Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It Takes A Village

In K-12 education, we will often refer to the task at hand as "taking a village" to successfully support and nurture young people.  This idea, of community working together to solve problems, transcends into other aspects of life as well.

Two days ago, as Sabrina had fallen asleep in our hotel room in Grants Pass, Oregon, I stayed up late trying to solve the problem of driving into northern California's Central Valley with expected temperatures of 110+ degrees forecast for the next two days.  There were two factors that I tried to focus on.  One, was to consider the charging opportunities along route, and two, was to think about how the heat would effect Sabrina and myself.

Ultimately, I decided that it would be best to start out by heading south on I-5, past Mt. Shasta, and into Redding.  In Redding, I was going to have to commit to heading west/southwest towards the coast and the next BC2BC stage checkpoint in Santa Rosa, or head south/southeast to visit our friends in Roseville as previously planned.  So on Tuesday morning, Sabrina and I left the last quick charger in Ashland, OR and easily crossed the border driving into Yreka, CA.

The RV park in Yreka where I was planning on plugging into suddenly had a change of heart, though, and requested $25 to charge our LEAF.  I was in a tough spot because we had to get a full charge if we would even come close to making it into Redding.  Before leaving in disgust, I reminded the park manager that under the most expensive of situations, a full charge on our car would be less than $2.00.

The next RV park wanted $15.  The price was coming down, but still absurd.  So, I cold-called a residential mobile home community: Oakridge Retirement Community.  The community manager, Jody Hahn, was inviting and asked us to come by for a charge.  She said that she never had a request for an EV to charge at one of the 50 amp service panels.  Upon arrival, I asked Jody if she would accept $8.00 and let us use the community pool.  Jody smiled and was a win-win situation.

Just before jumping in on this 100+ degree day.
After swimming, Sabrina and I needed to pass more time before the car was done charging (it was charging slow, presumably due to the power supply being 208 volts instead of the desired 240 volts).  I hopped on the official rally Facebook page (All Electric Vehicle Rally), and saw a post by Jenny Zink welcoming rally participants to the Siskiyou County Economic Development headquarters in Yreka for some cold refreshments.

Sabrina and I walked over and met Jenny, and she was gracious in providing us with several much needed cold drinks and water.  Jenny is also a big proponent of EVs.  It was great to hear about how folks in northern California are very much interested in building up the EV capabilities of the region.

Jenny even walked back with us to get a picture with our rally car!

In Yreka, I realized that I needed to start making some serious progress if we were even going to have a chance at continuing past Redding.  We left Yreka with about an ~81% charge.  The 90, or so, miles to Redding was brutal, as slow speeds and limited use of A/C was required.  Making it to Redding that day on an 80% charge was one of my best EV accomplishments.  

Upon arriving at Crown Nissan in Redding, Sabrina and I were pretty beat and hungry.  The team at Crown Nissan was amazing.  After plugging in our car, they tossed us the key fob to a brand new LEAF and said that we just needed to have it back in a few hours!  We ended up only driving a mile away to a Raley's grocery store, but did manage to kill two hours in Raley's by having rounds of yummy treats in the store's air conditioned deli.

In Redding, it was clear that we could not bear another day of 110 degree temps.  To get out of the valley, we needed to drive 100 miles to Williams (besting my previous best EV run from earlier in the day), charge, then drive ~95 miles from Williams to Santa Rosa.  The only sleep opportunity would be in Williams--in the car while charging.

We charged for about five or six hours in Williams, but only had a 91% charge when I decided to leave.  By leaving in the early morning hours, we had a shot at making it to the checkpoint in Santa Rosa less than 24 hours from our departure in Grants Pass.

Things were great until we got to Mt. St. Helena.  This stretch of Hwy. 29 prior to Calistoga is one of the longest stretches of hairpin turns I've driven.  I, of course, was caught up in the moment of driving this blacktop gem in a spirited manner.  All was well, until Sabrina was not.  She got car sick.  The poor girl threw up three times in the backseat before we made it to Calistoga.  No, I didn't pull over.  I know, it was an extremely "bad daddy" moment, but making it to Santa Rosa within my 24 hour timeline just had to happen!

Things didn't work out so well when we got to the locked gate at the Chateau Montelena Winery where I was planning to quick charge, though.

120 Volt Charging...Useless.

At that moment, we were either not going to make it to Santa Rosa by my target time, or I would need to gamble and make a shot at it with the charge I had.  At the winery down the road from Montelena, I plugged into a 120 volt outlet for about 15 minutes, which amounted to almost nothing, and set off over the hills to Santa Rosa.

This drive, to Santa Rosa, was the most stressful driving experience of my life.  There was some very hilly terrain, making slow, slow speeds in my battery-depleted EV a must.  There is also quite a bit of construction on this section of roadway.  So, I spent the next hour, white-knuckled, looking in my mirrors, and trying to find non-existing shoulder pull-offs to get out of the way of fully loaded trucks barreling down on us.  They would never be able to slow down soon enough to match my speed, and I couldn't speed up because our battery would run out of juice leaving us stranded in a no-cell-service area.  Did I mention that there were no shoulder pull-outs!

When we pulled into the Hyatt in Santa Rosa, I had been driving for four miles on the Very Low Battery Warning.  So, basically those few minutes of "useless" 120 volt charging in Calistoga saved the day. 

Because we had to change plans from staying the night in Roseville on Wednesday, I was in a bind for lodging; especially with it being so close to the Fourth of July holiday.  Right before we headed out of Williams, I posted an S.O.S. on the Bay Area EV group Facebook page.  By the time we were in Santa Rosa, lodging was locked in.  We were set to stay the night at Waidy Lee's home.  Not only is Waidy an amazing EV advocate (having been the owner of six EVs so far) and a sustainable living goddess, but Waidy is an amazing person.  Without hesitation, Waidy welcomed Sabrina and me and made her remarkable home ours--for 18 hours:)  Waidy shares her expertise and experiences at:

I am proud of the driving accomplishments that I have notched over the past two days.  However, the real lesson for me is how Jody, Jenny, Crown Nissan, and Waidy Lee have proven to me that it "takes a village" for us grown-ups, too, sometimes. 

1 comment:

  1. Great Adventure!! It is disheartning to see the money grab by RV parks which i think was spurred by the many requests to charge due to the Rally but at the same time your resilience and undying spirit of adventure allowed you to experience a much better side of humanity!