Route Shopping: Tires, Terrain, and Tickets

Today’s chapter is brought to you by the letter “T.” T is for: tires, terrain and tickets.

If you are like me, you roll your eyes and murmur, “Yah, yah, yah,” whenever you see another article that reminds you that you can save a lot of fuel costs if your tires are properly inflated. But, ever since I got a really fuel efficient car three years ago, I have tracked my fuel use almost obsessively at every fueling. It was fun to brag that I was getting 37-38 MPG on the road, with the AC on full blast in the summer. Then my mileage dropped to 30 mpg for two full tanks in a row. After a trip to a trusted mechanic and one to a dealer with no luck, it was time for a free oil change. Turns out, my tires were all about 5 pounds low.

The folks added air up to the recommended level. And the service manager opined that I must have taken a real hit to my gas mileage. Ding, ding, ding. I filled up the tank and found that I was back to 37-38 on the road and 34 in town.

I had been wasting about 20 percent of my fuel costs for lack of some free air in the tires. Since then, whenever I see a drop, I stop in and have someone check the tire pressure. The results have been consistent for over a year.

Ah, yes, terrain! Terrain is not the strong suit for many MS schedulers. I have been asked to just “run over” from Milwaukee to Muskegon, “Since it is only 60 miles“. Sorry. That 60 miles is straight across Lake Michigan. There are only two places to cross the Potomac River near Washington, DC, and this can make the difference between 2 miles “as the crow flies” and 55 miles by road.

When discussing routes with schedulers, be sure to do an independent check on mileage using a real mapping program. In mountainous areas, be extra vigilant about using state or county roads for any part of the trip. I have spent more time than I care to remember crossing sub continental divides by “the shortest route.” Finally, don’t trust the scheduler’s concept of distance.

I was recently offered a route in Michigan where the scheduler did not want to name all of the locations. He said, “Trust me; they are all within a few miles of Detroit and Ann Arbor.” Well MS Streets and trips puts Detroit to Traverse City at 256 miles. This was presented as a “take all or none,” route, which meant that to get the “outlier” would mean a roundtrip of more than 500 miles. Finally, schedulers from the vast prairies seem to think that DC to Maine is a couple of hundred miles because, “all those states up by ya’ll are itsy bitsy, honey!”

Tickets: $238 speed traps in NC and SC. for minor violations.

Editor’s Note: I have found that tires inflated with pure nitrogen gas are less likely to need air added over their lifetime than tires filled with compressed air.

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