One day I would like to own a diesel. But, since I'm hoping to move to points very far east, I don't know if our allies in the Far East are fond of the diesel stuff.

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )