Frisco to Oregon - 2009 Ford Flex Road Trip, Stage 3 Long-Term Road Test

2009 Ford Flex Road Trip, Stage 3: Frisco to Oregon

August 12, 2009


Today we left San Francisco behind and headed north to the Oregon border in the 2009 Ford Flex. We needed to cover a lot of ground, so we got an early start.

On of the first orders of business was to fill the tank on the way out of town. Here the Sirius Travel Link made itself useful again, as hitting the 'Fuel Prices' button was the quickest way to find a nearby station (much easier than the usual POI method) and, as we saw with our drive-in search 2 days ago, it provided a simple way to set the selected station as a waypoint in the Nav system.


San Francisco sees itself as quite progressive when it comes to energy policy. Indeed electric buses powered by overhead cables hummed up and down the hilly streets outside our hotel all night. But the fight over what direction is best still rages on, as illustrated by the gas station our nav system directed us to.

Audi TDI diesel ads sat atop all of the pumps, and all of the fuel hoses wore advertising placards with the word 'diesel' on them.

But none of the pumps at this station dispensed diesel. Not a single one. This seems like a 'complain to your cable operator' type of ad campaign to me. Odd.


Right behind us, at the same station, sat two Zip Cars, which I gather is a sort of communal car sharing scheme, or something. In this dense walking city, this solution to the occaisional need for a car makes a certain amount of sense, I suppose. But what really struck me was the cars themselves: these aren't beat-up old bottom-feeder compacts.

Our tank full of 87 octane gasoline, we were off to the Golden Gate bridge. What a sight!


Sorry, kids. It's really spectacular. You should see it sometime.


Our next stop was Hopland, California, a region famous for that necessary beer ingredient and, apparently, solar panels. Real Goods is a crunchy store that promotes the technology, which is no bad thing. But the front row of their parking lot is reserved for electric cars, complete with electrical junction boxes. We parked the Flex in one of the spaces anyway.

Why? Eight spaces is more than you'd need in the largest shopping mall in Santa Monica, and this place rarely has 8 customers at a time. We've stopped here a lot in the past 10 years to feed the fish and stretch our legs, but we've never once seen an electric car plugged-in. And Hopland is a dinky little town that would be far beyond the range of our own Mini E, even if it were based in San Francisco. And then there's the plug itself.


In short, it was a box of cobwebs. One of the plugs has the remains of a wasp's nest stuck to it. And none of the plugs (save the 110V outlets), is compatible with any of the modern electric cars I know of, including our Mini E. And I don't count the 110 V outlets because 50 miles of Mini E range takes 24 hours when connected to one of these. Its 220 V or nothing, IMHO. Electric cars need standarization in the plug area if they are to move beyond the hobbyist phase, and I don't hear much serious talk about it from any quarter yet.


They sell Biodiesel here, though. Several TDI Jettas, presumably employee cars, sat nearby.


A few hours later brought us to our favorite NorCal lunch spot, the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka. It sits alongside the southbound lanes of US 101 in the downtown region where it splits into a pair of one-way streets that are a block apart. Its worth the U-turn if you're headed north. And you may even recognize their beer from your local supermarket.


Further north we went, up into the coast redwoods. The roads get progressively twisty, but the Flex handles them easily. Its low center of gravity and lower seating position makes the sensation of body roll much less noticeable than it would be in an SUV or our own Honda Odyssey minivan. No one gets sick. No one complains. And that's not something I can say about every car we bring up here.

As for me, I'm liking the way the steering effort builds progressively as the tires load-up in corners -- even at the relatively low lateral g levels we're seeing at our leisurely place. It's a sure-footed machine that goes down this lazy sinuous road nice and easy.

Gas update:

Stage 2, SLO to SF: 257.4 miles, 11.31 gallons for 22.8 mpg (24.4 on trip meter)
Stage 3, SF to Crescent City*: 356.3 miles, 16.13 gallons for 22.1 mpg (22.9 on trip meter)
*near the Oregon border.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 30,068 miles

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