Monday, April 17, 2017

Epilogue - Some impressions on a second road trip

Unlike the last trip this one was not without detailed planning of how charging would be accomplished ahead of time.  Decisions on where to charge and how long to remain hooked up were mostly made one charge at a time rather than all before the trip. This approach worked fine except in the two instances heading north where I had to use the slower Charge Point network.  In both cases I probably could have, with some better planning, avoided this fate.  The first time I got lucky, the second was not so fortunate.  All in all though given the number of superchargers especially along the interstates you can with a little practice master travelling without undue planning at least on the coasts.

Some random reflections follow.

Of all the electric cars out there none can charge quickly in as many places.   Chevy is discounting the Bolt already while Tesla still has 400,000 orders for the Model 3.  I think this is a a large part a reflection of the charging network which we Model S owners paid for but we will reap the benefit of Tesla not going the way of Bricklin, Tucker and Delorean.   I think the superchargers are a great selling point.

While looking at the map of charging stations our trip out west last year would be a lot different this year thanks to a raft of new chargers in the Midwest.  We might even be able to take it to Iowa for RAGBRAI this year although as we will be time pressured it might not be the wisest choice.

If you are reading this and considering a Tesla which you plan to travel with get the biggest battery available.  I certainly wish I had.  They pick up charge faster and once charged you can skip stations that I have to stop at.  I could have also made the Myrtle Beach to Kitty Hawk run straight up the coast had I had 40 more miles of capacity and that would have saved 5 hours of driving and charging.

The Tesla is still a great car for travelling despite being a bit slower to go long distances due to the long charging times  The fact that it drives for long periods allows the driver to rest and allowed me, driving alone, to do 12 hour days without undue fatigue.  The stops to recharge the car can also recharge the driver a bit too.

I did not like the looks of the new Model S but am growing to like it.  I still think the Model X is a bit ungainly looking but those falcon doors sure are cool.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Day 20 - Home again but not without a lot of driving

My confidence in making the right decisions to travel swiftly being broken by my experiences on this trip I set out early to be sure I made it to my lunch date with Tony and Gale a couple who figured in my cross-country blog last summer.   Between when we saw them in Utah and now we did spend a couple of days with them in Barcelona besides and found them exceptional company.  They were at the Maryland shore and they agreed that a lunch together would be fun so it was arranged but now I had to show up on time.  And I did!  Well I almost did, being two minutes late, mostly because my car mislead me as to where to park and I had to walk a couple of minutes down the street.

Tony and Gale are early retiree travelers who do it right.  They do not just visit places for a day or two.  They stay for at least a week at each stop and really explore an area.  They have great insights into places and I should have talked to them about Kitty Hawk before I went there.  They will be gone on their current East Coast trip for 3 months.  The next stop will be Washington DC which they have never visited so will be there almost a month.  We will be down there next weekend and will get to spend another day with them.  In any case to prove how compatible we are we all had the same lunch right down to the unsweetened iced tea.  It was certainly worth the side trip and the two hours out of my day to chat with them.

Having left the Maryland shore I got to drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel for the first time in 40 years.   The least time involved the most unlikely coincidence in my life where I had met my family in New Jersey for breakfast and was following my father down to my grandfather's place in Virginia.  I split Christmas that year between my family in the morning and my girlfriend that night I had gotten very little sleep.  Taking my brother with me, not to help with driving, as he could not drive a standard, we left the restaurant in the pouring rain.  We did not even make it 100 feet down the road when the wipers quit on my car.  As my father disappeared in the driving rain we limped to a gas station where the guy was too busy to help us but did allow me to borrow some tools.  I got them working again but you did have to occasionally kick the motor up under the dashboard.  We then proceeded towards Virginia figuring we would call for directions when we hit town.  However when just starting over the first bridge I saw in my rear view mirror my father pulling out of a scenic overlook.  Merry Christmas.
It is a little spooky to look ahead and see the bridge end abruptly.  Sorry for the quality but the windshield was bug splattered after 3000 miles of spring travel.  One of the disadvantages of not getting gas is not getting to use the windshield cleaning stuff the gas stops provide.

Although the bridge looks the same all those years later, some things have changed. First cars are actually more dependable now.  While three of my first four cars had a windshield wiper failure, the fourth being just a summer car that I barely drove, none of my subsequent cars have lost wiper function.  Now before leaving for a destination we plug the address into a GPS either in the car, or on our phones, so there would have been no problem finding our way once having lost the lead car.    Standard transmissions are dwindling in numbers in the US but my brother now owns one so he could have driven that day.  In addition, this time my car drove itself over the bridge sections. I drove into and through the tunnels as they are one lane and there is a merge going into them that I did not trust the car with. The Tesla is a rocket ship compared to the Volvo 144 I drove over the bridge the last time.  Actually in fact the Tesla has more computing power than the space vehicles of that era.

In any case this travelogue ends here as I got home about 10:30pm safe and sound with 15 miles on the battery.  Tomorrow we remove the bugs from Hobson's snout and windshield, pay bills and get back to life in the slow lane again.
I was there, shortly, just like I promised


Norfolk VA - This was in a ginormous (just so you know the spellchecker did not flinch at that word) parking lot between two long strip malls of stores.  This is the epitome of the new trend for placing lots of stores in one big area.  Alas there was no place to get breakfast but Walmart and I would rather starve then give them money.
Stores as far as one can see on both sides.  It is similar in front of the car too.

Salisbury, MD. - This was at a mall which like most malls in the US has seen better days.  One anchor store was empty and one of the surviving anchors is Sears which I do not expect to be around much longer.  The mall fad seems to be ending leaving these monstrous empty buildings.  I wish I could figure out a good use for them.

Hamilton Township, NJ  - Yet another one of these large shopping plazas carved out between major thoroughfares that are taking the place of malls.  This one had more character as it was not just a single parking lot lined with stores like Norfolk.  The chargers were also next to the Barnes and Noble where I could get something to eat and hang out.  This was one of the nicest places for a supercharger I have been to. 

Darien, CT - Last one for the trip.  This one was baffling as the map told me there were four chargers but I only saw two.  I hooked up to one and looked up to see a Tesla drove right past.  It turns out there were two more on the other side of the building where I did see his car.  Not the best set-up fior either of them as they are too close to the rest stop building so at a couple of points the other spot was ICE'd in both places.  Tesla usually places them far from the buildings so nobody but us will park there.  It also gives us some exercise.  They did have a soccer game on in the rest stop so I watched some of that while picking up the charge I needed to get home.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Day 19 - No flying out of Kitty Hawk for me

having had a bad electric car day I had to interrupt my journey home in a really cool place.  Damn!  The was so much I wanted to do at the Outer Banks that i decided the beast way to begin was to work on Hobson's depleted batteries first.  The nearest charger was at a Tanger outlet mall fourteen miles away.   I charged the battery at 21mph so if we do the math it took almost an hour and a half to get back just what I used to get there.  But there was close to the beach, just like everywhere in the Outer Banks is so i took a nice walk down the beach.  I actually had my bike and helmet in the car but once i stepped out into the brisk breeze I decided walking on the beach would be saner.

It was below 60 degrees so there were many more bird tracks in the sand than people ones and plenty of those birds were still around.  i cannot identify many but i did see a group of albatross and a type of gull I had never seen before along with plenty of flying animals that I could not properly put any sort of label on.  I did try the water and it was June/July new England temperature so if the air temperature had been higher it would have been decent to swim.

I did eventually get bored.and hungry so trudged back to the car which had gained enough for me to at least limp towards Norfolk and the Tesla chargers there.  I figured to plug into Gretchen's outdoor plug on the house overnight to add a little insurance.  As i had running shorts with no pockets and it had still not gotten very arm I went back to the house to change into jeans and figure out what to do next.

Of all the places on the highway going back Frank's Dog House looked like the right place for lunch and the Wright Brothers National Memorial the right place to spend the afternoon as the wind had not diminished enough to make for a happy bicycle ride.  I got my hot dog and root beer at Frank's which was very busy, so much so that there were no tables inside.  My thickened Northern blood though was not bothered by sitting outside while I ate.

Then it was off to the Wright Brothers.  The first sign in the place makes clear that the Wright Brothers came there for the wind so they could test gliders before trying the powered flight.  the place is under construction so there were no flying machines to be seen but they had a field which marked where the flights started and ended.  Doing the math they did not go far nor did they fly faster than someone could run but not even a generation later we had the Red Baron doing acrobatics and shooting Snoopy down daily.  If you do go you should get a ranger guided tour.but the next one was too late in the afternoon for me to stick around for.
Monument to the Wright Brothers atop the hil they used to launch the gliders.  They did the powered flight from level ground below.

I then returned and met Gretchen for the promised good seafood dinner that one must get if you go to the outer banks.  It was a good dinner and for the first time in awhile I actually left some of the desert on the plate because I was full to the brim.  This is a rare event in my life so even being uncomfortably full I savored the moment as a rarity.  We then went to catch the sunset over the bay which was great.

Two views of the sunset.  The top one was taken with the cameras sunset mode and the other taken with the normal exposure mode.  The camera made for a dramatic but as you can see, completely unrealistic photo

Tanger Outlets, Nags Head, NC - ChargePoint - This is a nice service that it seems all Tanger Outlet Malls have.  The place had a rest room and a deck overlooking the water where I read of a while.  It was a slow charge but a welcoming place to spend the time.  I was hooked up for 5 hours.

Gretchen's House - I plugged in for the night.  Pulgging into a 110 plug does not get you much but over a few hours it does provide a cushion.  The rate was 4 miles of charge per hour and the car never wavered from telling me that the charge time was 24+ hours but I it did ease my mind about making it to the next stop.  I just hope Gretchen does not hate me when she gets her electric bill.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Day 18 - Why is there no charger in Wilmington?

Most days driving a Tesla is a real treat.  Today was not one of those days.  Dennis had told me that it was 4-5 hours to Kitty Hawk.  It looked like a nice run up the coast with just Wilmington NC as the lone city on the route.  I was sloppy in not really checking the route however and paid dearly for it but not until I had a good breakfast and lunch at my host’s house.  On top of that Kathy packed me a bag of food and a water bottle to keep me going on the ride.  Little did we know how they would help as the ride turned out to be a long one. 

My first inkling of trouble was when I pulled into the Myrtle Beach charger at about 1:00 and put in the Kitty Hawk address I was heading for, something I should have done the night before.  I turns out that the run was 259 miles which is 19 miles further than the car can be stretched to even if the battery is full.  What this meant then was not a nice run along the coast but rather a 200 mile detour inland to have a sufficient charge to get there.  I kicked myself for any number of mistakes even that of not spending the extra 10K to get the bigger battery in the car which would have given me a 280 mile range.  This meant yet another long driving day and a late arrival at the next place.  Compounding the problem was construction which created a long backup on I-40. 

In any case my host for the night was like everyone else very accommodating and not only stayed up even though she had to be at work at 6am but she and I had sandwiches together when I finally arrived.  Had I checked earlier the ride would have been just as long but at least I would have felt less guilty had I left South Carolina after breakfast.  Having had Gretchen as an employee for years I knew she was too nice for her own good and she proved me right but just like when she went out of her way at work I do appreciate it.

Not much to report about the ride during which I had plenty of time to be really pissed off at myself.  In addition I created myself a new problem as once again I have insufficient charge to make it to the next charging station.  You would think I would learn.  As there is no quick way to charge here I am going to not do the rest of the trip tomorrow but rather get the charge straightened out and spend a day exploring the Outer Banks.

I did find Waldo though


Myrtle Beach SC –This is located at a very, very  large mall which I was able to walk around a bit while I charged the car.

Warsaw NC – This was in back of a Quality Inn.  The men’s room was out of order and it looked death defying to cross the street to places that had both food and bathrooms.  Luckily I am a male and the huge fenced enclosure for the supercharger transformers faced the woods.

Rocky Mount NC – This was a very short stop as I was going to have to stop at the next supercharger in order to have a reasonable amount of charge when I arrived even though the car which is usually quite conservative was saying, “Just go for it!”

Plymouth, NC – This charger was also very fast.  The big problem I had was balancing my arrival time and the amount of charge I would need to get to the superchargers in Norfolk.  I erred on the side of the arrival time and as noted above did not judge correctly.   About 15 more minutes of charging would have done it I think but then again I got it wrong the first time too.

Day 17 - The Acadian Expulsion reverses

This was another long day pretending to drive the car while the car actually did the driving for the most part.  I am getting very lazy.   Knowing it was going to be a long one I left Geoff’s extra early even beating my starting goal of 7:00am by fifteen minutes.   I decided to actually listen to the car this time and charge for the time the car says to rather than overcharging mostly because the charge stations are pretty far apart along this stretch so it was not possible to spend more time at one station and skip the next.  This actually allowed me to reach my destination in the time the car predicted I would reach it.  For the first time on the trip I actually arrived in a reasonable time for dinner.

The most striking part of this ride was the number of Canadian RV's and big trailers heading home.  At one point they must have made up 90% of the non-car traffic.  Considering our current politic state I thought of putting an adopt me so I can be Canadian sign in my back window.

Kathy and Dennis were ready with salad on the table and steaks ready to grill plus plenty of stories.  We had an enjoyable dinner and then talked until we could talk no more.  They moved into a house in Conway rather than the condo they had in Myrtle Beach and they like it although it is an over 55 community and apparently over-medicated old folks have numerous mishaps on the roadways in the development including somewhat regular launches into the retention pond on the property.  After the story about the neighbor who took down a number of mailboxes I almost went out and moved the car closer to their house.

After a long day of driving it was great to hit yet another nice bed.  I am very much looking forward to being home as I now have moved a couple of states closer to home.  Only 6 more before the Massachusetts border.

Beautiful sunset!


Ocala FL – Been there, done tha,t although this time I couldn’t go to the bathroom because the stores were not open by the time I left

Kingsland GA – The first charger I hooked up to only charged the car at 80mph which gave me an estimated charge time of 7 hours.  AAARGH!  However the second one gave a solid performance and I was able to leave without finishing any of the blog stuff I expected to get done.  I did get a good look at what the state police used for their unmarked cars as this was behind a government building.

Savannah GA – Between this trip and the last one I probably have visited over 100 superchargers but this one is the weirdest in some ways.  It is located in the economy parking lot for the airport.  The airport itself is exceptionally nice which is odd for an airport in the first place and then as I am on a car trip so it feels weird to be walking around an airport.  I had to get my parking ticket validated so I could have free parking during what was a much longer charge than it should have been.  We northerners are always upset with the pace down south.  I did not expect that to include the superchargers.

A fountain at the airport.  Behind me is a bamboo garden.  An exceptionally beautiful airport.

Santee, SC – This charger is trying to prove me wrong by blasting electrons at a prodigious rate into the car.  I should complain more often.

Day 16 - Problem solved, new ones appear

I was expecting to take a bike ride with Geoff for old time’s sake but given the fact that Geoff is not feeling well we decided to hang out at his house until it was warm enough outside for his Florida blood to hang out by the pool.  So that is what we did. 

Before that I had to solve the car charging problem, which turned out to be quite easy to do.  PlugShare came to the rescue.  The app told me that not even 2 miles from his house, just outside the gates of the community, at the local town hall complex was a free ChargePoint charger.  I drove Hobson over and with a little difficulty got him connected then walked back to Geoff’s house.  While the charge started at 30 amps, during much of the day it was only running at 16 amps.  I suspect that is because someone was hooked to the other port on the machine.  It took virtually all day to charge on account of that so we actually picked the car up after dinner still charging but virtually full of excited electrons.

I got some swimming in at the pool but as my sunblock was in the car and it was cloudy I neglected to put it on.  This resulted in the expected skin color which I only discovered later in the day when I went to change my shirt for dinner.  Another oops.  However it was a nice relaxing day and the sunburn is not severe enough to affect the trip.

This trip while somewhat planned but was not as carefully planned as the previous one and it all caught up to me at Geoff’s.  First I showed up late and with inadequate charge to continue to the next Supercharger.  Second the next leg of the trip was expected to be a very long one up to Kitty Hawk.   The first problem was easily remedied but the second one loomed large in my mind.  Geoff however had anticipated this and had a solution in hand.  He had mentioned my trip in passing while talking to his ex-wife and her husband in the Myrtle Beach area and they agreed to take me. 

However adding this stop would mean another day and I felt that it was time I could not afford as I needed to get home to tie up loose ends and see my wife before I forget, in my dotage, what she looks like.  So I reluctantly decided to leave Geoff’s tomorrow rather than stay another night and use Kathy and Dennis’ as an extra stopover.  Both of them were patients of mine and they are good people who are always interesting.  Dennis, especially, as a car guy, always has good stories.

Northport FL town hall – This was an all-day charge at the Chargepoint unit in the parking lot.  You have to love municipalities that provide these.  The car is now virtually full at 237 miles.

Day 15 - Turning around

I am always reluctant to leave my friends behind but other friends beckon plus that expression about fish and company stink after three days always is stuck in my head when I stay with people.  This keeps me moving probably to the great relief of my hosts.  Therefore I left Miami and started back north towards home but not without planning to stop at least a couple more times.  

The next overnight stop was one of my great biking buddies Geoff Yeagley but first I figured since I was in the area, meaning somewhere in Florida, I determined that I could drop in on my nephew Spencer on the way up to Geoff’s.  Spencer is moving to Virginia Beach tomorrow so I helped him load the truck with the stuff that was ready to go and then we went out for a leisurely lunch.  Spencer certainly has my sister’s daring as he picked Virginia Beach for no really good reason other than location.  He has no friends and no job there although in the interest of staying he has a number of employment applications already filed.  He is always an interesting conversationalist and we talked until Geoff called wondering where the heck I was since I had already past the time I told him I would be there.
Off Hobson and I went to cross the Florida Peninsula.   This day is one of the shorter driving days of the trip but in the end I showed up at Geoff’s verey late and with inadequate charge to hit the next supercharger.  Oops.  I will deal with it tomorrow as I am too busy catching up with Geoff to worry about it.  There are always options besides the Tesla chargers, or so we hope.

Plantation – This charger is at an enormous strip mall without a great deal of character

Port St. Lucie – I am getting used to these large strip malls.  This time I bought some $1 super glue at the dollar store to fix my $3 reading glasses.