Monday, April 28, 2008


It's easy enough to spot the old ladies who toddle along down the road maxing out at 45 - the powder-blue Buick with the tissue-box in a knitted cozy on the back deck is a sure sign, along with the presence of small stuffed animals next to the tissues. But there's a male equivalent: the small truck, almost always an old beater with a cap on the back. Like this:

It's one thing to settle in behind the elderly female driver - not a problem, set the cruise control at 45, turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. (And save gas.) But the geezers? Their move is to average 45 but never actually drive at 45, so everybody behind them is forever speeding up, slowing down, waiting for that one open stretch of passing-lane blacktop that never comes because that's the moment when the alte kacker opens up the throttle and gets it all the way to 53 for the few crucial seconds you needed. The moment an oncoming vehicle pops into view, you're back crawling again. 41, 40, 43, 45, 49, 51...say, maybe we'll actually make decent time for a--

37, 36, 40, 38...

I have not one, not two, but four such nemeses who vex me on my morning commute to Poughkeepsie - and I'm a guy who commutes at 4 in the morning, so when somebody's causing a traffic slowdown at that hour it tends to stick in the memory. It's also messing up my hypermiling experiment. No, I'm not doing some of the extreme things they recommend like overinflating the tires to reduce rolling friction, but with gas at $3.70something a gallon around here I'm trying to squeeze every last drop out of the tank by not driving like we got a big ol' convoy rockin' through the night. Alas, the hypermilers' feathering-the-pedal technique goes all to heck when I'm constantly guessing what the old fart in front of me is up to.

And so for serenity I chant my mantra through gritted teeth: blood, blood, blood, blood...

(BTW, gas mileage is up from 19 to 21 without really trying - and that's including some work covering the Minnewaska fires, and hilly country will really do a number on gas mileage.)

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