By Jim Twamley
The mountain passes of the Western United States are breathtaking for beauty, but often dangerous for unprepared RVers. If you’re not accustomed to driving or pulling your RV through mountainous terrain you could be in peril. I live in the Western U.S. and have traveled extensively through the Mountain States with every type of RV. Safe-driving technique and proper equipment is a must if you want to arrive at your destination safely.
For all RVs it’s important that brakes and tires be in topnotch condition. When traveling through mountain passes you’ll often encounter high winds. If you’re pulling a travel trailer I highly recommend a load-leveling system with anti-sway control. If you have a diesel truck or a diesel pusher motorhome you absolutely must have a compression braking system. If you don’t have a compression braking system you will burn up your brakes and have repeated white-knuckle experiences.
The biggest safety tip for RV mountain driving is “don’t be in a hurry.” Allowing your rig to gain excess speed on a downhill run is just asking for trouble. When you’re plummeting down a hill in your multi-ton RV, it’s extremely difficult to stay in your lane when you encounter a sharp turn at the bottom. I’ve seen RV rollovers and collisions from this common mistake.
When you are climbing through a mountain pass be sure to stay in the right-hand lane as much as possible. Take your time and don’t overtax your engine — gear down and enjoy the scenery.
Be prepared and drive defensively at all times. Give yourself plenty of room to slow down and stop when following other vehicles. During summer months you may encounter many controlled stops where road construction is being conducted on mountain roads; so if you’re limited on time, be sure to check your route with the various state departments of transportation when you plan your trip.
Finally, be sure you have adequate fuel to make it up and over the mountains because fueling stations are few and far between in mountainous regions.