You would think that living in North Dakota for 14 years would have broken me of the dumb that is gas tank roulette, but you would be wrong. It made me better at it. A little bit of practice goes a long way when it comes to running your gas tank down to fumes, and that's what I gained in North Dakota. I am entirely too skilled at driving around with the low gas light on, even when I know it's 50 miles until the next gas station.
BUT SERIOUSLY, MAKE ME STOP.
At least four of my grey hairs are a direct result of playing gas tank roulette at the dumbest of dumb times. That's not counting the six I gained last week.
It started out responsibly enough. I had to travel a bit for work, which this time meant driving an hour south of Pittsburgh and then driving west until there were no signs of humanity. And when I say "no signs of humanity," I mean following a narrow, windy road past a few cows, but that's about it. It was the kind of narrow, windy road that has a giant drop on either side, so it's not like you're going to be obliviously texting and driving or some nonsense, unless you want to fall off the face of the earth. And if you do fall off the face of the earth, you're on your own. There is no cell phone service and no people, so you're going to have to figure things out for yourself.
For what it's worth, I had been to the middle of nowhere before, so I knew where I was going. I didn't really need directions, but had Google Maps running because why not? It's fun having a polite lady tell you when to turn. When the polite lady told me to turn a few miles earlier than I was planning, I didn't even think about it. I listened to her, despite having planned to grab gas at the exit where my original turn would have been.
It was a shortcut! Hooray!
A few miles down the road from that turn the polite lady told me to take, I remembered that there was a good reason to go the other way. Gas! I needed gas! I was seconds from having the gas light come on and there was no sense in waiting for all of that. It just needed to happen.
But it hadn't happened. And I was already a good five miles off course.
Alas, I pulled over and consulted my friend Google Maps. She politely informed me that everything was okay. There was a hint of a town ahead and there was a gas station there. HOORAY!
GOOGLE MAPS IS A LIAR. I discovered that two miles after my low gas light turned on. There was sort of a little town, but it was more like a cluster of houses with a church in the middle. There wasn't a grocery store, convenience store, restaurant, or gas station anywhere to be found. The gas station that the polite lady from Google Maps had told me about was likely abandoned way back when Alf was the king of television.
So I had a choice. I could double-back and make myself suuuuuuper late, but have gas in my car, or I could trudge ahead and hope for the best.
I've never been accused of being a pessimist. There was no point in starting right then. Hope for the best won out.
The good news is that I had pinned the location I was headed to in Google Maps, so even though none of the roads I needed to follow towards the end existed, I figured I would be fine. I was taking the most efficient route. For sure.
EXCEPT THAT THE POLITE LADY IS A LIAR.
Google Maps swore I was four miles from my destination when she told me to take a turn down a road that didn't exist. There was no road, no hint of a road, nothing. In fact, I needed to drive a good ten miles in order to circle around to where I needed to be.
By that point, the "you can go this many miles" indicator on my car was already double dashes. My car thinks it's okay to tell you how far you can get up until it's 17 miles, then it declares you too stupid for help. Anything under 17 miles is a mystery, and there I was. In the land of mysteries.
So I mathed. I mathed and I mathed and I mathed and I realized I was toast. No matter what, I couldn't make it to the site and back without running out of gas, but I was also too far from the nearest gas station to double-back. I was going to run out of gas no matter what.
So I kept driving. I drove to the site and I took care of business and I acted like it was no big thing that I was about to drive into nothingness with a few fumes of gas and a cell phone that would be useless.
I coasted a lot.
I even slid the car into neutral any time I was headed downhill. That HAD to make the car more fuel efficient! My knuckles are still white from the adventure, by the way. I was clenching that steering wheel so hard as I drive TWENTY FOUR MILES.
TWENTY. FOUR. MILES.
That's how far it ended up being from the site to the gas station that I somehow made it to, despite the fact that my car swore to me that I couldn't make it so much as 17 miles well before I started that trek.
MY CAR IS A LIAR.
So now I can't decide if I should give up on gas tank roulette while I'm a winner or if I should continue to play until I find the actual limits of the gas fumes.