Friday, July 29, 2016

Speed limit 26,000 MPH - Day 6

Today we traveled from Gallup, New Mexico to Tucson, Arizona. Along the way, we had one major stop planned and a stop at Tucson International airport to pickup another participant in this crazy adventure. 

Our major planned stop was Meteor Crater, Arizona, the site of one of the best preserved meteor impacts on the planet. The last time I visited this site was 27 years ago when I travelled with my brother Nick from Las Vegas to Saint Mary's of the Plains in Kansas. He was drafted by the school to play basketball. Of course, in those days we did not have auto-pilot. On that trip, I had planned to take a leisurely jaunt down I-40 with a couple of overnight stays. Nick had different plans, we ended up driving the whole thing flat out, other than the stop to visit the meteor. and to eat. But I digress, back to our Tesla journey. 
In addition the meteor to having scientific and geologic significance, there's technological significance. The Apollo program spent quite a bit of time at the crater working out logistics for the lunar landings. There are artifacts and information from the Apollo program at the site as well. At the bottom of the crater, there was a mockup of an astronaut planting the USA flag. From out postion at the top of the crater, this couldn't been seen with the naked eye, it required using one of the provided telescopes. That crater was big! 

On the road leading out of the crater site, we noticed a group of rusted old cars way out in the desert. We stopped and took a hike to investigate. Interestingly, they were at the intersection of two dirt roads. It's almost as if an accident happened 80 years ago and they just left the vehicles there. After pondering how the site came to be, we made our way back to the car and got back on the road. 

As we sailed on towards Tucson, we enjoyed more of the beautiful painted deserts and road side attractions. 

Late in the day, we arrived in Tucson, and picked up Mom from the airport. It's not often we travel 2935 miles to pick someone up from the airport. I don't think we would want to do this on a daily basis.

Tomorrow we visit the Pima air museum and the aircraft boneyards. The boneyard is the reason we travelled off of the direct path to Fremont. Oliver has been wanted to visited the boneyard for a few years now. Tomorrow the day will arrive. 

Arrived at the gates of Mordor!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Aluminum doesn't rust - Day 5

An original Route 66 sign!
Day 5 finds us venturing west on I-40 along the old Route 66 from Weatherford, Oklahoma to Gallup, New Mexico. This will be the longest leg of our Tesla Coast to Coast journey. While most of the day will be spent driving, there are a few special stops we have planned. Of course, even before we were underway, Oliver was excited about getting a picture with an original Route 66 sign. Fortunately for us we found one at our first stop.

Our first stop was for a quick charge in Shamrock,Texas. The Tesla chargers are located in the parking lot of a historic Conoco gas station. They no longer serve fossil fuels here, only electricity. This station was the basis for one of the buildings in the Cars movies and Oliver was very interested in its history. Curator Diane gave us an awesome tour and history lesson as well as helping take some photos of us. This is a must stop for anyone traveling this route. There is some interesting history to be learned here. If you want to know more about the place, you can find them on Facebook at U-DROP INN.

Our lunch stop was at The Big Texan. This is the home of the free 72 ounce steak and fixins. Provided you can eat it all in 60 minutes of course. While we chose to go the modest route, we were still able to see the challenge area and the timers they have for multiple challengers who want a free meal. Our waiter, Daniel, was very well-versed in all the facts and history related to the challenge.  He was able to answer all of Oliver's questions with ease. It turns out that all the answers can be found on the cups for our drinks. During our lunch, we were serenaded by a roaming minstrel, David Waddle,  who sang some Johnny Cash tunes for us. We told him the story of Oliver's cousin Cash and he enjoyed it.

No trip along historic Route 66 would be complete without a stop at the Cadillac Ranch. This middle of cornfield homage to the Cadillac of cars is a Route 66 icon. The Cadillacs are well preserved considering they're exposed to elements and just plopped into the ground. I suppose it's the hundred layers of paint has something to do with the preservation of the vehicles. Of course, if someone chose to stick a Model S in the ground like that they wouldn't have to worry about painting it, because aluminum doesn't rust.

The rest of the trip was quite enjoyable, the New Mexico desert is a sight to behold. Fortunately for us, there were few traffic problems and the Tesla lapped up the miles like a kitten lapping up cream. Thank goodness for auto pilot.

Tomorrow, we meet up with Mom in Tucson. Will we be at the airport on time? Tune in tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Powering through Oklahoma by the wind! - Day 4

Special note from day four: Here's a lesson we now learned the hard way when planning trips through major metropolitan areas.  Be sure to add extra time for construction! Thank you Dallas for making our trip just a little longer today.

Prior to leaving Houston, we decided to visit the Japanese garden that was near the museum district,  where we spent the night.  We have visited Japanese gardens in many of the cities we visit and enjoy the relaxation they provide. Houston did not disappoint. The only real issue was the heat. I can't be that hot in Japan, can it?

Our major stop of the day was at the Tesla service and sales center in Houston. Yes, this trip is called Tesla Coast to Coast and we plan to make a few stops at locations that have stores and superchargers. This location was a bonus because it had that and a service center. We had heard it was pretty nice and we weren't disappointed. What a fancy place compared to our little center in Durham. Tina, Kelly, and Susan were very helpful in finding Oliver the T-shirt we've been trying to get for the past few weeks. Now we'll have matching shirts. Thanks for taking our photos and thank you for your assistance. If you want to see more pictures, open our interactive map and click on the Signature stop labeled for this location. Hope you enjoy the blog.

We would like to give a special shout out to our friends at the Collin Street bakery. At this location, if you show your Tesla key, you get a free drink. We told them our Tesla story and Oliver got a free ice cream and a free drink. Oliver chose some of their lemonade and it rocked. Thanks guys!

On the other side of Ardmore Oklahoma, we discovered some of Oklahoma's wind turbines. Since we charged nearby, I guess you could say we were powered by the wind. The turbines produce electricity that feed the grid and we charge from the grid, enough said. 

Due to extreme delays in Dallas, we ended up driving into the night. We hit one of Oklahoma's famous rain stores. The negative ions and cooler air were quite a relief from the heat of the day. 

We are now on Route 66. Time for some Nat King Cole and road tunes. Oliver is excited about the adventures that await us tomorrow.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Houston, TeslaCoastToCoast here. The Tesla has landed! - Day 3

Day three started with an incredible find. Our motel provided us with a free breakfast. Usually you get your choice of breakfast cereals, milk, bagels, various hot items, and that really fancy waffle maker that flips over to make the perfect waffle. This time, we could find no waffle maker. Oh no, a major fail for Oliver, he lives on those waffles when we travel. Fortunately for us, the attendant was nearby and mentioned that they have fresh pancakes. Of course, Oliver was game, but, to us, there were no pancakes to be found. And then she pointed out a big chrome machine that makes pancakes from scratch while you wait. This thing was crazy, it pops out the perfect pancakes right before your eyes. Oliver had an enjoyable breakfast and the world was right again.

After breakfast, we got on the road for Houston. The goal was to arrive in time to explore Space Center Houston. This portion of the trip was only a little tricky in that there aren't many high powered charging solutions (that we were prepared for anyway) in the area in and around the space center. This would mean a little more planning to ensure we wouldn't be stuck somewhere waiting on a public charger to get us to our next destination. We had planned stops at a supercharger in Lake Charles, LA, a Level 2 (meaning slower) charger in Baytown, TX, and a charge at our hotel for the night in Houston, TX. When we arrived at Lake Charles at around 10:30, we noticed that there was a Sonic right next to the supercharger. Well, we had actually planned to eat at the Sonic in Baytown later that day so we started thinking... if we did a range charge (charge the Tesla all the way up) there would be no need to stop in Baytown. Range charges take longer, as Oliver will be happy to explain,  as it takes almost as long to get from 80% to 100% full as it does from 10% to 80%. Stuffing in every last electron just takes longer. Saving the extra stop might be worth it and we would just eat an early lunch at around 11:30. We met some great folks who were at Sonic in their Corvettes. They had just lost some cash at the local casinos and were washing down their woes with milkshakes. Prior to lunch, I was able to get some supercharger crossfit in, for those in the the know this was intended to be a 20 minute AMRAP of 30 single unders (jump rope), 20 squats, and 10 push ups. Oliver turned it into a photo session, so I am not sure what I ended up with...

After lunch it was straight to the Space Center Houston. The navigation system messed with us bit and we ended up having to get directions from some federal officers on the base. Also, Oliver became obsessed with a light ouse we saw so we had to discuss finding it after our time at the space center. At the space center, we toured mission control at the Johnson Space Center, the rocket yard, and Independence Plaza among other others. We got to see many lunar artifacts that were very interesting. Oliver had fun but ran out of energy early, we ended up leaving before closing. He just wanted to find that lighthouse.

We were able to use the map in the Tesla to figure out where that lighthouse was located. When we arrived at the lighthouse, I realized it was part of a development and not an actual lighthouse. That explained things a bit, because I couldn't figure out why a light house would be placed so far inland. 

We ended the day and one of the fancier hotels of the trip, the Hotel Zaza. Oliver loved this place. We had a great dinner and Oliver made a new friend with someone visiting from San Francisco, spent some time in the pool, and were happy to get some down time in a room with a view. Since the hotel is in the museum district, we'll spend some time exploring in the morning before heading on to Oklahoma. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana - Day 2

Our day two started in Auburn, Alabama. After our long day one, we were ready for a day with few delays and new sights. On the way out of Auburn, we were able to check out the Auburn University campus. The exterior architecture was very nice, we didn't have time to explore the interiors.

At our first charge stop, we ran into the family from New York that saw us eating ribs and pork at the Atlanta charging station. Had quite a good conversation with them about travel. Turns out they are making there way to Houston so we might see them again.

Our first tourist stop, was Biloxi, Mississippi. This was an unplanned stop that I'm glad we added. We checked out the Biloxi lighthouse and museum. Interestingly, there was  a large contingent of folks hunting Pokeman. Like a whole tour bus load.

After our stint in Biloxi, we moved on to New Orleans. There is still some rebuilding going on there so I had to review for Oliver what transpired  a year before he was born. He took much interest in the structures that still hand't been rebuilt and evidence of water damage on others. Our goal was to visit the French Quarter and have some beignets. That goal was accomplished at the Cafe Du Monde, a famous location for this delight. Needless to say, Oliver was quite pleased.

In order to not end another post on the topic of food, I need to mention some other items. We visited Jefferson Park, checked out the Mississippi river, visited some eclectic stores, and did some people watching. Overall, a much better day than day one.  Tomorrow, it's on to Houston!

Notes from the road - Day One

Tesla Route Map
Our day one plan was to make this one of the longer travel days of our journey. Since we would be traveling through areas that we've been to many times before, we wouldn't need to build in too many stops. 

We had quite a slow start for this journey. We ended up leaving Durham 3 hours and 15 minutes late. Oliver took this better than expected and logged the time deltas. Throughout most of the day, he was a able to verify that his plan was working as expected and that the charging calculations were very accurate. What he did not anticipate was road construction into Charlotte,  just plain bad traffic out of Charlotte, a bus fire going into Atlanta that backup traffic for 20 miles, and construction that brought three lanes down to one on the way out of Atlanta. These delays added a few unexpected hours to the trip.

Autopilot Selfie
Our Tesla's autopilot system made most of the delays tolerable as it's a champ in stop and go freeway traffic. I don't get to use it that way in Durham much, but I'll bet for drivers and big cities they've found paradise. PS: Auto pilot is really cool for selfies.

Dinner to go please
Our major point of interest this day was our dinner stop. Fat Matt's rib shack. My wife and her mother discovered this place on a trip they took to Atlanta and we've been fans ever since. It's a must stop for us whenever we visit Atlanta. They have a stage and host blues bands often. The band this evening did not dissapoint. Fortunately for us, the lines weren't too long and we were able to get our food quickly. Due to all of the delays, we had decided to get take our and eat at the supercharger. 

We setup at the supercharger and ate while the car charged. We got some interesting looks from some passerby Tesla owners. It was a blast and the food was great. 

Fat Matt's is good anywhere...really!
Guess our location...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Young Tesla fan plans cross country road trip to visit Tesla factory

For many, the cross country road trip is a right of passage. For nine year old Oliver, it is a dream that became an award winning math project. A dream that just may become reality in the summer of 2016. Oliver’s dream is to travel from his home in Durham, North Carolina to visit the Tesla Motors factory in Fremont, California and then home. 

The Dream
This cross country trip would be done in the family’s Tesla Model S. The trip would strategically follow a route along Tesla’s supercharger network. A network of chargers that enables quick charges of the Tesla high capacity battery packs. Along the the way, he would visit some great destinations including New Orleans, the Houston Space center, Route 66, Tucson aircraft boneyards, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite Park, San Francisco and more. 

The Math Project 
Picture of Oliver in front of math project at State Math
A trip of this magnitude requires lots of planning. Of course, you could take the easy way out and plan the entire trip using the Tesla’s onboard computer. Instead, Oliver decided to do it “old school” and would plan the trip using only a map of the nation, pencils, paper, and the mathematics that he knew. The additional data he needed were the locations of the superchargers, the maximum range of the family’s Tesla on a charge, the best charging practice for such travel, and the maximum time his father would drive in a day. Armed with this information, Oliver proceeded with this project which he titled “Tesla Coast to Coast.”

The project took Oliver a month of Saturdays to put together. After diligently plotting of the supercharging stations on a map of the USA, working out the optimum charge time and related distances, scoping out the locations he wanted to visit, and confirming these with family, Oliver proceeded to outline his plan on a map that was eventually pasted to a standard size project board. The board was colored fittingly in Tesla’s signature red color. The project included his written notes on the math techniques utilized, an itinerary for the east coast to west coast portion of the tour, note cards for a five minute presentation of  his findings, and some props to keep the interest of the viewer. It was this plan that he took the local, regional, and state math fairs. He won first place in the elementary division at each. Along the way, he convinced more than a few judges that he’ll be taking the trip.

Making it a Reality
As planned, the trip will take 21 days to complete with several days added to cover the unexpected. To make the trip a reality, careful cross checking of Oliver’s work has been done to ensure the feasibility of the planned route and schedule. While Oliver and I will be forging most of the journey alone, Mom will be joining the portion that starts in Tucson, passes through Fremont, and ends in Reno.  For Oliver, the adventure awaits.