[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

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5 July 2006: A Rocky Mountain High -- Palisade, CO to Denver, CO

... followed by a rocky mountain crash. I'm pooped, since I spent a nice and enjoyable evening out with my sister, her husband and their energetic 5-year-old daughter, so today's breakdown will be a lot of pretty pictures and little or no commentary. But game face on tomorrow!

278 pictures taken today, starting on odometer 94811.

As you remember from yesterday, US 6 exists in Colorado as multiple pieces, some signed, some not. Dale Sanderson and Andy Field sent me several suggested pieces of current and old alignment to check out, but not all of the old sections were possible to cover due to time constraints as the July 4th traffic in the mountains was insufferable.

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Back to Fruita and the first view of the Colorado River from I-70 (after US 6 diverged at Mack). This won't be the last, I assure you. I-70 hugs it pretty tightly for 200+ miles.

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Overlooking part of the Colorado on I-70/US 6 west of Palisade.

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The old roadbed of US 6 primarily follows the EB lanes of I-70, which is convenient. However, there's an old stretch (labeled as "Old I-70" on NAVTEQ) past exit 49 simply called "PARKING AREA" which bypasses the tunnels. This is looking at the river. I-70 is passing through the rock formation in front.

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An unsigned section that really is US 6 exists between exits 62 and 75. Interestingly, although it does not have US 6 shields or mile markers, CDOT does "sign" it on their depots (as Hwy 6). It crosses I-70 several times, including here. US 6 jumps back on I-70 at 75, but frontage road runs continuous with the next stretch of US 6 after that.

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The next US 6 portion is in Rifle from exit 87 to exit 109. Note the old bridge in the background, the old Christopher Collyer Memorial Bridge, the original US 6 crossing first built in 1908.

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Out through the end of this alignment towards Glenwood Springs, where it will hop back on I-70 for a spur alignment in town around exit 114.

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I-70 (and parts US 6) through Glenwood Canyon is an amazing achievement. The EB lanes run in the canyon floor with the WB lanes on an upper alignment and the indefatigable Colorado River in the middle.

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The rain had come back in a big way by this point.

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Some of the oxide in the hills on the US 6 alignment between Gypsum and Minturn.

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I-70 (and unsigned modern US 6) through Vail and Vail Pass, which didn't originally exist in the days of original US 6. US 6 was first routed down US 24 to Leadville, and then up CO 91 and a now-obliterated route to Frisco, where part of old US 6 remains as business alignment. The Dillon Reservoir (a/k/a Lake Dillon) covers most of the end of it. Dale has pictures of the roadbed in the lake when the water level was low.

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US 6 is in there somewhere.

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Before the construction of the Eisenhower Tunnels (more on that in a second), the only way through the Continental Divide in this region was over Loveland Pass along US 6. Here is some dude at 11,990' mugging for the camera. He's such a ham.

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In 1968, construction on new vehicular crossings to replace the Loveland Pass began (obviously unsuitable for large traffic volumes), and in 1973 the first of the I-70 tunnels was opened, the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel. The Eisenhower and Johnson Tunnels are the highest vehicular tunnels in the world, at 11,013' for the east portal (Eisenhower) and 11,158' for the west (Johnson). The Eisenhower, of course, is named for President Dwight Eisenhower, the father of the modern Interstate system.

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This is the Eisenhower, shot at great personal risk as there are no places to pull over and lots of angry people if you try to stop (and cameras trying to find out why people are taking pictures in the tunnel). In 1975, the second bore was started and opened in 1979, named for former Colorado governor and Senator Edwin Johnson. Each tunnel is over a mile long, 1.693 miles for the Eisenhower and 1.697 for the Johnson, with large ventilation systems to ensure proper airflow.

So why does Loveland Pass remain as busy as it does? Well, ski traffic for one, and the fact that oversize or hazardous cargo is not allowed through the tunnels. We'd rather they just fell off the mountain instead, I guess. By the way, there was still a lot of snow up there, even in July.

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US 6 then exits again at exit 244 towards Golden through Clear Creek Canyon (this being Clear Creek). This was unbelievably choked with cars and no safe places to pull over.

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Similarly, there's nowhere to pull over (much) when US 6 turns into freeway west of Denver as "Sixth Avenue." It finally ends at I-25 to form an unsigned multiplex up to US 6/US 85 and leave town. We'll do part of that tomorrow depending on prevailing traffic.

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Family portrait and guest. I'm the good looking one. :)

Next: Denver to McCook, NE! I haven't decided yet if I'm going to risk the Interstate in Denver.

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6 July 2006: Denver, CO to McCook, NE
 


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