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6,666 mile C6 Mountain Tour - Long Island to Wyoming, Montana, Alberta... with PICS!
Compliments of Vet @ corvetteforum.com
(more pics in following post)
Just returned from a heavy-duty 6,666 mile long trip with my `06 C6, Z51, 2LT coupe. Zero problems. Car performed flawlessly despite grueling conditions.
Left Long Island, NY and headed straight out to South Dakota, hit the Badlands, then into Wyoming, thru the Big Horn Mountains, then up into Montana thru the Beartooth Mountain Range, then eventually up thru Glacier National Park and into Alberta, Canada… and back.
Below are some pics that barely hint at how amazing the roads are out there. These pics do NOT do any justice whatsoever to the real thing. I was not even able to take photos of the most spectacular roads and scenery because often there were no safe places to stop… either that or I was just having too much fun burning through the twisties.
The coolest thing is that the roads and scenery are just unbelievably amazing for hundreds and hundreds of miles. Just goes on and on, seemingly forever. All I could think of is how this is what heaven must be like.
If you haven’t yet driven your C6 on roads like this, you haven’t yet driven your C6. Much of the time the roads are open and empty, you can pretty much run as hard as you want. I opted to run these roads several times, a moderate run or two just to enjoy the beautiful scenery, then a spirited run or two for the sake of enjoying my extremely capable C6. I’ve never been through mountain roads this quick in my life… not even on bikes. The C6 is just incredible.
Car was loaded with luggage, had the wife along too. I was able to fit all luggage, several extra pairs of sneakers and hiking boots PLUS two motorcycle helmets in the coupe and was STILL able to store the roof in the back. This took some careful strategic packing but was ultimately not that difficult to make happen.
I’ve driven cross-country quite a few times in different cars and the C6 is by FAR the most comfortable car I’ve ever driven… period. My wife agrees. This is the first car I’ve ever driven that did not give me any cramps at all even after 12 hours of straight driving. This car gets an A+++ for comfort, that’s for sure.
Fuel mileage: for the entire 6,666 mile trip, the DIC said I averaged 26.9 mpg, but my very careful measurements and calculations yielded 27.45 mpg. I guess it’s safe to say the car averaged a solid 27 mpg in any case. I kept an eye on the DIC average mpg reading the whole time, with windows up, AC off and speeds under 75 mph, I’d climb up to over 27 mpg. However, with top off or windows down or AC on, at speeds over 80 mph, I’d drop down to as low as 26.2 mpg… but the average mpg reading never went under 26.2 mpg. This includes all the high rpm steep mountain twisty driving as well as some several hour traffic delays in the Chicago area. (Note about Chicago: I did use I-80 west to I-39 north to avoid the heart of the city, but I-80 in that area was still jammed, construction, etc… what a nightmare.)
Oil and water temps: one day heading back through Montana on a super straight desolate backroad, I was able to run at 95 mph for a few hours straight… and it was 95 degrees F outside. Oil temp never got above 232 F, hung out at around 230 F at speed, and water temp never got above 199 F at speed, would only climb a bit higher if I had to slow down. Same for high rpm mountain twisty driving, but the good thing about the mountains is that ambient temps are pretty cool.
Oil consumption and oil life monitor: I changed the oil just before I left and reset the oil life monitor. After the 6,666 mile trip, the monitor now says 52%. Seems that I lost a little less than about half a quart of oil over the 6,666 miles. I’d say this is ok since probably 85% of the time the car was being driven at over 75 mph, and/or up steep hills are higher rpm, etc.
Antilocks and stability control: I finally got to see the antilocks and/or stability control in action for the first time. I was really burning hard through one section of the Beartooth Mountain pass, flew into one downhill non-banked full hairpin type turn and all of a sudden the brake pedal felt like it was going to the floor. At the same time, a nasty vibration was felt in the car. At that moment it scared the heck out of me, I thought something was failing on the car, but then I realized it must have been the anti-locks / stability control. Well, I whipped around this turn perfectly and in full control, so whatever the car was doing it did it well. Perhaps it saved me from getting out of shape.
By the way, I never take turns like a wild Indian if other traffic is nearby. Many of the turns on these mountain passes are laid out in such a way that you can fully see the next few switchbacks before you even get there, so if and when the coast is fully clear, I’ll get a little spirited, but if any other vehicles are approaching, that means it’s time to cool down. Safety first, always. I have never been in an accident in my life (hundreds of thousands of miles of driving and riding) so I think that gives you an idea of where I place safety on my list of priorities.
One thing I found very difficult was trying to keep myself in my seat while carving the twisties. The C6 seats are very supportive, but the car is just so capable at carving the turns that the resulting Gs just want to rip you out of the seat. My arms were sore after a few hours of that type of driving. Especially hard is trying to shift while going through the turns as you now have only one arm on the steering wheel to hold yourself in place. I guess a good multi-point safety belt harness is needed here to keep the driver in place.
Z51 suspension: it was just fine almost all of the time other than when in citified areas and on certain poor condition interstates. A few sections of I-90 and also I-94 in Minnesota were terrible… ruts / ridges in the pavement every 30 feet or so… for miles… this was no fun… my wife was sleeping, she got shaken awake and proceeded to get shaken around like a rag doll as we traveled over this poor road surface. As well, in horrible places like the Chicago area plagued with construction, potholes, etc, it’s a nightmare. I was perfectly happy almost the whole time except for those few sections of bad roads. One thing I’ll say, the Z51 sure is EXCELLENT around those twisties!!! The car is just so well composed over dips, sharp banked turns etc at very high speeds… it’s a beautiful thing.
Z51 Supercar tires: Seems that in 6,666 miles, I only wore about 2/32” of rubber off. I measured about 8/32” of tread depth before I left, and measured about 6/32” of depth once I got back. I wouldn’t be surprised if 75% of that tire wear came from the mountain roads only. If I hadn’t been tearing up the mountains, I’d say my tire wear may have been only half what it was.
Top speed: call me a chicken, but I only got it up to 130 mph… fastest I’ve ever gone in my life… that’s fast enough for me. This was done of course in a desolate area with no other vehicles, on ramps, etc in sight, on a clear sunny day on a clean dry road surface. I first tried climbing slowly in 6th gear but once I got up to about 120 mph, the engine felt like it was starting to lug a bit… 6th seems too tall for 120+. So I slowed back down, dropped into 5th, then started climbing slowly again… got it up to 130 mph easily and it still had lots of room left. It’s amazing how quiet and well composed the car is at 130 mph. It feels like you’re doing just 60 mph.
Oh yeah... my painted roof did not fail even in several full days of 102 F degree ambient temperatures in full sun at 85 mph... all day long. I had installed some temporary "safety straps" to keep the top from flying away in case of a delamination, also had a sheet of plastic, tape etc in my tool kit. I was fully expecting a roof failure before returning home and was prepared, but the roof is still in perfect condition... no signs of failure yet.
More pics etc in next post....
Here's a pic of my roof "safety straps". I found this material at a fabric store. It is some type of ribbon with wire running through it... very light but strong. I just knotted the ends and tucked the straps under the front and rear roof seals. The ribbon is extremely thin so it does not hurt the seals at all. If the roof were to delaminate, these straps would at least keep the roof from taking flight, would give me enough time to pull over and then tape it down properly. These straps allow easy removal and installation of the roof... an ok solution until the "new" fixed roofs are available.
We met up with friends in Wyoming that own several motorcycles. They are extremely trusting and generous to let us use their bikes. We spent several days riding bikes around Wyoming and Montana. In fact, we covered many of the roads on bikes that are pictured above with the C6. It was very cool to be able to hit these roads with a motorcycle AND C6 as well... no better way to enjoy such roads.
Below are just a few shots that show one of the bikes we used... a Honda Shadow 1100.
The total trip took almost three weeks, but at least a whole week was spent hanging out with our friends in Wyoming, doing local stuff, riding motorcycles, etc. We also spent a few days in Waterton Park, Alberta, and a few days near Glacier National Park... did some hiking, etc. If you wanted to just burn through it all, it could be done in way less than three weeks of course. Depends on how far you need to travel to get to that area. All I can say is that it's WELL WORTH making the trip!
Believe me, I did not keep the car clean! You should see it now. Maybe I'll go take some pics this week before I wash it. It's super DIRTY! There are so many bugs plastered to the front end that you can hardly see the paint... it's pretty funny. I'm gonna need a chisel to get them off. The front wheels look darker than comp gray wheels at this point from brake dust, etc.
The car looks relatively clean in some of the pics because many of these pics were taken only halfway through the trip... plus if I remember correctly, it had rained shortly before some of these shots were taken, effectively washing the car off a bit. But the car is dirtier than ever right now. I actually kinda like the "weathered" look... gives the car a mean vibe... it looks like it just completed LeMans or something.
EDIT: Here's a pic of some bugs midway through the trip... it was worse after getting home. Took hours to clean.
Thanks again for all the compliments on the photos, etc.
Just to answer a few of the questions... yes, that is Logan's Pass of Glacier National Park in some of the photos, and yes, that is also Chief Joseph Highway of the Beartooth Mountain Pass in some of the photos.
Later on when I have some more time I'll outline the exact roads that were used, showing where the photos were taken. But, in sum, just about any road in Wyoming or Montana noted as "scenic" in whatever altlas you have is going to be amazing. You really can't go wrong. Pick up your atlas, look for the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, the Tetons and/or Beartooth Range in Montana (not far from Yellowstone), and Glacier National Park in Montana... and all roads going through these places will be guaranteed great rides.
It's all excellent... that's why this general area is so cool... you can drive for hundreds of miles and the twisties and incredible scenery just never ends.
Read more: http://www.corvetteforum.com/forums/c6-corvette-general-discussion/1449516-6-666-mile-c6-mountain-tour-long-island-to-wyoming-montana-alberta-with-pics-4.html#ixzz490QjHWg2
A few more shots below... will add to original post too.
The canyon area shots are from Wyoming, just west of the Big Horn Mountains.
The vintage bus shot... Glacier National Park uses vintages buses (originally manufactured by White) that were refurbished by Ford... they run on Propane and are in constant use everyday, climbing up and down steep mountain grades.
Camera was a Nikon D70S digital SLR with stock Nikkor AF-S 18-70mm lens. I pretty much shot in program mode the whole time, nothing fancy. I think I had the camera set to ISO 400 the whole time. Set and forget.
Most of the time the lighting conditions were terrible, either not enough natural light, or too much sun. That's the problem with landscape shots... you need to deal with whatever lighting conditions you are given. Can be frustrating.
I think the reason some of the shots came out decent is simply because the scenery itself was just so visually amazing. You almost CAN'T take a bad picture out there. Everywhere you look is just overwhelming beauty.
The only thing I can take any credit for is just spending a tiny bit of time trying to frame the shots well. In many cases, I'd cross the road and climb up a steep hillside (getting all dirty and sometimes falling on my a$$) in attempts to get into a position that I felt would yield the "best" perspective of that particular scene... especially ones that included the car, etc.
I'm actually quite new to digital photography, I still have a lot to learn about the whole digital thing. I've been using Nikon film SLRs for years and swore I'd never go digital until last fall when a photo developer lost a roll of my film... very important stuff, gone forever... I was so burned up about it I went out and bought a Nikon digital SLR a week later and my film camera hasn't been out of its case since.
Hey, your splashguards REALLY came in handy on this trip! Had to put a lot of miles on gravel roads, plus most of the mountain roads were covered with stones. Those splashguards really played a big part in saving the paint behind the wheel wells. I am happy to report zero damage to paint after 6,666 high-speed miles!
Thanks again to all for the kind words / compliments on the photos. Glad I was able to take such photos and share them here. But please do me a favor... try to get out to these areas to experience this stuff in person. Photos and even video do absolutely NO justice whatsoever. If you think these pics are cool, just wait until you are actually driving through it. It's absolutely mind blowing... extremely intense.
As for NAV... no, I do not have the NAV option. Never had one in fact. I cut my teeth on motorcycles, doing cross country trips before the days of NAV systems. I've become so accustomed to planning trips with maps and compass that it is pretty much the only way I feel comfortable doing it. I actually made a custom bracket that bolts behind the passenger seat to hold my big North American atlas.
Yes, a few times a NAV would have been helpful... like when you're looking for an eatery in the middle of nowhere, etc. But over 6,666 miles / three weeks, I may have wished I had a NAV like three times... not sure if this is enough to justify the expense. But, YMMV.
I plan my entire trip before I leave the house and write it all out. Then each night at the hotel I'll review everything and fine tune the plan based on how the schedule is going, weather conditions, etc, etc.
Funny, I was going to get a NAV, then a friend who just picked up a new NAV system took me for a ride in his car to give me a demonstration. His NAV was cutting out and acting erratic, he was cursing at it, we took a ten mile ride and the thing proved to be useless... my friend was embarassed... it wasn't a good first impression for me. I'm sure NAVs are really good in general, but... I'm hooked on the old fashion way anyhow.
Bottom line, I've been cross country quite a few times, often taking desolate scenic backroads, etc, and never had any problems. The trusty old atlas always took good care of me. A NAV would be nice... maybe next time ... but certainly not necessary in my opinion, at least if you are good with maps.