A second suggestion is, in Ft. Bragg consider take CA 20 east. Ft. Bragg -> Willits -> Ukiah -> Clear Lake -> Williams. Once in the valley you could take CA 45 north, connect to CA 162 to continue east and thence to CA 70. You could then take advantage of the easy grades and the spectacular scenery in the Feather River Canyon, rejoining the Sierra Cascades route at CA 89 north of Quincy to continue north to Greenville and Lake Almanor and beyond.
You better not be worried about climbing. All of CA coast is steeper than most coastal routes in WA or OR. Those states have generally consistent grades around 6% max.. Once in CA you will see that number go up. The CA coast will beat your legs up with its constant up and downs. Once you turn inland you again will see many long climbs as well.
I'm not sure I understand the complaint about the cost of the ACA maps. You certainly could do your own research and perhaps get by without the maps. Seems to me that when you look at the complete cost of the trip, the maps are an incidental cost and cheaper than being lost.
Santa Rosa, CA