Trouble ahead, gearjammers!
VAIL – So maybe Track 9 – “Mile Marker 193” – won’t make any top 40 radio playlists.Still, Colorado safety officials want truckers to give the new “Crossing the Rockies” CD a good listen when they’re riding Interstate 70 between here and Denver.The CD, produced by the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, alerts drivers to steep hills, sharp curves, runaway-truck ramps and chain-up areas – with a little history – on I-70 from Denver to Vail.C.W. McCall, singer of the ’70s trucker anthem “Convoy,” is the narrator of CD. His folksy intro to the stretch of the interstate doesn’t paint a pretty picture.”This drive is not for faint of heart,” he says. “It’s full of steep hills, deep canyons, sharp curves, dropoffs into long scary downgrades, runaway truck ramps everywhere and traffic like you would not believe.
“Even if you’re an old, been-there, done-it-all gearjammer who’s been a-herding a high-tech, fire-breathing 18-wheeler across it a hundred times, you can always use some help, right?”Safety officials say a frank assessment of the road for truck drivers unfamiliar with the stretch will help reduce the number of accidents. Colorado Motor Carriers Association President Greg Fulton said the accident rate for trucking has decreased over the last 20 years, but his group is still trying to lower that rate.”The real goal is to get to zero,” he said.Charon Crites of Adelanto, Calif., drives a truck for Roadway Express through the Vail-Denver stretch of I-70 about every week. The Rockies are one of the toughest places to drive a truck in the U.S., she said. “A lot of drivers are not familiar with the area,” she said. “If they listen to the CD, it will help them come across quite a bit more safely.”Crites said earlier this week on I-70, falling snow made it tough to see what was ahead. Knowing what mile marker she was at, she used the CD to assist her, she said.Roadway Express, which sends about 75 to 100 trucks up and down I-70 in Colorado every day, has been distributing the CDs to its drivers, Crites said. The Roadway drivers are usually going from Denver to a warehouse in Bloomington, Calif, when they pass through Vail.
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said the CD helps the town bolster safety and reduce noise – always a big issue in Vail.”It helps town communication with drivers that we don’t have any other way to communicate with,” he said. “You can’t put a big sign that says, ‘Please be quiet.'” The CD gives tips on muffler and brake rules for big rigs.McCall, whose real name is Bill Fries, volunteered his services for the CD. He’s also a member of Mannheim Steamroller, which provided the music for the CD.Tracks 1 through 10 guide drivers from Denver to Vail. Each track corresponds to a mile marker. Tracks 11 through 17 guide truckers from Vail to Denver.Track 9 covers Vail Pass down to Vail.”Treat this downgrade with extreme caution and respect,” McCall says.
He says truckers should keep it to 30 mph and stay in the right lane. Drivers should be careful not to pick up any speed on the downgrade, he says.On the next track, “Mile Marker 180,” McCall congratulates drivers for making it to Vail. The Denver-Vail portion ends up with a little history of the town of Vail. Historical facts about the route are interspersed throughout the CD.He tells the story of Earl Eaton, and how he came across the Back Bowls. McCall reminds truckers of a different life they could have had.”If you’d a been one of the original investors, you could have bought a lot in downtown for a hundred bucks,” he says. “Think about it. Today, those lots are selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the houses? Millions.”But alas, life on the road beckons as the outro of “Home on the Range” ushers them westward.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or email@example.com.