If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that at the end of day one we’d covered 308.3 miles to spend the night in Gloucester, our 12th city. But the prospects for day two didn’t seem good. With just two of six segments remaining on the fuel gauge, and both of us anxious not to have a repeat of the previous day’s late night slog, we were on the road before 9am…
Before we could leave the city we had a photo to take outside Gloucester Cathedral’s St Mary’s Gate. Moving again, and with iQ’s cold engine light yet to go out, we were bogged down in city traffic; hitting red light after red light as we headed out to Hereford.
In Tuesday’s driving we’d noticed the car’s uncanny ability to gather speed on some downhill stretches, leaving us closing in on slower traffic at an alarming rate and having to scrub off speed with the brakes. It didn’t seem to happen every time, though, and on the way to Hereford we realised why: older, rougher road surfaces were sapping more energy out of the car than newer, smoother ones.
There wasn’t anything more dramatic to think about until, around 20 minutes from Worcester, the penultimate segment disappeared from the fuel gauge. We’d covered only 360 miles and were yet to tag our 14th city, and suddenly it looked like we wouldn’t even reach the Midlands, let alone run out of fuel there.
After a couple of wasteful U-turns in Worcester, and convinced we hadn’t long to go, I managed my smoothest driving of the trip over the 37 miles or so to Wolverhampton, where we were spotted by blog reader Trevor. I wasn’t sure if Mark nodding off was a compliment or not, but soon enough he was at the wheel again for what we knew would be the last stint.
Much to our surprise, we soon found ourselves in the heart of Birmingham – the UK’s second biggest city – trying to find the Selfridges building to photograph ourselves against. Without the right address for the SatNav, we drove past the Bullring and turned round at New Street station before deciding we had the photo we needed and pressing on anyway.
In Coventry, with a fuel gauge that had been blinking for more than three hours, we were willing iQ on. We hadn’t yet managed to equal the car’s theoretical 462-mile range on a full tank – the bare minimum target we’d set ourselves – and although we’d got our photo by the beautiful cathedral ruins, it looked like we were going to come up short.
We’d covered 446.5 miles: Mark was hungry, I was parched, iQ was running on fumes, and Oxford – city 18 – was 58 miles away.
Mark eased us out of town, and although we desperately needed the smooth, easy running of the motorway, we had to stay on A roads where it would be safer for us to splutter to a halt. Just 15 minutes later we were in a filling station, but it was Mark & me taking on fuel. Somehow, iQ was still going.
It was still going as we passed Warwick Castle on the A429 and, mercifully, still going as we nudged past the 462 mile mark. At least now we’d proved that it’s possible to match a car’s official fuel figures in real life driving, and at least now we wouldn’t feel like we’d let anybody down.
“This is were you find out how many extra miles you can really do, when the petrol gauge shows empty,” Twitter user Geoff Lloyd told us, and Mark was doing everything he could. By this point he’d become a dab hand at carrying speed through corners, and I’d become adept at catching our various gadgets as cornering forces unseated them.
The traffic was light as we drove the A44 towards Oxford, and we’d started daring to believe we’d get there. Messages of support were coming in and, blinking fuel gauge aside, iQ wasn’t complaining. But it couldn’t last. Somewhere approaching Woodstock as we reached the end of a lengthy climb, the car gave a jerk and I looked at Mark: “Was that you or the car?”
On the next climb, every bit as big, iQ stuttered again and we knew our time was nearly up. We passed 492 miles. We thought the next hill would finish us. We considered throwing seats and overnight bags from the car – anything to just reach Oxford.
And then we looked down and saw 499 miles on the clock. Surely not? Our car’s graphics, carefully applied by designer Rick, said “500 miles on one tank of fuel?“. As we approached our 18th city centre, we could finally lose the question mark.
We knew as we parked up for a photo opportunity in front of the Bodleian Library that it would be our last. Starting up again with a faltering engine we managed to add another 2.2 miles to the 502 we had on the clock. In the thick Oxford traffic it took us 14 minutes.
As we pulled into a quiet side road the engine gave its biggest complaint yet. It was still idling, but we knew it was time to call it a day. Out came the plastic petrol can and in went its contents. Now we just needed to find a filling station, brim the tank again and head home.
Click here for the final part of our write up – what we learned, and why it’s relevant