"The Deliverator is a Type A driver with rabies."
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash

Maybe, like The Deliverator, you've got somewhere to be, and not a lot of time to get there. Maybe you're just always in a hurry. Maybe you're nuts.

"Making time" is, essentially, getting from somewhere to somewhere else, in the most efficient manner. Not necessarily the shortest way, but that's often the case. Not necessarily the fastest, either; anyone can drive up I-57 at 95 miles an hour. There's no subtlety in that, and it's a very good way to get stopped for about twenty minutes while Officer Friendly writes you an expensive ticket.

This writeup will focus mainly on making good time on highways, as that is where most of the author's experience lies. Besides, on long trips, most of your driving will be on the highway anyway, as that's very often the fastest way from Point A to Point B, as long as those points are more than a few hundred miles apart.

The most effective way to make time is with good planning. If you're reading this node, you (probably!) have access to the Internet. Take that access, and do some research. Get the weather forecasts for the next few days; check out road conditions; get good driving directions.

As with anything else, though, be sure to shop around. On a recent trip from Missouri to Oregon, I found that by visiting Yahoo! Maps as well as MapQuest, and combining their tips, I was able to shave about two hours of driving time off the trip. MapQuest seems to lean towards weird shortcuts where, by taking six strange backroads, you'll theoretically save three minutes. If you can't find those odd roads, though, you lose. In general, stick to the major highways.

As long as you're shopping, be sure to get your favorite snacks, munchies, and beverages (most likely heavily caffeinated ones). The local grocery store is certainly cheaper than some random convenience store just off the I-84 in central Wyoming, and more likely to have exactly what you want. Besides, every minute you're browsing that distant 7-Eleven is a minute you're NOT driving. (Aside: Don't over-indulge in those fine beverages on the road. If you're taking bathroom breaks every half-hour, you're obviously not making good time.)

If you can, get someone else to read this node, and then use your mind bullets to persuade them to come along. Two drivers in the car is preferable for a host of reasons: One of you can snooze while the other drives, effectively doubling your ability to cover ground efficiently; one of you can help navigate while the other drives; having someone to talk to can help keep you from going slightly batty when you're otherwise deprived of meaningful human contact.

And get a credit card. If you can't, get a debit card. Get something, it doesn't matter too much what, with a MasterCard or Visa logo. At many gas stations in the States, you can now pay with one of those credit cards for your gas without having to go into the store. It'll only save you maybe two or three minutes, but over the course of a long trip, that can add up to an extra hour of driving time.

Finally, get the car ready. Check the oil, the spark plugs, the transmission fluid, the tire tread and pressure (including the spare!). Blowing a tire will really slow you down. If you don't know how to change a tire, learn. There are still large swaths of Americana where your cell phone simply will not work, and your Auto Club membership won't do you a bit of good.

All stocked up? Filled up the tank? Let's hit the road!

As mentioned above, excessive speeding is not always efficient. A little speeding, done cautiously and judiciously, however, is a Good Thing indeed. Keep pace with traffic, maybe going a little faster than the next guy. The key here is not to stand out too much. Don't weave through lanes; don't pass someone by driving 40mph faster than he's going. If you have a radar detector, keep it hidden; if the cops see its lights, they may pull you over for a minor offense that they might otherwise have ignored. (This has happened to me, and the Idaho patrolman said, in as many words, that this was his personal policy, as well as the informal policy of many of his colleagues.) Usually, you can get away with going 5-10 mph faster than the posted speed limit, and the highway patrol will leave you alone.

(Note: none of the above applies in Nebraska. Nebraska cops just don't seem to care. Nebraska is a great state for making time -- the roads are generally well-maintained, the posted speed limit is a generous 75mph on the Interstate, and the police tend to ticket more for stupidity than for breaking silly laws.)

For really long trips (anything over 500 miles or so), you'll have time to get used to your car. This is a learning experience, and what you learn now, you can apply later. You'll be able to find out just how much fuel your car carries, and what your car's fuel efficiency really is. If you can stretch an extra ten or fifteen miles out of each tank, by the end of the trip, you may have saved yourself ten dollars or so. (Don't push it, though, especially in the "big" Western states. Wyoming is a bad place to run out of gas -- when they say the next gas station is 23 miles, they're not kidding. If you're not sure, go ahead and fill up the tank.)

After focusing on how to travel quickly and efficiently, of course, now I'm going to tell you to stop.

At least every time you stop to fill up the gas tank (probably every two to three hours, depending on your car), take about five minutes and get the hell away from the car. Look through the naughty magazines at the gas station. Look at some of the gorgeous scenery (especially effective in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and in general anywhere near the Rocky Mountains). Walk around. Stretch that poor right leg that you've had clamped down on the accelerator for the last 153 minutes. Flex your wrists (my carpal tunnel ailment really acted up on my last few big trips, from having my hands locked round the steering wheel for three straight days). It doesn't matter really what, as long as for a few minutes you're not driving. If you've made good time so far, maybe stop and grab a snack.

The real reason for this, of course, is to help keep the blood flow in your body working normally, at least for a little bit. It will help keep you energized; falling asleep at the wheel is a very bad idea. It may sound goofy, but it works.

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