Sunday, July 11, 2004

Sometimes 'E' does mean "Empty"

Just got back from a visit to my extended family's cabins up in Three Rivers, MI (just south of Kalamazoo for the geomichigraphically inclined). Got to see my cousin Jane, in town from Monterey, CA, right now; she says she'll return to Chicago in a year -- heh, we'll see if that actually happens.

My body is still recovering from the beating administered by my uncle Jim. I did a double session of tubing while he was driving the boat, see. He has a favorite spot on the lake which we've named Dead Man's Curve; sure enough, I fell off once on that. He also has a number of tricks he pulls; I was on the receiving end of both "The Slack" and "The Drunken Uncle." Much fun, much mosquito bites, much food, much muscle soreness, and again much fun.

On the way back, though, I ran into some trouble. My car (2000 Honda CR-V) has a 15.3 gallon tank and gets an EPA rated highway mileage of 25 mpg; I regularly see 27 mpg on long trips. For those keeping score, this is a range of 380-415 miles; mentally, I make this 350 to give myself a nice margin of error. I always set my trip odometer to zero after topping off my tank so I know where I'm at.

Normally (city driving), my "low fuel" idiot light starts flickering around 290 miles and stays solid around 310. Today, it came on at 305, right as I crossed from Ohio into Pennsylvania, but it stayed solid. Hmm, that's unusual, I thought. I was going to get gas after I exited the turnpike in ~30 miles, but figured I should stop at the next service plaza just to be safe.

I never made it.

A couple minutes after it came on, my car started sputtering while going up a hill. Uhoh. I pulled off to the side, collected my thoughts, and decided (on my very loving and patient wife's suggestion) to go as slowly as possible in the highest gear. This worked for a few more minutes. Then, on the last hill about a mile from the service plaza, it died. (45 minutes, five road flares, and a call to the Turnpike folks + AAA later, I was back on my way, thankfully.)

It lasted only 324 miles and got an astonisingly low 21 mpg. Grrrr. Obviously, time for a serious tune-up.

I need to add that, upon the engine dying and while waiting for the AAA truck to come, Tamara calmly pulled out a book and assured me that everything would be ok. Ah, I love my wife.

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