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Old 11-13-2014, 12:12 AM   #1
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Looking for the easiest road from Monterey to San Diego

We just bought our new Allegro 31-SA and headed west for 5 weeks, hoping to enjoy 2 weeks in sunny California. We're currently in Monterey and plan on leaving to head south to Coronado next Tuesday. After our bone-jarring drive north on I-5 and then white knuckled trip west on 152, I am trying to find a more enjoyable, less stressful trip south. We're towing a Kia Soul and thankfully, the tow/haul seems to help with braking, but I'm still not comfortable with having to downshift on the steep grades. I've researched everywhere, but can't seem to get any real feel for which is the best route to take. I-5 was so bad it literally shook one of the front struts loose and I just want to keep what's left of our new motorhome intact...can anyone help?

We're both new to Rv'ing and to this or any forum, so any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-13-2014, 01:23 AM   #2
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First, Welcome of IRV2 forums ...

I am from the Midwest and have not travelled all of California ... but this is a "mountainous" state ... so it is hard to travel very far without having to both go up and down grades.

That being said .... I have only travelled from Salinas to San Diego once ... We started out on US 101 then moved to US 99 (I think it was 41 and 46) which merges with I-5 ... on the northern edge of LA we took I-210 to CA-57 to I-10 to I-15 ...

This route does have the grapevine which requires some attention and Tejon pass ... but they are quite manageable ...

It avoids the congestion of downtown LA ... there are some grades on I-15 that are in the 4 to 5% range ... you will do fine if you avoid travelling during rush hour

The Reagan Presidential Library is located in Simi Valley ... just a short ways west of where I-210 splits from I-5 ... in my estimation, it is one of the better Presidential libraries
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Old 11-13-2014, 11:00 AM   #3
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I'm not sure of the best rt from Monterey to Salinas, I've only used hwy 68. From Salinas take 101 south to hwy 126 at Ventura. On the 101 you will pass through Paso Robles (wine country) San Louis Obispo, Pismo Beach (famous clam beach) Buellton (Anderson's Pea soup), be near Solvang (Danish community, many food attractions) and Santa Barbara (may want to stay and check it out). After SB is Ventura, also worth a visit, then keep right onto CA 126 to Santa Clarita where you Pick up I5, but only for a short time, to I210. Take I210 all the way to I15, a little longer, but faster than the CA 57, I10 rt. I15 all the way to San Diego thru Temecula (more wine country). You will find 2 hills that will require some attention, one coming into San Louis Obispo and one south of Buellton, downshift will be required on both. There are no hillless routes between SD and Monterey that I am aware of. I have driven all roads listed many times with a 33, then 35 ft gasser towing a toad with no problem.

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Old 11-13-2014, 01:42 PM   #4
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We retired out of Temecula, so I'll provide you with the route I'd use to avoid as much traffic as possible.
From Monterrey go north to 156 to 101. (68 would also work, but would be my second choice in an RV.) South to 46 near Paso Robles. 46 to 99. 99 to 58. 58 to 395 to 15. 15 to San Diego.

Couple of things to consider.
- both 5 & 99 have their advocates. More of 99 is 3 lane now. Both have stretches of rough road. I recently gave 5 another try. 99 is still my preference.
- avoid the LA area no matter what.
- the pass going thru Tehachapi is easier and less traveled than Grapevine on 5.
- wind can be an issue in these passes, but especially from Tehachapi to San Bernardino. Get a good weather app, or 2, and keep an eye on it.
- Bakersfield has some great RV parks. That would be as far as I'd go the first day. Use rvparkreviews.com to find what suits your taste. Desert winds usually get worse later in the day, so try to get out of Bakersfield by 9am.
- spend the next night at Pechanga RV in Temecula.
- wait until the commuter traffic has died down, then head into the Coronado area.

Mountain grades are a part of RV'ing. Takes some experience. You will go slow uphill. A general rule of thumb is to go down the same grade at the speed you went up it. Coming down Cajon Pass on 15 will be your longest grade. Get in the right lane. Use the tow/haul. I hold the speed around 45.
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Old 11-14-2014, 06:45 PM   #5
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From Monterrey go north to 156 to 101.
If they thought going over Pacheco Pass on 152 was a white-knuckle ride then they will be absolutely TERRIFIED using 156 over Hecker Pass! They're better off heading south and taking 68 East to 101 at Salinas - it's almost completely flat going that way!
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Old 11-15-2014, 12:26 AM   #6
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Easiest is the road, don't remember the number, off Hwy 1 to Salinas where you take 101 South. A 3 mile descent into San Luis Obispo probably 6% with a truck lane for us cautious RV'ers. Pismo Coast Village in Pismo Beach is good and about 4 hrs from Monterey. Or Flags in Buellto about 5-5 1/2 hours out. Stay on 101 thru Santa Barbara, Ventura and Oxnard. Try to plan on getting into LA 11AM-12. Take the I 430 thru the LA area and connect with the I 5 into San Diego. From a pure minimize Mt. driving this is the easiest. Other suggestions DO avoid the LA basin but require several Mt. passes. If you schedule your time traffic is congested but moves pretty fast. I have driven all the routes listed and they are all doable just take your time and set your own pace,
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Old 11-15-2014, 12:53 AM   #7
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If they thought going over Pacheco Pass on 152 was a white-knuckle ride then they will be absolutely TERRIFIED using 156 over Hecker Pass! They're better off heading south and taking 68 East to 101 at Salinas - it's almost completely flat going that way!
I certainly don't want to mislead anyone, so I double checked the road again. The road I remember went from what I thought was Prunedale on 101 west to 1. Most of it was four lane divided road. I don't remember any grades of any significance. We spent about 2 weeks at Betabel RV last fall. Explored virtually every road to the coast from San Jose to Salinas. If not 156, than what was it? Whatever it was, about a decade ago, I took a Class A from an RV park in Prunedale to what is now a KOA at Moss Landing with absolutely now issues. That's the road I'm advocating.
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Old 11-15-2014, 01:29 PM   #8
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Was is 152 west from the 5 to the 101 or from the 101 out to Watsonville? I seem to recall from ages and ages ago that 152 from Gilroy to Watsonville is a bit tighter of a road (although I haven't driven it in years, since it's not the natural route from the South Bay to Santa Cruz/Watonville).

I have to say, the route:

Monterey - > 68 East -> 101 South -> 405 South isn't what I'd call challenging by any means. Sure, you have Cuesta Grade down (but just slow down and don't let speed run away from you) and Conejo Grade out of Camarillo...but they just aren't that tough, IMO.

Don't know how to comment on the road conditions... 5 isn't perfect but it's far from terrible -- not like the 680, which can even bottom out my air ride DP if I'm not careful.

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Old 11-15-2014, 02:14 PM   #9
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I would keep it simple, go south on the 101 to Pismo Beach(stay there a night or two if you can), then take the 101 to the 134 to the 210...that will take you around the LA traffic, stay on the 210 until the you hit the 57 south, to the 91 east, to the 15 south....that will take you all the way to San Diego( with a few places to stop along the way) and give you the same about the same amount of driving each day. As mentioned before try to keep you driving time between 9 am and 3 pm and you will be fine, before or after those times is always a toss up. Some of those roads can be a little bumpy but it is still about the best route for bumps, grades and congestion.

As far as the grades don't be afraid of them, and don't downshift, when you reach the top of the grade put your transmission into the "tow haul" mode and let it downshift on it's own( tow haul does not work if it is not in the regular drive). That is how the Ford V-10/transmission combo is made to be operated. As you go down the grades, once you brake and go about 1 minute without hitting the gas, the engine will adjust the speed on it's own, if you are still going to fast, hit the brakes lightly again and the engine will adjust again, the rpms will get up to between 4500-5000 and that is ok( you cannot overtach it according to Ford as the engine has a limiter on it), I hit the brakes lightly when it gets as high as 4800 rpm, which brings it down quickly. Don't keep your foot on the brakes for a long period of time as they will get hot.

When we first bought ours I was overly nervous on downhill grades, and I was downshifting and probably using the brakes too much. I talked to an Ford RV mechanic who told me what I just explained to you. Once I let the "tow haul" do it's job, the grades were not a problem anymore and I used my brakes very little. On some of the less steep downhill grades, I have let it cruise in Tow haul mode, with the rpms between 3000-4000 and the speed at about 55 with no braking at all and felt very comfortable and in control if I had to stop. the more you drive it the more comfortable you will be but it does take a little time.

I hope this helps, Good luck and have fun, the more you drive it the better the ride will get as it breaks in.
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Old 11-15-2014, 06:00 PM   #10
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I certainly don't want to mislead anyone, so I double checked the road again. The road I remember went from what I thought was Prunedale on 101 west to 1.
You're right - I was thinking of 152 West over Hecker Pass - a nice road on a motorcycle, but a handful with a motorhome! Hwy 156 West is a very nice drive, as is Hwy 68 farther south.
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:39 PM   #11
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You're right - I was thinking of 152 West over Hecker Pass - a nice road on a motorcycle, but a handful with a motorhome! Hwy 156 West is a very nice drive, as is Hwy 68 farther south.

It does get tricky when looking at a map to be sure exactly where things we think we remember are doesn't it?

In my original suggestion of a route to SD, I probably should have stressed that I take routes that avoid as much traffic as possible, but are as RV friendly as possible. That can lead to compromises. Yesterday I took a day trip in the dinghy that took me up & down Cajon Pass. The original post indicated a desire to avoid, amount other things, rough roads. Cajon pass is being worked on right now. Stretches of it were rough. 210, is getting more congested every time I use it. And getting to it from 101 takes me thru an area, near Pasadena I think, where traffic is always slowed way down. So, Mike & Suzanne, if you're looking to avoid traffic, I still stick by my original route. If avoiding rough roads is paramount, use 210.
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Old 11-18-2014, 10:32 PM   #12
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Thanks so much.
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Old 11-18-2014, 10:39 PM   #13
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I can't seem to make the Thank you thing work, so Thanks to everyone for all your suggestions...we're headed out tomorrow and I feel much more confident...will post how it goes!
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