Wednesday, May 20, 2020


7:29 am - Wednesday - May 20th - Ridgway State Park, CO - 45° F, 38% humidity, wind 12 mph out of the south by southeast....the view this morning......↴

I've been thinking about Tuesday for over a week.  Tuesday we would head north out of Durango, CO on the Million Dollar Highway over Coal Bank Pass (10,680'), and then  over two more passes topping out on the final pass at 11,200' elevation.  Just to get over Coal Bank Pass involved a 27 mile long climb all by itself.  When your coach is powered by a 38 year old Detroit Diesel 6v92, and you know series 92 engines are susceptible to overheating if not managed correctly on long climbs you tend to least I do.  Additionally, you know that if you overheat this baby it will cost you north of $26,000 to fix it, so, yeah, you think about it for a week.  This highway is legendary, and many people will not attempt it in smaller rigs than we own.....we are 62' long with the trailer, and we weigh in the vicinity of 35,000 pounds.....that's a lot of steel to haul up to 11,000' elevation....not just once, but 3 times in the first 60 miles.

I wanted to be on the road before 9 am to take advantage of the cool temps, and as we exited Alpen Rose RV Park it was 8:57 am....perfect.  The first 20 miles whizzed by quickly, and the engine temps were hovering between 195 and 199° F.  We knew from our drive in the Beetle up to Coal Bank Pass the day before that the last 4 miles were going to be the steepest....probably somewhere between a 7 and 9% grade.  Only one time in the 8+ years we have been on the road have I been forced into 1st gear on a climb, and with 3 miles to the top I found myself, once again, in first gear grinding along at 14-16 mph........

......the previous time was in 2013 as we were climbing PH-13 in Alberta up to the Columbia Ice Fields on an 11% grade.  Around 9:40 am we crested Coal Bank Pass and began our first descent of the day.  As the saying goes "Descend in the same gear you climbed" we began the descent I was in 2nd gear, but quickly down shifted back into 1st as I saw how narrow and steep the road was.

After descending for about 4 miles we began to climb again, but the grade was closer to 6% this time and I was able to do it in 2nd gear. On this second climb we topped out at 10,920' before beginning the second descent into Silverton.....

....after making the second climb we began to feel pretty good about the performance of our 6v92....the max temp we hit was 199°.  Once the anxiety began to dissipate we began to enjoy the amazing views......

 Yup, that is really steep!

 Silverton, CO

 Another hairpin turn!

.....over the course of the morning I lost track of how many hairpin turns we had to negotiate at anywhere from 5-15 mph.  We spent about 60% of our entire drive in 1st gear going up and down, and that was new for us..... places the road was literally carved out of the side of the mountain.....the drop offs were high consequence.  Finally we crested the final pass topping out at 11,200', and then it was a matter of negotiating upteen hairpin turns as we descended into Ouray, CO, and the end of the grinding climbs and descents.......

 Ouray, CO 

....from Ouray it was about 15 more miles to Ridgway State Park where we will spend the next three days......

Site 201 in F loop

......the check-in at the State Park was quick, and efficient.....we were in our site by 12:15 pm and beginning to relax.  I told TLE that the 86 mile drive Tuesday felt more like 186 miles. Glenn and Laureen, who left a couple of hours after we did arrived just before 3 pm making the drive without incident.

We'll spend a few days here exploring some of the local must see places including Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Telluride.

Thanks for stopping by!

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1 comment:

  1. You are a much braver man than I. We drove our toad in and out of Durango in 2010 and we were in awe of the big 5th wheels and Class A types we saw along the way.
    I drive many thousands of miles each year, but I have avoided that route in the bus. Wow!