Lorraine Sommerfeld is hypermiling her way across Canada: aiming to drive across the country on six tanks of gas. Get the full story here and follow her progress with daily updates on this site and via Twitter @Globe_Drive
Day One: Halifax. 438 km
Day One of the Smarter Driver Challenge began like no other trek or launch I’ve ever been part of. First stop? The Shell station, where two mechanics had the 2012 VW Passat we’re using for this challenge up on the hoist. Why? To tear down the gas tank to drain it.
With Helen and John Taylor, this is serious business. They’re here to establish world records, and after setting 92 of them around the world, they leave no room for error. Every inch of this journey will be transparent. If you’ve announced you can get across this spectacular country on six tanks of gas (or less) in an out-of-the-box four door automatic sedan, there are going to be some raised eyebrows.
Alex Debogorski and I have, perhaps, four of them. We watched the mechanics push the drained car around to the pumps. We watched John Taylor ceremoniously gas it up: 75.5 litres. I would soon find out that every measurement is precise. Everything is calibrated and timed and recorded.
Under the watchful eye of an RCMP officer, Taylor noted the level, capped the tank, and had the officer sign off on all of it. I am fairly certain they didn’t keep this close an eye on my sons when they were born.
Debogorski and I will be working shifts throughout this two-week cross-country challenge. We’ll have some drivers joining in for a few legs, but the bulk of this relies on this ice road trucker and yours truly.
I got to drive first. Actually, after learning most of our days will have 6am starts, Debogorski stayed mysteriously silent when the Taylors were sorting out the driver schedules. I’ll let you know how my enthusiasm holds out.
To avert any incidents on a blind hill on the exit from the station, the officer gave us an escort for a few hundred metres. It was nearly noon by the time the send off was complete. Helen Taylor and I had instantly teamed up; the Taylors will do no actual driving – this will be as much a test of their instruction as our abilities. How do you drive the most efficient way possible, under the watchful eye and calm tutelage of a woman who has been doing this almost since she began driving?
At first, you do it self-consciously. And then you start to use all the skills that convince you that this just might be possible: great vision, smooth driving and good road sense. Oh, and no air conditioning. I’ll let you know how that works out when we hit the prairies.
More discoveries and tips tomorrow. It will be our first official full day as we leave Fredericton N.B. and head to Ottawa.