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May 29, 2012

Traveling the Great Route 66 Will Cost Plenty of Gas

Cal_hp_adAs my solo tour across country made its way into the heartland of Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and into New Mexico, I quickly learned something about the route I had chosen for the trip. While it was quite nostalgic and interesting to ride this famous Route 66 (now called Interstate 40), what I didn't know was how windy the high plains could be. Nor did I realize that starting in Texas, there begins a slow but steady climb in elevation all the way to Flagstaff, Arizona, up to 7300 feet. I would have to say that this was probably the only error in judgement I made in the months of pre-planning and here's why... so you know not to make the same mistake.

First, the good news. It would have been far worse had I taken Interstate 70 across country into the Rockies as they are huge mountains with steep inclines, which would have been unbearable to drive with a loaded truck of furniture. Sure, cars passed by as if it were nothing but trucks do not respond as well to steep inclines as do cars. And it's not just my truck, it's all trucks. But let's get back to Interstate 40. The incline heading west on the 40 is miles and miles long, steady and slow, which seemed never ending. For a fully loaded truck, inclines use much more gas meaning you have to make more gas stops and spend more money. And, it exposes you more often outside the cabin of the truck adding the element of risk to your personal safety when traveling alone. It also leaves fewer choices in finding the best prices on gas as stations are far and few between along the 40 so filling up is absolutely necessary each time even if it means filling up at a high-cost station. In the small town of Needles, CA, near empty (both the truck and the town), the only gas station in town offered regular for $5.00 per gallon. There were no other choices so these are some of the traps you fall into that are to be expected.

Gas prices do fluctuate throughout the country so for the first half of the trip the truck did remarkably well on gas 'for a V10 engine' with thousands of pounds of furniture. I had budgeted about $1200 for fuel but did so unaware of the inclines and high crosswinds for the next thousand miles. Gas began to sift through then engine like water... sucking it down to make it up the inclines and fight the wind. And it got progressively worse the further west I headed. I asked a few natives along the way about the high winds thinking it was an anomaly but was quickly told that high winds are an everyday occurrence at this time of year in all the states I passed through. In my last hotel, the Hilton Gardens, a young woman in a baseball cap was delivering a pizza to a guest room. I asked her about the winds and how a woman keeps her hair in place if going somewhere special. Her reply, "you don't!"

What I found amusing when the headwinds began in Oklahoma was that there were no warning signs on the freeway to expect them. So I forged on but then when I hit New Mexico, there were signs everywhere that said severe crosswinds, which seemed too little too late. By then, I was in the thick of it with no turning back. It took two hands on the wheel to hold the truck steady against the buffeting winds, avoiding the swerve of passing 18-wheelers that were clearly fighting the wind as well. Cars seemed to fare a little better but those on motorcycles were in the fight for their life.

Signs began to show up that said if you see someone driving drunk, call this number... how funny I thought, how could you tell? The winds were so severe that everyone on the freeway looked as if they were driving under the influence with all swerving in unison as if to the rhythm of a slow dance. How much worse could it get, I wondered? It has to end sometime. It did not. It got worse in each state I passed through. In Oklahoma, the winds were head on at 30MPH, then by Arizona they hit 40MPH slapping the front of the truck with such force that the truck was pushed to the shoulder at times. It wasn't until I crossed into California that the winds and gusts were 50MPH... like driving in a bad storm with the sun raining down. From my hotel room, the howling wind sounded like a hurricane, but this is how it is here everyday.

The gas stops became more frequent and the gas prices higher as I approached the western states. My $1200 fuel budget quickly escalated to $1600. This is one of those lessons learned, to expect the unexpected. Be prepared for anything and everything.

One of the things that helped give me peace of mind was U-Haul's Green Gas Gauge that shows bars (like your cell phone) on when you're getting the best mileage. Unfortunately, driving uphill and in head on high winds showed the low bars, sometimes no bars, but when the inclines finally turned to declines, all 5 green bars showed up and often.

My goal was to provide you with an idea of the MPG the U-Haul Truck received overall but it wouldn't be a fair assessment due to the different weather and road challenges each day causing a significant variation in miles per gallon. So instead, next week, I'll provide a day by day MPG chart to demonstrate what a difference a day makes... due to weather and road conditions, inclines and declines, and all sorts of other unexpected surprises that can change your gas consumption from day to day.

U-Haul Fuel economy.Fuel economy gauge

U-Haul rental trucks have a low profile, rounded corners and advanced chassis skirts to reduce wind drag and raise fuel economy 20%.

All U-Haul rental trucks use cheaper, cleaner and more convenient unleaded fuel.

Use the fuel-economy gauge to save money on fuel and reduce air pollution.

Our sponosrs U-Haul and Bridgestone Tires are committed to going green. U-Haul trucks offer a much lower center of gravity and sleeker design that its competitors, which makes their trucks more aerodynamic in the wind. After crossing the country, it was clear that most moving consumers knew this as there were more U-Hauls on the road than any other brand. The others, Budget and Penske, are built much taller with flat box-like trailers that likely fared much worse in the wind than we did so inspite of the high winds, I was thrilled to be in my U-Haul and not in a competitor truck.

Bridgestone has also made an environmental commitment with the development of their tires as well as their One Team One Planet program. It is an honor to work with companies that are not only female-friendly but care about our planet and are taking action to make a difference. 

To read more about our story across country and one of the greatest young women in history, Sacajawea, who we honor with this trip, please click here.  

 

 

May 17, 2012

Traveling Alone - What Women Need to Know!

Women Traveling Alone - Focusing on Your Personal Safety

Sponsored by U-Haul & Bridgestone Tires

by Courtney Caldwell

Driving around town is an everyday occurrence for most of us. Errands, going to and from work, picking up kids at school or soccer, grocery shopping, visiting family and friends, a girls’ night out… you know your area like the back of your hand.

But, what about driving into territory beyond your borders? Do you have a fear of driving outside your comfort zone? Do you worry about getting lost or even worse, followed?

The number one reason women stick close to home is fear of the unknown, what to do, what not to do, how to keep yourself safe on the road in unknown territory, never ming where to begin in the planning process of a big road trip. Whether you’re planning an across-country or across-town move, the very first place to begin your journey is with your homework and advanced planning.

I’m about to embark on a 3200-mile cross-country journey, driving a 17' U-Haul truck, and yes, all by myself. When I tell people of the road trip, they look at me dazed and confused, and then after a short pause ask, ‘you’re driving alone?’ That one question in itself speaks volumes to how much education is needed for women, and many men, on how to plan a road trip with fun, not fear.

Doing your homework and pre-planning are essential in making your journey safe and sane… whether across town or across country. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80, as long as you carefully plan out every detail of your trip's route, hotel stays, gas stops, navigation, and every detail of your trip, you'll arrive at your destination safely.

U-Haul Moving TrucksIt is such an honor to have U-Haul as our ‘Women Traveling Alone’ road trip safety sponsor for a variety of reasons one of which is their connection and support to a young Shoshone Indian girl named Sacajawea, who served as an interpreter and guide on the famed Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1804. Her heroism in numerous life-saving contributions helped lead their two-year journey to a safe and successful conclusion.

Sacajawea, just a young teen at the time, not only provided guidance for hundreds of miles through the tough terrain of the northwest Rockies, then known as the Louisiana Purchase territory, she also demonstrated extraordinary courage and strength during numerous life-threatening events, often emerging as the hero who saving lives and supplies from devastating weather, potential enemy threats, and from capsized canoes. Sacajawea became known as the first woman to be included in a democratic vote on the all-male crew, sharing her knowledge and experience as to which route to take for most access to hunting for food and safe shelter in the wild.

In honor of Sacajawea, U-Haul has painted her mural on both sides of our moving truck to celebrate her accomplishments and help shed light on her exceptional contributions to the beginning of what shaped the U.S. today. Her story is one of bravery and the true meaning of persistence.

Her contributions were chronicled by Lewis & Clark in their personal diaries naming Sacajawea as the only person on the expedition who never complained or panicked when confronted with dangerous or devastating circumstances. Level-headed and fierce, she faced each event as it came, contributing significantly to a successful and safe outcome.

Sacajawea was married to a Frenchman twice her age, who had traded her for goods and supplies with a tribe who had kidnapped her at 12 (away from her Shoshone family and friends). While little is known about her husband’s contributions to the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Sacajawea’s accomplishments earned her a place in American history. Add to that, her journey included a pregnancy, childbirth in the wild, and then carrying her infant on her back during the expedition. The baby boy nicknamed Pompey, spent the first two years of his life living right along side his brave mother.

Sacajawea’s story is one of true courage and inspiration. It is with great pride that I have the opportunity to share her story as I traverse the U.S. in my 17’ U-Haul truck with her mural painted on each side, sharing her tale with everyone I meet along the way.

Bridgestone Tire Sponsors 2011 International Car and Truck of the Year Awards - Presented by Road & Travel MagazineWe'd also like to extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to long-time partner and sponsor, Bridgestone Tires, for their support of tire safety and helping people understand how to choose the right tires for their vehicle. As one of the leading tire companies in the world, Bridgestone is committed to not only helping women stay safe on the road but also to keeping our environment clean with their One Team One Planet message. Bridgestone Americas is dedicated to achieving a positive environmental impact in all of the communities it calls home. This commitment includes efforts such as developing tires with improved fuel economy, manufacturing products and providing services in an environmentally responsible way, and establishing wildlife habitat and education programs. For full story, click here.