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What do you make of that?

Posted by joeabbott on June 28, 2014

I thought there’d be a clearer correlation between the terrain and our vehicle’s MPG during our vacation, but nothing is really jumping out. An indistinct connection, however, has never before left me at a loss for talking about it … let’s dive in!

Worst mileage – 22.8 MPG

The worst mileage was heading out of Seattle, into the Cascades; we also got lower mileage as we worked through Glacier National Park and over the Rockies. This makes perfect sense to me and I can absolutely see how this might be the case.

Other low-mileage areas – 23-24 MPG

The other areas that were low are surprising to me: the flat lands of the Dakotas and into eastern Wyoming. The landscape here is relatively flat … and, yes, the Badlands and Black Hills are in evidence here, but they’re really hundreds of feet of elevation change, not thousands. In Montana, where the speed limit is 75, I can see that having effect on the mileage … faster definitely means lower mileage … but that doesn’t account for the low mileage we got in South Dakota.

If I had to hazard a guess here, I’m going to say it was a combination of the heat (hence, the AC running) and stopping a lot and idling while we looked at the scenery. Both of these arguments fall a bit flat to me, as we didn’t seem to run the AC any more than in other areas and I recall stopping more frequently in Montana, than in SD. Let’s call it a minor mystery and continue.

imageBest mileage – 34.3 MPG

This is the Area 51 conundrum of the entire trip: how is it we got our best mileage in a place that we were A) stopping often and B) heading back up into the Rockies? I can’t account for it!

Again, in the spirit of hazarding a guess, I’d have to say we were at some sort of sweet spot of no AC (the day was cool and rainy) and moving at a speed that encouraged us to see our best miles-per-gallon. Again, just a guess.

Other good-mileage areas – >27 MPG

The three spots that stand out with above 27 MPG are heading out of the Rockies and into the flats of Montana (a sweet combo for high mileage) and the trips through the flat Minnesota farmlands. There is a bit of elevation gain\loss in northern MN, but my wife will tell you it’s minimal at best: those glaciers did a nice job of scrapping the Minnesota landscape fairly level.

The moderate mileage areas – 25-26 MPG

That leaves the rest of the areas for giving us moderate MPG. The leg from Bismarck, ND into MN is almost at that “>27 MPG” mark I was looking for, and I’m happy we got middling MPG in the heartland of WY … places that saw LOTS of elevation gain and loss. Same with the return trip through MT.

The one spot that surprises me for not getting good mileage (although it wasn’t bad mileage) is our run from ID into Seattle on the return trip. Yes, there was the leg from the farmlands of middle WA up the eastern side of the Cascades, but I was hoping that coasting from there into Seattle would offset the losses. Perhaps it did. I do recall we hit Seattle after rush hour had started and that really killed our travel time as we had to crawl along to our home.


I can’t imagine this being interesting to anyone other than me. I largely write to chronicle our adventures for posterity as well as for my own amusement … and now you know something about me: transcribing mileage data from receipts to a spreadsheet and then loading that into mapping software is both something I would do and something I enjoyed doing. As I think on that, I wonder that I managed to find someone to marry me.

Trust me, though: when she sees that I’ve done this, she’ll roll her eyes and attend to her pursuits. Pondering our mileage is not a shared pastime.
(ed. note: correction … she didn’t roll her eyes, when she heard about this post she tilted her head back, looked over her shoulder and said something like, “dear, God”)

Thanks for dropping by and check in later for more details of our travel!


One Response to “What do you make of that?”

  1. labird24 said

    Very funny stuff that mileage. I watch my mileage pretty closely and can tell when the car needs work as myileage drops. Don’t discount the idling as dropping mileage. Even a few minutes at stop lights or warming a car drops my mileage rapidly. Good to see you both.

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