Jack, Anne, & Kansei Go to Quebec!
Hi, everyone - Jack & Anne & Kansei are resubscribed after a two week
vacation trip from the DC area to Quebec and return. Great fun was had by
all, and while Kansei experienced no language barrier (handled the metric
system quite well, in fact, apparently as it's his native system) I had
innumerable opportunities to use the American phrase, "pardon my French."
A trip report, heavily Miata oriented, follows below.
I had installed the magic MSD timing retard box the weekend before
departure, and reset the timing to 14 deg. initial advance. The trip
provided a good test of the unit, and whether the 14 deg. advance would
work. In short, it did, and very well.
First, everything that went wrong with the car: (1) it got dirty, and (2) I
kept having to fill the gas tank every 330+ miles or so. That's it! Mazda
truly did get it right the first time with the Miata. And this is with a
car with nearly 107,000 miles on it at this point.
We departed on Sun., Sept. 24 around mid-day in top up conditions (rather
cool and drizzly) and headed for the lower end of the Finger Lakes area
first, to visit a couple aircraft museums. (The Soaring Society of America
museum in Elmira, NY and the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, NY. BTW,
the Curtiss Museum is one of the best small, local aviation museums I've
ever seen. It's heavily oriented to the Curtiss side of early American
aviation history, and I take issue with some of the statements and
apparently purposeful omissions of many exhibits, as I tend to lean toward
the "Wright" side of the question. Nevertheless, it's quite good. You
oughta see the turn of the century V-8 powered motorcycle that Curtiss took
to over 130 mph!).
The back roads over the ranges of hills between each of the finger lakes are
relatively short, but can be quite steep - grades of up to ten percent or
even more on some short sections. The turbo took the hills in stride, with
full throttle never being needed. I saw up to 5 pounds of boost for several
seconds at a time on some of these roads, and no detonation was detected
whatsoever. (My detonation sensor - wife Anne - has a particularly good ear
for this condition, and detected none.) Gas mileage on this tank of fuel
was 33.41 mpg, BTW.
After departing the Hammondsport area on Sept. 27, we crossed the top of NY
state through the Adirondack Nat'l Forest. This is a beautiful drive, if
you ever get the opportunity, especially around the end of Sept. It's
around 200 miles of generally good, winding road with relatively small
elevation changes, and lots and lots of lakes and continuous hardwood trees
turning their fall colorful best. As was the case with most of our
Stateside part of the trip, the weather was cool, gray, and overcast for the
most part. We didn't have a whole lot of top down weather before reaching
Border crossing into Canada is ridiculously simple, particularly if you take
the back roads and don't have to wade through a traffic jam at an
interstate. We were asked a few questions, like where were we going, how
long were we staying, and (emphasis here) did we have any weapons, Mace, or
any such thing with us. No problems, and so long as we appeared to be
willing to aid the US - Canadian balance of payments toward the Canadian
side of things, they let us on through, after handing us a couple maps and
brochures and such.
First destination was Montreal, where we stayed for four nights. The trip
from upstate NY to Montreal was just shy of 350 miles, and mileage was 35.08
mpg on this leg - and this was NOT the best mileage we got on the trip.
BTW, gas is a bit more expensive in Montreal than in the states, but not all
that much more. In retrospect, I should have filled up before crossing the
border, but then I still would have needed gas at some point in Canada, so I
only saved about 10 or 15 cents per gallon US on about five gallons - hardly
Washington, DC area drivers are still about the worst, IMHO, but those in
Montreal (and Quebec City) display a controlled agression seldom seen in DC.
I saw very little body damage on cars in Canada, and very few body shops
(although there were several "general mechanic" shops, where they may have
handled body work, for all I know). It appeared to me, in my limited
experience, that Canadian drivers (at least around Montreal and Quebec City)
are really sharp. They cut it really fine, but I never heard metal bending
and heard very few tire screeches or horns. If I were to do it again, I'd
do the same thing, and stay at places close to the Metro system (the old
port area of Montreal) or within walking distance (the old walled upper city
of Quebec City). This way you can leave your Miata parked for the duration
without risking it in traffic except during arrival and departure, and still
see the tourist attractions easily.
BTW, I spotted very few Miatae while in Canada, and in fact, saw no Miata in
the US after leaving the Baltimore area headed north, until spotting a
couple in New England. Only saw about a half dozen in our four days in
Montreal, and a couple in Quebec City. The special interest car of choice
in those two cities, seems to be the 5.0 liter Ford Mustang. This seems to
be the preferred "automobile musculaire" or "automobile posteriore mal"
(hey, I said it was French Canada) in those two cities.
Canada at last gave us some beautiful weather. We dined outside at sidewalk
restaurants during most of our stay in Canada, in shirtsleeves. It was
great! The drive from Montreal to Quebec City was top down, with the temp.
in the low 70s F.
We departed Quebec City on Oct. 4 for NH and VT, again using the back roads.
(NO INTERSTATES! The only time we used interstates was for a short distance
to go around some larger city while enroute.) I stretched the fuel a bit to
make it back to the USA, where some 20 miles or so into NH (with just shy of
350 miles on the tank) I filled up. It took 10.62 gal., which worked out to
32.80 mpg. This leg included about 40 miles of urban driving getting out of
Montreal, and into and back out of Quebec City, with the rest being on rural
two lanes at around 55 - 60 mph, traffic permitting (it usually did).
Getting back into the States was slightly more involved than getting into
Canada, in that the official asked if we were US citizens, and requested
some ID. Drivers' licenses suffice for this, but if he'd really wanted to
get anal about it, a DL is not actually proof of citizenship. One really
should have a birth certificate or voter registration card, as appropriate,
in one's posession when crossing the border. We were asked about the value
of goods being brought into the US (about $50 to $75 worth of souvenirs and
gifts). The limit is several hundred dollars for a couple of people, so no
problem here. BTW, neither the Canadian or the US official asked to look
inside the car or asked us to open the trunk. I guess they figured that we
couldn't be carrying anything which could cause too much of a problem, in a
car that small!
A couple more days through NH and VT, and we were ready to head for home.
As noted above, the USA did not provide us with great weather, and our first
day back in the States was with the top up. The drive through the White
Mts. in NH was still most spectacular, this time of year. It was mostly
overcast the next day through VT, but at least we were able to put the top
down and enjoy the cool weather with the heater on in the car a bit. I
mildly regret not taking Kansei up Mt. Washington in NH, but we wouldn't
have seen a thing from the 6200 ft. summit with the cloud cover the way it
was, and hey - to a guy who grew up out West, with all due respect, a 6200
ft. summit isn't very high, even if it is the highest in the northeast.
Kansei has proven its climbing ability before this point anyway. (New
England does have its share of exciting weather, however. About 4am, a tree
blew down against the wall of the room we were staying in at a B&B near
Manchester, VT. That got our attention! No significant damage was done,
and Kansei was safely parked diagonally opposite the tree encounter. I was
surprised at the seeds, pine needles, and leaves that had jammed themselves
into the tailpipe and under the upper edge of the rear window of the top,
when we came out the next morning, however!)
We filled up again in Bennington, VT, home of Hemmings Motor News and Miata
gathering point for an event a couple weeks earlier (sorry we missed you,
but it didn't quite fit with our schedule). From there we headed home, and
near DC I was getting pretty nervous about the distance traveled on this
tank (15 miles shy of 400 miles, in fact) so stopped about 20 miles north of
home to tank up. It took 10.65 gal., which worked out to 36.07 mpg on this
Bottom line: Install that turbo, and the MSD ignition retard unit. In
return, yes, you should burn premium fuel, but you get near motorcycle
performance and mileage. (Note that I said "near," not "the same as." Yes,
I know there are crotch rockets out there that will out accelerate any car
and return excellent mileage to boot.) But still, 0 - 60 acceleration in 6
sec. or so, and an average of 33.83 mpg over nearly 2,000 miles of driving
in all kinds of varying conditions, is not too bad, I don't think. This is
about the same mileage (actually slightly better) as my old 40 hp VW Karmann
Ghia used to get. Its 0 - 60 time was an embarrassing 27 sec. or so, as I
recall. Take the back roads when you make such trips. Interstates are for
getting from point A to point B in the shortest time, not for having the
maximum fun. If you can travel mostly during the week, you can find
interesting and reasonably economical places to stay with little problem,
and if you want to extend the stay, it's usually no problem to do so through
the next weekend a few days in advance. And yes, two people can live pretty
much indefinitely out of the trunk of a Miata. (The coin-op "Buanderie" in
Montreal worked pretty much like they do in the US.) You can even find room
for a couple cans of maple syrup, a few books, and some other goodies for
folks upon your return to the States. (Glad I installed that spare under
the trunk, however.) This was one of the best vacations I've ever had, and
I'd love to do it again some time. For the rest of you, GO FOR IT!
--Jack & Anne & KANSEI--