Saturday, June 9, 2012

Eastward bound: Roadster Across America

From Long Beach, CA to Boston, MA in an electric vehicle (EV)

...One of the first few continental crossings in an EV! Possibly the first going west to east(?)

The final route: June 9th to June 23rd, 2012
For the coast-to-coast portion: 12 days total, with 5 days of stops along the way; 7 days of travel.

I'll be using EV chargers in the cities (thank you stimulus package) and RV parks in the rural areas.

I'm not even going to try to do it as fast as this guy: 

A couple previous EV crossings, but with support crews:

Charge stations are all over the place now:

In between, I'll be relying on EV parks. These have the potential to charge at 240 V, 50 A. When you're waiting for a charge, 240 V is a big advantage over the 208 V used by most car chargers. I'm a little bit hamstrung, too, because the adapter I have for the NEMA 14-50 plug is a modified version of the original "mobile connector" made by Tesla in the early days. Their newer "universal mobile connector" handles up to 40 A (~30 miles of range every hour), a 30% boost. There would be a number of times when I found myself wishing I had gone ahead and bought the latest!

The mobile connector that came with the early Roadsters. The original cable was thick enough for 70 A, but since this unit only delivers 30 A, I replaced it with less-bulky cable (in yellow). The new universal mobile connector takes up to 40 A.

Tessie is a 2008 Tesla Roadster. I got the keys in March, 2009 and since then have logged about 30,000 miles. She's been to San Francisco and Las Vegas, but mostly lives in and around Los Angeles, CA.

Tessie drinks electrons. Electrons are fast: she converts them into 270 foot-pounds of torque and 300 horsepower so she can go 0 to 60 in 3.9. She can charge off of the new "J1772" car chargers, at RV parks, and even regular wall outlets. Currently, the best charger is a dedicated Tesla charger, which delivers 70 A at 208/240 V. This translates to over 14 kW or 60-70 miles of range every hour. The car chargers that have been going in top out at 30 A (for cost reasons), so charging with those gives about 25 miles of range every hour. Plugs at RV parks deliver up to 50 A, but the adapter Tesla provides for this tops out at 30 A again (for the older one that I have; the latest can do 40 A). If I find myself caught between RV parks, I'll end up plugging into a wall outlet somewhere, which gives about 7 miles of range every hour - just enough to get me to the next "real" charge spot. The good thing about EVs is that their range can me monitored very precisely; I've run Tessie down to the last 5 miles of range with no problem. Not recommended, but it works.

As much as Tessie loved tooling around SoCal with her top down, she was ready to head east and see some seasons! 

Day 1 (6/9/12): Long Beach, CA to Barstow, CA to Las Vegas, NV:

Tessie & I said goodbye to the Pacific from the lot below my old apartment in Long Beach. Los Angeles said her goodbyes the only way she knows how: by producing multiple traffic jams between Anaheim and Riverside - ah, the memories!
Barstow, CA (1st charge stop)
There's a nice 70-A Tesla charger off E Main St (note: not W. Main St.!) in Barstow. Alas, this is the one-and-only 70-A charger between me and the Atlantic. From here on out it's 30 A. (Update: the trip ended up being bookend-ed by Tesla chargers - I got this one as my first charge outside of LA, and I got one more as my last charge outside of Boston, in New Haven, CT.)

The giant thermometer in Baker, CA is claimed as the largest in the world; it's also noticeably hotter right there

Las Vegas, NV (2nd charge stop)
Arriving in Vegas, I stayed at the Golden Nugget, kind of a Vegas throwback, but walking distance to a slew of chargers at Clark Co. Government Center in Vegas. Much to my chagrin, the locals seem to ignore the EV charger signs, so every spot was taken up by an ordinary gas-burner. I had to come back after 11 pm, when the lot had cleared out.

The strip around the Golden Nugget has been turned into an open-air arcade. Images are projected on the curved roof, very Blade-Runner-esque:

The hotel has one of the largest nuggets of gold ever discovered.

Day 2 (6/10/12): Las Vegas, NV to Hurricane, UT & Richfield, UT

 Got up and fetched my car from the charge station...
Charge Stations: Clark Co. Gov. Center, Las Vegas
 Those are SunPower solar panels, by the way. Give shade and help charge the cars!
  Nearby is the Cleveland Clinic for Alzheimer's, designed by Frank Gehry. Looks like the buildings are melting in the Vegas sun?

Hitting the road, I had to stop and check on the Amonix arrays at the NLV plant:

Leaving Las Vegas (which, incidentally, is my favorite thing to do in Las Vegas), there was a massive headwind, with noticeable impact on my expected range. I started wondering whether I would have to settle for  a closer RV park. Instead, I started drafting behind semis and easily made it to my target destination of Hurricane, UT, the "gateway to Zion". This was Tessie's third state of the day (we passed through the tip of AZ on I-15), and she seemed to like UT, although she was also clearly eager to work on Sundays, so I wasn't sure how she'd fit in.

Hurricane, UT (3rd charge stop)
While I was charging, up came a Prius, rolling in all-electric "stealth" mode and looking almost as out of place as Tessie in the sea of RVs. The car belongs to Joe Ashen, and our opening conversation went something like this (names omitted since they're interchangeable...):

"Hi, where are you from?"
"Yeah? Me too! What business are you in?"
"Yeah? Me too! What kind?"
       "Utility scale."
"Yeah? Me too! Where are your projects?"
       "Mostly in Nevada."
"Yeah? Me too...!"

I know it's supposed to be a small world, but when you add in the fact we're both in an RV park - without RVs - it's a pretty good coincidence. 

Speaking of the Prius, the plug-in models have hit the U.S. These things are world beaters.

Willowind RV Park, Hurricane, UT
With Tessie charging, I went out on the Quixotic mission of trying to find a non-chain lunch place open. In Utah. On a Sunday. Much to my surprise, I found Baristas, which looks like a franchise, but is adamantly not!

Barrista's had delicious mango salad, pizza (too doughy), and their own ice cream. Pretty expensive, though.
Zion National Park

Drove the rest of the evening to reach the KOA in Richville, UT.

Day 3 (6/11/12): Richfield, UT to Moab, UT to Grand Junction, CO

Richfield, UT (4th charge stop)
Charged overnight here...
Richfield KOA
Devil's Canyon, UT
 Moab, UT (5th charge stop)

one of the Double Arches, Arches NP
Smiley face on North and South Windows, Arches NP

Delicate Arch
Not sure why the person who took this for me thought I would want to be blocking the arch...?!

Day 4 (6/12/12): Grand Junction, CO to Boulder, CO

Grand Junction, CO (6th charge stop)
My overnight at the KOA in Grand Junction, CO. I've come to assume I'll be able to navigate by 3G once I'm in a town, but not the case here. So, at 1 am, I was parked outside a closed McDonald's there. Mickey-Ds has free wi-fi!

Glenwood Springs, CO (7th charge stop)
Stopped at Ami's Acres Campground, but forgot to snap a picture. Nice place, and it was refreshing to see green hills again after the desert. The manager, Craig, was nice enough to give me a special EV rate of just $10 to charge and use the wi-fi, etc. Walked into town to have lunch at Vic's Route 6 Grillhouse. Good food and, again, free wi-fi!

I also picked up a car charger at the Radio Shack at the local mall. On a weekday morning, these places would make a good set for a zombie movie:

On to an easy climb into the Rockies and down to Boulder...

Outside the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel

Eisenhower Tunnel. At 11,158 ft., it is the highest point on the nation's Interstates. Needless to say, Tessie had no trouble powering up there, and she's about to get a nice, long downhill run to re-charge her batteries.

Boulder, CO (8th charge stop)
Stayed at my friend Aaron's place. He has a Nissan Leaf, so we set up dueling EV charging. Aaron has a J1772 charger for his Leaf, and I used a 40-A plug he has set up for his (primo!) home brew.
Part of the energy came from those solar panels on the roof. Aaron and Olivia are expecting twins (update: the twins showed up two days later!), so they're doing a lot to safeguard their future! That night, we re-vamped my mobile connector (what I use for RV parks) to better handle the 30-A current without heating up. (I had jerry-rigged it a bit to reduce the cable bulk, but the 30-A connectors I used were heating up, so we stepped up to 50-A ones.)

Here's how his supply & demand looked for the two days (solar panels, Nissan Leaf, and Tessie). Tessie was the only car charging at night & 7 kW peak demand is about right for the 30-A connector. That's about 70¢/hour of electricity.

Day 5 (6/13/12): Denver, CO

in Denver for the DoE's SunShot Grand Challenge Summit

Day 6 (6/14/12): Denver, CO to Stratton, CO
Denver, CO (9th charge stop)
In the morning, dropped Tessie off at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science:

They've got an elegant way of dealing with the issue of saving space for EVs without annoying gas-burning drivers looking for that space: the sign & cone ask drivers to look for another space first; the space can still be taken by non-EVs when needed.

Stratton, CO (10th charge stop)

Had a big storm blow through, bringing lightning, rain, and hail, so I decided to pack up early and begin the next leg to the KOA in WaKeeney, KS

Day 7 (6/15/12) WaKeeney KS to Kansas City, MO
WaKeeney, KS (11th charge stop)
Arrived around 3 am (4 am with the change to Central Time). Woke up three hours later from the noise of all the RVs pulling out. Since my car was still charging, I stuck around for the yummy pancake breakfast (all you can eat for only $2.50!)

The trunk is pretty much full with camping gear (bivy sack, sleeping bag, pillow), and charging gear (mobile connector and the adaptor for wall outlets)

...And what would Kansas be without Toto?

Kansas now sports some gorgeous wind farms

The PlugShare website indicated that there might be a charger at "ralphs" in Salina, KS. Though I had to check this out, this was suspicious on three counts:
1. "Salina" is a small town in Kansas
2. There is a Salinas, CA which is something like Tesla Central.
3. "Ralphs" is a supermarket chain - in California.

Not too surprisingly, this is what I found at the address in Salina:

The charger map had an error. But, the dividend was that I did meet several interesting people in the neighborhood, including one woman whose father had worked for Tesla.

Abilene, KS (12th charge stop)
This delayed me some, but I was soon charging at an RV park just pask Abilene, KS, birthplace of President Eisenhower, whose eponymous tunnel I had passed through a few days before.

Here's my charge history to date. At RV parks, I'm using the old, MC unit.

Day 8 & 9 (6/16/12 & 6/17/12) Kansas City, MO (13th charge stop)
After arriving late in Kansas City (and running on my last few electrons), I got to spend a few great days with the Adrianos (Jerry, Jackie, Kathleen, Lauren, Patrick, and Megan). Barbeque, pool time, patisserie-caliber coffee cake,Patrick's baseball game, and rides for the kids in the Roadster!

Within a day's drive of the Mississippi, I decided to up the challenge: no more sleeping at RV parks. I owuld have to find dedicated car chargers (in cities) each night. Jackie and Jerry helped me mail my camping gear, leaving a lot more space inside Tessie.

Barbeque at Brobeck's

That night at the Granfalloon. I was last here for Jerry and Jackie's wedding fourteen years ago.
Day 10 (6/18/12) Kansas City, MO to St. Louis, MO
In front of the Sydney Opera, Kansas City's Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Columbia, MO (14th charge stop)
Stopped over in Columbia, MO for a charge at the local Joe Machens Nissan dealer. Everyone was very friendly & eager to help. They moved one of their cars so I could charge. While waiting, went and got a haircut near the Mizzou campus

St. Louis, MO (15th charge stop)
Stayed at the Moonrise Hotel; originally drawn there for their J1772 car charger, this turned out to be a really nice place with an astronaut/space theme in a cool neighborhood near Washington University

View from my room in the Moonrise. The roof two buildings over sports some vertical windmills that were whipping around in the breeze. Fun to watch and generating some clean kilowatt-hours!

Rooftop bar with a rotating moon.

Solar panels at the bar = cool.
From the roof bar: the charge station below, solar panels two buildings over, and the Gateway Arch in the far distance

Being a touron by nature, I took the metro downtown to see the Gateway Arch. The picture I got was very similar to one I took a few days earlier at Arches NP:

Day 11 (6/19/12) St. Louis, MO to Columbus, OH

 Got up early make some time; this ended up becoming a 400-mile day. Crossed Illinois without stopping and reached the KOA in Terre Haute, IN for a charge. They only charged me $10.
Terre Haute (16th charge stop)
Spending the afternoon charging at a KOA. What a new experience at this point!

View from the highway near the KOA. Hard to see, but those golden arches in the distance signal free wifi and fudge sundaes!
Self portrait while driving Route 40 in IN.
After Terre Haute, I decided to get off the interstate
and try the secondary highways. Route 40 is a good one,
 which goes through a lot of nice small towns
 and a whole lot of wide-open fields.

One conclusion from this trip: the USA is beautiful!

 Richmond, IN (17th charge stop)

My mantra has become "if I'm stopped, I'm charging; if I'm full, I start driving". On this day, the timing worked out such that I was just about fully charged after 11 pm at night, so I couldn't just wait 'till morning; I pushed on towards Columbus, OH. Tessie crossed into Ohio at just 3 minutes before midnight, to make it four states in a day.

Columbus, OH (18th charge stop)
The PlugShare site showed Columbus has three car chargers; I chose one near hotels in the Arena District. Arrived at 2:30 am just in time to see city employees flagging the street for closure the next day. I would need to come back & move the car at 6 am!

Charger on the street near Goodale Park. The meters had just been capped a minute earlier for the next day's street closure. 

The idiot factor

I was pretty tired, but on the walk to the Hampton Inn a few blocks away, got a wake up. The Arena District has a lot of cool bars, which were just closing up. I heard a woman start screaming, decided it wasn't the "I'm having a crazy fun time!" kind of scream, so went looking for what was going on. It turned out the woman wasn't in trouble herself, but was screaming because her knucklehead of a  boyfriend was yelling & brandishing a handgun at a couple of guys across the street. I guess one of the other guys had said something to the woman that set him off. He eventually turned and went back to his car. It was hard to tell how serious the guy was, but I decided I'd follow him to make sure he didn't get away. I just stayed across the street and got the license plate of his car. He eventually left the car and went into a parking garage, where the cops got him after a few minutes. Nothing serious in the end, but a good reminder of oh-how-safe we aren't because we let so many chuckleheads have easy access to handguns. If I had had a gun on me, too, I guess would have been strongly tempted to engage this guy, at which point we might have had a nice, stupid gunfight - over nothing.

Just before 6 am, I got up again and moved the car about a mile away at the Electrical Trades Center. These chargers are in a nice, quieter neighborhood with a Hyatt Place across the street.
The (electro-) Dynamic Duo: car chargers & solar panels!

There is just an amazing array of different car chargers out there.
Day 12 (6/20/12) Columbus, OH to Hagerstown, MD
With the late night the day before, I got a late start. Was planning on trying to make good time, but liked the looks of the town of Zanesville, OH, so pulled off to see if I could find a nice cafe or something. Zanesville is the birthplace of Zane Grey; I liked his iconic western Riders of the Purple Sage, and once stayed in his former home on Catalina Island.  Drove around for a while before resorting to the "Google Oracle", which showed me a great place along the river, Muddy Miser's Lock 10 Tavern.

Washington, PA (19th charge stop)
Having a beer, salad, and pizza is not the smartest thing to do if you're planning on driving late into the night. That's how it turned out, though. I arrived at my intended destination, a KOA in Washington, PA, to find it was full. First and only setback on the entire trip. So, with just a few miles of range left, I headed a few miles away to the local John Sisson Nissan. Another warm reception, and I charged there 'till around midnight. While waiting, I grabbed a beer at an Outback Steakhouse & walked to a nearby mall to watch the movie Prometheus. With a smartphone in hand, the stop/start mode of road tripping by EV is actually pretty nice.

Another late night charge
My schedule was really off at this point, so even though I wasn't quite at full charge, I once again  decided to start driving around midnight. This drive was going to take me 160 miles into Maryland through the Cumberland Gap. I hit the road with an range reading of 185 miles. The gain in elevation had me worried that I didn't have enough excess range, but I arrived (at 4 am) with just about 20 miles of range left. As usual, Tessie's range prediction was dead on. Took Route 40 again for this leg, and fought off drowsiness by pondering how many jokes must have been made over the years by people driving towards "Accident" (Accident, MD)

Hagerstown, MD (20th charge stop)
Arrived at 4 am to chargers at the Mack Truck/Volvo Plant
Arrived here late, but got a nice reception from the Volvo team when I came back the next day. They let me do a few sprints in front of their building.

Day 13 (6/21/12) Hagerstown, MD to THE COAST!!!
Baltimore, MD (21st, token charge stop) 
Slept in 'till 10:30, then did a short drive down Route 40 to Ft. McHenry in Baltimore. This "National Monument and Historic Shrine", the flag of which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner," is situated on the Chesapeake Bay, so was my choice to mark the end of Tessie's "Sea to Shining Sea" saga (two different songs, I know!) Before ending the coast-to-coast part of the journey, I stopped at a Harris Teeter gourmet market a few blocks away for a quick, symbolic last charge & some Green Dragon Honest Tea, my favorite beverage. Being able to easily find it again marked my return to the coasts!

Charging near Ft McHenry in Baltimore harbor.

Honest Tea: a welcome back to the coasts!

Tessie triumphant: Ft. McHenry, Baltimore. From sea to shining sea!