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Old 06-28-2011, 11:01 PM   #1
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Traveling from Albuquerque to Durango

Looking for some advice on the best route. My husband is an excellent and careful driver, we are newbies when it comes to mountain driving and I'm concerned about highway 550. I heard something about the highway being widened. Of course, we 're also watching the wildfires that are advancing. We have a 41' DP. We will also be taking Wolf Creek pass over to South Fork area on our way home to Kansas.
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Old 06-28-2011, 11:15 PM   #2
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We're in the process of doing some of that drive right now. You can go Albuquerque via Hwy 25 to Santa Fe, then onto Espanola then 84 into Colorado (Pagosa Springs). This is a nice, scenic route and we found the driving pleasant. Some cool spots to stop along the way if you're interested too. We're in Pagosa Springs right now and will take 160 west to Durango from here.

I imagine the 550 coming from Albuqueque might be more direct and perhaps an easier drive, but less scenic. Can't say for sure since we haven't tried the drive ourselves.
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Old 06-28-2011, 11:25 PM   #3
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Thanks for the update on NM drive

Quote:
Originally Posted by WheelingIt View Post
We're in the process of doing some of that drive right now. You can go Albuquerque via Hwy 25 to Santa Fe, then onto Espanola then 84 into Colorado (Pagosa Springs). This is a nice, scenic route and we found the driving pleasant. Some cool spots to stop along the way if you're interested too. We're in Pagosa Springs right now and will take 160 west to Durango from here.

I imagine the 550 coming from Albuqueque might be more direct and perhaps an easier drive, but less scenic. Can't say for sure since we haven't tried the drive ourselves.
We are going to be making that drive in about a week...baring no fire advancement. Thank you for the info. We are newbies too and still a little apprehensive about the size our rig and mountain driving.
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Old 06-29-2011, 12:26 PM   #4
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Using Google maps the US-550 N route is the most direct. Google lists it at 215 miles and 4 hours. The other possible routes via I-40 and US-84 are 268/274 miles and 4:42/5:04 hours travel time.

Google doesn't say which is more scenic or level. Google seems to show US-550 and I-40 as 4 lane, US-84 seems to be 2 lane. Both I-550 and I40 look flatter than US-84, but thats a guess from looking at the Google terrain view.

What do the experts in the field say?

Here is an idea, a new feature for GPS's and online mapping: A way to enter your average fuel mileage, then the mapping software uses that information plus terrain information to display the fuel mileage consumption of each route. Currently they give you a choice of mileage, but this doesn't factor in hills and grades. This idea would factor in terrain and let you decide the cheapest route.
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Old 06-29-2011, 12:33 PM   #5
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We are going to be making that drive in about a week...baring no fire advancement. Thank you for the info. We are newbies too and still a little apprehensive about the size our rig and mountain driving.
Well, I totally understand. We've done alot of mountain driving in our rig, so I'm likely to think most roads are easy, but I think I can honestly say the drive from Albuquerque is OK. You will definitely get some twists and turns, plus there will be a few spots where the shoulder is narrow, but for the route we took the road was in good shape and there were no major drop-offs or anything like that.

My advise is just take it slow and don't "ride" your breaks. It's much better to brake on and off with time inbetween than to "ride" the brakes all the way down. On large down-grades I'll often take it down to 35 mph or less. Our motorhome has a good engine brake so I actually find mountain driving easier in the MH than I do in the toad! If I'm going at the right (slow) speed I find I rarely even use the manual brakes at all going downhill.

Of course you know *not* to drive the 550 further north than Durango. The portion north of Durango is very hairy (it's the "million dollar highway"). We're taking our toad there, but no way I would drive the MH on that road.

Enjoy the ride!
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Old 06-29-2011, 12:37 PM   #6
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Using Google maps the US-550 N route is the most direct. Google lists it at 215 miles and 4 hours. The other possible routes via I-40 and US-84 are 268/274 miles and 4:42/5:04 hours travel time.

Google doesn't say which is more scenic or level. Google seems to show US-550 and I-40 as 4 lane, US-84 seems to be 2 lane. Both I-550 and I40 look flatter than US-84, but thats a guess from looking at the Google terrain view.

What do the experts in the field say?
That makes sense. I didn't map out the road, but 550 looked more direct (and less curvy) when I eye-balled it. We definitely took the "scenic" route and US-84 is 2-lane only. Personally I find 2-lane roads more relaxing than the multi-lane roads (there tend to be less trucks on them for one thing), but that's purely personal taste. Based on this 550 would certainly be quicker.
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Old 06-29-2011, 12:37 PM   #7
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I've been over US550 many times driving from Albuquerque to Farmington, but not in the last few months. Unless something's changed, 550 has pretty easy grades, gentle curves (i.e., no hairpins) and is an excellent road. It's not all that scenic (although it has its moments), but you can make good time without much stress, at least to Bloomfield where I turned west on US64 to Farmington. There always seemed to be spotty construction or maintenance along US550, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Old 06-29-2011, 02:32 PM   #8
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I've been over US550 many times driving from Albuquerque to Farmington, but not in the last few months. Unless something's changed, 550 has pretty easy grades, gentle curves (i.e., no hairpins) and is an excellent road. It's not all that scenic (although it has its moments), but you can make good time without much stress, at least to Bloomfield where I turned west on US64 to Farmington. There always seemed to be spotty construction or maintenance along US550, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Rusty
We took the 550 route last summer and it was smooth all the way. It was 4 lane most of the way and the last part that was two lane was plenty wide. The only 'mountainous' part was the last mile or so going down to intersect with 160 and it was not a problem.
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Old 06-29-2011, 02:55 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone for your detailed input. I had heard about the last section right before the 160 intersection and was a little concerned. We definitely will not be going any further north in the MH than our campground which is about 8 miles north of Durango. We'll take the toad for the day trips!
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Old 06-29-2011, 03:21 PM   #10
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Of course you know *not* to drive the 550 further north than Durango. The portion north of Durango is very hairy (it's the "million dollar highway"). We're taking our toad there, but no way I would drive the MH on that road.

Enjoy the ride!

That's a shame! We really enjoyed the trip North of Durango. Silverton, Co is a great place to camp for a few days and explore the area and town. Our coach is only 34' and we pull a Jeep but you shouldn't have a problem with the diesel engine. We were only going about 25 MPH with the foot on the floor and the Ford V10 screaming but we made it fine. Just take your time and enjoy the trip.

David
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Old 06-29-2011, 07:19 PM   #11
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By the way you mentioned Wolf Creek Pass in your original post. We took that drive today from Pagosa Springs to walk on the Continental Divide at the top. It's definitely a good size pass with some twists and steeper grades (around 6%), but the road is excellent. Wide and very good condition with a nice sized shoulder. I would feel fine taking it in the MH.
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Old 06-30-2011, 11:35 PM   #12
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550 from Albuquerque to Durango is cake. 4 lanes all the way up and thru Aztec, easy grades and NO scary curves. We just did this on Memorial weekend. 220 miles from my house to United Campgrounds (highly recommended as the train runs thru it and the river is VERY close). The only issue at all is the last 20 miles or so of no shoulder highway with deer a plenty. The last little bit down the hill into town is no sweat at all, just adds to the experience. Take your time and enjoy. We will be doing this trip again soon, it's great for 3 day weekends for us.
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Old 07-01-2011, 12:57 AM   #13
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550 from Albuquerque to Durango is cake. 4 lanes all the way up and thru Aztec, easy grades and NO scary curves. We just did this on Memorial weekend. 220 miles from my house to United Campgrounds (highly recommended as the train runs thru it and the river is VERY close). The only issue at all is the last 20 miles or so of no shoulder highway with deer a plenty. The last little bit down the hill into town is no sweat at all, just adds to the experience. Take your time and enjoy. We will be doing this trip again soon, it's great for 3 day weekends for us.
Curiosity, does anyone know the grade % for that last little bit down to Durango? I can't find it on the mountain directory, probably because it's so short. But, I'm curious. Last summer while going into Durango from Albuquerque on 550, I blew a fuse to the PAC Brake so it was only the engine and occasional brake going down the hill. I didn't have a problem but it seemed a little more than 6% grade and it made me curious how well the engine itself was holding.

Thanks,

John
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Old 07-15-2011, 08:40 PM   #14
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We did that route last summer. 550 is a good road, we had no trouble. Only trouble we had was in Cuba, NM. We found El Bruno's Mexican Restaurant. Some of the best food I ever wrapped a lip over! We liked the salsa so much we bought a case, have since had 2 cases shipped to us. LOL

You said you were staying North of town. We stayed at Alpine Rose, nice park but AT&T phones don't work. Had to walk to highway to get service. Highly recommend taking the bus to Silverton and riding the train back. Worth every penny. We rode in the enclosed adult only train car.

Happy travels!
Kerry
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