Carolina thunder

While passing through North and South Carolina, I was afforded a grand opportunity by Mother Nature to test my Tesla’s weather radar. Yep, you heard me right. I’m a former airline pilot and have no desire to press through thunderstorm country without a clear picture of what I’m dealing with.

To catch a good view of the boundaries and movement of thunderstorms, I use internet weather from or . You can too. Weather radar picks up the reflection from raindrops. Light precipitation is shown on a radar image as green, with moderate showing as yellow and heavy as either red or some other color determined by the weather site. I avoid thunderstorms for two main reasons: hail and the effects of heavy rain and wind on traffic. A Tesla’s aluminum skin is vulnerable to the effects of large hailstones, and any car is vulnerable to the combination of poor visibility, slick roads, and crazy or poor drivers barreling along in close proximity with other vehicles. Just as in an airplane, the best course of action is to avoid a thunderstorm, and radar images pulled up on your 17″ screen can allow you to do just this.

The yellow precipitation area in the bottom center of the image struck me as an area that likely didn’t pose a hail threat (transitions from light to heavier precipitation was fairly gradual, and precipitation for the most part wasn’t much worse than moderate. I chose to drive through it and although there was no hail, the driving was most unpleasant. This was about my limit of what I will knowingly venture into.

Later, in South Carolina, I encountered a nastier thunderstorm on my internet radar site. This one had transitions from no precipitation to heavy precipitation in a very short distance, which meant this was a mean wooly-bugger that could contain hail and all sorts of undesirable trappings. Another problem of wandering into a thunderstorm while on a freeway is that there’s no quick way to turn around and dash for cover. You’re moving with the traffic and only an off-ramp can help.

carolina3 carolina2
Notice on the left image how heavy the precipitation is on the right side of the storm (red and brown colors) and how quickly the storm changes from no precipitation to heavy precipitation. Coming from the north (top of image) I would need to leave the freeway before Shiloh to avoid the weather. On the right image, you can see the blue Highway 95 markers running through the storm if you click on the image and view the enlarged version. I also pushed the play button on the Wunderground image to watch the movement of the storms. They were moving from the southeast to the northwest and therefore I would make any deviations to the southeast side of Highway 95.

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As I approached the storm area, I could tell the traffic was having a tough time of it because there was red and yellow showing on the traffic speed indications south of Shiloh. No thanks! I have no desire to wander into such a mess with no option for retreat.

The perfect solution to picturing the thunderstorms above the highway map was to do a split screen with the Tesla 17″ monitor and it looked like this.

In Tesla’s navigation software, I typed the name of a town a few miles to the east of I-95 and satisfied with the new routing, I followed the blue line. As I neared this town, I typed the name of another town that was about the same distance on the southeast side of I-95 but was closer to my destination. Lots of county roads here gave me lots of options to swing wider if I needed to.

A look to the right revealed heavy rain over the interstate. I remained dry and more importantly, I retained the option of swinging further left or even stopping and turning around if I wanted.

Once my visual inspection and radar image both confirmed I was past the thunderstorm, I typed in my destination and Tesla’s navigation software plotted a quick return to the interstate highway. I had avoided both the chance of a fender bender and hail, and the pleasant drive on county roads only added about 10 minutes to my trip.

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Virginia is for Tesla lovers

One can’t visit this part of the country without being aware of America’s civil war. The names of towns like Sharpsburg, Manassas, and Harper’s Ferry right bells, and signs directing motorists to battlegrounds abound. Instead of heading northwest to Berkeley Springs, I chose to touch West Virginia along the battleground of Antietam. A visitor to the area soon realizes that Richmond, Virgina, Washington, D.C., and a great number of the battlefields are all within a one-charge driving distance.

These cannons stood on a corner of the Antietam battle field, near the intersections of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland

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Towns like Sharpsburg still have a civil war look to them when you look beyond the wires, vehicles, and roads.

Driving on these country roads was a real delight. They have so many rises and falls, twists and turns, it’s a fun roller-coaster ride in the Tesla. By the end of the day, I had added West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina to my list of states visited.

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Traffic City

From Connecticut, it was time to press through the traffic streaming out of New York City, sashay around Philadelphia’s activity and then traverse the Baltimore-Washington traffic. Add in a pope and the traffic challenges are there.

The skyline of New York City passing off the left side

While wedged in the southbound traffic as we passed New York, I noticed that the energy consumption was very good for 65 mph. I attribute this reduction to what I call “whole traffic drafting” in which the mass of cars and trucks moves enough air to reduce drag. It’s like drafting behind a semi-truck without having to hold position behind any particular vehicle.

Energy consumption of 249watt-hrs./mile was one advantage of being surrounded by traffic as “whole traffic drafting” helped out.

After passing through New York, I recharged in New Jersey, passed through the corner of Delaware, then headed through Maryland with the plan to visit West Virginia the next day.

Driving into the sunset with West Virginia on my mind

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The Speed-stater

What a day: we had fun in Vermont and still covered six states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

The fall colors were just starting in Vermont

Instead of proceeding directly to the supercharger in Brottleboro, we headed north to Manchester, VT, where Orvis has its headquarters. As I’m a fly fisherman, it was a mandatory stop.

The Orvis shop. Across the way, tours were given of the fly rod factory

The Orvis shop sported a model DeHavilland Beaver on floats

Out in back of the Orvis shop, a lovely grass area surrounded two ponds where fly-casting is taught. The pond contains monster trout and young fly-fishing trainees are allowed to hook them at times.

Iceman took an interest in the lifelike artwork

The pond offered monster trout to the aspiring fly-fishermen

After weaving our way through the Vermont mountains we headed to New Hampshire for a charge and then to Maine. Although the plan was for an overnight in Kennibunkport, the hotels weren’t keen on allowing dogs, and so a change of plans was needed. We crossed the Piscataqua River, which divides Massachusetts from Maine, made a brief stop, rounded the Northeastern pylon in this flight around America, then set our sights on points south.

A wide swing around Boston allowed us to avoid that traffic. After a brief pause in northwestern Rhode Island, I realized that we didn’t need to recharge at the Providence supercharger and changed course for Hartford, Connecticut. What a day!

This sunset rewarded our efforts to press on

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Meeting the Pioneer

When it comes to visiting the United States in an electric vehicle from one end to the other, the names Michael Fritts and Lita Elbertson stand out. Last summer Michael invited Lita to join him in a 50 state tour in his Model S. That trip has been blogged on . Michael’s trip was the first to visit all 50 staes in an electric vehicle. While crossing the state of New York, I had the pleasure of meeting this pioneer.

Michael Fritts, Papafox, and Iceman with the two long-distance Teslas behind

Oh what a difference a year makes! The Mike and Lita needed to rely upon alternate charging technologies often during their time in the lower 48 states. Now, I’m for the most part zipping through states with quick 20 minute supercharging sessions. I’m presently seeing the gaps in supercharger coverage filled while this trip is underway. Boise, Idaho, now has supercharging and a couple weeks ago Columbia, Mo.. plugged the gap between Kansas City and St. Charles. Imagine how much simpler a country-wide tour will be next summer.

What a pleasure it was to sit down with Michael in upstate New York and compare notes about Alaska and other aspects of long-distance travel in a Model S. He’s been a valuable resource to me in the past and I sure enjoyed a chance to say hello.

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Midwestern Sweep

A few states remained in the upper midwest and I set about visiting them before the next major move in this road trip. From Dayton I proceeded north to the Toledo area and spent the night. Radar images on my computer revealed a cold front about to overtake Toledo that evening, but the rain didn’t look intense enough to generate hail, and so I didn’t sweat it. Normally, I would look for covered parking such as covered mall parking or airport parking, but the Toledo area offered none. With a bit of looking around, I came up with a list of future hideouts if hail was a possibility. Remember that the Tesla is an aluminum car are should be protected from major hailstorms.

Hail Hideouts in Smaller Towns:
* Gas stations (most have the refueling area covered)
* Car washes (hey, I would pay for a self-wash as the storm approached)
* Bridge overpasses
* Evasive maneuvers- If you can pull up radar images that update regularly (, for example) , you can drive north or south and find a weak spot in the line

An automobile is fast enough to catch an eastbound cold front from behind, but I had no interest in doing so

With no desire to catch up with the cold front as it pushed east the next day, I chose to remain in Toledo and blog away. It was also my first opportunity ever to see a 3D movie (Everest). Right after the show, Iceman and I pushed north about 15 miles to cross the Michigan border, bag another state, and then we headed back to the supercharger for a top-off and then dinner.

That evening I spotted this sign across from the Maumee (South of Toledo) supercharger. If they offer me a discount, I’m willing to give it a try. Very tasty ; )

The next day I set out for Buffalo, a trek that would take me either north or south of Lake Erie. I chose south, but if I had it to do again, I would brave the customs procedures of entering Canada and then the U.S. because the route is shorter and it takes you right by the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (the better side to see the falls). Instead I recharged at the Buffalo supercharger and then backtracked to the falls.

Look at how uneven the energy use (and terrain) is on a route that parallels a long lake

My plan was to gather data points on my drafting tests, but clearly uneven terrain makes this task more difficult. One approach is to maintain a set speed for the entire duration of a leg and then grab the average energy efficiency with the knowledge the departure and arrival points are nearly identical in elevation (use for this purpose).

My impressions of Niagara Falls? I need to see from the Canadian side next time, the rising mist is cool, and I was totally surprised that the sound of the falls is so quiet from this viewpoint. Oh yes, I trust the experience would be better with the company of a beautiful lady, rather than my dog (no offense, Iceman).

En route to Buffalo, we passed through Pennsylvania, and so it’s 30 states down, 20 to go.

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Northbound to Dayton and the Wright Brothers

As many of you remember, I’ve had a thing about the Wright Brothers on this trip. I listened to an version of David McCullough’s biography of the brothers and a number of curiosities remained unanswered. Hopefully, the trip to Dayton would provide clues.

A series of superchargers led me easily from Knoxville through Lexington and Cincinnati and then up to Dayton. A loop across the Ohio River allowed me to claim Indiana too, for a total of four states in one day. We’re now more than halfway through the states!

After a good night’s sleep in a motel, I hit the ground running. First stop was the U.S. Air Force museum. I have visited before and know how easy it is to get overwhelmed at a huge museum. Instead, I concentrated on the 1909 Wright flyer and planes that soon followed. One observation? I tend to agree with Antoine de Saint Exupery that a design is mature not when there’s nothing left to add, but rather when there’s nothing left to remove. Breakthough aircraft so often were pleasing to the eyes in the same way that a Tesla Model S is pleasing to my eyes. The curves are aerodynamic and I think our brains understand the implications of this sleekness and it enhances our opinion of the machine’s beauty.

The Tesla claimed the best spot in the parking lot and received a complimentary charge, too. Thank you Air Force! One of the beauties of an electric car is that I could leave the air conditioning running to enable Iceman to keep his cool in the back seat while I toured the museum. One must be mighty careful to keep checking the temperature from a smartphone, though!

Here’s the 1909 Wright Flyer that was purchased by the Army. A constellation of contemporary aircraft surrounds it.

Here is the aircraft of the nemesis of the Wright Brothers, Glen Curtiss. Although credit for solving the mysteries of stability and control clearly goes to the Wright Brothers, one must still appreciate the contributions of Curtiss, including ailerons instead of wing warping, wheels instead of a launch catapult and skids, and a control wheel instead of the various levers and cradle employed by the Wrights.

I took a moment to suit up at the museum just to let Elon know that I’m ready for a Mars mission 

Next stop after the Air Force museum was the Wright Memorial, where I learned from a park ranger that the original Huffman Praire site of the Wright Brothers flights in Ohio still existed and I could visit! Fortunately, the land is in a flood plain close to Wright-Patterson Air Base, and development has never overtaken it.

Iceman and I arrived at Huffman Prairie to discover the full flying site preserved in nearly the exact condition it was in during the years of its use by the brothers for testing the Wright Flyer II, III, and for use as a civilian flight training school by the brothers. An acceptable wind for flying the Wright Flyer, about 15 knots, was blowing that day under blue skies. Eight white flaps on poles marked the boundaries of Huffman Prairie.

Best yet, we had the place entirely to ourselves.

Here’s the replica Wright hangar and catapult system, precisely where they stood back in 1904. Only the black dog has been added. My imagination was soaring and I could picture Orville or Wilbur taking the 1905 flyer around this field, performing figure 8s to demonstrate the maneuverability of the plane.

Iceman somehow picked up on my excitement, because out of the blue he felt the need to zoom around the field. I quieted him, revved up the video camera, then invited him to resume. Keep in mind this is a 10 year old dog. Here you have it:

Now, it would be hard to top this experience, and I had both a Tesla and Huffman Prairie grin simultaneously, but there was one more stop that day. On the south side of Dayton, the Carillon Historical Park boasted exhibits that a Wright Brothers fan must see, and so we headed south without delay.

Here’s a reproduction of the Wright’s airplane shop. Notice how the home-made wind tunnel was powered.

The 1905 Wright Flyer itself, after a careful rebuild

This plane was also known as the Wright Flyer III, and it was the machine that really proved that flying was now a practical endeavor. The original 1903 Wright Flyer was damaged in a windstorm. Although it was controllable, it was only marginally maneuverable. The 1904 Wright Flying II used a lower camber wing (the wing had less lift-creating twist from fore to aft) than the original Flyer, which turned out to be a handicap. In the 1905 Flying III, the original Flyer’s wing shape was readopted, and with additional refinements the 1905 Flyer achieved flights in excess of an hour (besides being far more maneuverable than either of the previous Flyers).

I spent a good amount of time following the control cables from the pilot’s station to the aft struts on the wings and slowing coming to realize how the warping mechanism worked.

What a day!

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Chasing Rockets

From my basecamp in southeastern Missouri, I set out for the Nashville supercharger, some 205 road miles away. Tesla’s navigation software let me know that this route was a questionable endeavor if driven at normal speed.

Tesla’s navigation software expected only 3% energy at destination if I drove at normal speeds (way too small a margin for comfortable driving).

For such a distance, I planned to use a slow driving speed to extend my range, but soon I came across a massive electric vehicle under transport, and it occurred to me that if I were ever to try drafting, now was the time.

This vehicle looked more like a cruise ship in size than a semi-truck, and I decided to experiment with drafting since the road was level.

Typically, I burn about 289watt-hours of power per mile when driving at 65 mph on flat terrain, but take a look at what happened when I started drafting behind this big truck.

Although I started drafting fairly close to the vehicle in front, with an adaptive-cruise-control setting of “2” I discovered I could back off to “5” or even further without a substantial loss in drafting. My energy burn dropped from 270 wh/mile to 245 wh/mile. At this rate, I could keep up my 65 mph speed all the way to Nashville. We finished the route with about 15% of energy remaining in our battery.

I lost the massive electric vehicle at a fork in the road but then caught sight of another likely target and started drafting again.

This thing looked to be kin to the Goodyear blimp and provided some nice drafting as well.

Truly spoiled in the drafting world, I tried a run-of-the-mill semi-truck and found the drafting advantages were nearly as good. Since drafting can be accomplished from a safe distance behind, I think it is a safer alternative to stretching range than slow driving on highways with significant traffic. More recently, I have discovered substantial range improvements when moving with a flow of dense traffic. I call this “traffic drafting”. I’m very keen to quantify my findings and post in the other tabs as soon as I have more to share.

The Nashville supercharger is located at the Nashville sales and service facility. It is a beautiful building with friendly employees and it was quite busy with getting vehicles prepped for delivery when I arrived. A young man in the showroom had just pulled the trigger on a Model S and I offered my congratulations.

Only 90 miles south of Nashville stands Huntsville, Alabama, the location where Von Braun and America’s other rocket scientists developed the space vehicles that would take us to the moon. It is now known as the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. With a full charge, Iceman and I set off for this location. An RV park right next to the space museum awaited us, but it did not offer 50 amp charging. Here is a perfect example of why you want to carry the right 30-TT charging adapter with you when roadtripping in a Model S.

After parking the Tesla and beginning the charge, Iceman and I walked over to the museum. What a sight: a full-scale replica Saturn V awaited! For those of you who weren’t around in 1969, this is the rocket that carried our Apollo astronauts to the moon.

I have been both a space and aviation nut since childhood, and the sight of this rocket gave me chicken-skin. Wow. Imagine watching this thing launch and feeling the ground shake! The Saturn V put out 7.5 million lbs. of thrust at liftoff, more than any other rocket in history. To put things into perspective, when SpaceX introduces the Falcon Heavy, it will carry more than double the load into orbit than the Space Shuttle could, but the Falcon Heavy does so with 4.5 million lbs. of liftoff thrust. To offer a baseball analogy, the Saturn 5 is the Babe Ruth of rockets.

The next day, Iceman settled into air-conditioned comfort in the back seat of the Tesla while I headed off for the museum. I parked in a shady spot but all the same checked on temperature and air-conditioning performance frequently from my smart phone. The primary museum building offered many fascinating displays and it was evident that the U.S. Space Camp was in full swing with scores of youngsters involved in activities here. I had even seen a dozen of them launching their model rockets near the RV park.

Step outside, and you’re in the rocket park. Here stand actual and the occasional replica of important rockets in the development of space travel. You soon learn that America’s space program really was an offshoot from the primary business of designing long-distance missiles for the military.

The rocket park offered everything from the small Atlas rockets that blasted the first Mercury astronauts into space to a replica of the Saturn 1 (far left).

The real crown jewels of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center reside within the Saturn V building. Here, on it’s side is an actual Saturn V rocket, split into three stages for your viewing pleasure. Since major events were underway in this building, my ability to visit was questionable, but by asking nicely and expressing my sincere interest, I was allowed in.

Stage 1 of the Saturn V

Stage 3 of the Saturn V

Here’s an F-1 engine that was the type used in the first stage of the Saturn V. Development of this engine begin way back in the year 1960. Are there parallels here with the lead that Tesla has achieved in the EV world? We’ll see.

A panoramic photo of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Reunited with the Tesla and Iceman after the tour, we set off for Nashville, Chattanooga, and then Knoxville before calling it a day. Ah, the joys of being back on the supercharger network!

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Bagging Arkansas

In any Tesla road-tripper’s stories of 2015, the state of Arkansas ranks as one of those big challenges, since it is one of the few black holes left in Tesla’s supercharger network. Fortunately, with knowledge gained from the Alaska run, Arkansas was easy.

My route took us down from Wisconsin, through Illinois, and then to the St. Charles supercharger in Missouri. To my great delight, the distinctly autumn temperatures of the northern states gave way to the lazy warmth of summer by the time I reached Missouri. Best yet, we had lightning bugs in the air that evening!

Illinois ranks right up there with my home state of Hawaii as a place to be careful for speeding tickets while en route. It seems both these states like the revenue and work hard to maximize it. In contrast, Missouri’s low speed limit of 60 mph was largely ignored by the end-of-work commuters, and they zipped along at about 80 with little care.

This high-speed traffic was a bit problematic because I had another 200 mile run, this time southbound to camp in the RV park of the Lady Luck Casino in the far southeastern tip of Missouri and partake of that good 50 amp electricity so that I began the next day with a full 243 mile charge. Whenever you check into an RV park, it’s important to establish a positive rapport with the person on the other side of the desk. Otherwise, it is way too easy for them to say, “No, we don’t have a policy for letting electric cars into the RV park.” In this case, the lady was a delight, we chatted amiably, but she needed to fit my vehicle into one of three categories: motor home, trailer, or camper. Clearly, with its folding seats and the added refrigerator-freezer, I was driving a camper, so I gave her the answer she was looking for and all was good.

The next morning Iceman and awoke early in southeastern Missouri. We broke camp then headed south for the 25 mile run into Arkansas. With goal reached, we zoomed back to the RV park and topped off our battery again before checkout time so that we had the range to make the long run to the Nashville supercharger. Morale of the story: sometimes it’s nice to work from a basecamp when you’re trying to claim another state.


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Wyoming to Wisconsin in a day

Although the trip began a few miles east of the Wyoming border, it proceeded well east of the Wisconsin border, and so I can fairly claim to have traversed a good portion of the United States in a single day (more than 725 miles). An internal combustion engine vehicle can spend less time refueling, but the 20 minute breaks every couple of hours are essential for preventing fatigue. Thus, a Tesla driver can typically continue later into the night because of these breaks and because of features that reduce fatigue (quiet interior, great handling, adaptive cruise control, auto-dimming headlights, etc.). The sheer joy of driving the Tesla is probably the most important factor for extending my daily range.

The drive began at first hint of light in the Eastern sky

Once past the Black Hills, South Dakota became almost continuous fields of corn. Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin followed the same pattern. Few trees covered the northern plains, but oh is this land good at producing crops.


A 5 minute drive from the Mitchell supercharger will bring you to the Corn Palace, a building in which the interior and exterior mosaics are all created from corn cobs of different colors. Each year a new theme is displayed, and this tradition has been going for more than a hundred years. Type “corn palace” into your nav display and your Tesla will show you the way.

After entering Minnesota, I realized I was but a few miles from Iowa and in an effort to bag another state on this outing I swung south and followed the county roads. I highly recommend getting off the interstate and doing county roads when you get a chance. Interstates are billboards and sterile, but county roads take you into another land which is more representative of the country.

Plenty of corn grows besides the county roads, too.

Sleepy Iowa town caught in a time warp from another century

The day was perfect for road tripping. Temperature stood at about 65 degrees, with blue sky and not a breath of wind. As teenagers, both my  brother Bill and I had read a book by Richard Bach called Nothing by Chance in which he barnstormed across Iowa and other midwestern states in his biplane. Richard would find a newly-cut field not far from town, land his biplane, get permission from the farmer (often after taking the man aloft), put up a “Biplane rides!” sign, and go to work. This book eventually led both my brother and I to buy biplanes and take up the profession of barnstormers for a month one summer. Now as I drove through these Iowa small towns with the windows open and sunroof fully back, I was transported back into this turn of the last century world that Bach had known.

This town looked like the movie set for The Last Picture Show. I was kind of expecting to see a boy with a broom, sweeping the streets. Of all the driving I did this day, the short excursion into Iowa affected me the most profoundly.

Bottom line: get off the interstates and away from the tourist haunts and you will discover a hidden America.

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Mountain Oasis

Every long distance traveler dreams of an oasis where water is plentiful and life is easy. I found such an oasis on my journey in Spearfish Canyon of South Dakota’s Black Hills. My brother Bill and his lovely wife Karen extended an invitation for a long stopover, and I took them up on the offer. For me, this was a chance to catch up on blogging, get some good exercise, thoroughly clean the Tesla, receive packages, and just enjoy time with these people.

The view from their deck was gorgeous

Mountainbiking with my brother and his wife

I played tourist one day with a drive over to Mt. Rushmore

One obstacle was that three 120 lb. malamute dogs live on the property. Two were not to be trusted around Iceman, but Ice worked his magic with a female named Kiera and the two became partners for walks twice a day.

Iceman and Kiera on their morning walk in the Black Hills

Can you spot the buck? Iceman can! Expand the photo to full size by clicking on it.

For Iceman, the stop was even more substantial. Here was a prolonged stay in the mountains, an entirely foreign place to be checked out, peed upon, conquered, and enjoyed.

Ice-cold water was a non-issue with Iceman

Portuguese Mountain Dog

Raised in the warm islands
Where he frolicked in the sand
Iceman visited the Black Hills,
A mountainous and wild land.

Took a dip in an icy stream
Would he immediately jump out?
The boy swam happily in the current
His tail massaging scores of brown trout.


He learned the scent of deer
Would stalk them on our walks,
I’m just glad he never smelled a lion
Or he’d be hunting ’em high in the boulder rocks.


Iceman soon felt at home here
He learns altogether quick,
Prefers rocks to fire hydrants,
Uses a deer antler as a tooth pick.


The implications are immense,
It’s plain for all to see,
My beach-loving bowser
has unmistakably gone country!

Check out this driving through Spearfish Canyon video.

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North Dakota

North Dakota simply didn’t fit into a smooth journey through the states along supercharger routes. Thus, an out and back sortie from South Dakota became the plan. Looking at the map, there’s a community known as Bowman at the top of Highway 85 which presses north from western South Dakota. A quick phone call confirmed I could get a helper charge at a Bowman RV Park, so Iceman and I set forth on an expedition to bag another state.

Wide-open grasslands dominate much of the Dakotas

Heading north through the Dakotas, I had a chance to survey the wildlife by assessing the abundant roadkill. Racoons roam these parts, as do foxes. Most curious, though, were the abundant pheasants that had been hit (made we wish that xpel made a pheasant-proof film).

Antelope roam these glasslands, too. Be sure to click on photo for higher-res version


There’s no reason to spend much time charging at 30mph rate when you can hustle back to a supercharger and pump in the power at 350+ mph. A quick helper charge for $5 at an RV park and I was good to head back to civilization (supercharger land). I have yet to contact an RV Park that wouldn’t sell me electricity.

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Flying northbound

The next day I headed north from Colorado, into Wyoming. The Cheyenne supercharger is a curious affair, hidden in the corner of an RV sales lot, and rather slow at charging by supercharger standards. Don’t expect it to win the Supercharger of the Year award anytime soon. Looking for a breakfast spot, though, I walked into nearby Frontier Mall and ordered a panini and coffee from the friendly propritors of Na Cafe Coffee Shop. Mmmm.

Cheyenne supercharger

After a quick swing through western Nebraska, we returned to Wyoming for a supercharge at Lusk, then hightailed it to the supercharger at Rapid City, S.D.

Most of the day’s traveling progressed through the grasslands of Wyoming. In many places, buttes rose from the otherwise shallow topography, reminding me of my first visit to Wyoming. I visited my brother Bill who was newly married and living at the base of one of these buttes. In short order we agreed that with the hawks taking such good advantage of the ridge lift off the butte, there must be good lift for a radio-controlled glider too, so we ordered one. The craft with 6 ft wingspan soon arrived, but someone had packed two left wingtips instead of a left and a right. No worries, we would build our own wingtips out of balsa wood, using the ribs of the existing wingtip as our guide. Our modified glider performed surprisingly well, and we soared for ten or twenty minutes at a time, teaching ourselves aerobatics and landing to the side of the butte in a grassy area sometimes populated with antelopes.

Now, as I headed north, I listened to an audio book, a biography of the Wright Brothers by David McCullough. What a delightful drive– imagining the air currents over these buttes, reminiscing about aviation adventures with my brother, and learning of the methodical ways that the Wright brothers unraveled the secrets of flight. All these moments took place in the quiet, safe capsule known as the Tesla Model S.

An audio book about the Wright Brothers captivated me on the drive north. I will have to stop at Dayton, Ohio, and Kill Devil Hill, N.C. on this trip to bring the story fully to life.

Heading to Rapid City, I drove through the green grasslands of the great plains. It didn’t take much imagination to picture enormous herds of buffalo roaming these parts a couple hundred years ago. Before long I passed east of the Black Hills. What a curious place the Black Hills are. They are the west with all its mountain crags, pines, gorgeous canyons, deer, cougars, the whole shebang placed right here in the northern plains as if to share the western mountains with one and all.

Once outside of California, I seldom competed with other Teslas for supercharger space. What a surprise to take the last of 4 charging spots at the Rapid City supercharger. I believe all the other cars had out-of-state licenses too. 

Today we bagged 3 more states: Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

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East of the Rockies

After Aspen, we headed east on I-70. After negotiating some construction delays, we passed through Vail. This spot looks like it could be another fun mountain town, too, but with a substantially different flavor. Whereas Aspen was small and exclusive,with mountain bike trails and people in athletic gear, Vail looked to be enormous Tyrolian villages and golf courses. The ski hills, the woods, and the streams were nonetheless inviting.

Vail resides right alongside I-70

Entering Denver, we drove through heavy showers, but I have yet to find any issues with the wipers, defrosters, or slick condition handling. Mostly I was busy driving defensively.

That evening, I stayed on the eastern side of the Rockies with my nephew Nick. One great thing about road trips is the ability to visit relatives and friends. At age 10, my nephew was enthralled with dreams of flight and he  joined me on a trip to London to see an aviation event with World War II era aircraft. Now, some 18 years later, Nick is a regional airline pilot, based in Denver. I’m proud of his ability to turn his dream into reality. Also, no need for a tent tonight as Iceman and I bunked in Nick’s loft.

Hanging out with nephew Nick

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Aspen delight

It took Icenan and me about a quarter second after pulling into the center of Aspen town to realize we had to spend some time in this place. First, just about every other person on the street had a dog with them. Secondly, instead of mostly out-of-shape people in RV Parks, this town was filled with people in athletic wear, biking, hiking, and involved in very active recreations.

About every other person on the streets in Aspen had a dog with them!

Tie ’em up outside like you would a horse

For months, Iceman and I have used the “tie ’em up” method so that I could go into a building where dogs weren’t allowed. We had never encountered someone else doing the same thing. I actually laughed out loud to see that this is the norm in Aspen. This place was growing on me quickly.

Ski runs dominate the background of Aspen

Two main shopping/dining streets in Aspen have flowing streams, trees and grass, much to Iceman’s delight

Not surprisingly, hotels in Aspen were open-minded about allowing dogs in the rooms. The first hotel I researched was the sole Tesla destination hotel, The Little Nell, but its price was well above my budget. Instead, I ended up in another nice hotel, walking distance from the center of town, that cost no more than a similar hotel anywhere in America. Ah, the joys of traveling in the off season. I spent two nights and considered three.

During a walk, I spoke with the doormen at The Little Nell, and they reminded me that the Tesla charger was available for $10 per hour. Wouldn’t you wish you had dual-chargers if you were charging there? The nearest supercharger is about 40 miles away in Glenwood Springs.

Iceman and I soon chose our dining perch for the trip at an outdoor cafe across the street from  Casa Tua

Papafox and Iceman at their Aspen dining perch, busy people watching and dog watching

Talk about a great town for people-watching. Many people walked or rode by in their athletic wear with bright tennis shoes. Then came the ladies of the money-is-no-object crowd, dressed to the nines in their fabulous outfits while passing by in heels. Fun to see the people of both groups (many absolutely stunning ladies), fun to see the outfits.

In the evenings, I watched the paragliders working the currents at the summit of the ski hill. 

Just walking around town was a delight. This house is not that unusual for Aspen. Nearly all houses were well maintained with wildflowers and neatly-trimmed green lawns. A road one block off main street was reserved solely for bicyclists and local traffic.

This stream ran through town and had a well-maintained walking trail following it and snaking through the wooded areas nearby

Walking and biking trails were everywhere. How could you live a sedentary lifestyle in a place so designed for active sports? 

Hmm, if we hurry on the road trip, maybe we can catch some trees turning colors in Aspen on the westbound leg of our tour.

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Back to the mountains

The drive to Green River was gorgeous, but the 90 degree weather that much of the West was feeling felt too hot to me after my time up North, and I endeavored to turn the thermostat down to a more desirable number. The answer? To the mountains of Colorado!

Highway 70 is an especially scenic road and the grand colors and rock formations did not end after crossing the Colorado border.


En route to Grand Junction the scenery remained rugged and colorful

Front row seat to America’s vast beauty

Pulling into the supercharger at Grand Junction, I spied an International House of Pancakes nearby, but alas it was a weekend and the lines were too long. Oh well, it was back on the road again!

At Glenwood Springs supercharger, the nearby hotel made certain that the spots wouldn’t be ICEd out (taken by internal combustion engine vehicles) by placing cones that said “EV Only”. It worked!

After Glenwood Springs I departed I-70 and followed another road higher into the mountains.

Are those ski runs on the mountain ahead? Oh my goodness, I must be heading to Aspen

Added content:
Off-Net: Charging Strategies
AutoP & Nav: Plan your trip like a pilot

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Visit to the ghost showroom

From Idaho Falls we would be on the supercharger network again for a long time, and it was a good feeling. Southbound from Idaho Falls our route took us to the Tremonton supercharger and then to Salt Lake City.

It’s a strange feeling recharging at tbe Salt Lake City site. Here’s this beautiful facility that is nearly deserted. It’s all dressed up with no place to go. Some minor servicing takes place, but the facility is still waiting for a nod from the Utah politicians to allow sales activity to take place.

Let’s hope this beautiful facility at Salt Lake City gets put to use someday soon

At long last I found the time to hit a gym while on the road. Iceman chilled out in air-conditioned comfort in the Tesla while I worked out

After passing through Salt Lake City, the next stop was the supercharger at Green River. A drive through rush-hour Salt Lake traffic made me vow to avoid big city rush-hour traffic in the future. The drive soon improved, and the vibrant colors of Utah in the final hours of light made the trip memorable.

The road to Green River is best done early in the morning or in early evening to maximize the desert colors

My feeling at this point in the road trip? It’s great to be on the supercharger network again! I’m eating up the miles and having more fun.

Added Recently:
Musings: Sailing

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I have great memories of Kalispell, for it is perhaps the most beautiful spot in the 48 contiguous states over which to fly. Imagine a patchwork of green farmer’s fields, surrounded by rugged mountains, with a river winding its way through the fields to the mighty Flathead Lake. Many years ago, my brother Bill and I brought two Great Lakes open-cockpit biplanes to this location for a barnstorming event. Bill had convinced one of the board members of the small Kalispell municipal airport to cut a trail through the tall grass so as to allow two biplanes access from the airport to the highway. We then parked the planes beside the road, put up a “Biplane Rides” sign, and began two of the best weeks of my life. We hopped plenty of rides in the mornings and evenings and took the majority of the day off for hikes and mountain bike rides. The rides paid for our gas and expenses, and we could have done this all summer.

Two ticket-sellers/groundmen were necessary for this adventure and one of them was a young West Virginia fellow, not long out of high school, trying to decide his road in life. Apparently the barnstormer trip influenced Blair, because he chose to go to college out west, met a beautiful Montana gal, settled down in Kalispell and now they were raising two sons. I had not seen Blair since the barnstorming adventure, and so I dropped by his ranch outside Kalispell for a quick hello. The rest of the family was gone at the moment, but I snapped a photo of the ranch. He’s worked very hard to get this far, and I’m quite proud of him.

Blair’s ranch was a mandatory stop

Blair’s pup stalking a family of wild turkeys… the dog proved that turkeys can indeed fly

From here I intended to keep moving south, for the smoke was still thick. Various projects slowed my progress and I only made it as far as Missoula before spending the night in the Best Western motel next to the supercharger.

This Missoula motel picked up my business by being located next to a supercharger

Iceman and I were both ready to ditch the smoke

The next morning’s drive to the Butte supercharger continued in the smoke zone

My original plan had been to follow superchargers eastbound across Montana, but with all this smoke I chose to continue southbound. Weather reports indicated that Idaho Falls was in the clear and so we pointed south to at last escape the itchy eyes of the smoke zone.

The route to Idaho Falls covered 209 road miles, but by slowing the speed, selecting range mode, and being careful with heating/cooling, I made it to Idaho Falls with a comfortable reserve. The big challenge came as I approached Idaho Falls and a nasty thunderstorm threatened. I ducked under a bridge, rain and hail poured down, then Iceman and I drove out upon the ball-bearing hailstones and to my joy the dual-motor Tesla 70D did not slip a bit on it (later I climbed a steep dirt road and again the 70D showed not a hint of slippage). I can’t wait to try this car in snow (maybe I should be careful what I wish for).

This thunderstorm near Idaho Falls produced a wicked amount of hail. Look at the blue sky, though, the smoke is gone!

Idaho Falls, ID, is a crossroads of north-south and east-west highways. It’s a natural spot for a supercharger, but we’ll have to wait a year or so to see that. In the meantime, a variety of public charging spots are available, and there’s even a doctor who makes his Tesla charger available for transiting Teslas. Likewise, Twin Falls, ID, is covered by a Tesla owner who makes his home charger available to transiting Teslas.The site is your best resource for such matters. You have to love the Tesla community for taking up the slack until the supercharger network matures. I chose to recharge overnight as I slept at an RV park, taking advantage of full-recharging during overnight stops.

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Smoke, smoke, smoke

The radio reports had been right: as one proceeded east towards Revelstoke, the visibility dropped immensely due to forest fire smoke being blown north from Washinton state fires. By the time I finished a quick energy refill at the Revelstoke supercharger, I was inspired to get out of the smoke. Head southbound, baby. Banff would have to wait.

What a shame this smoke had arrived, though, because the route from Sicamous  toward Banff clearly offered fabulously scenery.

The route eastbound from Sicamous was gorgeous with deep gorges and  lovely lakes. Really smokey, though.

The supercharger station at Golden, Canada, is one of the most unique, with a park next door open only to Travelodge and Tesla supercharger customers only.

From Golden I needed to abandon the supercharger network again, however, to pursue a southerly route, and with 278 miles to Kalispell, I would need a helper charge along the way.

Iceman and I stopped for a helper charge at the Kicking Horse Cafe, about 60 miles south of the Golden supercharger. The cafe offered an excellent 26 mph charger at no charge, free internet, and a chance to buy great coffee and food.

In a little over 2 hours we had a full range of 241 miles and headed south again for our most ambitious leg yet: over 210 miles to Kallispell, Montana. Plan B in case we couldn’t make the distance? Stop for the night at one of the many RV parks between the U.S. border and Kallispell.

I crossed the U.S. border after dark and entered one of my favorite states: Montana

Pulling into the RV Park at Kallispell, I had used less than 50kwh of electricity to cover the 210 miles and averaged a miserly 235 kw per mile. 

I drove about 45 mph on this route to Kalispell but did better than on the Alaska legs because the temperature was warmer, I demanded nothing more than a fan from the environmental system, and the road had considerably fewer turns and hills than the legs through Canada.

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The Best KOA Campground So Far

The idea was to follow Tesla’s trail of Canadian superchargers eastbound for a while and visit that curiously large hotel at Banff. I had always been intrigued how someone could fill up such a large hotel in such a remote location.

After recharging at the Kamloops supercharger that afternoon, we drove east along the Trans-Canadian Highway. As with many Americans, I was surprised that the main East-West highway in Canada is two-lane for much of the way. Fortunately, passing lanes are common in the more heavily-traveled areas.

That evening we pulled into a KOA campground at Sicamous, on the eastbound leg towards Banff. Although I give KOA campgrounds a bad time for often resembling trailer parks, this one was quite different. It had all the ammenities of a good KOA campground: heated pool for the kids, internet, restrooms clean as hotel rooms, etc., and yet it had something else: space! Campsites were widely spaced in lovely wooded areas, and plenty of trails led outward for evening walks with the dog.

Now on the supercharger route, we took an inexpensive tent site at KOA Sicamous

My bed on the cot is more comfortable than my bed at home

The radio spoke of smoke ahead, smoke blown north from fires in Washington state. Iceman and I saw the beginning of the smoke zone on our evening walk

To add icing to the cake, I enjoyed an all you can eat pancake feed at Sicamous before hitting the road the next morning

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