Author: Ryan Wilson

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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Day 73: 500 miles to home, Flagstaff (12.15)

I got an early start so I could leave in the morning before Jay left for work.  I also planned to meet Colt, Dakota and Dillon in Flagstaff for dinner.  I said my goodbyes and left about 8am.  Santa Fe is at 7200 feet elevation so I was greeted to frost on my car and windows as I was leaving.

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I charged in Albuquerque and grabbed some breakfast.  On the way to Gallup, I-40 crosses the Continental Divide.

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Throughout the trip, there have been some stories that I’ve left out of the blog.  It would make it more entertaining to some people but perhaps bother others or embarrass me.  This one I’ll put in the blog.

There was an accident just East of Church Rock that lead to I-40 being completely stopped for a while.  No worries, I had some extra time in the travel schedule.  I put the car in park and pulled out the DS.  About 15 minutes later, my gut decides it’s the right time to remind me that I ate very spicy food for dinner.  I need to go.  There is nowhere to go.  I start to sweat.  A few minutes later, traffic starts moving.  I get in the right lane and start looking for an exit.  I made it, thankfully, but that was uncomfortable.

Shortly after charging in Gallup, I saw a welcoming sight:

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I arrived at the Flagstaff SuperCharger just before 5pm.  I charged up and then met up with my friends for dinner and drinks at The McMillan Kitchen and Bar in Flagstaff.  While pulling into the parking garage, I curbed the Tesla and scuffed up my right rear rim. 😦

A little Flagstaff decoration

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We had a great time catching up!  About 9pm, I said my goodbyes, took Colt back to his car, and started the final leg of the trip home.  It was raining for most of the drive South on I-17.

I arrived home just before midnight.  I will write a summary / stats blog post within the next few days.

Miles: 15,299.8

New Mexico, Santa Fe, MTG (12.14)

I left Amarillo with the goal of getting to Santa Fe about the time my friend Jay would be finished with work.

I was surprised at how good it felt to start to see the Southwest desert and mountains again.  I also find that I do enjoy the open spaces.  I had a bit of fun on the open road and took the Tesla up to 117.  I had reached about 120 when crossing Arizona on the way to California at the start of the trip.

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I drove up to Las Vegas, NM to use the SuperCharger before going to Santa Fe.  There is a permit active for a SuperCharger in Santa Fe at this time, but it hasn’t been built.  I caught up with Jay at the end of his workday.  He introduced me to his co-workers and showed me his office.

We walked over to La Choza for dinner.  If you haven’t had authentic New Mexico cuisine, know that it is spicy.  Their chile peppers are no joke.  🙂  The food was fantastic.  My lips and tongue were numb by the end of dinner.

We went over to Jay’s place and spent the evening playing MTG.  Jay has my favorite pre-con Commander deck and I was quite happy to play a few games with it.

Crossing Texas, slow travel day (12.13)

Today was a travel day.  I aimed to get to the Texas / New Mexico border area on I-40.  I had arrived in Waco just before 2am.  I charged up a bit so I wouldn’t risk waking to an empty battery, but I didn’t stay for the full charge before going to my hotel.  As such, the first thing in the morning was to return to the SuperCharger for a charge.

The Waco SuperCharger is near Collin Street Bakery and they have placed this sign near in view when charging:

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Free caffeine in a bakery?  YES!  I received a large Breakfast Blend tea and purchased a small pecan brownie and three different cookies.  🙂

Next SuperCharger was in Denton.  At this point, I could head North along a route with more SuperChargers to I-40 in Oklahoma City and then head West, or I could take a chance and cut NW across Texas to the SuperCharger in Childress.  I looked and the distance between SuperChargers was about 211 miles.  More than I have attempted.  It’s also a gradual incline as you’re heading towards the Rocky Mountains.  The Tesla navigation estimated I could make it with a 6% buffer if I charged to 240 miles estimated range.  That’s a long charge as it gets very slow after about 230 miles.  I settled in for the long charge.

At 241 estimated range, I unplugged and set out.  I kept to the speed limit of 75  and 65 along the route.  The car informed me to reduce my speed and I did, a bit, but not as much as recommended.  I was keeping an eye on the buffer in the range and things were looking good.

Then there was a highway detour.  That cost a few miles of range.  After that, the temperature outside dropped rapidly.  Cold air is harder on the range for two reasons.  First, the air is denser so it takes more energy to drive through it.  Second, the battery starts to get cold and has to use energy to warm itself.  My estimated range started dropping faster than I planned.  I cut speed several times until I was the slow car being passed by everyone.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.  The dreaded, “charging required to reach destination” message appeared.

I had checked to make sure there were destination chargers along the route, just in case.  There is one at the Hampton Inn in Vernon, TX.  I called ahead to ensure it was operational and available.  It was.  Unfortunately, I had to either stay at the hotel or pay to use the charger.  Since I was going to stop, I sped up to make up a bit of lost time.  I arrived at the Hampton Inn, paid $10.86, and plugged in for one hour.  I was disappointed to pay for the charge.  Up to this point, I had not spent anything for charging on this trip.   The hour added 25 miles of range and I believed I could make it, so I disconnected and resumed the trip.  I arrived at the Childress SuperCharger with 15 miles of range remaining.

The route had taken longer than planned, so I drove one more segment to Amarillo and called it a night.

Just like old times, Austin (12.12)

I left San Marcos and headed towards my friend Lisa’s home in Austin.  I arrived earlier than expected.  The drive over to her subdivision is beautiful!  She introduced me to her dog, Murphy, and then showed me the house and her office.

We went out to lunch at a restaurant overlooking a laked up portion of the Colorado River.  We sat outside for the views and spent lunch catching up on the years that have passed since last we hung out.  The food and company were fantastic and the day was gorgeous!

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After lunch, Lisa returned home to work for the afternoon.  She gave me suggestions of places to see in Austin.  We made plans to have dinner with her husband and daughter.

I drove over to Covert Park at Mt Bonnell for the scenic views.  The drive up was fun with plenty of twists and curves.  I parked alongside the park area and walked up to the overlook area.  The view overlooks part of the Colorado River and downtown Austin is visible in the distance.

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I had some concern about range so I decided to use the remainder of the afternoon to add some charge at a destination charger.  I found one relatively nearby at Omni Barton Creek Resort.

I spoke to the staff, plugged in, and settled in an outside seat of the restaurant with a glass of wine and my DS.  As I started gaming, the bartender walked out with a board of food.  He explained that they have a new chef who is practicing and rather than waste the food they would give me some of it.  🙂

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I left and drove back to Lisa’s, arriving late due to rush hour traffic.  I met her husband, Carlos, and their daughter, Mia.  They took me out to Lisa’s favorite restaurant.  The food was great and I overate.

I took several pictures from the car of the moon and such but all ended up blurry.

We returned to their home where we sat and talked until midnight.  I said goodbye and drove up to Waco for the night.

When I had arrived at Lisa’s, she had given me a very thoughtful gift.  One of my favorite moments from the entire trip.

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Into Texas, Tesla Love (12.11)

My goal today was to get to or very close to Austin by the end of the day.  I had made plans to catch up with Lisa and her family on Monday the 12th.

One of the SuperChargers in Louisiana was behind a shopping complex with a Trader Joe’s.  A young couple drove up to the car and started asking me about it.  I invited them into the car and completely geeked out over it with them for about 20 minutes. 🙂   I think they’ll be owners someday.

I passed through Houston around 8pm.  Several of the high rise buildings are decorated with Christmas lights.  I tried to take some pictures but they turned out blurry.

I stopped for the night in San Marcos.

The Road Home (12.10)

Condo checkout was 10am on Siesta Key.  I spent the morning getting the car re-packed and making sure everything was ready to go again.

At this point, I decided the next big stop I wanted to make was Austin, Texas.  So, the next few days would be travel days to cross half of the country.

As I drove North up Florida, the temperature reached 72F just past Tampa.  By the time I was moving West through the panhandle, it was down around 39F.

Dinner was at a small mom-and-pop pizza place in a small town while charging.  The service was poor but the food was tasty.

I  made it to Mobile, Alabama and stopped for the night.