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Old 01-26-2018, 03:49 PM   #1
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Colorado Mountain Passes

In June, we are planning a journey to Rocky Mtn. NP and Colorado NM, on I-70, then to Black Canyon NP and Durango on US550 and back east through Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek Pass on US160 to Kansas. My concerns are a lot of the mountain passes on these routes are 6.5-7% grades. Even though I have done these kind of grades in cars, my years of MH driving have never required me to experience these until now. The worst I have done is US65 going south to Branson. Am I going to have any issues trying to maneuver over these? I don't fear the grade % as much as the length of the climb or decline. My 8.1L gasser MH is 22000# and my toad is 3800#. I do have a Brake Buddy to help with braking. I intend on stops for engine or brake cooling as necessary. I am going to install new brake pads just to be as safe as possible. The cooling system and serpentine have already been serviced recently. I don't want to go into this with a blind eye to what to expect on my planned route. I may alter my trip plans if need be. This is supposed to be a trip of a lifetime.
Can anybody give me experienced advice not just an opinion?
Thanks!
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Old 01-26-2018, 06:08 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by vacationer04 View Post
In June, we are planning a journey to Rocky Mtn. NP and Colorado NM, on I-70, then to Black Canyon NP and Durango on US550 and back east through Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek Pass on US160 to Kansas. My concerns are a lot of the mountain passes on these routes are 6.5-7% grades. Even though I have done these kind of grades in cars, my years of MH driving have never required me to experience these until now. The worst I have done is US65 going south to Branson. Am I going to have any issues trying to maneuver over these? I don't fear the grade % as much as the length of the climb or decline.
In accordance with your signature, I'm not going to say you can't do it, but I will say that Highway 550 to Durango will not be easy because it's a twisty road with sheer dropoffs into the canyon and no guard rails, and some turns that you can't see around until you get there and just hope like hell the person coming the other way isn't over the center line.

Yes, people drive it in big rigs and for some reason think everyone else should, too, for reasons I'll never understand.

You might consider going "around," to Placerville and then down to Mancos (the road between Dolores and Mancos is fine), and over to Durango. The stretch west of Ridgway is beautiful (it's where Ralph Lauren chose to buy a ranch), and Lizard Head Pass is twisty but not scary.

It will add about 60 miles, but that will seem insignificant when compared to the number of years driving 550 in a pretty big motorhome with toad will take off your life.

Can't help you on the grades--I have a diesel. But I have to really watch the RPMs on I-70 to keep the temperature down when ascending, and I use the engine brake and occasional hard stabs on the regular brake when descending. I drive that stretch, but I can't say I enjoy it.
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Old 01-26-2018, 06:23 PM   #3
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I too would avoid 550 into Durango and Uray driving a big rig (MH or TT). Very narrow and this last summer construction made the road narrower and quite steep with sheer drop offs and no guard rail.
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Old 01-26-2018, 06:40 PM   #4
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I too would avoid 550 into Durango and Uray driving a big rig (MH or TT). Very narrow and this last summer construction made the road narrower and quite steep with sheer drop offs and no guard rail.
I would also avoid highway 550, especially from Ouray to Durango. We stayed in Ouray for a month this summer and drove the toad over Red Mountain pass to Silverton. It is very steep and curvy with sheer drop offs and no guard rails, especially going South.
My advice is same as above and turn West at Ridgeway, just North of Ouray, and go over Lizard Head pass to Mancos then to Durango. Beautiful drive and much less stressful than Red Mountain.
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Old 01-26-2018, 08:18 PM   #5
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When in question in the mountains, a great aid is Mountain Directory
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Old 01-26-2018, 08:54 PM   #6
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there are several passes where curves and grades are not the issue. It;s the narrow lanes and absolutely no shoulder..
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Old 01-26-2018, 09:06 PM   #7
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I've driven 550 in 40' coach towing jeep. While tight turns and such, I have been on worse. If such roads really bother you then find another route. If not, its very doable.

As for the steep grades. You will of course be slow going up. Just take your time and up you will go. Downhill is the bigger challenge - spoed control. Don't ride the brakes. Downshift for engine braking. Most importantly, don't ride the brakes as they will overheat. As your speed gets too great brake firmly to reduce speed 10-15 mph - get off the brakes and after the speed increases, brakes again... Repeat... Repeat...
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Old 01-26-2018, 09:07 PM   #8
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Am I understanding this right that St. Rte 62 and St. Rte 145 are better than US550? I would expect a US road to be better. I am not feeling good about coming down 550 from Grand Junction at this point. I am not afraid but after seeing the videos posted on YouTube DW says she doesn't want to go that way.
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Old 01-26-2018, 09:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vacationer04 View Post
Am I understanding this right that St. Rte 62 and St. Rte 145 are better than US550? I would expect a US road to be better. I am not feeling good about coming down 550 from Grand Junction at this point. I am not afraid but after seeing the videos posted on YouTube DW says she doesn't want to go that way.
I went north and south on 145 with my W22 8.1 towing my CJ7 and had no issues at all, I did that route instead of 550.

A couple of pictures at Lizzard Head pass.

The last 2 pictures are Hwy550, we drove it a few miles in my buddys truck, wanted to take a look.
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Old 01-26-2018, 09:58 PM   #10
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Am I understanding this right that St. Rte 62 and St. Rte 145 are better than US550? I would expect a US road to be better. I am not feeling good about coming down 550 from Grand Junction at this point. I am not afraid but after seeing the videos posted on YouTube DW says she doesn't want to go that way.
Yes, 145 is much better than 550. We've driven both many times with our 40' motorhome.


The YouTube you probably watched was of 550 from Ouray to Silverton/Durango. You will not be on any part of that section of 550 if you plan to take 145 to Cortez.

I'd also recommend that you purchase the 'Mountain Directory' as mentioned in an above post. Even though we drove those highways many times we always refreshed our mind of what's to come before driving them again.

From Grand Junction via 50 to Delta to 550 at Montrose to Ridgway is very easy driving. No 'hills' to speak of. No big turns. Nice wide highway with businesses all along it. Hwy 62 is also easy. When you get on 145 at Placerville/Telluride down to Cortez you will then have the downhill but it's a easy one as far as mountain passes go. Really!!

In my opinion I-70 from Denver west is more of an issue than 145 will be.

Have a good trip! Relax. You'll see hundreds of other RVers on these highways. Just remember not to ride your brakes on the downhills. Downshift before even starting to go down.
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Old 01-27-2018, 07:39 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vacationer04 View Post
In June, we are planning a journey to Rocky Mtn. NP and

Colorado NM, on I-70, then to

Black Canyon NP and

Durango on US550 and back east through

Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek Pass on US160 to Kansas.

My concerns are a lot of the mountain passes on these routes are 6.5-7% grades.

Even though I have done these kind of grades in cars, my years of MH driving have never required me to experience these until now.

The worst I have done is US65 going south to Branson.

Am I going to have any issues trying to maneuver over these?

The roads are good - wide - and well built - IMHO.

I don't fear the grade % as much as the length of the climb or decline.

As you said you are not in a Hurry so Not a Problem.

My 8.1L gasser MH is 22000# and my toad is 3800#.

I do have a Brake Buddy to help with braking.

I intend on stops for engine or brake cooling as necessary.

I am going to install new brake pads just to be as safe as possible.

The cooling system and serpentine have already been serviced recently.

I don't want to go into this with a blind eye to what to expect on my planned route.

You are so far ahead of so many of your fellow travelers already that I'd guess the trip will be nothing but FUN.

I may alter my trip plans if need be.

This is supposed to be a trip of a lifetime.

This will be the trip of a Lifetime - my Guess is that as soon as you get home you will be Dreaming of the Return Trip. JMHO

Can anybody give me experienced advice not just an opinion?

All of the roads and so many more have been driven with both Gas and Diesel, and you will see many of your new friends while on the trip. I can't say that I've driven everyone of these in Both a Gas and a Diesel but I have driven all these roads and you certainly sound like the sort of person who can handle it. Last if you have a doubt - drive it- See It in the Toad first, then decide, as there are always alternate routes.

Thanks!
First off - IT WILL BE THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME!!!!!!!!!!

Second - You have the time so What's the Hurry?

The advice you have gotten from the Locals (Colorado in the signature) and twogypsies should be good - BUT needs to have you put your on spin on it - I was a Road contractor and drove some pretty big rigs when needed, and I love the Mountains of Colorado, what I have found is that unless the Road is restricted, you will be fine.

For the most part the Roads you will be traveling on are "really Good" not so bad that YOU could not make the drive, Remember you are not in a Hurry and You are here to Enjoy the areas you are Driving.

As I always ask people about RT 550 - "do you use the Guard Rails to steer for You?" "Do you drive by Feel, (Bouncing off the rails) not by sight?"

Seriously, if when going 25 miles and Hour - do you run off the edge of the Road? The speed limit in the few areas that are a little tight is SLOW. (25MPH)

All that out of the way - "YOU CAN DO IT."

Couple areas you have not mentioned that I'd be sure to try to see/enjoy - Ouray/Telluride - Silverton - Buena Vista - maybe even look overthis post about a similar trip - http://www.irv2.com/forums/f38/3-wee...ly-372873.html.

Do the trip. - Stay in your comfort Zone - Scout the roads you have a question on, in the Toad, if needed - Get out Hike - sit - enjoy - IMHO this will be the Trip of a Lifetime.(Take thousands of PICTURES)
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Old 01-27-2018, 09:25 AM   #12
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If you go to Cortez, don't forget Mesa Verde NP.

A few years ago we intentionally made the drive over the "Million Dollar Highway" (550) south bound, I still want to make the trip north bound. Late September it was gorgeous.
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Old 01-27-2018, 10:04 AM   #13
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I've driven 550 in 40' coach towing jeep. While tight turns and such, I have been on worse.
What roads are worse? The Moki Dugway would be, but I don't think anybody takes big rigs on that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by vacationer04 View Post
Am I understanding this right that St. Rte 62 and St. Rte 145 are better than US550? I would expect a US road to be better.
Good point. I never paid attention to whether a road was a US highway or state highway or farm-to-market road until I got the big motorhome, and since then have favored US highways in unfamiliar areas that could present issues, like New England. In this case, it would have led me astray.


Quote:
Originally Posted by vacationer04 View Post
I am not feeling good about coming down 550 from Grand Junction at this point. I am not afraid but after seeing the videos posted on YouTube DW says she doesn't want to go that way.
As pointed out, the part you'll be on if you go go west at Ridgway is fine. And if your wife doesn't want to go on it, then don't. No sense in making anybody uncomfortable. It would actually probably be better on her if she were driving, because she'd be concentrating on the road instead of the abyss below her, but if there's an alternative that's still quite lovely, why not take it?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Busskipper View Post
The advice you have gotten from the Locals (Colorado in the signature) and twogypsies should be good -
Just to clarify--I don't have Colorado in my signature, but I've lived in Telluride on two different occasions, and have traveled there dozens of times. So I'm very familiar with the area.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Busskipper View Post
As I always ask people about RT 550 - "do you use the Guard Rails to steer for You?" "Do you drive by Feel, (Bouncing off the rails) not by sight?"

Seriously, if when going 25 miles and Hour - do you run off the edge of the Road? The speed limit in the few areas that are a little tight is SLOW. (25MPH)


Then I guess it's just silly to put them anywhere, but they do.
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Old 01-27-2018, 01:16 PM   #14
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Oatmeal: You mentioned Moki Dugway as an extreme road. Yes it is. However, it's gravel.

What just came to mind is Hwy 191 in Arizona from Eagar to Clifton. That's worse than 550.

Another is AZ89A between 89 and Cottonwood.
Also, 89 between 93 and Prescott
... and Sitgreaves Pass west of Kingman

Those are just off the top of my head. There are many highways worse than 550.

Many dangerous highways have a size restriction. 550 is not restricted.

I'm certainly not advocating driving all those roads but they're out there.


OP: Sorry to get off-track to your question. Again, since you don't want to drive the YouTube Hwy 550 you don't have to in order to get where you want to go. Take CO 145. Yes, from Grand Junction you be a little way on 550 but again, that part is flat even compared to I-70 from Denver. You will not be driving on the talked-about part of 550. There's a big difference.

Further on your trip if you don't want to drive Wolf Creek Pass from Pagosa, look at my alternate route I gave in a previous reply. You have options. Don't cancel your plans.
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