Over the mountains yesterday (most of them, anyway). The weather gods were smiling on us: dry, calm, wonderfully clear it was. Traffic fairly light for I-5. I think I counted six passes with their associated climbs and long downhill grades.
Apparently we survived, finding our way to the Yreka (California) RV Park.
Going up the hills worked out fine. TinMan slipped down to third gear when needed, and we were able to keep up our stately 55-mph speed except on the very steepest parts (down to 50). I think I could have leaned on the accelerator some more and TinMan would have obliged with second gear and a lot of revs, but it did not seem worth the gas or the strain. Much of the time the curves and traffic would keep us down at 50 (even a bit less) anyway.
Interesting to watch TinMan’s estimated gas mileage for the tank fluctuate. We averaged 12.5 in the mountains — better than I expected — but by the time we approached each summit the number would be down to 10.something.
Going downhill was my greatest concern before we left in the morning. I knew it was important to let the engine and transmission keep our speed down, so we wouldn’t over-use (and overheat) the brakes. I wasn’t at all sure, however, about how to time my downshift. For a 4% grade? A 5 or a 6? At the crest of the hill, or somewhere on the way down?
I got my answers in plenty of time. I-5 through the Siskiyou mountains in southern Oregon has been laid out, it would seem, for my education. Some smaller uphill grades showed me what engine RPM I could expect at 55 mph in 3rd gear, so I knew it would be completely comfortable to downshift into 3rd whenever needed.
The first few downgrades taught me: no downshift for 4%… downshift for 5% grades if they’re long… downshift for 6% grades at the top of the hill. Yes, we used brakes, but very little. Just as it should be. I watched the taillights on other RVs to get a sense for their brake usage — I think we used ours less. It all felt very controlled, comfortable, safe. Perfect day for my initiation into mountain driving with Toto following us.
At 4,.310 feet above sea level, Siskiyou Summit, just north of the California border, was the highest pass we traversed. The most challenging, from a driving perspective, was south of that, in California: the Anderson Grade Summit. Only 3100 feet high, but steeper, longer grades all the same, with plenty of sharper curves. I-5 saved the best for last.
My lessons for the day were complete. We overnighted here in Yreka, and today we’ll do our last bit of mountain driving for a while, in Shasta County, then onto our destination at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. Where there are snakes.
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