Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 5 - Famous things

Not having been to Charlotte in my life other than to switch planes at the airport my hosts took me to the aviation museum out by the airport.  It fit well with A Higher Call which is the book I am currently reading and was physically close to all my previous encounters with the city being located at one end of the airport property.  The book has been an interesting read for the first 174 pages many of them read while waiting for the car to charge.  Now that I am down in warmer weather I can take my folding chair out and sit outside to read which is quite nice.  But I digress from the museum whose prize possession is the US Air plane that Sully landed in the Hudson.  They have done a nice job of providing information about the plane, the flight and how so many people had to do things right for everyone to survive.  It also had footage of transporting the plane from New Jersey to North Carolina by truck which was no small task either.

The right side of flight US Air flight 1549 where the impact with the Hudson dented the plane

In addition they had some nice examples of fighters as there is a wing of the Air National Guard at the airport and from the signage they have been able to convince them to give them a number of decommissioned planes for exhibit.  However they did not have a Flying Fortress which both Karol and I wanted to see as her father was a turret gunner on one during World War II and my book is partly about a pilot of one.  It is but a small disappointment as everything else was well done.

We then repaired to an Irish Pub downtown after demonstrating to the Downings that if you are going to have to pay for downtown parking you might as well get some electricity in exchage by using Plug Share to find a nearby parking lot with chargers and then being lucky enough to find one without a gas engine car parked in the space.  We electric car owners call that being ICE'd where ICE stands for internal combustion engine.  Three of the four chargers were in fact ICE'd but the fourth worked perfectly and while we ate at the pub Hobson ate a bunch of electricity.  Once we were all full we headed home.

Charlotte NC - The parking lot only produced 30 amps out of the charger but it di not cost anything or demand some esoteric card to start it.

Day 4 - Miscalculation confirmed

It is a long road to Tipperary but if you start in DC it is also a long road to Charlotte NC,  As I pointed out yesterday, most places in New England that are in adjacent states are near enough to reach before lunch time.  I was lucky to roll into the Downing's house before dinner and only made it because they held off cooking until I got there.  I guess my deteriorating estimates during the day made them suspect that I would be late.

While I was late in my goal to be on time I did stretch the cars limits a bit getting numerous warnings to slow down or I was not going to make it to my destination.  Having gotten so many and then having them melt away I think I figured out why we saw different warnings at different times during our long trip last summer.  The rather non-committal warnings I received seemed to emanate from a calculation the car does from your instantaneous battery reserve calculation which causes it  to pop up mostly when you are going up hill or accelerating quickly.  As I got none of the other more ominous warnings I suspect they originate from the other calculations the cars does like battery life based on the last 5,15 or 30 mile averages, and how much battery life will be left at the end of the trip.  As none of those indicators were ever negative the car would just gently warn me that I was playing with fire.

In any case I went over 200 miles on a not full battery and managed to show up in Charlotte with 13 miles left.  Lucky 13!  I did learn that the battery indicator which goes from green to orange at 50 miles goes rad at 15.  At the charger the other car was from Montana!  Montana is challenging to Teslas as the speed limits are high and the Superchargers scarce.  All power to her for buying such a non-complying vehicle to her terrain and making it work.

Having finally arrived it was great to see Gary and Karol in there new place. It is a great spot at the end of a cul-de-sac and a wonderful house with 10 foot high doors even in the closets.  I once again had a suitcase rack in my guest room.  Now I know why nobody comes to visit us.  We don't have one of those.  The steaks on the grill were delicious and the conversation lively.  They even have grandkids to talk about.

Woodbridge VA-  the is is in the middle of a parking lot to a very, very large mall which I entered to go the bathroom and then exited out the wrong side.  Thank God for the phone app that leads you back the car.   The long walk around the outside of the mall was =good for me though.

South Hill VA - I neglected to rad the very informative stuff about this on PlugShare prior to this stop and thus drove by it twice as it is an anomaly being not at a shopping center, not at a motel, not at a rest area including the big truck stop right of the exit but rather in the parking lot of an unattractive restaurant.  To add insult to injury PlugShare also indicated that one of the chargers was broken so again not having read up guess which one of the six I tried to hook up to first.

Charlotte NC - Having researched ahead of time I it would be a good spot that would allow me to get wine and Mallomars to bring to Gary's house and sunscreen besides.  Regrettably neither the supermarket or Walgreens carried Mallomars It turns out to be just down the street from where Karol works but not know that at the time I could not go in a make a scene.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 3 - Divots and Salsa

Today was a semi-repeat of yesterday.  The day started out rainy but as we swapped stories in the family room the world outside brightened and we decided to hit the golf course.  And hit it we literally did, or at least I did, digging up whole sections of fairway and rough attempting to get the ball in the hole.  I was reminded of my father’s favorite expression which he learned in the 101st Airborne during WWII, “The difficult we do immediately.  The impossible takes a little longer.”  Most holes were difficult, some were impossible but despite the longer time it often took we finished in time to get my clubs back in the car before it started raining again.  The course was actually a perfect length, had good lies if you were in the fairway, had enough water to lighten my bag by four balls, but gave out free water so overall we had a great time.

We then repaired to this really cool taco place called Taco Bamba which had some incredible taco combos.  I actually had a calamari taco with black squid sauce in addition to a more traditional beef one.  The food was delicious, the place was plenty funky and I highly recommend it to anyone in the vicinity of the two locations they have.  The bartender was even from Long Island.

After that we went back to the house and once again stayed up too late.  This will be a tough stop to leave but other fun beckons so off I go in the morning to Charlotte, NC.  Of course I told Gary I would be at his house about noon using my New England logic that a trip from adjacent states should never be more than four hours forgetting everything I have learned about the size of states increasing outside of our little section of the country.  Having been disabused by my hosts that I could make it to Charlotte than quickly I am looking at a full day of driving.

Charging stops:

None – Car was immobile all day other than the hatch.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 2 - Hitting golf balls

 As will be the case numerous times during this trip Hobson spent the day sitting around doing nothing except allowing me to get stuff that I needed out of it.  This trip partly came about because I am going to play my annual round of golf with my buddies from elementary school in North Carolina.  Having nothing better to do than finish my basement I figured i would make a trip out of it.  I advertised in Facebook for a contest to win an ugly old man on your couch and got more responses than I could possibly see in three weeks.  While everyone would have been great to see they are not spread well geographically being mostly in just two areas in Florida, the Miami area and the Tampa area so I had to make some hard choices about whose couch to be on although in reality eveyone in Florida offered a bed. 

I did choose well in the DC area as the Holdcrofts are great hosts.  For a trip that I billed as a couch surfing trip this is much more like an upscale motel.  They even have one of those things you hang on your door to not be disturbed.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included besides.  The rest of my hosts better have their A-game as the bar has been set rather high. 

In any case my buddy Jim, being been a dot your i's and cross your t's lawyer type, wants to make sure I am well prepared to face the courses in North Carolina so today we went to the driving range at Jim’s club and hit lots of golf balls in preparation to play real golf tomorrow as the next step in getting ready.  It was fun to play around on the practice tee with different stances and I even learned how to stand to get my drives to go more than 10 feet in the air.  This will be a big surprise to the guys from high school I have been playing with for years as they have never seen me hit the ball higher than the height of an NBA center off the ground.  They will probably counter that it barely clears a middle school guard's height but do not believe them.

Once having grooved our swings we returned to the house having picked up dinner along the way.  As Jim and I are both semi-retired we can sit around like college kids and solve the problems of the world.  As he was in high finance, which I know little about, his stories are intriguing as he describes the way deals are put together and the cast of characters that populate high positions in the financial world some apparently deservedly and some not.  We stayed up too late for a second night in a row.

Charging stops

None – Car was immobile all day other than the hood, hatch and front doors.

Day 1 On the road again!

Hobson after being assaulted by a Kia spent October  to December in the body shop only to be released to an assault by road salt  and sand on the New England roads.  Hobson wanted to put all that behind him and go South where frost heaves are not a danger to his undercarriage or maybe his owner did.  In any case we are off for a three week couch surfing trip that was planned so that I could see some old friends while I had the some time off.  So after throwing about half of the stuff I forgot to pack into the car this morning I set out to retrace at least the beginning of the trip this summer, namely hitting DC first.

Traffic was light for the most part reinforcing my good sense to travel this leg on Sunday.  Until I hit the Beltway the drivers seemed slow too.  I even passed a BMW going 55 in the right lane with the seemingly incongruous license plate “GO4IT”.  I guess you can go for it at any speed but I would have expected more alacrity from someone who paid extra to have that plate and a 5 series BImmer.   However the Beltway was a very different story as the crazy lane changes and excessive speeds on a crowded road were terrifying after 9 hours of pretty sedate driving.

One of the reasons the driving was so sedate is that Hobson took care of most of it.  He drove, Slacker did the tunes, and the driver danced and sang along.  It is a good thing I was alone.  Many people ask about the self-driving capabilities and so here is my take on it.  The car is a competent driver in most highway situations but I would compare it to watching a young child.  Most of the time they are doing what they are supposed to but in certain situations you cannot trust them to  make the right decision however you can often anticipate when they will go off in the wrong direction and so redirect them before they get into trouble.  Lane changes to the right lane near an exit you do not want to take are one of those situations to avoid.  The Beltway was full of anticipatory defensive driving that the car does not excel at so I had to drive that madhouse section.  All in all though the car drove through MA, RI, most of CT, most of NJ, DE and some of MD but none of VA.  It is not as easy as being a passenger but does make a long drive much more relaxing.

Having arrived at my Amherst roommate’s house in Virginia, the Holdcroft’s provided my favorite IPA, some excellent snacks, and then took me out to dinner.   No couch surfing here as I have a great bedroom with my own bathroom.  I may want to live with him another semester or two at this rate.   It felt like college again in some ways as we had a long wide ranging discussion until well after a sane bedtime for the older folks we had become although we did fall short of the time we used to stay up to in college.

A note at this point about this new part of the blog is in order.  Last time I had Michelle for a companion and as she drove I took pictures and wrote and when I drove she took pictures so it was possible to get pictures of the cool cars and churches we passed.  That trip was also more of a sightseeing trip with amazing stuff we were often seeing for the first time.  This trip is mainly on the I-95 corridor that is familiar territory and although I will be going to new places there will not be the majestic views one gets out West so there will also be fewer pictures of scenery.   This trip is mainly seeing people I like and spending time with them so will have a very different tone though I hope it will be enjoyable to read.  

One other thing about this trip is that unlike the last one I have done no advance planning for charging stops.  Some of this is cockiness on my part having a lot of experience now and partly is due to the increased density of charging stations on the East Coast compared with the flyover states.  Apparently Tesla owners are also expected to flyover also.  Looking at the map of stations prior to embarking things to make sure I was right about my travel plans I noticed that the number of chargers has improved a lot since last summer especially along routes I-70 and I-80.  I think this is where Tesla will win the electric car battle.  While it takes longer to fill up with electrons that petrol Tesla's can fill up in less than an hour which is not possible with any of the other pure electrics on the market.  By already having this in place when the Model 3 hits the market they have a huge advantage.

Charging stops
Darien CT – These chargers were not here last summer but allowed me to stay on I-95 rather than use the Greenwich chargers on the Merritt Parkway.  It also gave me a shot at reaching the Newark DE chargers without stopping in Jersey.

Newark DE – This is a big place with 12 chargers but 6 were taken and the Tesla owners there were wise to using only one of the paired chargers.  It turns out that each two chargers are attached to a single source of electricity which they have to share.  This then lowers the charge rate on both cars that are hooked up to the same bank.  With the six cars all on separate power sources I had to be a bad guy to someone by hooking up next to them.  I picked the car with the hatch open figuring they were getting ready to leave.  I was wrong and was stuck with slow charging until someone else left and I moved the car.