We have a 2014 Jeep Cherokee and recently acquired a 2016 Whitewater Toy hauler.
The Jeep requires a break-in tow period of 500 miles at or under 50 mph. The wife and I are going on an extensive, 2 week-long road trip in a few weeks and I wanted to get the break-in under our belts beforehand. Since I’d heard about the Apostle Islands 5 years ago, when I first moved to Wisconsin, and hadn’t yet made the trip I decided that there was no time like the present. The Islands are 350 miles away, so the trip would ensure a good and proper break-in.
Though we have a Toy Hauler, we decided that we didn’t have the time to use any toys effectively – this trip was just to break in the transmission. So, with a change of clothes and some food, off we went. We kept it at 50 mph on the 70 mph Interstates of Wisconsin, much to the chagrin of other drivers. The transmission stayed between 182 and 192 °F and the engine RPMs between 2000 and 3000. No real issue in acceleration, maintaining speed, etc. Everything felt solid. At fill-ups, we were showing 15 mpg gas mileage.
We arrived at the Little Sand Bay Campground and our reserved site was open. Pretty small campground with $2.00 pay showers, but it was right on the shore and would’ve made a good launch point for our Kayaks, if we’d had them. At slow speeds pulling into the campsite, the equal-i-zer tow bar really snap-crackle-pops. And squeals! Yeouch- my ears!
We dropped the trailer and lowered the leveling jacks, kenneled our pup and rolled into Bayview to the Apostle Islands Evening Cruise. We picked up our reserved tickets and went off for dinner. We were told to start lining up at 5:10 for our 5:30 cruise, but decided to get back at 5, instead. Thank God, we did, because people had been lined up for at least a half hour before that. Still, in a wave of relief, I had seen that there was plenty of space up top as we came on board our boat. However, as we tried to walk up the stairway, we were told that the coast guard imposed a limit of 37 people on the top deck of our boat. Sighing in resignation, we sat down next to a window to try to make the best of it. As I tried to open the closed window to get some fresh air, I saw that the slide was broken and a crudely printed sign “Do not Open” was posted above the window. “$84 bucks well spent!” I thought, as we pulled out of the harbor.
For whatever reason, the crew member who blocked our attempt to go upstairs came and sat next to my wife and I and informed us that he had space for two move up above, if we still wanted to go up. Jumping up and thanking him profusely, we surmounted the hallowed steps, with 70 pairs of jealous, angry eyes boring holes into our back as we climbed towards the heavens.
It was a beautiful day – sunny and just under 80 degrees, even in the open water of Lake Superior.
The islands were interesting, but overall the same. Mostly new growth pine forest reclaiming once clear-cut hard sandstone projections. The captain provided various facts and stories and a few dry jokes that didn’t land. Our crewman would shoe people who came up to try to get a better view back downstairs. They were at capacity up top and didn’t have room for more people (though the Captain had indicated at the outset that people would be free to move about the decks during the voyage – the rule for the top deck was mostly enforced at landing and cast-off).
Things started getting boring until we made our way to the last island – Devil’s Island. It was so-named because the back of the island is made of a softer sandstone, which allowed the water to cut-out caves and blow-holes. On windy days, which most are on the Great Lakes, the island will howl.
The captain pulled us into a rather big crevasse, getting us very close to the island. My wife loved shadow cast from the boat on the face of the cliffs.
After circling the island, back we went, with a spectacular sunset trailing us, casting everything in beautiful pinks, oranges and purples.
This lighthouse was commissioned by Abraham Lincoln. It looks pretty good for its age!
After we landed, back to the trailer we went, with a nice snuggle with the pup. The next morning, I made breakfast, then we packed up. As I was getting gear stowed in the trailer, my wife called me outside. A mouse was trapped behind the power cover port and had spent most of the night trying to gnaw its way out. Apparently, I didn’t have the cover latched when I had it at home, plugged in and charging the battery, and a mouse took up residence over the coiled power cable still in the cubby.
I pulled the latch and opened it and my wife just stood in front of the cover. I shoved her out of the way, in case the mouse tried to jump out. Instead, it stared at us, blinked, then darted back into the cubby. Not being able to do anything about it at the park, we finished packing up and headed out. Again, we stayed at 50 mph until we’d gone about half-way, then I bumped it up to 55 mph for a half hour, 60 mph for an hour and then 65 the rest of the way home. Not much difference was noted between 50 and 55, with transmission temps staying fairly consistent. At 60, the transmission temperatures ranged between 192 and 197 °F. Jeep still towed like a champ, though when I had a headwind, I did become aware of the trailer. Mileage dropped 13.2 mpg. There was just a hint of sway, with an occasional gust of wind.
At 65 mph, the Jeep stayed in 3rd and 4th gear. Transmission temperatures bounced between 197 and 215, or so (still at about 75% of the “high” temperature) and gas mileage fell to about 11 mpg. In a tail wind or a sidewind, the trailer tracked well. In a headwind, there was a bit of sway, but it was manageable. No white knuckles or anything, just minor corrections like I have to do in our smaller Suzuki SX4 in heavy winds.
All in all, it was a good trip. It would've been much worse if the dour crewman hadn't allowed us up top. Regardless, though, it was a good shakedown of everything and a learning experience on packing. It was my first time towing anything at distance and I felt pretty good about how everything turned out. I know I'd rather have a bigger TV, but the gas mileage I get on this one is pretty good and I'm taxing it, but not to the point of stress. When the Suzuki dies, I'm getting a Diesel Grand Cherokee, but that won't be for quite awhile (I hope).
Once home, I did catch the mouse in a trap, so I’m free from critters, again, for the time being. I had to order a new power cable cover, as the mouse did a pretty good number on the one we had. I might change the setup to a plug-in one in the future, rather than having the cable and cubby, to limit entry points. Another change I’ll probably make is to swap the microwave for a convection microwave unit, so I can bake. I do have a countertop convection oven with rotisserie, though, so I may just take that and leave the microwave alone. Still up in the air, but I have time – I’ll have this camper for awhile.