I'm often asked about the favorite things we've done in our Roadtrek eTrek. At the top of my list is mountain climbing.
We used it to drive to the top of Pikes Peak, some 14,114 feet high.
It's a long haul up and when we entered the road that would take us to the top off Highway 24 west of Colorado Springs, we had to have the ranger help us drive around a barrier meant to keep larger vehicles from attempting the climb. At first, they tried to wave us off. Then they saw that our Roadtrek RV was on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis.
“No problem,” the ranger said, motioning us around. “You can handle it in this. Just watch the brakes on the way down. They will heat up.”
The Pikes Peak Highway is 19 miles long, a 38 mile round trip. The trip up works the engine hard. It burns fuel like crazy. Coming down, not so much. But if you decide to go, make sure you have enough fuel.
On previous visits, I twice tried to get to the summit. The first time was during a business trip a couple years ago in a rented Kia. On a cold January day we made it to 11 and a half miles up. But a sudden snowstorm shut down the rest of the drive. We white-knuckled the way back back down behind a snow plow. By the time we reached the bottom the entire road was closed.
On another visit, we boarded the cog railroad that runs to the summit. It, too, had to turn back because of blowing snow and heavy winds.
So on this trip with the Roadtrek, last August, we we optimistic. At least it wasn't snowing. But it could have. Snow falls at the higher elevation all times of the year.
It was 87 degrees when we set off. By the time we reached the summit, it was 46 degrees.
It took about an hour and a half to drive to the summit. There are lots of twists and turns and we frequently stopped at some of the pulloffs for photos as we climbed through the various regions, from the rock strewn glacial moraines at the bottom on through the alpine and sub alpine areas. We found nothing particularly scary about the drive up. But we were too bust oohing and ahhing at the incredible scenery. The Roadtrek handled the constant climbing with plenty of power.
At Glen Cove, between mile 11 and 12, there is a place that sells souvenirs and has a limited-service restaurant. But after that, it's almost straight up as you pass the tree line where conditions make it impossible for any upright plant to grow. At Mile Marker 16 you'll pass Devil's Playground, so named because of the way lightning jumps from rock to rock up there during storms.
The summit itself is basically a parking lot. There's a small weather station up there, an observation deck and, of course, a souvenir shop.
We were the only RV up there at the time, though I've had other RVing friends say they drove their drove their Class Bs up there, too. I suppose a C might also make it. But I think it would be a tough haul for anything bigger.
Here's the video:
Jennifer and I brought our son, Jeff, and his wife, Aimee, up to the summit in our Roadtrek, as well as our dog, Tai, and their dog, Sequoia.
We wandered around for a bit, a little dizzy at times from the altitude. The dogs seemed refreshed in the shin, cool air. We shivered in the wind and, took the obligatory “we were here” photos and started back down.
The drive down was much more challenging. The hard part was not letting the momentum build up too much speed. I downshifted pretty much the whole way down to use the engine to help me slow, but when we stopped for the mandatory brake check at Glen Cove, we had to pull over and wait for a half hour or so for the brakes to cool down. We weren't alone. About every other automobile and every truck had to pull over, too, many of them so hot they were smoking.
There's no way to avoid using the brakes as you head down. The secret to keep them from burning up, we found, is to apply sharp and firm pressure to reduce speed and then release the brakes, instead of a riding them with a steady pressure. Engine downshifting is the best way to go, just watch the RPMs to keep it from redlining.
I used the time to take Tai for a walk. Just down a service road off the Glen Cove parking lot, we jumped a couple of big mule deer. Tai felt pretty smug as he watched them run off.
Finally, as we were heading down the mountain and rounding those hairpin turns with the awesome scenery, I stuck the GoPro out the window and shot a few seconds of video the drive down. Check this clip out:
Pretty awesome, huh?
Pikes Peak. Been there done that. In our RV. Total time from start to finish and our exploration at the summit was about three and a half hours.
It's one of our favorite memories.
Next time, I'm going to stop and explore more on both the ascent and the descent. I'll make an entire day of it.