Day 5 (12/28/12) – MacGyver & the New EV Tripper

This was my first day on Electric Road Trip S, but day 5 for Tina and Peter. After leaving Erin and Dave’s (thanks again, guys!) we headed out to Tesla’s supercharger at Hawthorn CA for a quick charging “top off.” A supercharger charges up the battery to full in about an hour as an opposed to about 8 hours on regular 50amp stove outlet. So I started out the trip pretty spoiled. While charging Peter got so excited about talking to Larry (a very friendly navy pilot who flew F14s off aircraft carriers and now flies commercial planes and who incidentally graduated from University of Maryland, like us) and a fellow Model S owner that he didn’t plug the car all the way in so after about 40 minutes we realized that we haven’t charged at all. Oops. On the plus side, we were still in sunny southern CA and the nice person from the Tesla facility made us coffee. In the lot on the way out, Peter showed me how the car accelerates. I’m not a car person, I haven’t owned one in 8 years, but that was awesome, it takes off like one of those super fast roller coasters!

After picking up Tina the Electric Road Trip S was pretty smooth and uneventful until our arrival in Barstow, CA a couple of hours later. The outlet mall where the supercharger was must be doing something right, because every fast food restaurant was packed to the gills. First prize goes to In and Out Burger, a must stop for me every time I’m in CA. The pandemonium going on in there reminding me that line to get into Lolapalooza in the mid-90s. So unfortunately no In and Out for me, but not to worry I’ll be back for that deliciousness next time. Speaking of in and out, thanks to the awesome supercharger we were in and out of Barstow in an hour and back on the road. The weather was cooperating with us, it was a beautiful sunny day and we could enjoy the great view of the dessert and the mountains, something us east coast dwellers don’t see every day. We even got a thumbs up from a car on the road, apparently some people know what a Tesla is :) I’m not going to go on about how beautiful the moon was over the dessert, because you just had to be there.

We pulled up to an RV park in Kingman, AZ at about 8:30pm, but then magically it was 9:30 due to that silly thing called time zone change, which we forgot about completely. And that’s when the fun really began. It was dark, it was cold, and the 14-50R plugs (or 50 amp hookups) where we going to plug in the car were too far apart (Peter needed to use two of them because of the device he made that allows to cut down the charging time from 8 hours to about 4 hours). For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t feel bad, I already had to ask Peter about the names of these things about 3 times and I think if I ask him one more time he’s going to throw something at me. But basically, they are big outlets like the ones that you use to plug in a dryer or a washing machine. Anyway, Peter pulled out his tools and in a very MacGyver move made an extension cord right there on the spot, all while chatting up some lady that was so enamored with the car I think she already put her order with Tesla. But alas, after the extension cord was made we still could not charge car because it was 3 phase power (no idea how to explain this in plain English, please ask Peter). So off to an RV park down the road we went. At that point, it was pretty clear that we were not making it Flagstaff, AZ tonight as originally planned. What followed with a tour of the local motel chains (an I never seen so many motels, as I have in Kingman, AZ) in search of a 240v plug to charge the car overnight. Luck smiled down us at Motel 6. Tina and I got a good laugh from watching Peter just walk into the laundry room of the motel without actually checking in and inspect the plug for the washer and dryer. It would be even more funny to watch him explain this to the motel stuff. Luckily, after another MacGyver operation, Peter pulled one the pins out to make the plug fit. The great people at Motel 6 let us use the plug to charge the car. It was just in time too because my battery much like the car’s was pretty low on charge. I haven’t slept so well in a while. Although Peter and Tina tell me that that is the earliest night they had so far (we passed out around midnight) so I guess I’m still a lightweight electric road tripper.

Day 7 (12/30/12) – Urban Hikes and Cruise Control

My tour of Albuquerque consisted of a 10 minute walk from the hotel downtown to the car. It looks like a pretty cool town but is pretty dead on a late Sunday morning. It’s going on the list of places to visit when we have more time. Following Albuquerque was another first on this trip, me driving the Model S. I haven’t owned a car for the past eight years and rarely drive now a days. Although luckily I have never been in a major car accident, I did back a borrowed car into a pole a few years ago. I also remember the last time I drove Peter’s car was when we were freshmen in college. We went up to Chicago for a weekend from the University of Maryland. Peter’s car was a stick shift and he taught me how to drive it in the parking lot of Safeway before the trip. I got out of driving pretty much the whole way until we were coming back Monday morning trying to make it to our classes. Peter and our other friend were really tired and asked that I drive. It was all fine until we got to a toll when after paying I couldn’t get the car to move again. A few minutes later a cop came up behind us and after listening to my rather pathetic explanation of what was happening told me that the “highway was not a practice lot.” After that Peter drove us all the way back to Maryland.

So… you can imagine why I was pretty nervous about driving my good friend’s new and expensive car; however, some things are more important than fear (actually most things), so behind the steering wheel I went. After a short lesson from Peter about how everything works, I was off down a New Mexico highway. One of the cool things was that the car saves your seat settings so that when you switch drivers it automatically adjusts the seats for you. Needless to say, it was easy to drive the S and not really different from a regular car. Being on cruise control felt kind of weird, but that has to with the fact that I don’t think I ever actually used cruise control before. Other than that it was a smooth ride and it was tempting to go really, really fast. I got us into an RV park in Santa Rosa, NM safe and sound.

The RV park was almost completely empty. The desert scenery was pretty cool especially for someone from the east coast. My hat goes off to Tina, who went out for a run even though it was freezing. I made due walking around the RV park to work off those wasabi peas that I’ve been constantly snacking on somehow. We then headed off down the road in another stint of something we called “urban hiking” (AKA walking down the side of a major road to get something to eat). We ended up at Silver Moon, a Mexican-American restaurant recommended to us by the RV park employee. The place was definitely worth the hike. The food was amazing and the atmosphere very homey, just what we electric road trippers needed. My huevos rancheros with the green chili sauce were the best I ever had. Apparently, we were not the only ones who thought the place was great as it had autographed pictures from the likes of Angelina Jolie and Linda Carter. Soon the road beckoned and we were back on our way.

Our stopping point for the night was Clovis, NM. Although Apple maps showed two hotels in the town, neither of these really worked for us or had/were close to a charger. After some loops around town we came across some more motels and started circling them to see if we could find an easy access to a 240v plug we could use. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the adapter for the dryer style that the hotels had.

During one of these circles of a hotel, we were befriended by the most adorable dog that had apparently been abandoned by its previous owners. Tina spearheaded the rescue effort, first talking with the hotel which was giving the dog food and some shelter, then eventually with a few local animal shelters and animal hospitals about having the dog scanned for a chip and finding a home. Eventually, I’m very relieved to say, she found a home. Unfortunately, given the circumstances related to driving an electric car, we could not transport the pet; however, I’m sure that Tina would have adopted the dog on the spot had we not been on this trip.

The hunt for a high power charger continued. It wasn’t looking good there for a while but than a switch to Google maps showed that there was a new campground (K C’s campground) close by. We were able to score a charging post a walking distance from a hotel for a tent fee charge! Granted the walk was through some sort of strange field and it started snowing, but hey, this is an adventure after all. Actually, even after all that we were asleep earlier than any other day on the trip so far. And so ends the next to last day of 2012 for Electric Road Trip S.

Day 6 — 12/29/12

Back on the road again. When road tripping, you learn to appreciate simple things, like egg McMuffins and McDonald’s coffee. We’re almost in Flagstaff, where things are snow covered, what a huge change from LA just a day ago. And another cool thing about this car; I usually can’t read or write in cars because I get sick. But I typed day 5 entirely in the car and doing fine so far. Flagstaff actually looked like a cool place, but because of the time constraints of our trip we don’t have a lot of time to explore. After an unsuccessful attempt to plug in at a battery store we went to nearby RV park to charge. One of the biggest surprises so far has been how nice RV parks are. I was fully expecting a bunch of tattooed guys in leather jackets, but actually all the places so far had really nice clean bathrooms, Wifi, and laundry rooms and people that are happy to accommodate us charging for a couple of hours. This place even had a steak house with a very high rating on Trip Adviser! Alas,we didn’t get to sample it because it didn’t open till later. But, after a short walk next to a very scenic highway and a bunch of fast food joints (I think we were the first pedestrians that area had seen in years) we ended up at Outback Steakhouse. Now, I’m not a big chain restaurant fan (except for the Melting Pot, of course) but for $10 that perfectly made medium rare steak and and baked potato were scrumptious. An a shout out goes to that waiter who let us hang out there for over 2 hours while waiting for the car to charge.

The next leg of our trip took us to another RV park in Gallup, NM. It was cold and I mean cold as a witch’s tit cold, 16F. So, because of the weather the car took much longer to charge than anticipated. As you can imagine, nobody really wanted to frolic outside in this weather and I was glad that I wasn’t the person who had to set up the car to charge. One of the things that we learned on this trip is that US is really cold at the end of December, who would have thought? :) I’m telling you, you haven’t lived till you sat in a car for over 2 hours late in the evening eating a turkey sandwich made on a paper towel in the backseat and watching my favorite movie, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on an ipad placed on the dashboard.

(Peter) – A note about charging at 16 degrees F, I had not taken into account the amount of energy that the car needed to spend keeping both the battery and us warm in this type of cold while charging. Normally I would expect to be charging the car about just over 60 miles in an hour (80A at 244V) but alas we where charging at about 45 miles in an hour. This wasn’t the best time for us to realize this, but we were comfy and warm in the car, and Luba got to watch a little extra of her favorite movie :) (/Peter)

Unfortunately, there is no other way to describe the last leg of the trip other than painful. It was late, my back and head hurt and I wasn’t even driving. We got into our hotel in Albuquerque, NM past 3am and Peter still had drop off the car at a charge spot about 8 blocks away. Luckily, it was in easy plug in that worked. The general consensus was that driving from midnight till 3am is not a good idea when you spent the whole day driving as well.