"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
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
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
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
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.