With several exceptions, I've enjoyed good weather for almost all of my cross-country drive. In Ohio, my luck would run out. Departing from a friend's house in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I got onto I-80, which would take me all the way into New Jersey.
About 90 minutes down the road, approaching the I-80/I-76 split, I saw GM's Lordstown Assembly Plant where my Cruze Eco was made. Seeing a huge Cruze poster on the south side of the building facing I-80, I figured this was a photo op too good to pass up, even though it meant doubling back and losing time.
After getting some shots on the south side with the poster in the background and while driving around the plant's perimeter, I positioned my Cruze Eco under the Lordstown Assembly Plant sign. At that point, I was met by Pete "Sarge" Conway, who was curious about what I was doing.
I explained about the quest to drive the Cruze Eco 3,000 miles cross country on less than 75 gallons of gas with an overall average of 40 m.p.g. Although I suspect he thought I was a bit crazy, he was kind enough to take a short video of me in front of the sign with the Cruze Eco.
Then Savannah and I were back on I-80, pointed once again towards New Jersey. I knew we'd need just one more fuel stop. We made it as far as Milesburg, Pennsylvania, where 10.43 gallons topped off the tank. I used the stop to add up all the fuel used since leaving California --67 gallons thus far.
With just 210 miles left on our trip, I calculated we'd only burn another five or six gallons of fuel--arriving with at least two gallons to spare. A little quick math suggested that attaining my hoped-for 40-m.p.g. average would be another matter. Knowing I was cutting it close, I dialed back on speed, staying right on a 65-m.p.h. average and tucking into the slipstream of fast-moving trucks whenever I could.
Poor weather and traffic accidents served to slow me down. An overturned truck not far past Milesburg reminded me that staying safe was far more important than any attempt at reaching my mileage goals.
I pulled into my friend Susan's house in Basking Ridge just after 11:00 p.m., knuckles white the storm that was with me from Hazleton. I was drained and exhausted but happy the car's information center was showing an overall reading of 41 m.p.g. I was confident that by the time I reached Schumacher Chevrolet in the morning, there was no way it would take more than six gallons of gas to top off the tank.
Out the door at 8:30 the next morning, I arrived in Little Falls with time to get a haircut. At Little Falls Gas on Main Street, I was met by Schumacher Chevrolet's Internet sales manager Kathleen Ryan and videographer Mark Weber from Galippo Productions.
Now came the moment of truth: How much would it take to top off the tank? Mark was there when it clicked off at only 5.46 gallons.
Since starting back in Perris, California, the miserly Cruze Eco had sipped a mere 72.53 gallons of gas. With a trip total of 2,880 miles, the calculated m.p.g. came to 39.70. Since the car's information center calculated 41.0 m.p.g., averaged together, the Chevy Cruze Eco attained a final fuel mileage number of 40.35 m.p.g. for the coast-to-coast drive.
I was relieved when I double-checked my calculations: The Cruze Eco met the 75-gallon, 40-m.p.g. challenge. With careful driving and planning, and a highway range in excess of 500 miles, it's possible to drive across America in a Cruze Eco with just six stops.
A welcoming party of local media and dealer principal Judy Schumacher-Tilton awaited us. As we were concluding the welcome reception, Dawn Pellas and Danny Backus from NJ 12 arrived and did a separate interview. As much as the trip itself, Savannah was the center of attention.
Check back tomorrow when I wrap up this series with an in-depth review of the 2011 Chevy Cruze Eco, plus links to today's videos and media mentions.
And... a preview of the vehicle in which I'll be making the return journey to California. It has an interesting story of its own.