Westward Ho!

With a deadline looming to complete my trip, I expedited westward movement. The Kansas travel day had included a long run through Oklahoma and Texas. Soon, the route of I-40 covered the same territory as the fabled Route 66.

In Shamrock, Tx, this sample Route 66 service station stood a stone’s throw away from the Tesla supercharger

The leg from Shamrock, Texas, to Tucumcarri, New Mexico, stretched 220 miles, which was more than comfortable range for a 240 mile range Tesla 70D. No worries, a helper charge was acquired in Amarillo at a friendly destination charging hotel. Although we were forced to overnight elsewhere due to the no pet policy at that Holiday Inn Express, we received permission to charge. I’ve found that in the same places where Teslas typically sell well, the West Coast, Colorado, Florida, etc., hotels tend to be more pet friendly.

Surprisingly, I found the long drives through the desert to be beautiful rather than tedious and with an audio book playing, the miles rolled by painlessly.

In eastern New Mexico, the trees had mostly disappeared, but enough rain fell to water support grasses
In Gallup, New Mexico, we discovered lots of snake holes in the ground on our sunset walk, and I kept Iceman close. With many miles to cover, we pressed on into the night, finally calling it a night at Holbrook, Arizona, and claiming state number 50!

Recharging at the Gallup supercharger

The celebration was short-lived because every pet-friendly hotel or motel between Holbrook and Flagstaff was full. With weariness setting in, I simply reclined my seat most of the way, and both Iceman and I slept until morning while parked at the Holbrook supercharger. After a long while, the Tesla will shut down the air flow to the car, but by momentarily cracking the door for a few seconds I would reset the timer and we’d both sleep in comfort until the next time that a door crack was needed.

Nonetheless, I awoke refreshed and began the long push to Reno, Nevada,

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Elusive Kansas

No matter how I reworked my strategy, at least one state would require an extra effort to reach, and in the end that state was Kansas.  How nice it would be to head West from Oklahoma City, but Kansas called. The plan was to head north from Texas to Perry supercharger, north of Oklahoma City, drive far enough north of Perry to place at least one foot and one paw in Kansas, and then race back to Perry for another supercharge.

A line of light but dissipating rain showers crossed my path to Kansas. These showers required no deviation.

Eureka, scratch one elusive state

Iceman checking out the gravel Main Street of Hunnewell, Kansas.
Uh oh, Iceman, I don’t think we’re in Hawaii any more!

Iceman in his relaxed position. When the road is rough or contains lots of turns, he wisely settles down in the low spot between from and rear seats

After working our way back to Oklahoma City, we progressed westbound, with Amarillo as our goal. About midnight we pulled into town. Fortunately, a Holiday Inn Express in Amarillo offers destination Tesla charging, and although they could not lodge us (no pets allowed), they did offer a charge. In about an hour we had enough to continue to Tucumcari, N.M., the next day.

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Texas Sojourn

One of my most anticipated stops of this trip was at the home of longtime friends Doug and Kathy. In emails, they shared photos of their home, which is built around an aircraft hangar and includes a tall air-traffic-control type tower which instead of being used to control air traffic at the nearby grass landing strip is used as a spot for drinking beer and telling flying stories as the sun lies low on the horizon. Add a gourmet kitchen and lots of Texas hospitality and this is my kind of stop!

Upon arrival, I was directed to park inside the aircraft hangar, which sports an RV-type electrical box with both 50 amp and 30 amp plugs! Testing my new 30 amp adapter, I confirmed that it worked. That evening, Doug’s parents dropped by for a family-style meal with delicious barbeque steaks and lots of veggies. His mom is a remarkable lady still teaching school at age 80, and both Doug and his dad are pilots known for their story-telling skills. Kathy is a flight attendant who not only knows aviation well but is an all around great gal. Iceman and I obviously arrived at the right address!

Iceman’s reaction to being let off leash (the house was surrounded by a mile of cut hay) was to run at full speed and circle the house, with low passes by us humans. He clearly loves being a country dog and has shown a decided preference for George Strait rather than Elton John on the radio.

Iceman kicks loose, enjoying the freedom of a Texas country dog

With such a fabulous stay, did this lodging experience rate a full 100% rating? Unfortunately, no, because I discovered three discrepancies:
* No mints on the pillows
* No brushless carwash built into the property
* No cool trout stream in which Ice could swim

Otherwise the stay was darn-near perfect. Thanks Doug and Kathy!


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Gulf Country Cruise

In all my life I have spent little time near the Gulf of Mexico. Now it was time to change that record.

One of the great pluses of traveling in this region is the cajun food. Just across from the supercharger in Baton Rouge is the Acme Oyster House. I ordered jambalaya and gumbo while the waitresses pampered Iceman with water and attention while he was tied up in the shade under the awning.

Looking for delicious cajun food? Try the Acme Oyster House, next to the Baton Rouge supercharger

Jambalaya and gumbo, mmm.

As we progressed westbound from Baton Rouge, we entered bayou country. Here you have vast areas of water mixed with trees and small islands. It was enough to get my boyish imagination working overtime, imagining all the hideouts an aspiring pirate could find in such a place.

Bayou country includes lots of big trees

Sometimes the bayou opens up into lakes

With the Tesla fueled by superchargers and me fueled with cajun food, we made out way through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and then into Texas before calling it a night.

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While at Pensacola I had a chance to visit the Naval Aviation Museum. This is one of the top two or three aviation museums in the world.

The aircraft are restored beautifully, guides are knowledgeable, the IMAX theatre is huge, and I see planes here I have never seen before. Truly I’m a kid in a candystore today.

Papafox in front of a navy Banshee, one of his favorite jets from childhood

This exact FJ4 had been flown by a friend of the family when he was stationed in Hawaii

No doubt I will return to take in this museum again some day.

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Rounding the southeastern pylon

I awoke in Savannah, Georgia, a lovely spot. From here my route would take me to Tifton supercharger, Tallahassee, and then to Pensacola. Looking at the Tesla Navigation program, I could see that the suggested routing involved a 90 degree turn, and my estimated arrival energy in Tifton was 5%. By driving 55-60 mph on a smaller highway that cut the corner, I managed to arrive with 25% energy, my best effort yet.

Since North Carolina, I found myself in pine trees from time to time. All the chill of autumn that I felt from South Dakota to Wisconsin had disappeared and the south was still very much feeling like lazy warm summer days.

Southern Georgia and Northern Florida offer these lovely trees lining the highways. All the homes in such areas are on very large lots. 

Some trees even have the moss draped down from them.

I arrived at the Tallahasee supercharger on a gorgeous evening. Close to the supercharger is a restaurant named Newk’s Eatery that serves delicious hot sandwiches. This stop marked the end of the southbound push. From here on it would be westbound to complete the tour.

An evening drive to Pensacola brought me in after dark. At the top of my to-do list? Visit the Naval Aviation Museum, of course!

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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 http://www.wunderground.com or http://www.intellicast.com . 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.

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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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