Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Comps Missouri Style. Red Robin Rocks! - Day 17

Today we are traveling from Woodland, Kanas to St. Louis, Missouri. This is a bit father than originally planned, but we are trying to get out of the wet weather and get to some better camping weather. Today’s trip takes us through Kansas City where we will meet up with an old friend from the days long before our current reality. In St. Louis, we’ll be camping on Route 66 so we will will have one last re-connection with that special road. 

As we left our motel in Goodland, a blacked out and de-badged Tesla was parked in one of the charging stalls. Oliver was intrigued because the black on black car had no markings (de-badged), dark tinted windows, and tinted headlights. It was a California car so we figured it was another coaster. It was a gentleman traveling with is three kids. We didn’t speak to them as we were on the way out. As we travelled, Oliver and I spent a bit of time talking about why people customize their cars in that way.  We ran in to the group again at the Topeka charging station. There, we spoke with one of the kids, gave him our flyer, and gave him a Tesla HotWheel. They were on their way to New York. So, yes they were doing a coast to coast trip as well. 

At our charging station in Independence, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City, we had arranged to meet with Robert Stringer. For those that don’t know Robert is one of Chris’ friends from our days in Southern California. He used to game with Chris and eventually worked for us at Complete Business Solutions. After working with one of our notorious customers for a while,  Robert eventually moved on to study Physics and eventually do his doctoral work with CERN on the Large Hadron Collider

Before Robert arrived, we met a nice gentleman named Paul Khoury whose wife had just convinced him to purchase a Model X. His awesome new black on black P90 still had the dealer plate. Oliver was checking it out when Paul asked us if we had ever taken a long trip in our Tesla. I guess he ran into the right people to ask. We shared our story with him, talked about our travels, and showed him how to change the charge limit on the car. As a congratulatory gift to Oliver for getting first place in the state math fair, Paul gave us all a comped dinner at his Red Robin restaurant down the street. 

Robert showed up at the charger a little later. We spent a few minutes showing Robert and his twin boys, Nathaniel and Nicholas, the Tesla and proceeded to the restaurant. Nathaniel and Nicholas road with us in the Tesla to the restaurant. We gave them a demonstration of AutoSteer and the Acceleration. They were impressed, but didn’t want anymore demonstrations in city traffic. At the restaurant, we ended up talking about old times and what became of our infamous customers whom Robert went on to work for back in the day. Eventually, the kids got to talking about Minecraft. We spent a little longer than we should have, but had a great time. Thanks to Paul and his staff at the restaurant for serving up a great time.

At our charge stop in Columbia, Missouri, we ran into that blacked our Model S from California again. This time we spoke with the group a bit and found out that they were going to New York and back in 11 days. So, their trip was much more hectic than ours. They told us they were going to visit the replica of Noah’s Ark that was be built. That made me think of the famous riff that Bill Cosby did related to Noah. So, we all listened to part of it and had a laugh. We wished them well on their journey and made our way on to St. Louis. 

We arrived at St. Louis pretty late so we had another after dark camp to setup. This time we installed the rain fly and settled in for a good sleep. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Visit with Uncle Bob - Day 16

Today we left our soggy campsite and moved on to Evergreen, Colorado. Later we will end the day in Goodland, Kansas. Our big event for the day was to be a long visit with Uncle Bob in Evergreen. But, after speaking with Bob a bit, we decided to take a short side trip to Mount Evans, Colorado which is near Evergreen. We would still meet for lunch with Bob later in the day. The road at the top of Mount Evans, is the highest paved road in the Continental United States. Of course, we had to take the Tesla up mount just to say we did it. We hoped the weather would cooperate as it has been very overcast and wet in Colorado for this portion of the trip. Our travels to Evergreen took us through some very nice mountain ranges and interesting roadways. There’s definitely more to take in than our short stay would allow. 

At the entry to Mount Evans, we were greeted by another friendly National Park employee and another park fee, we really should have purchased that annual pass. The drive up the mountain was spectacular. The further up we got, the road became less wide and Oliver became more nervous. Our travels were complicated by the fact that there was an annual bicycling event happening where bikers pedal to the 14,000 foot peak. Not much room for an SUV, a Tesla, and a bike to pass on those thin winding roads that have no guardrails. At the 12,830 foot level, there was a glacier lake, reset area, and an information area. We stopped there to take a break and check out the sights. We met some park employees who were giving out information on the wildlife of the park. Oliver and I had a great conversation with them and learned much about the environment. 

As we neared the summit, our 14,130 ft elevation destination, the road got really harrowing. A two lane road became a one and one half lane road. There were no guardrails and the road was in rough shape. Oliver go more nervous the further we travelled upwards. When we reached the top, it was 41 degrees out. We parked, put on our jackets, and proceed explore. Oliver was very nervous about the heights so he stayed far from the edges. We chatted with some of the bicyclists and bit, hiked where we could, and then got back in the car to begin our journey downward. After exiting the park, we stopped at what Bob told us was a “Cool Lodge”. He was right, we picked up a traditional postcard and moved on to visit Bob for a late lunch.

When we arrived in Evergreen, we discovered there was a big fundraiser for local charities going. It seems they like to race rubber ducks down the river like we do in Durham. Parking was hard to come by but we found a spot. Surprisingly, Bob had a spot nearby and we found him with no trouble. We had our lunch at Beau Jo’s - Evergreen. Lunch was great and we had a great time catching up with Bob. We gave him ride in the Tesla and showed him many of the features. He’s been asking lots of questions since. 

From Evergreen, we had to move on to Goodland, Kansas. We needed to stop for dinner along the way as there weren’t many choices at our destination. By some happy accident we found  the I-70 Diner, a really cool diner in Flagler, Colorado. They stayed past closing for us and made us a great dinner. Coincidentally, we ran in to a fellow from Charlotte, NC who rode his bike up Mt. Evans earlier in the day. Wonder if we passed him going up or down. Since we left after they closed, the Tesla was the only car in the parking lot. A good chance to get some pictures. They had signs our front with distances to many major destinations around the world. Because of this, we dubbed the place "The Middle of Everywhere". 

It was pretty stormy throughout on the drive to Goodland, good thing we had cancelled our reservation for the campground. We got in early enough for Oliver to get a swim in the pool and to bed at a reasonable time. 

The Arches: The Unplanned Adventure - Day 15

Today we started a little closer to our Colorado destination than originally planned. Because of this and our late arrival late night, we decided to relax a bit and hang out at our hotel until checkout time. We spend some time in the outdoor pool, swam some laps, and relaxed a bit. This sounded great but would prove to be our downfall as Oliver discovered another possible destination along our route, Arches, Utah. He wanted to see the landform that was used for Utah license plate. 

After we left Provo, Utah and got out of the more populated areas, we drove through some beautiful canyons. The road paralleled the old train route, so it was a good change to discuss the challenges of planning rail routes through mountain terrain. Another thing of note was the use of wind power generators in the area. They were really close to the road, so, unlike what we saw in Oklahoma, we could get idea of the large size of these windmills . They are huge. 

About this time, Oliver began working through his National Park book we picked up in San Francisco. As he was checking off the many parks he’s visited, he discovered The Arches Utah. Somehow we missed this park in our planning and it was only 50 miles out of the way. He noted that there was an arch there called Delicate Arch which was used on the Utah license plate. We altered our plans a bit and headed in that direction. When we arrived we had pay yet another National Parks pass, we really should have studied a bit more and got the annual pass, at this point we would have spent about $15 less doing things that way. Because time was at a premium, we went to straight to the visitor center for some planning assistance. While there we spoke with Marshal Page who gave us the scoop on which arch was used for the license plate and where we could view it. Because get right up to required a hike that Oliver wasn’t to prepare to endure, we chose to visit the location that we could see the arch with the naked eye and be satisfied with being that close. 

Out drive out to the view point was spectacular, Oliver took tons of photos as we drove along and say many amazing sites. Once issue we continued to fight was time, it was getting later in the day and the drive to the viewpoint was pretty far into the park. We really should have planned on spending the day out here. When we arrived at the parking of the viewpoint it was packed with German tourists. I am sure some of the same tourists from our Grand Canyon visit were there with us. Oliver spotted Delicate Arch first and got very excited. He was finally able to see what inspired the Utah license plates he had been seeing. 

After the viewing, we made our way out of the park and went to Moab to charge and get dinner. We ate at a really nice pasta place that was near the charger. Ae finished dinner about the time the car was ready to go. Everybody was full and ready to move on to Colorado!

As we neared the Utah/Colorado state line we had a small incident. There was a skunk who had decided that crossing the interstate was the thing to do when traffic was thick. Unfortunately, there was no place for a to go to avoid him as we were boxed in by a car on our left and not able to stop in time to save him. We ended up hitting the skunk and Oliver got to smell skunk for the first time. The smell lingered in the car for a long time. We actually had to stop at a car wash before turning in for the night to be sure we eliminated all remains of the odor from the underside of the car. 

All this excitement made our arrival at our campsite in Colorado, very late. We ended up setting up camp in the dark and rushed to our sleeping bags for some shuteye. I was a little lazy and didn’t install the rain fly. To his credit, Oliver told be do so. This would prove to be a bit of an issue as it started drizzling just after we woke up and went to the bathroom the next morning. We are now experts at the quick camp teardown. I’ll not ignore Oliver’s intuitions next time.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Destination LOL - Day 14

Today we travelled from Reno to Salt Lake City, Utah. Our trip took us by the Tesla Gigafactory so we just had to make a stop there. We also went through in Ely, Nevada where our family has some property. We didn’t have much time for side trips as this was one of those long travel days so most of our exploring was form the car seat. 

Traveling through the Nevada desert brings back memories of when I used to travel with my brothers and father to the livestock sales. I shared some of those stories with Oliver as we rolled  along but it was hard to describe for him the feeling of being in a truck that’s about to overheat with the air conditioning turned off and dad pushing the vehicle too hard just so the animals stay cool.

Our first stop was just outside Reno. It was the Tesla Gigafactory. There have been stories of people be escorted off by Tesla security so we played it cool and didn’t push any boundaries. While we had to stay quite a ways away, it was clear to see that the building is huge. The size lives up the hype. 

We took a selfie for proof of the stop but it's not that impressive a shot.

Oliver wanted to stop in Lovelock, Nevada, the home of the airport with the code LOL. Turns out we missed the airport, but we did get to stop in and check out the town a bit. We also picked up some supplies at a local dollar store. Because we were charging out of sequence to try to change our schedule, we ended up spending more time in than we wanted. Oh well, LOL!

When we arrived in Ely, Nevada, Oliver wanted to check out our property there. A quick check of the address showed it to be quite far off the trail for us. So, Oliver had to be satisfied with just looking out at the hills and imagining it. 

The road from Ely to Salt Lake City, was one of the longest straightest, flatest, and most boringest stretches of highway along our journey. In fact, there were fatigue warnings posted along the highway. About the only thing of interest, were the remains of the airplane beacon system. I was able to point these out to Oliver and explain how they were used for cross country navigation. 

When we finally arrived at our motel in Salt Lake, we discovered that I had made the reservation for wrong date. There were no rooms available for us. In fact, there were no rooms available in all of Salt Lake it seems. There was some huge convention going on rooms were scarce. So, we had to move on to Provo to get a room. This day ended up being much longer than expected. 

Solar Powered Car! - Day 13

We spent the first half of Day 13 checking out the San Francisco sights and tourist attractions. The latter part of the day we spent traveling to Reno. In the our travels to Reno, we stopped at a solar powered charging station/service/sales center, and visited Lake Tahoe both the California and Nevada sides.

In San Francisco, we visited the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate bridge, and the Japanese Tea Garden. These are some of Oliver’s favorite Sand Francisco spots. While leaving the Palace of Fine Arts, we saw one of those Amazon delivery robots on the sidewalk. We didn’t get a chance to take a photo, sorry. But it was fun seeing some people checking it out. At the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, we climbed the super steep bridge and then went and had a really nice little tea party. As is customary, Oliver got a Ramune drink, orange this time. We aren’t sure if likes the look of the bottle or the taste more. 

On the way to Lake Tahoe, we stopped in Rocklin, California to charge. In Rocklin, there’s  a Tesla solar powered charging station/service/sales center. About 80% of the power used by this facility is generated by solar panels on site. Of course, we charged there. So, a portion of our trip was powered by the sun! It’s interesting because a large portion of the parking area is covered. Those covered areas have solar cells mounted on them. This is one of the only charges where the cars being charged were parked in the shade. A nice bonus on those hot sunny California days. Oliver took the opportunity to promote the blog on the center’s computers. 

We arrived at Lake Tahoe a little later than originally planned because we spent more time in San Francisco. The Lake did not disappoint. It was really nice up there. We visited the Sand Harbor area. The topography was interesting with sandy beaches and boulder formations for Oliver to explore. We spent about an hour checking out the location. Oliver did a water temperature check for us on one of the beaches, it was fun watching him try to stay dry while small waves were threatening to prevent that from happening. 

From Lake Tahoe, we moved on to Reno. Along the way, we saw quite a few classic cars on the road and on trailers moving towards Reno. Turns out the annual big car event, Hot August Nights, is going on in Reno. It was too late to go cruising so went straight to the hotel. Oliver wanted to get some pool time in so we hung out at the pool a bit and then got tucked in with Mom for our last night together as she will be getting back on a plane for home in the morning.  

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Factories: Tesla and Chocolate! - Day 12

The big day has arrived! It is Day 12 and Oliver gets to visit the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California. Joining us on this tour will be fellow Tesla fan and cousin Monica. Our tour is scheduled for 10 AM. We got up bright and early so we could arrive by 9 AM, the time we thought the customer delivery center opened. Turns out it opened at 10 AM so we ended up spending some time visiting the property. During our explorations, we visited one of the employee/visitors entrances to the factory, they have a very nice setup. One happy coincidence was that Tesla was testing a joint venture with a washing service for those that are supercharging. The service claims to use just one cup of water to wash a car. Ours probably took two as we brought part of Death Valley with us. After Monica arrived, we spent some time catching up on things and showing her our car. For this post don't expect too many pictures from inside the factory,  No cameras are allowed.

Our tour guide, Adam, came out a little before 10 AM to get all tour attendees ready for the tour. Everyone over 18 was asked to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. Adam was going to have Oliver complete one, but Ollie got lucky. From there we were taken into the factory. At the tour assembly area, they have some significant Tesla prototypes on display. They even had a celebrity on the display, the Roadster that appeared in Iron Man. We were given a lesson on metallurgy and plastics manufacturing. We got to sample the some of the aluminum components to see how light they are. After that we, boarded an electric tram (DC Motor and Lead Acid Batteries) that would take us through the plant. The plant is huge. Employees use bikes to travel through the factory it's that large.

In the factory there is an impressive array of technology. Robots everywhere doing all sorts of tasks. Huge presses forming metal. Scanning devices for ensuring parts are at tolerances smaller than hair's width. All this was going on, in an very clean environment. Robots can't work without supervision and there's a ton of it. Employees everywhere doing everything. Like many tech companies, there are free soda and snack machines available. In addition, they looked to have a very well appointed cafe for the employees. The tour lasted about an hour, but we could have spent a day in there. Short and sweet is still neat. Adam, our tour guide, was very enthusiastic. I suppose this is enthusiasm run throughout the company and that what makes game changing companies.

After the tour, we spent some time shopping in the Tesla store and speaking with Adam about Tesla in the early days. He shared many great stories with us and we got some information from a true insider. After most everyone from the tour was dispersed, Oliver received a special gift from the management. In honor of his winning the North Carolina State Math Fair for his Tesla Coast to Coast project, Adam gave Oliver a 1:18 scale limited edition Tesla Model S that was molded using the equipment they mold the plastic parts used in the interior of the cars. This is a very cool piece that Oliver will cherish for quite some time.

After Tesla, we had a nice lunch with Monica. We ate a restaurant that pretended to be Irish but didn't have a lick of Irish food. It was good to catch up and exchange stories as we haven't seen Monica in person for several years.

Later in the afternoon we spent some time at our hotel in San Francisco. It is a game oriented hotel
they had table tennis, shuffleboard, miniature shuffleboard, circular table tennis, connect four, backgammon, and more. Oliver's favorites were connect four and the circular table tennis. After some hardcore gaming, we went on over to Boudin's for a light dinner and then on to Ghirardelli's for a chocolaty treat.

Another great day on our Tesla Coast to Coast tour!