2015 Ford F-150: Oregon Road Trip Leg 3 — From Star Wars to Animal House and a 20-MPG Tank In Between
August 26, 2015
At the conclusion of our last episode, our 2015 Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 pickup was being refueled with more premium gasoline in the tiny burg of Naselle, Washington. From there I headed east along the north bank of the mighty Columbia River and rejoined Interstate 5 near Longview.
I can say now that I was on my way to the Tacoma area to drive the 2016 Toyota Tacoma. That was the point of this entire massive side trip.
Days earlier, when I studied my route, a town with an intriguing name caught my attention. I resolved to take a three- or four-mile side-trip within my side-trip to see tiny Vader, Washington, population 621. Did they have a sense of humor about their name?
They don't, apparently.
I saw nothing like a Death Star café, no roads named Sith Street, Droid Drive or Anakin Alley. It's basically a railroad siding and a handful of houses. They seem to like trains. I saw a juggler.
That's not very dark. They need to get their Sith together.
After the visit to Vader, it didn't take long to reach my destination near the Sea-Tac airport where the Ford sat motionless in a hotel parking lot for about 24 hours while I listened to presentations and drove the new Tacoma near, but not strictly within, the city limits of Tacoma, Washington.
I was dismissed at 3:45 p.m. My goal was to make it south to my parents place in one go. But I had forgotten that this was a Friday, and as I merged onto the interstate I was greeted by what seemed like a weekend exodus of every software engineer and coffee company employee in the Seattle region.
It took 90 minutes to travel the first 30 miles. Along the way I passed nine fender benders that seemed unnecessary. Were they unfamiliar with this kind of traffic? Did I get unlucky? Is this how it usually goes?
Once clear of the mess, it was smooth sailing. I set my cruise control to the speed limit and swept south through Portland. The sky darkened as I continued farther south.
It was getting close to 10:00 p.m. when I rolled past Eugene to Cottage Grove. I hadn't yet stopped to eat. Strictly speaking, the truck didn't need gas. But I'd be leaving the freeway soon and turning west toward the coast on dark two-lane roads. It'd be near midnight by the time I reached the first sleepy coastal town. Oregon won't let you pump your own gas and I imagined that the stations would all be closed at that late hour. It was now or never.
Cottage Grove is famous for being the site of the parade scene in Animal House. It was too dark to see any of it and the downtown area is a couple of miles off the freeway. I reflected on the fact that my wife's maiden name is Niedermeyer while the attendant pumped more premium unleaded into the Ford.
It took 24.384 gallons to fill the truck after this 506.8-mile leg. What's this? 20.8 mpg?
In nearly 17,000 miles, this was the first tank to eclipse the F-150's 20-mpg EPA combined rating. But this was a hollow victory. Its highway rating is 23 mpg, and I'd spent the bulk of the time running between 65 and 70 mph on cruise control in cool weather with no load.
Still, this tank's performance does round up to 21 mpg (*golf clap*).
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,721 miles