Aftermath, 2016 USA trip (12.20)

I’ve been home five days and I’ve had some time to rest, catch up on mail, and think about the trip I just completed.

Several times on the trip, someone would ask me why I was doing the trip they way I did, or what was the push that lead to me doing it at this time.  Traveling is something I enjoy.  I don’t enjoy every aspect, particularly airports and flying, but I enjoy seeing new places, trying new foods, meeting new people and having new experiences.  I’ve had the desire to do an epic road trip around the USA since I was a teenager.  Really, I’d like to see the entire world and then go out into the rest of the universe. 🙂

Why now?  I had been in a position financially to start doing more traveling over the past few years.  When I bought the Tesla, I was interested in trying a road trip using the SuperCharger network.  I did a two week long road trip in April / May of this year going to Indiana, then Colorado and Utah before returning to Phoenix.  I loved it.  Driving the Tesla is unlike any other car I’ve driven.  There is no transmission.  There is a gearbox but drive is one gear.  There is no engine noise.  There are no fumes.  The ride is smooth.  All of this combines to much less fatigue from extended driving sessions.  Yes, charging takes significantly more time than filling up at the gas pump.  That has to be taken into account when planning the road trip.  It’s going to take longer.  I found that I often enjoyed the stops.  I used that time to walk a bit, talk to people, eat, use the restroom, read a bit, and play the DS.  The SuperChargers also enable cheaper travel.  This is changing a bit for new owners in 2017 and forward, but my car is grandfathered into the old policy where SuperCharging is free to me.

So, when I returned from that road trip in May, I had the desire to go back out again and see more.  I was also burnt out at my job.  I’d been there nearly nine years.  The pay was good, many of the people were great, but I was tired from the stress of it.  I wanted an extended break.  I started saving in May in case I made a change in my career / life.  In September, I decided it was time to quit and go explore for a while before deciding on the next step of my career.  So, I put in my notice and made plans to leave on October 1st.  I probably should have done it a month earlier to be traveling in a warmer season, but this trip ended up going well with the weather for most of the days.

I left my home on October 4th and I returned around 11:45pm on December 15th.  I spent 73 days traveling.  I had wanted to leave on October 1st but the prep time took longer than I expected and I was very tired after the last week of work.  Over the course of this trip, I had help and hospitality from many people.  I need to thank my friend Bill, in particular.  Bill took care of my house, pool and the Miata while I was gone.  He oversaw major pool repairs, kept the pool clean, organized the mail, took the Miata through emissions testing, adjusted the thermostat, and other various things the entire time I was gone.  I can’t thank him enough for keeping my home in good shape while I was gone!

The most fun times on the trip were when I was with other people, old friends and new.  One of the best parts of traveling around the country was being able to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in years.  I also met several people I’ve known online.  I had very few negative experiences on this trip, and even the ones I did have weren’t horrible.  I had an amazing amount of positive experiences on the trip!  Almost everyone I met was kind and friendly.  When I was traveling alone, I would sometimes go into a brewery or hotel bar and start conversations with locals to learn about the area and receive suggestions on sight-seeing.  I made new friends this way that opened doors, such as the tour of ESPN thanks to Jenn.

I made a point of trying not to set a schedule, when possible.  I wanted the freedom to roam without feeling pressure.  Before leaving on the trip, I constructed a bed made of two pieces of foam, a sheet, two blankets and two pillows in the Tesla so that I could sleep in the car and save money.  I also had a desire to travel overseas for a bit, perhaps to Italy, so I took my passport and used my carry-on luggage for one of my two bags that I brought in the car.  I ended up only sleeping in the Tesla 9 nights.  The foam cost about $150, so those nights did save money over being in a hotel, but I didn’t use it as much as I had hoped.  It wasn’t a comfort in the car problem.  The Tesla bed proved to be more comfortable than some of the nights in hotels.  Instead, I found it more difficult than expected to find good places to park overnight for sleeping, and I didn’t want to sleep in the car once I was in the cold of New England.  I did try a Walmart parking lot one night, but there was too much activity for me to get comfortable enough to sleep.  The SuperChargers outside of California ended up being my favorite place to sleep, but that has changed as they are becoming more busy with more Teslas.  Also, don’t park in a SuperCharger stall space overnight unless you want a big parking bill.  That change went into effect the day after I arrived home.  I never parked at a SuperCharger that was busy.

I met a group of single travelers in Terceira!  That lead to new connections for future trips. 🙂  For range, I went as far West as Crescent City, California, North as far as Couer d’Alene, Idaho, East as far as Terceira’s airport, and South as far as the Southernmost point in Key West, Florida.  I ate way too much fast food, but thankfully only gained about 5 pounds.  I’d bet my blood pressure is actually better after the trip than before. 🙂

I did not take a weapon with me on the trip.  The only time I recall feeling unsafe was in Atlantic City.  I chose to leave without staying there.  I only had one person approach the car while I was sleeping in it.  He was mall security for the lot and he was very polite and apologized for disturbing me.  I found that I enjoyed some of the nights in the car in the more rural areas of Montana and South Dakota.

The car had no significant issues.  I had a rock break the windshield, I put a small dent in the driver’s side rear when I dropped a charging connector on the car, and I scuffed the passenger rear wheel when I curbed it in a parking garage in Flagstaff.  The passenger door locked and would not open in Boston.  Tesla fixed that while they had the car.  On the way home, I noticed the passenger front window sometimes has trouble going up, so I stopped rolling it down.  I suspect that’s related to the door fix and will have it fixed by Tesla soon.  I never ran out of charge.  I was never stranded.  My car never failed to ‘start’ or drive where I needed to go. 🙂  I tried to do the entire trip without paying for fuel (charging) but two times I had to pay.  The SuperCharger in Savannah, Georgia is at the airport and located in a pay to park lot.  The other time was when I was trying to cross Texas and realized I was going to run out of charge.  I stopped at a hotel with a Tesla Destination Charger and they charged me to use it.

While I was at Julie’s house in October, I looked for a trip to Italy.  I found one, but didn’t like it enough to justify the cost.  I had estimated spending $3,000 to $4,000 on a trip to somewhere in Europe.  The Terceira trip ended up costing about $1,300, so that greatly helped offset the higher-than-estimated amount I spent on hotels around the USA.

Some things I learned on this trip that might be of use to other travelers:

The Priceline phone app is wonderful.  The unnamed hotel deals are a great way to go.  I ended up in a Sheraton twice with those deals and never had a bad experience using it.  I had two hotel owners explain that Priceline charges them 15% of the negotiated price so it would be better to find the price on Priceline then go talk to the hotel and negotiate the difference.  Makes sense, so I tried it.  However, when I tried it, the hotel gave some resistance to even matching the Priceline price and then put me in the worst room in the hotel – next to the lobby so I heard the foot traffic all night.  Lesson learned: just use the Priceline app and be done with it.

Many hotels have coupons for nearby restaurants.  Front desk staff also usually have quarters if you need change for laundry.

Hotel lobbies are open 24/7 for most hotels.  Hotel lobbies have restrooms.  This can be very useful when traveling late at night.

The Canada / USA border patrol prefers you have a specific itinerary / reason for traveling over the border.  Also, being unemployed is a red flag to them, it seems.

Toll roads are everywhere on the East Coast, particularly New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.  Some of the exits only accept cash.  Some only accept exact change.  Many are moving to a system where they will mail you a bill (I’ve already received one from Massachusetts).  Bring money.  I think I went through about $250 in tolls on this trip.

If you need to charge your phone and can’t find an outlet or don’t have the wall adapter, you can plug a usb cord into most flatscreen TVs.  It’s a slow charge, but it works.  Leave the TV on while charging.

I’m sure there is more I wanted to write in this entry but I can’t recall at the moment.  I do want to thank everyone that met up with me, bought me a meal or beer, offered me a couch or bed, and / or shared a conversation with me!  I had a great trip, made new friends, and have a bunch of new memories now.  I’ve very thankful for the experience!

I do intend to continue traveling when I can, though I probably won’t do another 73 day road trip.  I will keep the ryanroams.com domain and may use it again for future trips.  I’ll finish with some statistics from the trip. Some of these are approximations, as accurate as I could get.

Grand Total cost $8,054.08
Cash – $823
Cash for Terceira – $435
Terceira hotel, flight, 3 events booking – $834
Tolls ~ $250
Hotels – $2516.27 (not including Terceira)
Fuel for the Tesla – $12.86 (possibly more than 100 different SuperChargers)
Miles driven – 15,299.8
kWh – 4650.1  (4.6 MegaWatt Hours)
Miles flown ~ 6,400
Total days: 73
Nights in the car: 9
Nights in a hotel: 42
Nights at somebody’s home: 19
Nights on a plane flight: 1
Furthest West: Crescent City, CA  (-124.1944)
Furthest East:  Terceira Airport  (-27.090833)
Furthest North: Couer d’Alene, Idaho (47.708479) (closer to North Pole than Equator)
Furthest South: Key West, FL  (24.5465)
Pictures and videos taken: 1510
People: hundreds
Memories: thousands

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