In It for the Long Haul

Two-lane desert road

Desert driving? Don’t sweat it.

When traveling through the desert, there are a few general rules that should be obeyed at all costs. “Don’t get stranded” is probably the most obvious, but like many things, it’s easier said than done. You never know what can happen — especially when you’re driving a vehicle that you aren’t used to. And Jip, LendingTree Autos’ developer, found himself in violation of the number one rule of desert driving while he was venturing through Arizona. But, hey, it’s a dry heat.

“I was helping my ex-girlfriend move from Arizona to Washington DC,” Jip remembered. That’s no short trip and her stuff wasn’t going to move itself, so he loaded up a rental U-Haul truck and volunteered to drive. “She drove her car separately. I was supposed to follow her the whole way, but things didn’t go as planned.”

A few hours into the trip, Jip noticed that his then-girlfriend was a good distance ahead of him. As hard as he tried to catch up, the fully loaded U-Haul refused to go any faster. After all, a 9,000 pound truck has its limits.

“Of course, this was before everyone had cell phones, so I couldn’t tell her to slow down,” he said. With no other options, Jip accepted that he was on his own. He assured himself that everything would be fine — she had to notice that they’d been separated — but something just didn’t feel right.

From the corner of his eye, Jip noticed the bright yellow gas light click on. His heart sank with the gas gauge as it dipped below E, signaling that his fuel and his luck had run out.

“That’s when I realized that I left my wallet in her car. So there I was running out of gas in the middle of nowhere with no money," he said.

Jip put the money issue out of his mind and opted to head towards the nearest gas station. After all, it’s better to be stranded at a gas station than on the side of the highway. The truck was running on fumes, but he could see an exit sign on the horizon. He had made it this far — now it was a matter of actually getting the gas.

As Jip pulled into the deserted gas station, it was clear that he would need some help. “I never thought I would be standing outside a gas station asking strangers for money,” he laughed. “And I must have looked pretty desperate because nobody rejected me.” 

Sure enough, people generously gave Jip their spare change. One guy even gave him a ten dollar bill! After just a few minutes, Jip had enough cash for a collect call and half a tank of gas. He was thankful for all the help he received, but beyond ready to get back on the road and meet up with his ex-girlfriend.

We’ve all been there. No, not the middle of the desert, but in a car with a dangerously empty gas tank. Check out these 5 tips on how to save gas and spare yourself the stress. Now you can rest easy knowing that you’ll make it to the nearest station — but you’re on your own with the gas money.

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