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Author Topic: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)  (Read 2030 times)

raybbj

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I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« on: March 07, 2017, 01:54:08 AM »
Hi Folks,

I have read a lot of articles regarding I-70 between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass). I have a few specific questions.

 - What kind of speeds can I expect ascending the steeper parts of I-70 (Vail Pass) west to east (Ford 6.2L F350 GASSER, CC, Long Box pulling 11,000 5er)
 - I read a thread on this forum from 2014 where the poster (SargeW) mentioned how bad the road was (potholes, ruts, etc.). Have they re-paved since? Or is it still in bad shape?
 - Any chance of snow storms in 3rd or 4 week of May in Vail? I suppose I just need to check the weather reports on the day of travel and CDOT website.

Any insight is appreciated.

Regards,
Ray
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markbarendt

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2017, 06:27:51 AM »
Slow, but that's ok, you'll have company. 

I-70 is a major highway and is generally in very reasonable shape. That said, in Colorado the winter is tough on roads and serious repairs are normally done over the summer. May is not 'almost summer', more like the start of spring at Vail's altitude and latitude.

Snow is very possible, even probable in May if there's a storm, and it's not unheard of in August.

AStravelers

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2017, 08:16:54 AM »
Don't worry about speed.  There are truck lanes for slow vehicles. 

Going uphill, manually gear down, keep your RPM's up to keep from overheating.

Going downhill, start slow a the top, manually gear down even if that means driving a 30-35mph to keep from using the brakes more often than every 30-60 seconds.

Watch the weather. 
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schoolsout2

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2017, 09:20:05 AM »
Last year in late August we had snow flurries at the top of the pass.  Road was in good shape.
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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2017, 11:36:33 AM »
I haven't been over the hill since early October. Usually there are more potholes in the spring, but it was a bit bumpy then. And CDOT will be just starting mitigation work.
Pulling up the pass from Vail, 25 mph will be doing well. If you can keep from getting pulled up by a really slow truck, and maintain that speed, you're lucky. once you lose it, you won't get it back.
Going back down toward Copper Mtn, the hill is not really as bad (You do need to mind your speed and you brakes.)
The worst of it is actually the hill east of Frisco, dropping into Silverthorne. People relax and get over-confident as they pass Frisco exits, and that hill is a surprise.
   
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raybbj

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2017, 04:28:13 PM »
So 25 MPH to 30 MPH seems to be the consensus. For what distance can I expect these kinds of low speeds from Grand Junction to Denver (assuming I should do the same speed going down as going up)
Are we talking 20 miles? 75 miles, 150 miles of steep 25MPH grades?

Thanks again for the insight as I've never driven I70
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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2017, 07:42:29 PM »
So 25 MPH to 30 MPH seems to be the consensus. For what distance can I expect these kinds of low speeds from Grand Junction to Denver (assuming I should do the same speed going down as going up)
Are we talking 20 miles? 75 miles, 150 miles of steep 25MPH grades?

Thanks again for the insight as I've never driven I70

It's pretty easy rolling up to Vail, itself, but from Vail to Idaho Springs, about 65 miles, there is a lot of grades, and you'll want to take your time.

Then if you stay on I-70 into Denver, Floyd Hill is another healthy climb, followed by a long steady descent into the West Denver suburbs. On this section, if you can keep it under 50, you should be fine.

So, plan to basically spend most of your day playing the snail. Better late than never, they say.

 
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markbarendt

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2017, 07:53:39 PM »
So 25 MPH to 30 MPH seems to be the consensus. For what distance can I expect these kinds of low speeds from Grand Junction to Denver (assuming I should do the same speed going down as going up)
Are we talking 20 miles? 75 miles, 150 miles of steep 25MPH grades?

Thanks again for the insight as I've never driven I70
Maybe 20 miles of slow stuff.

raybbj

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2017, 08:09:53 PM »
Thanks everyone. This really helps with my planning. I was originally going to take 1-80 east, but it's a long drive from Salt Lake to Cheyenne, less scenery and only KOA's along the way (Ralwlins, Laramie and Cheyenne). Colorado has nice State Parks nothing against KOA's).
Plus I was concerned about wind on I-80. Even if I don't get blown off the road, I don't want my DW to have to pry my fingers off the steering wheel after 400 miles of fighting the Wyoming wind. Been there done that without a 5er behind me.

Any of you had trouble with wind on I-80 ?

Regards,
Ray
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ArdraF

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2017, 11:18:58 PM »
I don't recall any very windy conditions on I-80 but I'm sure there are times when that's the case.  We take both I-70 and I-80 and what we choose depends a lot on the weather.  I actually think I-80 is easier driving and I enjoy the high plains.  The main difference between the two is altitude.  Passes on I-80 tend to be in the 7,000-8,000 foot range whereas I-80 is 11,158 feet at Eisenhower tunnel.  Also most interstate highways have a maximum 6 percent grade, but I-70 is closer to 7 percent simply because of the terrain - it's the exception to the rule.  That gradient and the higher elevation is why your speed drops so much going up on I-70.  We've also found that it's best to turn off the cruise control because it works very hard to maintain a higher speed when the grade and elevation are working against it.

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lone_star_dsl

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2017, 09:40:53 AM »
I think you'll be able to maintain a little more speed than what others are saying.  I used to go up and over I-70 twice a month with 12,000 lbs behind a 2002 powerstroke and could keep from being a rolling road block. Your 6.2 gasser almost makes the same power that the old 7.3 diesel made.

Of course you may only do 3-5 mph if you get stuck in traffic...

I-70 is a well maintained road and it's not the extremely twisty, steep road that some people think it is.
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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2017, 11:06:20 AM »
I think you'll be able to maintain a little more speed than what others are saying.  I used to go up and over I-70 twice a month with 12,000 lbs behind a 2002 powerstroke and could keep from being a rolling road block. Your 6.2 gasser almost makes the same power that the old 7.3 diesel made.

Of course you may only do 3-5 mph if you get stuck in traffic...

I-70 is a well maintained road and it's not the extremely twisty, steep road that some people think it is.

If you're in any rig with some weight behind it, you do not want to come down off Vail pass at much over 45. You get over 60 and have to pull your speed back down, you can get into trouble, overheat your brakes and have a rather scary ride down to Copper Mountain. Same with the hill down to Silverthorne.

The road is not winding and twisting, no, but it is a steady decline, and you build up speed pretty darned fast.

Same with coming down from the Tunnel. it's an easy drive, except for building speed, and over-driving your brakes.
Once you've driven it a couple of times you know the hill a little better and it is not that hard to run. But, I would NEVER tell a newbie that it's an easy run, and not a big deal. I would just be setting them up for trouble. 

Also,
 AndraF's mention of turning off Cruise Control is a good one. Never try to run the big hill with Cruise control, or Overdrive enabled.

Compared to I-70, I-80 is a breeze, unless you get caught out in bad weather.
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raybbj

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2017, 11:57:45 AM »
If you're in any rig with some weight behind it, you do not want to come down off Vail pass at much over 45. You get over 60 and have to pull your speed back down, you can get into trouble, overheat your brakes and have a rather scary ride down to Copper Mountain. Same with the hill down to Silverthorne.

The road is not winding and twisting, no, but it is a steady decline, and you build up speed pretty darned fast.

Same with coming down from the Tunnel. it's an easy drive, except for building speed, and over-driving your brakes.
Once you've driven it a couple of times you know the hill a little better and it is not that hard to run. But, I would NEVER tell a newbie that it's an easy run, and not a big deal. I would just be setting them up for trouble. 

Also,
 AndraF's mention of turning off Cruise Control is a good one. Never try to run the big hill with Cruise control, or Overdrive enabled.

Compared to I-70, I-80 is a breeze, unless you get caught out in bad weather.

I'll definitely keep the rig under control (speed) going down also. I live in Vancouver, Canada, so I'm no stranger to mountain driving. I just wasn't sure of the nuances of I-70. I have driven the Coquihalla in BC many times with it's 8.5% grade, albeit in a turbo charged sports car.
45MPH sounds good for a decent. I will slow down if it's hard to manage.
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kdbgoat

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2017, 12:34:53 PM »
Don't be afraid to use to "manual" feature on your transmission. For all intensive purposes, it turns your transmission into a clutchless manual transmission.
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lone_star_dsl

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2017, 01:48:09 PM »
...But, I would NEVER tell a newbie that it's an easy run, and not a big deal. I would just be setting them up for trouble.

I don't see the word "easy" anywhere in my post. Not only that, based on his posts, the OP sure doesn't sound like a newbie.

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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2017, 11:18:36 AM »
I don't see the word "easy" anywhere in my post. Not only that, based on his posts, the OP sure doesn't sound like a newbie.

My apologies. I meant no offense.

It is just that if people approach the hill with too much confidence that is what gets them in trouble. I spent a few years pulling people out of the ditches who didn't think the hill was going to be a problem.

By the way, this image is an elevation profile for I-70 Eastbound from Vail, to Silverthorne (30 miles). It is in meters, so some conversion is necessary.


On another subject,
I highly recommend a breakfast-lunch stop in Silverthorne. The Sunshine Cafe is in the shopping center just up the hill from the Highway exit. There is ample parking and the food is terrific. A great place to recharge before tackling the tunnel hill.






 
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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2017, 11:52:40 AM »
So, Playing around with this mapping tool, I came up with this image.
I-70 from Vail visitors' center to the TA truckstop at I-70 and Ward Road, in Wheatridge.

The spike at the high point is because of the mapping tool's tracking elevation at geographic location rather than the road, itself, so you see the mountain elevation while going through the tunnel.


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raybbj

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2017, 05:44:06 PM »
So, Playing around with this mapping tool, I came up with this image.
I-70 from Vail visitors' center to the TA truckstop at I-70 and Ward Road, in Wheatridge.

The spike at the high point is because of the mapping tool's tracking elevation at geographic location rather than the road, itself, so you see the mountain elevation while going through the tunnel.

Is this a feature of google maps? It looks like it. I couldn't find how to get the graph. Any pointers?

Also, this may be a stupid question having never traveled in Colorado, but 11,000 feet is very high. Does anyone get altitude sickness driving that high? Especially some of us older folk who maybe aren't in the greatest of shape.  I think the human body needs supplementary oxygen at 12,000 feet.

I'm certainly never over confident, In Vancouver I routinely drive on grades near my house that are between 10% and 22%. The one that is 22% is like the going up the first hill of a roller coaster. VERY STEEP. In my old 1981 Toyota Corolla I couldn't get out of 2nd gear going up (1.8L engine).
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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2017, 08:14:45 PM »
Is this a feature of google maps? It looks like it. I couldn't find how to get the graph. Any pointers?

Also, this may be a stupid question having never traveled in Colorado, but 11,000 feet is very high. Does anyone get altitude sickness driving that high? Especially some of us older folk who maybe aren't in the greatest of shape.  I think the human body needs supplementary oxygen at 12,000 feet.

I'm certainly never over confident, In Vancouver I routinely drive on grades near my house that are between 10% and 22%. The one that is 22% is like the going up the first hill of a roller coaster. VERY STEEP. In my old 1981 Toyota Corolla I couldn't get out of 2nd gear going up (1.8L engine).

I found this website earlier:
https://www.mapdevelopers.com/elevation_calculator.php

Started playing with it, for a hiking trip I am planning for this Spring. It's a bit tedious to work with, but I think it can be quite useful.
Then, I started playing with it along the highway, just to see what I could do with it.
You have to keep on the highway itself, or you get a lot of extraneous data.



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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2017, 08:26:24 PM »
...
Also, this may be a stupid question having never traveled in Colorado, but 11,000 feet is very high. Does anyone get altitude sickness driving that high? Especially some of us older folk who maybe aren't in the greatest of shape.  I think the human body needs supplementary oxygen at 12,000 feet.

...

Yes, some people do have difficulty with the altitude, but usually, just passing through, it amounts to a bit of light-headed feeling, and maybe a little shortness of breath. The real problem is usually when they get up into the high mountains and start immediately exerting themselves. (Hiking, skiing, and such)

If a person suffers from breathing issues, it can be a complication.   
Don't eat large meals, or drink a lot of caffeine, or alcohol, you should be OK for the time it takes to get over the hill and back down to "normal altitude"

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ArdraF

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2017, 10:04:36 PM »
No, people udually don't get altitude sickness at 12,000 feet.  A relative got a little lightheaded when she was at Pike's Peak which is over 14,000 feet.  And, yes, there are some people who cannot go above certain altitudes because of specific health issues.  When we lived in the San Francisco area at sea level we planned our trips to higher elevations so we could do it in increments of a few thousand feet each day..  I'm talking from sea level to 8,000+ feet.  We have no health issues but we do like to hike and it's easier to work into it gradually.  We know people who shouldn't go above 4,000 feet because of heart problems.

A few years ago we had someone come onto the RV Forum who needed to transport an elderly ill relative from the east to Los Angeles.  She wanted to do it in a motorhome for the person's comfort.  The problem was the person was advised by her doctors not to go above 4,000 feet so we helped them find a relatively easy-to-drive route that stayed within the elevation limitation.  But as long as you're healthy, altitude shouldn't be an issue.  Just be sure to stay hydrated because this is the desert and you can get dehydrated very quickly.

ArdraF
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raybbj

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #21 on: March 09, 2017, 10:51:03 PM »
Thank you all, we'll drink lots of water in the days leading up to the climb. We don't smoke or drink, but maybe we'll have to stop the coffee for a few days  :( :(
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markbarendt

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #22 on: March 09, 2017, 10:57:22 PM »
No don't stop the coffee, caffeine headaches aren't any better.

ArdraF

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #23 on: March 09, 2017, 10:59:52 PM »
That's true, especially if you drink a lot of coffee.  Those "caffeine withdrawal" headaches are like migraines.  If you only drink a cup or so a day, it probably won't be a problem.

ArdraF
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raybbj

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #24 on: March 09, 2017, 11:40:40 PM »
No don't stop the coffee, caffeine headaches aren't any better.

Good point !!. I'm very happy not to give up my coffee. I only drink 2 cups a day ...... 2 big cups mind you. Maybe 14 oz a day
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Old_Crow

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #25 on: March 10, 2017, 06:48:40 AM »
We hosted at Demotte Campground outside the Grand Canyon north rim last year.  Altitude at the campground was around 8700'.  We had several campers over the summer have to leave because of altitude related problems.  Also, food for thought, we had one couple who had to leave because their elderly dog was having breathing problems.
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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #26 on: March 10, 2017, 09:45:23 AM »
No don't stop the coffee, caffeine headaches aren't any better.

Exactly! Not enough caffeine can be worse than too much.

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LarsMac

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #27 on: March 10, 2017, 10:03:29 AM »
May I suggest that you plan to spend the night somewhere between Grand Junction and Glenwood springs?
Not knowing what your plans are, there are some decent campground/RV Parks along that route.

We always stay on the kids' farm when we are over there, but I like the James M Robb State Park. And Glenwood Springs is worth a day or two, as well.

Then making the drive over the hill is pretty easy.

 
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raybbj

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #28 on: March 10, 2017, 11:59:23 AM »
We will be driving from Vancouver to Dallas. I was planning on staying at James M Robb for 2 nights to get acclimated before driving through Denver, and then ending up at Cheyenne Mountain state Park in CO Springs.
My DW has always had difficulty with altitude. Even going up and down steep short grades here at home (1/2 a mile  between say 300ft ASL to 500ft ASL her ears always pop. And she has suffered from vertigo for weeks after flying, so I'm a little concerned for her.
It might even be worth buying an O2 bottle and mask for her, just in case.
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ArdraF

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Re: I-70 Questions between Grand Junction and Denver (Vail Pass)
« Reply #29 on: March 10, 2017, 10:12:06 PM »
If you're going to Dallas there are other routes at less altitude.  For example, continue south and go east on either I-40 or I-10.  I-40 has higher elevations than I-10 but it's more scenic and, in fact, goes right to Dallas.  Is there any particular reason why you chose to ask about I-80 or I-70?  It sounds like higher elevations on those routes might be more problematic for your wife.  Breathing problems can be scary so the lower elevation routes might be preferable in your case.

ArdraF
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