The last post ended with us finishing a 400-mile day at the Seven Feathers Casino. Seven Feathers is located between Roseburg and Grants Pass, Oregon. The casino is very RV friendly – they have a full service RV park on the west side of I-5 and a dry camping RV lot on the east side adjacent to the casino. We stayed overnight in the free dry camping lot.
Monday morning, as we approached Grants Pass, the terrain became hilly. I drove about 40 miles to the Manzanita Rest Area at milepost 61 and stopped there. After letting Sini’s golden-doodle dog, Ziggy out for a break, she took over driving.
The hilly terrain became mountainous as we crossed the Siskiyou Range and topped out at Siskiyou Summit more than 4,300 feet above sea level. This gave Sini a chance to experience driving up steep grades and once over the summit, she had to control the coach on a long descent.
When you’re climbing a grade in a motorhome, you want to maintain momentum. This requires a vigilant watch of the rearview mirrors so you’re aware of faster car traffic overtaking. When you have a slow moving tractor-trailer rig ahead, it’s good to time your move to the left lane to pass the slow moving truck with a break in the left lane traffic. If you slow down and stay behind the slow truck, you’re stuck. You probably won’t be able to overtake once you’ve slowed down too much. I explained this to Sini before she took the wheel. She did a great job of staying aware of the traffic situation and maintained our speed over the pass.
On the long downgrade to Medford, Sini made good use of the exhaust brake (sometimes called a PacBrake) and used good braking technique to avoid overheating the brakes. The exhaust brake helps to slow the coach. It’s not as effective as the Jacobs Engineering two-stage engine compression brake on our Alpine Coach, but it works well enough.
A little over ten miles into California, we hit the rest area at mile post 786. Sini had over an hour at the wheel and gained valuable experience handling the coach in the mountains.
Sini is all smiles at the wheel
I took over driving again when we left the rest area. It was familiar terrain as we drove through the mountains past Mount Shasta. Before we left on this trip, I wondered how the National RV Tradewinds coach would handle. It’s built on a Freightliner chassis and it’s powered by a Caterpillar 3126B six-cylinder diesel. The 3126B has a displacement of 7.3 liters (439 cu. in.) – smaller than the 8.9 liter (543 cu. in.) Cummins ISL in our Alpine Coach. The turbocharged 3126B provides 300 horsepower and 860 lb-ft of torque versus the 400 horsepower and 1200 lb-ft of our ISL. However, the Tradewinds is a lighter coach than ours by about 5,000 pounds. I found the power of the 3126B to be adequate and the handling of the Freightliner chassis was better than I expected.
One of the things that helps make the Tradewinds easy to drive is the shorter wheelbase compared to our Alpine Coach. The Tradewinds is about 36 or 37 feet long overall and has a wheelbase of 208 inches. Our Alpine coach is 40 feet overall and has a wheel base of 278 inches. The extra five plus feet between the axles is noticeable – the shorter wheelbase makes it easier to maneuver.
Our next stop was at the Olive Pit in Corning, California. This is a favorite stopping point for Donna and I – we always stop there when we pass through the area. We stretched our legs and shopped – I bought a couple of jars of bleu cheese stuffed olives. Sini and Linda made purchases as well.
I thought about stopping at the Rolling Hills Casino where Donna and I stayed last spring, but we wanted to get a few more miles under our wheels. Sini took over driving again when we left the Olive Pit and had the opportunity to drive through town and down a two-lane road. While she was driving, I was looking ahead on my smart phone. We wanted to stop somewhere with a sports bar so we could have a cold one and watch the Seahawks on Monday Night Football – Sini is a Seahawks fan.
I found the Colusa Casino about 60 miles down the road. I phoned ahead and found they offer free overnight RV parking and they had a sports bar. Bingo! Sini pulled into their parking area and we found a large, level gravel lot with striped pull-through RV spaces. Perfect! We put in about 330 miles for the day.
I was back at the wheel Tuesday morning and drove through Sacramento where we hit US99. This took us through Stockton, Modesto, Fresno and eventually Bakersfield. I told Sini I thought we could make it to Tehachapi and stay at the Mountain Valley RV Park where Donna and I stayed two years ago. We had a plan – but it was soon dashed. Sini found out the Mountain Valley RV Park was closed for the winter. Tehachapi is nearly 4,000 feet above sea level and it gets cold in the winter.
Sini continued searching for a place to stay for the night. She found an Elks Lodge in Mojave, but no one answered the phone or returned her call. Then she found an Elks Lodge in Palmdale. The original plan was for Sini to get more driving time on Tuesday. However, once we decided to press on to Palmdale, I stayed at the wheel and kept our speed over 65mph. I wanted to get there before dark – remember the electrical problem with the taillights?
We didn’t make it before sundown and I drove the last 20 minutes with the lights on. The Elks Lodge in Palmdale had electric and water hook-ups in pull-through sites for $20. When we parked, Sini saw the taillights on the toad were working. It must have been a poor connection at the plug that worked itself out as we drove. We went into the lodge and had a drink while we watched the election returns. I had put in 400 miles and nine hours at the wheel. I was whipped. We had covered nearly 1,200 miles altogether and were less than 180 miles away from Mission Bay.
Wednesday morning Sini drove out of the Elks Lodge. She had the opportunity to drive through city streets then we hit highway 138. There was construction on this highway and Sini had to run the gauntlet. Concrete barriers were on the right side of the lane with no shoulder – only inches to spare on the right while she hugged the center line on the left. Oncoming trucks created pucker factor at times. This went on for a dozen miles or so.
Then we hit I-15 south and drove into heavy traffic in San Bernadino. We took the I-215 route – Sini was driving 60mph on an Interstate seven lanes wide. The right lane was filled with tractor trailer rigs. We were in the number two lane with cars flying past at 80 mph. At times she had tractor-trailers on both sides. We stopped for fuel in Menifee after a couple of hours of high stress driving. Sini had earned her wings – after that stretch, I thought she could drive the coach anywhere.
I drove the final leg to Mission Bay RV Resort. After she checked in, I told Sini she was driving – it was time for her to learn how to back in to an RV site. She had already looked a the site location and had a plan. She wanted to circle the park so the site entrance would be on the driver’s side. She felt more comfortable backing in from that direction. I went over hand signals with her and got out to direct her. She backed in and positioned the coach in one shot! No more driving lessons needed for this gal!
Sini, Linda and Ziggy at Mission Bay.
You might be curious about sleeping arrangements on our road trip. Sini and Linda shared the bedroom in the back of the coach. I slept on a blow-up mattress in the living room with Ziggy on her dog bed. Ziggy is the mellowest creature – she never barked on the trip and slept quietly through the nights.
It was an exhausting road trip, but we accomplished what we set out to do.
Sini and me at Mission Bay