How RV friendly is the Redding->Alturas->Playa drive?

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How RV friendly is the Redding->Alturas->Playa drive?

Postby plumblove » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:13 am

Our group is coming from the Bay Area. We've got an older 34 foot rv and we'll be towing a double axle trailer with a mutant vehicle that's probably as heavy as a full-sized SUV. We're four people with all of the necessary gear for a week.
I've driven the south entrance through Reno a number of times but I'm afraid that the climb up the Sierras and the climb near Nixon could be a bitch. I know I've got to gain the same amount of elevation to get there no matter which way I go. But I was wondering if looping around and coming in from the North might be a gentler climb? Is this the path Orenonians travel?

Any thoughts?

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Postby theCryptofishist » Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:03 am

Sounds loopy to me. I don't think that's the Feather River canyon, which is lovely in a windy, two-lane sort of way, but with the number of roads over the sierras or cascades dictated by the number and position of passes; and the most initial work and maitenance done on the big interstates, rather than the little side roads; and with the more services available if there is trouble on the big rather than little roads; and with the extra gas, this seems like it should b ecarefully researched before being set out on.
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Postby teardropper » Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:37 am

I understand about old RV's. I also understand that on the map the 6000'+ pass between Alturas and Cedarville looks inviting compared to the Sierras, but it is really a long way extra. And that pass is tight, windy and steep, too, and is the 35 mph part of my trip. Plus, it is in a very lightly populated part of the planet, not many services regularly. Enough to get you fuel and food, but you'd be out there.
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Postby Mojojita » Wed Apr 28, 2010 8:18 pm

Seriously, I-80 is the road more travelled......

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Postby motskyroonmatick » Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:35 pm

That pass between Alturas and Cedarville is a really tough climb for my box truck pulling a car trailer and mutant vehicle. It is a second gear thing for me with top speeds dipping down below 20 occasionally. It is the kind of pass that kills RV's and rental trucks which arn't purpose built for climbing passes.

Can you possibly pull the car trailer with another vehicle to spare the chance of blowing up the RV transmission? If I were going the RV route that is what I would be concerned about.
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Postby Token » Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:44 pm

Towing that much of a load with an RV is asking for trouble. RVs usually have a big overhang on the ass end and the hitch receiver will be far from the rear wheels. This usually spells disaster with sway and jackknifing.

Make sure you have a real good hitch and trailer brakes.

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Postby Captain Goddammit » Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:37 am

I've done that route in several rigs, towing a two-axle mutant-carrying trailer that weighs around 9000.
I've pulled that trailer with motorhomes and several trucks.
DEFINITELY go out on the freeway with the RV and trailer (with something in it that gets the weight up to where it'll be on the trip) and see how it drives first!
One year I had mine behind a motorhome, shorter than yours, but with a heavy-model EZ Loader weight-distributing hitch cranked as hard as it would go, and it drove so bad I had to turn it around and go get something else.
Your 34 footer will have that long overhang, about 8 to 10 feet from the rear axle to the hitch ball but it ought to have enough wheelbase to do OK. However you really really should have a weight-distributing hitch and crank it tight.

The route itself: I always approach from Alturas because I'm coming from north, whether it makes sense logistically for you I dunno... but, the climb from Cedarville is pretty steep.
Heat is what kills rigs there. I've been on the side of the road there a few times, either due to my own rig or a friend's.
I'm assuming "older 34-foot motorhome" means it's either got either a Dodge 440 motor/727 transmission if it's about 1977 or older, or Chevy 454 motor/TH400 trans if it's about 1978 or newer. That's the same stuff in a 3/4 ton pickup, you'll be working it REAL hard.
DO make sure you have a good, big transmission cooler. Maybe put in a second one. Add an electric fan to your radiator. You'll be making a lot of heat but going too slowly to get enough airflow.
DON'T hold your foot on the floor and strain the thing as hard as possible climbing that pass. Shift into FIRST, let up on the gas, and walk it up. You don't want to get there first, you want to get there at all. Don't floor the gas going up the pass with a heavy trailer. I've personally blown up motorhomes doing that, even WITH a new trans and big coolers.

I won't do the pass in anything with an automatic transmission without yanking it out first and getting it rebuilt, unless I KNOW it's pretty fresh. I also don't go without a new radiator, unless I KNOW it's pretty fresh. Trust me, it's cheaper and easier than blowing it up on the pass. I know all about it, from many times on that drive with my own and my friend's rigs.

Get a good brake controller, like a Prodigy. Make sure that older motorhome does not have one of those older brake controllers that simply turns the trailer brakes "on" or "off". Coming down the other side is kinda' gnarly in a heavy rig with an automatic trans too! Again, you gotta shift WAY down and slow WAY down and walk it down. I've been careful but friends of mine who didn't listen and got impatient behind me have cooked their brakes coming down the pass.

It's doable, I always go that way, all I'm saying is set yourself up for it and take it easy on the rig.

Oh, one other thing about road-testing prior to the trip: You must have the trailer hooked to it, and loaded as heavy as it will be on the real trip. Several times I've road tested trucks for the trip and they seemed fine, the problems don't show up until you load them HEAVY.
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Postby Dr. Pyro » Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:18 am

Remember, sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

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Postby Playa Foot » Sat May 01, 2010 5:13 pm

Going over Donner Pass is a long slog. Lots of traffic and lots of grade to climb. The other passes over the Cascades and Sierra are easier and have less traffic.
Highway 70, the Feather River Canyon is absolutely beautiful and has quite a few hills but not many steep extended grades. It is substantially longer than Donner though.
Highway 32, Deer Creek from Chico to Chester has some steep sections, is narrow and twisty and not your best choice.
Highway 36 from Red Bluff to Susanville has one long grade and a few lesser grades, there are two narrow twisty sections near Lassen Park but the rest of the road is easy to drive. Trouble is there is no easy route to the playa from Mineral Chester, Susanville unless you wish to take a chance on 60 miles of tire eating dirt road. If you want to take this route contact me and I can give you detailed directions.
Hihways 44 and 299 from Redding have some fairly long grades. They may be the best choice though.
Cedar Pass from Alturas to Cedarville has one long steady grade but once you get to the summit it is an easy drive to the playa.

There is no way to go thorugh the mountains without having to go up a serious hill. I hate I-80 and avoid it when I can but it probably is the best choice. Make sure your teansmission and cooling system are good and you should have a nice boring drive.

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Postby Thecatman » Sun May 02, 2010 3:15 pm

Don't forget if anybody chooses to use I80, the second faze of the major re-constrution project for 2010 has started and lanes will be narrowed or closed.
Highway 70 would be better than going through Cedarville. It takes you to about 5200' over Beckworth Pass, the lowest pass across the Sierras. But its a long way aroung and would probably require one more tank of gas each way and would require going through Reno to Fernley and Nixon.
Its a matter of preference and what you feel is safer.
Captain Goddammit posted some excellent sugestions

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Postby Captain Goddammit » Sun May 02, 2010 9:49 pm

Playa Foot wrote:Cedar Pass from Alturas to Cedarville has one long steady grade but once you get to the summit it is an easy drive to the playa.

Yes, exactly!
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Postby plumblove » Sun May 02, 2010 10:30 pm

Thanks for all the advice. I was hoping for a secret workaround. But it seems clear that 80 is the way to go for me. I've got all the coolers and fans required. Just going to do a little routine maintenance. And I'm going to have to resist the urge to stand on the skinny pedal. I think I'll try to travel during cooler times as well.

Construction info for 80.

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Postby Snow » Sun May 02, 2010 11:50 pm

44 would seem your best alternative to 80 (which really is best as much as I hate it). You can take astor pass into and through the smoke creek desert and into gerlach from susanville. BUT it is all dirt, washboardy, not well marked, FEW travelers and NO services.

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