Chevy Avalanche Road Trip: 3-State Detour

Avalanche I-80 II
Day 2 had us waking up just outside of Chicago. The nice thing about having a 31.5-gallon fuel tank is that we could do a full day of driving (at least 10 hours per day) on a single tank of gas. According to our computer, we could go about 570 miles, averaging around 18 mpg, so we wouldn't need to fill up as often as most people on the road (who aren't driving semitrucks).

Still, with Midwest fuel prices hovering around $3.80 per gallon, we're talking about $100 every time we stopped. And thanks to my overly cautious credit card company - which likes to automatically shut off my card in $75 and $95 increments, depending on the filling station - that usually meant I had to use the pump back-to-back times to get my tank full. Ugh.

From Chicago we headed north to see an old high-school friend, who I had just learned that morning was in Madison, Wis. We were still on target to get to Lincoln, Neb., before turning in for sleep that night, assuming we didn't hang around too long.

We timed it to arrive in Madison for lunch so that traffic wouldn't be too bad. Unfortunately, there was a lot of highway construction on U.S. Highway 12 in Madison, and I'm sure traffic would have been even more horrible later in the afternoon. After a quick tour of my friends' house and man cave (I have got to get one of those), we had a good lunch that included a substantial dose of reminiscing. Of course, I made sure we didn't tell too many of the "wrong" stories with my daughter at the table, who seemed quite interested in all of it.

Avalanche I80 museum II
Soon we were heading back to Interstate 80 for more westward progress until we stopped at the world's largest truck stop, just outside of Davenport, Iowa. For those who have never seen this place on TV or have not had a chance to stop by, it needs to be on your bucket list. It's crazy.

Not only is this place big, but it has a semitruck and trucking museum, the biggest truck customizing store you've ever seen, and more custom rigs in the parking lot than you'll find anywhere in the world. And if you want huge food and coffee selection, or home-cooked food, or a relaxing massage, or movie theater, you have everything you could want under one gigantic roof.

We will say, especially since we got a later start on the day due to our Madison detour, that getting through Iowa to the Nebraska border seemed like it took forever. These are long states, and it wasn't fun driving west at sunset when you still have to get two hours down the road. Eventually we made it to Omaha, where we needed a quick fill-up (and to clean off all the dead bugs from our windshield and grille) to be ready for tomorrow's early morning start. I dragged my grumpy passenger out for a photo here.

Avalanche dead bugs II
We didn't have much time to stop and do any sightseeing, but we did pass through the birthplaces of Ronald Reagan and John Wayne, as well as Madison Country, famous for all those picturesque bridges. During this section, a good-sized storm was southwest of us, so we had a constant headwind pushing us around for about six hours of our drive. That had to hurt our fuel economy. Average speed, according to the trip computer, was 68 mph.

By the time we pulled into the hotel parking lot, the Cabela's across the street was closed. It would have been nice to spend some time there, but we still had work to do at night and probably a little more the next morning.

Two days of driving and almost 1,500 miles added to the Avalanche's odometer with just three fill-ups. Not bad. At our fill-up in Wisconsin earlier in the morning, the computer said we averaged 17.7 mpg, while our calculations told us we got 17.9 mpg. That evening in Omaha, our computer told us we were averaging 18.4 mpg, while our own calculations reported 17.2 mpg.

Next stop: the Rockies.

Avalanche Omaha II


Seen that truck stop on tv think larry the cable guy was there for his only in america show

I think you need to take the lead sneakers off, I had never got less than 19 mpg on a trip with my 2005 4X4 Avalanche, and that was haulinjg 20 sheets of dri-wall 4X4 at 39lbs each! with 2 adults and more stuff, on our trips with just lugage we never got under 20mpgin the hyw, and as little as 18 in the mountains (interstates). The only thing I did was a cold air intake, and tuner, and kept 38lbs in the tires, 40 int the rear with the dri-wall.

i don't think the MPG's are that bad, seems to right in line, my 05 would do about the same maybe a little better with all that cargo and passengers, my friends with the 5.3 are always bitch en that they can't get the MPG's that are advertised and they drive like old men

@Dan the Man - I find that driving smoothly makes a huge difference in MPG. Driving like you are on an icy road helps mpg. Slow gradual accelleration, gently build momentum for hills, allow a slight loss of speed on hills, and as sandman4x4 pointed out "wear lighter shoes" ;)
The Avalanche probably has an advantage over a standard Chevy truck because of the different nose clip and the covered deck. If you read back to the tonneau cover piece, those devices do improve mpg.

yea need to stay out of the gas pedal and coast to red lights and stops signs, and driving the speed limit, using CC, all the small things add up to a few MPG's

I'm not sure about the purpose of this article but I'll add something.

If I'm not towing or hauling, I'd much rather drive a comfortable, fuel efficient car. Last weekend I rented a 2012 Toyota Camry. It had amazing fuel economy for a mid size car. At 65mph it got 42-44mpg, at 70+ it got 36-38mpg, had plenty of seating and luggage space.

I don't understand why Chevy is stopping production of these great freeway gobblers.

If they lowered it, put in a frugal 4 or v-6 with an 8 speed auto trans and then gave it an aero workover - shazam - a commuter with 26 freeway mpg and more if they lightened up the frame.

So much promise for such a sensible pick-up that doesn't need to tow, haul, or carry on 1/2 ton.

Call it the Chevy Snoball, keeping with the Avalanche theme.

It's not your credit card company shutting off the pump at the predetermined amount. It's the station. The station selects a shut off level based upon charges by the credit card company. The higher the shut off limit, the more risk to the credit card company and, thus, the higher the perecentage of your purchase the credit card company will take. To minimize that cut (or call it to increase profit) the station can select a lower shutoff amount and, thus, a lower percentage to the credit card company. So, the next time the clerk in the station blames it on the credit card company, you'll know better.

Whose the cute girl in the pic?

@Ken - not everyone can afford a second vehicle considering licence and insurance fees, maintenance etc. I think that is why pickups sell so well, they are very versatile devices. I do agree that it does make sense to use a more efficient vehicle for non-utility type tasks. We use our Sienna much more than my truck. There are many times when the truck is better dispite the mpg penalty ie. camping trips (even ones to easy access locations), driving in the winter after a dump of snow, or even packing around my 2 labrador retrievers and the rat (little dog). Funny thing is, if it wasn't for the dogs we would of bought a car instead of a mini-van.
The current crop of trucks are as comfortable as any car. I think that the next gen trucks will have some respectable mpg numbers too.

@Benchimus - you are going to get banned if you hit on the boss's daughter ;)

@Lou- Worth it. lol. On topic tho, this truck likely drives fine and stuff.

I don't think the mpg is that good. It's supposed to be 21 mpg highway according to Bob's favorite website fueleconomy.govThey have gone mostly all highway but have gotten only gotten 17 mpg.

This story is making me feel even more awesome because about a month back I decided to do a FE check to see what my hwy FE was post TRD Supercharger and TRD Dual Exhaust. I fueled up and got on 1604W and left NW San Antonio when I merged onto I-35 and encountered horrible bumper to bumper traffic on I-35 from San Antonio 1/2 way to New Braunfels. After the bumper to bumper traffic the speed quickly picked up to the 70mph speed limit where I found myself doing between 70 to 80mph in the fast lane (doing 80 more often than 70) all the way to Austin. I drove the same way back with no traffic congestion doing 70 to 80mph and immediately refilled and hand calculated my FE to 17.2mpg. This didn’t sound bad because the NA Tundra is EPA rated 18mpg hwy and that is at 48mph with no bumper to bumper traffic at any point or the lift I have on my truck.

This road trip has been a fun read but I'm still unsure about the Avalanche as a vehicle I would own. It's been on the market over 10 yrs now (released at the same time Chevy made the even uglier Aztec) and I still ask is it a truck? Is it an SUV? And it seems to have inspired the look of the even uglier Honda Ridgeline.


No doubt. In my case the second vehicle is the wife's. :)

@Tom The 21mpg is done by a 2wd chevy with out a load in the bed. The Avalanche is load down with stuff and is 4wd. Even the ford eco boot is rated 23mpg but its 2wd. Next time you read or watch a add it says in the fine print 2wds reg cabs with the highest differential they offer.

Do the research before you do a sermon on 2wd vs 4wd. The 4wd Avalanche is also rated at 21 hwy.

Sorry for getting off topic but can PUTC get find out more about this

Do a big burn out/smoke show/brake isnt your truck !!!

OK, so where exactly are you headed? The story does not mention the final destination.

I did look the highest a 4wd Avalanche is rated for is 19 mpg highway. I don't know where you get 21mpg from. 1500 4WD

@ tom i see now i looked few other sites it does say 21 hwy my bad

I've always wondered how GM could get the exact same mpg ratings out of it's 4x4 as it does with its 4x2 truck. The 5.3 mpg specs are identical.

@ Lou I got no clue LOL

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading.

The comments to this entry are closed.