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Old 01-05-2012, 10:34 AM
 
16,172 posts, read 20,180,588 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post

The hairiest single spot on US550, in my opinion, though, is in the northbound lane about a mile or so south of Red Mountain summit.

How scary is the Million Dollar Highway to some flatlander drivers? Enough that, on several occasions, I've seen drivers "frozen" in the middle of the road--unable to drive another foot. A couple of times, my passenger had to get out, and drive their vehicle over Red Mountain Pass to Silverton for them.
I came upon this very type of a situation a year and a half ago. Halfway up this very summit sits a 1979 Dodge Motorhome-stopped. It was the Sprinter model so I knew right away that the RV had a 318 engine in it. I was in my '94 Jeep Cherokee and I got in front of the Dodge. And got out as a few cars were coming up the hill. I waved them through.

It was a retired couple in their 60's and they were literally shaking. I moved as fast as I could as I got out my 20 ft. tow chain and hooked them up and took them up a ways until I could pull both of us over safely. CDOT generally has maintenance trucks rolling through from time to time and fortunately one of them came along. The driver told me he would take care of them as I was concerned for the couple.

I never got back with the CDOT guys to see how all of it ended up, but I had a good guess why the van lost power and stalled. The carburetor wasn't adjusted for high altitude driving (they were from Arizona.) The whole thing was kind of stressful in a way for me, not so much pulling the rig out of a dangerous spot but that there might be a serious health issue here. They had told me that they were headed to Olathe to visit a dying relative.

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 01-05-2012 at 10:59 AM..
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Old 01-05-2012, 11:04 AM
 
Location: Colorado Plateau
1,133 posts, read 3,177,730 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbiemay View Post
thank you so much for the input. The last two years I have driven the Blue Ridge Pkwy ( which by no means can compare to Colorado) I also live in the knob section of Ky narrow winding hilly roads so at least I'm not a flatlander. I figure I can do it. I'm a mobile notary who travels backroads for a living. I once met a fedex truck on a narrow one and 1/2 lane dirt road (I was cliffside) no guardrails, it was a little hairy but we made it. One other question I'm interested in hwy 90 into Utah which then becomes 46. It looks quite desolate and I think it might be dirt? for quite a stretch, can anyone give me details. Thanks so much, I'm counting down the days till I hit the road.
I am familiar with hwy 90/hwy 46. It is all nicely paved. It goes from Naturita, CO, through the Paradox Valley (stop at the store in Bedrock!) it goes over the shoulder of the La Sal Mountains, then on to La Sal, UT (there is a little store there too), then connects to hwy 191. For a bit more scenery, just after La Sal turn south on to the Lisbon Valley Road (paved) that will come out onto 191.

I rode a loaded touring bike down these roads a couple of years ago, so I saw it at 10mph and camped along it. I feel like I recall every inch of it vividly! Very scenic, I guess people would call it remote. A few houses and ranches along the roads. Well worth driving.

I have been over Red Mtn Pass (550) several times but I've avoided it in bad weather. Yeah there are some nasty looking drop offs but a bit of careful driving and you'll do fine. I rode my bike over this pass too and I didn't have any problems with traffic. It took 4 hrs to climb the pass on my bike and I rode in the center of the car lane where the road was right against the edge but the cars didn't seem to mind giving me some room.
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Old 01-05-2012, 01:25 PM
 
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Well I'm still looking forward to my trip but I'm getting a little nervous about 550. I am going 90 and 46 sounds wonderful. Less people the more I like it.
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Old 01-05-2012, 01:55 PM
 
Location: Colorado
4,308 posts, read 11,467,149 times
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I've done 550 going north in June and it was a very easy drive. Some traffic, a couple of spots where the drop-off is on your side of the road but mostly they're on the other side. No problems with other drivers and the scary portion of the road really isn't that long. You're in Ouray before you know it.
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Old 01-05-2012, 03:16 PM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
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And when you reach Ouray, you can hit the hot springs and soak all of the highway stress out of your body!
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Old 01-05-2012, 03:54 PM
 
Location: The canyon (with my pistols and knife)
12,994 posts, read 17,122,083 times
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Million Dollar Highway, huh? How many feet long is it? 100? 200? 500?
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Old 01-05-2012, 04:07 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gnutella View Post
Million Dollar Highway, huh? How many feet long is it? 100? 200? 500?
Total length: 74 miles from Ouray to Durango, 3 mountain passes all near or over 11,000 ft. elevation--Red Mountain Pass, Molas Pass, Coal Bank Hill. What is commonly referred to as the Million Dollar Highway portion is the 24 miles between Ouray and Silverton, over Red Mountain Pass. There are varying stories as to how it got its name: that it cost over a million dollars in 1880 dollars to build the wagon road where the highway now sits; that there is over a million dollars (again, in 1880 dollars) of silver ore that was found when excavating for the wagon road; etc.

I've driven (or ridden) over it for over a half-century--hundreds and hundreds of times--it's still a spectacular and thrilling road. But, in its fickle moods, it can also be a very dangerous and unforgiving road to those ignorant of its hazards.
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Old 01-05-2012, 06:47 PM
 
16,172 posts, read 20,180,588 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
I disagree with those who say traveling US550 from north to south has less severe dropoffs. While the total distance without guardrails, etc. may be less, the most severe dropoffs with the least margin of error are on the southbound lane south of Ouray and north of the Riverside slide snowshed. There are places there where the edge of road (and cliff) is literally just off the right lane marker.
A few words on the Riverside slide snowshed.

This memorial is dedicated to those who have given the supreme sacrifice in the maintenance of Red Mountain Pass. The lonely vigil of the night is known only to these men of courage.

Just a little ways south of the snowshed sits a memorial marker honoring three Colorado Department of Transportation drivers; Robert Miller, Eddie Imel, and Terry Kishbaugh. The marker has the above statement on it.

The death of Kishbaugh was especially horrific as a busload of Ft. Lewis college students were on their way to a swim meet The avalanche along Riverside Slide happened literally right in front of them and saw Kishbaugh and the plow truck get swept off the road and rolled down the embankment.

According to CDOT there are 101 avalanche chutes on both sides of U.S. Highway 550. 57 of them have specific names to them. Names like Riverside.
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Old 01-05-2012, 07:52 PM
 
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Excellent idea CosmicWizard.

I watched a video today of 550 covered in ice and snow. I cannot imagine the courage it must take to maintain that road in those conditions.

I don't hear much about highway 145 how does it compare to 550 as far as scenery and difficulty?

Last edited by Mike from back east; 01-06-2012 at 11:04 AM.. Reason: Merged 3:1
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Old 01-05-2012, 08:52 PM
 
Location: Colorado Springs
18,894 posts, read 8,873,507 times
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I wonder if it isn't time for CDOT to make some drastic improvements to the highway. It appears to be much the same as it was back in 1960 when I was a kid and my grandparents took me over it. They just made major improvements to the road over Guanella Pass, and while I know the M$H would be much more of a challenge, it really does seem like -- for safety's sake -- that seem improvement are needed.

What about Colorado route 145? How is that going south from Placerville to Cortez?

Last edited by Mike from back east; 01-06-2012 at 11:04 AM.. Reason: Merged 2:1
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