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On Running Out Of Gas

On a normal day, I have a 100 mile commute. On days when I have errands, I can cover 120 – 150 miles. That’s one of the reasons that I drive a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid. During the winter, I get 29-30 MPG; in the summer, it’s 33-34 MPG. With a 15 gallon tank, this gives me a range of 440-500 miles.

Interstate 66 shield

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This post focuses on the 100 mile commute. I leave my house up in the mountains and drive 50 miles into Fairfax in Northern Virginia. Except for 2 miles at the beginning and 1 mile at the end, it is all done on I-66.

The closer I am to Northern Virginia, the more crowded the roads, and the exits, become. As a result, I check my trip odometer, which I reset every time I get gas, before I leave home  as the gas gauge gets lower. If necessary, I stop for gas at the station just before I get on the interstate.

Yesterday, the trip odometer showed 376 miles. As the fuel economy computer showed me over 33 MPG for this tank, I figured I was good to go. So I did.

On my way to the office the low fuel light displayed on the dashboard. Not surprising. It lights when the Drive to Empty computer shows 50 miles; but it’s never right as I have driven well over 80 miles after the light has come on.

I mention all of this to show that I try to be prepared and anticipate. This time, it failed. I ran out of gas on my way home, just 3 miles from my exit. Because its a hybrid, I can drive without gas. But, according to the owner’s manual, only about one mile on a level road. (I had checked that when I bought it.) In the remaining 3 miles, though, I’ve got a mile long, steep uphill grade; no way I could do that without ruining the high voltage battery.

So, I pulled over and called for help. The Virginia State Police said the would have a Trooper stop by. He arrived after about 15 minutes, verifies the situation, then contacts a station to send a truck with some gas. When he comes back, he asks if I’m the registered owner. Yes. He asks if I have a drivers license. Yes, again, and I take it out of my pocket and hand it over. He examines it, then tilts it to me and says “Do you realize this expired on your birthday last week?”

So not only am I out of gas, I’ve got a ticketable offense here. We continue chatting about family and traffic while waiting for the truck. Then he says “Do you realize your vehicle inspection expired at the end of last month?”

Now I’ve got two ticketable offenses going and he still hasn’t gotten out his ticket book. I tell him both situations will be taken care of by Friday evening. He pointed out that, with the driving I do, there’s no assurance I’ll get through the next two days without being stopped. Note: an inspection sticker is right there on the windshield.

So I told him I would work from home Wednesday and get it taken care of.

The service truck arrived and the gentleman added a gallon of gas to my car.

No tickets. But $65 for a gallon of gas.

The following information was added after this was posted:

I went to to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today to renew my drivers license. Because my license is expired, I also had to prove that I belong here. As I couldn’t find my birth certificate, I took a bunch of the documents listed on their web site. The one they accepted was my Army Reserve ID card. But, there was an hour wait. So, I got my ticket for my place in line and left to get the vehicle inspected. It passed and I returned to the DMV with about 10 minutes to spare. I now have a temporary permit to drive and my new license should arrive within two weeks.

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