That would have been fine — I love an icy adventure to Northern Michigan — except the main reason for heading up was to bring a set of furniture, generously donated by my wonderful mother-in-law to the cottage. I didn't want to expose two dressers and a pair of nightstands to freezing rain and snow for four hours, then have to unload them. Finally, though, spring sprang in southeastern Michigan, and we loaded the bed of the Ridgeline with our fresh furniture and drove up to the cottage.
The Ridgeline was still as smooth and calm to drive as ever, and the full load in the back didn't affect the truck's driving dynamics. I put on some music, adjusted my mirrors, and basically forgot about the furniture as I shifted my attention to dodging the deer licking up salt on the side of the highway as dusk fell over M-33. As I drove through Atlanta and Onaway, I began to notice more and more snow on the ground. Apparently spring hadn't sprung up there yet.
When I got to our gravel lane, there was about a foot of a mixture of ice and packed slush left over from the last snowstorm. I thought twice before barreling through it; the pines on the right side would be more forgiving than the telephone pole on the left. I didn't have to worry, though. Having driven the Ridgeline through some serious winter nastiness already, I knew what to expect. The snow was no problem for the truck (and it meant the yard work would have to wait until the next visit — drats!).
Unloading the truck was easy. The bed was just the right height for my wife and I to pull the long pieces off the back. I was able to lift the nightstands over the side of the bed — something I wouldn't have been able to do in a jacked up American rig. I managed not to slip on the frozen snowdrift I parked on as I pulled them out, either.
The trip made me really come to appreciate the Ridgeline. It was as comfortable as a car on the long highway trek, great in the snow and soft roads, great for moving furniture and perfect for hauling loads to the dump without having to have a cabin full of trash air. Plus, I was happy to see the average fuel economy from the past 1,000 or so miles climb higher into the 20s as I put more distance on it.
And, of course, my large son loved it. Wollie is 2½, and is enamored with anything road or rail. He kept asking to ride in my "super awesome truck," so I moved the car seat from my wife's vehicle to the Ridgeline, and had my little road dog keep me company for the ride home.The seat was fairly easy to install using the LATCH tethers, and I had plenty of room to get the boy in there without bonking his or my head. On the way home, I also realized the Ridgeline has one of those dad mirrors — you know, one of those curved mirrors that pop out from the ceiling to give you a bus driver's view of the rear seating as you drive.
The drive home was uneventful. We saw a bunch of beat up SUVs heading south from the Gambler 500 rally that took place in Michigan that weekend, which was pretty cool.
The only trouble I had was a rattle that reared its head when I stopped off for gas. I heard it again when I got off the highway near my home, and it was pretty loud when I rolled down my window. It sounded like a tin can rattling on the ground. When I got home, I took a closer look. Nothing appeared amiss. I crawled completely underneath the truck and couldn't find anything amiss, and definitely nothing hanging down or touching the ground.
I texted Autoblog fleet guru Reese Counts about it, and he had a look the next day when I got to the office. He, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore and I gave it a closer inspection in our parking lot. It was loud at low speeds, but disappeared when driving in reverse. Passersby weighed in with their own theories. I took the Ridgeline to the car wash for a much-needed bath, and with the hope that a blast of water from underneath could help do dislodge whatever rock (our current working hypothesis for a source of the noise) from its hiding place.
The Ridgeline, now a lot cleaner, still had the same mysterious noise. Reese is going to take it home and have a closer look. We'll keep you posted.