Driving around in the mountains can be dangerous, scary, and pretty beautiful, too–depending on the mountains themselves and the time of year. The mountains and mesas around Mesa, Arizona can have especially steep drops, rises, and occasionally very hazardous conditions, as I recently found while driving through the area. Here’s a few tips to help you out if you ever find yourself driving through the mountains near Mesa.
1. Don’t drive at night. The mountains and mesas in Arizona aren’t especially well lit, or lit at all, really. You should avoid driving on the mountains at night, because you’ll miss road signs and you’ll have greater chances of hitting animals. If you’ve got to drive at night, turn on your brights, but flip them back down when other cars approach.
2. Pay attention to the road signs. The road signs around Mesa, Arizona tell you the percentage of the downgrade on the mountains and how the road behaves, and can be invaluable. Around Mesa I found the downgrade is usually 6 or 7 percent where the signs crop up–you’ll quickly see how big of a difference there is between those two percentages.
3. Pick your route carefully. Depending on whether you’re coming in from the West or East, you might be able to go around the mountains entirely. In any case, you’ll want to schedule your route to hit as few mountain roads as possible. The roads on the mesas can be very beautiful, though, especially in the early morning.
4. Use your vehicle’s lower gears. If you want to avoid wearing out your breaks or putting too much pressure on your car’s engine, you should drop your manual transmission back to its lower gears when you’re in the mountains. This can help you avoid breaking as much, especially on the down-mountain curves and drops you’ll experience when driving into Mesa from the East.
It should go without saying, but watch your speed. There are a lot of straight aways around the mesas that can give you a false sense of confidence, but sudden curves will creep up on you. Go slow, especially if it’s your first time driving on a mountain. Keep an eye on your car’s RPM to avoid overworking the engine, and try to avoid hitting the break too much. If you drive down a few mountains with your foot glued to the brakes, you’ll end up needing to replace them. Look to your car’s user manual for more tips on mountain driving.
Ever drive in the mountains around Mesa, Arizona? Post your thoughts and stories in the comments section below.