Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Road Trip According to Babe

In the garage in Seattle before leaving.

River and Babe, ready to go!

She only had 6 miles on her when we started on March 21. This trip was 7850 miles and we averaged about 36 mpg. The average price for gasoline along the way was about $2.75. It was highest in Boise, at $2.89 and the lowest I paid was $2.49. Most of the time I was able to find pretty good gas. I like to use gas rated at 93, but I'll go as low as 91. There was only one time I had to use gas rated at 90. When I do, I notice a distinct difference in the way the coopers run. I got into the habit of refilling the tank just after it was down to half empty. I’d pay with a $20 bill and most of the time, I’d get change back after the tank was filled.

Mini recommends using BP gasoline. In the past, I had used BP quite a bit and used Chevron as a second choice. But this year, I didn't see a single BP station the whole time I was out. I even did a few navigation searches for BP stations, but the few times I found them listed as an option, I went there and found that they were some other kind of station, or that there was no station there at all. I wonder if the gulf oil spill ruined their business in the US.
Parked at Motel 6 in Eugene, OR

River hanging out in the boot in Sedona


Babe posing with my coffee equipment in a Motel 6 parking lot in Texas

I was upset when I learned that when I’m inside the car and it's running, I cannot hear notifications or any sounds on my phone. I can access the functions on the phone, but it goes through the Mini onboard computer via Bluetooth. I realized that this is actually a good feature because I no longer know when people send me texts while I’m driving. I do still hear the phone ring, and I could answer the call by using the microphone on the steering wheel and the sound system in the car, but I dislike taking phone calls anyway, even less so while I’m driving, so I just let them go to voicemail. Most people I know know better than to call me, so I don’t get many calls anyway.

We weren’t out on the road for long before someone passing me on the highway ricocheted a rock up into my windshield. Fortunately, it didn’t crack it, but just left a little hole, which I think can be easily filled when I get my next detailing.

I have the navigation system set to take me on the GREEN route. I’m not sure if it refers to scenic routes or somehow saving money or gas, but I’ve noticed that whenever it doesn’t take me TOO far out of the way, I will be sent down farm-to-market roads and back roads through small towns instead the main Interstate Highways. This was all fine until the penultimate drive, from Boise to Spokane, when I found myself on a treacherous gravel road for about 80 miles. It took me an extra three hours because the navigation seemed to think I’d be doing 55 on these roads, but it was unsafe to go much fast than 20 on most of it. I will never forget the names. I took Big Flat Rd. (ironically, it was neither of those things), Crane Rd., and Indian Valley Highway, which was unpaved for a few miles and then turned into pavement after a while. I was never so happy to see pavement!

Driving on dirty Idaho roads
We fit so nicely inside this car! River’s cage and my luggage fit snugly into the boot. My ice coolers fit perfectly in the left back seat and in the leg compartments in the back while my backpack with my money, business related stuff and electronics is in the passenger seat. River rides in the rear right on some blankets.

When we took off from Seattle, I had just purchased the car earlier that week, so there were no license plates. There were only the temporary dealer plates that would be expired before I was scheduled to get home. So I had to have my license plates mailed to me in Houston so that I wouldn't be breaking the law by the time I drove home. All went smoothly and I was legal the whole time.
Babe is legal in Houston!

There’s a camera for backing up. I haven’t quite adjusted to it yet. Fortunately there is also a digital display that changes colors toward red as anything approaches my field of vision as I’m in reverse. There is also a quite insistent tone that sounds and grows increasingly quick, loud and dissonant as I get closer to objects behind me. The objects in the camera look as though they’re yards away even when the sound and digital display make it seems as though I’m sure to collide with it. So I’m not really sure what to believe. I trust I’ll get the hang of it.
River saying Hi from the back seat

I really love some of the features, like the automatic climate control; I just set the dial to 68ยบ and it will heat or cool automatically. And I can set it for a different temperature for the passenger side. I like to set the passenger side a bit colder so I don’t have to feel the A/C directly, but it still cools the interior. I also love the comfort access feature. I just have to have the key in my pocket and the doors will automatically unlock for me. I also don’t have to use the key to start the car. If it’s in my pocket, I just flip a switch and the car starts. When I stop at a stoplight, the engine shuts off and stays off for as long as my foot is on the brake. When it’s time to drive again, I just release my foot from the brake and the engine has started by the time my foot reaches the gas pedal. I also have three driving modes: Sport, Mid and Green. In Sport Mode it is turbo charged and the suspension is at it’s tightest. In Green mode the suspension is more loose and the engine has a softer response to my pressing on the gas pedal. There are also little reminders if I’m in Green mode and I go over the speed limit or am pressing too hard and wastefully on the gas pedal.

I was a bit frustrated at the beginning of the trip because I couldn’t figure out certain features, but now that I’ve been working with it for these past weeks, I think it’s safe to say that I love the car.

I still have to get my GoPro camera installed, and I expect there to be some unexpected limitations to it that will require some adjustment before I learn to love it, and of course a learning curve. But I do hope that it will make for some interesting documentation of my next trip.

Another feature that Mini has is that I have an official guy at Mini that I can call and ask any questions about the operation of the car. And in fact, we have an official meeting set up, called a ‘Second Date’ where we sit in the car and he explains all of the details that I haven’t been able to suss on my own.



Stopping for some gas and a stretch in California

The center display where I view my maps and other onboard information.

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