“Drive Friendly” was on signs posted on the highways of Oklahoma. I liked the sentiment as well as the way it was delivered. It was a suggestion and not a demand. It wasn’t like it was legislated behavior where you were to “drive friendly” or suffer the legal consequences. It was a hospitable reminder that the right attitude makes a pleasant trip for everyone.
It was a sharp contrast from Virginia’s ominous black signs with their white lettering that imply unspeakable consequences if you are caught violating – anything. Their signs suggest an attitude of “Virginia suspects you and will be watching you carefully”.
Every state has its personality and there are variations within the state too. Sometimes it was indicated by traffic signs and sometimes it was in the way the police represented themselves. Law enforcement is a tough job and traffic enforcement is one of the toughest parts of that job. It must be especially tough when you are patrolling a highway out in Nevada where towns are over a hundred miles apart and cell phone communications is almost non-existent. Making a traffic stop out there with no back-up must be extremely stressful.
It was disconcerting to travel from state to state and have basically the same road with very different speed limits applied depending on the state it was going through. I can understand when the density of traffic changes, visibility is limited, or other extenuating conditions exist, but when “all things are equal” it strains one’s logic to understand why there can exist a twenty mile per hour difference in a legal speed limit.
I was stopped in Oklahoma for traveling at eighty-one miles per hour in a seventy zone. The trooper let me know that it was a courtesy warning and asked for proof of insurance as well as my driver’s license. My registration held no interest. When I was in Utah I was stopped and cited for 75 in a 65 even though he claimed his radar unit reported me as traveling 79. He wanted to see my registration and license but couldn’t have cared less about my proof of insurance. Every place is different.
The Evolution does not have cruise control. Personally I don’t like using cruise control anyway. I guess for the same reason I don’t like automatic transmissions. Maybe that indicates I’m a control freak of some kind. The hard part about that in the Evolution is that it is so hard to read the speed indicated on its speedometer. The needle alone spans about 3 mph and the gauge is on the left side of the instrument cluster where a substantial portion can be covered by the arc of the steering wheel. The Evolution also handles so well that it can feel just as comfortable and stable at 110 as another car would at 65. So it is easy to drift out of the legal envelope.
Roads and Highways
I traveled a total of 7854 miles of roads and highways on my journey around the western two thirds of the United States. For the most part they were in fine shape and there was construction and repair going on to enhance things. Around the urban areas the roads showed a lot of wear and tear. When I stayed in the Los Angelis area I had expected to find the highways surrounding it to be wide and fairly pristine. I think this is from seeing so many episodes of CHiPs during the early eighties. It was over twenty years later and naturally the roads have seen a lot of traffic. They were not falling apart, but there wasn’t much difference from what I would expect driving around NYC.
West of the Mississippi River the trains’ tracks would often follow in visible range of the roads I took. It was clear that they were transporting primarily raw materials in vast quantities. Finished goods were transported by trucks. In the east we see large semis and occasionally they will have tandem trailers. These are ¾ sized trailers attached one after the other. Out west they are full sized trailers and you will even find triple trailers being hauled behind a semi. It is quite a sight to see what happens when one of those makes an evasive maneuver and the snake action that result.
When I was a youngster and the start of school was a couple of weeks away my mother would take us to a large city off Cape Cod so that we could find a clothing store with a good selection and better prices. Now the “big box” stores exist and those selections are available by traveling within any town of 5000 or more. The logistics required to keep these big box stores supplied is fulfilled by the semi truck.
As I mentioned in one of my entries on the road trip when I was west of the Mississippi 91 octane was the highest I could hope to obtain. If the vehicle I was driving had a normally aspirated engine that would not have been a big deal, but since the Evolution is turbocharged it craves high octane gasoline. It not only affected the power available from the engine, it also affected the mileage. It was so nice to return far enough east to find that gas pumps had 93 octane. I stopped at a Sunoco station and gave the car a real treat of 94 octane in one stop.
The price of gasoline went up and down as I traveled west, mostly up. Too bad the octane rating didn’t follow the price.
I purchased about 338 gallons of gasoline to complete this trip so that comes out to about twenty-three miles per gallon. With the higher octane fuel I actually got better than that. I suspect it is because the input from the knock sensor pulled timing and richened up the mixture.
Living on the Road
I didn’t keep track of my eating expenses because I would have to eat if I had stayed at home and I didn’t binge on expensive meals while on the road. I did spend many nights in hotels and motels (is there any difference any more?). Some days I spent with relatives but at least 21 out of the 30 days were in a room I paid for. Those averaged $88 a night. I include the local taxes in that figure because to me it is all part of the price. When I stayed in Duchesne, UT, I only had to pay $45 for a room but other places were $127 a night. I found that staying on the outskirts of the major city I was visiting made more economic sense than being able to walk to a museum and paying $250+ a night.
My travels took me through 21 different states (geographic, not mental). Many that I had never been to before. It was a visual adventure from the driver’s seat of a Mitsubishi Evolution MR. I think I picked a good time of year to travel in as I didn’t have to contend with snow or sleet. I only encountered meaningful rain when I got close to Midland, TX. My wardrobe was limited to golf shirts and jeans with some driving shoes. I made certain that I had a good supply of bottled water and kept myself hydrated during the day. I think that kept me alert and comfortable.
People have asked how it was to do this trip solo. It felt a little odd at first, but it certainly simplified things. There was never a debate on when to stop for meals, bathroom breaks, nor fuel. My driving chores amounted to six to eight hours a day and then a couple of hours of putting together a blog entry at the hotel. Wireless connectivity and the Internet allowed me to keep in touch with many of you. I had fitted my car with Bluetooth connection to my cell phone so hands free voice communications was available.
The laptop mount in the car placed the computer in the ideal position. It was out of the way of direct and peripheral view so it wasn’t distracting, but a quick glance to my right and the screen would show me where the GPS placed me on the route. MS Street & Trips also provided voice instructions so I didn’t have to read the screen.
The Mitsubishi Evolution was great. At the thirty thousand mile mark I was in California and had it serviced. The serpentine belt was changed out along with all the major lubricants and the coolant. The Mitsubishi tech only noticed a little bit of cupping on the front tires which were rotated as part of the service.
The brakes were wearing very evenly at all four corners. When I returned home I got the car up on the lift and pulled the wheels. The brakes could have been stretched a few more thousand miles, but I chose to replace the rotors and pads rather than waiting. I unbolted the Brembo calipers one at a time and washed them down with Simple Green and water to get all the road grime and brake dust off. I used brake pads that Road Race Engineering had recommended for street use and a set of high quality rotors that I found on eBay. Then I used the MightyVac system to bleed all the brakes and the clutch and circulate the fresh brake fluid.
I removed the front mask and protectant from the rear view mirrors before I washed the car. Then I used a clay bar to remove any stubborn contaminants before I applied some high quality wax to the paint.
A day later I took the car to a local shop and had everything aligned front and rear. I also dropped by the NitroFill dealership and had the tires checked and topped off. It turned out that they didn’t need any additional nitrogen.
I had a great time and don’t regret deciding to take the tour of the US and the car museums that I visited. There are plenty more to see out there.
I met some very nice people and I hope I’ll get to visit them again. It has been nice to be able to share these experiences with all of you, too.