I love you’re enthusiasm and appreciate that you and your hubby are doing the work yourselves. I speak from experience when I say that that’s the only way to keep your new acquisition from becoming a serious money pit. My Holiday Rambler is a standard 1994 33’ Vacationer, HR’s cheapest model. I purchased it two years ago for $3,500 and it’s been a humbling experience making it ship-shape after it endured 19 years of upstate New York winters, as well as neglect and abuse by its former owner. Over $6,500 worth of parts later I feel that I’m finally reaching the stage where I have an RV I can reliably take anywhere. I say all this because I’m giving you advice garnered from all my work and my 5,200 mile Western United States Grand American Tour and Shakedown Journey. My journey began in San Marcos TX, went to Port Angeles WA and ended back in San Marcos TX with an engine replacement I did myself (with help from friends).
1. Your RV with its 427 V8 gasoline engine is underpowered for mountain driving. Not an insult, just a reality, BTW my 460 V8 is too. Purchase a copy of Mountain Directory http://www.mountaindirectory.com/
and plan your route to Washington accordingly. Just don’t be in a hurry on long upgrades and take downgrades very slowly as well, using your transmission as much as possible. If they make exhaust headers for your rig, buy them, you’ll appreciate the added horsepower.
2. Change out your DOT 3 brake fluid for DOT 5.1 (not 5.0). DOT 5.1 is a severe-duty hi-temperature brake fluid. If you go to the auto parts in Monroe LA they won’t know what you’re talking about since it’s mainly used to prevent brake fade in mountainous terrane. When I ordered it through O’Reilly AP’s in San Marcos I had to bring a search page from O’Reilly’s own website to prove to them that they sold it! This one tip could save your life!
3. Check your tires age, if they’re over 7 years old consider replacing them, no matter how much tread is left. While I’m on the subject of tires, purchase a set of tire pressure/temperature monitors. They not only may warn you of impending tire failure but also things such as overheating brakes on long downgrades, as well as dragging brake shoes/calipers. Mine cost $300, I bought the cheap one’s. I recommend paying extra for the deluxe ones that are mounted inside your rims. Whether you go cheap or deluxe they’re worth it! BTW after having a bearing collapse on my tow dolly traveling through Kansas I now wish I’d gotten them for my tow dolly as well. The monitors would’ve caught the overheating bearing. As it was I caught it while in a rest area.
4. Make certain your sway bars are in good shape. Mine were totally shot and for 5,200 miles every time a semi would pass me I’d be hit by an annoying push/pull. I finally replaced the sway bar bushings and on my latest trip from San Marcos TX to Sierra Vista AZ no more push/pull, even with semi’s roaring by at speeds in excess of 85mph. The same goes for shocks. BTW if you do your own mechanical work I strongly suggest that you purchase a powerful electric or air impact wrench. You’ll need it for the Godzilla sized fasteners you’ll find on the underside of your RV.
5. One last tip, when you’re traveling in your RV get in the habit of doing an RV/toad walk-around every time you stop. Never take it for granted that things are okay with your rig. When I caught the failed bearing in my tow dolly it was my second stop in 35 miles. I’d stopped earlier overnight at a rest area. When I awoke I drank a lot of coffee and 35 miles down the road I had to stop for the inevitable nature call. That’s when I caught the bad tow dolly wheel bearing; 35 miles earlier it looked just fine. I have no doubt that within another mile or two I’d have lost the wheel completely. Lesson learned - ALWAYS do a walk-around when you stop.
I’m sure there are other things I could add, all I can say is that you have a beautiful classic RV and that I’m certain you’ll find many places to go with it out in Washington. Lots of adventures!
PS If you can, find your RV's service records. With the amount of work your RV's engine has to do 50K is quite a few miles, particularly if your RV had an owner like mine who didn't keep up with service and maintenance needs. You hear of these rigs going 100k but that's from having responsible owners, an irresponsible owner can quickly turn them to junk. I know that for a fact!