18 days on the Road by electric vehicle: Susan’s Yellowstone blog (Road trip part 1)

Join Tennessean couple Susan and Jack Goodwin on their electric vehicle adventure as they conquer an 18-day road trip in their Teslas.

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Hi!  We’re Susan and Jack Goodwin, retirees, who decided to write a blog about our road adventures with our electric vehicle (EV), a 2018 Model 3 Tesla.  It has a long-range battery that can go 310 miles. 

By the way, we actually have two Model 3 Teslas. I bought mine in May 2018 (red, rear wheel drive), and Jack bought his in November 2018 (blue, dual motor).   Jack got six months of free supercharging because he was a referral of mine.  The six months was expiring at the end of May 2019, so, road trip!   We took Jack’s car because of the free charging.  By the way, it only cost us $5.00 for non-Tesla charging the whole trip!  It pays to be referred!

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If we’re not traveling on some big adventure, Jack and I enjoy hiking (especially in national parks), chilling at one of our house concerts we host, our four grandkids, good red wine, and top-shelf jumbo margaritas which we call Mexican Muscle Relaxers (MMRs).  Great after hiking!

It’s possible I might use some EV terms that you’re not familiar with.  Here’s a link to some definitions: 

In addition, Jack has written a companion blog with details about planning for EV travel and about our actual results on our trip. 

This is our first really long road trip with either of our Teslas, almost 5,300 miles!  So here we go…  


May 11-18, 2019

May 11th :  It was an early start on a rainy Saturday morning.  We experienced rain off and on (mostly on), all day.  We managed to tuck under our belts 610 miles by the end of the first day. I had hoped to stop at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO, but it was pouring, so we just continued on to Columbia, MO, for the night.

May 12th:  Another early start, dogged by more rain with heavy, overcast skies. By the time we reached Salina (midway thru KS), the rain had ended, finally. But we were dealing with the ongoing, monotonous flatlands of KS (and MO before that).  However, at one point we began to see windmills that stretched as far as the eye could see. Hundreds at a time.  I always thought they were fairly small, but once up close they soared vertically into the sky 328 feet!  They made me feel relaxed, spinning quietly and slowly, but good too, knowing it was another source of clean power being used.

susan's Kansas Windmills on road trip
Kansas Windmills.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin  (Filename:  20190512_Western_Parks_SCell0070.jpg)

We stopped in Colby, KS, for the night, but there was still a lot of daylight left (we had only driven 500 miles), so we headed towards Monument Rocks, about an hour south.  I had seen it in our road atlas and thought, wow, something of height, naturally occurring in Kansas!  We put it in our GPS and let it do its thing.  Now, I had read some reviews with directions and warnings of how the road begins paved, then turns into gravel and continues for about 7 miles.  Well, we were driving along and had passed the gravel stage and were on a dirt road that had serious ruts in it.  And it was way longer than 7 miles!  Finally, we came upon a cattle gate blocking our way, but we could see tall rocks off in the distance.  Hmm, there’s barely enough room to turn around, plus we were trying to avoid the ruts that had progressively gotten worse, AND were losing daylight.  So, we backtracked very carefully, and even though we didn’t see Monument Rocks, we were rewarded with a lovely sunset, some deer out grazing, and a few ring neck pheasants darting around between the rows of corn.  I think we have gremlins in our GPS!  I could have sworn I heard giggling as we got out of the car that evening, when we arrived back in Colby.  No proof of the Rocks yet, and Kansas is still as flat as a pancake.  We will find the Rocks the next adventure out that way, and NOT use the GPS.   Maybe, read the review directions instead.    

May 13th:   This was an easy drive, only 245 miles, so we slept in and woke to sunshine and more flat land.  Eastern Colorado is flat farmland, just like Kansas and parts of Missouri, but we started to see mountains in the distance the closer we drove to the Denver sprawl.  We arrived early afternoon at our good friends’ home – Susan, Tim, and Scribbles the cat.  We visited with Tim until Susan got home from work.  We had a wonderful spread of meats, cheeses, veggies, and fruits for dinner, then stayed up visiting until late.

May 14th :  Alas, Susan had to work again, so we headed out to the Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs (an hour south), with Tim driving Jack’s Tesla.  He was a natural!  We just showed him a few things on how to drive it and off we went.

susan's Garden of gods on road trip
Garden of the Gods.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin 

Garden of the Gods was high on our bucket list and it did not disappoint.  The red sandstone and limestone rocks push up in strange formations with names like Kissing Camel and Balancing Rock.  When we arrived the storm clouds were building, and about ten minutes into our walk the clouds opened.  Everyone scattered, finding whatever cover was available.  It poured briefly.  We then resumed walking around, while I took copious amounts of pictures.  The dark sky added a lot of drama to the photographs I was taking.  Little did I know that that was going to be the theme for most of our trip.  You can visit http://www.rjgphotography.com to view approximately 200 of the 4,500 photographs I took (wine time!).  We arrived back in time to change, pick up Susan (the other Susan, not me), and head into Denver to a very popular, funeral-home-turned-hip restaurant called Linger.  It used to be owned by the Olinger family empire and has quite the history.  It’s even mentioned in Atlas Obscura. They have very unusual foods grouped by continents, then by appetizers, entrees, etc.  We shared four different ones, kind of like tapas.  One was Potato Masala Dosa (India) that was a crispy lentil crepe with green beans, peas, apricots, curry, dates, and coconut mint chutney.  Another, Devils on Horseback (Europe and Eurasia) included dates, bacon and goat cheese. We chickened out and didn’t try the one that had crickets and black ants in it.  They had sooo many choices though.  Would love to go back there when visiting Susan and Tim again to sample more tasty treats. Everything we tried was fabulous!

May 15th:  We left our friends’ beautiful home early and headed towards Rocky Mountain National Park, about an hour or so away.  Two things in the park were rather memorable.  1) Bear Lake was not only frozen (just starting to break up), but there were a couple feet of snow still on the ground.  Surprise!  We had planned to hike the half-mile trail around the lake but hadn’t expected snow.  We decided to go for it anyway.  We used our hiking poles and just went slow.  No need to break a leg this early on the trip!  Saw a young woman standing around waiting for her friends to come back from hiking, wearing Birkenstock sandals!  Well prepared I see.  And 2) while drive along Trail Ridge Road (the main road through RMNP) a female moose and her teenager just wandered in front of the car ahead of us.  The driver ahead took a quick cell picture and moved on, then I went nutso taking photos.  I can’t stress enough to have either your camera or cell phone always at the ready, so you can just grab and shoot.  It was our only opportunity on this trip to see and photograph moose.

We kept pushing northwestward toward Lander, WY, our destination for the night.  Although Lander didn’t have a Tesla supercharger, they had a 240 Volt (level 2) charger, which is much slower.  The type you normally would plug in then go to bed.  Kind of like your cell phone.  That’s what we do at home, as we have a level 2 charger in our garage.  Only this charger was about 3 miles away from where we were staying, and it was already dark, and we were tired.  Jack did the math and figured we only needed an hour of charging to get us to Jackson, WY, the next day.  By the way, since this wasn’t a Tesla supercharger we had to pay $5.00.  It’s actually $5.00/hour, but we only needed an hour (or so we thought!).  It’s the only place on this trip we had to pay for charging. 

This had not been our original route to Grand Teton.  A friend had raved about the views, and we couldn’t miss out on them.  Um, news flash, it’s gorgeous everywhere out here!

susan's highway sunset on roadtrip
Highway Sunset. © 2019, Susan Goodwin

May 16th:  Up again, bright and early to get to Grand Teton National Park (GTNP), about 160 miles, as we knew the weather would be changing for the worse later in the day.  After a while, as were driving, we noticed the screen was telling us to slow down in order to get to our destination.  Ok, we were only going 75mph (speed limit was 70), but we were gaining a lot of elevation (4,000 feet total), and it was quite cold outside.  Our state of charge started to plummet, and in order to NOT get stuck on the side of the road we started going slower and SLOWER.  We were going 55mph most of the drive, as everyone else bombed by us going 70 to 80 mph.  We entered GTNP through the east at Moran Entrance Station, and then went south towards Jackson, WY. 

The skies were an impossible HD saturated blue, like you see in photographs.  I was jonesing to take some pictures, but we were so low on energy we didn’t dare stop at any of the pullouts.  We limped to the Jackson, WY, supercharger with 19 miles to spare.  Now that’s range anxiety!  We believe the elevation change combined with the cold sucked the energy right out of the car.  We knew both could factor into our equation, but hadn’t planned on the two together.  Lesson learned.

susan's grand tetons on roadtrip
First view of the Grand Tetons.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

While charging I noticed the clouds beginning to roll in, and as we headed back into the Tetons through the Moose Junction Entrance (south) it began to rain.  By the time we arrived at Mormon’s Row, it was really raining.  It was seriously looking like the Apocalypse, with ominous, black clouds above us, and the wind had picked up.  Jack and I jumped out of the car and ran over to get a few photos before we were dumped on, ran back to the car and realized there was another section of Mormon’s Row off to the left of us.

susan's apocalypse clouds on road trip
Apocalypse Clouds.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

We drove over, parked close to the well-photographed barn (its roof peak matches the peaks of the Tetons), so as not to get too wet, and noticed it had stopped raining.  Huh?  Huge dark clouds, still over us, but the rain had stopped.  And THAT’S how most of our trip went.  We were threatened by dark clouds, rain, snow and sleet almost every day through Yellowstone and beyond, yet we were rarely affected by any of the storms.  Definitely bring layers and rain gear though, if you go, as the weather can change rapidly and without warning. 

May is always questionable out there, but it’s the shoulder season, so fewer folks and less expense, but more activity with the animals.  We’re more tolerant of inclement weather than of hordes of people!  ‘Nuff said.   

susan's grand teton national park on road trip
Barn, Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

We headed north on 191, 26/89, part of the loop in GTNP, that changes over to Teton Park Road, stopping at numerous pullouts for views and pictures, then moving on to the next one.  You can’t go wrong, really, with any of the pullouts, but some of my favorites were Willow Flats Overlook, any views of Mt. Moran, and definitely the views from Jackson Lake Dam.  We planned a partial hike around String Lake, but lightning stopped us.  Yeah, it got us there.  However, as we walked back to our car I saw something that looked like a small wolf about 20 yards from us.  Then it saw us and began walking towards us.  Camera time!  She looped around and trotted in front of us and by now was only 15 feet away when we realized it was a fox.  It was obvious people had been feeding her, and she was looking for a handout.  I spoke with a ranger later that day, and she said they would probably have to put the fox down, due to a number of reasons.  1) Human food isn’t good for animals, 2) Wild animals lose their natural fear of humans, and 3) Wildlife could cause injuries by biting or attacking humans.  Duh!  It always amazes me how ignorant some people are!  Just take a photo and leave them alone.  Some wild animals look harmless, but they can have teeth, claws, horns (the better to gore you with!) and might be carrying rabies.

susan's vixen on road trip
Panhandling Vixen.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin 

May 17th:  No surprise, it was another dark, threatening-to-rain morning.

susan's trees and sky on road trip
Trees and Sky, Grand Teton National Park.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin 

So we hurried over to the Chapel of the Transfiguration, owned by St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson.  It’s a small log structure originally built for the ranchers and staff in 1925, located in Moose, WY, in GTNP.  The window behind the altar used to have an awesome view of the Tetons, but the trees have grown up, blocking the view now.  It predates the park (1929) and is worth a visit.

We went over to Taggart Lake Trail next, to hike the 3-mile round trip. Guess what, about two feet of packed snow.  Hmm, sound familiar?  We were a little worried about rain, no surprise, but decided to go for it, and it was so worth it.  Taggart Lake is stunning and crystal clear.  You could continue on from the lake, for a longer hike, but the trail was closed due to high grizzly activity. 

We had been running into a youthful fella (88 years young), since we arrived in the Tetons, and he and his son caught up to us at Taggart Lake.  We enjoyed a nice chat and found out he’s also from Tennessee.  Small world!  And still travels quite extensively.  He was showing us photos of a recent trip to Crater Lake, OR.  I hope I’m doing that well when I’m 88!  

After our hike we walked around, back on the paved trail, to the Taggart Lake boathouse and signed up for a boat ride across Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls.  I’m glad we went – beautiful falls, nice view from the point, and lovely views during the boat ride over and back.  Originally, we were going to take the boat over and hike back around the lake (about 3.5 miles), but there was so much snow on the trail.  Depending on your height it would have been mid calf or to the knees, and the folks that worked at the park said stress fractures were common when there was a lot of snow.  No thanks!  We have hiked in snow, but felt we weren’t in the best of shape currently.

Well now, we were both getting a bit peckish and I had heard that Jackson Lake Lodge (JLL) served a mean huckleberry shake in the Pioneer Grille, a 50’s style diner, so that’s where we headed. We pulled in and saw a Tesla Model X.  First Tesla we’d seen since Denver, which had quite a few of them.  When you enter the lobby, go straight up the stairs to the upper lobby, where there are floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the Grand Tetons.  When you finally tear your eyes away from the mountains, you see a beautifully appointed room with groupings of comfy couches and chairs with eye-catching views.  The room has numerous displays of taxidermy, such as a grizzly bear and trumpeter swan, along the perimeter of the room.  On one side is the Pioneer Grille, open for breakfast and lunch, and further along on the same side, the Mural Room (dinner only) that also has floor-to-ceiling windows.  I had forgotten about the milkshake and was taking pictures again.  Even though the Mural Room wasn’t open yet, they were kind enough to let me in to take photos of the murals on the walls.  Beautiful, historic murals depicting Native Americans, pioneers, and fur traders, back in the day. That’s when I decided, “we HAVE to eat here tonight,” so we did.  But that wasn’t for another two hours.  So huckleberry shake, here we come.  While enjoying our single shake (didn’t want to ruin our appetite for dinner), our waiter, Michael, proceeded to tell us about bear 399.  She has been living just north of the lodge for over twenty years.  He told us she had just booted out her twin two-year-old cubs a few days earlier.  Of course, we had to find 399, and we still had over an hour before dinner.  There’s a pullout just north of the lodge that’s a good place to look for her.  Even though we patiently hung out there with others for about 45 minutes, we saw no bears.  With a no show on 399, dinner was beckoning.  

susan's no bears
No Bears.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

Back at the Mural Room, we were lucky enough to be seated by one of the massive windows for dinner.  If you’re dining for two and have early reservations, you might be lucky enough to be seated by the windows.  It was hard to keep your mouth from gaping, especially with food in it, when staring, entranced by the Tetons.  These jagged mountains had seriously mesmerized me since we had entered the park.  It shows in how many photos I had already taken!  This sounds terrible, I don’t remember what we ate that night, but it was very good.  It was just those darn Tetons calling to me that were absolutely over-the-top stunning.  Feeling fat and sassy we went back to the Elk Refuge Inn and did laundry, which was conveniently on site.

May 18th:  We headed north, towards Yellowstone National Park (YNP), but made some stops along the way through GTNP.  We had stayed south of the park at Elk Refuge Inn, just outside of Jackson and right across the road from the National Elk Refuge, where you see elk by the thousands if you’re there in the winter.  The inn was clean, comfortable and had a huge picture window for viewing (the missing) elk.  We would definitely stay there again, even without seeing the elk.  We went straight to Jackson Lake Dam (JLD) to do some photography and take in all the beauty that was surrounding us.  The pictures we took just don’t do it justice! 

susan's jackson lake
Jackson Lake and the Grand Tetons.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

After leaving JLD, we passed JLL, and noticed vehicles pulled off the side of the road with cameras at the ready (before the 399 bear pullout), so we eased off the road. No pullout there.  One of the spectators pointed to a bear out in the field.  It’s not 399, but her two-year-old male cub!  By the way, this was a grizzly bear, not a black bear. GTNP and YNP have both.  He was about 100 to 125 yards away and heading for the woods.  Out comes the camera, switch to the telephoto lens, set up the tripod and we managed to get one decent photo, that’s not a “butt photo.”  Hallelujah!  That’s like winning the animal lottery!  What a way to start the day, besides having constant eye-candy views.

susan's cub
Grizzly Cub, Grand Teton National Park.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

As we entered Yellowstone National Park (YNP), the snow was noticeably deeper on the sides of the road and we also saw remnants of previous fires that had occurred in the park.  We stopped for a few photo ops of Lewis Falls, before continuing on to West Thumb Geyser Basin (WTGB).  As we arrived at WTGB, it began to snow like crazy, continuing while we pulled into the parking lot, geared up, used the restroom, and walked to the boardwalk entrance, then it totally stopped snowing!   WTGB is one of the smaller geyser basins, but it certainly was worth visiting, and it’s right on Yellowstone Lake. 

After West Thumb, we headed west to Old Faithful Snow Lodge (OFSL), our destination for the next two nights.  Checked in and went over to the staff building next door to charge our car.  They had two level 2, NEMA 14-50 chargers, which were free to use.  NEMA is one of the adaptors Tesla includes, at no additional cost, when purchasing the car. 

We then walked over to explore the Upper Geyser Basin (UGB) area, which is quite large, so unless you have a lot of time and energy I’d suggest breaking it up into a couple of segments. 

susan's old faithful
Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

We started from Old Faithful (a short walk from our cabin) and went all the way to Grotto Geyser, then caught Grand Geyser erupting on the way back along the boardwalk.  That was cool as it’s the tallest predictable geyser known at 200 feet, and when you’re not on top of it when it blows (which we weren’t), you could really get a better perspective of it and a better photo.  I think I preferred Grand over Old Faithful (averages 140 feet).  However, OF erupts about every 1 to 2 hours while Grand is every 6 to 7 hours.  There are 6 predictable geysers in YNP, 5 are in UGB and 1 in Lower Geyser Basin (LGB).  You can download a YNP app onto your cellphone for free, but do it before you go, as cell service and Wi-Fi are spotty once in the park. It has cool info on services, wildlife, visitor centers, etc.  We left the boardwalk to continue up to Observation Point for a higher, different view of OF, as it was going to erupt soon (according to the YNP app). The paved trail was a bit steep, with a number of switchbacks and we were one switchback shy of being at the Point, when OF let loose, but we still managed a few pictures, as we were lucky enough to be facing her.  Just a heads up, the predictions are approximations, sometimes there’s an hour window, hence why we weren’t quite up to the Point yet.   Sometimes we noticed bison or elk resting on the ground near the thermal springs, throughout the park, warming their bums.  Good chance to take a few pics.

susan's yellowstone national park
Crested Pool, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park.  © 2019, Susan Goodwin

We had dinner the next two nights in the Obsidian Dining Room, located off the lobby of the OF Snow Lodge.  It was very convenient and more intimate than OF Inn, which was about a block down the road.  No reservations were accepted, but the wait time wasn’t bad, 10 and 20 minutes, respectively.  I opted for the bison spaghetti Bolognese, gluten free, both nights.  Yeah, it was that good.  Jack kept picking at mine until I threatened to stab him with my fork the first night!  So the next night, he ordered the “spag bog”, the glutinous kind.  Just a heads up, a number of the more popular restaurants in the park book in advance for dinner.    

Read Part 2 of Jack and Susan’s electric vehicle adventure here.

Resources

Tesla Referrals:

  • If you’re thinking of buying a Tesla, you may find an advantage like some amount of free supercharging if you use someone’s referral number.  Just enter the referral into your web browser when you go to the Tesla website to place your order. 
  • Susan’s Tesla Referral Number:  https://ts.la/susan14629

Energy Use, Charging, and Routing

  • A Better Route Planner [https://abetterrouteplanner.com/]
  • EV Trip Planner [https://www.evtripplanner.com]
  • PlugShare [https://www.plugshare.com]
  • Tesla Go Anywhere [https://www.tesla.com/trips]

Sightseeing:

  • Atlas Obscura [https://www.atlasobscura.com]
  • Badlands National Park [https://www.nps.gov/badl]
  • Chico Hot Spring and Resort [https://www.chicohotsprings.com/]
  • Corn Palace [https://cornpalace.com/]
  • Crazy Horse Memorial [https://crazyhorsememorial.org/]
  • Custer State Park [https://www.stateparks.com/custer_custer.html]
  • Devils Tower National Monument [https://www.nps.gov/deto]
  • Elk Refuge Inn [http://www.elkrefugeinn.net/welcome]
  • Garden of the Gods [https://www.gardenofgods.com]
  • Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) [https://www.nps.gov/grte/]
  • Linger [http://www.lingerdenver.com]
  • Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument [https://www.nps.gov/libi]
  • Mt. Rushmore National Memorial [https://www.nps.gov/moru]
  • National Elk Refuge [https://www.fws.gov/refuge/national_elk_refuge/]
  • Porter Sculpture Park [https://portersculpturepark.com/]
  • Rocky Mountain National Park [https://www.nps.gov/romo]
  • Wall Drug [http://www.walldrug.com/]
  • Yellowstone National Park (YNP) [https://www.nps.gov/yell]
  • YNP App [https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/app.htm],

Lodging:

  • EVHotels [https://www.evhotels.org]
  • Hotels.com [https://www.hotels.com]
  • Trip Advisor [https://www.tripadvisor.com]

Photography:

  • Jack and Susan’s Photography website [www.rjgphotography.com]

Tesla Forum:

  • Tesla Forums [https://forums.tesla.com/forum/forums/long-distance-driving-onboad-nav-vs-website-supercharging#comment-1794587]

NEXT: CHAAARGE! 18 DAYS ON THE ROAD BY ELECTRIC VEHICLE

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