By Bill & Barbara Schaffer
Leaving Windsor in the beautiful California wine country on Day 4 of our Road Trip, ?we encountered or first real traffic with the thousands of commuters, usually one to a car, headed south over the Golden Gate in to the City.
The Golden Gate toll booths are closed now so you must have a FastTrak? pass to get through. It?s unbelievable that they have no place for the tourists to pay. We understand that cameras capture the vehicle license plate, look up the vehicle owner?s address, then snail mail a bill to the vehicle owner for the bridge crossing. That certainly seems like a lot of work to go through for a six dollar toll. It?s obviously going to create another problem for us because the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel is from the press fleet and has manufacturer?s license plates. We told the press fleet managers about it and we figure they will bill us when they get the bill. This seems like one of the most idiotic systems we?ve ever seen, because there must be hundreds of thousands of tourists driving over the bridge every year.
After the bridge we hit a quick right and followed the famous 49-Mile Drive through San Francisco toward the Great Highway that runs along the beach. Then we connected with Hwy 1 south toward Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz before stopping to have lunch with Barbara?s sister in Aptos.
So far the Chevy Cruze is impressive. The seats are especially comfortable, which we appreciate because of number of hours we are spending in them each day. Barbara is a big fan of heated leather seats which are standard in the Diesel Cruze — she gave them a good workout and she said it helped keep her from getting ?fanny fatigue.? The Cruze handles well with no harshness. There?s a little body roll on faster corners, but overall it has a very stable, balanced ride.
By mid-afternoon we are soaking in the Big Sur scenery. Although we?ve probably driven this road a 100 times it?s been eight or ten years since we were here last and it?s still breath-taking. The narrow windy road cut into the edge of the cliffs also slows down many drivers who seem to be afraid of the heights or simply enjoying the scenery. This means we had to make lot of quick passes, when the broken lines appeared. The passing takes a bite out of the fuel economy, too, dropping the average on the trip computer in the 42 mpg range.
One of the other things we learned about driving a diesel on a road trip is that diesel fuel is not at every filling station?maybe one in two or three stations. Prices were also significantly higher, for example in Monterey regular gasoline was $3.55 per gallon and diesel was $4.19. If we extrapolated our trip at the EPA numbers which are 36 mpg for the standard gas Cruze and 46 mpg for the Diesel, the fuel cost of the trip at these prices would be about $197 for the gasoline-powered Cruze and $182 for the Diesel. Based on previous experiences, we believe we would probably get significantly better fuel economy in the diesel, especially with Barbara behind the wheel, making the difference even greater. Besides, we like the diesel engine torque — it has strong acceleration and is fun to drive.
The rest of the trip to our next destination was the Pismo Beach Worldmark included a stop to watch thousands of Elephant Seals lounging on the beach near San Simeon. Some of the adult seals get up to 13 feet long and can weigh as much as 4,500 pounds; the girls are a couple feet shorter and about 3,000 pounds lighter. This time of year they come ashore to form colonies for a few months each year to breed, have babies and molt (peel off skin).
As with earlier parts of the trip, there was plenty of road construction and flaggers, allowing lots of extra time to look around.
We started to notice, that our endurance was starting to decline, and we were more tired at the end of the day.