Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Speeding to the Red Light

I can understand sometimes stomping on your brakes when there's a
traffic signal that isn't visible from far away. What I don't get is
people who speed up when the red light is obviously ahead.

What is the point? When there are other cars up there, whatever sensors
that need to be triggered are already triggered, and your quickness to
get there won't speed things up at all. You just use more gas to get
there and waste gas as you idle until the light turns green.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tank 132 - 24 September 2007

Was lucky and filled up at the Woodbridge Costco today (after my amazing
near-miss experience of this morning-- see below). Finally, I thought,
I would be able to add data to support or discredit my theory that the
Woodbridge Costco's gas pumps shut off earlier than the Fredericksburg's
Costco pumps, seeing on how I filled up at the Woodbridge Costco last
time as well.

Well, I went 425.7 miles and filled up with 10.704 gallons, making for a
tank fuel economy of 39.77. Pretty good, a hair better than my overall
2007 average fuel economy, and more than three miles per gallon better
than my fuel economy since day 1.

It was my tenth tank in a row in which I went farther than 400 miles,
and the thirteenth out of the last fourteen tanks (there was one tank in
there where I just went 399.9 miles and felt it would be cheating to
take laps around the parking lot just to hit 400 miles).

Traffic has been generally smooth, and weather has been generally
agreeable to the point where I didn't need too much air conditioning.
These I believe are the primary drivers behind this good mileage.

If my next tank is filled up at the Fredericksburg Costco and my mileage
is dramatically less, my conclusion will be that the Woodbridge gas
pumps shut off earlier than the Fredericksburg pumps.

The Opposite of Smart Driving

This morning on my way to work, I was in the middle lane going about 66,
I think I was passing an oil tanker of some sort, maybe it was some
compressed gas-- the side said BOC on it, and after I thought of
woot.com and the bag of crap I remembered it was some sort of gas supply
company.

Well, in the fast lane, ahead maybe 8 carlengths was another car going
about my speed. I don't remember it passing me, so it might have been
going 66-68 mph.

A Honda Accord coupe with UVA license plates absolutely zooms past me in
the fast lane. Totally speeding like Meat Loaf on the cover of his
album, you know? And the guy doesn't move over into the middle lane to
keep on speeding to pass the guy in the fast lane. He quickly closes
the gap between him and the car ahead of him in the fast lane.

I take my foot off the gas and start coasting with my foot hovering over
the brake pedal, watching Mr. Accord approach the rear end of this guy
in front of him. No brake lights or other movement in the Accord.

Then, with about three feet to spare, the nose of the Accord drops maybe
8 inches ad the guy slams on his brakes, and the Accord plows into my
lane ahead of me. The car may have gone onto three wheels given the
force of the hard right turn combined with the stomping on the braking.
The Accord I thought had hit or clipped the rear bumper of the other
car, but did not touch it. Tires squeal and the Accord tries to
straighten out. The car rolls back to a horizontal orientation but its
momentum makes it lean to the right and the momentum from the hard
swerve begins to drag the car into the slow lane.

More tire squealing as the Accord makes its way into the slow lane.

At this point, there is a couple hundred yards of space between this
Accord and anything else, as the rest of us slowed down to see what was
going to happen next.

Mr. Accord regains speed and in a few minutes begins his suicide race
again and weaves ahead to continue on his way.

If my bladder and/or bowels had been full, I would have needed to change
my pants. I was thinking this Accord was pretty close to just starting
one of those "barrel rolls" right down the middle of the highway like
you see in movies. He was going so fast and swerved so violently, I am
surprised there wasn't any damage to his car, or flat tires, or lost
hubcaps...

But I am thankful no one got hurt. Maybe this guy learned a lesson.
But probably not.

Is it really that important for you to get to your destination so fast,
when an accident like what almost happened could totally ruin your
plans, as well ans those plans of others around you?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Driving to Work Adventure

This morning I saw a lot more bad drivers than normal. I am cruising
with the cruise control set at 65 in the slow lane, and at least five
cars and one suicidal motorcyclist came up weaving in and out of all
three lanes to speed through the traffic.

Three of these guys whipped into the slow lane and were crawling up my
rear bumper like nobody's business. I was mildly fearful they'd run on
into me, but knew if that did happen, first it'd be that guy's fault,
and second that guy's not get to work or wherever he was going fast like
he had hoped.

My conclusion is these guys cursed me as they waited for an opening in
one of the faster lanes to get around me.

I shouldn't get ticked off at these people, but I sort of do.

Not only do they waste gas by mashing on the gas, mashing on the brakes,
and weaving all over the place, they also (I imagine) add extra stress
to all the cars they fly around. At 6:30 a.m., probably nobody wants
this sort of action.

We are all on the road and want to get to our destinations safely and in
a reasonable amount of time. It just takes one of these selfish idiots
to have a brief moment of inattentiveness to cause an accident, and then
the rest of us get stuck in the backup to pay for his selfish behavior.

Perhaps when I get older, I'll "accidentally" get into a little fender
bender with one of these guys so I can tell him to his face what a turd
he is while driving. But that would just waste my time. I'll be
content to wait for these turds to ruin their own lives with some other
innocent guy who doesn't deserve it.

People, please drive smart. Look out for everyone else. Don't be
selfish. We'll all get there together if we respect each other and just
behave decently towards each other.

Believe it or not, commuting isn't a race, folks.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Halfway Through Tank Update

Well, hit the midway point of this tank of gas right about 255 miles.
This sort of indicates my idea that the Woodbridge Costco's pumps shut
off earlier than the Fredericksburg Costco's pumps is flawed. Either
that or I am just driving very smartly and getting exceptional mileage.

Today being Thursday, it is most likely that this tank will take me
through tomorrow and probably even through Monday, leaving me to either
fill up Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.

If I was able to refuel at both the Fredericksburg and Woodbridge
Costcos at the same time, that would settle this question I have about
fuel pump automatic shutoff sensitivity once and for all. But since I
can't do that, I must dwell on the question as to which is more
important, taking one full tank from start to finish from the Woodbridge
Costco, or squeezing out as much gas as possible from a tank and
refueling at wherever I happen to be at the time.

Also of importance is my Fantasy Football team. Another guy in the
league is making more moves than me, and I must not let that happen. Of
course, last year I made the most moves and came in last in the league.
So maybe making moves and all isn't that smart of an idea...

My FF team, the Scary Green Helmets, is 1-1 this season so far. I hope
to finish over .500, but at this rate, my patience is not good enough
just to wait. I sure hope I don't torpedo my team's chances...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Evidence that Supports my Current Theory

I think the Woodbridge Costco gas pumps shut off earlier than the ones
at the Fredericksburg Costco, but they both dispense accurate amounts of
gasoline.

I am happy when I go about 150 miles on the first 1/4 tank, according to
the fuel gauge. Last time after I filled up at the Woodbridge Costco, I
went much less than 150 miles, and this time is the same, I had gone
only about 130 as the needle passed down over the 3/4 mark.

The tank between, filled at Fredericksburg, indicated well over 150
miles as the needle dropped down the same mark.

The pattern forming indicates my fuel economy should be maybe 37 if I am
lucky when I fill up again at Fredericksburg. I will do my best to see
if I can refuel at the Woodbridge Costco to see if fuel economy matches
or is similar to fuel economy when I refilled consistently at the
Fredericksburg Costco.

Overall, however, I think average fuel economy numbers should not be
affected by this apparent problem, as it should smooth itself out over
time.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mighty Corolla Garaged All Weekend

The Mighty Corolla wasn't even used on Friday, as we took the seats out
of our minivan and used that to haul 5 bags of mulch, two bags of dirt,
and a six-foot "green giant" evergreen tree to plant in our backyard.

Normally we drive the Mighty Corolla on such off days, but the need to
haul large heavy things sort of kept this from happening.

We discovered that the passenger window on the van is nearing its life's
end. It went down, but decided it dodn't want to go back up when we
flipped the little switch.

The driver's side control didn't work either. After a couple hours, my
wife opened and slammed the door a couple times and the windoe
miraculously worked again. So we closed it and decided that we'd just
use air conditioning in the minivan from here on out.

It's a 1998 Chrysler Town & Country. It's paid for, and has over
114,000 miles. It's still working strong and we hope to keep it at
least one more year, hopefully longer, until the kids are a bit older
and less prone to making messes in there.

Overall a great minivan.

But the Mighty Corolla will never have this sort of electrical problem,
because it has hand cranks in all four windows. Awesome!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tank 131 - 13 Sep 2007

Filled up again at the Woodbridge Costco instead of the Fredericksburg
Costco. Once again, mileage topped 42 mpg.

439.4 miles and pumped in 10.451 gallons, making for fuel economy for
this tank to be 42.04, another new high.

I'd be happier, but last time this happened my next tank fuel economy
dropped to just shy of 37 mpg.

The more I think of it, I am concluding that the gas pumps at the
Woodbridge Costco must be set to automatically shut off earlier. The
sensors must be set to "super sensitive" so as to really reduce the
chance for someone to overtop the tank and dribble gas on the asphalt.

This makes sense to me. This new Costco opened in May, but I still
rarely fill up there. The last two times I have, my fuel economy has
been record high.

Traffic has been lighter than normal over the last week, which might
have contributed to it. I don't think my driving style has changed all
that much in the last month to account for such drastic variances.

If the Mighty Corolla had one of those mileage computers, that would
help shed some light on this issue. But it doesn't, so my conspiracy
theories can continue!

If I can make it to the Woodbridge Costco for my next fill up, that
might help add to my knowledge and either help to confirm or deny this
new idea I have that the pumps at the Woodbridge Costco are set to shut
off earlier than the ones at the Fredericksburg Costco.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Halfway Through Tank Update

The needle passed through the halfway point yesterday on my way home,
indicating the Mighty Corolla had gone about 270 miles up to that point.
I have not officially started tracking this statistic, but remember my
last tank was under 250, but the one before that was also closer to 270.


That was the tank of 42 mpg, if I remember correctly.

It may turn out that this halfway point could be a useful statistic,
although it's not a concrete moment, such as the low fuel light coming
on and staying on.

Indeed, there is plenty of opportunity to be dishonest in recording the
halfway point of a tank. The needle was slightly below the halfway mark
when I got home. I used the car to go to a few stores last night, and
this morning I left the house with almost 278 miles logged, and the
needle was a touch above the halfway mark. I did not use 278 as my
number because it feels like cheating.

But who is to say what the honest answer is? The needle fluctuates a
little bit going up and down long steep hills.

All I know right now is that the last time I remember this halfway
number being high like 270, I got great mileage.

Keep hoping and working towards creating light and/or smooth flowing
traffic!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait!

There were several opportunities over the weekend for me to observe the
continuing phenomenon of "hurry up and wait," also known as "gas still
doesn't cost enough."

I am driving north on a 4-lane road and there are two stoplights before
the T-intersection where most everybody turns right to get onto a 6-lane
road. Speed limit = 45.

I see the stoplight ahead is red at the gas station, so I ease up on the
gas and slow down as I coast to the stopped cars. This is usually a
very long light with green turn arrows that last too long. After
waiting for my turn, the light goes green and our two lanes press
onward. A little red Cavalier with one of those "brrrapppp!" mufflers
rips up behind ans weaves past me (I am in the slow lane and he darts
past in the fast lane).

A quarter mile later, we're again stopped at a red light by the fire
station. Another quarter mile will be a two-lane right turn to get on
another main road. Most people get in the right hand lane because that
is the only lane that can turn right on red.

Out light turns green and the brrrapppp! Car zips away, around a couple
other cars and stops ahead in the LEFT lane waiting to turn right. Sure
enough, my lane turns right on red and I catch up with him slowly.
Again.

As I turn the corner, the light turns green for us all to turn right,
and the brrrappp! Car whips around and takes off as fast as his little
economy engine can go. He changes lanes twice and then swerves way into
the left lane-- a left turn only lane that again is controlled by a left
turn light. Of course, this light is red for him as well.

I continue on my way and cruise on past him as he waits for his light to
turn.

I wonder why people like this continue doing things like this. If I
drove like that, I certainly would be extra frustrated at the sight of
the very same people I flew past moments earlier, flowing by me in the
main body of traffic as I wait in a turn lane.

How embarrassing.

What makes it worse for this guy, in my opinion, is that even with all
those flashy traffic moves, he's still just in a Cavalier.

Of course, I am in just a Corolla, but I don't try to zip around in it
like it's a Corvette.

Maybe this guy likes the feeling of acceleration, but at $2.50 a gallon,
it's not worth it.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Smart Driving?

As I travel along in the interstate on my commute, or even around town,
my eyes tend to wander as far ahead as possible, and if traffic is slow,
I adjust my speed accordingly ahead of time. If there are lots of brake
lights, I try to guess how long it will take me to get there, how long
the congestion might last.

And I usually ease up on the gas and let physics take over to slow me
down a bit so that I don't need to brake too much, and if all goes well,
by the time I reach the backup, it won't be as bad as it was when I
first saw it.

There are three lanes on the interstate on my commute and normally I'm
in the slow lane. As I adjust my speed, there are (at times) other
drivers who zip right ahead in the other lanes and get stuck in the very
same congestion ahead of us. Lots of times, by the time I get up there,
I catch back up to the people who buzzed on past earlier.

It seems to me that my way is better. I don't understand speeding along
and continuing to press on the gas just to catch up with slower cars.
It seems to me that maintaining some sort of steady speed is better for
everyone in the long run. I feel that in my own way I am helping the
cars behind me to maintain speed and lessen the stop/go/stop/go
accordion action ahead.

Maybe I am turning onto one of those people that most other drivers
hate.

But wouldn't everyone rather maintain one speed instead of starting and
stopping and starting again in bursts? Yes, sometimes it's a steady
speed that's (shudder!) below the posted speed limit, but I'd rather go
60 and not stop than go 75, hit the brakes and slow to 30, and hit the
gas again to speed up to 70 just to hit the brakes again.

I argue that maintaining a steady speed helps us all, and also promotes
better fuel economy and probably less maintenance on our cars,
particularly in the brake area.

And it doesn't seem to make my commute any slower than if I were to
drive like a lunatic and swerve in and out of the lanes to get ahead.
Indeed, I often see those maniacs who pass me stopped in the fast lane
ten miles later as I putter on byin the slow lane.

It's just my thoughts on things today.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Commuting Tactics and Gas Prices

After I get off the interstate on my way to work, I travel for about two
miles on "surface streets" that have two lanes going in each direction.
These roads have a speed limit of I guess 45 mph, and there are
stoplights at regular intervals.

Most drivers tend to want to go the same direction on the roads, as the
streets flow towards the interstate. I use these streets to parallel
the interstate to my place of work, as there are occasional traffic jams
I can avoid by exiting two miles earlier than my true exit.

Every day I am passed by a few cars who apparently like to accelerate
briskly and weave around people who are driving normally. Most of the
time, they end up stopped at a traffic light and I sneak up beside them
in the other lane and we wait together.

I thought it was common knowledge that accellerating and idling at
stoplights are big wasters of fuel that drag down your fuel economy.
Apparently this fact is lost on many Americans, as there is no shortage
of people like this who absolutely love speeding up as fast as they can
just to get to the next stoplight quicker than me.

I wonder if these people are among those who complain that gas prices
are too high.

One of the easiest things you can do to reduce the money you must spend
on gas is to drive smarter to use less gas. I have travelled almost 600
more miles this year than last year (January to August), yet have only
used about six more gallons of fuel over these stretches of time.

I have actually spent just about $2.00 more on gasoline over these
periods of time.

It bothers me to see in the media that people are "outraged" over gas
prices, yet daily I see them driving like price is no concern.

My conclusion is that gas prices still are not high enough for people to
actually change their driving habits. Sure, sales for smaller, more
fuel efficient cars is up, but I believe peoples' driving habits remain
the same.

I believe that if everybody just drove smarter, fuel use would plummet
dramatically. But in order to drive smartly, we all must be conscious
of our gas consumption, and in order for that to happen, gas prices need
to go up dramatically. It's not enough to switch to smaller and more
efficient vehicles is we're just going to continue driving like crazy
people.

The Mighty Corolla consistently beats the fuel economy on the window
sticker. It totally beats the "new ratings" as well. I doubt most
americans can say that.

Please drive smarter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tank 130 - 5 September 07

This morning I pumped in 11.550 gallons at my local Costco, after
driving 427.1 miles. This made for average fuel economy of "just" 36.98
mpg for this tank. A seemingly considerable letdown after my previous
tank where I achieved, on paper, fuel economy of 42.01 mpg.

Should I be saddened by this huge dropoff in fuel economy? I think not!
This is still higher than my overall mileage (since we bought the car),
and historically, me fuel economy is always lower the tank AFTER I
manage to get a high mileage number.

The big question is: how can I consistently achieve fuel economy numbers
that are higher than, say, 39 mpg? Conceivably, I drive about the same
way each time I am in the car. Really, this may not be so.

In addition to driving to and form work on the interstate, the Mighty
Corolla is also used around town on the weekends, usually in heavy
traffic with much idling and waiting around at stoplights and in slow
traffic. This has a sapping effect on fuel economy. If a tank of gas
stretches over two such weekends, I must make my commute that much more
efficient to make up for it.

Likewise, some trips home are in very heavy traffic which also messes up
my mileage number.

It seems that many factors are out of my control.

I don't have any data that tracks the number of weekends covered by a
particular tank of gas, but I suppose I can figure this out, since I
have the dates of every time I have ever put gas in the car, and can
easily figure out weekends if I put in a little time. But I am feeling
lazy right now and don't want to do that.

But I will continue to drive as smartly as possible, staying within the
reasonable flow of traffic on my journeys. It's important to not stick
out like the obvious grandma driver as to not impede traffic flow too
much-- I think that would mess things up more overall if I drove just to
look out for my own fuel economy numbers!

Last September, I had tanks ranging from 36 to 37.55 miles per gallon.
My goal is to beat that this year, and I am confident I can do that.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Blog Stats - and a Brush with Fame!

It's cool to see that readership is way up on days when I post
something, and is practically zero when I don't post anything for a
couple of days. Of course, readership is practically nothing to begin
with, si I don't mind.

I like knowing that I can go back and read my own thoughts on my own
time.

But ask me to keep a journal or diary and I'll tell you to jump in a
lake! Which is odd, because a blog is just like a diary only there's no
paper.

I'll be refueling tomorrow and will have new stats at that time.

Last Friday I went to the dentist. No cavities (yay!). In the waiting
room, my dentist has a picture of him with Jeff Gordon, and a few other
autographed pictures from celebrities, athletes mostly.

I asked him about this and he said he worked at a "bleaching center"
after dental school, and Jeff Gordon was a customer one day. He is one
full head taller than Jeff Gordon. So now I know how much taller I am
than Jeff Gordon, so that was neat.

I like my dentist. He's on his own, jusy him, a hygenist and a
receptionist. He calls his practice "Big Smile Dental." It's friendly
and the people are nice and relaxed.