Day 7

October 26, 2013
428 Miles
Charging stops:

  1. Iraan Energy House, Iraan, TX – GE WattStation 100 Amp
  2. Kimble County Airport, Junction, TX – NEMA 14/50
  3. San Marcos, TX – Tesla Supercharger

Day 7

As I planned out the next day of driving, I planned on driving to a charging station in Iraan, TX, and then on to an RV park in Kerrville, TX. I couldn’t understand why there would be a charging station, as the PlugShare.com site noted “attached to an abandon building”. I tried looking on Google Maps street view and sure enough, there it was. Now the only question was, did it actually work? Well, I hoped so. And with that hope, I set off on day 7 of my journey.

To this point the car had performed pretty much flawlessly. There was a minor glitch in the GPS system on the West Coast. With about 70 miles to my destination, the GPS system wasn’t subtracting the miles I was driving from my remaining miles. I just got closer and closer to the highway turnoff and the miles to the turn just stayed the same and the estimated time of arrival kept creeping forward. It all resolved itself once I got to the highway exit and made the turn. In fact, the voice system still came on and told me “In two miles, take the exit right…” even though the map said I had 70 miles to go. Strange. It never happened again.

I had been worried about spending that much time sitting in a car. I thought for sure I would develop some sort of back pain, leg cramps, or something. Nope. I must say, this is the smoothest, most comfortable car I have ever driven.

As I pulled into the  town of Iraan, TX, I quickly spotted the charging station attached to the Iraan Energy House. What that was I wasn’t quite sure, but there was a charging station and upon plugging it in, IT WORKED! Not only did it work, it provided nearly 70 Amps of continuous power! That’s almost as much as Tesla’s own home charging unit, which can provide up to 80 Amps of continuous power if the car to which it’s connected has twin chargers. Fortunately mine does.

Charging at the Iraan Energy House

Charging at the Iraan Energy House

As I stretched my legs and took a few photos, a man pulled up in a pickup truck and began asking me questions about the car. I figured he was just a passer by who was curious about the car. After all, having a stranger approach me about the car was becoming fairly commonplace. He asked me all about the car, and was very excited to see one at the station and hear about my cross country trip. His name was Dana Beck and he told me he knew the person who installed the station. Dana said “I have to call Ira! Even if he’s in bed, I’ll drag his butt over here to see this!” He asked how long I would be charging, and I told him it would be at least three hours. Dana said, “Well, if you’re hungry and want some lunch, my wife runs a barbecue restaurant just down the street.” “Oh?”, I replied.  He leaned in and (in a classic bit of Texas stereotype) said “Best damn barbecue in Texas.” Classic. He was so nice, he even offered to drive me over to the restaurant. So, I grabbed my jacket and hopped in his truck.

The restaurant is the Mesquite Wood Bar B Q run by his wife, Nancy, and was only two or three blocks down the road. He pulled up and yelled for Nancy to come out and meet me. He told his wife I was charging my car at the Energy House and asked if she had anything ready for lunch. It was only about 10 AM and all she had was brisket. She asked if I wanted a brisket sandwich and naturally I said that sounded great. Dana took off in the truck to go find Ira while Nancy took my order for how I wanted my brisket sandwich. As she made it, I told her a bit of my story. Nancy was so enthralled with it, she said “I’m gonna give you this sandwich on the house.” Wow. As I sat eating my sandwich, several bikers pulled up for lunch. Apparently they came out of their way on their road trip because they heard about this barbecue place. Hmm, I was beginning to think I had randomly stumbled on a really good food joint. Nancy told me she had been in business for over a decade, so she said she must be doing something right. The sandwich was great, as was the sweet tea. If you ever find yourself in southwest Texas, be sure to stop in for some barbecue here!

Mesquite Wood Bar B Q

Mesquite Wood Bar B Q

I was nearly done with my sandwich when a man and woman came right up to me with big smiles and greeted me. Apparently, Dana wasn’t kidding. He had gone and found the owner of the station, who had dropped what he was doing and came right over to the restaurant (after taking some pictures of my car charging up at his station). They were Ira Yates and his wife, Roxanne. Ira was beside himself to see a Tesla Model S plugged in to his station in Iraan. He primarily lives in Austin, TX, but has a place out in Iraan as well, and drives his Tesla Roadster between the two. He put the charging station in to recharge his Roadster… and to create a bit of mystery and myth in the town. 😉 He too was ecstatic that I was driving across the country in my electric car, and that I had stopped to charge at his station. He told me of some other charging spots along the way to Austin, and even offered to have me stay at their place in Austin that night! I continue to be astounded at the generosity of fellow Tesla owners. I thanked him, but declined as I already had a hotel reservation in Universal City, near San Antonio. We exchanged contact information, took some photos together, and headed our separate ways.

As I left Iraan and headed to San Antonio, I realized that with a bit more juice I could make it to the Supercharger in San Marcos, TX, between San Antonio and Austin. I gave Ira a call and asked him for directions to a charging spots his friend, Bill Nieman, installed at his airport hanger in Junction, TX. With detailed directions from Ira, I reprogrammed the GPS and found the NEMA 14/50 outlet. After a couple of hours, and some calls to friends and family, I had enough juice to get me to the San Marcos Supercharger and was on my way.

Charging up in Junction, TX - Thanks Bill and Ira!!!

Charging up in Junction, TX – Thanks Bill and Ira!!!

The GPS had me taking I-10 all the way down to the Charles W Anderson Loop (Route 1604), over to I-35, then up to San Marcos. This is where the web browser came in very handy. I was able to pull up Google Maps and try various routes to San Marcos and plot out the shortest route that would ensure I made it there. My plan was to charge up at the San Marcos Supercharger, drive 35 miles to the hotel in Universal City with a full charge. That way I would be able to go directly to the Supercharger in Waco, TX the next morning without having to stop at the San Marcos Supercharger. That would save me a charging stop and I would be able to get into my next stop, Shreveport, LA, at a decent hour. I ended up having two maps up on the center console for a couple of hours as I navigated my way through the local towns of central Texas. I expected to lose a good bit of time taking this route due to slower speeds, but that turned out to be much less of an issue than I thought. The speed limit of the back roads was often 60 mph, except close to the few towns I went through. All in all, I think it actually saved me time since it was a much shorter route.

I arrived at the San Marcos Supercharger, which is at the San Marcos Premium Outlets, around 8 PM. The outlet mall was still open, and I had a craving for ice cream, so I hit the Cold Stone Creamery for two scoops, which hit the spot. I cruised around the mall and ended up buying a very nice, but reasonably priced watch at the Watch Station – my one splurge purchase to commemorate the trip.

 

I was close to empty when I arrived at the outlet mall, so it took about an hour and a half to fully charge up, but the air was warm and perfect for strolling around the outdoor mall to stretch my legs. Once charged, I headed down to the hotel in Universal City, and watched what will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most bizarre endings to a World Series baseball game ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpT7-9evb1Y

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Day 6

Friday, October 25, 2013
234 mi
Charging stops:

  1. City Hall, Balmorhea, TX

Day 6

After a good night’s sleep I was feeling a bit better, and with the car fully charged, I headed on into Texas. It was another beautiful, warm, sunny day for a drive. So far the weather has been exceptional for a road trip!

Texas New Mexico state line

Texas New Mexico state line

Looking across the Rio Grande to mountains in Mexico.

Looking across the Rio Grande to mountains in Mexico.

80 MPH!!! I stuck to 65 just to make sure I made it to the charging spot.

80 MPH!!! I stuck to 65 just to make sure I made it to the charging spot.

Beautiful desert landscape

Beautiful desert landscape

After a beautiful drive, I pulled into Balmorhea, TX and checked into my hotel, El Oso Flojo Lodge. This is a beautiful little town of (according to the sign at the city border) about 630 people. The manager at El Oso Flojo pointed me to a very nice family run Mexican restaurant right next door. Being Friday night in Texas, it was of course football night and the local high school team, the Bears, were playing one of the best teams in the state in 6-man football. I had never heard of such a thing, so after plugging in the car at a small RV park behind the town’s city hall and tourist information center and a chicken quesadilla at La Cueva de Oso (The Bear Den) next to the hotel, I headed over to the high school three blocks away to watch my first 6-man football game. Unfortunately, the hometown Bears were no match for the visiting Grandfalls-Royalty Cowboys. Even though the Bears looked to start to turn things around with a great kickoff return with only a few seconds left in the half, time ran out and the mercy rule came into effect ending the game. In this league, if a team is up by 45 points or more at half time, the game is called, which is what happened this night. 😦 Better luck next time Bears.

El Oso Flojo Lodge courtyard fountain

El Oso Flojo Lodge courtyard fountain

I had set the car to delay charging until 9 PM, which I had never done before. Being a bit nervous about trusting this to really work, I walked over to the city hall to make sure it would actually start. I got to the car just before 9 PM and after a few minutes, I heard a click and saw the green lights on my charging cable start to chase and the light around the charging port pulse green. Sure enough, it worked perfectly. Off to bed and another good night’s rest.

Charging behind Balmorhea City Hall

Charging behind Balmorhea City Hall

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Day 5

200Miles
Charging Stops:

  1. Office Building, 166 Roadrunner Pkwy, Las Cruces, NM

Day 5

Having successfully charged up at the RV park, I headed on to Las Cruces, NM. A beautiful, uneventful drive…

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…until I got to the Office Building in Las Cruces where I was planning on charging. I found the location easily enough, but I couldn’t get the unit to work. There is only one charger at this location, and it’s the only one around for miles. I thought maybe I need to have someone in the office turn it on, or at least tell me how to get it working. The allergist’s office on the first floor closed at 4:30. It was 4:45. So, I went upstairs to the aerospace office. They said that the station belonged to the allergist on the first floor and they had no idea how the charger worked. They did tell me that there was an ATF office down the hall and that they might know. I asked the ATF folks, but they didn’t know either.

I went back down to the car and fiddled with the charger a while longer before giving up. I tried calling the allergist and got their after hours answering service. I told them my situation, but they said they couldn’t contact him because it wasn’t a medical emergency. So, I tried calling the charging station company, PEP Stations. They also have an after hours answering service, but I told them that I couldn’t wait until tomorrow to talk to someone; I had to charge up overnight. They told me they would contact the company and have someone call me back within a few minutes. I had my doubts about that, but sure enough within 10 minutes someone from the company called me on my cell phone. Nice! He said that the display on the unit should be on if it’s working, which it wasn’t. I asked if he could somehow connect to the station from his end to see if he could get any status information on the unit, but he told me that they simply sell the units to their customers and that PEP Stations doesn’t monitor the units. He said sometimes owners turn off the stations when they’re not in use, so if I could get in touch with the owner he or she might be able to turn it back on. Well, I already tried that, so it looked like I was out of luck

I thanked the PEP Stations technician for his help and began to look online via PlugShare.com to see where I could charge for the night. I had enough juice to get me to El Paso, but most of the stations there looked like they were attached to low income housing buildings, so I wasn’t too keen on leaving my car in a sketchy area overnight.

As I looked, someone from the office building was leaving for the day and spotted me at the charger. He walked over and asked if I got it to work and I told him I wasn’t able to. His name was Mark and he said he knew the owner who also has a Tesla Model S. Mark said he had the allergist’s phone number and would give him a call to see how to get it to work. Great! So Mark called the owner and after talking with him for a few minutes he hung up and told me what was up. The owner is the allergist, Dr. Nattakom and he told Mark that a lightning storm that went through a week or two earlier had knocked out the breaker in the charger, so it wasn’t working. Bummer. However, Dr. Nattakom has a charging station at his home just a short ways away and would be happy to let me charge up there. YES! Mark gave me directions to Dr. Nattakom’s house and I was off with my hopes restored.

The Dr. drove up to his house just a few minutes after I arrived and was so excited to see another Tesla Model S. He told me that his was the only one in the city, so he took a picture of our two cars next to each other to remember this moment. 🙂 Honestly, Dr. Nattakom couldn’t have been nicer. He not only let me charge up at his place, but after the car was secured and plugged in his assistant, Antoine, was leaving for the day and gave me a ride to a nearby hotel! Antoine even offered to pick me up on his way into work the next day! I said that was very kind, but that the weather would be nice and since I was in no particular hurry at this point in the trip that I would just walk back to the car in the morning.

I must say, the kindness and generosity of fellow electric car owners has been one of the best aspects of this whole trip. Everyone is so eager to help me out, I can’t thank them enough. The only down side at this point was the head cold I was fighting off. After dinner at the hotel restaurant, I walked down to a nearby Walgreen’s and bought some more cold medicine and a box of tissues for the car. I headed back to the hotel, loaded up on cold medicine, took a nice hot shower, and went to bed.

After breakfast in the morning, I took a nice leisurely three mile walk in the early dessert sunshine back to the car, which was fully charged at this point. Thanks again Dr. Nattakom! After checking out and loading up the car, I was off to my next stop: Balmorhea, TX.

Charging up in Las Cruces, NM

Charging up in Las Cruces, NM

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Day 4

Tuesday, October 23, 2013
460 Miles
Charging stops:

  1. Tesla Store, Fashion Square Mall, Scottsdale, AZ
  2. Magic Circle RV Park, Willcox, AZ

Day 4

I got up at the crack of dawn to complete this leg of my journey in one day. Actually, I got up at 5:30 AM, long before the crack of dawn. The reason was that I would no longer be able to use Tesla Superchargers until I reached San Antonio, TX, so I would have to recharge at the Tesla Store in Scottsdale, AZ. They have a single HPWC, which they were gracious enough to let me use. Even though it would give me close to 50 miles of range for each hour of charging, I would need to charge from near empty to full. That would take me around 5 hours. Add in driving time, rest stops, and meals and it adds up to a long day. Plus the owners of the RV park normally close their office at 6:00 PM, so I was trying to make it there before then. I left Palm Springs around 6:00 AM and had an uneventful drive to Scottsdale, with the added bonus of a beautiful desert sunrise.

Dessert sunrise

I began to feel ill though as I drove and pulled over for a few minutes of rest. I feared I was coming down with a cold (which I was). The drive from Palm Springs to Scottsdale was 263 Miles, which would really test the accuracy of the rated range. I kept my speed between 60 and 65 mph with the cruise control on. I had located a few public charging stations in the Phoenix area, just in case I needed a quick top off to make it to Scottsdale. As I got closer it appeared that I would actually make it on one charge. As I pulled into the mall and found the charging spot, I was able to park and plug in with a whopping 2 miles of range left. 😉

Charging at the Tesla Store in Scottsdale, AZ

Charging at the Tesla Store in Scottsdale, AZ

Cutting it a bit close.

Cutting it a bit close.

Since I was feeling under the weather, and didn’t get a full nights rest, I decided to fold down the rear seats to stretch out and take a nap after eating lunch. It was comfortable enough even without a camping pad to get a bit of shuteye.

Having fully charged, I headed out for the RV park in Willcox, AZ. I realized that I was going to arrive around 8:00 PM, so I called them to make sure that wouldn’t be too late. They said it wouldn’t be a problem since they would be up watching the World Series anyway. I found the RV park with no problem and they were incredibly gracious and very interested in the car. We must have talked for at least half an hour before I plugged in and walked over to the Super 8 hotel two blocks away.

I checked in to the hotel and started to settle in when I checked the Tesla Connect app on my Windows 8 Phone. I’m glad I did as it said the car wasn’t charging. So, I headed back to the car and sure enough the breaker had tripped. So I reset the breaker and went back to the hotel. I took a shower and checked the status one more time before turning in for the night. Guess what? It had stopped charging again. So, I got dressed and headed back over to the car wondering what was going on. As I walked over, I had an idea that it might be that the breaker just can’t handle 40 amps continuously. So I bumped down the amperage to 30, which would still charge the car to 100% before I would be heading out in the morning. With the breaker reset and the amps adjusted, I headed back to the hotel again. I stayed up for another half hour checking email and planning out the next day’s journey and when I checked the status it was still charging. I got up during the night to use the bathroom and checked the status one more time to see that it was still charging. Problem solved!

Magic Circle RV Park

Magic Circle RV Park

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Day 3

Monday, October 22, 2013
323 Miles
Charging stops:

  1. Tejon Ranch, CA – Tesla Supercharger
  2. Indian Wells Resort Hotel, Indian Wells, CA – Tesla HPWC

Day 3

As I began Day 3 of my journey, I began to feel a bit less stressed about charging the car and being able to do all of the miles by myself. I ate breakfast while I finished charging up at the Supercharger, then headed for Tejon Ranch.

Harris Ranch Supercharger

Harris Ranch Supercharger

I had a pleasant drive to Tejon Ranch, with sunny warm weather. It actually got up into the mid 90s, but I was cool and comfortable even with the AC set to “ECO”.

I stopped for lunch at the Tejon Ranch Supercharger, which has a solar panel canopy. I met another Model S owner there who uses it to commute to work and back home. After having lunch, the car was still charging (I was charging to 100%) and some police officers stopped by to ask me about the car. They thought it was a really interesting car and joked how hard it must be for Tesla to have an electric charging station in an area lined with oil wells. 😉

Tejon Ranch Supercharger

Tejon Ranch Supercharger

My original plan was to drive to the Supercharger in Barstow, CA, but as I thought about it I realized I would have no problem just going straight to the Indian Wells Resort Hotel near Palm Springs where I was going to spend the night. Even with LA rush hour traffic, I should make it there at a decent hour. The traffic wasn’t too bad and only slowed me down by an hour, where as going all the way to Barstow would have been a good bit longer, both in terms of miles and time. I had a little trouble finding the hotel as the street numbering system in Palm Springs/Indian Wells wasn’t clearly interpreted by the Tesla GPS system. I stopped for directions at a nearby hotel and quickly found the hotel. It was once owned by Lucile Ball and Dezi Arnez and definitely has a ’60s Las Vegas lounge feel to it. There was a Vegas style lounge act on stage in the main lobby, with lots of folks enjoying it and having great time. Very nice place though, and super nice staff. The hotel owner and the president of the parent company both have their own Tesla Model S, so they installed a Tesla High Powered Wall Charger (HPWC) right at the front door of the hotel. The owners always parked and plugged in their own cars, even though there is a valet service, so the staff was very curious to see how to drive and charge the car. As I said, they were super nice and were happy to give me directions to a decent local Mexican restaurant. Upon returning, one of the hotel patrons had stepped outside to make a phone call and asked me about the car. He had just bought a Mercedes Benz, and even though he loved it, he was fascinated by the Model S. I gave him a quick test ride around the block. We pulled out onto the side street next to the hotel, and he said “Just punch it so I can see how it accelerates.” I think it was so powerful it actually scared him. He started saying “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Okay, that’s enough for me. Let’s go back.” After our spin around the block, I dropped him off at the front door, plugged in and went up to my room to hit the sack.

Charging from the Tesla HPWC at Indian Wells Resort Hotel

Charging from the Tesla HPWC at Indian Wells Resort Hotel

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Day 2

Monday, October 21, 2013
565 Miles
Charging stops:

  1. Mount Shasta, CA – Tesla Supercharger
  2. Corning, CA – Tesla Supercharger
  3. Folsom, CA – Tesla Supercharger
  4. Harris Ranch, CA – Tesla Supercharger

Day 2

Heading out of Grants Pass, OR, I saw via PlugShare.com that the Tesla Supercharger in Mount Shasta was near completion, so I thought I would stop by and see if it was open yet. As I pulled in, there were some electricians working on the chargers and Tom, a Tesla technician, was overseeing the work. They were certifying the station, but they didn’t have a transformer for it yet, so it wasn’t going to be online for a few more days. They did have a portable generator to run the supercharging stations for testing, so Tom said he would turn it on for me so I could charge up – super nice of him to do that for me. His only request was that I not post on any site that I had charged at the station, since it wasn’t actually open yet. That seemed more than fair to me. Tom told me that since the station had just been certified that day, no one had charged there – not even him – so I can claim to be the first to charge a Tesla Model S as the Mount Shasta Supercharger. 🙂

The supercharger there is right next to a hotel/bar/restaurant, which the electricians highly recommended for lunch, so I went in to grab a bite to eat while the car charged up. After lunch, I chatted a little bit with Tom and he asked me how things were going on the trip so far. I recounted my white knuckle driving from the night before, and he asked if the screen, stereo or heater started shutting down towards the end of my drive. I told him I had turned off the heater, heated seats, and stereo to save energy, but the screen stayed on the whole time. His response was, “Oh, you had lots of range left.” He told me he had driven a few of the cars down to zero range and had things automatically turn off to save energy and had gone another 10-15 miles. Now, I’m not making any guarantees about the additional range the car may have past the zero rated range point, but it did make me feel a bit more comfortable knowing that zero miles of rated range didn’t really mean that the car would shut down completely right then.

Mount Shasta Supercharger

Mount Shasta Supercharger

Mount Shasta Supercharger

Tom making sure the connections are tightened to Tesla’s specifications.

After lunch, I headed on down to my next charging stop at Corning, CA.

Corning Supercharger

Corning Supercharger

As I charged up, someone stopped by in his Dodge Ram 2500 truck to ask me about the car. He loved the idea of the car and was thinking of trading in the truck. Hopefully I helped convince him. 😉

As I left Corning, CA, and drove down to my next charging stop at Folsom, CA, the sun began to set and apparently that’s when the insects come out. I’ve never encountered swarms of bugs like I did that evening. It was like rain hitting the windshield, only the washer and wipers did little to nothing to clear the mess. After I made it to Folsom, I found a Target and stopped in to get some window cleaner and paper towels.

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Having cleaned the windshield, I headed out for my last stop of the long day of driving – Harris Ranch, CA. I arrived close to midnight safe and sound, and charged up a little before turning in for the night.

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Day 1

Sunday, October 20, 2013
430 Miles.
Charging stops:

  1. Centralia, WA – Tesla Supercharger
  2. Woodburn, OR – Tesla Supercharger
  3. Grants Pass, OR – Tesla Supercharger
Day 1 map

Day 1 map

Having only two days to pack and prepare everything for my two week road trip, I have a lot of anxiety about how smart this whole trip really is. But, as I said, if I don’t at least try to do it, I’ll regret it forever. With that in mind, I set off down I-5 with the goal of getting to the Tesla Supercharger at Grants Pass. I was hoping to leave between 8 and 9 AM, but ended up leaving closer to noon. This put me behind several hours, but I hoped to make it up later on in the trip. Before I set out on my journey, I had to make a quick stop to wash the car. I just couldn’t fathom the idea of making a cross country road trip in a dirty car.

Car wash

After 93 miles I made my first charging stop at the Tesla Supercharger in Centralia, WA.

Tesla Supercharger, Centralia, WA

Tesla Supercharger, Centralia, WA

I met two other Tesla owners here and had a great time talking with them and sharing stories about our cars. Having fully charged, I headed for my second charging stop 120 miles south at the Tesla Supercharger in Woodburn, OR. So far, everything is going well. Good weather and the car is running perfectly. I set the car to “Range Mode”, which reduces the energy that the HVAC system uses, and I set the regenerative braking to low on the suggestion of another Tesla owner I know who has taken a lot of road trips. I think that last tip might have been a mistake. My third and final charging point for the day was 215 miles away at Grants Pass, OR. About 40 miles away I started going through the mountain passes and the rated range was getting very close to the number of miles I had left to go. With about 40 miles to go, I turned off the stereo, the heat, the heated seats, and slowed down from 65 to around 40 mph. I didn’t know how much buffer I actually had and I had never driven through this area, so I had no idea if I would be going up a steep hill for 20 miles at the end and run out of juice. It was white knuckle driving for the last hour.

Finally, I made it to Grants Pass, found the charging station, and plugged in with only 11 miles of rated range left. Whew! Now I need a drink to calm my nerves.

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