On the Road (Finally)

This is the start of our anticipated 12 month long far ranging road trip in an all-electric Tesla Model S sedan.   Our plan was to load the car up with everything we’d need to be “homeless and living out of our car”, and just hit the road and go wherever we wanted. A year long vacation for us, and for you a demonstration that road trips on electric only power were not only feasible, but fun and easy! So we’re off! come join us via this blog, and comment below.

Only it’s not a full 12 months. More on that later. And it’s not going to be ‘wherever we want and doing whatever we want’. More on that later. And we’re not really homeless, at least not yet. At least not houseless. More on that later. But it is going to be a vacation, for the most part, and it will be a lot of fun, and by the end of it we’ll all have a feel for just how fun and easy all electric road trips are. We’ll have more of a feel for it than you, to be sure but you’ll have a pretty good idea, too.

I suppose the logical place to start would be the lead-up to all this. How did we get the idea to take a year off and cruise electric? What are the details of the equipment, packing it all in, our itinerary, our plans for charging, for entertaining ourselves, for cooking, for exercise and otherwise staying healthy? What’s our budget? How did we get free of our home and work responsibilities? Who the hell are we, anyway? What the hell is a Tesla?

I’ll get to all that. In a later blog. Right now, we’re on the road! But I suppose I’d better just mention real quick that it’s just two of us, Myself, Walter Rowntree, and my beautiful and uber-tolerant wife of 30 + years, Laura Reynolds.

 

Sunday April 27th: Hit the road at 1:30 PM – YAY! Double yay ‘cuz we’d planned on getting off by 9 AM. Before that we’d planned on Friday morning. Before that it was Wednesday we were going start our trip. That’s what I’d been telling everyone for 3 weeks, “‘We’ll be leaving the 23rd of April!”   Said with confidence, but I say everything with confidence so as to appear committed.

But on the road we were, with Pocatello, Idaho in our rearview mirror (Not that it was actually visible, what with all the gear piled up) and a goal of arriving at the South rim of the Grand Canyon at the end of the second day. We’d packed the car with equipment for not only car camping at spots with electricity (RV parks with their tasty 50 amp outlets, guaranteed to leave Joulie (Did I mention we’ve named our car Joulie? (the name Joules was already taken by a prolific poster on the Tesla Owners Forum. Perhaps the name Joulie is also taken, but not prominently)) – a 12 x 12 tent with room to stand fully upright, an electric skillet, ice chest, 1500 watt space heater, foam mattress, cots, folding chairs, kitchen table, lights, books, spices, four suitcases, 2 folding bikes with baskets, and more), but also with equipment for everything from day hikes to week long backpacking expeditions (2 person tent, propane/butane camp stove, air mattresses, LED lantern, lightweight aluminum cookware, sunscreen, bear spray, first aid kit, and two issues of The New Yorker magazine).

The Supercharger Network is not yet built out enough to encompass Pocatello or Salt Lake City, so the first leg of our trip involved ‘planning’ to avoid range issues, something the ICE (Internal combustion engine) drivers don’t usually need to worry about, although any ICE driver who has driven over the Lolo pass (From Idaho to Montana, a beautiful route and highly recommended) knows what range anxiety is – there’s a sign on Hwy 12, the Lewis and Clark Hwy (and remember the trouble they got in when they traveled that path), that says “Next gas, 86 miles”. That’ll make you check your gauge and turn around if there’s any doubt. Anyway, we had originally planned to drive at least to Price, UT the first day, 289 miles, which meant we needed to stop along the way and pick up 85 miles (25 to get there, and an extra 60 for reserve/wiggle room) – doesn’t sound too hard. Our plan was to stop and charge while we had lunch, maybe get a little exercise or some yoga in, maybe a brief snooze on a lawn someplace or do a little window shopping, anything that might pass the time pleasantly while we pushed a few miles into the pack. But the whole idea of having lunch while we charged was a little ridiculous considering we didn’t even leave the house until well after the usual midday mealtime. We felt busy and in a hurry. So we hadn’t had lunch. Ug. Stopping at Malad, 62 miles down the road, for a diet coke led to the delightful discovery of a BBQ stand (LINK). And there was our first failure, stopping for lunch w/o any charging happening, and unhealthy food choices. but OH SO GOOD. yum.

We had read a recent article in our local paper about a few new fast-charge stations in Salt Lake City (I assumed ChAdeMO (LINK) so not much help there. Has Tesla started shipping the promised ChAdeMO adaptors yet?), and the plugshare app said there was a J1772 along w/ the new fast charge stations at the SLC municipal library, so we rolled in there at 4:30, hungry and tired, but with more charge still in the battery than would be expected since we’d been allowed to draft on I-15 for 50 miles behind a Mr. C.R. England.

Image

The underground parking garage at the library did indeed have a single J1772 station, working, unoccupied, and free with paid parking. Just for fun we looked for and found the 2 ChAdeMO’s on the surface street, one of them ICE’d by a van, the other with an ‘out of order’ sign on it. At that moment a man in an FBI jacket came out of the library, so I 😉 asked him to wait for the offending driver and arrest him. I had to explain to him the reason why, after which he climbed into the van and drove off, looking not at all contrite. We walked on to a Walgreen’s for the forgotten tiny bottle of Ibuprofen and across the street to the Smith’s and bought snacks and a 6-pak of eggs and a tiny bottle of olive oil (very busy the last 4 days, no time to shop for meal supplies, so we only packed what we already had in our pantry – some good and necessary stuff, but hardly a complete kitchen for car camping). Then dinner at a Mongolian BBQ – another fail, as we’d planned to prepare virtually all our meals in order to stay on budget. Then back on the road after having added 60 miles, not enough to get us to Price, UT, but our resolve was rapidly fading and by that time we’d accepted that we weren’t getting as far as originally planned.

Aside: SLC metro library parking garage is underground. The attendant didn’t know the location of the charge plug (worrisome), but it was right there in sight of her kiosk, not 40 yards away. (There’s not much to see from the exit kiosk except a ramp heading up, a few bodacious concrete columns each with a fire extinguisher, and some warning signs, so I was a little surprised she hadn’t noticed the only interesting thing down there. Oh well, she learned something that day, so there’s karma for that). When we plugged the J1772 into the car it was nicely charging at 30 amps/240 volts. We went up two flights of stairs, past the homeless couple – she animatedly explaining the intricacies of a bible passage, he listening. Or not. Couldn’t tell. We got 3 blocks into our walk to the Walgreens when I decided to check the Tesla app on the thmartphone to confirm that we were still nicely charging. Unnecessary perhaps, but we’ve only had the car a few weeks so I still get a charge out of – oops, sorry about that – a ‘kick’ out of the charging process. And she was … OMG! Not charging! so back we went, past the still biblically engrossed homeless and down 2 flights to the charge station. Where all was well. Hmmm. Cell phone had no signal, so it’s a good bet that neither did the car. Turns out the beta app, if left running in the background, reports the last known values. Back past the bible study, and on to our errands. When done with dinner and ready to roll, there was no longer a couple on the stairs, but we did have to step around vomit. I’m betting he wasn’t listening too carefully, or was, but wasn’t absorbing much of the gospel’s message. We paid $9 for the time we were parked (and I counted that in the budget as money paid for electricity for the car, ‘cuz really we wouldn’t have stopped there if it weren’t for the plug. $9 for 60 miles of charge). When we paid at the exit station, the attendant told us there’d been a traffic jam, 6 cars backed up, when a guy in a Lamborghini had stopped in the exit lane and gotten out to look at the Tesla.

We got another 30 miles down I-15, to Lehi, and it was getting dark and who wants to set up a tent in an RV park in the dark? But “there’s a Super 8!”. Mercifully for the budget it was undergoing some major remodeling and had construction trash in all the hallways , so it was only $50 a night. Motels are about the bottom of the barrel for our charging needs (Sometimes the high end hotels will have a J1772 for guests’ use, but these are most definitely not in the budget) and casing the joint showed that the best charging rate we could hope for was to open the electrical shut-off box for one of the big air conditioning heat exchangers behind the building and I could tap directly into the 240 volt / 30 amp connection. I am perfectly capable of this and comfortable with the mechanics of it, but I do recognize that it would result in a modified circuit that was obviously not up to code even to the most cursory examination by the most clueless of passersby. Also Laura is very much against this sort of thing and it is not without its legal liabilities, so I have vowed that I would reserve any unscrewing of breaker boxes and other sources of electricity for absolute emergencies. We asked for a first floor room, parked immediately outside, and ran the charge cable through a window. Oh, it was raining, did I mention it was raining?

            Did you know that the outlets that motels plug those window-mount heating/AC units into are 240V? They’re only 20 amp outlets, but 240 is waaay better than 120. I have along a whole kit full of adapters (LINKREAD AND FOLLOW THE WARNINGS!!!) for pretty much any outlet we are likely or unlikely to run into on our travels (More on that later), the idea being that whatever outlet we are offered by friend, family, lonely farmsteader, or middle-of-the-night ‘opportunity’, I can simply grab the right adapter and plug in. But rather than wire together a full adapter for every possible opportunity, I just prepared the top-tier plugs, but brought along the male plug ends for a few others. The disappointing wattage available from motel AC units led me to believe that we wouldn’t ever need to use these, so why prepare a full adapter?   I took apart one of my other adapters and wired the female 50 amp side to the male motel AC plug I had rattling around the bottom of the kit and plugged it in.Image

Charge rate = 10 miles per hour. Window = slightly open. Rain = hardly any coming into the room. But a bit chilly and, obviously, no heater available. We didn’t have a full charge when we pulled out the next day but we sure had enough to get to the GREEN RIVER SUPERCHARGER. Yay!

Next step: Driving the Supercharger Highway


 

HELP! – I need your feedback. For future blog topics, do you want to hear mostly about the car and its charging/range performance, or about the people we meet, or our travel details, or should I just wax on about whatever philosophy enters my mind? Or all of the above?

Summary:

  1. Get everything done before leaving:     FAIL
  2. Depart on the scheduled day:               FAIL
  3. Depart at the scheduled time:               FAIL
  4. Avoid eating at restaurants:                  FAIL
  5. Get some exercise in:                           FAIL
  6. Do some Yoga:                                     FAIL
  7. Don’t be in a hurryS:                            FAIL
  8. Travel the planned # of miles:              FAIL
  9. Overnight in the tent vs. motels:           FAIL
  10. Blog every day:                                    FAIL
  11. Stay on budget:                                   EPIC FAIL (1 day travel, 4 days budget)
  1.  Get outa’ Dodge (finally): WIN
  2. Avoid range anxiety:         WIN
  3. Have fun:                          WIN
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17 thoughts on “On the Road (Finally)

  1. Rant on my friend ….. All Tesla owners will sit on the edge of their chairs reading your exploits. Supercharger Hwy ahoy!!!

  2. I perdicks difficulty in pitching your tent in the parking lots of motels.

    A running total of budget overruns? Or is that too cruel?

    1 vote for “all of the above”.

  3. I love it Walter, very interesting account. I didn’t do so well in my third quarter of physics so I am still a little shaky on the different types of adapters you use for different plugs etc for charging her back up and which is faster etc but I am thinking that after a year of reading your blogs I will be maybe at least understand some of these concepts better! I love the thorough accounts with the homeless people doing their bible studys and the Lamberginni causing a traffic jam to see your Tesla charging. Rant on my friend and have a great time on your trip. By the way, we just installed 24 solar panels on the roof of our house and they are generating about 11.000 Kwatts of sunergy for our home every day! (I think) It is so exciting. Can’t wait to read the next chapter of your blog! Hugs Sara

  4. You should have stopped and thought about what resources you might have used in Lehi… Like my house… In Lehi… 😉 mighta made up for the eating out!

    I’m glad you are documenting your adventures. I will enjoy reading this blog. Have a safe and fun journey!

  5. Ok so I’m in Carlsbad NM working on natural gas compressor stations. At the hotel driving away watching Jacob acting like a little kid with a dollar in his hand running to the soda machine and I realize he just ran past a car plugged in. yes plugged in and it was a Tesla. So we’re drooling over this thing and this guy comes and looked like he was going to yell at us to get away from his car, but he gave us the grand tour. He was very knowledgeable in EV and energy. It was a complete pleasure speaking with him. Walter is welcome to come by and tap straight in to my breaker box and get some home cooking and maybe crash. Or use the charger station up the street. Iraan tx 79744

  6. Pingback: Day 5 • Kansas City, MO to Lone Tree, CO. | Tesla Road Trip #2

  7. I would love to try this! Although instead of taking a roadtrip, I’d be continuing my education with living costs cheaper than a dorm (really, I don’t have a Tesla but leasing one would be cheaper than the lease on my campus apartment.) On a different note, do you type in Dvorak keyboard layout? There was a typo, “Don’t be in a hurryS:” that resembles a common mistake I make when typing in Dvorak. Hope all is well!

    • Hi Tommy – keep an eye out for a future post about our planned budget and our real life budget. I’ll include lots of numbers (enough to be not only useful, but boring, too). That’s interesting about the Dvorak keyboard tyo. I learned and used it as an undergraduate in college, but then didn’t keyboard for about 10 years and just used the qwerty when I started again.

  8. Hi Walter.
    Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us. As a Tesla enthusiast who is patiently waiting for a Model 3, all that I am learning through blogs like yours as well as podcasts and websites, will greatly help me when the time comes to configure my car with the appropriate options.
    I heard your phone-in message on this week’s “Ride The Lightening” podcast. I was very interested to hear what you had to say when Ryan introduced you. I want to make sure that I clearly understood what you said. I believe you stated that, as a result of your arranged tax deductions throughout the year, you were owed a tax refund. Even though you received a refund, you were still able to get the $7500 tax credit because you bought the electric car.
    So does that mean that you received a refund check in the amount of $7500, plus the amount of refund due to you ?
    The reason I am concerned about this is because if it is that the $7500 tax credit is only benificial if my tax liability for the year is more than that amount, then I will have to make huge adjustments to my income deductions.
    Given the fact that you have experienced this first hand, your answer will benefit me greatly. Whatever information and clarification you can give me will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

    Doug

    • Yes, completely disregard the amount you have prepaid for your tax liability, whether it is through payroll deductions or estimated tax payments. As long as the tax liability itself is above 7500, then you will get full benefit, including a higher refund check. You would have to ask a tax preparer to determine if any unused tax credit carries over to the next year if it is not fully used, but I suspect it does. Certainly my unused tax credit for solar panel installation did. By the way, I have found the best way to produce tax liability is to sell a few shares of Tesla stock 😉 that should put you over the limit. Or if you were going to contribute to an IRA, consider having it be a Roth IRA instead. Or converting some of your regular IRA to Roth IRAs to increase your tax liability.

  9. Hi, Walter. I just heard about your blog via your call to “Ride the Lightening,” which I listened to today. So far I’ve only read this first post from your trip so far but you are HI-larious and apparently very clever, too. I can’t wait to catch up and “binge” on all the rest of your blog posts about your trip (which presumably is long over). I know I’m too late to answer your question, but I would like to hear about all those topics, just as you have done in this first post. This reading will keep me happy as I await delivery of my new Model S coming at the end of this month. Thanks and keep up the good work!

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