Tesla’s Cross Country Rally, Supercharger by Supercharger
A photo essay of an electric journey across the US
Early in the morning of Sunday, February 2, 2014, two Tesla Model S sedans pulled up to New York’s City Hall to mark the completion of a cross country trip done without a drop of gasoline. The two cars used 24 Superchargers in 14 states to fuel up on the trip from Los Angeles, and in doing so set a Guinness World Records achievement for least non-drive time to cross the United States in an electric vehicle. Along the way, our crew of drivers turned amateur photographers and documented the journey, Supercharger by Supercharger.
Our first stop on the journey came near a Chili’s, a Country Inn, a Starbucks, and the Tanger Outlet Mall. This was also the last place on the trip where we could fairly claim zero body odor.
Distance from Hawthorne: 109 mi. Charge time: 53 mins.
We arrived here at sunrise, which is the best time to see the Hualapai Mountains. Most of the team tucked into an early breakfast at Carl’s Jr, right by the site of the Superchargers.
Distance from Barstow: 210 mi. Charge time: 48 mins.
A comfortable stop at the Courtyard Marriott. A Walmart, IHOP, Subway, and Mexican restaurant are all nearby. While hanging out in the lobby of the hotel here, we got a call from headquarters informing us of a winter storm warning for Colorado. There was a chance some roads would be closed, particularly over the Vail Pass. Until this point, we had labored under the illusion that weather would be good for the duration of the trip. Whoops.
Distance from Kingman: 152 mi. Charge time: 1 hr 18 mins.
There’s a visitor center here, but we were in a hurry, meaning we didn’t get to spend as much time as hoped with the friendly host. Beautiful John Ford country, not far from National Monument. We drove through a sandstorm in Navajo country to get here, so the cars were already starting to look impressively weather-beaten.
Distance from Flagstaff: 249 mi. Charge time: 10 mins.
Red-walled cliffs stand sentry over the small township, which looks like the set of a Western movie. That’s because it is. It’s a quick jump from here to Arches National Park and Canyonlands, where many a cowboy flick has been shot. Superchargers here are close to cafes, restaurants, and town shops.
Distance from Blanding: 75 mi. Charge time: 25 mins.
Grand Junction, CO
Our first sight of snow, and a harbinger of what was to come. Close to IHOP, Olive Garden, and a big shopping mall. Here it dawned on us fully that the Rockies might pose a challenge.
Distance from Moab: 109 mi. Charge time: 27 mins.
Glenwood Springs, CO
Not even the calm before the storm — just the storm. The snow by this point was coming down in chunks. We decided to put chains on all the vehicles to cross Vail Pass, but with I-70 already closed and re-opened twice due to car accidents, it was unclear whether or not we’d be able to continue. The Residence Inn gave us shelter and a chance to plan for the arduous trip ahead.
Distance from Grand Junction: 90 mi. Charge and stoppage time: 1 hour 5 mins.
It was supposed to take us two hours and 20 minutes to get here from Glenwood Springs. Instead, stuck in slow moving traffic that was negotiating Vail Pass in the middle of the night and the middle of a storm that brought more than 12 inches of snow to the pass, it took us more than four hours.
Distance from Glenwood Springs: 94 mi. Charge time: 42 mins.
A tremendous relief. No sooner had we got off the mountain than we were faced with the prospect of another closed highway: I-25. Frantically searching for alternative routes from Fort Collins to Cheyenne, we found ourselves on a detour that took us north on US-85 in icy conditions. One of the support vans pretty much skated all the way.
Distance from Silverthorne: 165 mi. Charge time: 57 mins.
We were greeted by the friendly proprietors of the Covered Wagon Inn, where we warmed up with tea and coffee. At this point, we felt like we had put the toughest point of the trip behind us. The sky turned blue, the roads opened up, and the ice melted from the road. The film crew sent a remote-controlled quadcopter into the sky to get footage of the Model S’s arriving from on high, so much of our time here was spent with necks craning upwards.
Distance from Cheyenne: 158 mi. Charge time: 36 mins.
Rapid City, SD
Okay, so the weather packed it in again and we pushed on through fog and icy roads to this stop, but it was still a major improvement from Colorado. Our charging spot at the Rushmore Mall put us in striking distance of a Texas Roadhouse, Red Lobster, Starbucks, Olive Garden, and a food court of which we took full advantage.
Distance from Lusk: 149 mi. Charge time: 35 mins.
Another motel with a wagon theme and a friendly owner. This place was called Range Country Lodging. It also had lots of stuffed animal heads on its lobby wall.
Distance from Rapid City: 137 mi. Charge time: 36 mins.
A fateful late night stop by a Goodwill Store and a Dairy Queen. The hot chocolates at DQ were great, but this was the last time we would see one of the support vans alive. Its diesel mix couldn’t handle the sudden drop in temperatures, which were now close to zero. Five team members had to board an early morning flight from Sioux Falls, about 80 miles away, to catch up with the rest of the crew the next day in Highland Park, IL. Flat Stanley seemed pretty chill, though.
Distance from Murdo: 141 mi. Charge time: 40 mins.
If you have never been cold, you should go to Minnesota at midnight in February.
Distance from Mitchell: 127 mi. Charge time: 38 mins.
Albert Lea, MN
We arrived in Albert Lea at 2am and in temperatures of 4 degrees F to be greeted by two Model S’s and three Tesla fans, as well as a dog. One of the greeters had been waiting for hours, working off rough estimates for arrival gleaned from our Twitter updates.
Distance from Worthington: 116 mi. Charge time: 38 mins.
La Crosse, WI
Just a quick top-up, so we didn’t even have time to hit up the Outback Steakhouse or Manny’s Cucina. Or play lacrosse.
Distance from Albert Lea: 127 mi. Charge time: 17 mins.
We were too late to get into burgers restaurant Culver’s, but we did find an open McDonald’s, which had the best fast food restaurant bathrooms we have ever encountered.
Distance from La Crosse: 66 mi. Charge time: 1 hr 16 mins.
Highland Park, IL
Another snow storm! Actually, it was the same one that hit us in Colorado — it was just back for another shot. This time, however, we were driving in daylight and on flat, plowed roads, which meant we weren’t slowed down by traffic. Even better, we were reunited at the Tesla service station with the team members who had been in the broken-down van. They had hot breakfast sandwiches and coffees waiting for us.
Distance from Mauston: 200 mi. Charge time: 31 mins.
One of our favorite stops on the journey on account of the Superchargers being in the parking lot of a large mall that had an expansive food court. “Chick-fil-A!” cried team leader Dan Priestley in sudden ecstasy. The next door Barnes & Noble had a Starbucks. All this helped the finish line look ever closer.
Distance from Highland Park: 121 mi. Charge time: 47 mins.
The slush was so thick on the ground here that it was impossible to get out of the car without getting wet feet. And then they just felt like soggy ice blocks. Cookies from the sandwich shop across the road, however, helped take the pain away. (Update: It has since been brought to our attention that the parents of Dan Priestley, the Cross Country Rally team leader, also supplied cookies at this stop. We regret the error.)
Distance from Mishawaka: 151 mi. Charge time: 35 mins.
A greeting party of about 20 people made Macedonia a hit with Team Tesla, despite the driving rain. Wings and water from the Outback Steakhouse also helped. Only three more stops to go!
Distance from Maumee: 131 mi. Charge time: 1 hr.
Because we arrived in Somerset in the dead of the night, the nearby Wendy’s and McDonald’s were, cruelly, closed. This is why people drive during the day.
Distance from Macedonia: 176 mi. Charge time: 18 mins.
Another 2am check-in time, and another group of well-wishers who were patiently awaiting the arrival of the Model S’s. Two gentlemen had been waiting since 9pm, mostly at a nearby restaurant. One chap had a drone with a camera attached. He let us try on a pair of goggles that displayed video from the drone. When you look at yourself through those goggles, you get an out of body experience.
Distance from Somerset: 108 mi. Charge time: 32 mins.
The last Supercharger before New York City! Tesla co-founder and Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel, fresh from a flight from Norway, came out to meet the team, along with VP of Corporate and Business Development Diarmuid O’Connell and Cal Lankton, head of the Supercharger unit. Another group of about a dozen Tesla enthusiasts were in tow, with one gentleman buying coffee for all the drivers. Straubel and O’Connell climbed into the Model S’s with drivers Sara Eslinger and Jalpa Patel for the final 128 miles into New York City, where the rally came to its conclusion at City Hall.
Distance from Hagerstown: 137 mi. Charge time: 41 mins.
The Cross Country Rally team, with JB Straubel, Elon Musk, and Diarmuid O’Connell, in New York City.