Monday, June 2, 2008

A small fortune in diesel

We are at the Wal-Mart in Casper, Wyoming (map). This is the older store on 2nd, off Wyoming and I-25, not the newer one, which we passed on our way in, on Cy at the southwestern edge of town.

The drive from our cow-pasture digs yesterday morning was beautiful, descending through lush valleys surrounded by craggy hills and outcroppings. We reached the outskirts of Casper in just over an hour, and turned onto the loop road just past the aforementioned Wal-Mart. We were navigating to the Flying-J, which is off that road just before the freeway ramp.

We never quite made it. Just a block before the Flying-J, we spotted a Safeway grocery store with a fuel station advertising the same $4.449 for diesel that Flying-J had posted, but with an additional $0.03 per gallon discount for having a (free) Safeway Club card. That would be $9 on the ~300 gallons we needed, and so we pulled in there instead.

After jockeying around and maneuvering up to the pump, Louise noticed a sign touting a $0.10 per gallon discount with purchase of $50 in groceries in the store. We needed groceries anyway, and the prospect of another $21 off our fuel purchase was a bonus we could not pass up, so I pulled back out of the fuel island and into the main store lot for a shopping trip. Our grocery tab came to over $94, easily qualifying us for the fuel discount (and that was with nearly every item being on sale).

Back to the fuel island we went, where it took roughly 50 minutes to dispense 295 gallons -- the principle downside to using auto islands rather than truck dispensers, which run at 2-3 times the flow rate and also allow fueling from both sides simultaneously. Unsurprisingly, the resulting $1,310 total caused problems at the register, which required them to call the manager down from the main store to help.

They finally got the transaction to go through by deleting the sale and ringing it up as miscellaneous goods, then applying the ~$29.50 discount. That left me with a receipt without the gallons on it, which I had to get them to write in and initial for our tax records. (The IRS requires gallon-specific receipts for all road fuel purchased if you take any tax credits for non-road use; we keep track of our generator and heater usage and apply for that road tax to be refunded each year.) The amount also triggered Discover Card's fraud prevention group to give us a call -- it's certainly the largest amount we've ever spent at a fuel station in one swoop.

We will still make our planned stop at the Flying-J on our way out of town, to avail ourselves of the RV dump station there. Our spot here at Wal-Mart actually overlooks the Flying-J (we are on a bit of a hill, perhaps 30' above them), and, as I suspected, all ~40 of their parking spaces filled up last night, reinforcing our decision to come here instead. We saw a couple of semis in this lot last night, as well.

I mentioned yesterday that the status of urban boondocking here was in question, and this entry over on the free campgrounds site is indicative of the confusion. Sure enough, there was a small blue "No Overnight Camping" sign at the entrance, which one Casperite claims is erected periodically by the KOA management. There were no signs, however, elsewhere in the parking lot, as is characteristic for Wal-Marts which prohibit it, and many people have been told by customer service that its fine to stay. We took our chances and were undisturbed, and we were certainly not alone.

In a few minutes we'll wander over to Home Depot, where we are going to look at some new flooring for the bedroom, then finish our shopping at Wal-Mart. We intend to be out of Casper today, heading west towards Yellowstone, unless we end up buying flooring.


  1. This is an awesome website! Thanks for posting your tips for living out a dream I hope to one day achieve.

    Question: it's possible to deduct your gas usage from your taxes? Can anybody do this if they travel in an RV?

  2. Sean,
    The generator has an hour meter on it but how do you get the data for the heater as our AquaHot doesn't have a meter that I know of. Do you use a average usage?

  3. We've gotten enough comments and questions about fuel and taxes that Sean is going to write a more detailed post about the subject soon.

  4. I look forward to Sean's fuel/taxes post. Have you changed your travel plans to offset the price of fuel? Like staying in one place longer to save fuel?

  5. Sean and Louise, your fuel tank is HUGE! Did you replace the original fuel tank with a larger one?

    That is a lot of weight to carry around (7 lbs x 300 gallons = 2100 lbs).

    We have a 150 gallon fuel tank and I do fill it up when it reaches about 1/4 to 1/2 but we are carrying about 1,050 lbs when full.

    Also, we usually have full hookups so I keep our 100 gallon fresh water about 1/4 full to keep the weight down.

    We weigh around 40,000 lbs loaded with our 42' Monaco Dynasty.


  6. @Mark:

    No, we didn't put in a larger fuel tank. The solid steel 350 gallon one was so well integrated into the bus' frame that replacing it was more trouble than it was worth.

    Usually we try to keep the fuel level between 1/4 and 1/2 tank, but when we know we won't see cheaper fuel for many miles we tend to fill up.

    Given that we weigh over 47,000 lbs, I tend to think that the last 1,000 or so added by fuel or water probably doesn't influence fuel consumption nearly as much as reducing our speed. The brick-like shape of the bus will never be very aerodynamic, either. :-)

  7. I hope you enjoyed our beautiful town!!!


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