There’s a scene from a favorite movie of mine "Marathon Man" which sums up this trip pretty well. It’s where Dustin Hoffman asks these Puerto Rican gang members to steal some clothes out of his apartment. The PR guy thinks he’s crazy to ask something so simple and says, "what’s the catch?" Hoffman says "the catch is, it’s dangerous" and the PR guy laughs and says "that ain’t the catch, that’s the fun
If someone said --you’re going to drive long hours, in every imaginable road condition, without showering, much sleep, or decent food, and have to hypermile while you’re doing it, and oh by the way you have to do this continuously for four days -- I distinctly remember replying that I’d have to be nuts to do this.
But every day I was on the road I thought I couldn’t remember when I had so much fun and couldn’t believe I was going to have the chance to do it all over again the next day.
What was the saddest part was the final day, after we left Ballarat and I realized this amazing trip was quickly coming to an end.
I’m sure others will give a more cohesive story with stop-by-stop details, but in a nutshell this was hypermiling immersion school
. There wasn’t a type of road we didn’t drive, from rutted dirt roads to paved. Uphill, downhill and flat as a board. Some roads empty for miles except for us and some bumper to bumper like in Chicago. Some with violently sharp switchbacks and some that went straight as an arrow for miles to the horizon. We drove through mountains, desert, farmland and plains. There wasn’t a weather condition we missed either --from black ice to snow to sun, to freezing rain. We drove in all of it, and everyone was made to drive both cars so we learned each car’s limitations and capabilities under those conditions. We drove day and we drove night, we drove tired and awake.
There was no getting away from driving and if you weren’t driving you were watching the other guy drive, or listening to stories about somebody’s last drive, or mentally preparing ourselves for what was coming up in the next drive.
I probably had the least experience in long distance driving of the group – having had traditional roles in my marriage where my husband drove us pretty much everywhere. So 90% of my driving experience came solely from my city work commute and short trips around LA. Talk about being thrown into the pool.
Driving for four hours plus at a stretch isn’t easy even when you do it 'normally'. Hypermiling for that long is quite
a workout, mentally and physically. My shoulders were tensed and my right leg was sore from holding it up. I remember once after an hour or so of driving I had even had to crack a window in 10 degree weather because I was so heated up from concentration and ifcd/pedal/gear coordination. (Luckily, my poor passengers alerted me that I was freezing them.) When I got home I was afraid to step on the scale to see what all the fast food and sitting for days did to me and found I actually lost
I also realized just now, how much I must have missed at night. When you cross the country in four days, and 50% of that time is night driving, that’s a lot of scenery and towns and landscape you don’t see. So for that reason (besides well, sleep) it would have been nice to stop driving at night and start again in the morning. I think “not wanting to miss stuff” also made most of us want to sleep as little as possible during the day, which wasn’t a good thing when we also had to drive at night.
I believe I only got 6-8 hours of sleep over the entire trip, but luckily I didn't feel it till I left the group and drove to a relative's house in San Jose. They told me I looked pretty glassy eyed. I think there were just enough micro-naps and adrenaline to keep me pumped.
I am so glad that it worked out so that most of Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada happened during daytime because those states had the most magnificent scenery of all. Now I know I want to return to those places, just to see more.
I noticed another thing. I’m normally a slightly tense passenger when others drive but I saw within 5 minutes of driving with each one of the group that I could completely relax. And little things, like I could take a swig of water without worrying I might bash my teeth with the bottle. In fact I think I could have safely put on makeup, lipstick and eaten a four-course dinner on my lap while we went through downtown Chicago traffic without worry.
Anyway, I learned a lot. I learned to hypermile Laurie’s stick, though I never did uh, drive
it very well
. I learned how not
to walk on icy sidewalks. I learned to stop clutching the steering wheel going around mountain curves because it does what you want more easily when relaxed. I’ve learned the McDonalds menu by heart (I wish I didn’t). I finally learned the difference between low and S gear. I learned to expect to find cans of Pepsi in every orifice of the car. I learned there’s no reason the oncoming lane can’t be "your" lane, when it’s empty. I learned that memory foam pillows freeze to a very interesting rock-like state in the cold. I learned so much more I still can’t sort it all out yet, but little things keep coming back to me while driving now.
This was fun --non-stop and intense, but maybe not for fussy or nervous types. The main realization about this trip is that reading on a forum about driving techniques can’t possibly substitute for first-hand experience. If any of us are crazy enough to do anything like this again, I highly encourage you to join in.