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Zenguitarguy

Newbie Travelling from Colorado to Arcata CA needs road advice

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We are renting a 2018 30 FT Thor Motor Coach Freedom elite. I have driven a few 26 ft RV's and feel relatively comfortable, my wife has not driven an RV yet.
We are driving across country to visit our older son in Arcata CA from Boulder CO. I have severe asthma and we don't feel comfortable flying so we decided to travel this way with our younger son to go out. Our suggested route takes us most of the way on 80 but then at Reno it suggest 395, then 44 then 299. 299 looks pretty intense with a lot of switchbacks. Is that passable with a 30 ft rig or should I try and head west on a different route to try and get on the 101 North?  Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Another route that looks more reasonable is 80 west that forks just after Tahoe onto 20 west which meets up with the 101 North. The 20 looks reasonable with nice stops.

Edited by Zenguitarguy
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Welcome to a great group. Be assured we are not ignoring your question. Some of us just have no experience with that route so have no advice to offer. Hopefully, someone who does have knowledge will be along soon.

Linda Sand

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Dear Linda,
Thanks! My trip is in September and plenty of time. I just downloaded RvLife app and am looking at roads safe for us. I look forward to hearing from someone who might now that area of Nevada and california, 80, 36, 299, 20, etc...

Thanks for letting me know!

Edited by Zenguitarguy
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3 hours ago, Zenguitarguy said:

 Another route that looks more reasonable is 80 west that forks just after Tahoe onto 20 west which meets up with the 101 North. The 20 looks reasonable with nice stops.

This is a beautiful drive and very doable with any size RV.  As you head north on 101 you'll be seeing many huge redwoods.  Enjoy the trip!!

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Thanks! It was weird that all the maps/guides/apps were saying 36 and 299? It looked too hard. Then on the actual map 80 - 20 - 101 seems so much nicer. Thanks for conforming!

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! We are here to help and most of us do love a challenge. I have traveled most of that route with the exception of CA-299. I do have a good friend who is into motorcycle tours and that part of CA-299 is listed in his motorcycle tour book as one of the most beautiful and fun rides in that part of the US. Since you are a novice motorhome driver, I strongly recommend against considering that route. The choice of I-80 to CA-20 to US-101 will be better but realize that even that is going to be mountain driving.  Since you are from Boulder, I would assume that you are not unfamiliar with mountain driving? The stretch that you will travel on US-101 passes through redwood forests with some very tight turns as they do not clear out those trees to build the road. We traveled that way several times with a 36' motorhome towing an Honda CR-V, so you can do it without hazard, but it will be slow and you may find your palms quite sweaty, as mine were our first trip through there. It is very interesting country and well worth the effort to visit. 

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Thanks all! Seems like a great and friendly group. 

Kirk I appreciate the info. I have driven from LA 2 Reno 2 x's in an RV but never up the 101. The redwoods sound great. We are not in a huge hurry and are planning 3 days to get from colorado to Arcata. Thank you for taking the time to post an answer.

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Unless you have a reason to take highway 20 from Tahoe (like you intend to stay somewhere up there or have something specific to see), I would stay on I80 to I5 then take I5 to Highway 20 and go west to Highway 101.  Three days from Boulder to Arcata is not a lot of time and the upper part of highway 20 is a lot slower than staying on 80 to 5.  I live off of highway 20 between 5 and 101 and travel that route often.  I never take the upper part of 20 in my RV unless I have a reason to (like I want to stay somewhere along that route).  If I am just making miles to get to a destination, 80 to 5 to 20 is much more expedient.  The upper part of Highway 20 is all two lane winding and twisting roads and goes through a bunch of small towns, which is why it takes a lot longer in an RV than the interstates.  If, once you make it to Tahoe, you still have lots of time then I might take the upper part of 20, but it would still be iffy in my book based on your stated time line.

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I agree with Chad.   And you are going to REALLY have to push it to get there in 3 days. 5 days would still be fast for us.

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Buy a Truckers Road Atlas, it has every road that is safe and approved for big rigs highlighted in yellow/orange. If any highway/road is not highlighted I find another route. In the front of the Atlas, each state has a listing of restricted roads, be it width, winding, steep grades, low clearances, etc.

If you are using a GPS unit or a service to plan routes, before starting out, compare the route with the paper maps in the Truckers Road Atlas.

I figure 50MPH when mapping out a trip, this usually is quite accurate when traveling in the RV, whether it is our current MH or our last truck and 5er. This figures in rest stops and fuel stops along the way.

Edited by Ray,IN

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2 hours ago, Chad Heiser said:

Unless you have a reason to take highway 20 from Tahoe (like you intend to stay somewhere up there or have something specific to see), I would stay on I80 to I5 then take I5 to Highway 20 and go west to Highway 101.  Three days from Boulder to Arcata is not a lot of time and the upper part of highway 20 is a lot slower than staying on 80 to 5.  I live off of highway 20 between 5 and 101 and travel that route often.  I never take the upper part of 20 in my RV unless I have a reason to (like I want to stay somewhere along that route).  If I am just making miles to get to a destination, 80 to 5 to 20 is much more expedient.  The upper part of Highway 20 is all two lane winding and twisting roads and goes through a bunch of small towns, which is why it takes a lot longer in an RV than the interstates.  If, once you make it to Tahoe, you still have lots of time then I might take the upper part of 20, but it would still be iffy in my book based on your stated time line.

So Just so i am clear: You think if I stay on 80 after passing Reno and just stay on 80 to 5N to 20w that will save time? Ok...seems like I am going further south but I completely trust you know that area better. We are planning on driving shifts because we want to spend time with our son and then take our time coming back. Thank you so much for the information and advice!

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Emigrant Gap on I-80 /Hwy 20 to Williams at I-5 via Hwy 20 is 101 miles

Emigrant Gap on I-80 to I-5 and north to Williams is 127 miles

 

On I-80 you'll have Donner Pass beginning about 27 mi. west of the CA/Nevada state line.  Westbound you'll have 33 truck advisory signs along the descent so this is a biggie. There are two runaway truck ramps.  It's a long downhill (40 miles) so use your gears to save your brakes.

Edited by 2gypsies

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First I would like to thank everyone for all of the good information, kind responses and support. My wife, who is probably more level headed then I am, lol, has some concerns and questions so I am posting them here for her:

1) We are not that experienced as RV drivers and she is concerned we have bitten off more than we can chew trying to drive a 30ft RV cross country. The route everyone suggests: I80W - 5N - 20W - 101 N makes the most sense to us for both directions. Her concern and mine is the technical aspects of Donner pass, (which we have been reading about, thank you 2gypsies) and the 101 through the redwoods. We don't have enough experience to assess whether the drive is too hard.

2) We are planning to travel at the end of september, first week in October and she has weather concerns that time of year?

3) Several of you have expressed concerns around driving pace. We had assumed like driving a car we could drive during daylight hours and drive 1200 miles in 2 days as our plan is to camp at our son's home in Arcata as his house is small and the RV let's us travel without hotel stops and we are very Covid aware as we have 2 cousins in Hospital and have lost 6 friends. This trip is to see our son and getting there reasonably quickly was the idea. Is this unrealistic?

4) How do we find safe rest stops in the middle to sleep overnight?

I apologize for us asking so many Newbie questions, but we literally have no experience like all of you, and are so grateful for the answers and advice.

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Driving a 30' RV cross country is no different than driving it just in your own state.  The difference is time. 

Are you retired?  Can you take more time to get to Arcata?  I'd advise planning on 300 miles/day of travel.  Pull in early with time to relax, have dinner (in your RV or go to a take-out place), shower have a good night's sleep.  

Donner Pass - by the time you get there you'll be so much more comfortable driving.  You will have probably used your RV on other inclines/declines.  This one is very doable and many RVers do it.  It's a popular route.  It's a long downhill with places to pull over, if needed.  Get into low gear so you don't have to use your brakes as often.  It's multiple lane. Stay in the right lane so you won't feel pressured to go faster than you want.  You can do it!!

Hwy 101 is not mountain driving.  Yes, there will be hills but no major ups and downs.  There will be gentle curves but not hairpin turns.  Many portions are straight and flat.  It's really an easy drive.

The end of September/first of October is a safe time for your trip - weatherwise.

Your only concern should be the miles to get there in a reasonable time period.  If you can adjust and take it easier across it will be more enjoyable for you, less tiring and safer.  I'd advise to really avoid 600 miles a day with a RV even with two drivers.

 

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31 minutes ago, 2gypsies said:

Driving a 30' RV cross country is no different than driving it just in your own state.  The difference is time. 

Are you retired?  Can you take more time to get to Arcata?  I'd advise planning on 300 miles/day of travel.  Pull in early with time to relax, have dinner (in your RV or go to a take-out place), shower have a good night's sleep.  

Donner Pass - by the time you get there you'll be so much more comfortable driving.  You will have probably used your RV on other inclines/declines.  This one is very doable and many RVers do it.  It's a popular route.  It's a long downhill with places to pull over, if needed.  Get into low gear so you don't have to use your brakes as often.  It's multiple lane. Stay in the right lane so you won't feel pressured to go faster than you want.  You can do it!!

Hwy 101 is not mountain driving.  Yes, there will be hills but no major ups and downs.  There will be gentle curves but not hairpin turns.  Many portions are straight and flat.  It's really an easy drive.

The end of September/first of October is a safe time for your trip - weatherwise.

Your only concern should be the miles to get there in a reasonable time period.  If you can adjust and take it easier across it will be more enjoyable for you, less tiring and safer.  I'd advise to really avoid 600 miles a day with a RV even with two drivers.

 

Thank you!

Not retired. I am a musician and not touring or playing because all is shut down and my wife is a Business admin and works from home. The reason for the travel time limit is about cost. We could afford a ten day rental and want to see our older son. He has not seen his brother for almost a year now. So we rented the RV thinking 4 days of driving and 5 days with our son. I hear you and we will discuss it. 

What is your opinion on stopping to sleep at rest stops? or is there a better way to find places? A friend said Home depot or Lowes etc... but that feels odd.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. and again sorry for so many newbie questions. 

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Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Sam's Club, Cracker Barrel, and Cabela's are all places RVers stop for the night for free. But, not all of them allow it. It's best to call shortly before you arrive to ask. I've been known to pull into their lot and call from there to ask; sometimes they have a particular area in which they prefer you to park.

I don't like staying at truck stops or rest areas because they are noisy. Plus, I prefer to leave them for commercial truckers who have to stop at certain hours. But, I have stayed there when that was what was available along my route. Some Flying J's have designated RV spots but even then I have had a bobtail truck park next to me there and run his engine all night.

City and county parks and those owned by utility companies are sometimes free but not usually as convenient to freeways.

Linda

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22 minutes ago, sandsys said:

Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Sam's Club, Cracker Barrel, and Cabela's are all places RVers stop for the night for free. But, not all of them allow it. It's best to call shortly before you arrive to ask. I've been known to pull into their lot and call from there to ask; sometimes they have a particular area in which they prefer you to park.

I don't like staying at truck stops or rest areas because they are noisy. Plus, I prefer to leave them for commercial truckers who have to stop at certain hours. But, I have stayed there when that was what was available along my route. Some Flying J's have designated RV spots but even then I have had a bobtail truck park next to me there and run his engine all night.

City and county parks and those owned by utility companies are sometimes free but not usually as convenient to freeways.

Linda

Thanks! If you cannot find one of those are you comfortable staying at rest stops and scenic views?

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27 minutes ago, Zenguitarguy said:

Thanks! If you cannot find one of those are you comfortable staying at rest stops and scenic views?

Many of those have time limits that don't let you get a full night's sleep. I have napped in them, though. But, when traveling in my van, I have also napped in a McDonald's parking lot after eating lunch there. :)

Linda

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Early in our full-timing years we stayed at a couple rest areas.  They are not a favorite.  First, the truckers need them more than a RVer.  Secondly, I don't think they're as safe after 10pm as a WalMart would be.  I certainly wouldn't use the bathroom after 10pm.  There are some wierdos out there.  Mid-day once we went out our door and 3 truckers immediately surrounded us.  They asked us to come over to watch a game they were playing and guaranteed to win big bucks.  Nope.  If you Google WalMart overnighting you can get a list with phone numbers to call and ask.  We stayed away from big city stores... just felt safer in small towns.  We soon learned not to drive so many hours and never used businesses again.  We traveled secondary roads so there were also nice public parks to stay or boondocking spots.

I hope you can make this work..... it would be great for both boys ..... and the parents, too!

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2 hours ago, Zenguitarguy said:

again sorry for so many newbie questions. 

No need to be sorry for asking questions, as that is what keeps the forums alive and helping others is what the Escapees RV club is all about. 

I think that you would be smarter to plan to drive an average of 400 miles per day, rather than push so hard. Not only will you be driving a vehicle that you are not familiar with, but when you stay in the RV it requires some time to stop and set ready to cook, cook your meal and eat it, then get ready for bed and the same in the morning. It really requires somewhat more time than would be needed if you were stopping in motels, but you have much more freedom as well. 

I would not plan to spend the night in the roadside rest areas for several reasons. First, it is very common for them to limit you to from 4 to 8 hours at a stop. In addition, they are usually very noisy and you may even attract people looking for a handout. I would look to stop at a Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, or similar place. We have also spent the night in a church parking lot on occasion, but we always ask permission from the owner of any parking lot. Truck stops are a good choice as well and are usually pretty secure but can be noisy. Many small towns allow one to stay in the city park for a night.

As far as being able to make the drive, the major thing you will need to deal with is the mental side as you will be traveling mostly on interstate highways that are safe for any type of motor-vehicle if it is driven at reasonable speeds. You will need to slow down on the downgrades and once you leave the interstate, much of that will be at 50 mph or less. You will not be able to average much more than 45 mph once you get into the redwood country. 

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18 hours ago, Zenguitarguy said:

So Just so i am clear: You think if I stay on 80 after passing Reno and just stay on 80 to 5N to 20w that will save time? Ok...seems like I am going further south but I completely trust you know that area better. We are planning on driving shifts because we want to spend time with our son and then take our time coming back. Thank you so much for the information and advice!

Correct, it will save time.  The one caveat is time of day you go through the area.  Because it will bring you into the greater Sacramento area (the north east side), time it so you are not entering the area at commute time because traffic can back up in that area during those times (although, even with traffic, it will be faster - just more irritating).

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1 hour ago, Kirk W said:

You will need to slow down on the downgrades

You need to slow down and downshift at the very beginning of a steep or long downgrade. If you miss the point at which you can downshift, brake hard, then downshift. Do not gently push the brake on a downgrade as that will simply burn up your brakes. That is the one trick you need to know to drive in the mountains. Everything else is instinctual.

Linda

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With the I80/I5/20/101 route you get Sacramento commuter traffic, and heavy wine country traffic on 20 and 101.  Using I80/395/44/299 you get a lot less traffic, easier grades, and better scenery, as a lot of 299 follows the river.  It is a heavy truck route, so very driveable in an RV.  There are some twisty sections on 299 around Weaverville.  When I lived in Arcata so long ago, 299 was the preferred exit, and that was before I5, when 99 was the N-S route.  Today, my friend who lives in Eureka prefers the 299 route between there and southern Nevada.  Just wanted to mention it.  Assuming your son travels, ask him....

On driving, do not attempt any 600 mile days, figure more like 400 mile days.  You may find that a highway speed of about 62mph is comfortable for the RV, gets decent fuel mileage, and lets you feel in control.  You need to stop for fuel and meals and comfort.  You will likely average a bit under 50 mph, figured at total travel time including stops and actual distance traveled.  Put another way, a 10 to 12 hour day may get you 500 miles.  And don;t be afraid to use a campground.

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I don't know how Sacramento is but here in the west Minneapolis metro area rush house is actually drivable now that so many people are not driving to work. Based on past experience we allowed an hour to drive home from my late afternoon medical appointment and it took 20 minutes.

Linda

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