Finally. After two-and-a-half months home in Ann Arbor, I am on the road again!
Other than arriving back too early from wintering in the southwest to avoid winter’s grasp, it was a good stay with some significant mods to VanGeist completed (more on that soon), lots of good hot showers without “military” style efforts, old haunts visited, plus the usual amenities of homelife versus vanlife.
As I planned for the next phase of vanlife travel, 4 months exploring New England then the Canadian Maritimes, there seemed to be a buzz kill waiting for me: Canadian gas prices.
Watching the Canadian vanlife YouTubers I follow and their universal choruses of traveling laments because of high gas prices, I wondered if I should cancel visiting Canada on this trip. I filled up before leaving Ann Arbor a few days ago at $4.39/gallon. Canadian gas? $6.15/USD gallon.
Obvious first-thought solution would be to a) travel shorter distances overall, or b) explore the wonders of Michigan and a few adjoining states and defer Canada for another time. Who among us fully explores their own backyard states, likely full of great places to visit?
There is always another way, of course, to look at things. I recall my trip last December from San Diego, CA, to Yuma, AZ. I installed a second solar panel on the van and because the Dicor goop used to help secure the panel’s mounting feet needs time to cure, I thought it better to slow down to 55 mph versus 70. Results? MPG went up from my usual 15.5 (@ 70 mph) to 19.5 (@ 55 mph).
I wondered: could I be seeing the impact of gas prices the wrong way by just focusing on per-gallon cost? On a per-gallon basis, it is a staggering leap from U.S. to Canada, and more so from a cost-to-fill-tank view: ~$105 in U.S. to $150 USD in Canada.
Breaking down to a cost-per-mile basis, it tells a slightly different story:
- $ 0.28 – U.S. gas price, per-mile, @ 70
- $ 0.23 – U.S. gas price, per-mile, @ 55
- $ 0.40 – Canadian gas price (in USD), per-mile, @ 70
- $ 0.32 – Canadian gas price (in USD), per-mile, @55
- 40% increase, gallon of Canadian versus U.S.
- 14% increase, per-mile Canadian @ 55 mph versus U.S. @ 70 mph
This way to look at costs shows me if I drive 55 mph in Canada, the cost-per-mile increase is more acceptable to swallow than the cost-per-gallon increase. Driving slow in Canada appears easier to do than the U.S., based on my day drive earlier this week from Detroit-to-Buffalo via Canada (most of the way highway limits were ~55 mph). My takeaway is that I can justify the Canadian Maritime wanderings part, but I removed my original plan to head west after the Maritimes through Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa on the way back to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Net result is a higher monthly gas budget over that time, but saves by eliminating the longer east-to-west planned Canada route.
There is also a bonus when dropping to 55 mph versus 70, regardless of where one buys gas: a significant increased driving range of 100+ miles, which is a huge plus, especially when wandering back roads and such.
Driving slow also has human benefits: more awareness of surrounding scenery, a quieter ride, fewer vehicles riding your tail urging you need to move over, and more relaxed thinking time. Sure it takes longer, but a small price to pay to soften gas prices by taking you farther down the road. Most of my driving days are a maximum of five hours anyway, so for me, slowing down does not add much time.
This drive-slow approach, of course, requires a highway habit shift (with all respect to The Eagles):
🎶 Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind…
🎶 Life in the slow lane, surely make you chill your mind…
Nota bene: This post marks my return to more frequent blog posts, and to adding new videos to my recently renamed YouTube channel, Adventures Nomadic.