1,000 MILE TEST DRIVE PART II
So, I had another 1000+ mile test drive this week. Another work trip taking me from Denver to Vail, Moab, 4-Corners, Aspen, and back to Denver.
Last time, I had a MR 130. This time, I stopped in Enterprise Truck Rental, and spotted a high-roof 130 Transit. I peaked in the window and noticed the seats... "ooooh - leather!". I got through the rental paperwork, transferred my work gear into the van, and headed home to pack. 10 minutes into the drive, my back was a bit "humid". "ooooh leather" turned out to be "ooooh vinyl". Oh well.
I threw a cot in the van, mountain bike, fishing gear, clothes, food, and a warm sleeping bag. I hit the road, made on work stop, and made it to the top of Vail Pass by 9 pm. Found a nice flat pull-out on the road to Redstone, and did some emails and got ready for bed. I realized that I was parked slightly downhill, so I figured I'd park the other way so I was pointing up hill for better sleeping in the cot.
Surprisingly, the tire(s) were spinning in the slight depression where I parked. Oh crap. Don't let me be stuck here. These tires stink and I'll bet it's not a limited slip. 2 minutes of rocking and I got free.
I heard one truck drive past me in the middle of the night. Where he was going at 2 am, I'll never know. Turns out, sleeping at 11,000' in November in a metal box is quite cold. I started the engine at 4 am to warm up a bit, went back to bed at 4:30 and slept nicely until 6 am.
Worked in Vail, and drove to 4-Corners. Around Grand Junction, I hit a head wind / cross wind, and the 3.7 had difficulty maintaining the 80 mph speed limit without downshifting. The gusty cross winds affected the van and made you pay attention, but it wasn't scary. Pics show how the head wind was really blowing the antenna back.
Once in 4-corners, I did some work, had dinner, bought a heater at Walmart, and got to a nice site at 9 pm outside of Dolores, Colorado.
The perfect site was found, and it started to rain. Turns out, a light rain falling on a metal box makes a heck of a racket. After about an hour of rain, I started to worry that the 50 yards of dirt road that I drove down, might be too steep to drive out of, if the rain makes a muddy mess. I started up the van, drove out and found a flatter site, and got some good sleep. At 3 am, I heard the rain stop, and got some good sleep. At 6 am, I woke to realize the rain didn't stop, but turned to snow! I turned on the heater at about 4 to take the chill out. The problem with propane heaters, is that combusting propane results in heat and water. Condensation was on all the windows and walls. Bummer.
Stopped for coffee at a little market, and got on with my work.
After working in the morning, I checked on the weather. A storm was rolling in, and I was a bit worried about driving in a storm with no limited slip, and unknown tire abilities. I decided to avoid the steep Wolf Creek Pass, and head back up to Grand Junction and if the weather cooperated, head to Aspen for more work. If the snow was heavy, I'd skip Aspen, and head home (and hopefully make it over Vail and Loveland passes).
Stopped for lunch at a FANTASTIC spot overlooking the San Miguel river and the hanging flumes. Google it. Cool stuff.
Made it to Aspen in time for some work, and finished up around dinner time. At this point, it was snowing/raining in Aspen, and being the off-season, hotel rates are cheap. A normally $450/night room goes for $95, so I opted for a warm bed with a shower and TV. Yep. I wussed out. Had a nice dinner, a good sleep, and got my work done in the morning.
The drive home was uneventful and comfortable.
Fuel economy (3 tanks) was 14.7, 15.7, 17.4 mpg. Head winds and a 1000-lb + load was the reason for the lower readings on the first two tanks. 75 mph and 80 mph speed limits don't help the mpg when you are driving a billboard either.
Overall, the van is great. The 130 is too short for my use, but it sure helps to do extended test drives to know what to order. Other notes:
- steering wheel is GREAT. Absolutely love it. Compares nicely to the German cars that I drive!
- it sounds weird, but I'd love to have paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
- why Ford puts the seek buttons on the radio on the passenger side of the dash is beyond me.
- try driving 1000 miles without cruise control sometime.
- nitpick: the trip odometer decimal point needs to be bigger and have more space between the 1s and 1/10ths. Ha!
- vinyl is a no-go for me. Cool temps, yet a wet butt and seat? Ick.
- The 3.7 is a very good engine. No problems climbing many steep passes at high altitude and with 1000+ lbs in the back.
- The 3.7 is a very willing engine. Not quite a great engine, but willing. It doesn't love to rev like the Honda 3.5 or BMW engine, but it certainly gets the job done.
I'm tired of typing. Hope you enjoyed my story.