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Old 10-10-2020, 12:54 PM   #1
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Hwys 50/550 Grand Junction to Durango?

Looking for advice. I will stay in Grand Junction at paid RV for 3 days after dry camping in NF/BLM for 10 days. Want to head south toward 4 Corners, Mesa Verde, Shiprock afterwards. I’ve been down the south past Moab before but would like to see new landscapes. I see on map there is multilane to Montrose. Am I ok to drive Montrose to Durango pulling 2020 Bambi 20’ with Tundra 5.7 L?

thanks, Stephen
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Old 10-10-2020, 01:37 PM   #2
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Hwys 50/550 Grand Junction to Durango?

I did the drive last week with my 30’ in tow actually. Grand junction to Montrose to Ouray is pretty much flat. No problem.

The mountains start when you leave Ouray and head to Silverton / Durango. It’s a beautiful drive, especially this time of year with the aspens. You would have no problem with a tundra and a 20’.

There is actually some construction en route soon after you leave Ouray which is a good thing in that they only allow traffic to flow in one direction at a time, which means you can drive down the center of the road vs right up on the edge of the canyon with no guardrails at one of the more narrow / exposed parts of the drive.

Keep your tires in the pavement and you won’t have any issues. Obviously, watch the weather and if it’s snowing, either have chains for all axles or route around via telluride.

Enjoy.

PS - make time in your day to stop at the Ouray hot springs! The parking lot is pretty big and I found room to park my train which is a little over 50’ long. Again you should have no problem with the tundra and 20’ airstream.
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Old 10-10-2020, 01:54 PM   #3
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Wulfraat is correct.
I love that area, so let me give you an option.
Grand Junction to Ouray is a breeze. Just before Ouray is a small town of Ridgway. If you turn right on hwy 62 towards Telluride, then pick up hwy 145 south towards Deloris, the road isn't quite as gnarly, and you'll end up closer to the four corners.

If you're in the Durango area, I highly recommend the steam train. Worth every penny!
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Old 10-10-2020, 02:13 PM   #4
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My wife and I have rode 550 many times on a motorcycle and when I said we are going that route pulling the Airstream, her answer was “no way I’m going pulling the Airstream, I’ll be a nervous wreck the whole drive”. We took the Hwy 62 to 145 instead and it was a very pleasant drive for her. If you take the 550, check the weather, there was a whiteout snowstorm the day I wanted to go in August!
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Old 10-10-2020, 02:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Rdavenp3 View Post
My wife and I have rode 550 many times on a motorcycle and when I said we are going that route pulling the Airstream, her answer was “no way I’m going pulling the Airstream, I’ll be a nervous wreck the whole drive”. We took the Hwy 62 to 145 instead and it was a very pleasant drive for her. If you take the 550, check the weather, there was a whiteout snowstorm the day I wanted to go in August!

That’s funny because my wife won’t let me have a motorcycle because the risk of accident and death is too high

550 really isn’t that bad. Then again I live in Colorado and tow all around...
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Old 10-10-2020, 03:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smsasf View Post
Looking for advice. I will stay in Grand Junction at paid RV for 3 days after dry camping in NF/BLM for 10 days. Want to head south toward 4 Corners, Mesa Verde, Shiprock afterwards. I’ve been down the south past Moab before but would like to see new landscapes. I see on map there is multilane to Montrose. Am I ok to drive Montrose to Durango pulling 2020 Bambi 20’ with Tundra 5.7 L?

thanks, Stephen
I've travelled all over the west and steep grades are nothing like the ones just north of you in Virgina! 10-12% curvey downhills! Wow!
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Old 10-10-2020, 04:59 PM   #7
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We have driven 550 south over the Million Dollar Highway Our TV is a F150 Eco Boost 6, AS is a 25FB Classic. Beautiful views. Stayed in the United RV park just north of Durango, the steam train goes right through the heart of the RV park. Yes the train is running again at least a week ago. Limited passengers call make reservations.
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Old 10-10-2020, 05:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wulfraat View Post
550 really isn’t that bad. Then again I live in Colorado and tow all around...
It's different for flatlanders.
I once asked a local why there weren't any guardrails on 550.
He replied, "Have you ever hit a guardrail?" No. "Well, then you didn't need it, did you?"
Once along Hwy 141, (Not far from where we're discussing) we stopped at a scenic overlook and wondered what the object WAY down in the ravine was. So we took a photo, later enlarged it on the computer. It was a car, upside down. YIKES! Oddly, there was a guardrail, and some guy missed his curve and plunged about 250' down. <gulp>.

About 550:
The good news is semi's drive that road every day.
The bad news is that semi's drive that road every day.
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Old 10-10-2020, 10:01 PM   #9
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Just stay between the lines and you will have no problem :-)
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Old 10-10-2020, 11:47 PM   #10
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Just stay between the lines and you will have no problem :-)

Except the last time I drove that road, there were places where the pavement edge with the white line had crumbled and the white line was down in the canyon somewhere....
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Old 10-11-2020, 10:44 AM   #11
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Roberta and I have heard about this edge-of-road-with-no-guardrail drive from Ouray to Silverton/Durango. That was simply out of the question for us with our Flying Cloud 30RB. (Long rigs coming opposite direction tend to take up both lanes in turns.)

Towing with a new Tundra 5.7L, our problems in the West are steep downgrades. How about a pair of 10-percenters going into and out of Furnace Creek, Death Valley! We drove in the evening (lite to no traffic), kept speed about 30mph and came to full stop a number of times. Our tow weight and our tow vehicle were up to the ordinary challenges of 6% downgrades generally speaking, but steeper grades call for judicious use of downshifting and brakes intermingled.

With a Bambi 20, we agree with “wulfraat,” you’ll do just fine. As an ex-Navy SEAL told me re my set-up, DRIVE SMART. (This guy pulled 6 horses—and tack—with his Tundra 5.7L, a heavy AND shifting load.)
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Old 10-11-2020, 11:59 AM   #12
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The drive from Ouray to Durango is pretty daunting.....lots of S turns, switchbacks and steep grades....allow yourself extra time...scaling the Red Mountain pass is quite the drive....forget it at night.
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Old 10-11-2020, 12:00 PM   #13
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white knuckle driving for sure!
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Old 10-11-2020, 12:57 PM   #14
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The most white knuckle part is the first five miles out of Ouray.
After that there's actually nice flat areas.
A question for you Locals, Not long after leaving Ouray, if you look right across the ravine is a cabin on the side of the mountain. It appears to have no way to get to it, but there's always laundry on the line. I decided it's a spoof, and the laundry is actually plywood painted. I wanted a picture, but there's no pull over anywhere near.
What's the story?

I might have found it!
https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/574490496205107721/
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Old 10-11-2020, 01:57 PM   #15
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There are five ways to go from GJ to the Four Corners area. Your Tundra will be fine no matter what you do.

US 550 is a beautiful drive with three high passes. If you have trouble with heights you may want to go another way. If you are nervous towing, have trouble with switchbacks, narrow roads and lack of guardrails, go another way. It can snow in October on any of the high passes, watch the weather. The drive is worth making, but with a trailer you may not be enjoying the scenery. You could stay between Montrose and Ouray and take a drive that way and back, see Silverton, then go another way. About 10 miles south of Montrose is Centennial CG—nice place. Kate’s Place in Ridgway for breakfast and lunch.

2nd option: Turn west at Ridgway, travel past Telluride and though Rico, over Lizard Head Pass and Cortez (nice CG in Cortez just west of downtown on south side of road). Not as hairy a road as 550, but not without its challenges.

3rd option: Go east on 50 past GJ and turn south on Colo.141. It will take you south in a somewhat easier drive. Little in the way of fuel along the way.

4th option: Go west of GJ on I-70 to Cisco and then onward to Moab on Utah 128 (or a number like that). Part of the road goes through a beautiful canyon on the Colorado River, but the road is quite narrow and scary to some people. From Moab go south on 191 to Blanding and either southeast to Durango and Cortez from there or continue south to Bluff and stay at the Coral Sands RV Park—we’ll be there in a week for two weeks in a Nash. Say hello (masked please).

5th option: Stay on I-70 and go south on 191 to Moab and points south. 191 is a major truck route from SLC to Arizona, but easier than 128.

Check maps to get route numbers and mileage and visualize what you want. There are Anasazi ruins everywhere and it will take years to see a lot. We’ve been exploring for decades, and have only scratched the surface. Mesa Verde is worth a trip, but there is a good museum for Canyons of the Ancients NM north of Cortez. Hovenweep NM is also in the area. In Blanding, Edge of Cedars SP has a very good little museum and a ruin. Bluff is for lots of us a place to stay and drive into the backcountry. The Navajo nation has been closed for months and may still be. You can drive through on state and federal highways, but otherwise you may run into problems. The Navajo parks (Momument Valley is the most famous) have been closed too. But in NM, Aztec Ruins NM and Chaco Canyon NP are open. Shiprock has fuel, some food and a rock that looks like a ship (it helps to be drinking when you look at some of these named features to see how they got their names—my favorite is Tater Heap near Crawford, Colorado). Farmington is the larger town in that area.

If you are looking for trading posts, I guess the ones on the Rez are closed down, but part of the Navajo capital is not Rez land, so things would maybe be open, Farmington has a few and along the highway west of town, Sanders, Arizona has a round one on the south side of I-40–the Burnhams have been in the business for generations and are very honest. Bluff has some too—Cow Canyon and Twin Rocks.

That is only a little of it and since we have been all through the area scores of times, I could write a book. Oh, at Ouray Hot Springs, the municipal one, if you are 75 and up, you get in free. If you want a clothing optional hot springs, just south of Ridgway is Orvis.

Not sure what you plan in GJ. There are many miles of hiking and bike trails. Downtown is nice. For bread and bakery goods, Main St. Bagels has very good multigrain breads, muffins so big they kill. For Mexican food, we like Las Maria’s, a bit different than most Mexican, but genuine and Thai at Thai Number 9 (only take out). City Market is the dominant supermarket here, but Sprouts and Vitamin Cottage/Natural Foods have more stuff for the discriminating. The best CG is on the west side of town near the I-70 and Business 70/US 50 interchange. You can make day trips in various directions. Thompson Springs is about 80 miles west on I-70 and has some ancient rock art. Dinosaur NM is in the northwest corner of the state, but a slow drive and better to stay there to see it. Colorado NM is right up to the settled area and there is a drive through it (lots of big drops for the nervous driver) or hiking at the bottom of the canyon. GJ is in a very wide valley with mesas and mountains on each side. We live next to Colorado NM overlooking the Grand Valley and across from the place where the Pine Gulch fire burned this summer. Haze is still with us most days and leading to sore throats and irritated eyes. Actually raining a few drops right now, but we are in a severe drought.

I’d better get something done today, but any questions, let me know.
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Old 10-11-2020, 01:59 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John & Roberta;

Towing with a new Tundra 5.7L, our problems in the West are steep downgrades. How about a pair of 10-percenters going into and out of Furnace Creek, Death Valley! We drove in the evening (lite to no traffic), kept speed about 30mph and came to full stop a number of times. Our tow weight and our tow vehicle were up to the ordinary challenges of 6% downgrades generally speaking, but steeper grades call for judicious use of downshifting and brakes intermingled.
This is why (when I got my 30') I moved away from a capable 5.6L 400HP Gas motor and switched out for a big 6.6L diesel living here in Colorado and driving steep grades often. With the current truck I rarely touch the brakes on descents with the variable geometry turbo engine braking. It's an excellent feature for larger rigs (I have a 30' as well and my train is about 17,500lbs combined with loaded for travel) and doesn't leave you wondering how your trailer brakes are doing heat-wise on 10+ mile descents.

If I didn't live on the front range of the rockies I may have gotten another gas engine, or stayed with my 1/2 ton SUV.
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Old 10-11-2020, 02:07 PM   #17
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Except the last time I drove that road, there were places where the pavement edge with the white line had crumbled and the white line was down in the canyon somewhere....
This was the same as of two months ago when we took our 30’ over it. It wasn’t “difficult” or “scary” per se, but the road was in pretty rough condition and there were a number of times we had to stop to wait for traffic on the other side to be clear so we could cross the line to avoid missing chunks of road.
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Old 10-11-2020, 02:29 PM   #18
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I live in Mancos, by Mesa Verde, I would take 145 thru Telluride instead of 550 Silverton. That saves you driving Red mountain pass pulling a trailer. you can always drive that portion once you are off the hook. It is an easy one day loop. I hope this helps.
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Old 10-11-2020, 02:58 PM   #19
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Million Dollar Highway

17 years ago we made the trip from Gunnison (son in college there) towing a 30' 5th wheel with F250 4x4 diesel. Stopped in Ouray staying at park in town. Walked to hot springs and thoroughly enjoyed it. A must do in my opinion. Left two days later stopping in Silverton for lunch and then on to Mesa Verde. Stopped at 4 Corners for a few minutes & photo and then on to Monument Valley. Don't miss any of these if you have an interest & time.

As to the highway, it is often called the Million Dollar Highway. One of three reasons:

1) Cost a million dollars a mile to build
2) Has million dollar views
3) You couldn't get me to drive that road again for a million dollars

As mentioned in earlier post there are sharp drop offs, lack of guard rails and steep grades BUT if you are a confident driver, use common sense & go slowly you will not have a problem.

Enjoy the adventure.
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Old 10-11-2020, 03:41 PM   #20
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I have traveled down many steep grades with our Tundra. In fact, to go from our house to town there is a 14% grade and our driveway is about the same plus many steep, but less steep grades in about 8 miles. Judicious use of the shifter and some use of service brakes has worked fine. If you go too fast, downshifting is not enough, so start down hill slowly. Do not ride brakes, let them cool periodically. Bigger is not always better.
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