Mar 232020

3/15  Albuquerque, NM to Barstow, CA – 675 mi

To see the entire road trip visit

So for those followers of the blog, I apologize for my long delay in this post. I didn’t realize that I still was more ill than I thought (no, not C19, just a good, old-fashioned head cold). I got home and for the next few days my mind was so foggy I couldn’t do much of anything but sleep and watch movies… I even did that without much thought or mentation. As of 3/22 my brain cleared and I’m ready to go again (in a weak, limited fashion).

The last three day speed run home was surreal. I realize now that a good deal of that had to do with my illness, but there was more. The C19 pandemic has people doing different things. It’s not quite apocalyptic out there, but people are on edge like they are waiting for everyone to go crazy on us, or that a real life zombie is going to come around the corner at any time. Let me give a couple of examples.

Normally in a store people will edge their way past you to get to an object on the other side of you in the aisle. I was seeing people going around several rows to come back in to the aisle I was in so they didn’t have to get so close.

Or, how about the young man who questioned me about my trailer art. He seemed excited. When I handed him my business card, he surreptitiously slipped it into the trash while my back was turned EVEN THOUGH HE WAS WEARING GLOVES!

I want to be clear that at that time all of my symptoms were internal. I wasn’t coughing or sneezing. I wasn’t blowing my nose constantly. My nose wasn’t cherry red. I didn’t look feverish. I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t have bloodshot eyes or even blood tracing down from the corner of my mouth.   

Salt shakers, napkin dispensers, jelly, sugar, etc all were removed from tables at restaurants. In fact the number of people in each were maybe 5% of the normal patrons. When you come in on a normally busy morning at a truck stop and you see only ONE other customer, one waitress and a single cook, you wonder. Worse, the waitress treats you like a leper and only comes over when you demand her presence.

Now with all of the updated data, these folks were probably doing exactly the right thing, but it is surreal to experience.

Drivers, on the other hand, became more aggressive and drove significantly faster. I was cut off more on these last three days than in probably the last year. I should qualify this… Non-Commercial drivers. Truckers and their brethren all were just as friendly and courteous as always. To them this is a minor blip. They will continue to haul.

Enough about the pandemic, let me talk about the trip.

My plan was to go from Albuquerque to Needles, CA. Eight hours or so. An easy jaunt, especially as I’d found out that my poor gas mileage was due to two factors I’d never considered:

  1. I’ve always found that cruise control is my friend, especially the adaptive CC I have in my RAV4. I put it at the speed I want and it gets me the best gas mileage AND I don’t have to worry about folks that just happen to be going slower than me (unlikely but it happens).

Not now. I found that my CC would bring me up to the edge of my set speed with the engine winding at high RPMs and hold me there, not quite taking me to the set speed. If I would tap the gas with my foot it would get there and then the rpms would drop (and save gas).

As an experiment, I drove without my CC for most of this day. Even going through the mountains I increased my gas mileage by about 2 mpg!

  • The RAV4 comes with two settings: Eco and Sport. When you power on it starts in Eco as default. And even though my wife (who has a Mazda CX5) says mine doesn’t have ‘zoom-zoom’, I find that after a Prius, even the Eco is plenty of power. Well, I found that Eco exacerbated the problem above and caused the car not to maintain speed well. In Eco setting I might have a set speed of 65. Even on a slight hill, my speed would start dropping until it hit about 58 before it wound the engine up and struggled to get to 65 again. By popping my car into Sport mode, I’d say that my resting RPM was just a bit higher but I didn’t see the up and down speed thing nearly as much. It also helped keeping things steady when I drove without cruise control. This alone probably saved me another mpg. 

Neither of these sound very large, but when your normally 28+mpg car only gets 15mpg (or less) towing the trailer, 3mpg increase is about an 18% reduction in fuel cost!

The improved gas mileage allowed me to spend that bonus mpg to travel faster. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I’d planned on taking the entire trip at 65 (to even get that 15MPG). When I learned 1 and 2 above, I jacked it up to 75 and still increased my mpg to close to 16.

Back to A to Needles. Bottom line, I messed up. I planned at staying at a truck stop 20 mi short of Needles (closest I could find) in Arizona. Well, I missed it. Scratch that. I saw it but didn’t think it could possibly be the one I wanted as I wasn’t close enough to Needles. I was in Needles before I realized my mistake.

Worse the mistake compounded itself. Because of the desert around there, the next real stopping point was Barstow, over two hours further. I had three choices, none of them appealing. I could go back to the truck stop (half an hour back). I could try and find a place to sleep it off in Needles. I could push on to Barstow. For many, many reasons, I chose the latter. But to do that I needed to top off my gas tank in Needles.

Let me just say that Needles is the largest rip off of all places I’ve ever been. They aren’t even polite about it like a Las Vegas casino is. The last gas station I’d passed in Arizona the gas was circa $2.50 a gallon (a far cry from the cheapest I ever got it at $1.66/gal in OKC I believe). In Needles, every station charged within a nit of $5.00 per gallon. Note that this is in the middle of an oil glut. I mean I’d driven through CA on the way down and it was higher but not THAT bad. Fortunately I only needed about 3 gallons to top off and make sure I’d make Barstow. Worst rip off of the trip. A pox on Needles!

BTW.. Barstow gas price… $2.61

I made Barstow and crashed hard.

Next: The Long Voyage Home Part 2

 March 23, 2020  Uncategorized  Add comments