Interstate Highway 70 (I-70) is a major East-West highway running from western Utah to Baltimore, Maryland. It passes through ten states. In a sense it is the alpha and omega of the interstate highway system. That system was initiated by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, signed into law by President Eisenhower on June 29, 1956. Less than 90 days later, paving began on a portion of U.S. Highway 40 in Kansas, which became a part of the I-70 and was the first work performed under the 1956 law. The very last part of the the interstate system, as originally planned, was completed in 1992 with the opening of the portion of I-70 passing through Glenwood Canyon in western Colorado.
Besides being a major cross country thoroughfare, I-70 is the primary route for people in Denver and the Front Range to access the recreational opportunities of the Rocky Mountains. Driving westward out of Denver, one has access to Lookout Mountain, Evergreen, Idaho Springs, Georgetown, the central Colorado ski areas, through the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel ( at an altitude of 11,158 feet, the highest vehicular tunnel in North America and one of the highest in the world), Silverthorne and Breckenridge, Vail, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, the Colorado River, and on to Grand Junction and beyond. Not surprisingly, on weekends and holidays the highway becomes an extended traffic jam causing drivers to spend several hours to travel 50 miles or less.
I would like to paraphrase Yogi Berra and say that nobody uses I-70 anymore because it is too crowded, but that is not true. Everyone still uses it, and though there are frustrations, many appreciate that they are able to enjoy the beauty and ruggedness of The Rockies because of this smog-generating engineering marvel. Jim Dalton seems to be one of those people.
Jim Dalton is a singer, songwriter and musician who is involved in several bands in Colorado and nearby states. It seems that he spends most of his time these days as the lead guitarist of Tempe, Arizona – based Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and he is one of the founders, with Johnny Hickman from the band Cracker, of the Hickman-Dalton Gang. Before becoming involved with those bands he started a group called The Railbenders with bass player Tyson Murray. The original group included drummer Gordon Beesly and guitarist Chris Flynn, but they have since been replaced by Graham Haworth on drums and Tony Asnicar on guitar.
The Railbenders first got together in 2000. Westword Music Showcase named them Denver’s Top Country/Roots Band in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, the Denver Post chose them as “Best of the Underground” and Coors Brewing Company named the band the Coors Original 2004 New Sound Throwdown Champions, which included a sponsorship.
In 2006, the Railbenders released an album called Showdown that included Jim Dalton’s song, “I-70 Westbound.” The group has played regularly in the Denver/Front Range area since then and the song has become sort of a favorite of their local fans. Essentially, it tells us that we can drive west on I-70 and enjoy the mountains.