As some of you know, we’d been considering a run to New Brunswick/Nova Scotia this year. We HAD been planning on running through Quebec. We decided instead to stay Stateside due to the added miles from our Western NY home.
We decided to run through New England, taking the Scenic route, though Keene NH… Rt 7, 202/4/9/28 etc. Pretty route, but not for the faint of heart in terms of towability, particularly with larger trailers.
We took our new (to us) 95 Chevy Astro, with it’s 4.3L V6, and 3.42 gears. Rated capacity for this gearing is 4500lbs, though I’ve seen ratings for this design as high as 6600lbs. I expect we’re dealing
with the higher rating being the somewhat more popular 3.78 gearing. The tranny /engine combo was a dream for towing, as it turns out.
(I’ll get to that)
We towed our faithful Viking SP166… GV around 1500lbs.
We decided to go with no advance reservations, so as to allow us to stop at things that captured our interest on the road. Between the backroad routing, and our taking our time, we made it so far as about half-way across New Hampshire, the first night. In looking at the AAA and Woodall’s listings, we opted to stay at the spot nearest our location, which turned out to be the “Blake’s Brook Family Campground”
Blake’s Brook Family Campground
RR1 Box 149 Mountain Rd.
Epsom, NH 03234
We were less than fully pleased with this particular camping experience. Woodall’s rates it rather low… in our opinion this rating is justified. Oh, the people were freindly enough, but we
found the facilities wanting, in every area. The shower and restroom facilities were ‘rustic’ to say the very least. The campsite itself wasn’t easy to get into, being several miles off the paved road,
Quiet, though, and in our case, fairly secluded. We were apparently given a site in a new area of the park. It was OK for the night, since we were leaving at first light, we shrugged, and set up camp.
We got up, and proceeded on our way, eventually getting onto I-95 to go up to Houlton, ME. For those who don’t know this particular stretch of road, it has a bit of a reputation. It’s a nasty place to break down, particularly north of Brunswick or so. The road has many many miles of hills, all fairly
gentle but some quite long. On all of these hills is the largest amount of trees I’ve ever seen lining any freeway, anywhere. Very pretty, and worth the drive.
It was here that the Astro really showed me something. What I found on these hills was that if handled correctly, the Astro will tow this weight of trailer with it’s two-stage overdrive engaged. The trick is to watch the amount of tourqe being applied at all times. Using the cruise control required me to drop OD out altogether, and heated the engine around 20 degrees or so…. heating the tranny, with it.
I shut the cruiser off and shifted to what I call ‘momentum mode’, allowing the down side of hills to take me to around 65 and sometimes 70, depending, and then going up the next hill, watching the vaccum guage to keep the thing from downshifting… simply backing off on the throttle, allowing the hill to slow me down some, sometimes allowing it to drop to around 45, depending on traffic. ( In traffic of course I kept my speed somewhat more constant, but on this outback road, often as not, I had nobody behind me, so was able to stretch the momentum. Both the engine and tranny actually ran cooler, doing this, by some 20 degrees. Besides, I assume my milage was far better, too.
We crossed the border at Houlton, ME, and headed up the Trans-Canada to Sussex, where we stayed at one of the better campgrounds I’ve had the pleasure of being at:
Pine Cone Camping
P.O. Box 4852, Sussex, NB, E4E 5L9
Directions: 3 miles east of Sussex on Trans Canada Highway 2 to Exit 418,
east 1 mile on Hwy # 114
Open: May 10 to October 15
Daily Rates: $22.50 to $24.50 (cash or cheque only)
Site Description: Level Ground, Shaded, Partial Shade, Fireplace/Pit/Barbeque, Handicap Access Facilities: Hydro/20/30-amps, Water, Sewer, Dump Station, Flush Toilets, Showers, Laundry, Internet Access, Pay Phone, Camp/Grocery Store, Restaurant/Snack Bar, Security Gate, Night Guard, Propane,
Recreation: Outdoor Heated Pool, Wading Pool, Playground, Recreational Director, Recreation Hall, Bingo, Dances, Horseshoes Area Attractions (within 10km): Golf Course,The Hopewell Rocks, Reversing Falls, Tidal Bore, Magic Mountain, Magnetic Hill, Fundy Trail Parkway
Actually, this should read within 50 klicks, not 10.
If you’re visiting Fundy, be prepared for longer drives over roads which may be less than you’ve come to expect, and more up and down than anyplace I’ve driven in a long time. Even with the higher gears, the Astro proved to be a mountain goat. When allowed to use it’s low end tourqe, the thing lumbered up and down every hill presented it.
That said, Pine Cone is a fine choice for basing your tourism of the area. Only two drawbacks I could even think of that anyone would have is that it’s close to the highway, and close to the CN Railway’s Moncton sub. (2 or three trains daily) For us, it was a plus… being railfans. Now, we COULD have stayed in the Fundy National Park, but reservations are required. As it is, we did fine, visiting the park when needed.
Fueling up in the morning, I had a bit of a shock; over $50 for a tank of fuel for my Astro’s 27 gallon tank. Of course, I later found that it translated to around 35 bucks US. Lesson learned: Charge all purchases as possible when in Canada… the conversion takes place at current bank rates automatically. Cash they’ll do, but you tend to get screwed on the exchange.
We stayed three days driving all over the area, putting almost 700 miles on the truck in three days,, and loved every minute of it. The Pine Cone is highly reccomended. And Fundy, well… is Fundy. I won’t
try to add anything to what is already on the web about it.
As a result of this trip, my wife has decided she wants to go to a larger camper… possibly a Trailmanor, or a high-lo. (Shrug) She loves to camp, but wants to eliminate the canvas, Oh, well. We’ll see.