Part 2: Staying Cool During Extreme Heat

Continuing the story of our 1300+ mile road trip in our electric car (Part 1 here).

Before we started the trip, we knew that we’d be traveling during an especially severe heatwave here in California. Normally we might adjust our travel dates because of this, but since we were going for my husband’s high school reunion, that wasn’t possible.

What we could adjust was the first portion of our route, which is why we ended up in Morro Bay. When we were planning our trip, we saw that the expected temperature of our usual mid-way stop was over 100 degrees. Morro Bay’s high was in the 70s. That made it an easy choice. The cool, coastal temperatures allowed us to park our car at the hotel and comfortably walk everywhere, including to the pride of Morro Bay: Morro Rock.

Our hotel was just up the street from the waterfront and Morro Rock.

Morro Rock was formed about 23 million years ago from a long-extinct volcano. At approximately 576 feet, it is the tallest of the nine “sister” volcanic plugs that form a chain between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay. The state historic landmark is a sanctuary for the peregrine falcon and other bird species. It is also the site of the largest field of rock carins I’ve ever seen. Not everyone appreciates these balanced piles of rocks, and I can understand their objection, but seeing so many in one place was pretty impressive.

The next morning was cool and foggy, and we reluctantly loaded up the car for our drive north towards the heat. Almost immediately, we began to see these digital freeway signs:

The temps where we were headed looked brutal and we knew we’d be giving our car’s AC a workout. Fortunately, while very cold temperatures can lower an EV’s mileage, studies have shown that using the AC doesn’t impact it much more than it does in a gas car. Happily, our car’s impressive onboard computer considers AC use when figuring range, so we never had to sacrifice our comfort to eke out more mileage.  

We were also careful to avoid charging between the high-demand period of 4 pm and 9 pm. Only once did we have to plug in during that timeframe when a traffic backup due to an accident delayed our arrival at a supercharger until 4:09 pm (oops). We felt a bit guilty, but we were able to get a quick charge and be on our way in a few minutes.

That charge got us to my brother and sister-in-law’s home located east of San Francisco. We were planning to meet up with them later in the trip but we always enjoy staying for free in their guest room  drinking good wine from their extensive collection their generous hospitality.

The next day, after another quick charge, we drove to the hotel where the reunion was being held that evening. Since this was not my reunion, I got to be more of an observer. As I looked around the room, it was clear that the past 50 years had been gentler to some than others. Most appeared happy, healthy, and engaged but others seemed fragile. On one table the reunion committee had set out pictures and candles in memory of classmates who had passed away. Many of us commented on the number of pictures and how it was a sobering reminder to enjoy life while we can because there are no guarantees.   

Before I end Part 2 of our electrified journey, I would like to touch on luggage storage space. There is a common misconception that EVs are small and tight on trunk space, but, since the batteries are located under the chassis, our car has plenty of room. Not only is our trunk generous, but we also have a decent-sized “frunk” under the front hood where a gas car’s engine would be. Although we aspire to be light packers, this trip required both play clothes and dress-up clothes. One large and one small suitcase, a garment bag, and several additional bags fit with room to spare.

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.

Part 1: Planning Our EV Road Trip

When my husband and I first talked about taking our electric car on our upcoming road trip, I was a bit hesitant. A gathering for a high school reunion prompted the trip, but we wanted to take advantage of the location to visit family and do some exploring. My concern was that driving our EV might make us adjust our route too much. I’m a big fan of electric vehicles, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to go somewhere because we wouldn’t be able to charge our car.    

Normally, charging isn’t a problem. We plug our car in at home, charge overnight, and it’s ready to go in the morning. The car has plenty of range to last us at least a week with our usual daily driving needs. We had recently taken a couple of short trips that required some charging away from home, and they had gone well. Now that we were about to embark on a 1,300+ mile road trip, we knew that pre-planning would be important because of the multiple charging stops we’d need to make.  Even with California’s relatively robust infrastructure of charging stations – especially Tesla-branded superchargers – they aren’t as ubiquitous as gas stations.

EVTripPlanner.com was a great help with planning our trip.

There seems to be (at least) two philosophies about road trip charging: A) Make fewer stops and charge to 100% each time, or B) Make more stops, but charge to lower levels (60 – 70%) each time. After some research, we like option B best for several reasons:

  1. Each charging stop takes less time. When charging past 60-70%, charging slows way down as it tries to “stuff” more juice into the battery (this is not a scientific explanation, but you get the point).
  2. More stops mean more opportunities to stretch our legs… something we’ve come to appreciate on longer road trips.
  3. Lower stress. By not waiting until the car’s charge level was low before we re-charged, we would have a comfortable range cushion each time we reached a station (sort of like not waiting until your gas level indicator turns red before re-fueling).

The route we planned had us driving about 2 hours between charges and charging to no more than 70% each time. Of course, we could adjust this along the way, but that felt like a comfortable pace.

We only had to wait for a charging station once our whole trip. Usually, we’d find plenty of stations available.

Between our home and our first night’s stay, we stopped at three supercharger stations. While our car charged – a process that took about 10-15 minutes – we entered our next destination into the car’s computer. After some calculations, it told us where the next supercharger was located, how much remaining charge we’d have when we got there, how many stations they had, and how many were available for use (updated real-time).

Morro Rock at sunset.

As we strolled along the waterfront in Morro Bay, California, we congratulated ourselves on completing the first leg of our journey without any issues. Our pre-planning had paid off. We were becoming more comfortable with the car’s systems and confident that we had made the right decision to drive our EV.     

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.

Constructive Musings

The theme for Terri’s Sunday Stills challenge this week is “Under Construction. It seems as good an excuse as any to dip my toes back into blogging after taking much of the summer off. Part of my absence was construction-related, but lazy summer days and lack of inspiration are mostly to blame. Although I have continued to enjoy reading other blogs, I couldn’t manage more than three posts of my own since mid-May.

Deck Construction

We actually did have a rather large construction project this summer, which took a lot of my time (full disclosure: it took much more of my husband’s time). Our 20-year-old deck was starting to show its age, so we decided—just when costs ramped up, and supply chains broke down—it was time to repair and re-surface it. The good news is that we found a nice young couple who wanted the old material, so we avoided sending it to the landfill. The bad news (besides cost and availability) is that the project was more work than expected (more full disclosure: it’s still not 100% done).

During and (almost) After deck construction

We are happy with the way it turned out, though, and hope it will last at least another 20 years (seeing as we’d be in our 80s then, I imagine that we will decide to ignore any flaws and grow old with it). In the meantime, we are enjoying our new deck and slowly forgetting the effort it took to build it.

Blog Construction

Even though I haven’t been writing many posts lately, I have made a few minor adjustments to my blog.

One that I should have done a while ago: after reading a head’s up on Hugh’s News and Views, I added some copyright verbiage at the end of my posts and made it a recurring block. I also plan to routinely watermark certain photos. I doubt if this will stop anyone determined to steal my words or images, but I hope it will stop some. I am not happy when I find what I’ve shared on my blog appearing elsewhere.

It was great to see Terri in June

Another change was suggested by Terri when we had a blogger meet-up a few months ago. I believe that I “may” have been whining about all the spam comments my blog was getting. WordPress does a good job filtering them out, but I still look at each one before deleting to assure that a diamond hasn’t gotten swept up with the dregs. Her suggestion of turning off comments after a post is over 120 days old has helped immensely (thank you, Terri).

Travel Plan Construction

My husband and I are planning a road trip later this year and we are looking forward to getting away for more than a few days. Although our itinerary won’t take us anywhere we haven’t been before, what will be different is that we are driving our electric car. We’ve driven the EV on some mini-trips that have required one mid-point stop for re-charging, but this will be the first trip where charging will be part of the planning process.

We love our electric car, and it is perfect for our day-to-day driving needs, but its 260-mile range won’t get us to our destination on a single charge. Driving an EV on an extended trip will take a bit of planning but there are a lot of online tools and fast charging stations available, so we see it as adding to our adventure. Since there is an increase interest in electric cars—including, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation—I plan to share our experience after we return.  

Thanks for the inspiration, Terri, it’s good to be posting again.  

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.

Welcoming the Spirits Home

At this time in 2019, my husband and I traveled to Oaxaca City, Mexico to experience the celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

We’ve never been very good at taking selfies.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday where the souls of deceased relatives join their families for a brief reunion. From October 31 through November 2, the border between the spirit world and the living world opens, allowing the spirits to cross over. The holiday is filled with beautiful symbols, traditions, and imagery. It is a joyful time: the spirits are treated as honored guests as they feast, drink, dance, and play music with their families. Many believe that if you remember them, they never cease to exist.

One of the most recognizable symbols are the alters or “ofrendas” (offerings) that can be found in public places and private homes. Although each colorful alter is unique, they all are decorated with specific components that honor loved ones and provide what they need on the journey to rejoin their families.

Every ofrenda includes the four elements: water, air, earth, and fire. Water is provided so the spirits can quench their thirst after their journey. Air is represented by colorful paper banners.  Earth is represented by food, especially bread. The light from candles helps the spirits find their way. In addition, alters are decorated with pictures of the departed, their favorite foods and drinks, sugar skulls, and marigolds (whose scent and bright orange color help attract souls to the alter).

All of these pictures were taken of ofrendas in public places. The alters created in private homes tend to be much less elaborate, but equally beautiful.

I’m sharing these images from our trip as part of Terri’s Sunday Stills photo challenge, whose theme this week is Indoor/Outdoor Decorations.

Traveling in the Time of COVID

When my husband mentioned to a friend that we were traveling to Canada this summer, his friend said, “Wow, that’s brave” (and, by “brave,” I think he meant “crazy”). While any amount of traveling – whether to a foreign country, another state, or another county – could be considered brave (or crazy) during a pandemic, this trip felt like a pretty safe bet for us.

As this chart from the New York Times indicates, our journey would take us from a country with relatively high infection rates to a country that, for the most part, appeared to be taking the pandemic seriously. When we learned in July that the Canadian border would open August 9th to fully vaccinated U.S. tourists, we started to finalize plans for our trip north.

In normal times, a road trip up the length of California, then through Oregon and Washington, would be a wonderful opportunity to visit friends and favorite spots along the way. But because we knew that we would have to get COVID tests within 72 hours of crossing the border, we decided to play it safe and take the most direct route with the fewest number of stops. Long days of driving and eating mostly at fast food establishments (where it is possible to get fresh salads) isn’t our favorite way to travel but we didn’t want to get within miles of our destination and find out that we had contracted COVID somewhere along the way.

Even with hours and hours of driving, we found that arriving at our carefully selected overnight stops in the late afternoon gave us great opportunities to stroll around their historic districts and discover lower risk outdoor dining opportunities. That turned out to be more fun than expected.

We had arranged to have our COVID tests two days before we were to cross the border at a facility that guaranteed results in 24 hours. The following day, we had our (negative!) test results and just one more overnight stay before queueing up early to be among the first American tourists to cross the border.

Because of other blogs you follow, some of you already know a main focus of our trip to Vancouver Island was to meet up with a group of bloggers who have become dear friends. We are all fully vaccinated and we knew that most of our activities would be outdoors enjoying the island’s amazing natural beauty. We hiked through forests, explored beaches, ate in some lovely outdoor restaurants (including some excellent food trucks), and partied on the patios of our friends’ homes.

During our almost month-long stay, we managed to pack in a ton of fun, miles of hiking, lots of laughter and maybe a little too much eating, all while staying safe and COVID-free. Since several of the bloggers have already written about the fabulous time we had (Donna, Retirement Reflections and another post; Erica, Behind the Scenery; Kathy, SMART Living 365), I will let their posts tell that part of the story.

In order to cross the border into Canada, my husband and I were required to present our passports, proof of vaccination, and documented negative COVID test results. To cross the border back into the United States, all we had to do is show the border guard our passports and assure him that we didn’t have any fruit in our car.

Crossing back into the U.S. felt a lot braver – and perhaps crazier – then traveling to Canada.  

Sunday Stills: A Change of Altitude

It’s almost as if Terri (Second Wind Leisure) knew that my husband and I would be spending a few days up in the mountains when she came up with The Great Outdoors as this week’s Sunday Stills photo topic. Although I often have to search my files for images when I join in on one of her photo challenges, this time all I did was walk out the door of our little cabin and there it was… the great outdoors!

We were delighted when our friends, Kathy (Smart Living 365) and Thom, invited us to join them for a few days at their mountain retreat in nearby Idyllwild. The cabin they have rented for a number of years has a mini-cabin situated just a few steps away. It’s perfect for the hosts and the guests – lots of opportunities to connect, but enough separation so that everyone can have some privacy and alone time.

We hiked:

We hugged trees (and each other):

Kathy and Thom showing a tree some love.

We moved boulders:

Full disclosure: it didn’t budge (thank goodness!).

We watched the sunset… :

A fire a couple of years ago left these trees bare, but still beautiful.

… just before the full strawberry moon rose:

We enjoyed great conversations:

There may have been some adult beverages involved.

And, we marveled at nature’s artistry:

I loved how the bark’s texture changed closer to the soil.

The red bark of the Manzanita starts to peel, reveling the new growth below.
I think I saw a mountain gorilla on the trail… or not.

The few days that we were able to enjoy the clear mountain air and expansive vistas were just what we needed. There is nothing quite like spending time in the great outdoors to reduce stress, encourage reflection, and help us appreciate the gifts of Mother Nature.

Sunday Stills: The Silver Lining of Clouds

When I was young, my favorite summer days were those when cloudless Southern California skies promised idle afternoons baking my body at our local beaches. It wasn’t until I was older—after inflicting untold damage to my skin—that I started to truly appreciate clouds. Not only do they provide a respite from the heat and help block harmful UV rays, but they can make the sky so much more interesting to photograph.

Although one of my favorite things to photograph is the contrast of colors and shapes against a bright blue – and cloudless – sky…

… I am more often drawn to the interesting shapes and colors that clouds add to the image. Below is the same image with clouds (the original) and without (edited). I think the clouds add interest to the image, but you may prefer a clear sky. Many photo editing tools allow the original sky to be swapped for another so, even if Mother Nature offers one sky, you can choose something else.  

Looking towards San Miguel de Allende from the botanical gardens.

Sometimes cloud formations are so beautiful, they are the focus and there is little need to include much else in the image.

Have you ever seen clouds that are so perfectly situated in the sky, it’s almost if they were painted in that way?  

Ring around the sun in San Miguel de Allende.
Ring around the top spire of the Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende.

Clouds can also add interest to black and white landscape photographs. Without the puffy white clouds, the sky in both of these photos would have been dark gray and black and, I think, less interesting.

Big Island, Hawaii
Big Island, Hawaii

And, as any connoisseur of sunsets will agree, clouds – or the lack thereof – can make or break a spectacular display. After some practice, you can start to guess whether you should have your camera ready or not before the sun drops below the horizon.   

Key West, Florida
Southern California.

This week’s theme for Terri Webster Schrandt’s Sunday Stills photo challenge is Clouds and Fog. See Terri’s photographs on her blog, Second Wind Leisure.

Thursday Doors – Christmas in San Francisco

Back in the day, when we could travel without worry, my husband and I spent part of our Christmas holiday in the beautiful city by the bay: San Francisco. One of our favorite things to do in San Francisco is to walk and, if you’ve been there you already know, that means hills… lots of hills. In fact, I read that San Francisco is considered the second hilliest city in the world, next to La Paz, Bolivia.

The wonderful thing about hills, besides the great cardio workout you get, are the views they often provide when you arrive at the top:

At the top of Lombard Street (the “crookedest street in the world”) looking towards Coit Tower.
At the summit of Telegraph Hill looking out towards Alcatraz Island.

With its sweeping views, vibrant downtown, bustling waterfront, historical neighborhoods, and eclectic architecture, as long as you are in decent shape, the city is best observed on your feet (preferably shod in sturdy walking shoes). By walking rather than driving, you will also be better able to appreciate the Victorian beauties, especially when their doors are dressed up for the holidays. No blow-up plastic Santas here; the decorations are elegant and understated. It just takes a bit of bling to make a grand impression.

It has been a couple of years since we’ve been to San Francisco, but it’s a city that will always call us back. Even though we’ve been there many times, there is always more to see.

Thursday Doors is a weekly celebration of doors hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities. Head on over to see his collection and to see what others have shared from around the world.

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday and a wonderful year ahead!

Adjusting Our Comfort Levels

My husband and I were very strict about our personal isolation when Covid-19 started to be a thing. We planned our meals carefully and took advantage of shopping services when we needed groceries. We limited our interactions with friends and family to phone calls, emails, texts, and this new thing we’ve all learned about called Zoom. When we ventured out back then—for a walk or a drive—it was eerie how few people we encountered.

As time has progressed and more has been learned, we have adjusted our behaviors somewhat. We are still very careful about our interactions; we avoid crowds and don’t go anywhere we can’t control our physical distance from others. Anyone who thinks this whole thing is overblown or even a hoax, isn’t someone we choose to be around.

Although we still prepare most of our meals at home—same as pre-virus—we do get take-out from a few favorite restaurants now-and-then. We’ve enjoyed several driveway happy hours with small groups of friends, and I’ve attended a couple of book club meetings held in a member’s large backyard. We now go early-morning grocery shopping a couple of times a month at a small, local store and have ventured into Home Depot once or twice for needed supplies. We still take advantage of curbside pick-up when we can but, occasionally, we need to actually enter a store (we are the ones wearing both masks and gloves).

Happy hour with neighborhood friends.

What we hadn’t done up until a couple of weeks ago, is to travel more than a few miles from home—and certainly not overnight.

Then, some good friends of ours (Kathy, of SMART Living 365, and her husband, Thom) invited us to visit them during their stay at a mountain cabin. The cabin—one they have rented every summer for many years—is located in a small community a little over two hours from our home. It is nestled among the pine trees, features a large deck and, best of all, has a guest cabin on the same piece of land—just perfect for a two-night stay.

Physically distanced, socially together.

After six months of restricted movement and limited social interactions, we decided that spending a couple of days in the mountains with—physically, but not socially distanced—friends was worth the extremely small risk. We knew that they were as careful as we are, and their generous offer came with the understanding that we’d all do what was safe and comfortable.

Kloe (can you see her?) leads the way up the hill.
Between a rock and… another rock.
The red branches and green foliage of a Manzanita tree contrasts against the clear blue sky.

After so much time staying close to home, our short mountain get-away was rejuvenating . The vistas were gorgeous, the company warm and welcoming, and the conversations lively and thought-provoking. Although these last six months haven’t been the challenge for us that so many others have faced, we found that a change of scenery, new paths to explore and, most of all, spending time with good friends, was just the balm we needed to help sooth our souls.   

happy to get away.