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Old 11th May 2015, 04:46   #1
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Default Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

At 11:30PM on 5th October 2014, I was a tired but happy guy returning the keys of a rented car at Bradley International Airport when the service representative receiving the keys had asked me:

What is it with people of your culture? You spend so much time and money for what? To see leaves?

She was right. It was October – smack in the peak of the Fall season. It is that time of the year when the immigrant desi population comes out in full force in the North-Eastern United States and goes road-tripping in search of the colorful Fall foliage; just as sure as the deer come out to graze at dusk out beside the highways in Spring.

So we proceeded to tell her how beautiful New Hampshire (NH) really is in the Fall season – and she seemed to understand what it’s all about. But then we also went on to explain that this year our mission in NH had been to climb Mt.Washington and not to see the Fall foliage. She immediately thought that we had been to Mt.Rushmore (the mountain in South Dakota with the faces of US’ presidents engraved on it). Being too tired to school an American on American landmarks, we gave up trying to explain our trip to her.

However, please do have a look at these pictures below from my trip to Kancamagus highway in New Hampshire in October 2013; the foliage of entire landscapes in the North Eastern USA changes color from a uniform green to myriad shades of yellow, orange and red. From afar, these places sometimes look like God went crazy like Andy Warhol with a paint brush. And NH arguably showcases the best of God’s artistry every year.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-nh1.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-nh2.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-nh3.jpg

In general, to see the North Eastern USA in all its Fall glory, you would need to visit either New Hampshire (Kancamagus highway), Maine (Acadia National Park) or Vermont.

This time around in October 2014 however, as we had tried explaining futilely to the Budget lady, our mission had been to climb the much vaunted Mt.Washington auto-road in NH, having already been privy to the multi-colored fall vegetation in the plains. To get to Mt.Washington, one needs to drive past the other scenic places that NH has to offer. The Mt.Washington auto-road has a long history and is supposed to be a tough road to traverse. Ever since I arrived in the state of Connecticut in 2013, I have been seeing cars with the proud sticker “This car climbed Mt.Washington” on the trunk.

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It turns out that Mt.Washington is 6288 ft above sea level. But the hairy part is Mt.Washington’s auto-road itself; winding and narrow with 2 lanes of opposing traffic, it is a bit challenging. Sure, it’s nowhere as challenging as the ghat roads in the Rishikesh-Badrinath stretch of the Garhwal Himalayas. But a tumble from a precipice you’re perched precariously over right now is as fatal as a fall from any other.

In such scary and narrow roads, it makes sense to take a car one would be comfortable driving in. So we did the most sensible thing and rented a perfectly suited car – a 2014 Ford Expedition 8 seater which is about a mile wide and about as light-footed as a Sumo wrestling champion:

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Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-car_3.jpg

At 350 HP with an AWD drive train and a 3.5L V6 turbo-boosted engine and had what felt like metres of ground clearance; this SUV never ceased to amaze us. On the interstate highways, we never felt any of the irregularities and potholes that we saw. It was tough to rein in all the power and we often found ourselves hurtling effortlessly at 85 mph, 10 mph over the legal limit in the New Hampshire highways.

On the downside, the handling felt rubbery and lifeless and the miles per gallon we got was a measly 14 (or 5 km/litre). In case you just glossed over that last bit – the crowded metropolitan buses plying in Chennai run 5 km a litre back home. And this monster gave us eventually only that much mileage on the fuel.

Anyways, we set out from Connecticut on our 250 mile trip at around 8 AM after picking up the car from Budget car rentals over at Bradley International Airport. After detouring to pick up a friend in Framingham (MA), we soon found ourselves on the way properly to NH. All along the way, we saw frenetic activity on the interstates. There were RVs with bicycles, motorcycles and towed motorboats on the roads. There were SUVs with kayaks tied to the roof. There were pickup trucks being driven to offroading destinations with dune buggies and offroading motorcycles in the back. People were in general trying to make the most of whatever was left to be done before Winter would swoop down in a couple of months’ time and rob us of any chance to be outdoors. We too pressed on with the same sense of purpose and urgency. My friend was at the wheel while we were in the plains. The agreement was that I would take over when the Mt.Washington Auto Road was upon us.

Slowly the colored trees all around us increased in density and the boards by the highway only merely confirmed our entry into the state of NH.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-approaching-nh.jpg

We filled up fuel just prior to arrival at the Auto Road. We had lost half a tank, or $60 in fuel just getting to the foothills. The thing just sat there and drank fuel from the pump while the rest of the people in the car went about shopping in the attached store. The shop was full of toys, snacks, winter sports equipment and protective gear to shield oneself from the cold. The winter would be a busy time for this shop when people would drop in to fill up on the way to the nearby ski resorts. We set out again and soon arrived at a long queue of vehicles lined up for the Auto Road. We were there!

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-sign1.jpg

After paying $60 to the toll booth, we were handed a package containing an audio CD meant to accompany us on our climb and a brochure about the hill and the much touted “This car climbed Mt.Washington” sticker. The brochure was full of legal disclaimers and a reminder that the van service to the top would get us there safely if the drive was too much. We quickly stashed the package and switched places at the wheel. The hill-climb was on!

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-up1.jpg

I made sure I had engaged the behemoth of a SUV in the equivalent of gear 1; it was an automatic drive with L1, L2 and a series of “D” gears, apart from the “R”, “P” and “N”. Someone in the car put on the audio CD and it began rattling off stories about the laying of this road (how it was built, for how long, how many lives were lost etc.). But I was forced to pay attention to the road. It quickly became apparent that bringing this car for this ride was a major risk. I found out that I couldn’t make out at what point the road fell off on my right side.

The uphill climb was along a winding dual-carriageway road with a steep cliff
along the right side, and occasionally to the left too. I played it by ear, and judged only by guesswork if I was keeping the car off the precipice on the right hand side for the most part. Soon the occupants of the car on the right side were emitting squeaks and gasps. The view meanwhile, was breathtaking when it was not scary. It was too bad that none of the occupants in the car found it in them to take many pictures broadside from the windows. From their viewpoints, it seemed as if we may fall off at any moment.

My wife however rescued the day with a few pictures looking to the front. Meanwhile, sitting where I was, all I could make out was that the road approximately ended at the three-quarters length of the front hood just before the right hand side headlamps.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-up5no-space.jpg

Sometimes there was an extra foot of land off the road on the right side and it offered some peace of mind to the occupants of the car.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-up4with-space.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-up2.jpg

Occasionally, when both sides of the road had precipices, cars coming downhill would over-react and hog all the space in the slim road. This led to a couple of tight situations – the worst of which was with a Toyota Corolla driven downhill by a scared desi who nearly forced us off the precipice on our side, all because he thought he needed a little room for himself.


Sometimes the tarmac road would turn into mud roads along the climb.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-up3starting-squeeze.jpg

In maybe 45 minutes, we reached the top. We parked the car and quickly realized that the weather up top bore no correlation to the warm fall weather below in the plains. The wind blew at a brisk pace, letting the coolness take stabs at us through our thin fleece coats. A few of us came woefully underprepared – myself and wifey included.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-top1.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-top2.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-top3car.jpg

We slowly got used to the chillness and started observing the landscape around us. As we climbed up from the parking lot and saw this ominous sign. I immediately pitied the staff of the weather observatory situated at the top of Mt.Washington. It must be quite a challenge to work here on any given day, and not just during the harsh winters, with the wind behaving this unpredictably.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-sign2.jpg

We eyed people getting off the slow and noisy trains that chugged up and down frequently. None of us felt any regret at not having taken the train though.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-tr.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-train.jpg

As we climbed further to the top, the chillness took some casualties and some in our group were forced to dive into the warmth of the cafeteria at the top. The chillness in the wind was such that the grass was frozen at our feet and there were icicles formed along the direction of the blowing wind in the bars of the observing point’s railings.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-frozen-grass.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-ice.jpg

The auto-road and the rail line both stayed busy meanwhile.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-auto-road_top.jpg

After maybe spending 2-3 hours at the top, we decided to make our way home. The trip downhill proved no less hair-raising than the climb, and we found ourselves skirting the edge of the precipice as before.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-down1.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-down2no-space.jpg

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-down-3.jpg

The only occupant of the car having a relaxed sleep in the midst of all this was maybe this dude (albeit this dude is just a stuffed toy bought at the gas station earlier in the day):

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-sleepy.jpg

All along the downhill trip, there were parking areas provided where drivers could stop to cool off their cars’ brakes if needed. Closer to the foothills, such a parking area was being fully utilized by desi tourists to have a good look at the colorful leaves in the trees all around. We too stopped and did the same.

Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater-leaves.jpg

After having dinner in NH, we reached home around 10PM. Once done with dropping off the tired passengers, my friend and I drove off in separate cars to Bradley airport to return the rented car. I was now driving my trusted Nissan Rogue compact SUV and I marveled at the Ford Expedition being driven ahead of me by my friend; it dwarfed my car for sure. As we filled up the Ford’s tank at a fuel station one last time prior to returning it, it gave us one last kick to our lower regions with a $80 bill. We had spent $140 on petrol to travel just 500 miles. This was the worst any of us had had to pay for a road trip in the USA thus far, having driven vans, minivans, sedans and compact SUVs for trips to various far-flung places in the North Eastern USA.

Thus it was that with a lighter wallet and heavy eyelids at around midnight, we returned the car to Budget car rentals. As it turned out, we had been the first customers in the morning to kickstart business, and we were the last customers too, to turn in a car.

Looking back, what I remember of the Ford Expedition is that it effortlessly reaches 80-85 mph and has rather a soft suspension. The handling of the car all along felt exactly how I would feel if I was walking around all day with numb feet. The interior had a sprinkling of wooden and plastic work and the dashboard dials had only analog needles in them. But curiously enough, there was scope to plug in iPods and what not. The air conditioning worked great and the windows provided a nice overall view for everyone in the car. Notwithstanding all this, I just don’t get how certain people use this as their family car. The Ford Expedition is a relic of times bygone, if you ask me. You can no longer “kill baby seals” as Jeremy Clarkson would put it, and be seen as a responsible person. It is just plain murder to have a car with huge 50 gallon (~ 200 litre) petrol tank that lasts hardly 800 km. Enough about the car though.

It has been a few months now since that trip but I still haven’t stuck the sticker on my car however, since it wasn’t my car that made the climb technically speaking. And I don’t quite see the point in advertising my having climbed Mt.Washington to the word. You might want to search for the video showing Travis Pastrana’s record-breaking drive up Mt.Washington in just a few minutes in his rally spec Subaru Impreza. He’s one who ought to feel really proud and all.

But the passionate driver in me is still glad that all the occupants of the car had unanimously let me be the designated driver to safely drive up and down the challenging roads of Mt.Washington.
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Old 11th May 2015, 12:03   #2
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Default re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

Excellent write-up and pictures, locusjag!

I always wanted to drive up there too for the fall foliage but never got around to doing it like you did.

The choice of car, the Ford Expedition, was apt in my opinion. Having previously owned one of the early model years (a 1998 model with a 5.4 liter V8 engine) I can vouch for the car's ease of driving and effortless cruising. The fuel economy was a big let-down though as you stated.
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Old 11th May 2015, 21:46   #3
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

Great travelogue & thanks for sharing it. I too visited White Mountains last October Link.

It's definitely a great place to see Fall colors & I believe White Mountain is a good place to visit almost round the year.

Last edited by Technocrat : 15th May 2015 at 01:24. Reason: typos corrected :)
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Old 11th May 2015, 21:46   #4
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Hey, nice travelogue!
I did a drive to Mt. Washington a few years ago.

Interestingly enough, we (my wife & me) linked up with cousins in Framingham as well on the way up from NYC & then continued on to North Conway, where we stayed for a couple of nights.

On the drive up Mt. Washington we were lucky enough not to have too much traffic.
My car performed fantastically - most of the way up & down was done in low gear, with a few instances where I could up shift the 6-speed automatic into 2nd & 3rd for a teensy bit.

The way down was heavily trafficked & I guess a lot of drivers are either ignorant or just didn't care.
Saw a bunch of minivans & full-size SUVs with smoking brakes, as the drivers drove all the way down without once letting off the brakes.

Last edited by aah78 : 11th May 2015 at 21:48.
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Old 11th May 2015, 22:26   #5
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

Nice travelogue! Thanks for sharing.
I remember the first time i drove up to Mt Washington. We were aiming for the sunrise drive, when the gates open way early in the morning to catch the sunrise. Well, with two young kids, I obviously missed the opening. But silver lining was that while i was late for the sunrise rush, I was early for the usual morning rush! Had a nice lonely drive up the mountain.
I've been there a couple of times more since then. But the first one still remains as the most memorable.
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Old 12th May 2015, 01:03   #6
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Originally Posted by autonarr View Post
Excellent write-up and pictures, locusjag!

I always wanted to drive up there too for the fall foliage but never got around to doing it like you did.

The choice of car, the Ford Expedition, was apt in my opinion. Having previously owned one of the early model years (a 1998 model with a 5.4 liter V8 engine) I can vouch for the car's ease of driving and effortless cruising. The fuel economy was a big let-down though as you stated.
Thank you autonarr!

I hope you do get around to exploring NH in the Fall. It remains with you forever.

The Ford Expedition is good for use arguably in heavy-duty contexts in my opinion. Like if I'm a resident of interior Vermont living in a house in the woods who needs to go out for supplies to town once in a while in the winter, this car is apt then.
Unless of course, your thing is to own and operate heavy vehicles. Passion knows something that the mind knows not after all

Quote:
Originally Posted by Technocrat View Post
Great traveloge & thanks for sharing it. I too visited White Mountains last October Link.

Its definetly a great place to see Fall color & I believe White Mountain is a good place to visit almost round the year.
Thanks for the compliments Technocrat.

Nice to know you had visited the White mountains last October as well. It is a good place to visit any time, except that in the winter there are only guided tours I believe.

I wonder if we should try visiting while the annual "Race to the clouds" is held on the Mt.Washington Auto road. It would be a real treat to see some legends up close

Quote:
Originally Posted by amitoj View Post
Nice travelogue! Thanks for sharing.
I remember the first time i drove up to Mt Washington. We were aiming for the sunrise drive, when the gates open way early in the morning to catch the sunrise. Well, with two young kids, I obviously missed the opening. But silver lining was that while i was late for the sunrise rush, I was early for the usual morning rush! Had a nice lonely drive up the mountain.
I've been there a couple of times more since then. But the first one still remains as the most memorable.
Thank you Amitoj!

Silver linings are what keep our lives interesting because plans seldom play out the way we intend Glad to hear about your own experience. It helps certainly to drive when there's only one way traffic.

Speaking of sunrises, ever been to Cadillac mountain (Acadia nat'l park, ME) at sunrise? It is simply the most amazing thing I have encountered in my life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aah78 View Post
Hey, nice travelogue!
I did a drive to Mt. Washington a few years ago.

Interestingly enough, we (my wife & me) linked up with cousins in Framingham as well on the way up from NYC & then continued on to North Conway, where we stayed for a couple of nights.

On the drive up Mt. Washington we were lucky enough not to have too much traffic.
My car performed fantastically - most of the way up & down was done in low gear, with a few instances where I could up shift the 6-speed automatic into 2nd & 3rd for a teensy bit.

The way down was heavily trafficked & I guess a lot of drivers are either ignorant or just didn't care.
Saw a bunch of minivans & full-size SUVs with smoking brakes, as the drivers drove all the way down without once letting off the brakes.
Thank you!

Speaking of coincidences huh?

I am a bit surprised to learn from you that cooling down the brakes is really a thing. I didn't floor the accelerator at all on the way down while in the L2 gear I think, and as a result i didn't apply the brakes as much. Hopefully I didn't put us at risk by only stopping for cool off only once. Or did I?

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Old 12th May 2015, 18:41   #7
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

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Originally Posted by locusjag View Post
I wonder if we should try visiting while the annual "Race to the clouds" is held on the Mt.Washington Auto road. It would be a real treat to see some legends up close
Not a bad idea. When is it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by locusjag View Post
Speaking of sunrises, ever been to Cadillac mountain (Acadia nat'l park, ME) at sunrise? It is simply the most amazing thing I have encountered in my life.
Believe it or not, I have been here for almost 3 years and I am yet to visit Maine! Maybe this year, instead of Vermont, I'll go to Maine. Thanks for the suggestion!
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Old 13th May 2015, 06:01   #8
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

Nice travelogue - and more importantly, I am pleasantly surprised to find another BHPian living in Manchester - where I am as well. But more of that in a PM.

How is Mt. Washington to visit during this spring season? I presume its a worthwhile trip (apart from perhaps the extra crowds expected) ?
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Old 14th May 2015, 06:54   #9
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

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Not a bad idea. When is it?

Believe it or not, I have been here for almost 3 years and I am yet to visit Maine! Maybe this year, instead of Vermont, I'll go to Maine. Thanks for the suggestion!
Amitoj, it looks like the Climb to the clouds is not an annual event. My bad! I confused it with the "race to the clouds" which is an uphill running race of sorts.

Reference: http://climbtotheclouds.com/

Maine is quite something else. Given that you stay somewhat close by, please do go over to Acadia. Please do PM me if you need any info; in fact I'll plan to write a travelogue on Maine.


Quote:
Originally Posted by theMAG View Post
Nice travelogue - and more importantly, I am pleasantly surprised to find another BHPian living in Manchester - where I am as well. But more of that in a PM.

How is Mt. Washington to visit during this spring season? I presume its a worthwhile trip (apart from perhaps the extra crowds expected) ?
Hello! I'd like to meet you since you're here in Manchester yourself. I'll send you a PM shortly.

The Mt.Washington auto-road is not 100% ready actually as yet. They are only allowing a partial drive up the hill until the tree-line level of altitude.

Please refer to the following link for more details and always call them up before planning a trip on any given day. The summit belongs to a different, unpredictable world, compared to the plains.

http://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/

One day it might be okay but on the very next day, the roads might be unmotorable.
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Old 18th May 2015, 15:28   #10
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

Quote:
The Mt.Washington auto-road is not 100% ready actually as yet. They are only allowing a partial drive up the hill until the tree-line level of altitude.
.
Lovely travelouge and pics. I visited Mt. Washington in 2010 Summers, strange to know that the road is not yet ready. But it was a memorable holiday.

I rememeber I travelled some 50 miles at night to find some indian food and yes I was successful.

Last edited by benbsb29 : 19th May 2015 at 05:46. Reason: Fixed broken quote tag.
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Old 24th May 2015, 19:15   #11
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

Nice travelouge! Hope to make it there sometime soon.

Good choice as far the vehicle. Turbo engine is the way to go if you are going to be at high altitudes.


Other cars are going to be choking & wheezing up the hills due to the thinner air

Last edited by Mpower : 26th May 2015 at 21:11.
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Old 27th May 2015, 05:05   #12
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

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Good choice as far the vehicle. Turbo engine is the way to go if you are going to be at high altitudes.
Other cars are going to be choking & wheezing up the hills due to the thinner air
It is a hill by Indian standards which is slightly higher than Nandi Hills for comparison. Unless you are bicycling your way up, no one will be wheezing
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Old 27th May 2015, 18:40   #13
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

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It is a hill by Indian standards which is slightly higher than Nandi Hills for comparison. Unless you are bicycling your way up, no one will be wheezing
I think it is more than just "slightly" higher than Nandi Hills though.
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Old 27th May 2015, 21:38   #14
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

For science,
Mt.Washington 6288 ft
Nandi hills 4,851 ft

Now getting back to the post, lovely view from the top and yes, the drop looks scary especially with that behemoth hiding the road from the driver's view.

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Old 29th May 2015, 07:28   #15
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Default Re: Driving a behemoth up Mt.Washington (NH, USA) - Ford Expedition 8-seater

Thanks for this thread locusjag.

I'd like to counterpoint your mileage observations on the Ford Expedition, with my own experience on a competition vehicle.

I have just traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina from Baltimore in Maryland, some 320 miles one way, in a rental Chevrolet Suburban with around 16,000 miles on the clock. We have another 100 miles or so of in-town running, for a total of 420 miles so far.

We are 6 people, with a packed luggage compartment behind the 3rd row.

I have traveled at the speed limit or 5 over at max. Auto Climate Control is set to 73 deg F, with ambient temps in the 80s. Admittedly, I have been accelerating away from stop lights very gradually.

I zero-ed out the trip meters when I gassed up (Regular 91 Octane Shell) just before leaving on this trip, and the on-board computer says 22.6 mpg over the 420 miles covered thus far.

The Suburban has cylinder de-activation and the V8 engine switches to 4 cylinder mode on downhill stretches as well as when coasting ... but not when idling.

Will report out on the mileage reported on the rest of the trip and the return leg.

Cheers,

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