Tag Archives: Houston

1,500+ Mile Road Trip from Pennsylvania to Texas in a Ford Crown Victoria

I was getting ready to leave for a short 500 mile road trip to Watkins Glen for their Motorsport Safety Seminar training when a friend messaged me for a favor. He’s currently working/living in China as an expat but every time he comes home to Texas he tends to buy a cheap eBay find to tinker with during his time off. This time it was a Ford Crown Victoria from Pennsylvania which he arranged to get delivered via uShip for like a ton of money, but they were dicking him around and he asked if I can drive it down for him instead.

I said SURE!

I had driven cars for Wes before, last time more than ten years ago. First was a Mustang GT from Miami to Houston, then a Crown Vic from Salem, Oregon to Houston. It was a fantastic way to see the country and he generously paid my way including flights, fuel, food, etc. So this time I jumped on the opportunity to organize an impromptu foodie tour of the south paying special attention to the BBQ offerings in Tennessee and Alabama as well as Cajun cooking in Louisiana and Texas. Boy was that a fantastic experience! I wrote a separate blog post just about food.

But what about the car? Buying something on eBay is tough. You never know what you’re going to get. Sure it may look good in pictures but there’s no way of knowing if there’s a major mechanical problem that the seller fails to mention.

Luckily with this 2011 Ford Crown Victoria LX model, there was no issues. The only thing that didn’t work was the A/C but since there was a cold front in the south, the drive was totally manageable. And being it was an LX model, the ride was very soft thanks to it’s suspension and leather seats inside. Very different from my Miata Road Trips that I’ve grown used to.

Naturally same principles applied to driving someone else’s car as I do with my own. So I only used brand name fuel along the way, and I tried to work out the best gas mileage I could get planning my fuel stops based on the Gas Buddy app. Though I owned ten Crown Vics of my own in the past, I couldn’t really remember what to expect. The first low fuel light came on shortly after I picked up the car, so I figured after the first fill up I’ll have a baseline. It only took 14.5 gallons which surprised me, I knew it had a nearly 20 gallon tank which is double of the Miata’s. But compared to the Mazda 2.0L inline 4, the Crown Vic had double the engine size: 4.6L V8. And despite early readings of 30mpg’s which is really respectable, the mileage just kept on leveling off into a lower figure rather than climbing. It went down to 29mpg after the second fill up, then 28mpg the next day, down to 27mpg before climbing back up to 28mpg on Texas flat roads.

Driving into Alabama was a bit of a worry too. There were severe storms on the forecast with Tornado warnings in affect when I drove in. Crap! I didn’t want to sustain any damage to the car especially since it’s not mine. Luckily I managed to escape unscathed. I didn’t even hit any rain along the way. But after checking into a hotel in Tuscaloosa and turning on the News, they reported baseball size hail that hit the same Interstate highway I had just driven through an hour before. Holly Shit!

Besides the threat of weather I had no other surprises along the way. Generally I lucked out with traffic too. Missing most of the rush hour hold ups, spending only a few minutes bumper to bumper in Baton Rouge because of an accident that just happened at the junction of Interstate 12 and Interstate 10. That was it.

Overall it was a super relaxing trip and I’m very grateful for the opportunity it happened.

The seller replaced the Crown Vic with a Police Package Taurus.

Popped the hood, checked to make sure it had an engine and I was off on my two day, 1,500+ mile adventure.

I was sticking to brand name gas stations along the way. Shell seemed to be the cheapest most of the time. But I also used BP and Exxon Mobil where Shell wasn’t the most economical option.

The Travelodge in Winchester, VA where I spent the night really surprised me. The quality of the hotel room you get for the price was way better than I expected. And just a few dollars more than Motel 6 where I stayed on other occasions the rooms were night and day difference. So props to them!

Though I’ve flown through Nashville a few times this was my first time driving through Tennessee.

On the highway to HELL… 666…

When the fuel consumption gauge started leveling off.

Rolling into threatening weather. Luckily the clouds is all I saw, no rain, no tornadoes and best of all no hail that I hit.

Didn’t even realize I’d slice through the edge of Georgia.

Home Sweet Home… Alabama!

The Gas Buddy app fooled me a few times. The price of fuel would be shown at $1.99 a gallon but $2.09 by the time I showed up. Either they changed the price for the higher or someone reported BS price.

Hello Missy Pissy!

That’s another state I didn’t realize I’d hit on this trip. But sure enough the Interstate sliced right through it.

And finally Lone Star State!

Watching the sun set over Texas.

Next day once one road trip ended another one started. My buddy invited me to a club event he was going to with another one of his vehicles. A Ford Power Stroke Diesel retreat north of Dallas. So we switched cars and hit the road again.

The car wash before the trip was a bit unnecessary because… bugs!

Shortly after arrival a few trucks, a convoy of F250’s and Excursions rolled out for their traditional dinner at Sonic.

It was cool as hell to be a part of yet another car community, a group of enthusiasts that had a ton of passion for their wheels. People brought family… their pets:

And just like that it was over way too quickly… next day flight home!

What an amazing trip!

through ten states:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Maryland
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Texas

Frequent Flyer: Falling Airfare after the Flight is Booked

Normally I like to share good flight deals I’ve taken advantage of to volunteer as a marshal. In this post I’d like to share what happens when I don’t get the best deal, and overpay for my trip somewhere.

Don’t you hate when the air fare drops after you’ve booked  your flights? Don’t you just hate it when it continues dropping further?

Who doesn’t? I certainly do. And it happened to me several time this year… Boo! Hopefully by writing this down I’ll remind myself to be more patient in the future and make smarter decisions.

So first things first. I used frequent flyer miles to book both of my European trips this season. I thought I got a pretty decent deal redeeming 20k AA miles to go to Belgium via Finland to volunteer at the Nurburgring in May, and 30k AA miles to fly back home, also through Finland but this time the price hike was due to the peak season starting. I used a similar strategy for my second trip to Belgium for Spa 24h to fly via Italy on Alitalia using 30k Delta miles, and 30k AA miles on the way home, again through Finland. I wanted to use domestic miles to fly foreign carriers like Aliatalia (AZ) and Finnair (AY). Both were decent experiences for me, and I’m happy with the way I used my miles.

The two domestic trips I had to book to volunteer in Austin for WEC at Circuit of the Americas and in Atlanta for IMSA at Road Atlanta I decided to use a combination of miles and paid tickets. The reason for using the miles is that I had some 6.5k miles left over in my Avianca Life Miles account which were due to expire in October, and I didn’t foresee using them on anything else, so the decision was made to book a United flight either to or from Austin on a routing that I liked. So that’s precisely what I did. Avianca frequent flyer program allows you to purchase the necessary miles towards an award redemption when you don’t have enough. So using my available miles I only had to purchase another 6k for a standard 12.5k one way award flying their Star Alliance partner: United. I chose an early morning flight on Sunday that would get me back in Newark by 1pm so I can go back to work the same day and work the half-day shift. I thought that was a great use for those miles and the timing was perfect. In all I spent the 6.5k miles and $120 in taxes, fees and of course the additional miles I had to purchase. At the time it seemed like a great idea, though mind you that last year I went to Austin twice flying JetBlue from Boston to Austin/Houston, for $106 round-trip. Basically, I flew two round trips last year for the price of a one way ticket this year. Not that great…

With the trip home taken care of I was eager to book something on the outbound leg. The cheapest option was flying JetBlue from Westchester County Airport (HPN) to Austin via Orlando for $118. Why did I book this trip? I have no idea… totally went against my best judgement but I did. Part of me was afraid that one way air fare would either go up or stay high. The other part of me wanted to participate in the JetBlue promo where this one trip would count as two legs in their TrueBlue frequent flyer program promo, that when combined with the existing trips I’ve taken with JetBlue this year would yield an additional 5k bonus points with the airline, which could be redeemed for a one way medium range flight, like one from NYC to South Florida. Still, using the previous year’s example I paid more for a one way trip than I paid for a round trip before. In all, I spend $238 for the single round trip to Austin. Not great at all…

Now ideally, the best airfare you can get is one you are comfortable paying at the time of the booking. I was comfortable with both of my bookings, and I should have stopped checking prices after I’ve booked because neither ticket was refundable. But I didn’t. Curiosity got the best of me and I continued checking weeks and months after. And what do you know? The prices continued to drop. First I found a Southwest flight for $216 round trip outright, without using frequent flyer miles and departing directly from Newark to Austin without having to drive for an hour to Westchester on the New York Connecticut border, or having to connect through Orlando or Houston. And then the price dropped further to $188 for the same flight. I would have been better off letting the Life Miles expire and still saved $50 bux on this trip. Doh!

southwest ewr-aus

At this point I just wanted to kick myself. I paid $50 bux more for a connecting flight using multiple airports that are further away than my home airport and a direct flight now available through Southwest. Boo! The lesson to be learned is I didn’t have patience. (or common sense!)

Sometimes fares come along that you must pull a trigger on because the price is the rock bottom available for that market. This example happened with my Atlanta booking for Petit Le Mans. I saw Philadelphia to Atlanta direct flight advertised for $127 round trip, thought it was a great deal given the double and triple as expensive flights that were advertised around the same time, so I jumped on it. Only to see the price drop by $10 the very next day (more than 24 hours since my booking). Calling the airline didn’t really help. They were happy to cancel and rebook my trip using the cheaper fare, but it was going to cost me $200 in penalties/rebooking fees. Not very good! A few days later the same flights dropped another $10 bux to $107 round trip. Crap!

So I’m totally having buyer’s remorse for both of my domestic bookings this year. While the damage is fairly minimal on the grand scheme of things, people get burned by airlines for far greater amounts, I’m still not too thrilled with myself for making these rookie mistakes and not having enough discipline and patience to wait for the right deal to come along. For the $70 that I overpaid I could have had a car rental for a week in Atlanta.

But on the positive note I got the flights I wanted, for the precise times I wanted to fly. And I should get from the track right back to the office so I can make some money to pay for my next trip.

What’s the best price to pay for a ticket? The answers are many!

PS. there is one more flight I’m going to need to book this season and that is for my trip to marshal Dubai 24h in January. Normally the flight is in the $800 to $1000 range round trip. My goal is to get it between $300 and $400. We’ll see how successful I am 🙂