You didn't mention the route you are taking to get to Durango. We took route 160 between Great Sand Dunes NP and Durango back in May and used a lot of second gear going both up and down over the Wolf Creek pass.
Mountain roads are no different than other highways. they all have hills (different lengths) curves (some more than others) and you'll probably enjoy the lower speed limits on most mountain roads vs. on the flat lands and your fuel economy should improve with the slower speeds.
Have a good trip / Skip
2011 F-150 HD Ecoboost 3.5 V6. 2550 payload, 17,100 GCVWR - 2004 F-150 HD (Traded after 80,000 towing miles) 2007 Rockwood 8314SS 34' travel trailer
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I agree with Skip, in my opinion the only difference between the Great Plains and the Rockies is the speed. Remember that lots and lots of folks from the "flat lands" have been over the Rockies, Sierra, Coast Ranges and the Cascades and live to not only tell about it but go back again. Remember the basic rule, if you go up in second, go down the other side in second. Curves on mountain roads are just corners at an intersection in your hometown, just not as sharp. You wouldn't go 35 around the corner at 1st Street and Main Streen, so don't do it in the mountains at 65. It doesn't take long to learn to drive in the mountains and to be comfortable. Have the DW get the camera out, there is always the possibility of something really nice to have a photo of around the bend.
"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to go". R. L. Stevenson
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What "Bishop" said, except I do not agree about going down the other side in the same gear that you went up in. Coming down the mountain: I allow gravity to take me to right about the speed limit and and then I brake to 5 MPH below the speed limit, let off the brake, return to the speed limit, reapply brakes to slow down 5 MPH, let off the brakes...I hope you get the drill. I continue this until I'm down the long incline, around the corner, past the danger, etc. You do NOT want to burn out you brakes when you are towing in the Cascades, Sierras, Rockies. If you have an emergency and have to actually slam on your brakes you're going to needs those brakes to slam on.
2003 Ford 150 Supercrew, 4x4, 5.4L, 3.73 rear 2005 27' Trail Bay with pop-out
2011 Tiffin Phaeton 40' Diesel 4 slides<<<<< If this is what you will be driving, I assume it has an engine brake or at least an exhaust brake??
Don't hesitate to gear down, clear to first if needed. The main thing is to not overheat your brakes. Have fun
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I have driven through several mountain passes with just my pickup. A couple of years later drove through the same mountains with my 5Ver. My wife remarked how much more scenery she could see and enjoy at the slow speeds.
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When I crest an unfamiliar summit I start down the other side on the slow side and get a feel for the grade and the curves. I can always speed up as I go. If its a 2-lane road, I will keep an eye open for turnouts but I will not let the cars backing up behind me influence my speed.