One memorable development trip was to Denver in November. The weather was fine in town and the forecast didn’t say anything about snow. We needed to drive over the Continental Divide at the Eisenhower Tunnel, which is west of Denver on I-80.
My partner’s truck was an 6.0L F-250 4×4 towing a 6×12 trailer. I was in a two wheel drive 6.0L F-550 with a 37 foot fifth wheel trailer. The trailer was empty, weighing in at 12,000 pounds. We had a 6.0L Excursion back at the shop that we would put in the trailer when we needed the trailer to be at 20,000 pounds.
An Excursion was used because it was so much easier to put in the trailer than 8,000 pounds of shot bags that we normally hauled for ballast. I was glad later that I didn’t have the Excursion in the trailer.
Going westbound towards the tunnel was uneventful. It was overcast, but dry. My partner quickly disappeared ahead of me. The F-550 topped out at 37 mph on this grade. I was holding the go pedal on the floor for miles.
As I entered the eastern end of the tunnel I could hear my partner shouting into the two way radio, “Don’t go in the tunnel! Don’t go in the tunnel!” It was too late. I was in the tunnel.
Once he stopped shouting and I could answer him I asked why shouldn’t I go in the tunnel? There was a blizzard in progress on the west side of the mountain range! There was already a foot of snow on the ground, and near whiteout conditions. Semi trucks were jackknifed, and cars were off the road. It wasn’t pretty.
By the time I had heard him I had no choice but to continue. After exiting the tunnel the next place to stop was the next exit, nine miles down an 8% grade. I kept my speed down to about 25 mph, which was just keeping up with traffic. I exited at the first exit and met my partner there.
We decided to attempt the climb back up. He led the way with the 4×4, keeping about a quarter mile ahead of me. We could communicate on the two way radios, but I couldn’t see him.
He kept me informed about what lane to be in so that I never had to stop. If I stopped I might have had to wait for a wrecker to pull me over the crest. Several semis were connected to wreckers getting pulled up to the top. After a LOOOONGGG time at 15-20 mph, jumping lane to lane all the way, we made it to the top and into the tunnel.
Once again on the other side there was no snow. It was just overcast again. But after this we really tried to stay out of Denver in the winter. We needed altitude driving, not snow survival.
Photos courtesy of DiamondBack Truck Covers, David Guo and Doug Vinson via Flickr