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  1. #1

    Default NC to CA in a 1971 Winnebago Brave. Help?

    Howdy! I just finished my service in the US Marine Corps and am celebrating by taking a 1971 Winnebago Brave across the country. I need a bit of advice on a route, however.

    Here is a pic of me and my crew:

    Facts on vehicle:
    Rebuilt 1976 Ford 300 Straight Six Engine
    Rebuilt C6 Transmission
    9MPG Hwy
    55 MPH top speed
    No Cab A/C

    Currently I am stranded at a transmission shop in Pigeon Forge, TN. Should be on the road in a couple of days. I need to make it to Sacramento, but I'm worried that climbing into the Seirras might be too treacherous for my Winnie. Is there a way anyone knows of to get to Northern CA on flatter terrain (maybe go north?) without driving a lot of extra miles?

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There really is no way to get across the country without dealing with mountains.

    I don't think you've got any good ways to get around the Sierras to the north, as that just puts you into other coastal mountain ranges and really would mean a lot of extra miles.

    Probably the easiest way to deal with the Sierras would be to use the Tehachapi Pass, which is CA-58 between Mojave and Bakersfield. The easiest way to get there would be to use I-40, but that does involve a fair amount of mountain terrain across NM and AZ. That would be my guess as your best bet though.

    You could see little less elevation through the Rockies by going down to I-10, but you'd still have mountains again in Southern California, plus driving across West Texas and Southern Arizona in such a vehicle, especially without AC brings up its own set of problems.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Have the transmission shop install a heavy duty transmission cooler. That engine will run forever, but without a lockup torque converter that transmission is going to get very hot pulling grades. Without computerized emission controls, I'd probably put a 160 degree thermostat in the engine.

    Your least mountainous and lowest altitude route would be I-40/I-30 to DFW, then I-20/I-10 to Phoenix - then US-93 to I-40 to Barstow, CA-58 to Bakersfield, and CA-99 to Sacto. However, it's going to be HOT crossing the desert - you may think about using the method used in the days before A/C - park it during the day and drive it at night and in the early morning.

  4. #4


    Awesome advice. Thanks very much.

  5. #5

    Default Roger the transmission cooler

    Thank you for your service. I hope you and yours have an enjoyable trip.

    For sure the best thing you can do is as glc says: get an automatic transmission fluid cooler circuit installed. It might be worthwhile to have a trans fluid temp gauge installed while the shop it at it. That way you can monitor the temps on long grades and on super-hot days and will know to pull over and let it cool down when the temp is climbing and approaching the overheating zone.

    I wonder if routing yourselves along US or State highways more or less parallel to the Interstates and running 50 mph or so would improve your fuel mileage a little and be easier on your transmission. The only time I crossed the country on I-40, enroute to my son's Seabee base at Port Hueneme, CA, he and I ran HARD in his Chevy pickup, mostly empty, and we still got blown off the road regularly. I shudder to think of rumbling along at 55 mph watching vehicles of all sorts, including tractor-trailers, flying up behind me. At the very least, I'd get real familiar with the emergency flasher button and would be quick to turn them on if you see big "knots" of traffic fast approaching.

    As to routing, I wouldn't be shy about looking at I-40 to Nashville, then I-24/57/64 to St Louis, I-70 to I-435 to I-29 at KC, IA and NE 2 to Lincoln, and then I-80 the rest of the way. The logic here is once you reach the TN-KY line at Fort Campbell, it's almost dead flat the rest of the way to Cheyenne, WY, but for some rolling hills in central MO along I-70. You'll follow the Platte river ALL the way across NE and will climb very gradually to Cheyenne. For around 100 miles west of Cheyenne, you've got one BIG grade topping out at 8,600' or so, then some fairly gradual ups and downs at high elevation (6,000-7,500' of cool plateau temps!) across the rest of WY.

    Once you reach Salt Lake City, it's almost dead flat across the rest of UT and Nevada. One pass between Wendover and Wells where you pick up about 2,000' and another very gentle one near Battle Mountain, but the rest of it is flat high desert with elevations of between 4,000 and 5,000'.

    At Reno, you'll enter the Sierras but if I'm not mistaken you'll have a long climb to about 7,000' at Donner Pass, then it's all downhill to Sacremento.

    All in all, the "ramping up" to I-80 should get you into at least SOMEWHAT cooler weather, all things equal, and I'd much prefer to cross the Rockies along I-80 in WY than on I-40 in OK, TX, NM, and AZ, still facing the Mojave Desert once you reach CA.

    I hope you get the Winnie squared away and can have a trouble-free remainder of the trip.


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