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.