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Old 04-26-2013, 10:36 AM
2 posts, read 31,170 times
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Hi All,

This is my first post.

I am a European novelist, in the process of writing a thriller set in the United States. My hero is driving from Chicago to San Diego via Denver. After exiting the Eisenhower tunnel west, how much further will he have to climb before reaching the peak of the Rockies. Also, where does I-70 start to go back downhill, and are there any really steep downhill stages where a trucker could achieve high, even reckless speeds.

I will be coming over to Colorado in the summer to research the journey, but some local insight would be most helpful. I was thinking that I could include some names of really helpful contributors as characters in my book.

Thanks in advance,

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Old 04-26-2013, 12:11 PM
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Mad Dog - The Eisenhower Tunnel essentially bypasses the "top of the Rockies" which would be Loveland Pass, at least at that point in the Rockies, and I guess you could say at that point, you start to go down. However, the "Rockies" really encompass far more than just going up, then going down. When you visit, you'll see many instances where the road levels out, then climbs again, then descends, as you wind your way to Grand Junction. If you're looking for a place where a trucker could achieve high downhill speeds that could be dangerous if he or she lost brakes, there are many such areas throughout the Rockies. One area I would check out would be the west route near Georgetown and the canyons before you reach Glenwood Springs. I'm sure if there are truckers on the forum, they'll weigh in with other, probably better, suggestions.

I'm sure others will have suggestions, but this starts the discussion.
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Old 04-26-2013, 01:02 PM
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Wink Eisenhower Tunnel as setting

Your hero will not have to travel any farther than the Eisenhower Tunnel. At that point one is at the Continental Divide, and by most measures well within and at the top of the Rockies.

As this tunnel slopes to the east, the highest west elevation is 11,158 feet. Should one wish something a little higher and exciting, they could exit I-70 just before this tunnel to use the old road crossing Loveland Pass (elevation: 11,990 feet) just to the south.

I-70 at this tunnel is two lanes in either direction. The two westbound lanes traverse the Eisenhower Tunnel. The two eastbound lanes traverse the Johnson Tunnel, if one wants to get technical. Although this tunnel passage under some very high mountains is commonly referred to just as the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Denver, CO resides at an elevation of 5,430 feet. It is roughly 50 miles from there to this tunnel, so one can do the math on the elevation gain in that distance. In short, the road, with a few dips, goes relentlessly up and up, with grades at times of 3% and more.

It is more exciting on the west side of the Tunnel. Remember that the west portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel is at 11,158 feet. Silverthorne, some 7 or so miles distant, resides at an elevation of 9,035 feet. Making for a good grade between these two points.

There are not one but several runaway truck ramps built off the side of this downslope. Notable are signs along the interstate warning everyone of the grade, especially truckers. These runoff ramps are not only marked with prominent signs, but obvious in departing the road and then running in a straight line at a steep angle up the mountainside. Their roadway is of course gravel, with the idea that that in conjunction with the upward angle will halt any runaway truck having lost its brakes. Such places are plainly nowhere any trucker wants to end up, all the more as likely not getting back to the paved road on their own. Not to mention that using them at speed would be a terrifying ride. Unaccountably, they are there for a reason, and still put to use occasionally.

It is mountains all the way from Denver, and from Silverthorne up again and over Vail Pass (10,662 feet) before descending through more mountains that by some measures extend nearly to Grand Junction, CO. Other mountain passes—such as Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, or Independence Pass, Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan's—offer better white-knuckle driving. Nevertheless, Eisenhower Tunnel and its vicinity would be a fine place to discover an alpine setting often in the grip of winter. As well a road steep enough at times to get one's attention.

A beautiful and scenic place for some research—and as setting.
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Old 04-26-2013, 01:25 PM
Location: Colorado - Oh, yeah!
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The first thing that comes to mind for a runaway truck is actually going eastbound into Denver. "Truckers, you aren't down yet" signs and all. I don't know if there is anything like that westbound (maybe in Utah?), but you can always take some literary license I suppose.

There was a guy posting videos here a year or two ago, he had some great ones of I-70 though Colorado; screwedupclickv2 was his name I believe. He and a lot of other people have of driving videos on YouTube that are worth looking at, but certainly aren't a substitute for actually driving it.

Interstate 70 in Colorado - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia references the stretch of I-70 East I am thinking about.


Look at http://www.usends.com/Explore/Truckers/ as well.
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Old 04-27-2013, 08:55 AM
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If you drive the Utah part around sunset, the most amazing colors occur in the rocks along with the 8 percent grades and all. It's stunning, and on an average map, it just looks like more highway. Oh, and there are no services for some 100 miles, so gas up. Have a grand drive! It's a beautiful part of the country, nothing like it anywhere. (P.S. Best to have a V-6 car to pull the hills and grades, especially if you also want air conditioning at the same time. I once rented a Hyundai and could smell stuff burning just going out of Denver towards Silver Plume. Had an Escort another time and no a/c in Utah).
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Old 04-27-2013, 11:08 AM
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Be sure to check out the road thru Glenwood Canyon.

The most expensive 10 mile (??) stretch of interstate ever built, mainly to please the environmentalists in the '70's.

The highway department had to color the rocks green after blasting and had to stack the highway lanes to minimize the impact of the hillsides being blasted away next to the river.

It is a engineering marvel to say the least!
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Old 04-27-2013, 01:06 PM
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Thanks everyone for your help and suggestions, you've already been a great help. Any other suggestions will be a great help.

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Old 04-28-2013, 11:14 AM
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Eisenhower Tunnel, I-70 Colorado - YouTube

cool video going through that area
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Old 04-28-2013, 06:46 PM
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All your questions have been covered, but I wanted to add one more thing....

Glenwood Canyon in Western Colorado is something you shouldn't miss! It's an incredibly narrow and sheer canyon cut by the Colorado river, and I-70 is built right through it! The reddish colored canyon walls also look incredible at sunset! Trust me it's AWESOME!!
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Old 04-28-2013, 06:51 PM
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Several Glenwood Canyon vids on youtube.
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