Have smart, will travel
Everyone knows the smart car is an urban car designed for scooting around the city well, everyone except those of us who do long-distance trips in our smarts. Why not take a conventional car? I guess for the same reason people travel on motorcycles. My smart is a green-on-green pulse cabrio – a unique car calls for an outrageous colour scheme. One result of this look is that the car never fails to bring a smile to your face.
My new heroes are Keith Hebert (http://www.100mpg.ca/), who drove Victoria to St. John’s and back (16,344 km averaging 3.63 L/100 km, or 78 mpg), and Rupert Lloyd-Thomas and his wife Annette, who did Toronto to Chicago, followed Route 66 to California, up to BC and back to Toronto (14,500 km). (smartcar.blogspot.com)
Since getting my smart car on Jan 15, 2005, I have visited 13 states and logged 30,000 km, including trips to Cleveland, Ohio; Long Island, New York; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Bentonville, Arkansas. This mileage over the course of nine months may not seem like a lot to people who commute to Toronto from the suburbs, but I live only minutes from my office.
My first trip was to Cleveland, Ohio. It was a nice day and I had the top down. The plan was to meet a business associate at a particular coffee shop. As I pulled in, a woman in a Ford Excursion did a U-turn on a one-way street, nearly causing an accident, in order to see my car. After parking, she ran over and called out, “Where did you get it? I have a poster of this car on my wall. I want one for when I don’t need the Excursion.” I almost laughed out loud thinking, when does anyone “need” an Excursion? She brushed her hand across the hood of my car, exclaiming that she had now touched one.
During the summer, I drove to Raleigh, NC to visit my son and his family. As my son drives a Mercedes C230, we decided to visit his dealer. With the top down, we drove into the display area of Cary Mercedes Benz. A salesman who ran out to tell us that we couldn’t park there paused. Without finishing his original sentence, he said, “What is this?” I replied that it was a Mercedes smart car, and I thought they might like to see one. Five minutes later, every person in the dealership was out looking at my car, including customers. One man just dripping in gold and diamonds with a Cadillac Escalade asked what it was, and offered to buy it on the spot for $5,000 more than I had paid for it.
Later I parked by an Austin Mini. The driver got out of his car as I did. I asked how he liked driving a limo? “I considered a Mini, but I am not into large cars.” He laughed and replied that I was probably the only car owner around who could say that.
My favourite comeback for negative comments about the car was in Long Island, NY, when gas was $3.50 to $4.00 a gallon. I was stopped at a light, and had the top down. A man pulled up beside me in a large older car, laughed out loud and in a booming voice proclaimed, “That is the stupidest car I have ever seen.” I turned and asked him if he had filled up with gas that day. “Yep, $70 worth,” he answered. I replied, “I filled up, too. Cost me $12. Whose car’s stupid now?”
When you drive a smart, any stop at a roadside rest turns into a micro-car show. The most common questions and comments include:
- Is it a hybrid? (No, diesel.)
- What kind of mileage do you get? (On a trip doing 100 kph, I average about 4.0 L/100 km or 70 miles per gallon)
- How fast can it do? (No problem cruising 120 kph, or 70 mph, including in the mountains)
- I’d hate to get hit by a semi with that – to which I ask, what would you like to get hit by a semi in? Then I explain how safe the smart is.
- Is there a trunk? (Yes. I have the smart luggage, which fits the space perfectly. Rupert and Annette did their trip camping and even carried a tent.)
But the most fun traveling in a smart car is refueling. The best spot to get diesel fuel in the States is at truck stops. They have the lowest fuel prices, usually good food, plus large, clean washrooms and a lot of interesting people.
I pulled into a bay where the truck in front of me had just put in $432. I put in $14, as I was way down and the fuel was $3.30 per gallon. When I went in to pay, a man who had driven in a gigantic SUV asked, “Why would you drive such a tiny car?” I explained that it was for psychological reasons, and that I was compensating for an enormous penis. He ran off before I could ask him what he drove. The man behind the counter choked on his coffee, he was laughing so hard.
Edmonton Sun Autonet Drive – Dec 30, 2005
Calgary Sun Autonet Drive – Nov 25, 2005
Toronto Sun Autonet Drive – Oct 29, 2005
Here are pictures that were not used in the article.