I always thought that I would be an awesome mountain climber. Because I am not afraid of heights…but I am terrified of widths. In the past, when I would tour from the Pacific Northwest, all the way down through Colorado, it was good to know a few tips while mountain driving. I had a small foreign sports car which would die easily in high altitudes. Needless to say, I have a lot of pictures where I am posing next to my car, hanging out on the side of the road and waiting for it to cool down. When you enter most U.S. cities, they will have a sign posted with the name of the town or city and their current population. Not in mountainous areas. They replace the population statistics with the elevation. I suppose it’s somewhat of a bragging right for them, “Who cares how many people live here, look how high up we are!”
I would think that the utmost concern one would have when mountain driving is making certain the brakes are in top working condition. When going down a mountain, frequent brake use can overheat the fluid and you can lose braking efficiency at a most crucial time. And they really won’t work at their full capacity until the fluid actually cools. As my father would say, you should never go down a mountain any faster than you could go up it. But don’t ride your brakes all the way down it. Shift into a low gear instead. Also, keeping your tires at their proper inflation is crucial. And having your spare checked and properly inflated is imperative so you don’t have to spend long hours on the side of the road with the road kill. Bears love road kill…and people…yummy. Another thing to remember is that driving in high altitudes makes your engine work a lot harder, so make sure your oil has been changed lately and that your radiator has fresh anti-freeze. This will keep your car from overheating at the most inopportune time. In fact keep a spare jug of anti-freeze in your trunk, you might just save someone else from being bear-dessert!
Mountain driving should never be rushed. Mountain roads are as safe as any other roads if you don’t tend to speed and you respect the road and weather conditions. Enjoy the scenery and take frequent brakes for you and your car. Remember to always give those going uphill the right of way. It’s harder for them to get up to speed and pass another car while going uphill, so be courteous. And don’t drive too close to the center line. Mountain roads are generally narrower than regular highways. If you and the opposing car are both hugging the center line, and you come around a sharp curve, you could both overcorrect, resulting in driving off the side of the mountain. Which, in itself would ruin your vacation. But… at least it would be a scenic ending.
Until next week…
Comedienne / Writer / Artist