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Old 10-18-2016, 12:23 PM   #1
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1979 31' Excella 500
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1st time on I-70 through Colorado - Grades?

We're towing our 31' Excella through Colorado via I-70 W for the 1st time. Wow, it's beautiful. In Georgetown west of Denver at the moment and taking some time to learn about the rest of the route; specifically, the upcoming grades.

There were some fairly long and relatively steep grades on the way to this point (6%) where we were bogged down to about 35 MPH at one point with the pedal to the floor. Saw some semis crawling along as well.

I've read elsewhere that if your tow vehicle is having trouble (we have a diesel TV) just make sure you're in the right lane and tow at whatever speed is safe and your vehicle is capable of.

I'm wondering if other Airstreamers see getting "bogged down" up mountains as "acceptable" as long as it's infrequent (such as my case) or if the community leans more toward getting a more capable tow vehicle to conquer any/all steep grades. In our case, we're mostly on flat roads, so I never really questioned the capability of our TV up to this point.

Do people really tow 8,500lb trailers up these mountains at the speed limit (65MPH)?

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Old 10-18-2016, 12:30 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trekerboy View Post
We're towing our 31' Excella through Colorado via I-70 W for the 1st time. Wow, it's beautiful. In Georgetown west of Denver at the moment and taking some time to learn about the rest of the route; specifically, the upcoming grades.

There were some fairly long and relatively steep grades on the way to this point (6%) where we were bogged down to about 35 MPH at one point with the pedal to the floor. Saw some semis crawling along as well.

I've read elsewhere that if your tow vehicle is having trouble (we have a diesel TV) just make sure you're in the right lane and tow at whatever speed is safe and your vehicle is capable of.

I'm wondering if other Airstreamers see getting "bogged down" up mountains as "acceptable" as long as it's infrequent (such as my case) or if the community leans more toward getting a more capable tow vehicle to conquer any/all steep grades. In our case, we're mostly on flat roads, so I never really questioned the capability of our TV up to this point.

Do people really tow 8,500lb trailers up these mountains at the speed limit (65MPH)?
I can't speak for flatlanders because I live at 8000 feet in Colorado, but I always tow near the speed limit.

In Colorado, there is a lot of two lane hiway, as a result it is state law that if you are holding up 5 or more cars behind you then you are required to pull-over and let them pass.

I have never had any trouble with my F-250 pulling near the speed limit.
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Old 10-18-2016, 12:34 PM   #3
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That's a lot of trailer for your 'Merc. Take it slow. Do you have all the coolers available?

I live in Boulder CO and tow up I70 and other places in CO. My V8 Nissan Armada does ok, but it sure could use a turbo to counteract the altitude. Very often I'm in a very low gear going 30mph and that's OK, it gives me time to watch the scenery.

And of course, stay out of the left lane. I70 drivers drive FAST, even uphill. I was once passed going uphill by a Nissan GTR, near the tunnel so over 11,000 feet, cooking along at at least 100mph. It's like the autobahn, stay out of the left lane unless you have deep power reserves.
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Old 10-18-2016, 12:36 PM   #4
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In Colorado, there is a lot of two lane hiway, as a result it is state law that if you are holding up 5 or more cars behind you then you are required to pull-over and let them pass.
I thought it was 3 cars, no?
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Old 10-18-2016, 12:39 PM   #5
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BTW - Enjoy our state! See Ouray. Take a dip in Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat. Also see Mesa Verde NP. It's very quiet this time of year and not hot.
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Old 10-18-2016, 12:40 PM   #6
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I live on the front range and tow I-70 often enough. I typically pull 55-60mph on uphill to the Eisenhower tunnel with my QX 56. 400hp / 413 ft pounds of torque. 25' trailer weighs in around 7000lbs ready for camping.
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Old 10-18-2016, 06:00 PM   #7
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I drove I70 from Dillon to Denver this morning and by the Eisenhower tunnel (funny that the name at the tunnel proper is "Jefferson", anyone knows why?) the temperature was 32 Fahrenheit. There was ice on my cars parked outside. You may want to keep that speed down and stay in right lane. I towed westward 3 weeks ago and yes, pretty much at speed limit: that was my first tow in mountain and God is especially kind to the ignorant (I am living proof of that).
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Old 10-18-2016, 06:04 PM   #8
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(funny that the name at the tunnel proper is "Jefferson", anyone knows why?)
The westbound tunnel is Eisenhower and the eastbound tunnel is Johnson.




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Old 10-18-2016, 06:08 PM   #9
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I can't speak for flatlanders because I live at 8000 feet in Colorado, but I always tow near the speed limit.
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I live on the front range and tow I-70 often enough. I typically pull 55-60mph on uphill to the Eisenhower tunnel...
Me too.

I believe if you live here, your vehicles are tuned up for the elevation. There is also a "high elevation" tuning for propane appliances - both for RV's & homes for the thinner air.

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Old 10-18-2016, 06:24 PM   #10
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I see, I stand corrected. Thank you (I was driving, I guess the "J" stood out for me LOL)
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Old 10-18-2016, 08:55 PM   #11
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Towing up long grades is taxing on our tow vehicles. In many cases they are near full power for long periods of time. The thin air robs power. I tow in the right lane. Some big trucks are at 30 mph or less. Watch your temp gages (engine oil, water and trans oil). Yeah, my pickup can pull 6% grades at 60 mph, but the fuel usage is way down below 5 mpg doing it.

BUT getting over the pass and going downhill is the hard part. You are going to have a significant weight pushing you down. You need to select a transmission gear that will give you some significant engine braking. You don't want to "ride the brakes" going downhill lest you overheat them. And you don't want too much speed that may induce sway. Winds in the mountains can be variable and strong at times.

And don't think about towing in ice and snow on mountain roads.

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Old 10-19-2016, 01:02 PM   #12
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We tow our 2015 FC 27' with a 2015 F-250 Powerstroke Diesel 4x4. I live in the west and tow up and down Eisenhower class grades often. I've never bogged below the speed limit. Although not necessary, I usually lock out 6th gear and easily cruise up in 5th. Listening to a diesel effortlessly and quietly chug-a-chug-a-chug up an 8% incline is preferable to a gasser (or under powered diesel) struggling at 5000 rpm in 3rd gear while you worry about over heating or damaging your power plant. Descents are equally easy in a modern diesel rig. Locking out 6&5 just before descent begins and engaging the engine brake gives a safe and stress free descent without engaging brakes all the time. Sounds like you've got too much trailer for your TV.
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Old 10-19-2016, 01:50 PM   #13
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I live at 9000' in Winter Park, CO. I had to give up my beloved Toyota Tacoma when I bought my 22FB Sport. Although the Tacoma is rated for towing the AS, it would not cut it at the high elevation I live and play in. I bought a used Ford F-150 with ecoboost. Like a good Colorado boy, I do stay in the right lane except while passing everybody--even at the Tunnel and on Vail Pass.
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Old 10-19-2016, 02:49 PM   #14
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just push the accelerator down, stay in the right lane and, on average, within 10-20 minutes you are headed down hill for awhile then up and down and on and on. Don't over stress on it but do be realistic and safe. There are long threads on how to minimize use of the TV and trailer brakes on downhill grades and how to pace yourself for the uphill grades. Personally I like to get some speed built up as I enter a grade and I simply keep my foot all the way down. It is inevitable that two things will happen - you will come up on the back of a slow vehicle (slower than you) and you will either have to slow down or pass it, and the other is you will get honked at and glared at as people pass you because you just won't be able to go 65 or 70 mph going uphill on I-70. Life goes on. If your TV begins to over heat then pull over and if you can get off the highway and figure out what is the best course of action. These days that really doesn't happen that often as it used to. My 97 2 door Tahoe with a 350 and whatever they used to add for a tow package works just fine.
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