Drivers stopping at or passing by Frankie’s West Side late Tuesday morning got a glimpse of two men trying to set a Guinness World Record.
Wayne Gerdes and Bob Winger spent a couple of hours in Dickinson putting diesel fuel in the white 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI sedan they have been driving since June 7.
Gerdes and Winger are “co-pilots” on a mission to break a world record for what Guinness calls best fuel economy on a drive through all 48 of the continental United States in a non-hybrid vehicle.
“What we’re doing here is we maintain between the speed limits, (stay in the) right-hand lane in what we call a ridge ride,” said Gerdes, who is from Wadsworth, Ill. “We use quick hits to get people off our six. We don’t want to impede traffic. On the downhills, you let it glide. On the uphills, you struggle like crazy.”
So far, the two have driven more than 5,500 miles and are averaging 77.5 miles per gallon.
With the Rocky Mountains and Hurricane Andrea in their rear view, the duo is well on their way to setting a new record. Australians Helen and John Taylor averaged 67.9 mpg while driving a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI in the summer of 2009.
Gerdes and Winger, who is from Williamsburg, Va., started and will finish their drive at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Herndon, Va. They still had about 2,500 miles remaining as of noon Tuesday and were hoping to reach Illinois by the end of the day.
They left Dickinson on Highway 22 and passed through New England and Hettinger along Highway 12 en route to Interstate 29 in South Dakota, which would also allow them to swing through Minnesota before heading east to Iowa and Illinois.
The two are documenting nearly every aspect of their drive, which is a part of the requirements set by Guinness.
After refueling at each stop — Dickinson was only their fourth refuel of the trip — they seal the car’s gas tank, which is then dated and signed by a witness who is employed by the Shell station — one of the official sponsors of the record attempt — at which they refuel.
On Tuesday, that person was Slyvia Kirby, manager of Frankie’s.
“It’s amazing they can get that many miles to the gallon,” Kirby said. “What are we doing wrong?”
At each stop, the drivers must log their fuel economy and take pictures of the odometer’s display, the fuel pump and the person who signs their seal. They’re also tracked by smartphones and a GPS.
Gerdes and Winger also have little tactics to help truly top off their fuel tank. Winger, for example, bounced on the back end of the car, which helps allow more fuel to get into the lines and eliminate what he called “air pockets.”
They put 16.75 gallons of gas in the tank in Dickinson, which came to $68.66.
“A refuel is usually about an hour and a half to two hours long,” said Gerdes, who runs the website cleanmpg.com and holds more than 100 mileage records.
Gerdes said seeing the country has been the best part of the trip, mentioning a drive along the Cascade Mountains and Clearwater River as his favorite part so far and a flat tire in Albuquerque, N.M., as their biggest hurdles.
“It’s been a heck of a trip,” Gerdes said.