Today’s challenge is gas. In planning our destinations, and next stop, we consider time, distance, and weather. Heading West on US 90 toward Mount Rushmore, we determined we needed to make an intermediate stop before our final destination. We chose the KOA campground in Interior, South Dakota, population 67. Route 90 takes us within 4 miles of the campground. However, we decided we wanted to take the scenic route through the South Dakota Badlands. This would be a 30 mile detour.
Not only do we check our maps and the internet before leaving, we also consult a Trucker’s map. This map tells us the dimensions of the road, the grades of the road, and the clearances of the bridges. Any road a tractor trailer can go on, we can go on. Any road they can’t, we don’t go.
We also calculate whether or not we will need to stop for gas in route, or if we have sufficient gas to get us to our destination. We have an app that tells us the location of all diesel filling stations. Taking into account the 30 miles through the badlands, we were satisfied as to everything.
What we did not take into consideration, because we had no idea it existed, was a 45 mile per hour wind on the route through the badlands. Our weather app said the winds were predicted to be 17 miles per hour.
Driving in that wind was not the problem. The problem was the effect the wind resistance on the Sphinx and climbing the mountains in the South Dakota Badlands had on fuel consumption. It tripled our fuel consumption. No gas stations along the route. In fact, there is nothing along the route other than the badlands.
By the time we reached the campground, the fuel gauge read empty, and predicted miles remaining was 20. We had averaged 8 miles per gallon with 3 miles per gallon when climbing the mountains and wind. I have a 32 gallon tank, which was full when we left.
After checking in at the campground, we inquired the nearest diesel gas station. They said 4 miles down the road, until yesterday, when someone ran over the gas pump. It would not be repaired for 4 weeks. The next closest was 15 miles away, just off route 90, where we would have exited had we not taken the detour.
Next question, how accurate was the car readout of 20 miles of gas left, when the gauge said empty? We next inquired if someone could get gas for us, or lend us a car. Sorry, everyone left after labor day. Our hosts could not leave the campground. Naturally, we had no cell phone reception in the middle of nowhere. Our concern was if we ran out of gas before we got there, how would we get help. This is what the area around us looked like.
We decided we would drop the Sphinx at the campsite and leave immediately to get gas. Our thought process was that without the Sphinx we should get better gas milage, even with the wind, giving us a margin on 20 miles of gas left, and giving us plenty of daylight should we run out. The local inhabitants did not seem too concern about our plight,
and delayed us as we waited for them to leisurely cross the road.
The gas station was 15.7 miles away. We had a whole gallon and a half of gas left.
Mitchell SD to Interior SD: 226.2 miles (with a full tank @ 11 MPG we have a range of 352 miles.)
4 hours 24 minutes