Two weeks ago, I took a road trip to Montreal with my friend and fellow beer scribe, Lew Bryson.The story is told, starting here, in three installments over at my beer blog, Liquid Diet. He did the driving, I did the kibitzing, which is the way it should be. We were traveling in his Volkswagen Passat, a diesel which has, along with the current spike in gas prices, changed the man completely. In our last long journey together, to Pittsburgh about four years back, he drove like a crazy man and scared me half to death. Now, in the interest of the highest possible mileage, he uses cruise control at or slightly higher than the speed limit and happily keeps his eyes on the dashboard mileage screen and his GPS to see how he’s doing.
And he slides into neutral and coasts on every hill he comes to.
This struck me as, well, cute not I couldn’t believe it was all that effective. Just much mileage could that sort of maneuver actually save after all? We ended up getting about 42-43 miles per gallon for the trip but I attributed that the diesel functionality rather than his coasting plans.
Yesterday, I learned I might be way off base on all that.
I awakened after Tuesday evening’s big storm to find that my internet connection, cable service and VOIP phone service were all down and it became evident after a while it would be some time before they were restored (that didn’t happen until sometime after 5pm, which made, all in all, for a pretty nice and relaxed day without the usual guilt ’cause I wasn’t working).
Mid-afternoon, after a trip to the Post Office prior to heading off to do some grocery shopping, I noticed that my left front tire was way, way soft and damned near flat. I managed to get to a local garage, Bill’s Auto Repair, which is close enough to where I live if I had to leave the car but Bill said i was welcome to sit in the air-conditioned office with him and Mrs. Bill until one of his guy’s was free to do what needed to be done (replace a twisted and split valve stem), and so I did.
While where we there, another customer came in to ask about “the old wive’s tale” (immediately changed to “old mechanic’s tale” after an apologetic glance at Mrs. Bill) that shifting a car into neutral while driving it could damage the engine/ Not true, said Bill, so long as the car was running, oil would be flowing and nothing bad would happen. The guy said that was really good news because (paraphrasing here) “I have this truck I use for business which only gets abound 15 miles per gallon, but lately I’ve been coasting downhill whenever I could and damned it I didn’t get 21.5 miles per gallon on this last tank.”
Whoa! An increase of over five miles a gallon? That’s impressions.
Apologies to my my pal Lew for doubting him and you guys can look for me coasting down a hill near you one day real soon now.