Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gas Station Statistics

Every time I refuel my car - a 2015 Subaru Forester that I've owned for just over two years now - I log it in a spreadsheet. The idea was mostly to track things like how much money I spend on gas, my Forester's MPG, that sort of thing. (By the way...$105 per month and 29.6 miles per gallon, so far.) But I've never really looked at the gas stations themselves. So, let's dive in and talk gas station statistics!

As of today, I have refueled the Forester 92 times in 2+ years. Here are the gas station brands I've refueled at the most:

Shell - 25
Mobil - 19
BP - 13
Kroger - 9
Exxon - 7
Sheetz - 4
Citgo - 3
Sunoco - 2
Circle K - 1
Flying J - 1
Pilot - 1
Gate - 1
Marathon - 1
Speedway - 1
Wawa - 1
other* - 3

(* - These are "Mom and Pop" gas stations that are unaffiliated with a major brand name.)

Lately, which type of gas station I go to has depended on, more than anything else, one thing:

Publix has a deal every two or three weeks (on average) where if you spend more than $50 on groceries, you can get $10 off a $50 gas card. It's a pretty sweet deal, way better than Kroger's fuel rewards program that only gives you roughly $1 back for every $100 you spend. I take advantage of this deal every chance I get, and that means I am normally awash in gas cards. (The most gas cards I've ever possessed at one time is six. Right now I have two, one of which is half used.)

So, anyway, Publix doesn't sell gas cards for every type of gas station, of course. Usually they have Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil (good at either Exxon or Mobil, of course). They also have a couple other brands like Marathon and RaceTrac that don't have enough stations around here to make it worth getting one of their cards. (Unless I'm making a trip to Ohio soon, perhaps. LOTS of Marathons up there. There are even more Speedways in Ohio, but Publix doesn't sell Speedway cards.) So, I always stick with Shell, BP, and ExxonMobil. This is why Shell, Mobil, BP, and Exxon are ranked #1, #2, #3, and #5, respectively. And, 34 of my last 36 fillups have been at one of those types of stations.

Between Shell, BP, and Exxon/Mobil, Exxon/Mobil is the most convenient when at home, because I pass by one every day. (17 of the 19 Mobil fillups were at the same gas station, the Mobil closest to home.) Shell is most convenient when traveling, because Shells are usually easier to find on the road than BPs, Exxons, or Mobils. BP kind of gets the best of both worlds, except it's not as close to home as the Mobil down the street, and there aren't quite as many BPs out there as there are Shells.

With gas prices as low as they've been - even though prices have been going up some lately - I almost can't use the gas cards fast enough! And, it is kind of a pain to feel like I have to fill up at one of those types of stations, as opposed to more awesome gas stations like Sheetz. If only Publix sold Sheetz gas cards! But, I still say it's worth it: so far, I've saved over $250 by way of the Publix gas card discounts.* And that's just for my car; we've saved even more than that using these gas cards to also refuel Amber's car.

(* - Generally speaking, shopping at Publix is more expensive than shopping at Kroger, so exactly how much money I've actually "saved" here is debatable. Also, sometimes gas at Shell/BP/Exxon/Mobil is more expensive than at other stations...but, saving $10 out of $50 is better than saving 10 cents per gallon, or even 20 cents per gallon, by going to a different station.)

Speaking of the price of gas: I also kept a gas log with my previous car, although not for the entire life of that car - basically, from 2008 to 2014. During that time, the average price I paid for gas was $3.17 per gallon. Now, that includes some fillups in Canada, where gas is more expensive...but still, there's no debating gas has been cheaper of the last two years. Since I bought the Forester, the average price of gas has been $2.33 per gallon. So even though the Forester doesn't get the MPG that my old Honda Civic did, I am actually spending less on gas on a per mile basis with the Forester due to cheaper gas - so far. (And also a per month basis, but that's more from taking fewer long road trips. We aren't planning to drive the kids to Alaska any time soon.)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

2015 Year In Review

Facebook has this automated "Year In Review" thing where it takes your pictures/updates/whatever from the year and pieces them together. Well, I figured I could write my own "Year In Review" instead, and it'll be way better! Or at least have fewer pictures and more statistics. Way more statistics.

Road Trips

Two big road trips this year: I went to Louisiana for three days to burn up "use or lose it" vacation time, and we took the family to the Ozarks for a week in October. The Ozarks trip was great! Couldn't have imagined a week-long road trip going any better with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old in tow. We also went to Jacksonville twice, Toledo twice, Pennsylvania once (all to visit family), and did a quick weekend trip to the Virginia mountains. I also flew to San Diego for work - not really a road trip, but it was my first visit to San Diego County.

So, all that means lots of new counties visited for the entire family this year:
- Me: 112 new counties; national total 1,792 (57.0%)
- Marla: 112 new counties; national total 644 (20.5%)
- Bruce: 178 new counties; national total 262 (8.3%)

Bruce is currently 16½ months old, and at that age, Marla's national county count was 313, plus 5 in Canada. So, Bruce is a bit behind Marla's pace. And given that we drove Marla to Colorado at 21½ months, keeping up is only going to get harder.

Also, states:
- Marla: 1 new state (Illinois); national total 25/50. It took Marla less than two years to get her first 24 states, and another 2½ years after that to get the 25th state. The "easiest-to-get-to" state that Marla has not visited yet is Indiana; all of the others will require a bit more work.
- Bruce: 8 new states; national total 15/50. Bruce hasn't been to Delaware or New Jersey, among lots of other states. But we can now say he's been to the Central Time Zone.

I put 17,511 miles on the Subaru this year, only slightly more than the total driving I did between the Honda and Subaru the year before. My annual goal is 20,000 miles per year, but I've actually only surpassed that goal once in the last eight years. As long of a road trip as that Ozarks trip was - about 3,000 miles in a little over a week - it wasn't enough!

Nights Away From Home

Related to all of the driving stats: In years in which we're NOT having a new baby, I'm typically away from home between 40 and 50 nights each year. This year, though: only 36 nights away from home. You know, now that we have two kids instead of just one...maybe I should adjust my expectations?

I've been tracking where we spend the night every night since before Marla and Bruce were born. Here are the number of overnights we've had in each state for both Marla and Bruce:


Big year for Triangle Curling! Hard to believe at this point, but the grand opening of the new curling building only happened 9 months ago. Since then, I've been curling...a lot.

Well, really not that much more than normal. Here are the number of curling games I've played each year, along with my won-loss record:

I did curl more in 2015 than I have any other year, but not by that much compared to 2010-2012. Those years, I traveled to out-of-town bonspiels much more than I do these days; almost all of my games in 2015 were at home. In fact, I haven't curled outside of North Carolina since August 2013.

So, yes: while 2015 was the best curling year ever in terms of quantity, it was the worst in terms of winning percentage. It turns out, I was a much better "arena ice curler" than I am a "dedicated curling ice curler", at least relative to the competition. The reasons for that deserve their own future post, perhaps.

By the way, I played game #300 on New Year's Day. We won! I also played game #301; we lost.

Restaurant Serving Times

Speaking of things that we don't do as often now that we have kids, let's talk about going out to eat. Since 1994, every time we go to a "sit down" restaurant (where a waiter/waitress comes to your table to take your order and serves your food some time later), I've timed how long it has taken the restaurant to serve my food, starting when I give my order and ending when I get my food. I have a spreadsheet and everything!

The spreadsheet only goes back to 2004, not 1994, but since then, I've gone out to eat at least 20 times every year. Not this year: just 18. Going out to eat at a restaurant that does not serve the food right away (i.e. not fast food) is very difficult when you have young children, and not that much fun. So, we don't do it often. I'm actually surprised we did it that many times.

So, owing to small sample space, the fastest serving time of the year wasn't really that great: 9 minutes, 35 seconds, by Danny's BBQ in Cary, NC. Every other year, there has been at least one serving time under 7 minutes, but not this year. And that's not to say I didn't try - we visited almost all of the traditionally fast restaurants.

We went to two-time defending champion Lexington BBQ, which clocked in at 12:57. Turns out, they are much slower when your wife orders chicken fingers. But that was what I wanted to find out: Would they be just as fast when you ask for something other than barbecue? The answer is: No.

We also went out of our way - WAY out of our way - to revisit another two-time champion, personal favorite Waffle Shop in State College, PA. Our first time at Waffle Shop (or even in State College for that matter) in five years! But, they also clocked in over 10 minutes, at 11:46. Unfortunately, though, we never made it to Ideal Hot Dog in Toledo this year - another former two-time champion. Missed opportunity for them!

The slowest time of the year was a truly epic performance by Red Robin in Raleigh: 45 minutes, 40 seconds. That's the 5th slowest of ALL TIME, and that does go back to 1994. We're not going back, at least not to that location.

Our Children Are Approximately One Year Older Than They Were At This Time Last Year

So, here's the thing with kids. No matter how good or bad a job you do as parents, they get older! Well, as long as you keep them alive. So far, so good.

It's really hard to gauge one's success at parents statistically. As someone who is (obviously) obsessed with statistics, that can be very hard for me.

Coming Up In 2016

Here's what is on tap for 2016:

The USA Curling National Championships are being held in Jacksonville (yes, the Florida one) February 6-13. We're taking most of the week off from work to attend, and I can't even tell you how excited I am about this.

Disney World! While we're in Florida for the curling, we're going to take the kids to Magic Kingdom for a day. We hate big crowds, and so if we're going to do a Magic Kingdom trip, a Tuesday in February sounds like the perfect time for us to go. Also, we won't have the freedom to do this next year, because...

Marla starts Kindergarten! This is the big one. Brand new and exciting adventures await!

A lot more curling! My goal is to play 50 games this year. By the way, I also have a lifetime goal: 2,000 games. If I play 40-50 games each year, then I'll get to 2,000 in my late 60s or 70s. If that sounds crazy, it's not - not unlike golf, you can curl well into your 70s, maybe even your 80s. The trick will be to not die of heart disease or cancer before then.

Road trips...??? Beyond our almost-week in Florida for curling and Disney, I have no idea what kind of road trips we're going to pursue this year. Bruce will be at a tough age for national park-type traveling this year. If he's anything like Marla was, then he'll be too big for a carrier, and too small to walk himself, which makes any kind of non-strollerable hiking excursion mostly impossible. After the curling/Disney trip, we'll put together a road trip plan for the summer. I mean, we're taking Marla to Magic Kingdom - basically the best place in the world for a 4-year-old girl - so maybe we can justify making the next trip not quite so kid-centric. (Iowa it is! MOOR COUNTIES FOR DADDY!!!)