Part 1 of a 2-Part Series
I have been a pure electric vehicle driver for six and a half years, and ours has been a pure EV household since my wife Molly got her first EV three years ago. None of our first three EVs had a range of over 85 miles, so, needless to say, we haven’t taken a ton of road trips over the past few years.
Everything changed last September, though. That’s when we got a Tesla Model X 100D. With its standard black exterior and white “son of Naugahyde” vegan interior, we lovingly dubbed it the Oreo. We haven’t owned the Oreo for even 11 months yet, and it already has well over 20,000 miles on it. I want to tell you about how we recently racked up around 4,000 of those miles – on an epic road trip across nine Western states to visit five national parks.
The weary travelers: a 6-year-old-boy and an 8-year-old girl whose very existences have coincided with our inability to go for truly extended driving journeys (not that we have been shy about pushing the limits of our various batteries on weekend rambles), a pregnant lady already into her third trimester, and me, your trusty narrator/driver.
Here’s how it went down.
What We Did
After Molly flew down to San Diego to host a graduate school reunion conference she had planned, I drove the kids south from Sunnyvale, CA to San Diego to meet her. Our first night, we stayed at Harris Ranch – home to one of the six Tesla Superchargers from the company’s very first rollout in 2012.
The next day, we headed to Paradise Point Resort in San Diego (which is soon to be rebranded as a Margaritaville…don’t ask) after a stop at Legoland. Although we didn’t need them, it was nice to know that Legoland has standard J1772 chargers, while Paradise Point has a Tesla destination charger, which we very much did need.
Once Molly finished her conference, we began the National Parks circuit in earnest, spending the next 14 nights in these places:
- Day 1 in Las Vegas
- Days 2-3 in Zion National Park
- Day 4 in Park City, UT
- Days 5-6 in Grand Teton National Park
- Days 7-8 in Yellowstone National Park
- Day 9 in Kalispell, MT
- Days 10-11 in Glacier National Park
- Day 12 in Pasco, WA
- Days 13-14 in Crater Lake National Park
We charged primarily along the Tesla Supercharger network but wouldn’t look askance at any arrangement, from:
- begging the rangers at Zion to use a mercifully-empty RV spot in their own employee lodging area
- to plugging into an extension cord running out the window of the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton – and making a sewage-extraction truck disconnect and move when we realized we were blocked in (sorry, bud!)
- to brokering a deal a day ahead of time to charge in a trailer park on the east side of Glacier while we took a tour on one of that park’s famous red buses.
Certainly, many aspects of an EV road trip are the same as they would be when using an internal combustion engine vehicle. Alas, as the dueling sayings go, “God and/or the devil is in the details.” With that in mind, some of the electric car- and charging-related highlights/lowlights include:
- Barely making it into Vegas with 2% charge remaining, and only by “leaving the driving to Elon” (aka using Autopilot) for much longer and at a much lower speed than I or any of my fellow drivers on I-15 would have liked.
- Discovering upon gleefully preparing to plug into Zion’s beautiful new J-Plug chargers that I had left our Tesla plug adapter on a Blink charger back in San Diego (d’oh! – more on this later).
- As many EV drivers already know, there is a great disparity in prices, from the 59 cents a kWh Blink charges non-members in California (highway robbery, in my book) to getting off scot-free when charging in Zion NP, amongst some of the most breathtaking sights in the world.
- As a safety freak, I can attest that nothing beats the feeling of having the vast majority of a vehicle’s weight spread underneath the floor in the form of the batteries, thus lowering the center of gravity and accordingly reducing the potential for a rollover. The surpassing safety of most electric cars is born out by the tests of various regulatory bodies, but, I’m telling you, the fact that you can feel it makes for a happily constant reminder that one is being a good parent.
- On a related note, because there is no engine, there is plenty of storage in what Elon Musk calls the “frunk” (a portmanteau of “front” and “trunk”; personally, I’m partial to the Britishism “boot,” although that doesn’t explicitly require that it be in the front). In part because of these, even though we by no means packed light, we were never remotely close to filling up the car. That said, we didn’t bring any bicycles, ATVs, Newfoundland dogs, etc., so I suppose there are families out there that could find even the Model X limiting.
- For the Glacier NP part of the trip, we hooked up with Molly’s dad and stepmom and chauffeured them around the park, including a 100-mile roundtrip jaunt to the east side from our base on the west side. As has been the case when ferrying grandparents and other kith and kin before, they found the ride to be comfortable and fun. That said, I’m sure they would have liked for me to set the target temperature for the climate control several degrees cooler, but part of the EV lifestyle to which I am accustomed is always erring on the side of choosing charging risk mitigation over creature comfort.
So – why did we go to all this hassle? you might ask. Well, I’m a sustainability obsessive, obviously, so there’s that. But the main reason is that it allowed us to have an incredible array of experiences that are now etched indelibly onto our collective family memory (a miniscule sampling of which are presented in pictorial form below), all while sleeping a quality of sleep that can only be achieved, as I like to say, with the knowledge that one isn’t speeding the demise of the planet by burning copious amounts of fossil fuel simply to take a frivolous vacation.
We also learned a lot that we couldn’t have without entering into, and then completing, such an ambitious undertaking. So much so that although “I am not in the advice-giving business,” as I like to say, I feel compelled to offer some tips to future e-roadtrippers. To find out what those are, stay tuned for Part 2!