We bought our 1998Rialta in Oct. 2009 and also were very intimidated!!!! We did an overnighter about an hour from home first and then a week in Wash. DC. Two more two-nighters and then the big trip this summer, nearly 10,000 miles with out a glitch. Our Rialta had about 38,000 miles on it when we got it. We try to always keep the RPM guage in the "green zone" when possible (for us 63-65 mph) normal driving. We crossed the mountains, went through 112 degree heat and 30 degree cold on that trip and the Rialta was great! We are in Maine. Read the section in this forum on downshifting problem (my posting). Once we conquered that we went anywhere we wantd, parking in downtown cities, and climbing the steepest roads (slowly on these).We really believe you need to go slow on the steep stuff rather than pushing the engine if you want it to last. The Baldy's Rialta website is very helpful. We are changing the transmission fluid as recommended there, every 20,000 miles and also use Mobil 1 synthetic oil. (Change generator oil and filter asrecommended too.)
Hope this helps!