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Western Road Trip in a Model 3

JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
Part 1 of 17

During the pandemic, we had to cancel two planned trips. After a year and a half of being super cautious, my wife Linda started making noises about wanting to plan another trip. I suggested we start with a short road trip to get back into traveling mode. She proceeded to map out a route from Savannah to St. Louis, South Dakota, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and a Southern route back to Savannah, hitting various National Parks and Monuments along the way that we had missed during our last vacation West.

I did some detailed planning to make sure Superchargers were available so we could drive it in our 2018 Model 3 Tesla, (Prudence). I used various tools, each very helpful but each had its limitations. It would have been a whole lot easier if Tesla Navigation allowed for waypoints, but that was still two weeks away, (and may still be, I’m still waiting for 2021.40 update).

Our first planned stop was Chattanooga, Tennessee, but neither of us were tired and Linda wanted to get some more miles behind us, so we proceeded to Manchester, Tennessee. Linda had loaded a couple of new apps on her phone to locate last minute deals on hotels at discount prices. Our first hotel turned out to be a bit too discounted. It was absolutely awful. I won’t mention it by name but it was very ECONOmical. We both slept horribly, but that meant we were up early enough to see a spectacular sunrise:

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Prudence photobombed the shot, but it gave me the idea of getting a shot of Prudence at the various places we would stop. My brother and sister-out-law got sick of these pictures, but I’m hopeful this forum might be a more sympathetic audience. I’ll mix in a few “regular” tourist pictures as I go along.

In St. Louis we were disappointed that we were not able to take the ride to the top of The Gateway Arch. Linda already knew that many National Parks and Monuments were limiting attendance and requiring advanced reservations, but didn’t realize The Gateway Arch was one of them.

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The very nice parking attendant who was helping people pay with their credit cards allowed us to pay the $7.50 in cash and assured us we did not need a ticket. I guess he didn’t realize that we needed the ticket to get out of the lot, and it cost us another $10, this time on a credit card, because of the “lost ticket.” After I parked the car, I was smart enough to realize that the parking attendant had ripped us off. When I had to cough up the additional $10 it sunk in, that guy was no parking attendant.
 

JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 2 of 17

The hotel Linda found for us in Columbia, Missouri just happened to be the location for Tesla SuperChargers…very convenient! Here’s the spectacular view out our window:

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(Sorry for the reflection.) That’s Prudence third from left! One realization from our trip: white Model Y’s are selling very, very well!

I thought traversing South Dakota would be the most challenging part of the trip in terms of SuperChargers and lodging. As we approached Sioux Falls, Linda found us a hotel in Mitchell, South Dakota. Unfortunately, we did not take a picture of Prudence or anything else in Mitchell. @Papafox tipped me off that The Corn Palace was a must-see in Mitchell, but we didn’t get that message until the next night. I should have read his excellent blog, The Electric Road Trip, before setting off on this journey.

We knew that only the Northern portion of The Badlands was open to the public due to the pandemic, so I had input the Ben Reifel Visitor Center as our destination using the various apps. Everything just led us to that Center and then backtracked back to I-90 for a resumption of the trip West. I had spotted Badlands Loop Road as a scenic back road, but it had lots of twists and turns and I had no idea how to figure how much additional charge it would require. We headed West from Mitchell taking full advantage of the 80 mph speed limit, (nice!). We did a normal SuperCharge at the Chamberlain station, but spent some extra time at the Mundo stop and got it close to 100%, (about 295 miles for Prudence…3 years of battery degradation, I guess). We then kept our speed at 65 mph to conserve energy, (and waved as our new friends from the SuperCharger whizzed by us). This turned out to be overkill, I think we still had over 100 miles of range after completing the scenic Loop Road and arriving at the Wall SuperCharger! (Will I ever get over my range anxiety?)

This is Linda:

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And this is not me!

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We love critters, but saw fewer than expected during this trip. This Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep must have been on parole judging from his tracking collar:

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Wall Drug Store, (a portion shown below), consumes a big hunk of Wall, South Dakota and is just a hop and a skip from the SuperCharger. We had a late lunch there but never saw the Pharmacy portion.

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 3 of 17

We arrived at Mount Rushmore late in the afternoon, craving a cup of coffee and/or ice cream. Neither was available. Everything but the Gift Shop was closed for the day since about 4 PM. The Park was open with a substantial number of visitors, so even a kiosk could have done a great business. We were a couple of days late to get to see the extravagant Evening Lighting Ceremony, but it was posted that the carved figures would be lighted at dusk. I checked my weather app and saw that sunset was around 6:30 so we just needed to kill an hour in the Gift Shop. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized we had crossed into the Mountain Time Zone so we would have to wait another hour. (I was sporting my old watch this trip since my Apple Watch is no longer holding a charge. Yes, I’m sure our iPhones had the right time.) Anyway, I spent the extra time experimenting with the filters on my iPhone, and turned a disappointing shot into a fairly good one:

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Leaving Keystone, South Dakota the next day, I was surprised that the navigation routed us on back roads to Estes Park, Colorado, but we were really glad it did:

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 4 of 17

Finding the SuperCharger behind the beautiful Stanley Hotel in Estes Park was a very pleasant surprise:

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If it looks familiar, it's because it was the location for the filming of The Shining, with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

A group of young hikers were in this room looking at the posters. I couldn’t resist myself and I said “Here’s Johnny!”

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I don’t think they had seen the movie.

Rocky Mountain National Park was one of the Parks Linda knew required a reservation for entry, and it was one we fully expected to skip during this trip. Linda discovered a portion of the Park was open for everyone after 3 PM, and it was well past that when we finished SuperCharging. We entered through the Fall River Entrance Station and asked the Ranger for a recommendation for driving a scenic route that led to a good location for watching the sunset. She recommended taking the Old Fall River Road up to the Alpine Visitor’s Center, (which was already closed for the evening), and returning on Trail Ridge Road. She said the Old Fall River Road was the original road up the mountain. She did not tell us it was a one-way dirt road with lots of hair-pin turns and no guard rails. She also didn’t tell us that we were about to have the best adventure of the trip! The biggest challenge was negotiating the tire ruts in the road to avoid scraping the bottom of the car. I took it slow, and when possible, positioned the car so the more experienced drivers could drive around us. (We saw one of those drivers close to the summit who had slipped off the road and his car was at a 45 degree angle being supported by a tree. No injuries and help was on the way so we proceeded on.)

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The Summit was worth it, even though we missed the actual sunset!

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This is not my Model 3. This one took the easy way up!

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This is my Model 3. Sorry Prudence, I’ll give you a bath before Red Rocks!

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 5 of 17

The drive to Golden, Colorado seemed to have new vistas at every turn. Here are a couple:

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Not exactly a grand vista, but Prudence looked good in this shot:

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Photo tip: When you take a picture of your Model 3 and it is all buggy in the front, just crop that portion out!

We finally got our ice cream at a bookstore in Nederland, Colorado!

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 6 of 17

We arrived in Golden, Colorado a day ahead of schedule, so we took a side trip to Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods.

The summit of Pikes Peak was closed due to the paving of a parking lot, so our climb was limited to Devil’s Playground, about three quarters of the way up. Randy Pobst drove a Model S Plaid to that point in the 2021 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. We took it a little bit slower!

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One of these three guys is the proud owner of this white Model Y. We met them at the Monument, Colorado SuperCharger topping off before our climb, then we played leap frog up the mountain, meeting up at many of the overlooks:

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 7 of 17

The Garden of the Gods is the type of park you wish you lived near. It’s got a lot of nice trails with very little elevation changes. Fortunately, its also a nice park to drive through, stop at the trailheads, and admire the incredible rock formations:

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Can you see the bird’s head in this rock? I didn’t at first, but now I can’t un-see it:

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 8 of 17

Now we come to the center point of our trip. When planning the trip Linda mentioned that she wanted to see Red Rocks Amphitheatre. I thought if we are going to see the Amphitheatre we might as well see a concert. I researched the scheduled performances and saw that Leon Bridges was playing October 6th, but unfortunately it was sold out, with only secondary market tickets available. We’ve been huge fans of Leon Bridges ever since his song, River, was featured in an episode of Big Little Lies. His first album, Coming Home, has received more play at our house and in our cars than any other album since we bought it. We liked his second album, Good Thing, even though it did not receive critical acclaim, but he really killed it again with his current album, Gold-Diggers Sound. Anyway, we were not going to pay secondary market prices, (scalper prices?), for any concert…until we decided to do it for this concert. And we are very glad we did!

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Sorry about the girl’s head blocking the stage, but this was my only picture showing Leon on the video screen.

The performance was incredible, the sound was incredible, the view was incredible. (We liked it!)

Now here are some pictures of what you would experience if you just go to see the venue:

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I made three attempts at a panorama shot from our seats, and this was the best one. I think I now know what I needed to do to get the shot I wanted, but it may be awhile before I get back there to try. (No, we didn’t get there that early for the concert. We went in the morning to case the place.)

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 9 of 17

Our next destination was Moab, Utah to see Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Once again we wanted to take a back road scenic route, (Utah State Route 128, a/k/a the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway), so once again we topped off the battery. Once again it was totally unnecessary, we would have made it easily with an 80% charge.

The scenic highway could be another National or State Park:

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It includes the sixth-longest natural rock span in the United States. This might be a part of that span:

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The Moab SuperCharger is in desperate need for an upgrade. There are four stalls with only 3 in operation while we were there. Since it is so distant from other SuperChargers everyone charges up to well over 80% which causes long charging times. Our initial charge was the first time we had to wait our turn, all three stalls were in use, with a Model S waiting in front of us. It was only a 15 to 20 minute wait so it was not too bad. For the rest of our time in Moab, I would check the charging screen when we were in the area to see if there was an open stall and charge to 80% if there was.
 

JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 11 of 17

We had much better weather for Arches National Park the next day:

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Oops, overdid the waving pose. The entrance to Arches and the Visitor Center can be seen down below on the left.

Here’s a distant shot of Delicate Arch. You can see a line of hikers on the left who wanted a closer view.

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We joined that line of hikers for the 3 mile round trip journey. The first half was mostly uphill and we took a few, (several), rest breaks. It included this harrowing portion at the very end:

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But it was worth it:

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 12 of 17

Our next stop was Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, but it is very isolated with no nearby SuperChargers. Since our stop after Monument Valley was going to be the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I wanted to be sure we could make it. All the apps had us routed to the Blanding, Utah SuperCharger, then to Monument Valley, and then to Page, Arizona for another charging session. Page was clearly a major detour, and we had already visited Page several years ago. (Otherwise it would have been a must stop: Lake Powell, Lower and/or Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and the Colorado River.)

We spent some time at the Blanding SuperCharger to get nearly a full charge, then I set the cruise at 45 mph, way below the speed limit, to see if we could save enough energy to skip the Page SuperCharger. It was mostly a straight road with very little traffic so people could whiz right by us even though it was a two lane road. When we got to Monument Valley, (The View Hotel), I input the SuperCharger at Tusayan, Arizona as our destination, and the navigation said we could get there with 11% charge to spare! Success! Or so we thought. The View has a restaurant, a coffee shop and other amenities, but none of those were open because of the pandemic. The nearest restaurant was 6 miles back, we were famished, and those were 12 miles we really couldn’t spare. But since Page was still an option, we travelled the 6 miles to get something to eat. (We also turned off Sentry Mode!) When we returned to the hotel I checked again and it still says we could make it with 8% to spare. We’ll see.

Of course, we could not take Prudence for a private tour of Monument Valley, so we signed up for a tour with the Navajo. Wow, did we get a tour! We had a very entertaining guide who was an expert with our iPhone cameras:

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Is that a Plaid T-shirt? I wonder what he wants for Christmas!

Hey! Wild Horses!

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Here’s our guide playing a Native American Flute in a cave with great acoustics:

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The cave also has an eagle:

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A little trickery with the Pano feature of the iPhone camera:

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The view from our room at sunset:

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The view from our room at sunrise:

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There was not a cloud in the sky the night we stayed here and the stars were amazing. For $10 more we could have had a 3rd floor room with a skylight view of the stars. That was our one regret. (And the part about the restaurant being closed, etc.)
 

JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 13 of 17

Now for the trip to the South Rim of The Grand Canyon. Navigation shows we’ll only have 7% battery to spare, so we lost another percent overnight even with Sentry Mode turned off. (I’m still curious why it even showed us the “direct route” with that little charge to spare.) The plan was to follow the route to the Tusayan SuperCharger keeping our speed 10 miles under the speed limit. If projected remaining charge increased, we would stay on that route. But if it was going down by the time we got to the road to Page we would take that detour. That seemed to work great. It would fluctuate by a percent or two but went generally upward. At one point it showed we would have an 18% cushion, so I resumed going the speed limit and a little above. Surprisingly, our cushion started descending fairly rapidly and was down to 6% when we entered the East Entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park. By that point, however, there was no doubt we had enough charge left to get us to the SuperCharger. I was surprised that navigation had routed us through the Park to get to the SuperCharger, but since we had our Super VIP passes, (a/k/a Senior Passes), we did not have to cough up the $35 Park admission.

We stopped at the Desert View Watchtower area for a “stretch” break and to get our National Park Passport Books stamped.

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Then it was on to the SuperCharger. Sure enough, we had 18 miles to spare, right at 6%.

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I’m still not sure why that figure dropped so quickly from the 18% it showed before I resumed the speed limit. Maybe the car had projected the 18% expecting me to maintain the slower speed. The total miles, 291.2, (273.2 + 18), is close to my current full charge of 295, but do I really have to keep my Watt hours per mile at 222 to get the full mileage of a full charge? (Sorry about the glare, I should have gotten the matte screen protector. And Elon, I want my album art back for my USB music, please.)

After lunch and checking into our hotel, we went back to the Canyon and had a nice hike, (really just a walk), from the Yavapai Point Overlook to Mather Point, a portion of Rim Trail. A few years ago we had taken a hike down into the Canyon from the North Rim which was absolutely spectacular going down, but no fun at all for us hiking back up! The Rim Trail is much better suited for us.
 

JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 14 of 17

In a Grand Canyon gift shop we got word that an early winter storm was expected that night. We didn’t really expect it to materialize, but it did:

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Good Morning Prudence!

Remember when they first started delivering Model 3’s and people were writing about the huge “design flaw” with the trunk where all the snow and ice and stuff would land in the trunk if you didn’t clear it off first?

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I wish I had remembered that detail a little bit earlier!

I did laundry that morning, because a Savannah, Georgia driver on icy streets is not a good combination. Plus, I’ve been trying to improve my Safety Score so I can get the FSD beta. After I finished the laundry, I brushed off the snow and took a little spin around the motel. No ice and the roads seemed to be clear so we were ready to go back to the Canyon.

The snow had resumed in the Park, however:

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These deer didn’t pose for me quite well enough to use this picture for our Christmas cards, but we were excited to see more critters.

Now here’s the money shot of the Grand Canyon:

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But then the clouds cleared a bit giving a nice peek at the snowy cliffs:

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And then this deer was more than willing to pose for us, and put up with a pretty good crowd for quite a while:

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And that was our Grand Canyon Experience this trip. Fairly Grand I would say!
 

JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 15 of 17

I got confused on our way to Sedona, Arizona. We were still on I-40 and the Navigation showed we should have about 48% charge when we arrive in Sedona. I showed we had about 145 miles of charge at the time and we still had about 50 miles to go. I told Linda that something must be wrong, since we were at about 48% charge and it was showing we would still have about 48% charge when we arrive. She said “maybe its downhill all the way” and I said “no way.” Well, “WAY!” Once we got on State Route 89A it was mostly a winding road going way down into a valley. Regenerative braking came into play a lot, not for the purpose of saving energy, but because it makes driving so much easier, just like it did coming down Pikes Peak! When we stopped at the Sedona Visitor Center we had 47% charge remaining. Incredible!

The town of Sedona is quaint and cute and we wished we had allotted more time to enjoy it. Instead we took the 179 Scenic Loop, stopping at several look-outs along the way. We lucked into a great parking spot for the Chapel of the Holy Cross so we only had to walk a short way up the hill.

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Instead of “looping back” to Sedona, we continued on to I-17 North to recharge in Flagstaff, Arizona. This is Mount Elden as we approached Flagstaff:

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 16 of 17

Our next stop was the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks, a “twofer!” since they share the same Visitors Center. It was late afternoon and the Parks “close” at 5 PM, but the only requirement was that you be headed for one of the exits by that time. We were beyond halfway down the 28 mile Park road by then, so we just went the whole route, then looped back to I-40 on Arizona 180.

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This next picture would have been a lot better if Linda had been the subject with my shadow on the car! Sorry. (And don’t zoom in on the bugs!)

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JimS

Member
Supporting Member
Sep 18, 2018
54
331
Savannah, GA
PART 17 of 17

Before leaving Savannah, Linda had provided our planned “itinerary” to our relatives and more than one of them indicated it was too ambitious. They were right. She had three more stops on the planned trip: Sante Fe, New Mexico, (since she wanted me to see what a neat city it was), Carlsbad Caverns, (since she wanted me to see how neat caves are), and the Beau Rivage in Biloxi Mississippi, (since we haven’t had a gambling fix in over two years).

I said if Sante Fe was such a neat city we should spend a little time there and not just pass through. No, she wanted to make more progress getting home, but she still wanted to go to Carlsbad Caverns. I tried to figure out the charging situation to go to Carlsbad Caverns from Gallup, New Mexico where we had stopped for the night. Getting there was no problem, but getting to the next SuperCharger was a problem. Linda was disappointed, but we scratched that destination. I recently found this cute video, Tesla Model 3 Road Trip / Carlsbad Caverns, which proves it would have been possible with some energy conservation measures. I also pulled up the Carlsbad Canyons National Park site which showed admission was being restricted and reservations were required, so it is unlikely we would have been able to go into the caves anyway.

We also decided we did not need a gambling fix that badly, since the $TSLA roller coaster has been enough fun for us! So we punched the “HOME” button on Navigation. Oops, it routed us through Atlanta, Georgia and we did not want to risk being in standstill traffic which we often see on I-75 going South. At the beginning of our trip, there must have been a line 20 miles long of traffic, mostly trucks, moving South at a snail’s pace South of Atlanta. So we went ahead and plugged Beau Rivage into Navigation to get us down to that I-10 route. (Again Elon, waypoints would have helped a lot!)

We broke the trip home into three days, spending nights in Childress, Texas; Alexandria, Louisiana; and Tallahassee, Florida. We traversed most of Texas on non-Interstates, but they were just as good as Interstates. We had seen many large wind turbine blades being transported during our travels, and in Texas we saw the reason why. There were thousands and thousands of wind turbines in Texas. You would not believe how many. I wish we had taken pictures of them to prove it, but we didn’t, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

We had one Navigation misstep leaving Alexandria, Louisiana. Navigation had routed us on a back road to Baton Rouge which soon became a two lane road through sugar cane fields, complete with a couple of slow trucks traveling in tandem. Then there was a detour due to a closed bridge. We decided to get to the Interstate, but then we came to another closed road due to another closed bridge. We eventually connected to the I-49 and charged up at the Lafayette, Louisiana SuperCharger.

In Mississippi, we charged in D’lberville, the same exit we used to take to the Beau Rivage, and we ate at Outback. We hadn’t even been served yet when I got the Notification that charging was nearly complete and warning me about idle fees. These new SuperChargers are just too fast!

We arrived home the next day. The last day was our short travel day, but we had overslept so we didn’t get home until mid-afternoon. The trip had caught up with us!

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I am tempted to dub in the Abbey Road cover to the above shot to show what it will look like when Elon gives us back our album art for our USB music…I’m not complaining! We did random play most of the trip, but I found playing entire albums that I am super familiar with helped me to stay alert, (along with coffee). As you can see, Abbey Road was the final selection. I shouldn’t have to tell you Prudence’s favorite album!

We were very, very tired for days. But I gave Prudence a well-deserved bath anyway.

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Our total SuperCharging bill, for 50 sessions, was $462.51. Since we had left Savannah with about a 90% charge, and we got some free electrons at Mount Rushmore, (second level parking garage if I didn’t mention that before), I would estimate about 250 miles were non-SuperCharger miles. That would bring the average price per mile to be $0.07937, we’ll call it $0.08 per mile. I thought it would have been cheaper, but what can you do? (I had no reward miles from referrals. All those people I gave demonstration rides over the years must have forgotten to use my referral code when they bought their Teslas.)

I had a theory as to why the SuperCharger fees added up to more than I expected. Due to my range anxiety, I frequently charged more than we needed to get to the next SuperCharger, and there were those two times I charged to close to 100%. I figured that since charging is so much slower after 80%, the charges billed by the minute were probably very expensive. I took a look at some of the individual invoices, (on the app!), and was surprised to see that the double digit charges, (those over $10), were all charges based on kilowatt hours, and those under $10 were charges based on minutes charged. So much for my theory.

So what is the cure for my (unwarranted) range anxiety? And don’t tell me a new Model S with a 405 mile range, blue with white interior and a stealth wrap. (You don’t need to tell me because I already ordered it!)
 

Fred42

Active Member
Dec 24, 2018
1,097
3,314
Pennsylvania
PART 3 of 17

We arrived at Mount Rushmore late in the afternoon, craving a cup of coffee and/or ice cream. Neither was available. Everything but the Gift Shop was closed for the day since about 4 PM. The Park was open with a substantial number of visitors, so even a kiosk could have done a great business. We were a couple of days late to get to see the extravagant Evening Lighting Ceremony, but it was posted that the carved figures would be lighted at dusk. I checked my weather app and saw that sunset was around 6:30 so we just needed to kill an hour in the Gift Shop. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized we had crossed into the Mountain Time Zone so we would have to wait another hour. (I was sporting my old watch this trip since my Apple Watch is no longer holding a charge. Yes, I’m sure our iPhones had the right time.) Anyway, I spent the extra time experimenting with the filters on my iPhone, and turned a disappointing shot into a fairly good one:

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Leaving Keystone, South Dakota the next day, I was surprised that the navigation routed us on back roads to Estes Park, Colorado, but we were really glad it did:

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Nice pics. But I couldn't see Eva Marie Saint.
 

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