Part 4: Mapping Our Journey Home

The final installment of our 1300+ mile road trip in our electric car (Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3 here).

When we first planned our road trip, we weren’t quite sure which route we’d take back home. Because of the possibility of excessive heat and unpredictable wildfires, we left that decision open until it was time to head south. The coastal route is interesting and cooler, but we drove up that way. There are a couple of north/south freeways that offer the shortest and quickest drive, but they are mind-numbingly boring. If we drove further east before heading south, we could visit Mono Lake, something that I’ve always wanted to see.    

When it was time to start home, the temperatures had dropped a bit and there weren’t any active fires, so we decided to head east, then south. This route required some additional planning because, unlike the state’s western corridor, the eastern areas aren’t as populated, and superchargers aren’t as available.

Fortunately, at this point in our trip, we had become comfortable with the apps that located the chargers and with our car’s ability to predict the level of charge we’d need at each one. As we headed east, we drove through mountain passes and pine forests – away from any population centers – but our car told us that we’d reach the next charging station with plenty of juice to spare. Although it can be anxiety-producing to watch the car’s range shrink when climbing hills, regenerative breaking adds most of that range back when driving downhill.

Mono Lake

When we came around a bend in the road and first caught a glimpse of the lake from a view turnout, I was in awe. I had seen pictures of Mono Lake but was thrilled to now see it for myself.  

Our first view of Mono Lake.

Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake located at the eastern edge of the California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is home to trillions of brine shrimp, millions of birds, and the world-famous tufa towers. The lake was nearly destroyed when, in 1941, water was diverted from the lake’s tributary streams and sent 350 miles south to meet the growing water demands of Los Angeles. Fortunately, because of the work of dedicated activists, this practice was stopped, and the lake’s water level is slowly being restored.

The clouds in the background mimicked the shape of the Tufas.
The sun setting behind me lit up the clouds.

The Final Stretch Home

When we got on the road the next morning, our plan was to recharge twice along the way before stopping for the night about halfway home. During the drive, we continued to find charging stations available with no wait, as well as places to eat and “refresh” close by. As we approached the half-way point, we were feeling pretty good, so we decided to continue driving after charging.  

This decision is not unusual for us; we often choose to power through the last stretch because we are anxious to get home and sleep in our own bed again. What was different was how good we felt after driving for over 7 hours. Stopping every couple of hours for a quick charge (charge time averaged 10 – 15 minutes each) made us get out of the car and stretch our legs. When we arrived home after 8 pm that night, we both felt good.

So, not to get too wonky on you, here’s our final thoughts about our 1300+ mile EV trip:

What we liked:

Charging more often but to lower levels not only makes the trip more enjoyable but the total charging time is actually less.

EV owners are nice and full of information so good conversations happen while charging.

Our car had plenty of power, the cabin comfort was outstanding, and we had more than enough storage space for our luggage.

Although it wasn’t our intention, we saved money. Gas prices are high but so are electricity rates at superchargers. Even so, we spent about half as much as we would have at the gas pump (and no stinky hands). 

What could be improved:  

Because charging stations aren’t as prevalent as gas stations, the trip took extra planning, and we had a bit of a learning curve on how to use the tools available. Next time, we’ll be better at it.

California has good charging infrastructure, so we had no trouble finding stations. Although more public chargers are being added all the time, for now, we might need to stick to the main freeways when traveling in certain states.   

The biggest negative for us is the car’s single large screen located in the middle of the dashboard. Although this is a trend for a lot of cars – even gas-powered ones – we don’t like it. We prefer not to have to take our eyes off the road to perform some of the car’s functions or to see how fast we are driving vs. the speed limit. Without a co-pilot, I’m not sure either of us could comfortably drive unfamiliar roads and read the tiny print on the screen, especially with our older eyes.   

Safely home and ready for a good wash.

Now that we’ve been home for a while, we are already thinking about our next EV adventure.

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

82 thoughts on “Part 4: Mapping Our Journey Home”

  1. I found your EV experience so interesting to read about Janis. I have often wondered if a long journey would feel stressful, due to the planning involved in factoring in recharging. It sounds like you handled yourselves just fine!

  2. I so agree with all your observations: I find I am far less tired after driving long distances than I was with my “ICE” car. I thought that was because I was using auto pilot, but stopping to stretch my legs and charge briefly also was probably a factor. And I too found the other people at the charging stations to be very friendly and helpful—far more so than when I used to stop for gas. I’m reluctant to drive from New Jersey to California to visit our son in my Tesla because of all the extra planning it would involve—and because I would have to cross some states that aren’t yet fully on board with electric vehicles. If we DID drive, we would probably use my husband’s hybrid, until the charging infrastructure improves.

    When you DID use non Tesla charging stations, what type of charging connection did you use? CHAdeMO, CCS, J1772 or NEMA? And what level charge? I know Level 1 takes forever. I only have the J1772 and NEMA connectors so far, and I think they only do level 1 in my area.

    1. I know a few people who have crossed the country in EVs so it’s possible but not as convenient, for sure. Hopefully that will change as time goes on. EVs are so common where I live it’s hard to imagine not seeing them everywhere, or facing hostility from others, which I have heard of.

      We managed to only charge at Tesla superchargers, which we found were well-situated for our route. We use our J1772 connecter for our level 2 charger at home, and also at a free charger that’s available at a local grocery store.

  3. I’m glad you had such a successful trip. The speed limit in my truck system is located on the navigation map in the center of the console, and I always dread taking my eyes off the road to see the speed limit. I read an article that younger drivers can glance away to see something and it takes 3 seconds, but for older driver, can be 8 seconds. I’m more aware now and pull off the road to do most things.

    1. My former EV, a Hyundia Kona, had a wonderful “pop-up” see-through display that rose up from the dashboard. It allowed me to see all the important information without taking my eyes off the road. I miss that. I don’t understand why the font size on our screen isn’t adjustable.

  4. This series of posts was both interesting and informative, Janis. I’m happy to hear that your first adventure proved to be successful and enjoyable!

    The onboard GPS system in my SUV has a small (and unusual) font that’s extremely difficult to read. That long delay between glancing over/down and actually understanding what I’m reading bothers me so much that I’ve continued to use a Garmin GPS on my windshield. It’s clearer, brighter and directly in my field of vision. I like the fact that it significantly reduces the amount of time my eyes are off the road.

    1. Agreed! Some of my favorite childhood memories were when my parents packed us up in the car, and we went from one bed and breakfast to another, without a set itinerary, ready for adventure! Your description, even of the recharging challenges (which we clearly didn’t have then 😀 ) reminded me of that adventurous spirit! Thank you for bringing up such sweet memories ❤

      1. Other than our side trip to Mono Lake, we had made that drive tons of times before (together and separate before we were together), so adding the “challenge” of charging (which really didn’t turn out to be too much of a challenge) made the drive more interesting.

        I love how you used to travel with your parents, that sounds like great fun! My family did a lot of road trips when I was young but I’m pretty sure we had an itinerary each time. You should write about a few of those memories on your blog.

        1. I bet it’s an interesting challenge… Maybe like another passenger with his/her own itinerary: close to yours, but with some “special interests”? 😀

          I love that idea, thank you! I may do that since I have such sweet memories of it, especially imagery, though, sadly, I don’t have any of the photos on hand …

  5. I enjoyed your trip! My step-daughter (lives in Denver) has an EV and loves it. She doesn’t have charging issues but it does take planning. Often for the last leg of any trip we take, we go the extra mile and come home early. Love vacations and love coming home.

    1. Since many of us are able to do most of our charging at home, it’s much more convenient than having to go to a gas station.

      You are so right about loving vacations and loving coming home. There’s nothing like stepping inside our front door after being away. Ahhhhhhh. 🙂

  6. The clouds behind the tufa towers are amazing. What a great photo. As for the trend toward a “single large screen located in the middle of the dashboard” not a fan either. Like I need more distractions while I’m driving?

  7. I feel better now about my son tackling any long drives in his Tesla. And I had to smile reading how you pushed that last lap to home. I’ve always done that, too. It’s always reminded me of horses running for the barn. Incidentally, that third photo is spectacular.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Janis. Mono Lake is gorgeous and we’ve never been, so it’ll be added to our future travel list. That last photo reminded me of the sunset we saw at Loon Lake, although instead of the clouds being completely lit up, they were highlighted. Both spectacular! I like the fact that you added the pros and cons. We don’t have an EV now, but we will in the future, so this is all good stuff to know.

  9. Super interesting series, Janis. I loved the parts about the EV, but I learned something about Mono Lake in this post. I did not know it was a saline lake. It must have been fresh when Los Angeles was draining it or they would have need to desalinate it. I wonder if the freshness will return? I haven’t studied Mono Lake, but the last time I was there, it was dry. Your photos are gorgeous. What a great trip you had. 🙂

      1. It looks lovely. I might have been thinking of Owens Valley with Owens Lake being totally depleated. Both are within an easy drive of where we lived on the west side of the Sierra Nevada. It is not so close to Prescott, AZ.

  10. What a great trip! I’m so glad that your first long adventure in your EV went so well. And I agree, Mono Lake is magical. We’ve visited a couple of times in our travels along 395 and it’s one of our favorite spots. Your photos are gorgeous!

  11. Not sure where you went as I’m late to the party. Very behind on blog reading and writing … but today I read this post of yours and was glad I did as it was an interesting read. I hope more people start using EVs especially for long trips and posts like yours give them the encouragement and maybe the needed nudge to go for it.
    Peta

  12. I’m glad to read this EV road trip was a success, Janis. And, you got to experience Mono Lake, which looks outer worldly and magnificent!

    If we would have a home base, we’d be pushing through after a road trip to get home as well, mostly from a financial stand point, why pay for a hotel when you can sleep back home that last night? I am starting to think our brains are wired very differently from most people, though. So much is all about money.

    Imagining you two being happy to return home also makes me realize that there are plenty of advantages of that home base: laundry facilities, water to wash the car, a decent shower, unlimited electricity to write a blog,… 🙂

    1. We had a great time and saw some very interesting things, especially Mono Lake, but coming home is always nice. Those “advantages” you listed are easy to take for granted but important to be grateful for.

      It does seem wasteful to pay for a night in a hotel – and we don’t usually stay anywhere fancy, believe me – when it’s easy to just finish the drive.

  13. It sounds like you had a successful trip, Janis. That’s interesting about all the gauges being in the center console. That would take some getting used to for me. Excellent tips throughout the series of posts. I suspect an EV will be in the future for a lot of us. 🙂 Welcome home.

  14. Hi, Janis – Your photographs of Mona Lake are truly breathtaking. Even though I am not remotely ready to think of our next travel trip, you’ve made me want to go there.
    I love the highs and lows that you shared — and was delighted to read that the former greatly outweighed the latter!

  15. This trip seemed to have it all, Janis! The reunion, staying in and exploring the foothills and traveling down 395 through Mono Lake, all while driving your EV. It would be interesting to know if there are charging stations on 395, and maybe in the town of Lee Vining. Glad you stopped to get your own pics of Mono Lake. It can be hot there but it is amazing to stand among the tufa towers and get the feeling of how deep the lake would have been. I feel like I did my part as an “activist,” when I was in my teens and 20s–after visiting there and hearing the Yosemite Park Rangers talk about it–I wrote a few papers and did speeches on the subject in college. Even became a member for a while. Nice ride for me on this memory lane 🙂

    1. Though not as many as on, say I-5, 395 had enough charging stations along the way (Topaz Lake, Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Lone Pine…) so we never were concerned. Lee Vining, where we spent the night by Mono Lake, didn’t have any, but we planned our other charge stops around that.

      Thank you for your work to help support the health of Mono Lake. I couldn’t imagine losing that treasure.

  16. Your photos are gorgeous! I’m glad you trip worked out. I’m thinking that as more people get electric cars, there will be more charging stations and that perhaps the charging times can be shortened too, for when there is a line. I think the technology will evolve as the demand increases.

    1. Especially at first, we felt like we were on a big adventure. As we became more comfortable with the apps and the car’s computer, as well as comfortable that there were enough charging stations, it was pretty much like any road trip… with a few extra stops 🙂

  17. How cool. I know what you mean about the fine print on digital readouts. My RAV4 has a great information system, both built into the normal dash site plus more info and apps on the screen. But there’s so much info on the dash readouts that it’s too small and if the sun is hitting it I can’t see it at all. I’ve commented on that problem to Toyota.

    I’m curious how one pays for electricity. Is it by KW? Does the price change from station to station and geographically like it does with gas?

    1. When charging our car, we pay by kWh (not kW). The prices can – but not always do – adjust depending on time of day we charge. Typically, mid-day is highest. And, different stations charged different rates. We paid a low of .36 cents per kWh to a high of .58 cents.

      As we charged, the speed of charge, level of charge, and the $ amount showed on our car’s screen. Each charge $ amount was then billed separately on our credit card statement. Btw, we never had to swipe our card, the connection magically knew it was us.

  18. Good for you two embarking on this trip and having a few unknowns to deal with. What a time to need to endure that unrelenting heat, the wildfires and seeing how charging up the vehicle was going to pan out. Definitely nicer than dealing with stinky hands at the gas pump or my latest dilemma, two Sunoco cards which won’t swipe so having to go in and deal with the crowd that is also there in a long queue for the big Lotto jackpots.

      1. Oh yes, I was happy to get the card and did so after COVID, not only to keep from handling money, but not needing to go into the store after I was in the store waiting to pay before the COVID and a young man came in and asked to go to the front of the line. I was thankfully the last one in line – the guy didn’t give a reason, just wanted to be at the front and no one let him in (I would have out of fear to be honest – too many nut cases these days). So he opened his coat and we all saw a gun. I was thinking “someone let him go to the front!” The owner of the station must have hit the button for the police as they showed up a few minutes later, long before I was at the front to pay. Whew!

  19. Your summary points are well-written and informative. I like how you listed the pros and cons from your personal experiences. What a great journey you had. Being glad to be home is a good feeling. I bet the car enjoyed the washing afterward and that your own beds felt great to sleep in. PS – The stunning photos of the lake are beautiful. I’m in awe too!

  20. They sure are adding more and more charging stations all over the country – and that is good news – even though we don’t want to go electric yet (not sure why – but we are still preferring the gasoline options)

    and had to smile when you said you got home and were ready for the next EV adventure – reminded me how fun road trips can be

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