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Perhaps you have also noticed this.
Gas stations closest to the interstate exit ramps have the most expensive gas.
Of course this is for our convenience. Easy on, easy off.
Sometimes there is only one gas station at an exit. Or it is not reasonable to drive another 7 miles to the next station.
Often, though, there will be one or a few gas stations very close to an interstate exit while a short distance away (less than 2 miles) there is a small town or suburbia.
On one road trip, gas prices were 40 cents higher close to the interstate. I drove half a mile to save 40 cents a gallon.
I am definitely not the type of person to drive around town looking to save 3 cents a gallon whenever I fill up. When my car needs gas, I combine a fill up trip with some other task.
Same with road trips.
I will drive an extra half mile to five miles (each way) to get cheaper gas because I am also stocking up on groceries, eating at a fantastic diner I read about, or visiting a fascinating roadside attraction.
How about you? What other places have you noticed inflated prices?
Previous McCool Travel post ====> 14 Years of How-To Travel Tips, Advice, and Information
© 2013, Charles McCool
Time for me to prove it.
Last week I drove from South Florida to Northern Virginia. Total driving time on the quickest route (according to Cost2Drive) is 18 hours. For one person, that would be a long two days of driving on insidious, boring highways (mostly I-95).
Instead, I spent 4 and a half days mostly on smaller roads. Note, I did some interstate driving, about 150 miles out of 1,700 miles, during bad weather (rain).
8 great reasons to skip the highways and take smaller roads instead:
- Scenery. Interstates were made to shuttle people and goods as quickly as possible between destinations. Interstates are not intended to be beautiful. For scenery, I always opt for smaller roads. For instance, on this road trip I wanted to drive A1A continuously up to Jacksonville. I was next to the ocean nearly the entire drive. Ahhhh. It reminds me of an interview with a world-class marathoner before the San Diego marathon. The organizers were proud of their gorgeous course and asked the runner about it. He said that he cannot be distracted by the scenery and only looks at the road 6 feet in front of him. That reminds me of interstate driving. Mile after mile of traffic, trucks, and mostly straight functional roads. Set the cruise control and wake me in an hour or four.
- Random Discoveries. I tend to roam when I am on road trips. I did not drive straight up A1A but instead explored neighborhoods, found random scenic byways, and checked out historical and interesting sights. Sure, it is possible to do the same from interstates but that would require advance planning (then it is not random!). Along A1A I found many tangent paths leading to intracoastal views, nature preserves, and the beach was always a few feet away.
- Friendly People. One of my favorite road trip drives was between Tifton, Georgia and Memphis, Tennessee (through Eufaula, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa). Oncoming drivers and people sitting on porches or walking or standing, almost everyone waved. Although not as impressionable, countless other country road, farm road, and smaller roads offer the same experience–whether it is the index finger lift from the steering wheel or full on hand waves. Has anyone experienced such friendliness on any interstate highway?
- Better Food. Interstate rest areas offer the typical assortment of fast food options. Exit areas are usually no better. Sometimes you can find local pizza, deli, or other restaurants. Certainly there are plenty of chains even along country roads but it is much easier to find interesting, local places. You will have to work hard to find diners, drive-ins, and dives from the interstate but smaller roads are filled with them. Plus, I love stopping at farm stands, impromptu BBQ (especially at small Southern churches) joints, and local bakeries. You never know what you will find.
- No Trucks. Again, the interstates are a functional way to move goods around the country. The interstate highways are filled with trucks. The smaller roads are not. If I am not in a hurry to get somewhere, I almost always opt to get off the interstate.
- Better Gas mileage. This one sort of surprised me. I figured that driving a constant rate of speed on the interstate highways would result in better gas mileage–compared to the relative change of speed of smaller roads. In addition, car ads state fuel efficiency such as 17 City and 23 Highway. Well, I spent three days on smaller roads and averaged 30.3 MPG (miles per gallon), according to the car’s electronic dash feature. After 150 miles on the interstate, the gauge showed 28.1 MPG. The speed limit for that section was 70 MPH. If it was 55 (and I drove at that speed) then gas mileage would be higher. By the way, the further away from the interstate you go, the cheaper the gas costs. You already knew that, right? Cost2Drive also shows you the cheapest gas stations along your route!
- No Traffic Jams. Since the weather was bad, I was reluctantly prepared to continue my road trip on the interstate. Just north of Richmond, Virginia, BAM, traffic came to a stand still. I recalled taking highway 1, parallel to I-95, on a previous trip. A quick check of my traffic app confirmed that it was a great option. For about 30 miles I took this bypass and I am confident that it was faster (although it is impossible to know for sure).
- Journey versus destination. This is a catch-all bullet point to remind you to slow down and smell the roses. Fill your road trip with serenity and relaxation. Highway drives are stressful. Road rage is rare on smaller roads. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Yogi Berra said, “We’re lost but making good time.” Robert Plant sang, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”
© 2012, Charles McCool
What a great start to the new year. Topics this week included free bus rides around America, discounted Ritz-Carlton rates, and an interview with Jim Kovarik, founder and President of Cost2Go. Here is hoping that everyone is having and will continue to have a healthy and fun 2011.
The blog posts from McCool Travel this week:
January 3: A Road Map to Better Travel Planning
January 4: Ultra-Inexpensive (FREE?) Buses
January 5: Travel Tips From Travel Experts: Jim Kovarik
January 6: Ritz-Carlton Discounts
January 7: CityPASS: Vacation Discounts For Attractions You Already Plan To Visit
What topics would you like McCool Travel to cover in the future?
Please share your responses by leaving a comment below or contacting me directly by email (CharlesMcCool -at- gmail -dot- com).
May you have safe, fun, and memorable 2011 travels.
© 2011, Charles McCool
McCool Travel is excited to present interviews with travel industry giants, super frequent travelers, and adventurous persons.
For the second profile, I am happy to present Jim Kovarik. Jim co-founded and operates Cost2Go and Cost2Drive, fantastic resources for road trip lovers. His application Cost2Drive calculates the cost of driving anywhere in the US based on real time gas prices along your route. It is the only Internet site that compares the cost of flying with the cost of driving, and has been featured in over 20 major-market newspapers, on TV (including CNBC), and across the blogosphere on sites like CNET, Download Squad (AOL Techblog), and MSNBC.com. In December 2010, he launched Commuting Calculator, a Facebook app to show how much money you would save by using an electric car. I met with Jim last year at a coffee shop near his home in Great Falls, Virginia and he recently took time from his busy schedule to share these thoughts.
Always in my luggage…
glasses and a good book
3 favorite home-away-from-home places…
Block Island, RI, Provence, France, and Tuscany, Italy
A favorite travel memory is…
3 favorite travel brands…
3 money-saving travel tactics I use are…
Staying at vacation rentals, using frequently flier miles, and – of course – using Cost2Drive.com to find the cheapest gas stations
3 ways that I have fun while traveling are…
turning off email, jogging in a new city, eating out
8 word (or less) travel mantra…
Don’t overplan, leave room for exploration.
My favorite non-travel website…
Favorite Road Trips
Thank you, Jim and many more memorable road trip adventures!
Share responses by leaving a comment below or contacting me directly by email (CharlesMcCool -at- gmail -dot- com).
© 2011, Charles McCool