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Neelie555

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Aug 8, 2015
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10
We will be traveling from Fort Collins to Durango in our 36 ft fifth wheel pulled by our dually long bed. Our height is 13'6" We are not used to pulling in elevations as we live in Florida. What route would be the least steep/easiest for my non daredevil spirit:)? Thank you
 

Neelie555

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Aug 8, 2015
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10
Dream on. You are talking about crossing the Rockies. There is no easy way.
I appreciate your reply. Thank you. I didn't expect an easy route, just wondered if one route would be less "adventurous" than another. We have traveled Colorado roads in the past but never pulling a fifth wheel.
 

Arch Hoagland

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Clovis California
SeilerBird pretty much covered it.

Believe me you'll know a lot about pulling mountains after that trip.

Just don't ride your brakes and start down the mountains at 45 or less in a lower gear.
 

Larry N.

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May 26, 2010
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Westminster, Colorado
Probably the least steep overall would be I-25 south to just north of Albuquerque, NM then pick up U.S. 550 Through Aztec, NM to Durango, but even that one will have a number of fairly steep spots, and it goes quite a bit out of your way. Next would be I-25 S. to I-76 in Denver, then W. to I-70, thence to U.S. 191 in Utah, S to Monticello, UT where you get U.S. 491 east to U.S 160 to Durango, but again it's a fair chunk out of the way and there's still quite a few steep hills (OK, mountains, really).

Finally there's S. on I-25 to Walsenburg, CO and U.S. 160 W to Durango (usually my choice), but that includes Wolf Creek Pass and a few other steep places. There may be some more choices (not many, actually -- not many roads), but the ONE to avoid would be (IMO) anything that takes you on U.S. 550 between Ouray and Durango, the "Million Dollar Highway."

Or I could just say that Tom's right, there's no way to Durango from north or east that avoids steep up and down long grades going to Durango.

If you go there, you'll just need to learn to deal with steep mountain grades, accept the fact of slowdowns going up and the fact that you should go down just as slowly. And you'll probably want to make it a two day trip, since a lot of it is slow going and you'll get tired sooner than many people realize.

You might search for "mountain driving" in these forums and get some tips to avoid burning out brakes or going too fast to make some turns (there are very sharp curves in many places, some down to a recommended 10 or 15 MPH) -- NEVER ride the brakes!
 

LarsMac

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Colorado Plains
Tom is right. I agree that the easiest for a beginner is probably down to Walsenburg and across on US-160. I like the US 50 route, myself, but it can be a bit of a challenge.
And 285 is not bad, once you get into Park County.
But one thing all of these routes have in common is Wolf Creek Pass. It's a beautiful drive, but it can be intimidating the first time.
Just remember, don't get in a hurry, and pay attention.
 

Arch Hoagland

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On Wolf Creek Pass there are speed signs posted for trucks.

I followed the recommended speed for an 80,000 lb truck.

Where are you staying in Durango?
 

Isaac-1

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SW Louisiana
We crossed from Charma to Aztec, NM a couple of years ago on US 64 and it was overall a nice scenic drive, though since we came into Charma from the south I can't say how access is from the north.
 

NMDriver

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Dec 3, 2018
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69
The passes have long grades but they are not all that steep. The roads are traveled daily by semi-tractor trailer rigs. There are some 180 curves on most pass routes but not all.

The route from Walsenburg to Alamosa to Chama and then back up to Pagosa Springs is not to far out of your way and is not intimidating, although narrower lanes than Wolf Creek, plus you may get stuck behind a bus load of train riders from Antonio to Chama.

Wolf Creek has a bad reputation but in fact has been tamed these many years, with lanes added and widened. The main thing is stay in a low gear keep it under 40 going down. If you must use your brakes step on them hard for a short period of time and then release them and do it again if that does not slow you enough.

Buy yourself a Truckers Mountain Guide and read all about the various grades and cautions along the route you choose.
 

Loose Nut

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May 4, 2021
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Cochise Stronghold... or damned near it.
Good advice from all above... heed any warning signs for truckers regarding steep downgrades, those will let you know that safety is a concern. Those signs are usually bright yellow or orange, hard to miss. Limit use of service brakes... with big trucks, most had engine retarders or 'Jake Brakes' which made life easier, but proper gear selection was still important on steep and otherwise dangerous downgrades. Cabbage Hill in Oregon is a good example of the latter: not necessarily that long or steep, but the hairpin curves have caused a few deaths.

When in doubt, just go easy and don't let any dangerous speed build on downgrades. Not such a problem when pulling grades, as your rig's limitations will slow ya down soon enough. Oh, yeah, flashers on if you're crawling up or down, truckers usually hit the switch when speed drops under 40 m.p.h., which happens to be the minimum speed limit on many highways. Good luck, be safe, try to keep your brakes from overheating... a dangerous condition in big rigs, with "brake fade" and eventual loss of brakes leading to serious problems and fatality wrecks.

P.S. One trick I always employed when approaching steep downgrades was to back off the accelerator and let the rig slow down BEFORE the downgrade began for real, that helped prolong the need for braking on the descent. Conversely, most truckers liked to mash on it and "get a good run at the hill" when pulling a grade, thereby prolonging the eventual but inevitable need to downshift. Hope this helps... Cheers!!!
 

LarsMac

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P.S. One trick I always employed when approaching steep downgrades was to back off the accelerator and let the rig slow down BEFORE the downgrade began for real, that helped prolong the need for braking on the descent.
Good advice
Conversely, most truckers liked to mash on it and "get a good run at the hill" when pulling a grade, thereby prolonging the eventual but inevitable need to downshift. Hope this helps... Cheers!!!
Not me, Bro. I always rolled over the top at whatever gear it took to get up there. I figured that was a good gear to start down with.
 

Loose Nut

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Cochise Stronghold... or damned near it.
Just wanted to share a funny story with ya... about how I "smoked my brakes" on a steep downgrade. This grade wasn't that long, I could see the bottom of the hill as I started my descent, but being in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, the grade was steep. I was still pretty green, a rookie solo truck driver fresh out of school and additional team training, so I thought, "Meh, doesn't look that bad."

Well, my rig was pushing gross, or 80,000 lbs. (40 tons), and I didn't select the proper gear for the grade: next thing ya know, I'm careening down the grade like a runaway train, thankfully there wasn't much traffic present, 10-4? Started laying on my service brakes to slow the rig down, and before I hit the bottom of the hill, I looked into my West Coast mirror to see smoke pouring out from under my 53' wagon. Luckily, there was no real damage done, and I should've just kept rolling to let the brakes cool down...

Being a rookie, I pulled over at the first opportunity, using an extra-wide shoulder for the purpose, and I got out to check the wagon & brakes up close. Climbing back into my tractor, I settled into my seat to relax for a moment before pulling onto the road again. It was a USX rig, or U.S. Xpress, and smoke was still rolling out from under the wagon, though not quite as much. As I sat there, the CB crackled and some older hand asked a question which I still think was pretty darned funny. He said:

"WHATCHA DOIN', U.S., HAVIN' A BBQ???"

Now, age is not necessarily an indication of knowledge or experience in the trucking industry, some older hands just started driving and they know relatively little, while some younger hands hail from families with generations of truck drivers, and they started driving hay trucks or whatever on the family farm or ranch when they were 14 years old. But this hand sounded like he'd been driving since dinosaurs roamed the earth, and his question was pretty darned funny.

I told him I had smoked my brakes on the hill, first time it had ever happened to me... meh, no worries, the incident may have been embarrassing, but I learned from it and I was always careful about dropping down grades afterward. Sometimes, it takes a little mishap for a driver to learn... just be careful, avoid distractions, remain focused, and you'll be alright. Someday, I'll tell ya how I learned to cut the radio volume and roll down the window before backing, but THAT is another story, lol. Cheers!!!
 
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Loose Nut

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May 4, 2021
Posts
78
Location
Cochise Stronghold... or damned near it.
Not me, Bro. I always rolled over the top at whatever gear it took to get up there. I figured that was a good gear to start down with.

I was just referring to the inevitable downshifting sequence whenever a loaded rig pulled a steep grade... sometimes, as on a plateau, the road might go for miles before the descent. Other hills or ranges had short summit sections, so staying in a lower gear made perfect sense. Hey, talking about these grades & ranges reminds me of what another old hand told me as the two of us were rolling through West Virginia, up and down hill after hill. I told him I was never in a single gear longer than about 10 or 15 seconds, and he replied:

"YEAH, THIS DAMNED STATE, IF THEY IRONED IT OUT IT'D BE AS BIG AS ALASKA!!! SURE IS PRETTY THOUGH..."

I reckon he was right on both counts, lol... and it IS pretty, that's for sure, particularly in spring and fall.
 
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richclover

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Jan 26, 2019
Posts
255
Location
WY
Just wanted to share a funny story with ya... about how I "smoked my brakes" on a steep downgrade. This grade wasn't that long, I could see the bottom of the hill as I started my descent, but being in the Allegheny Mountains of Pensylvania, the grade was steep. I was still pretty green, a rookie solo truck driver fresh out of school and additional team training, so I thought, "Meh, doesn't look that bad."

Well, my rig was pushing gross, or 80,000 lbs. (40 tons), and I didn't select the proper gear for the grade: next thing ya know, I'm careening down the grade like a runaway train, thankfully there wasn't much traffic present, 10-4? Started laying on my service brakes to slow the rig down, and before I hit the bottom of the hill, I looked into my West Coast mirror to see smoke pouring out from under my 53' wagon. Luckily, there was no real damage done, and I should've just kept rolling to let the brakes cool down...

Being a rookie, I pulled over at the first opportunity, using an extra-wide shoulder for the purpose, and I got out to check the wagon & brakes up close. Climbing back into my tractor, I settled into my seat to relax for a moment before pulling onto the road again. It was a USX rig, or U.S. Xpress, and smoke was still rolling out from under the wagon, though not quite as much. As I sat there, the CB crackled and some older hand asked a question which I still think was pretty darned funny. He said:

"WHATCHA DOIN', U.S., HAVIN' A BBQ???"

Now, age is not necessarily an indication of knowledge or experience in the trucking industry, some older hands just started driving and they know relatively little, while some younger hands hail from families with generations of truck drivers, and they started driving hay trucks or whatever on the family farm or ranch when they were 14 years old. But this hand sounded like he'd been driving since dinosaurs roamed the earth, and his question was pretty darned funny.

I told him I had smoked my brakes on the hill, first time it had ever happened to me... meh, no worries, the incident may have been embarrassing, but I learned from it and I was always careful about dropping down grades afterward. Sometimes, it takes a little mishap for a driver to learn... just be careful, avoid distractions, remain focused, and you'll be alright. Someday, I'll tell ya how I learned to cut the radio and roll down the window before backing, but THAT is another story, lol. Cheers!!!
I drove to work in Salt Lake City for 10 years. I-80, Parley’s Canyon. I had a CB in my pickup for most of that time. Can’t remember how many times I told big rig drivers about hot, smoking brakes going down that hill ;)

OTOH, I followed a 5th wheel down Parley’s this AM. Speed limit, 65, all the way, and nicely done. Turns out it was a pro transporter.
 
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richclover

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 26, 2019
Posts
255
Location
WY
Just wanted to share a funny story with ya... about how I "smoked my brakes" on a steep downgrade. This grade wasn't that long, I could see the bottom of the hill as I started my descent, but being in the Allegheny Mountains of Pensylvania, the grade was steep. I was still pretty green, a rookie solo truck driver fresh out of school and additional team training, so I thought, "Meh, doesn't look that bad."

Well, my rig was pushing gross, or 80,000 lbs. (40 tons), and I didn't select the proper gear for the grade: next thing ya know, I'm careening down the grade like a runaway train, thankfully there wasn't much traffic present, 10-4? Started laying on my service brakes to slow the rig down, and before I hit the bottom of the hill, I looked into my West Coast mirror to see smoke pouring out from under my 53' wagon. Luckily, there was no real damage done, and I should've just kept rolling to let the brakes cool down...

Being a rookie, I pulled over at the first opportunity, using an extra-wide shoulder for the purpose, and I got out to check the wagon & brakes up close. Climbing back into my tractor, I settled into my seat to relax for a moment before pulling onto the road again. It was a USX rig, or U.S. Xpress, and smoke was still rolling out from under the wagon, though not quite as much. As I sat there, the CB crackled and some older hand asked a question which I still think was pretty darned funny. He said:

"WHATCHA DOIN', U.S., HAVIN' A BBQ???"

Now, age is not necessarily an indication of knowledge or experience in the trucking industry, some older hands just started driving and they know relatively little, while some younger hands hail from families with generations of truck drivers, and they started driving hay trucks or whatever on the family farm or ranch when they were 14 years old. But this hand sounded like he'd been driving since dinosaurs roamed the earth, and his question was pretty darned funny.

I told him I had smoked my brakes on the hill, first time it had ever happened to me... meh, no worries, the incident may have been embarrassing, but I learned from it and I was always careful about dropping down grades afterward. Sometimes, it takes a little mishap for a driver to learn... just be careful, avoid distractions, remain focused, and you'll be alright. Someday, I'll tell ya how I learned to cut the radio and roll down the window before backing, but THAT is another story, lol. Cheers!!!
A load of bananas into Scranton, Pennsylvania maybe 😊

30,000 pounds...

 
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Loose Nut

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Joined
May 4, 2021
Posts
78
Location
Cochise Stronghold... or damned near it.
Yeah, it all depends upon a driver's level of experience. In the main, truck drivers are safer than most four-wheelers, but you also have the rookies and the road rage types, lol.

Oh, and USX was a dry van outfit... I still learned a lot behind the wheel of that first assigned truck.
 

Dragline

Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2016
Posts
17
OP your sig doesn't show the type of Dually you have if you are fortunate to have one with an engine brake study and experiment with it is a handy tool however DO NOT solely rely on that above guidance is more reliable but coupled together you'll be just fine
 
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