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hondo in seattle

Mountain Coward

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I don't actually view myself as a terrible coward.  I've scuba dived...  been attacked by drugged up knife wielding maniacs...  rappelled down a 160 foot vertical cliff...  led soldiers into combat.  But all that was a piece of cake compared to driving a RV on a mountain road!

I'm camped on the west side of the Sierra Nevadas right now dreading my trip back home to Seattle via Tahoe and other scenic spots.   Yesterday I took CA HWY 49 past CA 120 to CA 140 to avoid the infamous Priest Grade on my way to Yosemite.  I ended up on a narrow hillside road with no shoulder or guardrails and a drop (though not nearly vertical) of 100+ feet.  I was zooming along at 5 or 10 mph for miles, thinking how I would sell my RV here locally and drive the SUV back home as fast as I could.  Once in Iraq, I found myself driving in a minefield.  Driving on HWY 49, to me, was much scarier.  And I was in the foothills of the Sierras, not in the mountains themselves.  Driving my car.  

My question to the group is how do I know in advance what roads are scary.  To me a scary road is a road with drop-offs.  To compound my terror, make it narrow and leave out the guardrails.  I have a trucker GPS app but that tells me grades, clearances and so forth - not fear factor.  I don't mind a grade and a corner as long as the road isn't near a cliff.  

Any suggestions or advice?

 

 

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Is it only in the RV that you feel this fear?  Is it a motorhome or do you pull a trailer with your SUV?

If you only feel this fear when you're doing the RV thing, then probably it will get better with experience and confidence.  If you have the fear even when driving the SUV alone, it may not improve with time.  I've known people who have never gotten used to driving in the mountains, even though they live in Colorado.

Maybe hypnosis will help.

As far as knowing ahead of time what the road will be like, that could take some research.  Talking to others and looking on Google Maps will generally give you an idea.

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I'd also recommend the 'Mountain Directory for Truckers and RVers'.  It gives an excellent description of the major passes and other issues.  Even though it's in the directory it doesn't mean that a RV shouldn't be on that road.  It just gives you a heads up on what to expect.  We used it all the time even when repeating drives just to refresh us.  We loved mountain driving.

What is your RV?  Perhaps that's the problem.  Perhaps you have too much trailer for your SUV.  A small Class C might work better for you because you'd be IN the RV; not pulling it.  You might feel more in control if not pulling something behind.

Hope you can conquer your problem.  Lots of beauty on those highways.... if you can look occasionally. 😳

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5 hours ago, hondo in seattle said:

My question to the group is how do I know in advance what roads are scary.  To me a scary road is a road with drop-offs.  To compound my terror, make it narrow and leave out the guardrails.  I have a trucker GPS app but that tells me grades, clearances and so forth - not fear factor.  I don't mind a grade and a corner as long as the road isn't near a cliff.  

I'm with you. As a Midwest flatlander, mountain roads were a shocker. Still not used to them, but I use a couple of tools to help me . . .

As previously mentioned, the Mountain Directories point out the scariest routes.

To plan routes I use RV Trip Wizard which has a very hand Route Elevation feature that shows the elevation along your entire route:

rvtw-text.jpg

 

Also, as you mentioned my "trucker" Garmin 780 has an elevation indicator too:

garmin780-elevation.jpg

Finally, if I'm really unsure about a route, I'll virtually drive it in Google Maps:

grubgulchroad-to-akwahnee.png

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I don't mind winding roads....as long as I'm driving!  For routes I'm not familiar with, I just put out a search - it's amazing how many versions of the same route you might get, but they all show a perspective.  For a sample, I entered 'route 191 through Arizona.  https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Route+191+through+Arizona&t=opera&ia=web

Lots of pictures, descriptions, good/bad/ugly opinions.  

Also have used milebymile website:  https://www.milebymile.com/main/highway-8.html  Pick your state, see if the road you are going to travel is highlighted, the information will vary for each section, but I've found some good pictures and interesting information.  

Enjoy the journey - most of the time it's fun!

 

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hondo that really seems extreme.  I am certainly not making light of it in any way.  We may have some folks on this forum that can help but I kind of think the best bet is someone extremely professional.  Like you  I was active Marine 66-70.  I have always hated heights but doing the stuff repetitively in the Corps seemed to get me out of it. After all my main goal in life was to please my drill instructor.  It worked then but turns out it  was not permanent.  Even though I had a job that had me working on ladders later in life and was mostly able to cope it got somewhat worse when I quite doing it on a regular basis.  I wish I had a good answer for you and one for me.  It may get better the more you do it but then again it may not.  I sincerely wish you the best of luck. 

Like others it might be useful for us to know what you are towing and what you are towing with.

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11 hours ago, hondo in seattle said:

I don't actually view myself as a terrible coward.  I've scuba dived...  been attacked by drugged up knife wielding maniacs...  rappelled down a 160 foot vertical cliff...  led soldiers into combat.  But all that was a piece of cake compared to driving a RV on a mountain road!

I'm camped on the west side of the Sierra Nevadas right now dreading my trip back home to Seattle via Tahoe and other scenic spots.   Yesterday I took CA HWY 49 past CA 120 to CA 140 to avoid the infamous Priest Grade on my way to Yosemite.  I ended up on a narrow hillside road with no shoulder or guardrails and a drop (though not nearly vertical) of 100+ feet.  I was zooming along at 5 or 10 mph for miles, thinking how I would sell my RV here locally and drive the SUV back home as fast as I could.  Once in Iraq, I found myself driving in a minefield.  Driving on HWY 49, to me, was much scarier.  And I was in the foothills of the Sierras, not in the mountains themselves.  Driving my car.  

My question to the group is how do I know in advance what roads are scary.  To me a scary road is a road with drop-offs.  To compound my terror, make it narrow and leave out the guardrails.  I have a trucker GPS app but that tells me grades, clearances and so forth - not fear factor.  I don't mind a grade and a corner as long as the road isn't near a cliff.  

Any suggestions or advice?

 

 

Who told you to take that route?   

When  going to unfamiliar places, use forums like this one to ask.  In addition to Mountain Directory, Allstate Camground app also has information on mountain roads.   Highway 49 is not one we would take because of grades.  And you can took at satellite view to look at sections of the road.

Coming from Washington I wouldn’t think mountain driving shouldn’t be scary.  
 

 

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Get the Truckers Atlas from Rand McNally.  It clearly shows roads OK for trucks, and NOT OK. If a road is not OK for a 40' trailer and tractor, then most RV's should avoid it.

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1 hour ago, SWharton said:

If you have a spouse ask her to drive.

For me, I'm better off driving than riding. It gives me at least some sense of control. Even though Dave is an excellent driver, sometimes I need to feel in control.

Linda 

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Reminds me of the time back in 1985 when we took our 4 boys on a 3-week trip west in a rented class C.  We climbed Pike's Peak with the RV since we had no other vehicle.  My boys still talk about that.  

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1 hour ago, Ropeshaft said:

My boys still talk about that.  

i bet they sure do.  climbing it is impressive but the descending is the real impresive part.

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Thanks to everyone for the timely and useful advice!!!  I've downloaded the Mountain Guide and am looking at milebymile, Trip Wizard, and more closely at Google Maps.  All these help.  

To answer some questions...  I've been afraid of heights all my life though until now I've managed it pretty well.  Like bigjim, my fear seems to be growing with age.  I only bought my 38 foot class A motorhome a few months ago.  It's the first vehicle I've owned bigger than a car and this is our first big trip.  We don't have any towing gear yet so my wife is following me in the SUV.  

Stupidly, I planned 3 weeks in Oregon and Northern California zigzagging across the Coastal Range, Cascades and Sierra Nevadas.  And I've been unpleasantly surprised by how much driving the RV triggers my fear of heights.   Instead of gaining confidence with every mountain pass I successfully navigate, the discomfort and stress seems just seems to accumulate.   

So, somewhat weirdly, I'm now more nervous driving the car on mountain roads than I used to be.  I feel like I've surpassed my mountain road quota but still have to drive north out of South Lake Tahoe and eventually west over the Cascades again.  I'll get it done but won't enjoy it.  But, with your help, maybe I can figure out a route that doesn't cause my cortisol level to skyrocket.   Thanks again all!

Zulu - the pic  you shared gives me nightmares!  

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If I can make a "driving style"  observation here. I spend a lot of time teaching teens driving safety and skid control. One of the things i try to ingrain into the students is target fixation.

For example, when your in a skid, don't focus on the tree you might hit. instead focus on the path betweeen the trees. The human body is awesome in the way it takes clues from the eyes. If you focus on the tree, you WILL hit the tree. If you focus on the path, your body knows what to do to get you there.

The same thing applies to everyday driving. I challenge you to drive down the road and look at every pothole you come across. then count how many of them you miss.

The point to all of this is that you need to look at the road. The larger the vehicle you drive, the farther down the road you need to look. when you get to a curve, you should be looking around the curve at the road. NOT at the guard rail or the drop off.  AT THE ROAD...

I have taught several people who have a fear of heights  to safely navigate even the tallest bridges we have here in Florida (and some of them are HUGE).

Give it a try in the SUV and see if it makes you more comfortable.

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Honda,

The reason you are more afraid is that the motorhome sits you up and you have a larger view of what is coming.   That's a good thing, but the first few times can be a little unnerving if you haven't done a lot of driving in the mountains before.  I actually dislike being in the passengers seat more than the driver's seat because I always think I'm hanging over the edge.   I've notice Dave is picker when I'm driving over mountain passes about me staying on the center line.  That's because his point of view changes when I'm driving.  

From South Lake Tahoe, take US 50 North until you meet up with Highway 395 in Carson.  Take US 395 north up into Oregon until you come to US 20, go west until you meet with US 97 at Bend.   Turn north and at the Columbia River take I-84 into Portland then I-5 to home.   Different scenery and a lot flatter.  

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You may have started out a little too quick. I think maybe as you get more experience on  less challenging roads it very well may get better.  One issue that I know aggravates my issue at times is tinitus.  Your sense of balance is mainly in your ears I am told. I knew a guy once that often appeared drunk but wasn't. It was caused by some type of ear problem.  He didn't even drink.   Another thing that can make it worse in relation to vehicles is if they have a "mushy" suspension system.  I have  sensed that  in a car, on a motorcycle, or when I have towed a trailer with too soft suspension. I am sure the added height of you rig doesn't help in these early days of your adventure.  I had a Class A CDL for years and towed lots of stuff but for some reason I have had a mental trepidation about driving a Class A.  I truly believe I could do it with some practice in a large mostly empty parking lot.  I think it has had  at least a little relation to why I have preffered a Travel Trailer over a 5th Wheel.

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You state this is your first trip with a new motorhome.    You're correct in that you scheduled this trip with too many mountains/hills to navigate.  

How do you feel when you drive it on easier roads?

Does it seem to sway?    Perhaps you need some mechanical adjustments/additions made.

Would you and your wife consider switching vehicle drivers?  You take the car and she takes the motorhome on iffy roads?  Many women drive and love it.

Perhaps a RV driving course would help both of you.   https://www.rvschool.com/

It would be a shame if you stayed out of the mountains completely.  That's where the beauty is!!

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