Our cross country Tesla trip

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July 23rd 2016
Published: July 28th 2016
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The troupe The troupe The troupe

Me and cuz with Maui in the back settling in. I will later be thankful for mom's last minute suggestion to cover the backseat, but will come to greatly regret not having seat covers (spoiler alert)

Welcome to our journey!

After 3 short years of dermatology residency at Walter Reed I'm off on my next adventure. Some people thought I was crazy to drive to Bremerton, WA, but I think it will be an adventure, and significantly cheaper since the military does not pay to transport your car (unless you're driving it, then essentially they pay you to do it).

This PCS (Permanent Change of Station) was very tightly scheduled. Boards in Tampa on Mon, fly home Tues, packers there Wed, load the truck Thurs (yes I have a lot of stuff for a single person haha), Fri to tie up odds and ends (which took an ENTIRE day. So glad I had that day!!), then Sat morning depart! My parents were in town to help with the move, and my cousin came down to join me on the drive!

The pack and move went pretty smoothly, but on Thurs I learned that the driver was hauling ass out there and if I didn't get there by Thurs or Fri, my stuff would go into storage (which delays delivery and pretty much guarantees damage). So instead of a fun meandering trip visiting friends
At the beginning At the beginning At the beginning

In the parking lot of the Navy Lodge at the beginning of our long journey. So bright eyed and bushy tailed!
along the way, we started moving with a purpose (including leaving a day earlier than planned).

I got my Tesla last Oct, and have made a few road trips to NJ and NC, but nothing like this. I didn't find much online either, which is mainly why I'm writing this-- to share the tips and tricks I learned along the way. And of course to share the adventure 😊

We left bright and early Sat morning after grabbing one last full charge from my apt complex the night before. About 2.5 hours later we were at our first charging stop in Somerset, PA. This was the least inviting location I've been to yet for a charger. Not very pedestrian friendly, but at least it was right off the highway (sometimes they are 5-10 min off the highway). But they do all have stores and restaurants around (some more than others). We charged for about 45 min and were off. It was a nice time to stretch our legs and catch Pokemon (yes we started. And it's addictive. Now I get it).

First Tesla tip here: don't trust the onboard computer when it tells you that you have
First charging stopFirst charging stopFirst charging stop

In Somerset, PA
enough charge to continue. It fails to factor in variables which significantly affect energy usage (temperature (in our favor. Thanks heat wave), weight, wind, elevation, and most importantly, speed. Anything over 25mph is less and less efficient. So 80mph takes a lot more energy than 65mph for the same distance, which we later found to be more exponential than linear). Fortunately I learned that one the hard way on a previous trip but was still able to limp in with 3% that time (my personal best. Pucker factor 5000). For us on the first day, the computer was close- only off about 5% each time. But an extra 10 min of charging for a bigger cushion was worth it. We found that leaving the charger with estimated 20% left at your next stop is comfortable (started with 30% but 20% is really ok. Again, that holds true for average of 70mph +/- traffic).

People often ask what happens if you run out of energy. There's a feeling called "range anxiety" which is what everyone feels at first. They say it goes a wee little bit past 0% but I hope I never find out. When you get very low
Still in SomersetStill in SomersetStill in Somerset

Too bad we didn't have time for the detour.
the car starts shutting things down to conserve energy (hope it's not too hot out). And you can find stories online of it eventually just stopping. Then you have to call a tow truck (which usually requires talking to at least 4 tow companies until you find one who will touch a Tesla) and off to the nearest charger to plug in and wait for probably an hour+. There's an interesting video online about a guy who modified a gas generator to charge his bmw i3. So I guess if you really needed to drive somewhere without chargers.... But super chargers are becoming more and more prevalent. However, on the cross country trip like this you are limited to the routes with chargers along them, so venturing off and visiting friends can add significant time if they don't live along a supercharger highway. With a regular EV charger out in town, your 30min supercharge would turn into a several hour delay (which makes an overnight charge very attractive).

We skipped the next charger (at the recommendation of the onboard navi) and stopped for lunch just outside Cleveland at the next charger. Making great time! I ran an errand at
Somerset chargerSomerset chargerSomerset charger

Desolate charger stop
Bath And Body and we were back on the road. We had decided to take the Northern route west because it was the fastest (I-90 is as far North you can go to drive along a super charger route). The next charger was actually the next charger. They're not quite close enough to skip one there. So we stopped outside of Toledo (we theoretically could've made it to the next one, but with 5% left. Not a nice cushion).

While Nick caught Pokemon in the parking lot, I chatted with a highway patrol officer who was very interested in the Teslas. I've found that when you stop, it becomes very social if anyone else is around. People who don't have them want to ask questions, and people who do have them want to socialize. It reminds me of the RV community and how social they were. Like a club.

45min and we were back on the road. It was about this time that we realized how many tolls there are between PA and WI. An inordinate number. And exactly one day before is when I gave my EZ Pass away. How much did I regret that decision. Especially
Shake ShackShake ShackShake Shack

Lunch at our second charge stop outside Cleveland. I had a different place in mind when I suggested that we go there for lunch. Just meh. But great milkshake!
because the tolls are 50% off at some points if you use EZ Pass.

We stopped one more time before Chicago, near Southbend, IN. This one was in a mall parking lot! Convenient if we had more time and it wasn't storming. So back on the road after a quick charge up. Most of our trip has included construction. For better or worse, it improved our efficiency because it forced us to drive slower.

When we left that charger it was around 6pm (EST). We still had plenty of pep and had been given a tip to get breakfast in Kenosha, WI. Nick's friend was going to meet us there and we figured it would be a great place to stop for the night. We were still full from lunch so we pressed on. Turned out that Nick's friend couldn't make it, so we hopped off I-90 for a take out deep dish slice in Chicago for a late dinner. It was 10:30pm but thanks to the time change only 9:30! We also found out that it takes an hour and a half to call in an order for a deep dish pizza (which the guy pretty tenaciously
Charging outside ToldedoCharging outside ToldedoCharging outside Toldedo

This highway patrol officer had a lot of questions about the Tesla
wanted to call a pan pizza). So slices at Art of Pizza worked out perfectly. Back in the car, another toll, and some more rain to head north a couple hours to Kenosha.

We hit a super charger on the way north for enough charge to get to Kenosha. This is when things started to get hairy. We started really looking for a place to stay (we wanted to see how far we'd get before committing to a hotel), and found out that the entire city of Kenosha, and a 25mi radius were sold out. No luck with my credit card concierge either. But apparently the online places to reserve, like expedia or hotelstonight, have reserved blocks of rooms that you can still book.

I lucked out and snagged the last room at the Radisson directly across the street from the supercharger near Kenosha! Perfect! And then the fun begins. When you exit the highway there you pay ANOTHER toll just to exit. So getting on AND getting off?! Fine. $1.90. Except that your only options are coins in exact change, or their version of EZ Pass. It was around 11pm and no one was around. Great. I
Our trip!Our trip!Our trip!

All those little red flags are charging stops that we're supposed to stop at
backed up and we scoured the car for coins. Later someone gave me 2 great tips: 1-- you can pretty much always find extra change on the ground near the basket (why aren't homeless people around there??) And 2-- apparently you can pay it online if you don't have change. Things that would've been nice to know before. We found the change, which didn't all register in the machine, so we kept chucking dimes at it until it turned green. Like feeding a troll under the bridge.

Ok, but now we're almost there. I go to check in and the frazzled lady behind the counter tells me she doesn't have my reservation and there are no rooms left. Uh-oh. So I call the hotelstonight service line, and the girl re-sent it, which showed up on the fax machine but not in their computer system. Great. So she talked to the front desk girl and tried to get an upgrade room and said they'd pay the difference. Couldn't even get that! Back to the drawing board.

The hotelstonight girl found the closest hotel they had, back toward Chicago about 40 min. Decisions. We charged up for about 20 min then headed back down to the new hotel. We traded the convenience of being at the super charger ($200) for a very nice hotel 40 min south ($75 after the $25 credit she gave me). No where to plug in, but we got a great room (after some switching by the front desk because they forgot to give us a rollaway) and snuck the car in no problem. (Carrier that looks like a gym bag and litter pan in a perfectly sized cardboard box is very helpful for that). The room was actually a suite, with a pullout huge couch and nice little fridge!

We crashed immediately, and I slept soooo well. In the morning, we had a clogged toilet and no soap, but for the inconvenience they comped us breakfast (I got him to substitute some free bottles of water instead since we had breakfast plans).

And that was the first day! 715 miles, $60.10 in tolls.


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