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Old 08-18-2009, 10:29 AM   #1
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Looking for hints on towing 5th in mountains

I have a GMC 3/4 ton truck with tow/haul option and a Wildcat 28 rkbs. Never traveled in winter with it and will be leaving Illinois and heading to AZ in Jan. Any hints on traveling in winter and driving in mountains?
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Old 08-19-2009, 03:29 PM   #2
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Winter Route

We have traveled I-70 through Illinois from Maryland to Colorado many, many times when we summered here (we now live in Colorado) and now visit children's families in Phoenix. I'd suggest you stick to interstates, boring as they may be, unless weather is good. You don't say where you'll start from or where you're going, but assuming its southern AZ, I'll start from
Chicago, as you can pick up routes along the way, if you're south of there to start with. I-55S gives you your pick of 80, 70, even 44 to 40. You'll avoid real mountains if you use I-25 or I-40 to ABQ. From there you can stay on I-25S, to the 10 for Tucson, or go I-40W to Flag and I-17S to Phoenix. Now, late Sept. or Oct., if you want to see some real mountains, leave I-70 in Kansas at Oakley where you'll get on US 40W to Sharon Springs, west into Colorado where, roughly 20 miles west of Kit Carson, you'll hang a west on Col 94, a long, hour+, lonely, straight road into Colorado Springs. (As an aside from this mountain route, you could stay on I-70 to Denver and continue to Grand Junction, but that's where all the ski lodges are. Why, you ask? Because it SNOWS all winter and traffic is often ridiculous. You'll think Chicago traffic is a breeze.) Back to Col. Springs. This is all easy. Take US 24 west up Ute Pass (don't worry, only the first 3 miles are twisty) 14 miles to Woodland Park, no reason to stop there, 7 miles more to Divide, about 9600' at the summit, on 12 miles to Florissant and Lake George, too small to bother with (I live there) and another 10 miles to Wilkerson Pass, only 9500' but a world class view across the flat lands of South Park (like the tv show) towards the Collegiate Range, a whole bunch of snow covered fourteeners. Beautiful. From Wilkerson (ten miles west is Hartzel. Get real Mexican food at Dorothy's Tamales, 3 eat-in tables) it's about 23 miles west, flat and straight, to a left turn on 285/24 12 miles to Buena Vista, a small town with beautiful 360 degree views. Take a left on 285S at the prison about 19 miles to Salida/Poncha Springs. There you could go west on US 50, but I wouldn't send you there in winter with or without a toad if you're not a local. At Salida you could check road conditions on CO 160 from Center to South Fork, over legendary Wolf Creek Pass to Pagosa Springs. Wolf Creek has been tamed quite a bit, but it's still a challenge, especially from the east. Again, better done on the return next spring. So from Salida, stay on 285 to Alamosa (if you see Hwy 17 on the map, take it outside of Villa Grove to save some miles, it's fine). You'll keep on 285 into New Mexico by taking a left on the far side of Antonito. From there it's around 75 lonely but easy miles to Espanola, from there a short hour to Santa Fe on divided hwy. then I-25 to ABQ another short hour. By going the Col. Springs to Salida to Santa Fe route you'll see great mountain ranges but won't be in them. You'll be in a valley or flat lands nearly all the way. All the roads are good, a bit lonely, so keep the fuel tank full. Make sure your rig is fit, you don't want to break down far from a tow shop. And don't count on a cell phone signal. If you end up in NE AZ off I-40 it's the same. I'd avoid the reservation roads these days for a couple reasons. So, the easy way with virtually no meaningful mountain driving, or a way more interesting route, still without real mountain driving, but great views. Hope you have a safe and pleasant trip.
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Old 09-20-2009, 06:37 PM   #3
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Question Thanks for info

Thanks for the info on possible routes. I will be going in winter (Jan.) so I will check out the southern routes. Any thoughts on the actual drive (towing the vehicle) down and up the mountains.
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Old 09-20-2009, 09:18 PM   #4
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Do your braking in the straight BEFORE the curve. You won't like braking IN the curve; and watch your speed. Keep your torque converter locked as much as possible. Your tranny will run cooler. Make sure to gear down on the downhills and don't over-use your brakes. Leave plenty of braking distance. Be kind to those behind you and use the pull-outs to let faster vehicles by you. Never exceed 65 mph, the speed rating of trailer tires, YES even if they are LTs in trailer size. Make sure your tires are inflated to maximum rated pressure. 50 psi for Cs, 65 psi for Ds etc. Check your trailer brakes every time you hook up by moving the lever on your brake controller.
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Old 09-21-2009, 12:07 AM   #5
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What ever gear is needed to go up, use same gear to come down. Let the vehicle roll until speed is plenty, then slow down with your brakes, and I mean 10 ~ 15 mph. Let off the brakes and don't touch them again until speed builds back up. This allows the brakes to cool. DON"T BE IN ANY HURRY!, going up or down. One person said keep torque converter locked, I think impossible, as mine only locks in 4th or overdrive. Don't worry about the torque converter if you have enough tow vehicle, you'll be fine. Watch water temp while climbing long hills, and if you overheat, pull off and let the engine idle, never shut it off unless you get a major leak such as a blown hose, or you have a broken belt. You want the coolant to circulate to cool things back down. Mainly just take it easy, let others around when possible, but don't create a hazard doing it. Watch your mirrors for crazies trying to pass illegally, and be careful. Make sure your trailer brakes are working and adjusted, and be careful. Good luck and enjoy.
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Old 09-21-2009, 08:58 PM   #6
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May depend on the make of vehicle but my F150 will lock the torque converter in my top 3 gears (2nd, 3rd, 4th). An unlocked torque converter generates a LOT of heat in your transmission. I have a ScanGaugeII in my truck which monitors transmission fluid temp. I have verified that this is true. If you are on a 5 to 10 mile grade of 5 to 10%, I guarantee that your transmission will generate a LOT of heat. By locking in gears and modulating the throttle, it is not hard to keep the converter locked the majority of the time. You can tell when it is locked as a little increase in throttle will only gradually increase the RPM instead of instant slippage. Also, my coolant temp never varied by more than 2 to 4 degrees. But trans temp varied widely depending on load and outside temp. Trans temp will be your weak point in the mountains. I had readings from 150s normally to 170 on a 90 degree day into a headwind; to 205 on a 10 mile 10% grade in Wyoming. Generally you want to avoid going over 200 if at all possible.
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:35 PM   #7
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Thanks for the hints on driving in the mountains towing my 5th wheel.
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