Tesla X Road Trip Across the USA

Dec 9–19 2016

Dec 9 11:00 am: We met at Penn station around noon, we all had a look of disbelief on our face. We had answered to the call of Carlos’s mad idea to cross coast to coast from NY to San Francisco in his new Tesla X using only the freely available Telsa supercharge stations to power the journey. It is Friday Dec 9 and the United States is all but frozen over. A cold spell had just come in and the temp was close to 3 degrees in NY. Lucky for us the sky is clear and the sun is out. We felt it had come out to welcome us to the USA knowing that we had flown in from all different parts of the world. Also knowing that we are in for quite a RIDE. Who in their right mind would plan to make this crossing, from the East Coast of New York to New Orleans, then across to Las Vegas through Texas, to LA and up Highway One to Yosemite across to Napa ending in San Francisco? All of it on a tight schedule of only 9 days ! Well, here we are actually on the move already.

The six of us squeezed into the Tesla and headed south. No plans. No hotels booked and no events scheduled. First stop Washington DC . We took a quick visit to the mall and monuments around the Capitol building and the white house. We also passed by president Lincoln at his memorial and said hello, although he was quite stiff. A quick dinner with friends and in the car again heading south to the OuterBanks.

It was a long drive overnight with us taking turns at the wheel. Actually most of the night the Tesla, now named Speed by the team, drove itself. We just took turns sitting behind the wheel looking at it do its magic. The more we watched Speed maneuver and negotiate obstructions the more we realized that humans should never be allowed to command cars again. Self-driving computer cars are the way of the future. We are in the future already. This is the future.

Supercharging the Super Car
Driving through the night and charging every 100–120 miles

Charging is as simple as plugging in a cable or charging your phone.

Dec 10 6 am: We arrived in the Outer Banks and stopped at this charming coffee shop the Morning View for a great breakfast. There we met the owners who were very charming, friendly and showed us excellent hospitality and generosity as is usual with American hospitality. We almost did not want to leave this charming place.(www.morningviewcoffee.com) But alas we are on a mission, got to keep on moving. Right before leaving the owner of the complex, they gave us a gift for our journey which brought a huge smile to all of us! Thank you, great great hospitality! So we decided to stay a while and take the advice of the locals, to take a peak at the ocean from Pea Island only 10 clicks to the south.

The Morning View in the morning, best coffee in town
Pea Island

The sight of the sun rising over the Atlantic was mesmerizing. You could feel the ocean roar against the beach like a lion towering over its prey. In this sunny sky and calm sea it is hard to imagine this area being pummeled by the hurricanes that in some cases flooded this island and some of the surrounding area. A surfers paradise Nags head has the laid back feel of the West Coast however it is only a few hundred miles from Washington DC, where we had been only 8 hours ago. Also, the weather was cold around 10 degrees and rainy, so no surfing for us this time around. We need to charge and be on our way.

Sunrise over the Atlantic

Managing the charging of the battery in the Tesla is the holy grail of long distance drives. The car tells you how many miles to expect from the battery, however like your cell phone, you can burn through it quickly or save and get a better range. According to our calculations we should have been able to get to the next supercharge station after Nags Head.

You have to be conservative with battery reserves!

However, our little detour to Pea Island had cost us, we now needed to recharge. Before taking the detour we had found a non Tesla charging point at a mall close by. However, as we came to plug in the charger we were surprised to find that we did not have the correct adapter. OOPS. What to do? We checked the Tesla charger maps and there was a charger near by. It was located in Roanoke Island Inn. Only problem that inn was closed for the winter. However we had no other choice but to go there.

Roanoke Island Inn

We arrived over the bridge to this charming island with beachfront houses. A tiny street got us to the Roanoke Island Inn. (www.roanokeislandinn.com) It was 6 am and it looked like there was no one around. In the parking spot there was a Tesla charger. We pulled in and plugged in the charger, fingers crossed. Law and behold we are charging. It is a small 10 KW charger, which means it would take 8 hours for a full charge. We needed only enough to get us to the supercharger. So we decided to charge for 2 hours.

When you run low on power you drive slow to extend your range at this rate we will arrive at Plymouth with only 2% battery. Yikes!

As the car charged we walked around this beautiful island. It has a wooden pier with an old lighthouse and a wooden den that was used for storing the nets back when this was a fishing port. It also has a small marine museum. As we walked around we heard the car honking in a panic. Turns out one of us had set off the alarm by mistake. We switch off the alarm from the phone app and head to the car. When we arrive a lovely lady that manages the Roanoke Island Inn meets us. She greets us and invites in for a coffee.

The joy of arriving at the Supercharge station.

We spend half an hour inside this warm and inviting inn. Apparently the owner of the Inn has a Tesla himself and that is why the charger is there. He also allows other tesla owners to use it when they come by. We were happy to hear that as earlier we just served ourselves with the use of the charger, as we really did not have a choice. We pack up and are on our way. We have to dive very slowly in order for the charge to last us until the supercharge station. We made it… only just.

On our way, we’re trying to get organized for Yosemite! We’ll stay in the elevated tents! The gentleman on the phone of Yosemite reservation gave us the full picture!!! Thank you! Only issue, is that he informed us that we need chains on the wheels…we’ll figure it out. So we called Tesla and E was so helpful but unfortunately they don’t fit the 22in wheel of Speed…Apparently the car does not need them and can handle the snow. Maybe it can, not sure we want to try really. We did have a few laughs on the phone though :)

To change lanes you just have to Signal and the car does the rest.

With experience we became more confident with the autopilot and the idea of putting our lives in the hands of our digital friend Speed, our trusty driver. Eventually we let it have the wheel even when we needed to change lanes. SO check this out, to change lanes you just have to signal to the side you want to go. The car will wait for the appropriate time and adjust its speed and move into its slot in the lane. It does it better than many human drivers.

The dash above tells you everything you need to know. From left to right. The map shows you are on Dawson Rd. This navigation window gives you instructions as you move. You have your lights on low beam. The Battery has 185 miles in it, only that is not accurate and more of an indication. True range is in the consumption panel that you can display on the center screen. The white square shows the speed limit and the blue circle above it tells you speed control is on and you have set it at 75 miles an hour. Current speed is displayed in the center at 75 in big white numbers. Below that you can see that the car is in its lane with the two lane markers lighting blue indicating that the car sees them both. The blue steering wheel to the right of the 75 is lit blue to indicate the car is in autopilot. You can also tell that from the screams you hear every now and then from the back seat. The time is 11:30 pm. Car is in drive mode and you are listening to Nickel Bags by Diggable Planets and the song is almost over. You just have to sit back and keep watch as you wonder what song comes next on this internet radio station.

We pulled into our hotel on King St. in the center of Charleston at around 8 PM. It is a charming city, small yet lively. We had booked a table at a restaurant called Husk known for its local southern food. It was a great culinary experience, a meat lovers paradise. Pork ribs and a huge steak that was cooked to perfection were the main attractions. We finished our meal and hit the town. It was Saturday night. We bar hopped our way back to the hotel marauding the bars and crashing wedding parties. Finally we crashed. We had been on the road for close to 36 hours. And the next day we planned to drive another 16 hours through Savannah and onwards to New Orleans.

Bright, and not so very early, the group met at the lobby after breakfast. It was sunny and warm out, so we opted for a bicycle tour of the city before we leave. Armed with a tourist guide map in our pockets we took to the streets. It was a mellow Sunday in the Charleston. We cycled through the town passed Charleston College and Colonel Lake on our way to the Battery, Charleston’s historic waterfront. This was where the first shots of the civil war were fired in 1861 at the battle of Fort Sumter. We cycled to the park that still has the canons on display. In the distance you could see Fort Sumter.

The bay offers a great view into the history of this young nation. What a beautiful day. A quick walk through the King Street that is pedestrian on Sunday with a fair of some sorts going on. We decided to have a quick bite and be on our way. Upon arrival in Charleston the night before we had dropped off the car to charge at the Belmont hotel because it had a Tesla Charger. We picked it up packed it and headed out. Destination Savannah.

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get”. As we got out of the car in Savannah we stopped to get some instructions from a local gift shop named Cool Savannah. Apparently this shop was voted the second scariest shop in America. There is a haunted couch on the second floor, were a lady appears sometimes. The owners inside were extremely pleasant and helpful. Inside the store was a little bench with a suitcase and a box of chocolates that looked mighty familiar. Turns our the bench where the Forest Gump Scene was filmed was only a block from this shop. So we put that shop on the tourist map we got form the shop and went for a walk to see all these place they had marked down for us. Finally, we stopped for a bite at the local brew house and headed out. New Orleans here we come.

When you go sailing through the Mediterranean Sea in the summer time you meet a lot of interesting people in the different port and marinas. In some cases you meet the same people a few times, especially those that are doing a route similar to yours. There is much similarity in driving across the USA in a Tesla. Since every 100 miles or so you stop at supercharging stations you start coming across other electric travelers stopping for a charge. You chat and share experiences. You recommend places and follow some recommendations. We experienced several of these stops and laughed and shared stories with other enthusiastic travelers.

Somewhere between Savannah and New Orleans we met Dave and his Aunt on their way to Florida. We talked about the dos and don’ts of long-range electric travel. We bought an adapter that he happened to have a spare of for regular non-tesla charging stations. We talked music and he showed us his trunk load of guitars, turns out he is quite the blues man. His lovely aunt is booked on blues cruise some time next year. Of course we shared with them our Gig on a Rig experiences. The hour-long charge passes in no time, it feels like we were there for only 5 minutes, and we are on our way.

We pull into New Orleans and decide to pamper ourselves with a good hotel and we checked in to the highly recommended International House Hotel. As they did not have a charging station at this hotel, we took the tesla over to the Ritz and gave it to the valet who would charge it overnight. A night in New Orleans was ahead of us. There was no time to waste. A quick shower and we all met in the lobby with that marauder smile on our faces. We head out of the hotel and hit the bars. It was only 4 pm and the city was on fire. It is Monday night. Early in Dec., and completely off-season, only this city did not care, it’s hosting the party.

Bar hopping on Royal St. grenades in hand we swayed and swaggered along the music filled pavements of New Orleans. We took pictures with the friendly cops and even rode on the fire truck, we chatted laughed with strangers on our way to the Sezarac bar named after the local drink. At the Sezarac we met Chris and his lovely lady and chatted about our trip. Everyone was so excited to hear about this crazy bunch of people on this mad trip. All this aside it was now time to go to Frenchman, the street famous for its live music venues where some of the greatest jazz music came to be. Between the Spotted Cat and DBA we listened to great musicians and danced with strangers and twirled and screamed from the top of our lungs. It was a great night.

Next morning we spent the day walking around the city and listening to street musicians on every corner. A long stroll by the Mississippi was a highlight, with steamboats dotting the horizon. Finally we needed to eat, we went for a great meal from the boiling pot at the French Market Restaurant. We had some of the best crab, shrimps and oysters served to us by friendly waiters. The food was to die for. We all ate our bellies full since we knew that soon we will be on the road and this time it will be for approximately 50 hours. New Orleans to Las Vegas! Las Vegas here we come… place your bets.

Route 66 at Sunset

This six of us jam back into the Tesla and head out. It is going to be a long one. First charging station will be at Baton Rouge. From then on we will stop every 100 miles. Total distance to be covered between New Orleans and Vegas is around 2500. We discuss our options for stopping midway somewhere for a rest, however the variables are many and we do not know where exactly we will be. We decide to play it by ear. When we get tiered we will stop. Only it is hard to get tiered when you have Vegas waiting for you on the other side.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story!