Two holidays with a Model S
by, 2013-08-30 at 07:11 AM (5102 Views)
This summer, I took two road trips with my Model S. Both were a lot of fun and full of learning experiences.
Trip 1: North and East
My wife is an adoring and faithful fan of some Canadian Celtic band called Great Big Sea. We went to their concert in Saint Paul in March, and then, apparently, her big moment as a fan came. My wife works in theater. It's been her life-long dream to meet this band. So, when news of their show in Bayfield, WI came her way, she worked some connections and got to do the load-in for this band, focus lights, and so forth. It was a dream come through for her.
Like with the yarn crawl, I wasn't into the subject of the trip. In fact, while they were performing, I sat in my Model S, with a distant view of the stage (in a big top tent), listening to my favorite music instead. No, what I saw was a chance to do an in-range road trip out of town and experience hotel charging. To me, it was the trip itself.
Driving from Plymouth, MN to Duluth, MN was around 170 miles or so. Even with my 60kwh battery, I was confident we could do the drive. I charged with range, to avoid anxiety, and truly enjoyed the ride. With my mountain bike in back (laid flat) and our luggage in the front compartment, we were on our way. Along the way, we stopped at a rest area. That proved to be an experience:
All in all, I spoke to passengers and drivers from half a dozen vehicles, a few of whom had seen me on the road and were delighted that I stopped.
When my wife and I arrived in Duluth, we experienced regenerative braking at its finest, as the road into town is several miles of downhill, and averaged 272 wh/mile on a 168 mile drive.
Suffice it to say, I could have done the drive easily with a standard charge. When we arrived at the Duluth Holiday Inn, we made it up to the 5th level of the parking ramp, and the manager met us at the nondescript, wedge-shaped parking space. They forewarned us that someone had moved the cones and took the space, but had resolved it by the time we arrived:
With Livewire happily recharging, my wife and I walked about the enchanting city of Duluth, enjoying a good lunch and a stop at Fizzy Waters, some Parkour, a visit to the Graffiti Mile, and even more walking before dinner at a Soviet-themed burrito shop and a fine night's sleep.
The next morning, we drove to Bayfield, Wisconsin. My wife plugged the car into a 110v outlet just to keep charge, and I disappeared down the hillside into Bayfield for directions to pursue an arduous, 37-mile ride on my mountain bike. There were some technical sections, so my bike got nice and dirty. That evening, I returned to the ski area / campground, which involved a serious hill climb, and I thought how quietly and effortlessly my Tesla was able to make the climb, compared to my exertion and sound effects. Content to rest, I put my bike in the back of my Tesla; this car has plenty of room:
About an hour before the show started, my wife and I sat down for a bit to chat, and noticed someone wandering over to the car. It was the band's tour manager. He knew enough to touch the handles. We caught up with him and had a good question and answer session. As a Canadian, I focused the discussion on the Sun Country Highway and encouraged him to consider picking one up.
Our return drive was ferocious. It was an inky black night in a forest under torrential rains. Due to my intrepid bike ride, I was actually quite tired, so we decided to switch drivers. We found a gas station, and under the awning, traded seats. Yep, even in the dark of night in a heavy rain, someone turned around, pulled up to us as we were merely trading seats, and started asking about the Model S. We made it back to the hotel and plugged in, calculating we could hit the road once the battery recharged all the way back up from about 180 miles of driving.
Sadly, some time during the night, the breaker at the hotel tripped. When we got up, that was the first thing I checked (yay, smartphone application!), and I came down to the front desk. They were apologetic and accommodating, but it was disappointing to be told that both nights we'd apparently "caused a surge." The outlet was wired with the same circuit as an atrium, so my guess is an electric heater kicked in over the night. I dropped the current draw to 25 amps, and told them to be more informed for the next EV driver to visit, and find out what's on their breaker so as to set some kind of current limit guidelines. It charged just fine, but took several hours we had not planned to spend in Duluth. We took a tourist train ride, which was informative but actually not entirely scenic (spent a lot of time looking into back yards), but it was something to occupy our time. When we returned, we were charged up and on our way. We returned with ample mileage to spare, having averaged 262 watt-hours per mile for the entire 506 mile drive.
I'd like to footnote this experience by identifying that the owner of this and perhaps other regional Holiday Inn hotels is a Tesla owner and I was glad to support his business. I was told by the manager that I was the first electric vehicle customer they had. Although I would have preferred a more newly-built hotel, mostly because the A/C ducts never lose that 1960's era tobacco smell, we had truly a good room that had some choice, modern hotel room renovations, as well as a refrigerator and microwave. I do plan on staying there again, and I'm looking forward to the hotel staff being a little more prepared for an EV driver.
Trip 2: South and East
This second trip was the climax of the summer for my family. My wife and three kids (two of whom are full-sized teenagers) spent four days at Wildcat Mountain State Park, camping. I had been at this campground the year before, and rather liked it. I vowed to return with my Model S, and so I did. We loaded up the car with food for four days, five sleeping bags, two tents, luggage, and camp gear. I packed the food in the front compartment, and I think that's smartest. I think compared to a classic Chevrolet Impala station wagon, I still have more room. We took a shorter, slower route versus the highway. I managed to see Lake Pepin for the first time, and that alone was worth the less expedient roads. The slower speeds probably also helped range.
What truly made this trip possible in a 60 Kwh Model S was a charging station in Sparta, WI. Donated by an engineering firm with a local office, it is by far the prettiest charging station outside of the showcase Tesla Superchargers. It also blends in with the neighborhood:
We reached the charging station (a ChargePoint network station), plugged in, and went to lunch. Sadly, my wife was indiscriminate about where we were to eat, and we ate at the nearest food place, the Sparta Grill. Service was extremely fast, but food was a mixed experience for our table of five. We headed over to Ginny's Cupboard, which had a full menu, as well as excellent ice cream. There was an I-told-you-so conversation with my wife as we took the nature walk along the creek that runs through town. We agreed to eat there on the way back. Apparently, we also found a yarn shop. To mollify matters, I suggested we stop at the yarn shop on the return trip. I'm getting some custom driving gloves out of the deal. At both places, I made a point of thanking them for deciding to put up a charging station in town, identifying that if they hadn't put it up, we probably wouldn't have come this way.
After about an hour, we had an additional 20+ miles of range, and piled back into Livewire for our 30 mile drive to Wildcat Mountain State Park. It was a complicated, twisty series of turns, and we definitely lost all cell signals (two networks) for a while, which is kind of the point of camping anyway. The tight, steep road up the mountain was a lot of fun in a Model S. This really is a performance vehicle in every respect.
When we checked into the campsite, I chatted for a while, got permission to plug in at the service shed, and asked about the RV outlets, as I was more than willing to use one. They seemed a bit confused at first, but I was fine with the 110v outlet, since we were there for several days. When the ranger finally understood everything, she got very excited, and by the next morning, I had two interviews lined up with local papers. Apparently, it is right up there with the town tractor pull for excitement. When we drove into town, we enjoyed regaining a total of 65 watt hours by regenerative braking, from camp into town. My first stop was to get some ice for our cooler, in Ontario, WI. The only store open was at a gas station. My wife deliberately did not park at the gas station and we walked over to it. After that, we went to a livery to rent inner tubes, but they weren't around. I walked into the newspaper office and they followed me back to my Tesla for the interview with The County Line of Ontario, WI and a photo shoot. After locating a different livery, we spent the rest of the day on the original "lazy river," the Kickapoo River, floating along for a truly beautiful day.
The second interview was actually at the campgrounds, and the reporter From the Hillsboro Outlook drove up with his father, a Korean War veteran. The father was astounded by the Tesla, and quite thankful that I took the time to show him a modern marvel, as he called it. He was one sharp character, and asked provocative questions such as the impact of no gasoline taxes relevant to road taxes. I told him that I was paid up for the next few years with all the vehicle taxes I surrendered.
When it was time to leave, we packed up Livewire again (even more room, having eaten most of our food), I made an ample donation for the electricity, and headed down the mountain. We stopped again in Sparta, and visited the aforementioned yarn shop and Ginny's Cupboard for a full meal this visit. I was anxious to get back in time for a class and made the mistake of not doing a range charge. We had the time, but I guess it was my turn to make a mistake in Sparta. We really had the time, because I found the company who donated the charger and stopped in to say thanks. That turned into another interview and photo shoot, this time for their company newsletter. Apparently, the owner was very excited to hear a Tesla had come to town.
Thinking it would be faster, we took a route through Rochester, MN. That was stupid. Not only was it more miles than any other route, it was super-hilly and we averaged over 300 watt-hours per mile, which was a lot less efficient. On top of it all, there was road construction, so it wasn't any faster. Knowing we'd come up short, we stopped at the Bloomington, MN Mall of America and used one of their EV charging stations, rolling in with under 10 miles of range and the battery indicator in an anxious ocher. For the drive back, we were a smidge over 300 watt hours per mile due to road speeds and hills, but the drive out was comparable to the drive to Duluth. I took the light rail into NE Minneapolis for my class, and left my wife in charge of the car and the three kids. That was a particularly expensive mistake on my part. On top of charging $0.49 per kwh, I left my wife at the Mall of America. Happily enough, I do not believe there are any yarn shops there. Did you know Quiviut yarn can be over $100 an ounce? After a couple hours of charging, my wife headed home. In reflection, I think that the charging station in Sparta, WI was at least 5 miles an hour faster at charging. Go Sparta!
I don't believe even a year from now, anyone will care that a couple took a road trip a few hours out of town to go to a concert by Lake Superior to escape the summer heat, nor will a camping trip receive quite the media attention, because it won't be a "first" in either situation for an electric vehicle. I'm humbled by the experience. In my suburb of 50,000 people, I am one of three or four Tesla owners, and in the greater metro, I'm told it is close to 70 now.
My next trip is to Fargo, ND in October. Beyond that? Chicago, Denver or wherever the Supercharger highways take me.