ICE’ing – One Year Later

We swapped cars with these dudes I know who have a nuclear reactor at their business in town. They have a fleet of Subaru Outbacks to deliver their horrendously dangerous product to the end users every day and we thought we’d be better off driving one of those than the electric luxury sedan for our trip last week. So this is kind of a review of a gasoline powered car from our new vantage point of familiarity with electric driving.

What’s that? You’re more interested in hearing about the nuclear reactor in town? Oh, OK.

Rather simple, really. Hospitals do those technetium 99 scans alla’ time and it’s got to come from somewhere. Seeing as the half-life of Tc99 is 6 hours it has to be made relatively nearby and then driven to the hospital. I suppose it could be shipped overnight by Amazon but UPS won’t ship that stuff and a crashed drone could, conceivably, be ‘problematic’. It’s made from Molybdenum 99 and involves neutron bombardment. So you need Mo99 and neutrons. The Moly comes from Canada. Neutrons come from a reactor. So you need a reactor. If you want the medicine for your scan, you need a reactor. It’s that simple.  In ‘the biz’ the reactor they use to make the Mo99 is called, affectionately, a “Moly Cow”.  I guess ‘cuz you milk it.  Hard to imagine, really.

The Technetium is considered a drug ‘cuz it’s given in ‘doses’ dependent on the study being done and the weight of the patient, so it has to be prepared on a case by case basis by people licensed by the Board of Pharmacy. These people are called ‘Radiopharmacists’ and they are regular pharmacists who are highly trained and skilled in additional fields, specifically filling out reams of paperwork for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, tolerating surprise inspections, and mollifying the TSA. Also they are very patient people, having to wait months and months for the trash to decay to safe levels before taking it out to the dumpster. I got to know them because I treat hyperthyroid cats with radioactive Iodine. Radiopharmacists are hugely entertaining to take out to lunch. I could go on and on but I won’t ‘cuz they are probably already sufficiently annoyed with me about the ‘horrendously dangerous’ remark.

Here’s a hyperthyroid cat:

hyperthyroid cat

..aaannd after treatment:


OK, so it’s not the same cat.  You get the idea.

So sometimes there’s some side effects. Let’s move on to the subject at hand.


Anyway, Laura and I volunteered for a week with CDT MT to help them build a section of the Continental Divide Trail (a great way to spend your vacation if your idea of fun is to carry a sledgehammer in one hand, a Pulaski in the other, and a gallon of water, a sandwich, and some log peelers in your backpack up a steep and poorly maintained trail for 5 miles and turn it into a well-maintained trail. If you have tended to gain weight during the Holland America Cruise Vacation and want to try losing weight during a vacation instead, this brand of volunteerism is worth a try). Here are 62 pictures to whet your appetite (Flesher Pass Work Pics).  And here’s a link that’ll get you near a list of future projects on which you can volunteer (Build the CDT!).

The trailhead for the project was up at Flesher Pass north of Helena, MT. No problem for the electric car, seeing as the road over the pass is paved and there’s a supercharger in Butte, so the round trip is well within the car’s range. However, the cribwall project was only expected to take 4 days (We knocked it out in 3. Go Team!) and the project description said that after the cribwall we would “… drive to another project site 60 miles away on unimproved roads.” So that made us worry that the sporty electric luxury sedan would either nose down into a pothole on the way there or run out of juice on the way back. As it ultimately turned out the dirt road was well maintained and looped around such that Helena was just 15 miles farther along, so neither clearance nor range would have been a problem. But we didn’t know that at the time so I approached the radiopharmacists about swapping our ride for one of their Outbacks. They readily agreed because they are intrigued with the idea of switching to Teslas for their delivery fleet. Partly because they currently spend $750 per Outback every month for gas plus 30 oil changes per year, and partly because they found out (from me) that Teslas are so much fun to drive. I guess their reasoning is that they could not only pay less for gas and maintenance but also pay their drivers less. So that’s how we ended up driving an Infernal Combustion Engine car for hundreds of miles after driving 10’s of thousands over the course of a year and not buying any gasoline. One of the biggest topics of discussion on this trip was the contrast between electric and gas – here’s my review:


Compared to the Tesla, the ICE powered car we borrowed was loud, smelly, dangerously underpowered, slow to respond, expensive to operate, badly balanced, and mundane.

We had trouble fitting all our stuff in it. I popped the hood thinking I could toss a couple of overflow bags in. Nope. I like the Tesla ‘cuz you can hide a body in the frunk (Pro tip: cops never think to look there). In the gas car you might be able to hide just the murder weapon under the hood.

The lack of regenerative braking made it feel uncontrolled. If I wanted the car to go I pressed down on the throttle. When I wanted it to slow down I’d lift my foot off, but it just kept hurtling down the road. I eventually got used to that but it made the driving experience feel ‘twitchy’, the right foot being required to leap back and forth between pedals.

The process of recharging the gas tank was surreal, smelly, and carcinogenic. And expensive. (At home the Tesla tops itself up overnight for a couple of bucks, and on roadtrips it’s unusual to have to pay anything at all). Plus we had range anxiety. This was totally unexpected ‘cuz we’d both driven ICE’s for decades without anxiety, but it’s all according to what you’re used to, I guess. We’ve gotten used to the car telling us how many miles we’ve got left in the battery, how fast we’re using them, how far we have yet to drive, and how much range we’ll have left when we arrive. After the first few weeks we were all, “I got this”. The ICE tells us what fraction of a tank of gas we have left right now, w/o any information at all about what we’ll have when we get there. Is it going to be enough to get us where we’re going? We didn’t know. Probably. Seems like it ought to be, but maybe not. Idaho and the back roads of Montana don’t have a gas station every 10 miles like some parts of the country. The car did not tell us how far we had to go nor how many miles of gas were in the tank. So we’d top it up every time we stopped at a convenience store for a pee or a soda pop, even if it’d only got down to 3/4 of a tank. Just to be on the safe side.  Range anxiety is a real thing,  but it’s not something that’s inherent to electric cars, it’s inherent in driving something you’re not used to.

And I worried about maintenance. It was a fleet car so I assumed they’d checked the oil, brake fluid, filters, whatever, but I didn’t know. It just felt like it was wearing out and dripping and clogging itself up every mile. I guess I’m saying the car just did not inspire confidence.

Don’t get me started about onramps! Maybe we’d be up to speed by the time you had to merge and maybe we wouldn’t. It was maddening. Onramps are fun in the Tesla, ‘cuz you treat it like a race, catching up to cars that are already on the expressway and passing ’em on the right before you get to where you have to merge (That never gets old).

On the other hand, the Subaru Outback was a stalwart little car that we were willing to take on what were unpaved roads of unknown quality up on the continental divide. Would we have volunteered for this useful and worthwhile backcountry project if we’d had no option other than the Tesla? Yup. We dislike taking our baby off the pavement but she’s been there and may have logged more off-road miles than any other Model S, notably north outa’ Hanksville, UT to get us to the Mars Desert Research Station.  It’s on Mars, sorta’.


The MDRS in its “Mars Environment Analog”

Link to Mars Society’s “About the MDRS”

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes from a recent blog by Daniel Sparks, titled “Why I’ll Never Buy a Gas Car Again”

” … (I now see) gas cars for what they really are — outdated, noisy, inefficient manifestations of an industry trying to squeeze marginal innovation out of an inferior approach … ”


” After you own an electric vehicle for this long as your sole means of transportation, your view of gas cars evolves. … Toxic fuel flowing through an oil-ridden, clunky, complex, awkwardly shaped, giant internal combustion engine just doesn’t sound as normal as it used to.”



Oh, and here’s a picture of a pulaski, in case you were wondering what one of those is:


pulaski, the tool


Here’s another:


Pulaski, the Katherine



Reference: 2014 Utah Report on Homelessness

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot more homeless people out there than I did 10 or 15 years ago. Mostly men, but some couples and a handful of women with children. From what I’ve read, the reason the homeless we see on the streets are mostly men is that some of the other options exclude men.  Many of the shelters out there are for women only. I think part of the reason, too, is that women feel much less safe being homeless on the streets, so they opt for other options – options that are perhaps not better, but safer. I don’t know, ‘cuz I haven’t talked to many homeless women. I’ve talked to a number of homeless men and I’d encourage you to engage a few in conversations that are deeper than the usual “How’s your day going?”. I think I can confidently say that the vast majority of the homeless you meet have an interesting story to tell.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What would have to happen to get me to the point of holding a cardboard sign outside the Wal-Mart?”

One guy in particular I was able to pump for information on the mechanics of homelessness for close to three hours (I know what all of you are thinking right now – “Lucky!”). I’d just started on a drive from Pocatello to Boise and saw him up ahead with his thumb out. Despite it being winter and a cold blustery day besides, he looked plenty warm. Insulated coveralls, gloves, heavy boots and even heavier beard. But the pit bull dog he had on a string wasn’t wearing anything so I stopped and offered him a ride. The guy just assumed that he was included in the invitation so he got in, too. I’d’a driven the dog to Boise for free but I figured the guy owed me conversation. Most people can keep you entertained if you can get them talking about what they know, and while probing this guy to determine his area of expertise (condensed matter physics? no. xerophilic landscaping? no. air quality regulation? no. living on the fringe of society? Check!) I found out he’d been homeless for 15 years. On and off. Mostly on. (The dog had been homeless for 2 years. In dog years that’s forever, especially this dog’s years, which were all of them). Fifteen years made the guy a bit of an anomaly since a recent study outa’ Salt Lake City found that only 14% of the homeless are classified as ‘chronically homeless’. 86% stay homeless for less than 6 weeks, with most of those clocking in around 2 weeks. Think lost job, missed rent, or broke up and the other person got custody of the substandard housing. 86% – Keep that in mind ‘cuz that’s gonna’ come up later.

But this guy had little to say about acute short term homelessness, which was good for me because I imagine hearing about such troubles is just depressing and uninteresting.  It’s hard to get good at anything in just a few weeks and it’s hard to be interesting about a subject if you aren’t good at it. So remember this:  86% of the homeless you talk to about homelessness won’t know much about it except how to do it poorly and how much it sucks.

But this guy was good at homelessness. He’d had a rough home life in Alaska and left when he was 14, lived on the streets for a while, got regular work a few times (Once with an uncle for half a year and a few other times amounting to a year or two total) but decided that homelessness was better. It makes me wonder if maybe the reason the 86% want to limit their homelessness to 2-6 weeks is because they don’t know any better.

Anyway, he was homeless by choice. He was heading back to Seattle where someone who was a girlfriend in all but name and deed could be counted on to provide a couch while he worked whatever odd jobs presented themselves. That was the plan, but I gathered that it was of little real importance to him if the plan worked out as planned or not. He’d made the trip to Salt Lake City to attend a friend’s wedding. The wedding was a month ago and he’d started the trek to SLC 3 months before that. I guess that’s a thing with the homeless – avoid air travel. And get started early if you have a deadline.

Here’s what I learned from him, as a FAQ:

Me: How’s your day goin’?
He: OK. Thanks for the ride. I spent the night in Pocatello, and the previous night in Lava Hot Springs. I walked for 10 hours out of Lava before I got a ride, practically all the way to Poky.

Me: I notice you’re not fat like most Americans. In fact, you look in pretty good shape.
He: I walked 10 hours yesterday.

Me: Are you hungry?
He: No. Getting calories is not a problem. There’s lots and lots of food available, all over. If I want a meal all I have to do is to ask someone to buy me food. On average I have to ask maybe two people. If I want money I have to ask a hundred. Also, any fast food dumpster has lots and lots of food in it. You would be amazed. They are usually in some kind of enclosure. These are good places to sleep. The concrete block holds the heat if they’re exposed to the sun during the day. There’s privacy and some degree of shelter from the weather.

Me: And breakfast in bed the next morning.
He: Right.

Me: What tools do you carry?
He: I couldn’t manage without a selection of heavy markers. I’ll often carry cardboard. If I need something I make a sign. If you want results the sign needs to stand out, so I make a colored border around the letters. White stands out best. White markers are valuable to the homeless. Also, a little humor helps. The sign I have now says “Dreaming of a cheeseburger” on one side and “100% of your cash donation goes to help the homeless” on the other.

Me: Clothes?
He: Pointless to carry more than you wear. If something wears out it’s easy to get another from a friend or another homeless guy. Or Craig’s list. I usually check Craig’s list first, there’s a lot of free stuff there.

Me: Craig’s list? You mind if we circle around back to that later?
He: Fine by me. You’re the one writing the FAQ.

Me: Ya’ get much from charitable organizations?
He: Not much. Toothpaste and such.

Me: Ya’ feel bad about getting stuff from charity?
He: Nah, I do more to help the homeless than I get from charities.

Me: Ya’ got a gun, do ya’?
He: No. Not a knife, either. You definitely need to carry a weapon to defend yourself and be willing to use it, but it’s too easy to accidentally kill someone with a gun or a knife and I’d feel just awful if I killed someone.  I carry a chain with a heavy lock on it.

Me: Is there much violence?
He: Most of it is related to someone wanting what you have, but the person doing the hurting is usually just knocking you down so they can go through your pockets and see what you have, rather than knowing you have something worth taking. Since it’s opportunistic and they aren’t sure you have anything, they’ll leave you alone if you demonstrate you’ll put up a fight. Just show them your weapon. It’s just not worth it to them.

Me: Do the big cities have a network of homeless who all help each other out?
He: Not really. You can pick up good information if you keep your ears open, but a common newb mistake is to go sleep where someone has told you is a good spot. “Best spot is under the fourth street bridge. Everyone’s real friendly and there’s always extra food”. They’ll just tell them that so the group of regulars there can mob them.

Me: And take their stuff?
He: And take their stuff.

Me: Whether they have a weapon or not?
He: Newbs don’t have a weapon, or if they do they don’t know how or when to use it. The first thing they get taken away from them is their weapon. You can always tell a newb. People get taken advantage of a lot.

Me: There’s a certain amount of humor to be found in any newb.
He: Yeah, one time one of them told me he’d slept for hours in the rain, but it hadn’t rained that night. It turns out he’d kipped down on a lawn and the sprinklers had come on at 2 AM.

Me: So to get around you just hitchhike, and walk a lot if you don’t get a ride?
He: Yeah, that and there’s a lot of ride sharing you can find on Craig’s list. A lot of free stuff on Craig’s list.

Me: Looks like you want to circle back around to Craig List now.
He: Yeah.

Me: I thought I was writing this FAQ.
He: Sorry. Whatever.

Me: No, no, it’s fine. Craig’s list. I wanted to ask, how do you access it?
He: Smart phone.

Me: Smart phone? You can consistently cash flow a smart phone plan? That’s like $35 a month minimum, right?
He: No. I have the phone but don’t pay for a plan.

He: A smart phone works fine w/o a plan. You just go sit outside a Starbucks or some other place with free wifi. You can place calls with a free VOIP app. You can’t receive calls ‘cuz you don’t have a phone number, but a friend who really wants to talk to you can send a message or email asking you to call him.

Me: Your phone looks newer than mine, how long have you had it?
He: A week. I’ve owned 50 phones over the last two years. In the rich areas of cities when the latest phone comes out people just throw out their old ones. You can find them in dumpsters. No charger usually so when the battery dies I throw it away or give it to someone. You can also get chargers for free if you want to.

Me: So you’ve got better things to spend your money on than a smart phone plan. Like cigarettes and booze and heroin, right?
He: No, man, I’m clean. Eight years. Life’s a lot better now. And cigarettes are free.

Me: What up with that dog?
He: I like the dog. Also you get more help from people if you have a dog.


The above is what I gathered from this guy, and does not necessarily apply to other homeless. It certainly doesn’t much apply to the acutely homeless (the newbs), which are 86% of them (per SLC study). The acutely homeless do not want to be homeless, are bad at it, and are suffering because of it. They are working hard in whatever way they think will work to become not homeless. The other 14% is either happily homeless, like this guy, or more likely crazy, addicted, or is a serious social misfit. Or some combination. These people are also suffering from homelessness.  They are a thorny problem.  If you want to help solve the homeless problem, consider starting with the 86%. That’s a much easier problem to address. But at some point the crazy/addicted/weirdo fraction’s going to have to be addressed, too. Tricky.  But the 86% problem is NOT tricky to solve. Really. You just have to recognize that the 86% is NOT crazy/addicted (well, not any more so than many of your neighbors), does not WANT to be homeless, and IS actively seeking solutions to become not homeless.

So the guy and I didn’t actually talk about free cigarettes. I picked that up on my own by watching him. ‘mazing what you can learn by keeping your eyes open. We stopped so I could pee and gas up (This was 3 years ago, before the Tesla), and when I got out to pump Ethyl he walked over and got 1/2 a cigarette, for free:

cigarette pod 2
The tops of these things just pop off and there are literally hundreds to choose from, some of them in pretty good shape. It turns out that the wealthy in this country (The top 95% of income earners) often don’t finish the whole cigarette. The end of your break doesn’t necessarily coincide with the end of your cigarette. Those ciggy-stations are FULL of 1/2’sies. Presumably if you buy yours by the loosie you smoke the whole thing. (LINK: This is part 1 Def: Loosie is at 0:00 of Part 2
Yeah, it looks like the chronically homeless in this country are heavily into the “reduce, reuse, recycle” sharing economy. Ever think of it that way? What’s the carbon footprint of a homeless dude?

I asked the guy to show me his tats. Here’s one:
— N.B. As soon as I find that picture I’ll edit it in.  I have 30,000 pics on my laptop, all in a folder named “Sort Me”.

He says it wouldn’t really work ‘cuz you have to sign it every year.

He also showed me one on his ankle: “JENNIFER”. I asked if that was a girlfriend. He said yes, for about a year but afterward he’d added more tattoo below it. He pulled down his sock and showed me “is a bitch” below it.

Probably half of you are appalled. “A lighthearted look at homelessness, indeed! What an insensitive kcirp”. But the guy I gave a ride to wasn’t suffering from woe and want. My wife and I are homeless ourselves, after a fashion, and are not suffering. Quite the opposite, we rejoice in not having a lawn to mow. We and he chose it as a lifestyle. Admittedly we drive around in a luxury sedan, so we have a place of safety for our stuff, and our stuff consists of more than cardboard, markers, a pair of underwear suitable for wearing every day, a chain, and a free smartphone. And a dog. In fact, now that I think about it we don’t have any of those things. So as far as renunciation of material goods goes, that guy’s got us beat 6 different ways. And yeah, we buy a night at a hotel now and then, and though that’s a short term tenancy it’s a home of sorts, for a night. And the tent is a home of sorts. But the sweet spot under the bridge is a home of sorts, too. He and we and our ilk are happily homeless. So all you haters, I’m not insensitive to the rest of the 14% who are chronically homeless but don’t want to be (which would be most of them). I mean, having to suffer with mental disease or addiction in the context of a state of extreme impoverishment seems unnecessarily cruel to me. Think about it – those homeless who don’t have mental disease are probably short-term homeless and won’t be staying that way for much longer than 6 weeks (You’d have to be crazy, right?). But they all deserve our compassion, even those others who are, indeed, homeless because they are messed up. Leaving these people to suffer on their own with their diseases and impoverishment seems like the worst possible way for society to address the issue. The idealistic notion that to help these people is to encourage them is flawed, since most of them will not get better on their own simply because you choose not to help them. Similarly, consider that the 86% will only be homeless for 6 weeks or less. What can you do during that 2 to 6 week period that would help?

FYI the next post will be about the gear we travel with.

How ’bout some take-home messages?

  • most homelessness is acute. They don’t want to be that way and they will not, in fact, stay that way. They are doing the best they can.
  • If you give them 5 dollars they will not, as a result, stay homeless for longer than the typical 2-6 weeks. But it might make their lives a little easier during a troubled time.
  • homeless people are interesting.
  • homeless people have morals. They are expressed in a different context than the homed, but are otherwise little different than your own, on average.
  • homeless people are not worse than you. Depending on who you are, they might be better. They deserve your compassion.

Homelessness can be fun, sustainable, and carries a low-carbon footprint. However, it is not scalable. So I won’t mind of some of you decide the lifestyle is worth a try, but don’t you all go do it.

Extended Roadtrip Budget

A Roadtrip is just a vacation. An extended Roadtrip is just a very long vacation. But there are differences. You know how when your vacation on Maui is over you say to your sweetie, “Gosh, I wish this didn’t have to end. Why can’t this go on and on?” That phrase does not come up when the vacation goes on and on, month after month. Conversely, there are other phrases that come up only during an extended vacation, such as, “Should we drive across Kansas, Missouri, and most of Iowa so we can play the let’s-see-how-long-it-takes-Mother-to-guess-who-we-are game, or should we go visit the hippies in Yreka again?”. But some things are the same, like making sure beforehand that you can afford it. Careful planning is key.  The conventional wisdom is that vacations are a major expense, but the difference is that in the case of a short vacation if you guessed wrong you can just tell yourself that you “won’t make that mistake again and lots of people have credit card debt that will take 2 years to pay off”. But with an open-ended vacation things can spiral quickly out of control and you can find yourself homeless and living out of your car.

During the planning stage, before we even got the car and before Laura was aware of the wacky ‘gap year’ idea,  I made a budget. Just a little something I could use as a weapon in the inevitable “You’re a psycho” conversation. It’s all about proper planning, right? If you have to switch gears from fine restaurants and elaborate entertainments to collecting aluminum cans from the side of the road, it’s nice to have a little head’s-up. Also, I find it fun to occasionally give myself a personal challenge, and without actually establishing a budgetary goal, how could I accurately quantify just how very short of those goals my best efforts fell?

Maybe some of you want to leave your productive lives behind, too, and the only thing stopping you is a fear of failure? Well, trust me, there are worse ways to fail than to fall short of a life of aimless wandering. Some real-world numbers may help you take the plunge. Over the last seven months Laura and I have done the heavy lifting of generating some hard data. I guess that’s useful work, right?

One of the biggest budget revelations has been that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the daily expenses of a vacation are not so much more than those of the usual drab workaday lifestyle, but that the usual drab workaday lifestyle generates some income, which the vacation lifestyle does not. A subtle difference, to be sure, the net result on cash flow being the same, but it is an important distinction.  People we meet sometimes have a bit of trouble wrapping their heads around this:

“Five months straight? Wow! Don’t you get tired of it?”
“No. It’s great. I write a blog.”
“Oh! You get paid for blogging! Must be nice.”
“No. I just write it for fun.”
“But Tesla pays you to drive around and promote their car?”
“Does your blog sell ads?”
“You’re not getting paid to do this?”
At all?
“No. Well sometimes.”
“How’s that?”
“Can I have five dollars?”

Interjection – Here follows a list of projected expenses and then a list of actual expenses. You engineering types are going to scroll up and down and up and down and up and down to compare. (SO predictable!). No need. I’ve put the numbers side by side down at the bottom. Go there.

So here are my projected numbers (numbers are PER MONTH), from back before we even took delivery of the car, with some comments about what the heck was I thinking:

$300 Electric fuel for the car – I figured we’d pay 15 bucks per charge for a mid-day charge, which I thought we’d need 20 days out of each month.
$825 – 1085 Campgrounds – Figure $35 per night at an RV park
$500-800 Groceries – $16 to $26 per day. Total guess.  A little worried about this one.
$180 – 480 Hotels – I thought we’d want to take a shower 2-3 times a week, or maybe an RV park wasn’t convenient, or RV parks suck maybe
$60 Cooking fuel – Propane in small canisters for the camp stove
$90 – 180 Entertainment – Movie theaters, museums, carnival rides, drugs, whores
$170 Internet access – Cell phones and Netflix
$360 – 800 Restaurants – I guessed $9 each for breakfast, 13 for lunch, and 20 for dinner. I knew that we’d prepare most of our meals ourselves, but c’mon.  So I allowed one dinner out per week, and 4 lunches ‘cuz setting up the kitchen in the middle of the day’s a pain, and 1-2 breakfasts a week.
$150 – $450 Gifts – My god, you’re driving around in a Tesla and you can’t spare five bucks for the homeless veteran?
$150 – 300 Daily Treats – Starbucks, diet coke, candy bars, massage chairs. 10 bucks a day doesn’t seem excessive. I’m a worthwhile person and by gosh, people like me. So I’m going to have a latte.
$60 – 100 Car Washing – ‘cuz the black looks so bad-ass when it’s shiny
$130 – 330 Sundries – I don’t know, it just seemed like we’d need some stuff now and then.  Ibuprofen. Batteries. An umbrella. Just a guess.
$85 – 160 Necessaries – I don’t know, stuff that isn’t Sundries. A new pair of socks. What if Laura loses her sunhat? As if she can live without that. Whatever. Just a guess.

So yeah, came out to $3,585 to $5,215 per month.

I know, right? I was shocked. But I figured if we started to run low on cash we could pick up aluminum cans or panhandle. Now let’s see how the actual numbers compare. This is monthly average from 7 months of data: (Want to see the numbers side by side? Scroll to the very bottom)

$6.50 Electric fuel for the car – Yeah, that’s right, we’ve had to actually pay someone to let us charge the car 4 times in 7 months and 35,000 miles. Twice at $15, a 10, and one poor sod sheepishly asking if we’d be willing to stretch as much as 5 bucks.
$157 Campgrounds – Turns out we often stayed in state or national parks for $7-15 per night. Mooching off friends was free.  Friends are great.  We must make more of these.
$318 Groceries – Like 10 bucks a day! But mooching off friends and family drops the average.
$275 Hotels – Highly variable. Some months nothing, 2 months ~ 200. One month we went to a convention, so 650, and when we drove to Indiana and back in the winter it was every night, so 850
$0 Cooking fuel – We decided to use an alcohol stove and are still on our first bottle.
$327 Entertainment – Ooops
$198 Internet access – I almost immediately broke my phone and signed up for a more expensive plan
$757 Restaurants – One of the least variable expenses, month to month. Low 450, high 925
$104 Gifts – Fewer homeless on the interstates than anticipated
$85 Daily Treats – Gave up diet coke 1/2 way through and never did crave the latte’s like I thought I would. And Laura always has been a cheap date. It’s why I married her.
$26 Car Washing – Should have been more. Savings here mostly due to apathy
$132 Sundries – Nailed it
$0 Necessaries – I forgot I had this category. So no entries

Note that the above doesn’t include things like car and health insurance, mortgage payments, etc. Oh, and 75 bucks or whatever it is for the yearlong national parks pass, but that paid for itself over and over.
And then there were expenses that I hadn’t predicted at all:

$15 Repairs – Laura lost her sunhat. And some whatever
$9 Toll Roads – WTF, Northeast States? Who knew
$113 Lodging, Other – New water heater, furnace repair, and a carpet cleaner for the ‘free’ winter house in Kalispell
$133 Medical – This was not my fault
$65 “Unknown” – Maybe these were necessaries. Maybe just poor accounting. I dunno’.  Always gonna’ be some of that, right? More than you’d think.

So toting this up: $2,720 per month, actual expenses. I’m OK with that.
Let’s dive deep and rip some of these numbers apart:

Electric Fuel: Why is it that people who drive Teslas feel like the world owes them free electricity? ‘Cuz that’s the way it is, baitch! Deal with it!  (LINK)
Lodging: RV parks were more than $35 a night average, more like 40 – 45. The most we ever paid was $100 for a tent site only, no electricity. But many nights we spent free mooching off of family/friends, or very cheap indeed at a simple campground. (Some of these cheap venues were better than the RV parks, I kid you not. Don’t miss Colorado National Monument just a stone’s throw south of Grand Junction). As long as a charge was not needed for the car an RV space per se was not needed. So if you’re anywhere near the Supercharger corridor (Fast and free!) or nearby someone to mooch off of, you can pitch the tent for $10 and save a bunch. (Oh wait, if you’re that close to someone to mooch off of you should just do that). The best bargain? Corps of Engineer parks, $7 -15 and beautifully maintained NEMA 14-50 outlets.  No worries about electrical fires in them (Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, Gila Hot Springs RV Park and Vacation Center).
Groceries: We even bought a tiny tub of ice cream once and sat under a tree and ate it.
Hotels: I thought we’d be staying in them periodically just because. But the tenting got to be so second nature that we only opted for a hotel if the weather was actually inclement at the time. Seriously, we got the tent setup down to a science – we’d roll into a spot, throw open all 6 pod bay doors and BamBamBam be all set up in 6 minutes. We literally had people come over and say “Amazing”. ‘Course these were, like, septuagenarians from the RV’s.
Entertainment: yeah, we went to plenty of museums and botanic gardens and aquariums and David Bowie exhibits, but about half of Entertainment was mp3’s, kindle books from Amazon, custom plates for the ride, and a convention registration.
Internet Access: I signed up for 15 GB per month of data so we could watch Breaking Bad when we had 4G but not wifi.
Restaurants: Meals were considerably more expensive than predicted ‘cuz I tip way good.
Lodging, Other: Someone offered us a free house to stay in during the Winter, when camping sounded like a bit of a drag, so we said “Sure” thinking it would put us way ahead on our lodging expense. But you know what? If you live in a house you start filling it up with ‘stuff’. (LINK) Thermostats. Spare keys. Membership cards to the local gym. Cork-board. Graph paper. Bungee cords. It turns out that the reason we didn’t buy a bunch of crap when we were actually driving around all the time was that the car was already full. Also grocery expense went up ‘cuz now we buy stuff we don’t eat. On the road you only buy stuff you think you’ll eat in the next 48 hours.

Based on our experience, if your primary goal was to do this on the cheap, I think you could:
$318  Groceries – Calories are cheap in America. & mooching
$0      Electric fuel for the car – Superchargers and mooching
$80    Incidentals – In case you lose your sunhat
$150  Overnight accommodations – $10 campgrounds and mooching off friends
$7.99 Entertainment – Load the kindle with freebies. & netflix
$10    Cooking fuel –The occasional bottle of propane
$50    Internet access – Minimal plan + wifi hotspots
$0      Restaurants – Just say no
$0      Gifts – Just say ‘sorry, bud’
$0      Car Washing – Mooch a hose and some Joy offa’ friends
$85    Daily Treats – Live it up!
$132 Sundries –
‘cuz who wants to live like a pauper
$0     Necessaries – Apparently not needed

$833 a month.  10 grand a year. Go for it. Not me, though. It’s that extra 2 grand a month that makes life worth living.

SIDE-BY-SIDE for the numbers-obsessed (Significant overs and unders in color)
actual  vs.   projected
$6.50  vs.  $300             Electric fuel for the car
$157   vs. $825 – 1085   Campgrounds
$318   vs. $500-800       Groceries
$275   vs. $180 – 480     Hotels
$0       vs. $60                Cooking fuel
$327   vs. $90 – 180       Entertainment
$198   vs. $170               Internet access
$757   vs. $360 – 800      Restaurants
$104   vs. $150 – $450    Gifts
$85     vs. $150 – 300      Daily Treats
$26     vs. $60 – 100       Car Washing
$132  vs. $130 – 330      Sundries
$0       vs. $85 – 160       Necessaries
$15     vs. N/A     Repairs
$9       vs. N/A     Toll Roads
$113   vs. N/A      Lodging, Other
$133  vs. N/A      Medical
$65     vs. N/A     “Unknown”

$2,720 vs. $3,585,  en toto en toto

A Tesla Christmas

In my first blog I said that our year spent homeless and living out of our car wasn’t really going to be a full year, but “more on that later”. Well, it’s later.  So here’s more.

The idea of driving around anywhere you want to go and living out of a tent is, let’s face it, pretty sweet. To a first approximation. A second approximation includes musings on urinating into a bucket and tenting in the snow. So no.

Thus, a short pause in our traveling lifestyle, a lacuna, a parenthetical aside in our wanderings. But not in our old home in Pocatello, ‘cuz that one’s on the market and full of renters.

Here we are in Kalispell, Montana. “Why not the southwest?”, you might reasonably ask. Tomorrow’s forecast is for 19 below F, so I might reasonably ask also. And the answer is “because we’d have to pay for the southwest”. The Kalispell is free. Laura’s mother has a house in Kalispell and her husband has a house in Berkeley. They are snowbirds and in past winters she’s rented her house out, sometimes with good results and sometimes bad. Like the time they found their couch and all the bedrooms on airbnb. Guy was making a killing. I don’t know why she shut him down, I’d’a just demanded a cut. Oh well, works for us, ‘cuz she decided she’d rather have us live there for free than take her chances with another random. So here we are, in a temporary sort of permanence. A ‘real house’, which is nice in a way that one doesn’t appreciate, really, if one hasn’t lived in a tent for 6 months. So try the tent sometime. It’ll make you more appreciative.

Not that we’ve stayed or plan to stay here ALL Winter. We’re Gypsies now. We arrived the last week of October, did the Halloween thing


and then left for 3 weeks, heading to California and eventually, unplanned, down to Tucson, along the way arriving at the Kingman supercharger with ONE mile left on the battery.  More on that later. 10 days after arriving back in Kalispell we went on a 2 week trip to Indiana. California and Tucson were quite nice, no trouble camping but we didn’t even try on the Indiana trip. It was hotels the whole way there and the whole way back.

Here is Hwy 1 along the California coast, and the view out the windshield along I-70 through Kansas:

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Which brings us to the point of the story. How do you drive from Kalispell to anywhere in an all-electric car without staying in an RV park overnight to charge? Which you’re not going to do in the Winter in a tent. For previous trips, including overnighting October 26th, we’d stayed at the Wagonhammer RV Park just north of Salmon Idaho, a nice 1/2 way point between the HighPowerWallCharger in Pocatello and the in-laws’ in Kalispell. We can make it from Wagonhammer to Kalispell, just barely, on one charge (“Just barely” means “Drive slowly and don’t run the heater”), but when we fired up the central screen on the morning of the 27th we saw, to our great delight, a new supercharger in MISSOULA! Thank you Elon! Thank you thank you thank you! Wagonhammer to Missoula to Kalispell is a no brainer easy drive with a supercharger! So we burned down the road with the heater on full power. So sweet. But a supercharger in Missoula doesn’t get you to Pocatello, that’s still a road too far. But that’s not the direction we were heading for the November 3rd trip, ‘cuz that one had us going to California. We charged in Missoula, spent the night in Spokane indoors at a friend’s house, then subsequent nights were also all indoors: motel, friend, friend, family, family, and then we were at Big Sur (on the California Coast)


and the tent was fun and comfy (California is so cush). We were able to tent from there on until we got back into Utah, then it was another motel. Oh, by the way, here’s a tip. Don’t take your car through the carwash when it’s going to be parked at 22 degrees overnight. You remember that video Tesla shows of the iced-over car handles extending and blowing the ice to smithereens like it’s nothin’? (See Youtube Video at 2:20) Yeah, it really does that. Impressive. Now you’ve got handles, but you aren’t going to pull the door open if the car is that iced up. What you can do is pull open the hatch and crawl up into the driver’s seat.

     Here’s Tucson.  Can you see the horned owl flying?  Low and on the left side:


By the time we’d done Tucson and were back in Pocatello Elon had gifted us yet another Montana supercharger, this one in Bozeman. With careful husbanding of battery power (slow and cold), it is possible to get to Bozeman from Poky with a single charge. We did it. Then Bozeman to Missoula, then back to Kalispell, all on superchargers, YAY! Superchargers are the bomb.

For the trip to Indiana – did I tell you about that? We finally found a good home for our two Siamese cats, and when someone tells you ‘I’ll take your adult cats’, you don’t wait for good weather, you just go. Here’s cat in car:


So it was off to Indiana in the middle of Winter. For the trip to Indiana, 10 days later (it’s now December 5th), Elon had gifted us once again, this time in Butte. It IS possible to get from Butte, MT to the Pocatello HPWC on a full charge, though it’s a bit of a squeaker. At least it can be done when it’s at least 40 degrees out. You remember Laura’s blog about winter driving and how extreme cold will jack with your range? No? Go read it. Anyway, it was 40 degrees and we made it. Only just. And then superchargers all the way (Pocatello to Nephi’s a bit of a squeaker, too. Drive slow. Be cold). She did mention in her blog that I’d forgotten the charge cord and we didn’t realize it until we really needed it east of Kansas City, right? Yeah, I thought she did. Ya’ ever have your blood run cold? If not, you could try re-creating the 12 seconds between realizing you’d left the charge cord in MT and telling your wife about it in Missouri. Bit of consternation composing the next sentence out of my mouth, let me tell you.

The trip to Indiana necessarily involved taking the southern route, down to I-70 then east, onna’ counta’ having to pick up the cats from where we’d warehoused them in Poky. But the trip back was wide open and in fact the northern route, I-90, made more sense once we’d dropped by to see my elderly mother in Iowa. Except that the superchargers peter out at Rapid City. That’s when we put a supercharger in Sheridan WY on our Christmas wish list. Every morning we’d check the NAV system. Rapid City to Sheridan would be a close call, but we’ve gotten used to those. Then Sheridan to Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, and Kalispell. Easy. Sheridan would really open up I-90, practically coast to coast. Only no Sheridan. So back along I-70 and up to Poky. Along the way we got to talking, where else would there be a supercharger for our wish list? That question got pretty definitively answered driving up I-15 from Pocatello to Butte at 17 degrees. ‘Member how I said going the other way was a squeaker at 40 degrees? B to P is a little downhill – 876 feet to be exact. This makes a real difference when you’re squeakin’. So P to B may not be possible at all at 40, being uphill. Haven’t tried it. Have only tried it at 17 and that’s a no. So having topped up in Idaho Falls at an interminably slow J1772 connector (Which was free, so we’ve got that going for us, I guess) we arrived in Butte with 6 miles on the battery and a supercharger in Dillon on our wish list. Dillon is only 57 miles south of Butte, 1/2 as far apart as most other supercharger distances along the interstates in flyover country. Not without precedent, though – The Green River supercharger to the one in Moab is 52 miles (We have got to spend more time in Moab and environs this Spring). There’s one planned for Idaho Falls, 142 miles south of Dillon, and that’s a bit farther than average, but do-able on a full charge even considering the route crosses the continental divide twice. And often enough the temps along there are sub zero so that’d make it sporty in the Winter. So Dillon, because there’s not much else ‘tween the two. It’s a whole lot of Big Sky Country if you don’t count Lima, Spencer, or Humphery. And you wouldn’t. I mean, Humphrey’s for sale, for gawd’s sake, all of it. Has been for years. Lima’s kind of cute, with its one somewhat scraggly motel with the signs in the bathrooms that say, “Hunters: PLEASE don’t clean your rifles with the bath towels!”

2015-01-01 14_55_59-Lima, Mt 59739 - Google Maps

So Dillon got moved to the top of our wish list.

On Dec 23rd, @TeslaLiving tweeted out a New Supercharger in LIMA!!! We were dancing around for joy! We pulled up the map for ourselves and it wasn’t there. Lima, Ohio had one. What a lump of coal.

Maybe next year.

New Yawk, 2nd Part of Part 2

Previously on New Yawk: Having left the Tesla in New Jersey and the bike locks in the Tesla, we finally arrive at Central Park after wheeling the bikes 20 blocks from Penn Station.  Wearing helmets, but not riding the bikes.  (We are special.  No one seems to notice).

 OMG, there it is! Central Park! I can barely see it half a block away through the crush of people. We get to the corner and we can see trees and open spaces and a horse drawn buggy and hardly any people over there. What a relief! We cross the street and tuck our bikes into our crotches and pedal past the barrier that proclaims, “No Cars Anywhere in Central Park Today”. The collective soul-destroying stresses of the megacity’s 35,000 people per square mile drop behind us, replaced by mature trees, empty roads, and – is that… is it really? Yes! – boulders of bedrock, like we have all over our mountains back home in the West! This made me feel ever so much better.

We biked all down the one road, across, then all up the other. It’s a really big park. And quite beautiful and relaxing. But where was everyone? We saw an occasional jogger, biker, or dog walker, but really very few when you consider what a grand and serene resource this is in the middle of such a densely populated dearthity of serenitiness. It was surreal in a way, but I tried not to think about it much.The obvious explanation – that the city dwellers were as uncomfortable in the lonely open space of C-Park as I was in the surrounding press of humanity – just made me sad.

But we bikes around, stopping at every red light and waiting for it to turn green. We had some lovely arguments the first few lights about how stupid that was since the cars were forbidden that day. Her argument was that we might get a ticket. Mine was that the police in NYC could not possibly care about us running lights on our bikes on a day that the traffic lights were unnecessary anyway ‘cuz of the lack of cars and the cops were only barely holding their own against the gangs of murdering drug dealers and other assorted ‘real criminals’, of which there is no shortage in NYC. A war zone, you know. Bigger fish to fry and all that. I mean, when we were undergraduates at Uni of Cali in Davis, the bicycle capital of the world, everyone knew that the bike cops enforced the stop signs, but that’s because it was a ‘thing’. In NY? Ridiculous. As was arguing about it. As was leaving her in my dust at the next red light. So we patiently waited for the lights to cycle to green so as to stop the non existent cross traffic before peddling on. Later we saw a cop writing another bicyclist a ticket, we know not what for but there was no blood so it was probably for some minor traffic infraction. The cop was small and insignificant, and looked the type that wouldn’t last a day on the mean streets of New York, so I’m not surprised that he chose to spend his time in the park.

Noon! Time for lunch at the iconic Russian Tea House. They were all very nice, which I suppose is because, from the looks of their clientele, they get 80% of their business serving lookyloo tourists as opposed to underworld Soviets. We split a lunch and had a tea service with it, paying a king’s ransom for it. Great tea. Great service. Great atmosphere. The Russians sweeten their tea with sour cherries. They are a hard people, indeed. Our server claimed his name was Boris. Maybe so. He looked like a Boris. He was certainly ten times more sophisticated than we are or will ever be.

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After that we found a one way street with a bike lane and braved it to the riverside park. It wasn’t bad at all! In fact, by the time we got there we were feeling like natives. We were even using some of the regional sign language that we’d seen bicyclists and pedestrians using to communicate with drivers. The NY sign that says “Thanks for letting me cut in” is to hold your hand up and backwards towards the driver with your middle finger extended. The way the driver says “Anytime” is to give a long, friendly honk. But don’t make eye contact! Apparently that makes them mad.

We biked for blocks and blocks along the water. They’ve got some really interesting stuff along there. We went all the way down to the 9-11 memorial where we were told to leave after I leaned my bike against one of the trees. Apparently each tree is symbolic of something or other and using it as a bike prop is indecorous.

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Back up the riverside park, another one way street, and a most confusing session trying to figure out where and when the correct train was. Here’s a tip: Ask a fellow traveler for advice, NOT the person at the information desk whose job it is to answer questions. They are overburdened with other responsibilities and have no time for your foolishness.

I’m working up a FAQ. Post your questions in the comments.

New Yawk, Part Two

Well, that was embarrassing. My wife felt like she had to write a blog for me ‘cuz I haven’t posted in so long. And worst of all she got positive feedback! So I’d better post a lot more frequently or she’s going to make me famous. If only she’d stick to painting pictures of children with big eyes.

So here is Part 2 of New Yawk -Our Adventures on The Island of Manhattan.

Previously on The Tesla & The Tent: We fear taking the expensive car into New York and leave it in Cheesequake *snort* State Park in NJ, bicycling to the train station where we realize that I’ve forgotten the bike locks, so we take the bikes on the train to NY Penn Station. We now join our brave travelers….

Penn Station was filled with a crush of people, none of them exhibiting the least amount of empathy for a couple of confused and frightened tourists toting folding bicycles. High stress! We had to get out of there and into the open! but first, a restroom. There is a large crowd of men 4 deep in a crescent around the entrance to the mens’ room. Women flow in and out of the other one. I join the crescent and wait. And wait. I can see nothing that would prevent the front row simply walking in, but I assume they must know more than I do. So I wait, heart heavy and bladder full. The longer I wait the more it seems to me that the wait must be over soon. 15 minutes later a somewhat dejected looking janitor-type comes out, speaks briefly to someone I must assume was The King of full-bladdered men, slowly shaking his head. The janitor goes back into the restroom, The King and everyone who was witness to the exchange moves away, the rest of the crowd shuffle forward and form a new, smaller crescent. I decide to find a public restroom out in the city.

(I realize I missed a real opportunity to hang around and see how a new king would be chosen)

As quickly and unobtrusively as possible we made our way to an escalator that we hoped would take us out for our first view of the streets of New York! Alas! It took us to another place of crushing crowds of people, none of whom exhibited the least amount of empathy for a couple of confused and frightened tourists. But we were, at last, on the streets of New York.

We unfolded our bicycles and looked around. I was barely able to tell the difference between the sidewalks and the streets. Normally I think of the sidewalk as the place near the cars where you don’t feel like you’re going to be run over. Now I found myself thinking of the road as the place near the cars where I didn’t feel like I was going to be run over by the mob on the sidewalk. We got going, and it did indeed feel safer to be moving with the crowd than just standing still waiting to be overwhelmed by it. We were wearing our bike helmets, though not actually riding the bikes. The anxiety of moving through the city’s crowds, bad as it was, seemed better than bicycling on the road, which looked positively sociopathic compared to the sidewalk’s relative safety of apparent lawlessness. I only wished I could hold Laura’s hand. No one else was holding anyone’s hand, and I worried a bit about calling attention to ourselves. Of course, no one else was wearing a helmet while wheeling an obvious commuter bike down the sidewalk, either, so in retrospect I think I worried a bit overmuch about fitting in. We talked about the situation and how to improve our chances of surviving and decided to make a beeline to Central Park and hope it had more of a Montana-esque environment that would provide a little comfort to our increasingly rattled nerves. 20 blocks away. That’s a long way under the circumstances, so I I kept my eyes out for sturdy experienced NYC bicyclists, hoping to learn by observation ‘how it was done’, and thus be able to confidently hop on and pedal quickly away from this maddening press of humanity and on to the park. There were far fewer than I’d thought there’d be, but did see enough to develop a theory of survival, “Just pedal faster than the cars”. This didn’t look as hard as it might seem, since the cars barely moved faster than the pedestrians, so I suggested to Laura that we try it. “You go ahead, wait at the end of the block and tell me how it went”.

A break in traffic presented by a red light allowed me to hop off the sidewalk and pedal furiously and fearfully to the end of the block, where I hopped back on and looked back the way I’d come, gleefully expecting to see Laura’s proud and smiling face. Horrors! She was nowhere to be seen!

I was lost and alone!

However, after a few seconds she showed up, unimpressed. I decided I’d table the idea of actually using the bikes and we kept walking, my bladder becoming louder and louder. I parked the bikes and left the sweetie to watch them outside a theater entrance while I went inside to relieve myself. Asking at the window if I could use the restroom, I was informed that this was allowed only if I bought a ticket. And waited until the doors opened at 5 PM. Tickets to the restroom were $60 and I didn’t think I could wait until 5 PM in any case, so she told me to try ‘downstairs in the Rockefeller Plaza’, door around to the left after I went out.

Rather a non descript door, opening onto a stairwell. Down I went to another world, a world of subterranean madness unsurpassed in my life, as long as you don’t count the streetlevel world of madness I had just left. I asked someone who looked like they might know and was told “Across the intersection! Down a ways and to the right!” he said, pointing down a hallway that was clearly not an intersection. I asked about that and was told, “The intersection is there!!”, pointing upward and to a wall.

I followed the directions as best I could, stopping to ask again when I felt that I must be at least a little closer than I had been. The answer I got must have involved some kind of New York ‘in’ joke because she laughed heartily the entire time. I was still unclear as to how to get to the restroom, except that at some point there was a south turn after a Starbucks and follow the signs. So I headed down the direction of the point and started asking people about where’s the Starbucks. This got less laughter and did, eventually, lead me to a Starbucks, whence I turned south and followed the signs. These led me to the most enormous men’s restroom I can imagine conceiving of. It was like something out of a Douglas Adams novel. I hiked past 50 hand blowers (notice I didn’t say hand dryers), then past 50 sinks, and finally got to the urinals. I could see in the fog of the distance that yonder lay stalls.

I really hope that I have adequately conveyed the vastness of the labyrinth beneath the streets.  I believe that the phrase ‘Rockefeller Plaza’ is simply what the locals call the entire first lower level of the city.  It really went on and on.

When I got back to Laura she said, “You’ve been gone forty minutes.”

To which I replied, “I know. I’ve kind of got to pee again.”.

Next time: Part 2 of Part two of New Yawk, in which I remember I have a camera.

Winter EV Driving – Guest post #2


Hi folks this is Laura again. I keep telling Walter he ought to write in his blog about our recent winter driving adventures but he never gets around to it. But there is stuff you all really need to know. Winter EV driving is harder than you think. Take today’s trip: St. Louis to Fairfield is about 250 miles and should be doable on one full up battery but we both already knew it wouldn’t be. So we stopped at a state park about half way along for a top up charge in an empty campground. Nav system said we had about 100 miles to go so we thought we would stay there an hour and make sure we had at least 120 miles on the battery. Usually I like to exercise or at least go for a walk while the car charges but it was so cold and windy that all we wanted to do was sit on our heated seats. Walter did a bit of telephoning and I felt he was taking too long and it was past time to get going. So we got 138 miles on that battery. 27 degrees and with a fierce headwind. We drafted on the big rigs pretty much the whole way and when we got to Fairfield there were only 15 miles left. We left the car charging at the Kum and Go and nearly froze to death on the walk over to the motel. Seriously windy.

Take home message: in some cold and windy conditions you need 40 percent more energy on your battery than the same trip would take in the summer. Not really an issue when driving on the supercharger highway but it does add complexity when you are far from superchargers. You have to draft on the trucks or go slow or both. If it is raining you can’t draft because of the spray. (other drafting rules: no cruise control. Concentrate! You don’t have to be super close. The energy screen will help show the advantage). And here is another problem: we have been using RV parks as our plan B system of where to charge if plan A does not work out. But many RV parks in northern places are closed for the winter, so you can’t necessarily count on them. And camping in winter is not so much fun.

Another winter challenge is traction. We got winter snow tires and the car handles pretty good in snow We did have a few spooky moments on black ice where the highway is bare and wet and then you go around a curve where the road was in shade not sunshine and the surface looks exactly the same but it is glaze ice not water on the road. That’ll take away your confidence in a hurry. Also we are finding that full regenerative braking can be a problem on glaze ice. There is a setting you can change to reduce regen to half strength and sometimes you gotta use it. Winter snow tires (Michelin Xice 3) make the car a little less perfect when driving on bare pavement. Takes away some of the fun of showing off.

We are loving the Tesla superchargers. There are several in Montana which is so excellent but we could use a few more. One in Sheridan WY would be a big help. likewise Kansas City. We were able to get all the way from our home base in Kalispell MT to the east side of Kansas City on power from the superchargers (plus a range charge at our second home base in Pocatello, ID, where we have our HPWC (High Power Wall Charger). But then we showed up at Tom’s place in Blue Springs to use his welding outlet to charge up and discovered that we had left our charge cable back home in the garage in Kalispell. Oh what a mistaka’ to maka’! Not all was lost because we still had the J17 adapter in the glove box so we were able limp on in to St Louis and the wonderful guys at the Tesla service center there set us up with a loaner charge cord. I wonder if the lingering shame from this episode has anything to do with why Walter won’t write his own blog.

Oh yes I nearly forgot there is also some question in cold weather about do you charge up at night just after arriving while the battery is warm or in the morning before you get on the road (I am talking about superchargers here). If you charge in the morning it will take a lot longer than usual because it takes a while to just warm up the battery before it starts to charge but if you fill up the battery the night before you will not have any regen for a while the next day, not until the battery warms up. Often it makes sense to charge most of the way up at night and then top up in the morning before you get going.