Warning...Long post ahead...
We've had our rig (2005 Pathfinder with 125K miles + 2004 X23B) for a year now, and just got back from our first long road trip, 2000-mile round-trip between Chicago and Mt. Rushmore. Had a blast, especially at Custer State Park, SD, where we camped for the week. I'll post pics whenever I can get them off my wife's computer. For now, just thought I'd share some impressions from the trip:
- Driving I-90 through MN and SD...one word--WINDY!!! On the way to SD, we drove through 30-mph headwinds essentially the whole way. Aside from averaging 8mpg with the headwind, the rig handled it well. I initially tried driving in 4th gear (OD is 5th) per the owner's manual, but felt like I was losing the battle against the wind trying to maintain 60mph. Not to mention I was seeing trans temps as high as 217-degrees (normal driving = 175-degrees). So, dropped it into third gear, and within minutes, the trans temp dropped to about 185 and stayed there the rest of the trip. Also, it then felt like adequate power again, and I was able to maintain 60-65mph almost effortlessly and use cruise control. The engine was spinning at just under 4000rpm's, but the gas mileage was not any worse than it was when I was fighting through 4th gear. Lesson learned--tow in 3rd with a Pathfinder.
- Equal-I-zer hitch handled cross winds perfectly. Coming home, we had 20-25mph cross winds through SD and MN, and I never felt the camper getting away from me. Able to maintain 60-65 mph, and drove through a thunderstorm too. No white knuckles!
- Wind is a greater factor than terrain. We handled the hills just fine. When there was no wind, I'd get about 10mpg's going up and down the hills in SD. Add the wind factor and it plummetted to 7-8 mpg's.
- Get gas well before you need it, especially if you require premium. There were a couple times we ran to a quarter tank before stopping for gas, only to find that the gas station (Centex stations, especially) didn't have premium. So I had to add a couple gallons of regular into my mostly-premium fuel tank so I could make it to the next station. We had this down pat by the time we took the return trip home. LOL
- Some things we did before the long road trip that helped us: 1) Changed the trans fluid, 2) replaced the 10-year-old tires on the camper, 3) replaced worn drive belts on the TV, 4) fixed our fuel gauge so we know how much gas we had... We have Good Sam Roadside, and am glad we didn't have to use it.
- Finally, just want to say Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Black Hills National Forest, Rough Rock Falls, Sylvan Lake...All very beautiful places, and we made lasting memories for ourselves and our 4 young kids. Saw buffalos on the road, antelopes in the meadows, elk on the hilltops, bighorn sheep, pheasants, deers--nature at it's best. The view near the top of Needles Highway is awesomely breathtaking. We were blessed to have a little rain that created a rainbow from one mountain top to the next while driving up Needles. I'll post that pic soon...
This post was long, but hopefully it's helpful for some others with a similar rig planning a similar road trip.