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Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

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  • Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

    I just completed a round trip from Orange County to Las Vegas. This may not seem like a particularly challenging trip (about 270 miles each way), but I thought I'd write about it anyway, if only to recognize some nice people who helped me out along the way.

    There are three stations that you can fill up at after you leave the L.A. basin: two in Victorville and one in Barstow. In theory, this provides enough opportunities to easily make the trip with fuel to spare. To be safe, however, I filled up at the Clean Energy station at Ontario Airport. It's a very nice one, being relatively new with multiple pumps. This "insurance" detour cost me about 20 minutes.

    With a topped-off tank, I then headed up through the Cajon pass and down into Victorville. My plan was to go to the second Victorville station off I-15 (located on D street, just before leaving town), which was reported on CNGprices.com as the better of the two locations. The other one was reported to be in a "very bad part of town", which sounded like something to avoid. Having just assured my wife that CNG pumps are pretty dependable, I cruised into the D Street station only to find orange cones blocking both pump lanes. No big deal -- I just needed to backtrack a couple of miles to the "bad neighborhood" pumps off of Palmdale Road (actually located on a cross street called McArt Road). I found this station to be open and apparently working fine due to the shuttle bus that was filling up on one side. (Not sure why anyone thought this station is in a particularly bad area of town -- it seemed fine to me.)

    Be forewarned: the Victorville pumps, which are operated by the City of Victorville, require you to watch a training video before you can buy any fuel. That's not unusual, but the trouble is that nothing tells you this at the pump site, and there is no obvious video screen that might tip you off. If, like me, you casually stick your credit card (Visa/MasterCard) into the reader on the pump and expect anything informative to happen, you'll find that it won't. There is a very dim scrolling message that's nearly impossible to read in bright sunlight, and it tells you to enter a two-digit code. I tried every code I've been assigned from other pump sites in a feeble attempt to make it work. The only result: a "transaction cancelled" message each time. The driver of the shuttle bus tried to help, but as a city employee, she'd never needed to use a credit card and finally gave up. Now I was potentially down to one station in Barstow that might work, unless it too was down. My anxiety level began to rise a bit.

    I called the phone number for the Victorville station that's shown on the Fuel Finder app, and talked with an exceptionally nice lady who asked me to wait while she went to find someone who could help me over the phone. She came back on the line and said someone would be calling me back to walk me through the process. After about 15 minutes of waiting, I heard someone call out behind me and, lo and behold, another very helpful city employee had taken the time to come out to the pump in person to assist me(!). He explained that you have to watch the training video on a separate kiosk near the pumps (where there was no sign explaining this, and the small video screen had a hinged metal plate covering it). After he showed me how to insert my credit card and watch the quick video, a code was assigned to my card and I was finally able to fill up. I must say that these two people were extremely kind and helpful, and went way beyond the call of duty to help a random traveler use their facility.

    I then moved on to Barstow, about 40 more miles, where I decided to stop and find its one and only station. I did this mostly out of curiosity, and so that I could find it more easily it on the way back -- locating a CNG station at night in the desert is not something I'd care to do if I didn't know exactly where I was going (it's dark out there!). This station was up and running, so I topped off. It's the most expensive station I've filled up at over the past three years at $2.99 per GGe. Surprisingly, the code I'd just been given in Victorville worked at this pump as well.

    The rest of the way to Vegas was uneventful until I arrived at the Clean Energy station next to McCarran Airport (AKA Las Vegas International Airport). I had a half-tank of fuel left, but figured I'd fill up so I wouldn't have to bother with it when I left several days later. I pulled in, only to find that the station was down due to some ongoing repair work. This means that of the five stations I stopped at on the way to Vegas, two were not operational. This was probably unusual, but any of the three stations that were working provided enough fuel to get safely across the desert. I kept it at 70mph almost the entire trip, and I averaged about 39 mpg in my '12 Civic NG.

    The trip back was easy, as I filled up at McCarran and Barstow, and got even better mileage due to more downhill travel in that direction. Oddly enough, I passed a Tesla going up the grade past the state line. Now THAT guy probably had some serious range anxiety!

    I'd do this trip again in a heartbeat. All you need to do is find out exactly where the stations are on the CNGprices website map (the satellite map is essential, as the locations are not always where indicated on the road map) -- a good fill at any of the three "midpoint" stations between Victorville and Barstow will allow you to get to Vegas and back safely.

  • #2
    Re: Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

    Very good advice APAR. I have been thinking of taking this trip from Orange County to Las Vegas but wasn't sure of the CNG stations along the way. By the way, I did looked up and there is a Tesla Supercharging station in Barstow. I assume maybe that Tesla you saw got a quick charge there.

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    • #3
      Re: Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

      That would explain a Tesla on that stretch of road. I saw one on the way up as well. Still, I'll take a three minute fill of NG over an electric charge-up, even it it's a "supercharge" (wonder if that has any effect on battery life?). I'd imagine a summer trip in one of those would be dicey with the air conditioning running full blast, as my wife's Fusion Energi drops its battery mileage significantly whenever she turns the heater or AC on. No such problem with CNG....

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      • #4
        Re: Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

        When I do Miami, OK to St Louis, MO I just do not think that I may not have enough cng because there is no stations in between (304 miles, Springfield MO open only 5 days a week during work hours). So far I never use my AAA plus and not much range anxiety because there is nothing I can do about it. What is great thing about Civic that slowing down will really stretch range.
        Electric is nice, but many factors affect range and battery health. I do not miss my Leaf much.

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        • #5
          Re: Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

          I am not familiar with the roads on your OK to MO route, but the highway from Southern California to Las Vegas has some signficant (long and steep) grades that rise to an altitude of about 4200 feet. These tend to use a lot more fuel, and the relatively desolate road in some parts is one that no one would want to be stranded on -- particularly in the summer months when the temperature can exceed 110 degrees. This is the reason I wanted to be cautious about staying well-fueled. Good to know that with careful driving you can travel more than 300 miles on a single fill though.

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          • #6
            Re: Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

            I've filled at the McArt Road station several times on my trips between Salt Lake City and Southern California. I had a similar experience at the "D" Street station my first time through town. CNGPrices has listed the D Street station as operational and the McArt as not operational. It took me about a half hour to find the non-working pumps at D Street. That was about two and a half years ago. I think it is the D Street station that is in the bad part of town. The McArt Road station is easy enough to find, but it took me about another half hour to figure out how to watch the video. I could not find an employee to help out. The bus driver who was there filling up could not help me any more than your bus driver could help you. I considered backtracking to Barstow to fill there before heading into the L.A. basin, but finally got it figured out. As you mentioned, the screen is almost impossible to read and the video is very dim. However, I found the station to be very reliable. Just be prepared to shield your eyes like to did when you were a kid to look inside a store window on a bright day.
            _____________________________________
            '12 Blue Mist Metallic Civic Natural Gas; '03 Galapagos Green Civic GX; '07 Alabaster White Civic GX

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            • #7
              Re: Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

              Interesting how similar your experience was to mine. Very frustrating not being able to read the scrolling displays on the pumps (even when squinting, shielding it with my hands, etc.), which were probably even worse after another two and a half years of sun exposure. The D Street station was down due to an "electrical short", according to the guy who came out to help me. The good news is that he also said that they are planning to replace the McArt pumps soon, so maybe this will become a much better station in the near future.

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              • #8
                Re: Orange County to Las Vegas - January 6-10, 2014

                Staying safe is most important whatever you do and if there was possibility to refuel on my St Louis trips I will do it. I never run of cng in my cars but it is nice to know Civic NG limits. Right on in OK AAA have dedicated Ford CNG trucks that will share cng with your car if you run of fuel, so far I did not try that too

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                • #9
                  It’s 2020 and the situation in Victorville still is the same. FILL up at the Cng station on MC ART. Though the lights are not working. The pumps were. Barstow station is nice close to fwy and has a clean bathroom!

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