Roadtrip America: Ridgeway, CO to Durango, CO: Million Dollar Highway

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If you saw my other post, then you may be aware that the Million Dollar Highway is slightly dangerous road with steep inclines (I found it on dangerousroads.com, no kidding). It’s also incredibly beautiful, however.

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The Million Dollar Highway is a part of highway 550 and starts, depending on who you ask, in Ridgway or Ouray, Colorado and ends in Durango, Colorado. For a lot of the time, the road ends when the land does. That is: at the edge of the cliff. Oh, and there’s no safe guards. But if you’re confident in your ability to not swerve even slightly, the view is definitely worth the anxiety. (Click the photos)

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How to Survive the Million Dollar Highway Without Your Brakes*

(Do not do this!)

I have not always been a careful driver. My brakes have taken a beating. So before heading to Ouray to begin my drive through the Million Dollar Highway, I stopped in Montrose just to see how damaged my poor Betty the Buick is.

Consensus: pretty bad.

My rotors could not safely be filed down and my brake pads were a few millimeters to nonexistent, Wayne assured me. He took me out back where poor Betty was being manhandled and defiled by a car lift and a mechanic. Wayne asked me if I wanted to replace the pads and rotors for $700. I laughed.

On the bright side, though my front wheel treads showed need for replacement, my back tires were looking good. I thanked good ol’ Wayne and the mechanic and rescued Betty from her shame.

And on we went.

So, if you’re like me, relatively ballsy and trying to save money, here’s how you survive the Million Dollar Highway without touching your brakes once.

Use your gears! Crank that baby into a lower gear instead of pressing your brakes when you’re going down that super dangerous mountain. Make sure to keep your RPM at a normal speed, though, I make sure to keep it under 2.5. And check your engine heating!

Turn on your air conditioning and radio and anything else you got! This will put pressure on your transmission and help you slow down.

Roll down your windows.

Hope for the best.

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*I am not a professional in fact I’m barely an amateur so take my advice with caution.

** I felt comfortable doing this because I had to and because I wanted to make sure my brakes were available to me if I needed them so I was conserving my brake pads. Also, I kept one hand conscious of my emergency brake the whole time.