Roseburg to Redwoods (The Long Way)

And, they’re off!

Finally, after months of planning, weeks of prep, and days of waiting for a weather window, the clouds part and the weather gods smile upon as we glide effortlessly southbound with the wind to our backs…

…if only it was that easy.

In reality, we were pretty darn lucky to get out this week at all. I woke up Monday morning and checked weather reports, weather cams, and chain restrictions to the east, west, and south. Heck, I even got so desperate as to consider routes to the north (reminder: we’re headed to Mexico). Everything looked like an absolute mess.

Except for one route.

The most direct route from Roseburg to the southern Oregon coast required chains. But the route just north of that did not. If we left by 11am.

While it would avoid most of the snow, driving the coastal route south in wintertime is still less than ideal. It’s bound to be curvy, windy, and rainy. And add several hours to our journey south. And the cut over to the coast we were eying would add yet another hour.

But we figured it’s now or never. The boys were growing restless and we were ready to start the journey.

So, at 10:45am, we said nos vemos to the grandparents, fired up the rig and rolled out of the driveway into the wet March gloom and headed…north!

At Sutherlin, we turned northwest. The rain was steady the whole way but not enough to collect on the road. It would have been nice doing this trip in the summertime (like we had done this past summer) but doing the journey on a Monday in early March came with a huge benefit: No other cars on the road.

With the exception of some leftover roadside snow, we appeared to avoid the system that had dumped fresh snow that morning not far south of here.

The boys were happy to finally try out their Christmas presents, seemingly unphased by the nasty weather and big journey we were starting today.

90 minutes after turning left towards the coast, we made another big lefthand turn and joined up with 101. South at last.

Today was the first time we would drive the RV for more than an hour all at once. Many times that, in fact. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about getting accustomed to our new home on wheels on some of the Pacific Northwest’s most harrowing roads in the winter rain. But I will say that I learned more in one day than I might have over several in the summer time.

For one, I knew that the high profile of the RV would mean wind would play a major factor in driving the six-ton beast. And here we were, driving south along the coast with moderate gusts. Fortunately, the lack of other vehicles meant I could drive at my own pace and pull over when I wanted to.

Second, we knew from weeks of rain up in Oregon City and down in Roseburg, that the rig was well sealed. No leaks during that time. But we didn’t know if driving rain at 50-60 mph would change that. Fortunately, we didn’t notice any new wet spots.

Third, a few days prior I wasn’t quite sure how to best handle hills in a 12,000-pound. vehicle. So, I did some reading and some poking around the front seat. That’s when I discovered a mysterious button I had not seen before on the drive selector. I looked it up and learned everything I ever wanted to know about the “Tow/Haul” button.

If you’ve never had the pleasure, the Tow/Haul mode causes the transmission to shift at higher RPMs. In practice, it means that if you’re towing (or hauling a heavy load like we are), you’ll have more power going up hill and more engine braking ability heading downhill.

I learned this literally the night before we departed and was really glad I did. I ended up using it more than I thought I would have just on the first day and it worked like a charm.

I also learned that three things would really be useful: a lumbar pillow, a thermometer, and a better altimeter than what we have.

There are a number of other things we learned over the course of a very long travel day, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

In terms of weather, we got about an hour of rainless dry pavement throughout the entire day. But we never got snow. Not real snow, at least. There was one pass on the California side where we got a mix of rain and snow, but that’s it.

We arrived in Trinity, California just after dark. We had not yet driven the rig in the dark and I was appalled by how dim the headlights were. Another thing to add to the list. Fortunately, we don’t plan on doing much night driving. But we didn’t plan to drive after dark today, so we’ll see how that goes.

We arrived at our pitstop for the night at 6:30pm. The day’s mileage? 293 miles. And not easy miles either. Total driving time was about 8 hours. That’s 3-4 hours more than what the drive would have taken us if weather had allowed us to take our preferred route and head south on I-5 to Redding. But where’s the adventure in that, I suppose.

The plan now was to hook up and walk to the pizza place down the road. I hadn’t wanted to hook up the RV for the first time in the dark. Given that it was already after dark (and pouring down), we decided to quickly check out the site, then drive down to the pizza place and figure out setup later. After a long travel day, we were all ravenous (and exhausted).

Dinner hit the spot and it was finally time to turn in. But first, this pesky business of setting up a motorhome for the night.

In addition to many firsts, this was to be our first night sleeping in our RV, in addition to hooking up an RV ourselves. Lori and I had gone through all the systems in Roseburg, ran the generator, plugged into 15 amp household power, and hooked up to city water. I had read up and watched YouTube videos about how to actually hook up electricity and water to the pedestal and sewage, etc., but hadn’t actually gotten to do it in practice.

And here I found myself, in the blackness of a dense redwood grove in the pouring rain and freezing cold figuring it all out while Lori wrangled two exhausted boys inside.

Only planning to stay one night, I figured I’d just do the bare minimum. No water or sewage hookups tonight. Just electricity. That would allow us to have heat from the heat pump without using up propane on the furnace.

I didn’t bother leveling either. Given that our site was inundated with a couple inches of water, that seemed both miserable and pointless. The fridge needs the rig to be mostly level, but we don’t plan on firing that up until we get further south. We could make do for one night.

Baby steps.

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