One Long Road Trip
While we’ve taken our Model S on many trips requiring a stop or two at a super charger, we’ve only road tripped with it requiring multiple charging stops a few times (Boston and Virginia). Both went smoothly. However, for this Christmas break, we planned an real road trip to the southern most point in the USA, Key West. Complicating the matter, we planned to stop and visit as much family as possible in route to photo shoots along the quirky beach town where Hemmingway liked to hang.
The week before we left was one stress after another. Our drone hit the ground hard, thus in the shop for our trip, my mom was in and out of the hospital, and just to top it off the Model S required a drive train replacement. Stress was high before the X mile trip south where we planned to stop with a friend in Raleigh, NC. As we pulled out of Jennifer’s school the rain started in earnest. We made good time to the Delaware supercharger and although we didn’t have to stop to charge, we decided to stretch our legs and let Munson (Yes of course Munson is with us) out for a pee.
After a few minutes, we were cruising down 95 knocking off the miles with great music from the internet radio in the tesla comfort we knew so well. However, as we got further south our plans hit the shitter. Joules (our Model S’s name for those who forget) started rerouting us around traffic. She does this often, usually for a few blocks, to overcome traffic. However, this one was a major detour. Shortly, after we saw a road sign saying I95 S is closed and they were rerouting traffic at an exit further down. Fortunately, Joules had an earlier and better route that took us around the backup caused by the official detour. However, given the flooding and pouring rain our efficiency was already down. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that the Bethesda charging station is temporary, only two supercharging stalls, and in the heart of the mall the last full shopping day before Christmas. We definitely didn’t want to stop there.
Now, instead of getting by Baltimore before rush hour we were approaching it in the midst of chaos. Our normally wise and informative GPS started to go schizophrenic on information overload from the influx of traffic related incidents. Rarely did 60 seconds pass without Joules rerouting us. Sadly, we didn’t know a way to tell it to stop rerouting. Given the dark, rainy, unknown roads we were very unsettled. Jennifer and I were both thinking, no more long road trips.
Giving up on Raleigh, we needed another plan. I called some friends in the area and they were more than willing to let us crash. However, stopping in the DC area when we were headed to Key West wasn’t exactly making much progress. Fortunately, there was a Telsa supercharger in Rocky Mount, NC with hotels next door. We figured if we could make it there, we could fully top off while we slept and just get an early start the next day.
However, that still meant making it to a super charger from where we were. It was the first time in almost three years of ownership we felt the slightest range anxiety. According to the estimates, we could arrive in Woodbridge with 7% battery left. Having never been that low, we didn’t want to chance it. While we had more faith in Telsa’s estimates, what if there was another accident? We only passed 5 along the way. We decided for good or bad, we are too conservative to chance it and pulled into the temporary Bethesda chargers. As predicted the two stalls were full. There was however a wall charger (like we have at home). The difference is in 20 minutes on a supercharger you can gain ~150 miles of range. With a wall charger you would gain 8. I waited, while Jennifer took Munson for a walk and then fed her. We stayed for 45 minutes and neither of the owners of the vehicles emerged. You are supposed to be limited to 60 minutes, but that rule is often violated at busy malls. While this sounds counter intuitive, Tesla needs to move the stalls to inconvenient places in the malls so locals (yes one guy pulled in while we were there saying he was local) don’t use them for parking spaces.
We topped off enough to feel comfortable that we’d make it to Woodbridge and headed out. We made it without issue and true to Telsa’s estimates if we had trusted Joules we never needed to stop in Bethesda. We plugged in and took Munson for a quick walk. We let munson sleep in the car, she is very comfortable in Joules, and went to eat at a Bahama Breeze restaurant. One thing about travelling electrically is it changes your perspective on travel. Instead of rushing through fast food, we are more inclined to stop for a real meal at real restaurants. Most of the stops are situated by shopping malls with plenty of options. Woodbridge is one of those stops, plenty of restaurants and a large mall to distract you from the time spent charging.
By the time we finished dinner, Joules was almost at 100% charge, plenty to get to Rocky Mount, NC so we took off. The roads, while still wet and obviously dark, were much better as the DC mayhem was left behind us. About ten miles out of Rocky Mount, another Telsa blew past us. What if they took the last spot? That would be deflating, but we could always charge first thing in the AM during breakfast. A few minutes later our fears were alieved as there were multiple charging spots open (8 in total). We checked in at about 1:30 AM, checked into our hotel and were ass in bed by 2:00 AM.
Wanting to get to our Uncle Dick for Christmas Eve, we awoke at 6AM and were on the road, fully charged, by 7:00 AM. While we take it for granted, if you are not familiar with super chargers, it’s important to note, that they are 100% free.
The rest of the way to Coca Beach was actually a delight. We stopped every two to three hours, never experiencing range anxiety. When we pulled into the first stop of the day, we met a few other Tesla owners who were headed to Florida. We would see them at each stop, grabbing a bite, a bit of conversation, and a few laughs. While the “Eat Slow” movement gained traction years ago, maybe the drive slow movement will catch on. Not feeling compelled to race every mile allowed us to take in the local color, try different restaurants, even stop in a Petco much to Munson’s approval.
When we started the day, Joules predicted, including charging stops, that we would arrive at 7:12 PM. We arrived at 7:30, but that included an extra 20 minutes at the stop before so we could charge enough to go well past Uncle Dick’s the next day. So score a gold star for Telsa’s predicative prowess. The only hiccup of the day was stopping at a charger next to a Cracker Barrel and Denny’s. Sadly, because of Christmas Eve the Cracker Barrel was closed. We opted to skip the Denny’s and move on. Otherwise, other than the stop at the Savanah airport all the stations had plenty to offer while you charged.
From Uncle Dick’s we drove south to visit an old friend, Jennifer’s Grandmother, and my cousin in Ft. Lauderdale. We charged less than 10 miles from Faith and after a two day pit stop headed to Key West. As luck would have it, our hotel had Telsa (not superchargers) chargers. So we just needed enough charge to get down there from Faith. This was not a problem, but again, being conservative, we pit stopped in Marathon to top the tank off a little.
The Gates Hotel had a charger literally 6 spots from our room. We couldn't ask for anything better.
Check out our One Dress photo story for shots from Key West.
Story to be continued once we arrive home...