Thanksgiving Road Trip to St Louis

It’s been a few years since the last time my family of three piled into a car for a road trip. As much as I appreciate the higher fuel economy and spaciousness of my wife’s Mk6 Jetta TDI, I’m simply too spoiled by the comforts of my GTI to not drive it instead. I prefer to travel with the car’s interior nearly empty. In keeping with that practice, the GTI is perfect for two-person travel. Packing for three, as well as Thanksgiving food, I knew I’d want to load our Yakima Showcase 15. Our luggage went in the Showcase while our food and other necessities rode in the trunk.

Planning our load was the first challenge. My wife is a cheesecake queen, so we knew we were going to take desserts, even from 880 miles away. Our visit to St Louis was too brief to bake the cakes there. So she made them at home, froze them, and then we transported them in an electric cooler. We also put dressing, soup, muffins, toppings, and dry ice in the cooler. The cooler traveled in the trunk and was plugged into the electronics panel. It worked very well, especially with the aid of the dry ice. Measuring with my infrared thermometer, the food stayed dry and between 26-38 degrees throughout the two-day outbound trip.

I don’t tolerate extended driving as well as I did years ago, especially since I was developing a cold. So we spent a night in Lexington, KY, which left us with an easy 350-mile drive on our second day of travel. I did the majority of driving. However, there came a point at which I let our daughter drive the GTI for the first time. She has a learner’s permit and usually drives my wife’s Mk6. She was so giddy with excitement that one would think I had given her the key to a Bugatti. “Everything is so sensitive,” she proclaimed. I was fairly comfortable with her driving the loaded car on the open highway. But I took over in major cities and on the twisty mountain stretches.

My cold was so awesome after three days that I decided to share it with my wife. 😉  We were both fairly wiped out and willing to let our daughter drive when it came time to return to SE Virginia. I needed some sleep, so I decided to give the back seat a try. The leg room wasn’t awful, but attempting to lay across the seat was not so great. I didn’t realize that the back seat has bolsters. Bolsters are great when seated properly, such as while typing this blog entry, but not so great when leaning over to nap. The ride in the back seat was a little choppy, too, probably because I was sitting over the rear wheels. As I snoozed across the seat, I could compare the ride to that of a jumbo jet in moderate turbulence. It wasn’t terrible, but certainly not as good as riding in the front seat. I also noticed that the airflow from the rear vents is rather disappointing, almost non-existent, to be honest. I have no idea if it can be improved.

I’d love to tell you about all the cool things we did in St Louis, but the trip was more of a quick-blast for Thanksgiving. We visited Ted Drewes, an apparently famous frozen custard shack, and the family visited the Gateway Arch and the Hard Rock Cafe without me (I was too sick to go out). So this is more of a technical entry than a sightseeing report. The car performed very well on the trip. We did a lot of climbing as we passed over the Blue Ridge, Appalachian, and Allegheny mountains. Even with the cargo box and over 800 lbs of cargo/passengers, we still averaged 30 mpg (hand-calculated) while traveling at moderate speeds (cruise control set for 73 mph most of the time). The first six fill-ups returned 28-29 mpg; but the final tank, which was mostly a descent from the mountains, returned 35 mpg. Oddly enough, we probably would have achieved better fuel economy with the trailer; the drive would have been quieter, too. But leaving the trailer at home reduced our footprint and made parking in tight downtown areas much easier. There will come a day when my wife and I will make these trips alone and not need to mount the Showcase. I have no reason to believe that 35+ mpg won’t be an easy feat.

That’s about all I can think of to share about this trip. It certainly showed us how much we can fit and where certain items travel best. Perhaps the next trip will be with the trailer, just to see if things feel better. Either that or we’ll travel as a couple next time (our daughter is growing up fast).



About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
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