First the answer to the question poised by the blog title is Adventure. While there were things we missed because of charging issues not one day went by that we did not have a good if not great experience and as we spent as many days as we could on the road if we had added those things we would have missed something we did do. Mostly we did miss some people due to the car's shortcomings namely Kelly Parnell and Sarah Smolinski in Nebraska, Ben Brandon in Colorado and Roger Ball in St. Louis due to a dearth of chargers on I-80 and I-70. We also missed Ann Reynolds in Seattle due to Seattle unbelievably being a wasteland for chargers. Those are things that we regret more than missing the places we missed like Nashville and Durango.
Second I have to thank my boss at MCPHS, Linda Boyd for allowing me to substitute a friend of mine into my clinical days trusting me that he would work out well. I also have to thank Arnie Nadler for being willing to fill in and for making everyone happy that he was there.
The car performed very well overall. It is fast when you need it to be, stable on the road and always so quiet you wish the tires didn't make such a racket. It did need to be rebooted a couple of times, was often overly pessimistic about our prospects of making it to the next charging station and was very dirty when it got home. It did however clean up nicely. The power is appreciated when you need to change lanes in a hurry or get past some old guy pulling a weaving trailer, the self-driving has mostly been good but you cannot let it go unattended at all times mostly because it is poor at anticipated stupid drivers cutting the car off. Only once has it done something stupid on its own, swerving suddenly while driving down I-90 for who knows what reason. While self-driving it works much like a horse would. It will go down the road with little input but once in a while it gets spooked by something and all hell can break loose.
Kids seem more attracted to the car then adults and only a small percentage of people notice it is something different but those that do often ask questions. I have caught people, mostly kids, taking pictures of the car while they are surrounded by natural beauty and while it is covered with bugs and dust. I guess someone who is including a car of the day in his blog should not be so surprised by people taking pictures of the car but we now take it for granted.
The navigation system needs some more functionality and it would be nice if the browser was more compatible with websites like Waze and Plugshare. The browser and the map refresh also need to be much faster. That brings me to the poor cell coverage which is mostly a problem for the audio system. You can spend another $2500 and have satellite radio but as I did not envision this trip and I am spoiled in the Northeast by good coverage we did not order the upgraded stereo. Once you get away from the coasts the coverage is spotty and that is irritating both for map updates and getting music that you didn’t bring with you.
There should be windshield cleaning stuff at Superchargers. Only a couple of the dozens we hit had them and they were wonderful.
Even at over 20,000 miles there are still tricks to learn and the best way to learn them is talk to the folks at the Superchargers who have had them for a while.
There should be a way to get the car to stay on so that on very hot days you can sit in it while charging and keep the A/C running. You can fool the car either by keeping a door cracked open or remaining in the driver’s seat in which case the car will stay on for about 30 minutes but if the driver wants to get out and the passenger wants to stay but not move it is a problem.
When cars leave the Supercharger area it is spooky as one is used to hearing the person close their door, start the engine and then accelerate away while the only noise one hears with the Teslas is the door closing and the next time you turn around the car is gone having left in complete silence.
Tesla’s are a coastal phenomena still. We were almost always alone at Superchargers from the time we left Virginia only to pick up more folks as we neared California and then had company up to Vancouver but then were generally alone again until we hit Ohio. It seems that few people are crazy enough to do what we did. We did get some attention out west from the other owners with the Mass EV plates.
The EV plates on the car are a way to inform rescue personnel that they need to take different precautions. The state encourages electric car owners to have them for that safety reason and do not charge extra for them. There are no perks like being able to use HOV lanes or not paying tolls like other states have but the people from the other states thought it was a great idea so they could get those perks easily. This was especially true of Californians who are required to put very ugly stickers on the back bumper and rear fender to get EV perks.
Most people ask about the charging stops which are a mixed blessing. They are certainly longer than one would take filling up even at a crowded rest area filling station but they do get you out of the car and moving. Most owners leave their cars and go somewhere but if you don't there is often conversation to be had. All Tesla owners have something in common as they own fairly unique cars so that can be a starting point. Certainly when we got away from the East Coast our license plates created some interest from others.
Then we get to "Tesla time" as the guy who owned the Tesla cabs in Portland put it. Tesla owners like to share information but on top of that other people stop to ask you about the car. In three instances people deliberately drove into the parking lot to ask us questions while we were charging. Other people just ask wherever you are parked which lead to spending the afternoon and evening with Tony and Gale but other times was a shorter conversation. We learned from the people asking the questions most pointedly about diesel electric motors in trains and big mining equipment. People who see the power of electric motors see the capabilities of the car better it seems.
I would however not hesitate to take the car anywhere again. I would also not be as anal about planning the entire thing including stops. As the trip went on we learned to improvise and change things on the fly and then the last two days we completely seat of the pants. If I were advising someone with as little experience driving distances as we had I would still suggest careful planning but only the first time out.
Not a Tesla item per se but this is the first black car I have ever owned and I have to say I will never choose that color again.
On both sides of the border they are jewels and the people who work at them are uniformly informative and helpful. The maps they give are beautiful and usually all you need to find your way around the park. In addition the US parks give you a newspaper that contained hiking trail information, news of fires and other happenings in the park. We enjoyed all of the time we spent in the parks immensely not only because they were beautiful but also that we had the information we needed to make the most of our time there. All of this great stuff for just $10 for the rest of Larry’s life. By Michelle's count we went to 13 national parks so it was less than a dollar a park for us. It makes paying taxes less painful getting that good a deal.
Some impressions of different places
Different States Auras –You really feel the difference between states as you pass through them. The differences between the South, the Southwest, the West Coast, and the Midwest are pretty stark. While this is all the same country and our population is more mobile than in the past differences still exist between regions. In this election year it makes one understand how hard it is to be everything to everyone. No one person can embody all of this diversity which is why we need a Congress that can compromise and work to promote the best for all Americans while trying to do the best they can for their constituents.
Utah – Southern Utah has striking scenery and especially Moab seems to be full of people from elsewhere. As you get up to Slat Lake City the Mormon influence becomes more pronounced with more conservative dress, fewer places selling liquor, and a complete lack of coffee shops. The scenery also becomes less interesting especially west of Salt Lake as there are just miles and miles of salt flats almost completely devoid of life. It is mildly depressing. More than half of the land is Utah is controlled by the US government and much of the rest is Indian Land as they now call the reservations. This is probably why Mormons are spreading out beyond Utah in large numbers as with there big families the existing land for them is limited. We did not see and theaters showing "The Book of Mormon" either.
Montana – Like Utah we spent several days there. It seems at heart similar to the South in that it is very fundamentalist and politically conservative. They are reflexively patriotic but also highly distrustful of the Federal government which seems somewhat paradoxical to me. It has more signs about guns not allowed in certain buildings but is the only state that we actually saw a person carrying a gun. The US government owns a large proportion of the land out west as illustrated by Utah but not confined to that state so they are always between competing interests for the various resources that they control. As the government falls prey to Lincon’s quote that, “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time,” they are bound to be detested by a large number of disgruntled people out there no matter what they do.
Canada – Canadians are just naturally nice. They are not as incredibly nice in the West as they were in the East where we visited last summer but were very friendly. We listened to the Vinyl Cafe podcasts for hours while driving as they are very entertaining and I am sure that influenced our views on Canada as Stuart McLean is just so warm and his stories while poignant at times are suffused with warmth and good people. If you liked Prairie Home Companion you will love the Vinyl Cafe.
As different as the states are the motorcyclist subgroups. We saw a lot of motorcycles especially as we are wandering in area of the Sturgis Bike Week when we were in South Dakota. The Harley crowd, despite their outlaw reputation, ride much more sanely than most others and they are true tourers making up almost all the cyclists in the National Parks. They aren’t completely safety conscious though as they often only have bandanas as their head protection. They travel generally groups. sometimes rather large ones. and are a bit older. The BMW folks are also older but ride singly or in pairs. They ride like BMW car people drive, always in the left lane, and well over the speed limit. The Japanese bikes are rarely seen outside of urban areas and are hard to spot but important to see as they are generally riding at triple digit speeds, cutting from lane to lane and when traffic slows down riding on the line between the cars and once even riding between cars popping a wheelie. If these guys survive they may someday be able to pick up beautiful Harleys in estate sales and ride like sane people.
The Harley crowd is also mostly baby boomers and they are having more trouble getting onto their bikes so many have converted to tricycle riders. There are Harley trikes, Honda trikes and some companies like Polaris that just produce trikes without ever having made motorcycles. This is the near future of motorcycle sales to allow these older folks to keep eating insects as they ride even as their balance and strength decreases.
Travelling by car versus RV
RV’s whether self contained or trailers being towed allow one to not have to unpack at every stop, keep you in the same bed and have kitchen and bathroom facilities. We are not doing that this trip and have no experience with it but would like to comment on what we do know about travelling many miles by car staying in campsites with RV’s and in motels. As we have not done an RV trip take this with a little caution.
I have already mentioned above what I see as the big advantages of RV travel. In addition you can also see that in a self-contained RV you can get up, stretch a bit and even lie down while travelling which has to be more comfortable than sitting in the car hour after hour. This obviously is not an advantage for trailer folks though. What are the disadvantages? From talking with folks travelling in that fashion the biggest issue is the cost of fuel. This year gas prices are not bad but we heard quotes from 6-15 mpg from people touring in this way. The Tesla of course is free to drive as long as you remain on the Supercharger network but even had we brought a conventional car we would have gotten between 25 and 50 mpg depending on whether we took the Alfa Romeo at the low end or the VW diesel on the high end with the Toyota in the middle. This would obviously much cheaper so to keep the RV competitive one has to prepare most meals rather than eat out as we did day after day. With a majority of our money going for food and most of the rest going for motels you can see where you could break even money wise if you were careful.
The only clear advantage of the car is the ease of driving. There were some National Park roads that banned vehicles over a certain length, usually between 22 and 25 feet cutting out most RV’s and all car/trailer combos. To combat that many RV owners tow a car further complicating the driving while the car is attached and requiring taking it on and off to drive it. Pulling trailers allows one to leave the trailer behind but still leaves you driving a big truck around. Speaking of big trucks out west there are many more trucks than in the Northeast and they are also bigger ones. To use one brand as an example, Ford F-150’s are the most popular ones in the East but are rarely seen out West where F-350’s are very common. They even make them in more female colors for the women to drive.
What we did need and what we didn't need
We brought a cooler which took up a lot of room and which we did not use. I took extra pairs of sunglasses and reading glasses which never left the glove compartment except when we pulled them out.
We should have brought something to pound in tent stakes with. The LED light that hung from the ceiling of the tent and included a fan was great to have. The headlamp got very little use as campgrounds tend to have a lot of light.
We used maps from AAA on occasion so they were somewhat useful but the guidebooks were worthless. Trip Advisor was very handy though.
Plug Share is another app you need if you are driving electric. It not only tells you where the chargers are but comments by other users give reviews of the local eateries and can guide you to especially difficult chargers to locate.
I have kept an old 3 blade razor in my travel kit as I had extra blades for it when the 5 blade razors appeared and I was too cheap to waste them. Unfortunately I forgot to check for extra blades which I apparently had used up. Therefore from about the second week shaves were painful and increasingly ineffective despite spacing them out. But having two 5 blade razors at home I was not about to give in an buy another. So on long trips make sure your supplies will last or you can procure new ones on the road.
Writing a Daily Blog
I did this selfish reasons and they turned out to be sufficient motivation to continue day after day. It had very little to do with keeping our friends informed of our whereabouts. Frankly at times it felt a little like we were bragging about the car or about the trip which makes me a little uncomfortable. The web enables us to foist more of our lives on other people than maybe they need and I was really not planning to do that. Although I was not happy to see the number of readers dropping as the trip wore on it did verify my feeling that there was no reason to do this for the world at large.
So what were my goals? First, I wanted to document the trip as it was happening so we could go back and remember it better. A trip of this length with at least one activity planned per day could easily get blurry. Looking back especially at the beginning of the trip it is all a little fuzzy so it will be good to use these descriptions to tell where the photos were taken and what the sights contained in them are.
Second, I wanted some practice writing. As a science jock in college writing anything other than an occasional lab report was painful and as a dentist we wrote some pretty lousy prose in the patient's records. As one ages you are supposed to try new things and so this was part of that. Unlike picking up a musical instrument for my new learning experience the people I love could ignore my blogs while they could not ignore my poor musicianship.
Third, it gave me something to do while Michelle was driving. We had a rule that whoever was driving picked what we listened to. She liked to listen to podcasts when we could and that was engaging but if we could not get a signal for that she went often enough with silence so the writing was a good way to spend the time. Michelle also sleeps later than I do so it kept me busy while she got her beauty rest.