Need Mountain Driving Advice

Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 07:07 AM
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Need Mountain Driving Advice

I have little experience with mountain driving and although I usually rent the least-expensive car available, I’m wondering if we’d need something more for the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, Beartooth Hwy., Cody, Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park, Pikes Peak and the Colorado Springs and Denver areas. The trip is June 14-28. I’m thinking we might go up to an intermediate car (Ford Contour, Dodge Stratus or Pontiac Grand Am). If you have experience driving a smaller car in the mountains, do you think a bigger car is necessary or adviseable for late June in the areas I listed? Thank you.
Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 07:19 AM
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A rental Car???? Throw the thing in 2nd gear and give it hell....any size car is then o.k.
Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 07:26 AM
J Correa
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I would opt for a Dodge Stratus or something similar with a 6 cylinder engine. Most rental cars have automatic transmissions which are pretty sluggish when pared with a 4 cylinder car.

I was in Denver a couple times in the last couple months - no mountain driving, just around town. I rented a Mazda Protege the 1st time which was the base car with Hertz. That thing had zero power and I'm glad I didn't need to drive into the mountains with it. The 2nd time I rented a Stratus from Dollar and was much happier with the car. It had a lot more power. It was also a heavier car and rode a lot better at higher speeds.

We drove a Mitsubishi Mirage from California, through Nevada and Utah to Colorado, up through Wyoming and back in June several years ago and it did fine. It was a 4 cylinder but had a manual transmission, it was a little sluggish on some of the steep sections, but it did ok. If it had been an automatic, I don't think it would have done as well.
Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 07:38 AM
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I would be more concerned about the highways than the mountains. Driving between those places means you'll be spending a lot of the time on the road (not a criticism, I do the same thing as often as I can).

Driving a Ford Escort-sized car all day at 75mph (possibly with no cruise-control) can be pretty tiring.
Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 11:03 AM
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First of all, ignore Leadfoot. He is not even cute.

Next, avoid a Pontiac Grand Am..Awful riding (more like a cheap truck).

MOST IMPRORTANT", you asked about driving in the mountains. The best advice I can give you is to watch your speed and leave PLENTY of room between you and the car in front...more than you would usually do. Things can happen fast on mountains roads. Going around a corner can suddenly see a disabled car or a wreck, or just traffic stopped.

Again, watch your speed (this is not NASCAR type driving) and leave TONS of room between you and the next car. No problem.

Dodge Stratus is an excellent choice.

Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 11:10 AM
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Thank you for your thoughtful advice, J, Dave and Richard. I think we'll spend the extra $100 for an intermediate-level car.
Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 12:38 PM
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It's people like Lead Head that cause all the wrecks. Get at least a 6 cylinder. I drive a f-150 and it's doggy at times for a v-8. SLOW DOWN! Those curves will sneak up on you! Down shift to a lower gear when going downhill and keep you distance behind the cars ahead of you. Keep your eyes on the road and avoid sightseeing while driving-even though it's tempting.
Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 02:43 PM
Bob Brown
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I am not a professional driver, but I have driven quite a few miles in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. I have negotiated Trail Ridge Road in Colorado several times, and I have enjoyed the Beartooth Pass road on three occasions.
Nothing like them!!

I have also slogged over the Teton Pass on several occasions as well.
Let me suggest that you rent the best car you can afford. The extra horse power is a plus not only for climbing the passes, but also for cruising those long stretches.

One year we rented an under powered Dodge Aspen or some such thing in Denver and headed for the Tetons, Yellowstone, the Big Horn Range, and the Beartooth Highway. I remember well going over the Teton Pass in that thing, from the west to east. The tachometer was wound up about 5,000 rpm in an intermediate gear, and the pistons sounded like they would come through the cylinder heads. My wife leaned over and studied the tach and the speedometer for about 30 seconds and concluded, "Well one of them is gaining." I am not so sure!! I think the needles were just wavering. Needless to say, we were holding up traffic because we were not going much more than 30 mph! At least the car had good brakes and tires!!

As we drove out of the Avis lot in Denver, I stopped and spoke to the gatekeeper. I told him the car had a lot of dents in the hood and roof from hail. He could not spell too well, so he noted on the contract that the car had "Lots of Hell Damage".
Well, that remark proved prophetic. In Cheyenne we got caught in a hailacious hail storm that darn near beat the windows out of the car and put quite a few more dents in it. The ferocity of the storm was so great that I actually pulled under cover until the hail stones became smaller, about the size of asprin tablets. (They had been the size of golf balls.)

Old Jan 3rd, 2003, 04:11 PM
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bob, i'm still laughing over your trip report. what fun you and your wife have! you had such good advice when i planned my trip to az and so. utah two years ago when i was just 68.

when driving the passes in colorado in my toyota highlander, i tie mr. jasper the dog in the back and stay on the right side of the road to let the kids whiz by on their way to certain death. i also would get a sturdy car. i had no trouble on the way up. shifted down on the way down.

try and pull over when you can to gawk at the wonderful scenery. it's well worth the time it takes from your schedule.
Old Jan 4th, 2003, 05:06 PM
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If I had any lingering doubts about spending the extra money, you dashed them, Bob! Thank you for the helpful - and entertaining - advice.
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