Sunday, 12 June 2011

Travelling Hopefully on No Petrol

This is a tricky one to write as my best friend and hubby is a follower of my blog so this will come as news. Yup, a secret between man and wife is about to unfold and will answer the question why, for the first hour of our journey home from a recent caravan break to Machynlleth in mid Wales, I was unable to engage in any conversation with him beyond a stressed out grunt...

Well the thing was, I had made the mistake of not making a transfer of funds from our savings account to the current account. It was a bank holiday and I only had thirty quid in cash. Usually it takes forty to fill the tank. Though being an adroit practitioner of the fine art of hypermiling (more on this later), and despite having managed the outward run on just over half a tank,(record) I wasn't confident that going back would be do-able in the same way. After all there would be the return bank holiday traffic jams...

I had a germ of an idea to present my never-used credit card at the garage but made sure I only put £30 worth of petrol in just in case it didn't work. Well, it didn't. It was instantly rejected (investigation pending), and so I parted with the precious cash... and with no prospect of any more until I could at least get to a wi-fi enabled computer.

Started the car and the petrol gauge slowly about 200th of a millimetre above the half-way mark. (Well about 2 actually) Oh my God. Well there was nothing for it - hypermiling it is. With a vengeance!

For the uninitiated, hypermiling is the art of driving in such a way as to make every drop of petrol count. Fuel economy is everything, of course, and over the past year I've saved hundreds of pounds that would have been drunk by driving. What follows is a treatise on hypermiling but with extras - stress, fear and panic that I'd have to tell hubby we were, for the next few hours, totally broke.

So on leaving the outskirts of Mach, the speedo never went above 40. Any dip in the road was followed by foot off the accelerator - doing this turns off the fuel valve to the engine and for a brief while it turns over on fumes (I expect). Being the head of a long line of traffic can be a bit of an issue (when everyone just wants to get home after the bank holiday) but you just have to stay principled.

Mal was proper chirpy. Grazing through the (Welsh) radio channels trying to find chirpy rock, chirpily making chirpy comments about chirpy subjects and asking why I wasn't being chirpy... I, on the other hand was
studiously ignoring the long queues developing behind me, with my right eye banking on a watched petrol gauge never moving. After a brow-furrowing, multi-hairpinned 60 miles I realised that said gauge had indeed hardly moved. I was on half a tank and had used only 2 millimetres of petrol!!

Onto the second leg - dual carriageway for 70+ miles... I realised this would be easier on the old tank given that a steady speed takes less petrol than bends. I was more relaxed. By this time Mal was so exhausted by being chirpy, he was now... not. Optimum speed on a dual carriageway or motorway is preferably 60. Unless of course the speed limit tells you otherwise. This carries you down the gentler slopes on these roads so you can ease the foot, and also allows you to overtake without slowing down. Where possible, on dual carriageways, don't slow down. If you do this means that you have to accelerate to overtake or navigate upward slopes and this all takes petrol.

Next leg was the last one. Motorway. Petrol gauge says "You're going great. Still only a few millimeters below half". I'm well relaxed and getting chirpy. We Found a local rock station outside of Manchester with some incredibly raunchy, deep-voiced adverts about key-cutting and we were motoring!

Then the first jam. Hypermilers loathe jams (well, everyone does I suppose). Constant stop starts are not good and waste petrol. Road works. Road behaviour studies (I kid you not) have shown that it doesn't matter what motorway lane you are in, you will make the same progress as when some lanes stop, others start and vice versa. Well, I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. The inner lane is the worst. This is because it gets jammed by outer lane traffic getting on the inside to leave at junctions. When in a jam get into the second or even third lane. It's all bad news. Twenty minutes in and the gauge is starting to drop. Still 60 miles out of Leeds and I'm wondering if the service station at Hartshead Moor has got an internet cafe.

All went well, however. Got into a reasonably steady 10-15 mile and hour lane until the road works ended then geared up for the next leg. Even navigated another traffic jam with the petrol still not quite on quarter. Then the bomb dropped. "On the way in, can we stop for a bottle of wine or a few cans?" Desperately I nodded - no problem. Won the battle of the petrol tank only to face the beast of bankruptcy/failed marriage within the next 15 minutes unless I came up with something. Which I did... "Is it alright if I just get home and check the fridge and things (like secreting the laptop to the loo and doing a quick transfer) to see what we've got in? I'll nip out and get the booze and stuff for later while you check the telly".
"Fine. Good idea."

Ta Dah!!

What a relief. Got home and still a quarter of a tank! Dear reader this means that I did the Wales run, 300 miles, on just over 8 millimeters of petrol and am still married!!

As a postscript, it was over a full week later that I visited another petrol station. Petrol tank took me to work, to the shops and even to the garden centre. I wonder... can I get to the caravan next time on just twenty quid?


  1. Bloody hell - was that you holding us all up? Hell hath no fury like a man desperate for a wee...

  2. Yup me for sure. Sorry:-))