The trip from Grand Junction, Colorado to the western outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska was mostly uneventful--that is, until I reached my hotel. For a change, I had gotten on the road only half an hour late. Sunday's plan was simple: Stop about an hour later in Glennwood Springs, then drive east as far as I could. While I hoped to push through to Avoca, just across the border in Iowa, I was ready to call it a day at almost 800 miles. That's when all hell broke loose with the announcement that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden.
The highlight of Sunday's drive was the improvement in the overall mileage of my Chevy Cruze Eco. When I left Grand Junction, it was around 37 m.p.g., and I had concerns about reaching my 40 m.p.g. goal for the trip. As I climbed the west side of the Rockies, up to Loveland Pass on I-70, things bottomed out at 36.5 m.p.g.--and I knew that it was literally downhill the rest of the day.
Just across the state line in Big Springs, Nebraska it was time to fill up. Mid-grade gas with 10% ethanol was cheaper--$3.89/gallon--than non-ethanol-infused regular was. Welcome to the Cornhusker State.
As I merged back onto I-70, a truck passed going 75 m.p.h., the speed limit. Should I proceed on my own at 65-70 m.p.h., which I had determined was the optimal speed for fuel economy in the Cruze Eco? Or catch up with the truck and run at 75 for as long as I could to make up time? I chose the latter. As it turned out, I was able to follow him all the way across Nebraska, where he turned off two exits before I was planning to.
I pulled off as well, following him to the truck stop. While he filled his tank, I approached and introduced myself. I asked him if he realized I'd been drafting him. Yes, he had, Bob Krueger from MC Van Kampen Trucking told me. I said I thought he was one of the most courteous drivers I'd encountered. As he signaled every lane change for all those miles, it was easy for the Cruze Eco to stay in his slipstream.
By the time I pulled into my Motel 6 just west of Omaha later, my overall mileage had improved to 39.7 m.p.g.
On Monday morning, my fourth day on this cross-country trek, I continued east and wanted to see just how far I could stretch a tank of gas. It turned out that with the aid of the Passport iQ, I was able to get all the way to Mitchelville, Iowa. There, it took 11.9 gallons to top off the Cruze's 12.6-gallon tank after covering 502 miles. The mileage for this tank of gas? An incredible 42.4--right at the EPA highway rating of 42.
Driving through Des Moines, I received an expected call from Blaine Heavener. A member of the Cruze Eco development team, Blaine explained to me the differences between the Eco and the non-Eco Cruze models. Rather than adding a camera phone video to the Automotive Traveler Facebook page, I've posted the Chevrolet-produced video from the Cruze Eco launch last fall, during which the differences were outlined.
Just after finishing my interview with Blaine, the vehicle information center clicked over to 40.1 m.p.g. With no more mountain ranges to surmount, I know it will be a walk in the park to attain 40 m.p.g. over the entire 3,000-mile trip.
The question is just how much better the numbers will be. We'll have the answer when I pull into Schumacher Chevrolet tomorrow morning.