Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip – PART 4: Summary and Pontification

The first three episodes of my latest travel blog, documenting our recent Road Trip with our electric Tesla (carrying our electric bikes) to Utah and Arizona, described the trip from beginning (April 21, 2022) to end (May 10, 2022). In this final post, I’m adding a map with a list of our stops along the way as well as some details about the performance of the Tesla that may be of interest to those who have either considered travelling cross country in an EV or have dismissed the idea as impractical.

First, the map:

Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip — the Route

The list includes every stop we made at a Tesla Supercharger and every Airbnb or hotel/lodge location where we stayed. It does not include all the places we visited on tour buses or shuttles, but those are described in the previous posts. The highlights were the Road Scholar golf school, Pat’s biking in St. George, and our visits to the canyons – Zion, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon National Parks as well as Antelope Canyon. The beautiful scenery during our drives as well as stops at many miscellaneous roadside scenic overlooks that I have not mentioned in the blog posts was definitely icing on the cake. We thoroughly enjoyed the Eclectic Electric Road Trip and will not hesitate to do another one with our Tesla in the future.

Here are some statistics about the electric car’s performance:

  • The trip encompassed a total driving distance of 3,659 miles.
  • We made a total of 33 stops at Tesla Superchargers and charged overnight at 5 destination chargers. Superchargers are the most expensive way to charge the car, and destination chargers are free to use. With better planning, we could have made more use of free chargers. However, the prevalence of Superchargers makes then the most convenient option for a road trip.
  • During those charging stops, we did not encounter a single instance where all the chargers were in use – in fact, we were often the only car charging at a station with 8 or 10 chargers.
  • Our total electricity cost for the trip was $452, for an average of 12 cents per mile. By comparison, the average electricity cost over the life of the car so far (including this trip) has been 5 cents per mile.
  • This cost difference was due in part to an estimated 25% increase in energy consumption due to carrying the bikes, as discussed in the previous posts. Without that extra drag, we would have spent about $339 for electricity, or 9 cents per mile. In other words, it cost about $113 to lug the bikes for all those 3,659 miles. Pat rode hers for about 8 to 10 hours, so we still probably saved money relative to renting – or more likely, she wouldn’t have ridden nearly as much if she had to rent a bike. Throw in my 15 minutes of riding in Williams and we were way ahead. (Yeah, right!)
  • However, the high electric cost was mostly due to our heavy use of Superchargers. While Supercharger costs can vary from about 28 to 35 cents per kWh, charging at our condo costs only 15 cents per kWh and at our summer cabin costs only 5.5 cents per kWh. Also, on our previous long road trips when we had both the Tesla and our RV, we were often able to charge the Tesla for free at RV parks. However, when driving long distances every day, as we did on this trip, these cheaper options don’t work, and increased Supercharger use is necessary.

Here’s a summary of electric charging costs for the Tesla and a comparison of fuel costs for vehicles powered by internal combustion engines:

Electricity Costs for the Tesla and Comparison with Fuel Costs for ICE vehicles

The ICE fuel costs are based on driving the same 3659 miles as we did on our Eclectic Electric Road Trip and using rough averages of gasoline and diesel prices that we observed on the trip. As you can see, fuel costs for the Road Trip with an ICE vehicle would have been higher unless the car was very efficient and got 40 mpg or more. And for fuel hogs getting only 10 mpg, like the 4×4 pickups that raced past us at 85 miles per hour on the freeways or big, diesel-powered RVs, the fuel cost for this trip alone would have been significantly more than the total we have spent to charge the Tesla in its first 23,000 miles! Of course, the cost of ownership for a vehicle is much more than just the fuel costs, and gas and diesel costs are not going to remain as high as they are now forever. But other costs for an electric vehicle are also lower. For example, there are no oil changes or tune-ups, electric motors are highly reliable and require essentially zero maintenance over the life of an EV, and there is virtually no wear on the brakes due to regenerative braking. (I’ve probably stepped on the brake pedal less than twenty times in those first 23,000 miles.)

It is undeniable that an electric car is perfect for a city or suburban dweller who typically drives 50 to 200 miles per day. Such a driver can easily recharge overnight with a home charger or just the standard charger that comes with any EV. A 240 Volt Level 2 charger adds about 30 miles of range per hour, and a 110 Volt Level 1 charger adds about 5 miles per hour of charging. Many utilities also offer greatly reduced rates for off-peak charging. For example, Arrowhead Electric, the utility that supplies our summer home in Grand Marais, located 270 miles from Minneapolis, offers a fixed rate of 5.5 cents per kWh for EV charging between 11 PM and 7 AM. In that 8-hour period, I can add 240 miles of range, enough for a round trip to Duluth or Thunder Bay, ON. There are also free Level 2 chargers at many State Parks in Minnesota, so I can add a little bit of range while hiking at Tettegouche or Gooseberry State Parks along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The complaint I hear most often from EV opponents is that, while they may be fine for city life, they are not convenient for long road trips. It takes a lot of planning to find chargers, and who has the patience to stop 33 times for a half-hour during a 3600-mile trip? And if the chargers are all in use, you’ll have to wait even longer. Stopping at a gas station only takes five minutes, and you find them everywhere, without any planning. An EV driver wastes precious hours planning and then even more precious hours just waiting for the car to charge.

I would offer three counter arguments. First, with a trip planning app such as ABRP, it literally takes only a few minutes to plan any trip, and there are enough chargers all over the country to go almost everywhere, except the most rural, little-visited areas (though this may not yet be the case for non-Tesla EVs). And, as I stated above, we did not encounter a single wait at any Supercharger. Secondly, most EV chargers are located in places you don’t mind stopping anyway – near hotels, shopping malls, truck stops, restaurants and the like. There are places to eat, shop, go to the bathroom – all things you would do even if driving an ICE car. So, you can’t simply compare a five-minute gas stop with a 30-minute charging stop. You have to think about the amount of time you would be stopping for all those things, and you’ll realize you are not wasting anywhere near as much time as you may think.

But my most serious argument is this. Whether you want to believe it or not, our precious Earth is warming, and ICE cars are one of the biggest contributors to climate change. EVs are the wave of the future – even the auto industry realizes that, and all of the car companies are making a major shift in that direction. Is saving a few minutes during a road trip a good enough reason not to go electric and help save the planet? Pat and I have shown that it is not just possible but extremely easy to have an awesome road trip in a Tesla (even when burdened by energy-sapping bicycles). I hope this will encourage more of you to ditch your ICE cars and go green!

OK, I’m done preaching now. Thanks for your interest in Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip! We live in a beautiful country – let’s get out there in our EVs and enjoy it.

Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip – PART 3: Canyons, Canyons, Everywhere

This is the third episode of my latest travel blog, documenting our recent Road Trip with our electric Tesla (carrying our electric bikes) to Utah and Arizona. PART 2 left off as I was riding my bike around the town of Williams, AZ, on Saturday, April 30 – just to ensure that lugging it all the way out there had not been a complete waste of Tesla energy. This episode describes the remainder of the trip.

May 1 – 2 (Sunday-Monday): The reason we were in Williams was that we had booked a package deal with the Grand Canyon Railway, including a night’s stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, a 63-mile train trip to the Grand Canyon, a bus tour along the south rim, a night’s stay at the Maswik Lodge within the National Park, return trip by rail to Williams, and another night’s stay at the Railway Hotel. We’d already visited the Grand Canyon twice, once about 20 years ago with our sons, Nick and Brian, and once during our Excellent Adventure in 2019. However, we had never stayed overnight within the Park itself and thus had never seen a sunset there, and we also both enjoy rail travel.

The two hour and 40 minute rail trip on Sunday was very interesting, especially during the final 10 miles or so as the train wound its way through the pine forest into the National Park. During the return trip on Monday, train robbers on horseback boarded the train and robbed those passengers willing to play along by “hiding” a buck or two in some obvious place. A U.S. Marshall then captured them in the rear car where Pat and I were riding, but I didn’t get my money back. (The Marshall said I needed a receipt for that.) Though a bit cheesy, it was great fun. The operation was also very efficient. We left our luggage in the Railway Hotel lobby and it magically appeared in our room at the Maswik Lodge. Then, on Monday we just left it in our room and it was waiting for us in our new room in Williams when we got back.

Like a little kid ready to board the train?
Our train car on the Grand Canyon Railway
Our train car on the Grand Canyon Railway
View from the train platform
One of the captured train robbers

The Sunday afternoon bus tour at the Grand Canyon covered the major viewing sites along the rim to the west of Grand Canyon Village, including Hopi Point, Mohave Point, Monument Creek Vista, and Pima Point. As I said, we had been to all of these sites before, but they were still just as spectacular and awe-inspiring as the first time. I doubt we could ever get bored with the scenery or fail to revel in the sheer majesty of this national treasure no matter how often we might see it, unlike Chevy Chase in the movie “Vacation.” After dinner, I went back on another bus tour to watch the sunset at Mohave point. That alone was worth the entire trip to the Grand Canyon. On Monday before our return to Williams, we walked along the rim trail from Yavapai Point, east of the Village, to the luxurious El Tovar Hotel where we had lunch, then along the rim trail again to a spot just west of the Bright Angel Trailhead. By the time we walked back to the Train Depot for our return to Williams, I had logged more than 12,000 steps and felt very sore, very tired, and very, very old, even though the rim trail is quite smooth and level. As we gazed down at the Bright Angel trail I recalled hiking down to the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse and back up again – back in the day with Pat and the boys – and knew I couldn’t do that anymore. Oh, the joy of aging!

But getting back to the majesty of the Grand Canyon, rather than writing a few thousand words to try and describe it, I’ll just leave you with these pictures.

One of a thousand spectacular views of the Grand Canyon
Sunset at Mohave Point
A Grand Canyon visitor and his best friend
One of many rock samples on display along the Rim Trail
The El Tovar Hotel
Looking down at the Bright Angel Trail

May 3 (Tuesday): The Grand Canyon Railway package was the last thing we had pre-booked before leaving Minneapolis. As of April 25, we had no specific plan for our return home. Sister-in-law LeAnne had told us about an interesting place called Antelope Canyon, near Page, AZ, so Pat decided to book a tour there for 12:00 PM on May 3. We drove off from Williams at 7:10 AM, stopped to charge the car in Flagstaff, and headed north through Navajo Nation toward Page. When we were about 20 miles away, we noticed that the Tesla clock was reading 12:10 PM. What? How could we already be late for the tour? We couldn’t possibly have been traveling for five hours. Pat checked her iPhone, which also read 12:10. Had we entered the Twilight Zone? No, we were just in Navajo Nation, which, unlike the rest of Arizona, observes Daylight Savings Time. So, we had only been travelling for four hours, and when we got to Page, we were back on Arizona Time and it was actually only 11:30. Oddly, both the car and Pat’s phone were still an hour off, whereas my Samsung phone showed the correct time. Those ornery Arizonans sure know how to confuse people.

Antelope Canyon is located about 20 minutes outside of Page and our tour was run by a Navajo company. We had an excellent guide who explained the origins and the dynamics of the canyon and even took some great photos for us with Pat’s phone. Antelope Canyon was formed and is maintained not by any river but by flash flooding from heavy rains that typically occur in late summer, on average once every two years. However, due to the warming climate and severe drought, the most recent flooding occurred nearly 10 years ago, and the canyon floor has risen some four feet as sand has blown in and not yet been washed away. It was also interesting to learn that the antelope for whom the canyon is named have not been present in the area since completion of the nearby Glen Canyon Dam in 1963 and the subsequent formation of Lake Powell. The canyon is very narrow and irregularly shaped, with walls furrowed by wind and water erosion and the open top lets in sand and light, leading to spectacular and unexpected views and perspectives. OK, once again: no more words, just pictures.

Entering Antelope Canyon
Looking upward in Antelope Canyon
Sculpted walls and fascinating light and dust patterns in Antelope Canyon
Pat and Dave in Antelope Canyon (masks required in Navajo Nation)
Ethereal view of Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon is like a different world

After our Antelope Canyon tour, we drove to Kanab, UT, where we had booked a room at the La Quinta Inn and Suites before leaving St. George. It was a nice hotel with the added bonus of a Tesla Destination Charger on site. We also had a nice meal at a Chinese restaurant right next door to the hotel. Talk about convenience. After dinner, we discussed how far we should travel on Wednesday and where we should stay.

“You know,” I said, “we’re going to be driving almost right past Bryce Canyon National Park no matter which way we decide to go from here. It would be a real shame not to stop there for a visit.”

So, after some web searching, we booked a room at a place called Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon City. There is a stop for the shuttle bus into the National Park right in front of this hotel and, as a bonus, it also has a Testa Destination Charger. Two free charges in two days. What a deal!

May 4 (Wednesday): We left Kanab at 8:30 AM and arrived at Ruby’s Inn at 10:00. We were able to check in right away, even though it was quite early, and our room was literally 10 yards from the Tesla charger. There were two charging stations, and there was another Tesla being charged at one of them. So, we parked the car nearby, not wanting to tie up the only remaining station while we toured Bryce Canyon. Then we hopped on the shuttle bus, and I was standing in line to buy a tee shirt at the Visitor’s Center by 10:15. There were three people in line ahead of me, one of whom was a tall, slim, thirty-something woman buying a sweatshirt. Suddenly, she decided to try on the sweatshirt for size. She proceeded to take off her jacket, slip on the shirt, and model it for a friend. After some discussion, the friend went off the get a larger size, and the buyer pulled off the first shirt and slipped on the second one. Then the two had to discuss which one was best, totally oblivious of the growing line behind them and the exasperated expression on the face of the checkout clerk. Couldn’t she have tried the shirts before getting in line? I finally got to the register and bought my own shirt, then went outside with Pat to wait for the next shuttle bus.

“The world would be a wonderful place if it weren’t for all these @#$%^ people in it,” I muttered. Luckily, Bryce Canyon is truly a wonderful place, which served to salve my frustration over the idiotic incident in the Visitors Center. We spent about four and a half hours riding the shuttle buses and walking among the major scenic highlights – Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point – sandwiched around a nice buffet lunch at the Bryce Lodge. That was nowhere near enough time to see everything; to properly tour the Park one needs to drive to the places the shuttle route does not reach. But it was an excellent introduction that left us wanting to come back again. Unfortunately, the hiking left me feeling even more decrepit than the day before. The uphill climbs left me gasping in the thin, 8,300-ft altitude and the downhill parts were like torture for my feet and knees. But all I had to do was stop and look in any direction, and take pictures of the hoodoos, the steep cliffs, the multicolored rocks, the trees … Just point and click, and the sheer beauty of it all revived my spirit.

The road leading to Bryce Canyon National Park
View from Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park
View from Inspiration Point
View from Inspiration Point
Cabins at Bryce Canyon Lodge — maybe we’ll stay here next time
View from Rim Trail
View from Rim Trail
View from Rim Trail

When we got back to Ruby’s Inn, that same Tesla was still plugged into the charger. As I was backing into the one open space, yet another Tesla pulled up, but I had beaten him to the punch. After plugging in, I spoke with him and said that the other car had been plugged in for at least five hours, so must be almost done. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the plugged-in car arrived and spoke to the new arrival. As I was walking away, I caught snippets of the conversation.

“Are you staying here? So, you can maybe charge overnight after we leave …” I heard the charger hog say. Apparently that woman was not even staying at the hotel, even though Destination Chargers are only supposed to be for paying hotel guests. What did I say about all those #%^*^&* people in the world?

May 5-10 (Thursday – Wednesday): Bryce Canyon was the last place we actually visited on the road trip. The remainder of the time we were just going back home again. By this time, our Covid anxiety had faded away, and we felt comfortable enough with staying at hotels and eating at restaurants where virtually no one was wearing masks. We were pretty tired of driving by then, so we laid out a return trip with the ABRP app, stretched it out over six days so we never drove for more than a few hours each day, and booking hotels that were very close to the Tesla Superchargers for convenience – in Green River, UT, Idaho Springs, CO, Ogallala and Grand Island, NE, and Sioux City, IA.

View from our hotel in Green River, UT

As we drove through Utah and Colorado, the scenery along the road was spectacular, with snow covered peaks, steep, winding valleys, and tunnels bored through the mountains. We passed over the Continental Divide and through the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate Highway 70, near Dillon, CO, at an elevation of 11,150 feet. But by the time we reached Denver, we had descended 6,000 feet and the drive got quite boring – flat, brown, and monotonous – and so it remained all the way home. Even the lovely drive along the Minnesota River from Mankato to Minneapolis, with its welcome greenery, seemed dull by comparison to what we had seen in the mountain states. In retrospect, I therefore dubbed Denver as the dividing line between spectacular and boring.

We made it back to our condo at 3:30 PM on May 10, spent an hour unpacking the car, getting the bikes off, washing the car (which made all those hail dents really stand out), and starting the laundry before I collapsed into my favorite Barcalounger. All in all, it was a great trip, despite the rocky start.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for one more blog post in which I will present a map of the trip, discuss what we learned about taking an electric road trip, and pontificate about the state of the world and some small things we can do to help. (Or maybe not that last part – I’ll have to see if I can come up with anything actually worth saying.)

Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip – PART 2: Golfing, Biking, Hiking

This is the second episode of my latest travel blog, documenting a recent trip in our electric Tesla (with our electric bikes affixed to a bike rack on the back) to St. George, Utah and environs. The impetus for the trip was a program called “The Best Golf of Your Life,” sponsored by the travel and education organization known as Road Scholar. We have gone on two Road Scholar trips in the past and were very impressed with all aspects of the programs. (Road Scholar offers a wide array of programs throughout the world: here’s a link to their website.) The first program was a comprehensive tour of Key West, FL, in January 2020, which both Pat and I participated in. The second was a pickleball course on Hilton Head, SC, in March 2020, which Pat enrolled in; I merely went along for the ride, being less of an enthusiast than she is, and entertained myself with golfing and self-guided exploration of the island while she improved her pickleball skills. For this third Road Scholar program, only I was enrolled, and Pat came along for the road trip, similarly entertaining herself while I did the golf thing.

PART 1 of this narrative described the rocky start to our road trip, concluding in Douglas, WY, on Saturday, April 23, where we were holed up in a hotel waiting out a blizzard that had closed the highways to the west, completely derailing the plan we had so carefully laid out for getting to St. George. We left the hotel at 6:50 AM Sunday, by which time the roads were passable. As we passed through Casper, WY, less than 50 miles from Douglas, we realized that my nephew Rob Arthur had played keyboards for a Chicago concert while we were hunkered down in Douglas. I don’t know how he and the rest of the band managed to get there in the blizzard, but if we had managed to brave the weather that far before holing up, we could have gone to the concert! Alas, an opportunity missed.

The road conditions were still a bit dicey as we continued to head westward, but by the time we reached Rawlins, WY, it was pretty much smooth sailing. On we drove, and drove, and drove some more, until we staggered into the lobby of the Convention Center Holiday Inn in St. George at 10:40 PM, having covered a total of 735 miles in just under 16 hours, including six stops to recharge the car, eat, visit restrooms, and stretch our legs. (According to Google Maps, the trip should only have taken 11 hours, but that would include nonstop driving at posted speed limits of up to 80 mph, and also presumably require an IV caffeine injection system and a catheter to collect bodily fluids, none of which fits our travel style. Brother-in-law Andy Lindsay probably could have managed it.) I was a wee bit late for the 5 PM Road Scholar orientation meeting, we were dead tired, and the Tesla was pitted and scarred from Friday’s hail damage, but at least we had overcome the rocky start and arrived at our destination.

Thankfully, our week in St. George was excellent, including most enjoyable golfing (me), biking (Pat), and hiking (me again). Here is a summary.

Monday: After breakfast, the golfers were bused from the hotel to the training facility at Southgate Golf Course. We were divided into four groups; mine had lessons in bunker shots and pitch shots. (One of my first attempts at a new bunker technique caromed high off the lip of the steep bunker and hit the woman next to me on the top of her head, luckily causing no injury other than to my pride. Things got better after that.) Then we had lunch, and then played golf at a beautiful course called Dixie Red Hills. My first swing was a pull-hook into the rocks on hole one, leading to a quadruple bogey snowman. Two double bogeys followed, and I began to wonder if the golf lessons were a waste of time and money. But then I hit a nice shot on hole four and sank a ten-footer for a birdie two, and all was right with the world again. After golf, we had a nice dinner. (Our Road Scholar Group Leader told us the unofficial name of the program is “Eat, golf, eat, golf, eat,” and by Friday I was feeling like an overstuffed sausage.)

7th Hole at Red Rock Hills Golf Course, St. George, UT

Tuesday: My two morning lessons included chipping and irons/hybrids. We had lunch at the Southgate Course and then played the back nine. It was another beautiful layout, and I started off much the same way as Monday, with two triple bogeys in the first three holes, before settling down and eventually making another birdie on the par-five 17th hole. Dinner was at a goofy place called Chuck-a-Rama, one of those all-you-can-eat buffet places, which was the only meal during the program that I found less than satisfactory.

Southgate Golf Course, St. George, UT

Wednesday: Morning lessons included drivers/fairway woods and putting, to complete the training portion of the course. All-in-all, I did pick up some good tips – this was the only actual instruction I’ve ever had except for two one-hour lessons (one when I was about twelve and another in my thirties, I think). Time will tell if it was worthwhile. After lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant, we played at yet another beautiful course, Sunbrook, on the Blackrock nine (so named for the lava rock formations on many of the holes). This time, I started off pretty well – two over par for the first five holes, before running into trouble with two double-bogeys and another quadruple bogey snowman in the last four. Most of the trouble was due to bad luck rather than bad shots, though, so I tried to remain positive about the experience. Dinner was at a nice teppanyaki-style restaurant with an entertaining knife-wielding chef.

Sunbrook Golf Course, St. George, UT (Blackrock Nine)

Thursday: We took a break from golf and had a tour of Snow Canyon (on the bus only) and Zion National Park. Our Road Scholar bus dropped us off at the visitor center before we took the park shuttle bus to see the main highlights, all of which I had seen when Pat and I visited previously during our Excellent Adventure, but it was still just as impressive and awe-inspiring this time around. We then took a two-mile hike on the so-called moderate Kayenta Trail, with narration by a geologist using a headphone system. We made quite a sight with 26 mostly elderly folks in single file, often passing bemused hikers going the other way as they waited, and waited, and waited for us all to straggle past the narrow spots. There were no injuries, but I and many others felt challenged by the effort, and I could only reflect that my condition had deteriorated significantly since hiking that same trail in 2019. We had bag lunches at the visitor center before reboarding the Road Scholar bus and travelling to the east part of the park, which is not accessible by the park shuttle buses and which I therefor hadn’t seen before. The scenery was stunning and fascinating, well worth the visit by any measure.

Snow Canyon State Park
Hiking the Kayenta Trail at at Zion National Park
Hazards abound at Zion National Park
Checkerboard Mesa, Zion National Park

After returning from Zion, friend Steve Aldrich asked me to drive him around to do some errands. Along the way, we stopped to photograph the Mormon Temple in St. George, which was the first ever built in Utah. It reminded me of the story our tour guide had told us in the morning. The temple was built of locally plentiful red sandstone, then painted white. One year, when maintaining the building, the workers ran short of paint. To complete the job, they put a very thin coat on the top of the dome. Suddenly, dark clouds appeared and a voice boomed out: “Repaint, and thin no more!”

First Mormon Temple in Utah, St. George

Friday: We played at Sky Mountain, yet another beautiful course about 45 miles northeast of our hotel, near the town of Hurricane (so named after an early Mormon elder experienced such a fierce wind that he compared it to a hurricane). We played a scramble format, with yours truly as captain of our team, which also included friend Steve, a long-hitting gentleman from Georgia, and a woman from Long Island. We did reasonably well, with three birdies and several more missed opportunities and, sadly, four bogeys. That was only good enough for third place out of six teams. I hit several good shots, enough to be encouraged about the state of my game following the golf lessons.

Sky Mountain Golf Course, Hurricane, UT

Meanwhile, Pat was riding her bike around on the excellent bike trails in St. George every day. She described where she had gone each day, even including a ride past the Southgate practice facility one day while our group was getting our lessons. But when I asked if she could send me some pictures from her journeys for this blog, she just said, “Sorry, I didn’t take any photos. Not my thing.” She did assure me that she thoroughly enjoyed herself and did not feel abandoned as I was doing all those activities described above.

On Saturday, April 30, we packed up the Tesla again and drove to Williams, AZ, where we checked in at the Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel. Meanwhile, friend Steve spent the morning playing golf in St. George yet again, with one of our instructors giving him a private lesson. He is convinced that, with the three days of instruction plus this extra lesson under his belt, he will be a formidable opponent for me this summer at Gunflint Hills in Grand Marais. We will see, readers, we will see.

When we got to the hotel in Williams, I plugged the Tesla mobile charger into an electrical outlet by the SemaConnect destination charger, which the site technician told me does not work with Teslas for some weird reason. As I stood there looking at the bikes on the back of the car, I realized we had hauled mine for nearly 2000 miles, with the associated significant reduction in the Tesla’s performance as described in Part 1, and I hadn’t even used it! So, I pulled it off the bike rack and rode it around Williams for twenty minutes, just because.

At last, I used my bike in Williams, AZ

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more blog posts as my tale of Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip continues. There is plenty yet to tell!

Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip – PART 1: A Rocky Start

As past readers know, we sold our RV last fall. However, that doesn’t mean my travel blogging is over. A funny thing gradually happened as I wrote all those posts documenting our RV travels from 2018 through 2021. While the initial intent was simply to document the trips for our family and friends back in Minnesota – so they would know that we were still alive and (hopefully) well – I came to realize that the blog posts also served two other purposes. First, they turned out to be good for remembering what we had actually done, which is great for memory-challenged senior citizens like Pat and me. And second, I actually had a great time writing them. So, why can’t I write travel blogs for non-RV trips? I can see no reason (although perhaps some readers can).

At any rate, as 2021 drew to a close, I was getting set to write a travel blog during our upcoming Viking Ocean Cruise trip to Greece and Turkey. But then, the Covid Omicron variant reared its ugly head and, as nightmarish visions appeared of being stuck in Athens trying to get a Covid test so we could get back home, we cancelled the trip. This led to some serious moping in the Saari household. We were still moping as February rolled around when Steve Aldrich, my friend and golfing partner from Grand Marais, sent me an e-mail about a Road Scholar program called “The Best Golf of Your Life,” a week of golf instruction and play at several courses in St. George, Utah, in late April. Just the thing to lift my spirits. But what about Pat?

“You could come, too,” I said hopefully.

“And do what?” she replied – a very logical question since she has no interest whatsoever in golf.

“There’s a one-day trip to Zion National Park included in the program. You could come for that,” I said, trying not to wheedle.

“Been there, done that,” she said, since we had visited Zion on our Excellent Adventure in 2019.

“But remember how nice the bike trails were in St. George when we were there back in 2019? You could bike your brains out while I’m golfing,” I suggested. Pat’s brow furrowed slightly as she considered this option.

“What, you mean I could rent a bike out there? That might be expensive if I did it for several days,” she said. “And I certainly couldn’t bring my own bike on a plane.”

“No, that’s not what I was thinking. We do have a bike rack, you know. And the Tesla has a hitch receiver.”

We spent a few moments exchanging meaningful glances before excitement began to build in both our minds.

“Yes!” we shouted simultaneously. “Road trip!!!”

Suddenly our lost trip to Greece and Turkey was forgotten as we began to plan a Tesla road trip. I found a great app called A Better Route Planner (ABRP) which can search out the best way to get from any point A to any point B with an appropriate set of stops for charging an electric car. We plotted a route from Minneapolis to St. George that would get us there in four days, by early afternoon on Sunday, April 24. We booked overnight stays at three Airbnb locations – renting entire premises, since we were still having a fair amount of Covid anxiety. We even bought new tires for the Tesla, since the originals weren’t rated for much more than 20,000 miles and we were already approaching that milestone. The excitement continued to build until 9 AM on Thursday, April 21, Pat’s 65th birthday, when we hauled our luggage down to the garage in our Condo building, loaded up the car, checked our e-bikes, which I had mounted on the bike rack the day before, and backed out of our parking space. That’s when the first issue popped up.

“Why is our brand-new front left tire flat?” asked Pat, noting the warning message on the car’s display screen.

“Beats me,” I said. “It wasn’t flat yesterday.”

“Are you sure?” she replied. “Did you actually check the tires yesterday?”

She had me there, of course. So, we pumped up the tire with the air compressor in the garage and headed to Discount Tire to have it checked. By the time they had discovered and repaired the problem (a leaky valve stem), we were already three hours behind the first day’s schedule, which called for 6 hours and 36 minutes of driving and two charging stops. But at least we were on our way.

As we drove through the countryside toward our first planned charging stop in Worthington, MN, we were serenaded by a melodious tone from the rear of the car, perhaps similar to the sound of those fabled sirens, the Lorelei, who enticed witless sailors to their deaths in days of yore. As an engineer who has studied fluid mechanics, I of course knew that this sound was the result of vortices formed by the airflow across the bikes and bike rack on the back of the car, known as Aeolian tones. I hate to admit that I was just as witless as those sailors, despite my study of fluid mechanics, but we were saved from doom by the Tesla itself.

As we approached within about 60 miles of our first planned stop, the Tesla Supercharger in Worthington, Gerty Google, the nice woman in the Tesla Navigation app, suddenly told us to turn south. At first we were puzzled by this, but then we noticed that a much closer Tesla Supercharger in Sherburne, MN, had popped up on the display screen as our next destination. Then the proverbial shoe dropped with a resounding thud. The bikes on the car were not only making seductive music, they were also significantly increasing the aerodynamic drag on the car, and we didn’t have enough juice left in the battery to make it to Worthington. I had failed to account for the increased power consumption when I laid out our plan with the ABRP app. (I had a sudden mental image of Professor Ephraim Sparrow smirking at the other professors on my Ph.D. oral examination committee back in 1974. “I told you we shouldn’t have passed this moron,” he was saying in his most pompous manner.)

Anyway, that was the second issue in our rocky start to the Eclectic Electric Road Trip. The entire plan was obsolete, as we were going to have to make a lot more charging stops than I had planned for. By the time we reached the first Airbnb in Winner, SD, it was 8:20 PM. We had been travelling for 11 hours and twenty minutes, including an hour and a half at Discount Tire and two extra charging stops. At least the Airbnb was a nice, four-room building with a comfy bed, and we enjoyed a good night’s sleep (though the heater didn’t work) before departing at 9 AM Friday morning. Little did we know that things were only going to get worse.

The great plan called for us to reach the second Airbnb, in Douglas, WY, at 4 PM. Having adjusted our charging stops to match the increased energy consumption due to the bicycles, we again made two extra charging stops along the way. One of those was in Wall, SD, where we took advantage of the break to have lunch at the iconic but kitschy Wall Drug. (I had a buffalo hot dog, which was surprisingly tasty.)

Tesla Supercharger in Wall, SD

Our last charging stop for the day was at Lusk, WY, some 52 miles from the next Airbnb. As we headed westward, we began to notice an ominous looking cloud ahead. We had just passed the town of Manville when there was a startling clunk on the glass roof of the car. A minute later there was another, then another, and suddenly we were being pelted by marble-sized hailstones. Pat urged me to turn back to Manville, but I couldn’t see any advantage to that, though I did slow down a bit. But within minutes the road surface was thick with hailstones and driving was impossible, so I pulled off the road into a farmer’s driveway to wait out the storm. The hailstones seemed to get larger and the noise was deafening. We were certain that the car roof was going to break and that our troublesome but beloved e-bikes were going to be wrecked.

Ominous Cloud Near Manville, WY

Luckily, the hail stopped after about fifteen minutes, replaced by a steady but happily non-threatening rain, and the roof remained intact. I crept back onto the road and headed toward Douglas again, but there was a thick layer of hailstones covering the entire road and we could only move at about five or ten miles an hour. Eventually we drove out of the hail-covered area and were able to resume normal speed, completing our trip to the Airbnb in the rain. Our arrival time was 5:46 PM, so our travel time was 8.8 hours, only about two hours longer than planned. Oops, there was a time zone change as we were now on Pacific time, so make that three hours late.

The second Airbnb was also nice – a stand-alone cottage with kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and two baths, located in the back yard of the owners. Once we got settled in and determined that the car and bikes were essentially intact, we drove into the town of Douglas for dinner at a decent steakhouse. As we left the steakhouse, we noticed a nearby Hampton Inn with a Tesla destination charger, which turned out to be significant as things were about to get even worse.

I woke up at 5 AM Saturday morning, which is not unusual for me, and saw a message on my phone from the third Airbnb we had booked. At 3 AM, the host had sent a message canceling our reservation, as she had to rush to the hospital experiencing pre-term labor. I then looked out the living room window and saw that our car was covered in four inches of snow, and that it was snowing heavily. As I searched for another Airbnb to book, Pat emerged from the bedroom to inform me that there was a blizzard warning in effect to the west. We spent an hour or so looking at weather maps and the Wyoming Highway Department website and trying to decide what to do. Eventually we decided to start driving west and just stop somewhere if the conditions were too bad, opting not to book another Airbnb.

Shortly after 8 AM, we began loading up the car again. I had to brush the snow and ice off with my hands because the snow brush/ice scraper was buried at the bottom of the stuff in the car. By 8:30, after about four trips from the cottage to the car, we were on the road again. Driving wasn’t too bad in town, with a few roads already plowed and only three inches or so on the unplowed ones. But as we neared the highway toward Casper, the wind was blowing and visibility was poor.

“Now bear right to take the westbound highway entrance ramp …” Gerty Google intoned.

“Do you see a ramp?” I asked Pat, as I crawled along at 5 mph.

“No,” she replied. “Do you see a highway?”

We continued driving slowly, finding ourselves creeping along on an eastbound highway, with periodic wind gusts blowing the snow and reducing visibility to five feet or less. Every so often, the left lane would have a windblown bare spot and a 4×4 pickup would roar around us and disappear again into the blowing snow. After about fifteen minutes, we came to an exit back toward Douglas. Wending our way through the blowing snow, we eventually found ourselves near that Hampton Inn. It seemed like fate was telling us something, so we stopped to see if they had a room, which they did. The clerk told me where the two Tesla chargers were located, so I drove the car over to find a large pickup truck parked in front of one and a space just wide enough to squeeze into in front of the other. After plugging in the car, I unloaded the luggage and schlepped it into the hotel, but not before chasing down my cap after it blew away in the wind.

So, there we stayed for the rest of the day, periodically checking the weather maps and wondering if we would ever make it to St. George. It was clear we would not get there by early afternoon Sunday, since we had at least 16 hours of travel time yet to go, so I was going to miss the Road Scholar program orientation meeting. But, dear readers, don’t despair. While we indeed had a rocky start, things could only get better from that point. Stay tuned for more blog posts as my tale of Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip continues.

Farewell to Our Unity

NOTE TO READERS: Based on the title, you may have jumped to some conclusions about the topic of this post. It is not a divorce or separation announcement (that might have been titled “Farewell to Our Union”) since Pat and I are still very happily married and living together in harmony. It’s also not a rant or screed about the sad state of affairs in our country – not to mention the rest of the world, as well – though those who know me may well have expected such a thing. Since it is neither of those things, what is it? Feel free to read on and find out …

Pat and I have long been interested in RVs, perhaps inspired by her parents’ travels during their golden years. Every winter, they would escape the brutal Minnesota climate and journey to the southern US, towing a fifth-wheel trailer behind their pickup truck. Starting back in the 1980s, we would attend the annual RV Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center and ogle the various show models, vowing to own one someday. Over time, we honed in on smaller, self-contained motorhomes, with the idea that we would wait until our kids had left the nest to actually buy one. One particular Canadian manufacturer, Leisure Travel Vans (LTV), captured our fancy around 2010 or so, and our plan solidified around that choice. We were impressed with the LTV designs and craftsmanship, and especially with the claim that they held their value much more so than other RV brands.

The RV Show at the Minneapolis Auditorium

I retired in July 2016, and by the end of that year we had decided to take the plunge. We were living full time in Grand Marais at that time, so our travels to the Twin Cities were relatively infrequent, but we made a trip down in February 2017 to begin the process of purchasing an RV. We attended our last RV Show in Minneapolis on February 10, after which we visited the only Minnesota LTV dealer, a relatively small operation called Lake Region RVs in Ramsey, MN. After looking at various LTV models, discussing options with a friendly salesman named Seth Pasch, and taking a test drive, we decided on a model called the Unity Corner Bed (one of four layouts for the Unity line), and drove back to Grand Marais with a pile of literature and a plan to order one once we decided on the various options. We submitted a purchase agreement via email and made a down payment in early March, with the expectation of taking delivery in April of 2018.

As time went by, we eagerly anticipated the arrival of our new toy. In September, we went on our final tent camping trip, which involved driving to Winkler, Manitoba, as well, where the LTV factory is located. We had a great tour of the factory, which convinced us even more that we had made the right RV choice.

(I was going to put in some photos of the factory, but I can’t find them. Maybe I’ll come back and add them later if I can locate the photos.)

In January 2018, I received a call from Lake Region RVs informing me that our Unity Corner Bed model had arrived. I reminded them that we were not planning to pick it up until April, since we had no place to store it in winter weather. And pick it up we did, on April 17, 2018. I drove it straight from Lake Region RVs to the cabin and parked it in a spot I had picked out among the trees on the east side.

The RVstored on the east side of the cabin

We started out slowly, taking baby steps to learn how everything worked and getting comfortable with RV living. Our first RV camping trip was to Tettegouche State Park, a whopping 62 miles down Highway 61, where we were visited by our friends Gordon and Michele who at that time lived in nearby Silver Bay, MN.

Our first RV trip to Tettegouche

The Tettegouche trip went very well, so we took a bigger step by travelling with the RV around Lake Superior and Lake Huron, also stopping for a quick visit with my eldest sister Ellie and her husband Richard in Dundas, Ontario.

Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario, June 2018
Pat, Ellie, and Richard in the RV, June 2018

In late July, Pat and I took the RV for a weekend trip to Scenic State Park near Bigfork, MN, with a stop along the way to play golf at the Wilderness at Fortune Bay, near Tower. We camped overnight at the Fortune Bay RV Park before heading on to Scenic.

Scenic State Park, July 2018

In early September, I drove the RV to the Twin Cities for the ASE Annual Golf Tournament and the Saari Family Picnic, where I showed it off to assorted relatives.

Saari Family Reunion, September 2018

In early October, my friend Steve Aldrich and I drove the RV to Biwabik, MN. We played golf at Giants Ridge (The Legend and The Quarry) on October 2 and stayed overnight at an RV campground in Biwabik before playing The Wilderness at Fortune Bay the next day.

Then came the first REALLY BIG trip, during which we spent the entire winter from October 2018 through April 2019 away from the harsh winter climate. I’ve thoroughly documented that trip previously in a 12-part series titled Pat and Dave’s Excellent Adventure.

During the summer of 2019, we continued to store the RV at the cabin, and I used it fairly frequently to go golfing at Gunflint Hills. In July, we took the RV to the Jergensen Family Reunion in Dubuque, IA, stopping along the way at Governor Dodge State Park near Spring Green, WI. We also visited Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright estate, while there.

Fort Dodge State Park, July 2019

In September 2019, Steve Aldrich and I again took the RV to play golf at Fortune Bay and Giants Ridge. This time we stayed overnight at the Fortune Bay RV Park.

From October 2019 through April 2020, we stored the RV at an outdoor storage facility called Surelock RV Storage in Inver Grove Heights, MN. (This was the only time we had it winterized.) Then it was back to the cabin again for the summer, again using it frequently for golfing at Gunflint Hills.

In September 2020, we took a 3-day trip with the RV to Lake Itasca State Park, in large part to judge how safe we might feel travelling with the RV during the height of the Covid Pandemic.

Itasca State Park, September 2020

The Itasca trip went well enough, so we decided to go on another winter trip, from October 2020 through April 2021. Again, this one has been documented in detail in a 10-part series called The Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn.

During the Sojourn, we discovered that storing the RV at the cabin had resulted in some issues, notably tree sap accumulation and damage to some wiring by mice or other critters. Also, we were not planning to use it during the subsequent winter. So, starting in April, we stored it at an indoor facility called Airlake Self Storage, in Lakeville, MN.

In August, we took it on another big trip, this one also documented in detail in a 4-part series called Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade.

But a funny thing happened on the way back home. On September 24, I got a call from Lake Region RVs, asking us if we’d like to sell the RV on a contingent basis, because they were desperately looking for inventory, given the backlog that had developed due to Covid issues. At the same time, demand for used RVs had skyrocketed, again due to Covid, since many people feel more comfortable RVing during the pandemic than traveling in other ways. Given this situation, they offered to pay us 98% of what we bought it for, if we could get it to them within a week or two. After some teeth gnashing and agonizing, we decided to take them up on it, and dropped it off at Lake Region on October 1.

And now it has been sold. Seth Pasch, now the President of Lake Region RVs, closed the deal and personally gave us our check. After a grand total of 30,200 very enjoyable miles, we’ve said farewell to our Unity. When we bought it, we didn’t intend to keep it for more than a few years, but it still feels like a great loss. We had wonderful times in it, and it truly did hold its value, even more so than we could have expected.

And now we will cherish the memories as we continue to travel in different ways. One specific result of our RV travels is that I learned to enjoy travel blogging, so “watch this space” as Rachel Maddow says, for more travel-related posts in the future.

Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade – PART 4: Back in the US of A

This is the final installment of our Eastern Escapade, having concluded Part 3 with our final stop in Canada on September 23, a delightful visit with my sister and brother-in-law. So, as suggested by the title, we crossed the border while that classic Beatles tune played in my head: “Back in the US, back in the US, back in the US of A!!!!” (I know that’s not really how the song went, but the USSR doesn’t exist anymore, and I certainly would not be singing about it if we were going there, especially as Vladimir Putin continues to revert to the old authoritarian ways. At least his best US buddy is gone for now …) But enough of that. Let’s get on with the Escapade, shall we?

Sep 24 (Friday): We left my sister’s place under cloudy skies and encountered a few sprinkles as we drove toward the border crossing at Sarnia, Ontario. As I approached the border, I came to a closed gate-arm and a booth occupied by a man in a uniform. I rolled down the window and extended my hand, holding my Minnesota Enhanced Drivers License to prove I was a US citizen worthy of re-admittance. I was met by a blank stare, before he said, “I don’t need that, just the toll, please.” Silly me, we were still in Canada, yet to traverse the massive Blue Water Bridge across the St. Clair River. I sheepishly dug out my credit card and tapped the card reader, trying to act as if I’d known all along that this was a toll booth and not the border, then trundled off again after the gate arm rose. Once on the bridge, I recognized the scene, since we had crossed this same bridge and entered the US once before, back in June of 2018. (That was when we made our first extended trip with the RV, a journey around Lake Superior with a side trip to my sister’s place.) As I recall, in 2018 there were five or more lanes in use, with backups of dozens of cars and trucks in each lane, and the process took something like 30 or 45 minutes. This time, I drove right up to the border agent manning the only open lane, handed him my license (yes, this time that was the proper procedure), answered two questions, and was on my way in less than a minute. Pat later told me she didn’t even need her license when she pulled up directly behind me; the agent just looked at the computer, asked one question, and waved her through. At least there has been one small benefit from the Covid travel restrictions.

After clearing the border, we stopped at a Tesla Supercharger in Port Huron, MI, a 10-minute drive from the border crossing, where we ate lunch in the RV as it charged up for 20 minutes. We then drove to Holly, MI, to the Holly Recreation Area, a lovely state park where we had stayed back in 2018 as well. We took a brief stroll around the campground before dinner, then listed to the raindrops as we were inundated yet again overnight. At least the rain tapered off to a light drizzle by morning.

Our site at the Holly Recreation Srea

Sep 25 (Saturday): On Saturday morning, we left the campground in the continuing drizzle and headed north to the Tiki RV Park in St. Ignace, MI. We had booked a two-night stay at this park due to its proximity to the Mackinac Island ferry terminals – we planned to ride over with our bikes on Sunday morning and spend the day exploring the island. When we arrived at the RV Park, however, it didn’t exactly fit with our preconceived notions. The office was closed early, but we did find paperwork in a waterproof box confirming our reservation, including the first night’s deposit and a request that we return in the morning to pay for the second night. We then followed the instructions to drive along a rutted, very bumpy dirt road to our campsite, passing dozens of occupied sites along the way, many of which had one or more 4-wheel ATVs parked alongside the RVs. Once we were settled in, surrounded by an almost continuous roar of ATV engines coming and going past our site, I eagerly took the bikes off the rack and plugged them in, to assure we would have a full charge for our day at Mackinac. Then I sat down to study the ferry schedules and discovered to my chagrin that Mackinac Island bans electric bikes! So much for our great plan. Oh well, we thought, we can still go over there and rent bikes on Sunday. So, I set about re-stowing the bikes on the RV rack. No sooner had I finished tying the rain cover over the bikes when the skies opened and rain began to fall in torrents … yet again. As I grumped away in the RV, I noticed that the loud buzzing of ATVs had diminished somewhat but was now joined by the sounds of loud partying a couple of sites to our east. So poisoned have we become by the divisive atmosphere in our country since 2016 that my only thought was: “Here we sit, surrounded by rowdy yahoos spoiling any enjoyment we might have hoped for. They’re all probably Trump supporters.” I’m not proud of such prejudicial musing, but that’s the way I felt.

Sep 26 (Sunday): By morning, we’d had enough. It was still overcast and drizzly, ATVs were still roaring around, and the promised Wi-Fi did not work at all. Having agreed it would be best for our mental health to just leave, we reserved a spot at a nearby state park that held greater promise. I went to the office to tell them our plans had changed, and they graciously agreed to waive the fee for another night. As we drove off, I realized I hadn’t taken a single picture in St. Ignace, not even of our RV site. I suppose that says it all. But we were soon out of the city and having a pleasant drive along a lovely, forested highway on the north side of Lake Michigan, and within an hour or so we had arrived at the Indian Lake State Park near Manistique, MI. We had a very nice site next to the lake for which the park is named, and the sky had even cleared up by the time we were settled in. We took a nice 2-mile walk along a trail that circled the campground, first along the lakeshore and then through the woods and next to a small creek.

Our site at Indian Lake State Park
View from our campsite
Hiking Trail at Indian Lake State Park
This mushroom reminded me of a game that I used to play …

As evening approached, I realized we would probably get to see a nice sunset, so went out to sit by the lake with my trusty camera. (It’s actually just my Samsung Galaxy smartphone, but that’s the modern world, right?) I was rewarded by this beautiful display put on by Mother Nature:

Sunset at Indian Lake

The pleasant day and restful night erased the frustrations of our stay in St. Ignace, to the point that I can’t really remember much about that lousy day. Wait, now which day was I talking about?

Sep 27- (Monday): On Monday morning, we headed off for our next stop, the Pioneer Trail Campground in Gladstone, MI, where we had a lovely site overlooking the Escanaba River.

Our Site at Pioneer Trail Campground

Once we were set up, it was time for another personal visit, this time with a longtime friend of Pat’s named Holly, who lives in the adjacent city of Escanaba, MI. (Does she spend her time “in da Moonlight,” you may ask? I’m going to have to watch that movie, assuming I can stomach some Jeff Daniels slapstick, to see if I recognize any of the locations.) Holly is a very talented artist and seamstress (to use an old-fashioned phrase), and about 5 years ago, Pat had promised to give her a sewing machine she no longer uses. So, we had been lugging that machine in the back of the Tesla, including a fairly large cabinet that rattled around with every bump and turn, for some 4,500 miles since departing from Grand Marais on August 24. As a result, the first thing I did when we pulled into Holly’s driveway was to wrestle that cabinet out of the car, and the three of us had to set up the machine in her basement before any serious visiting was allowed. Once that was done, we had a great time catching up on the years since we last met, and Holly fixed us a delicious dinner (including absolutely the best meatloaf I have ever had in my life). We also got to meet her dog and cat, who were probably glad to see us leave after several hours. As we drove off at dusk, it was eerily quiet in the Tesla, which brought smiles to our faces.

Three amigos in Escanaba (not in da Moonlight yet)

Sep 28- (Tuesday): The next morning, we drove to the Union Bay Campground in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, another place we had stayed during our Lake Superior circumnavigation back in 2018. Our site was right next to Lake Superior, only a short walk away on a stony path through the trees.

Our site at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Path to Lake Superior from our campsite
View of Lake Superior while relaxing

We were thrilled to have our third consecutive rain-free day, which we spent primarily relaxing by the shore. We retired early so we could get up and watch the sunrise in the morning, which was glorious.

Sunrise in the “back yard” at our Porcupine Mountain Wilderness campsite

Let’s see now, Manistique: sunset … Lake Superior: sunrise … I can hear Tevye singing in my head just to think of it: “Sunset, sunrise,” or something like that …

Sep 29-30 (Wednesday-Thursday): Our original plan for the next few days was to camp near Bayfield, WI, and take the ferry to Madeleine Island for some biking. However, we had not been able to find a single campground in the vicinity with vacancy during this time period. So, we decided to head back toward home a bit earlier than intended. Plan B ended up as a two-night stay at St. Croix State Park near Hinckley, MN. We learned that St. Croix (33,985 acres) is the largest state park in Minnesota, and it certainly felt big as we drove for about 5 miles from the entrance sign to the park office. We found the campground to be only about 30% occupied, and we had a large, partly shaded site. We took a short hike along a trail near the campground, then spent much of Wednesday afternoon sorting through everything in the RV and storing as much of it as possible in the Tesla. On Thursday morning, we went on a 5-mile ride along an excellent bike path that wound through a diverse landscape of forest and prairie land, passing by structures built by CCC workers in the 1930s.

Our site at St. Croix State Park
Bike Trail at St. Croix State Park
Chimney of the CCC Recreation Hall

After some more sorting and packing, I drove around the park on tree-lined, gravel roads to visit sites of interest, including the St. Croix boat landing, the Kettle River, and a very impressive, 100-ft tall fire tower built in 1937. I was surprised to see that the tower was open to the public, so I had to climb the 134 steps and enjoy a spectacular view from above the trees. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all was that we had two more days without rain, for the longest run of dry weather since we started the Escapade.

Typical forest road at St. Croix State Park
Kettle River Overlook at St. Croix State Park
St. Croix River channel near the boat landing
Fire tower built by CCC in 1937, with 134 steps to the top
View from the fire tower

Oct 1- (Friday): On Friday, we put the bike rack on the Tesla and stowed the bikes, jammed a few more items in the car, and headed off to Lake Region RVs in Ramsey, MN, the place where we bought the RV back in April of 2018. It was overcast as we packed up to go, and, fittingly, it started to rain cats and dogs during the drive. Mercifully, the rain stopped before we arrived, allowing us to deliver our beloved machine without getting soaked. But why were we delivering it to the dealer, anyway? I’ll explain all that in a future post.

So, we have successfully concluded Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade. Here’s a map of the journey, which amounted to a total of 4,880 miles during the five weeks and two days since departing the condo on August 25.

I hope you have enjoyed my little chronicle, and maybe you’ll enjoy reading about our future travels as well. Good day for now!

Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade – PART 3: O Canada!

This is the third installment of our Eastern Escapade, having concluded Part 2 on September 10 in a state of limbo (actually in the state of Maine, but what’s a little hyperbole among friends?) wondering if we would be allowed to cross the border into Canada. Based on the title of this episode, you’ve probably guessed the outcome, but feel free to read on anyway!

Sep 11-12 (Saturday-Sunday): We awoke Saturday morning and immediately opened our email apps hoping to find the results of the Covid tests we took at the local Walgreen’s on Thursday. We were delighted to see that we both had received notification of our negative results, meaning we still had 24 of the hours allowed by Canadian authorities to enter their beautiful country. Since we were only a half hour away from the border, we were in like Flynn. So, we packed up the RV and headed east. As we neared the border crossing located smack dab in the middle of Interstate Highway 95, it felt rather eerie. There we were, driving along in our RV and our Tesla on a 6-lane freeway, and were literally the only two vehicles on the road. When we reached the border crossing, there were three cars waiting in the automobile lane and none in the RV lane. We each presented our supporting documents, received some instructions about the requirements for visiting Canada, and were waved through within a few minutes. In short, the requirements for getting into Canada were: 1) be fully vaccinated for Covid-19, 2) show proof of a negative Covid molecular test within the previous 72 hours, 3) agree to wear a mask and social distance in all indoor public spaces, and 4) agree to quarantine for 2 weeks if either of us came down with symptoms after entering. Since we are not Republicans, these all seemed to be reasonable requests rather than existential threats to our personal freedom, so we each thanked our respective border agent and happily drove into the lovely countryside of New Brunswick. After about three hours of driving, we arrived at an RV park in Quebec called Camping le Rayon de Soleil, or (roughly translated) Campground of the Ray of Sunshine. The drive through the pretty countryside was very pleasant, though it was a bit disconcerting that all the road signs were in French only, so we often had no idea what they were telling us to do. C’est la vie, … when in Rome, … er France, … er New Brunswick, … er Quebec …

The campground was nice enough, but rather than rays of sunshine, we mostly encountered drops of rain. We stayed for two nights, and it rained fairly steadily for at least 80% of the time we were there. We did have a brief interlude of non-rain on Sunday morning, so we took the Tesla for a spin around the area and found a lovely little park with some spectacular views of the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River. There was also a nice hiking trail at the campground itself that wound along a small, adjacent creek. The only real disappointment was that the 50-amp circuit did not work for charging the Tesla, so we had to use the slow, 15-amp circuit on the side of the RV. Nevertheless, we had enough time to charge it up for the next leg of the trip.

Our site at Camping le Rayon de Soleil
South shore of St. Lawrence River at Riviere-des-Caps, Quebec
Looking westward from Riviere-des-Caps
Another view from Riviere-des-Caps — here comes the rain again!
Hiking Trail at Camping le Rayon de Soleil

Sep 13-15 (Monday-Wednesday): On Monday morning, we left the Campground of the Drops of Water and drove a couple of hours southwest along the St. Lawrence to Camping Juneau, a large RV park in a southwest suburban area near Quebec City. The friendly man at the camp office gave me a nice map and explained how to go into the city, which we did on Tuesday, an easy half-hour drive along a good freeway that led directly into the city proper. We spent a wonderful, sunny afternoon in the old city, or Vieux Quebec, walking around on the old 18th century walls and the modern walkways, admiring the beautiful buildings, stunning views of the St. Lawrence, and a lovely fountain by the Parliament building. We enjoyed a nice lunch at Bistro 1640, a nice café with outdoor seating, where we needed to show our vaccine cards and wear masks to gain entry. The only sour note was a small but vocal crowd of anti-vax protesters near Parliament, who can be seen in the background of the last photo below. The good news was that the crowd was small and did not attract any attention from the vast majority of the Quebecoise, who were clearly taking the pandemic seriously while getting on with their lives.

Our site at Camping Juneau
Walls of the Old City of Quebec
Walkway along the St. Lawrence, with the Old City Walls to the left
Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City
Armaments protecting Quebec from the formerly unfriendly Americans
Panorama view of the St. Lawrence River
Quebec Parliament Square and Fountain (and protesters)

By Tuesday evening, the sunshine was long gone and it was raining again, so we puttered around in the RV all of Wednesday morning. Luckily, the rain stopped by midafternoon, and we drove to the nearby Montmorency Falls Park, just east of Quebec City. At 272 feet, Montmorency Falls is more than 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. We spent a couple of hours walking around the park, riding a cable car from the upper parking area to the bottom of the falls, climbing 187 steps up a walkway for a nice view of the area, then down again, then up and down 44 steps again to get a photo of the cable cars, then back up in the cable car to admire the view from the top. (Full disclosure: I myself climbed up and down the stairs, but 187 steps only amounted to about a third of the way due to excessive huffing and puffing. Pat didn’t get winded at all, because she didn’t even try to climb the steps.)

Montmorency Falls
View from part way up the walkway
Cable cars at Montmorency Falls Park
View from the top of Montmorency Falls

After visiting Montmorency, we stopped at Buche Cuisine Quebecois, a nice restaurant in Vieux Quebec, for dinner. Pat had a delicious salmon meal while I enjoyed the national dish of Quebec – Pate Chinois – which is basically a local version of shepherd’s pie. The story goes that this meal was named Chinese Pie when developed as an economical way to feed the mostly Chinese workers building the railroads in the late 1800s, but soon became wildly popular throughout all of Quebec. I gave it two thumbs up, causing me to spill some on my shirt.

Post-prandial view from our parking spot at Place George V in Quebec City

Sep 16-20 (Thursday-Monday): We departed from Camping Juneau on Thursday morning and headed for the Montreal West KOA RV Park. We had decided to stay there for five days because it was somewhat near to both Montreal and Ottawa, and we figured we could travel relatively easily to either city for day trips without having to worry too much about moving the RV around. That decision was made before we learned about traffic in the Montreal area. By the time we waded through the sea of cars and trucks on the Montreal freeways, my poor knees were aching and my head was spinning. The total trip was supposed to take just over three hours. The first 80% or so was smooth enough and took about 2 hours, but then we hit the beginning of the Montreal traffic and it was stop and go for another hour or more for the next 10% due to an accident somewhere in the vicinity – at least that’s what I think the French language traffic alerts were telling me. The final 10% was better, taking about a half hour to get to the KOA. The campground itself was nice and fairly sparsely occupied. There was a short “nature trail” that made for a nice evening walk, and good restroom and shower facilities suitable for a long stay.

Our site at the Montreal West KOA

On Friday we made our first foray into Montreal and discovered that the traffic back into town was just as miserable as the traffic coming out of town had been on Thursday. We eventually made it into the Old Port, or Vieux-Port, where we walked around for several hours. This part of Montreal was pedestrian-friendly, a welcome relief from the stifling traffic on the way there. We had a nice lunch at a café called the Vieux-Port Steakhouse, which again required proof of vaccination and masks for entry. We visited a wonderful square across from the Notre Dame Basilica, where two statues outside the Banque Nationale du Canada featured a pair of whimsical statues: a haughty man carrying an English Pug at one corner and a fashionable woman with a French poodle at the other. The people are looking in opposite directions, but the dogs are focused longingly on each other. We saw the remnants of a hospital founded by nuns in the 18th century alongside modern business establishments. We strolled through an amusement park, where we had an ice cream cone, before driving to Mount Royal Park where we found some lovely views of the St. Lawrence. Best of all, we once again had sunshine. Fully refreshed, we were able to handle the grueling traffic on our way back to the KOA.

Pedestrian-friendly Vieux-Port area of Montreal
Our lunch stop in Montreal
The Englishman and the Pug — who is looking at the French Poodle in the distance
Remnants of 18th century hospital
Amusement park in the Viedx-Port

Saturday was somewhat rainy again, and we just didn’t have the gumption to face that awful traffic again. There was a decent laundry facility at the KOA, so we decided to make use of that instead. I had a little difficulty explaining to the French-speaking woman in the office why I needed so many quarters for the machines, belatedly realizing that $1.50 Canadian in a washing machine or dryer required only 2 quarters, plus a dollar coin, instead of all quarters like US machines. Duh.

On Sunday we opted for a trip to Ottawa. Even though it was twice as far away, the trip was much more enjoyable due to the lack of traffic and rural setting for most of the way. The traffic in Ottawa itself was also less congested, and we easily made our way to a parking ramp in the CF Rideau Center near Parliament Hill. The ramp conveniently had a Tesla Supercharger on its lowest floor, so we stopped for a 12-minute sip of electricity (just to have a comfortable margin for the return trip and to try out a Canadian Supercharger) before parking and heading off to explore Ottawa. We spent several hours there, walking around Parliament Hill with its impressive array of Government buildings, enjoying beautiful views of the Ottawa River, enjoying lunch at an outdoor café, and exploring the upper locks of the Rideau Canal, a 126-mile canal to the St. Lawrence River opened in 1832. We watched a couple of small boats pass through the locks, and it was interesting to see the lock attendants manually opening and closing the water gates to let them pass through five or six drops down to the Ottawa River, a process that took about half an hour to go 500 yards or so. We concluded our Ottawa visit by strolling through the ByWard Market, where Pat bought some tea and we enjoyed watching a bevy of dogs attending some sort of pet event.

Canadian Senate, Ottawa
House of Commons, Ottawa
View of the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill
The Rideau Canal Locks

On Monday, we psyched ourselves up for another trip to Montreal, this time to visit the famous Botanical Gardens. We were pleasantly surprised to find the drive in much smoother, taking only an hour to make it the whole way. The Botanical Gardens were absolutely fantastic, with sections devoted to various habitats and cultures, including a very large exhibition greenhouse with various exotic plants, a First Nations garden, an Alpine garden, a Chinese Garden, a Japanese garden, an Aquatic garden, a Rose garden, and more. We spent four hours exploring the various gardens, with an outdoor lunch at the appropriately named Garden Restaurant to sustain us halfway along, and left totally satisfied.

The Exhibition Greenhouse at the Montreal Botanical Gardens
The Chinese Garden
The Japanese Garden
First Nations Garden
The Garden Restaurant
Alpine Garden
Aquatic Garden
A bit of relaxation

The drive back to the KOA took a little longer than the trip in, about an hour and a half, but it was nowhere near as bad as our previous trips through Montreal. We knew we were still in Francophone land, though, when we saw this sign for that well-known fried chicken restaurant, Poulet frit à la Kentucky:

Sep 21-22 (Tuesday-Wednesday): On Tuesday morning, we departed the KOA and drove to the Sandbanks Provincial Park just north of Lake Ontario. Our campground was near West Lake, which was formed when a huge sand bar, apparently the largest freshwater baymouth barrier sandbar in the world, worked its way across a bay of Lake Ontario, completely sealing off the bay and forming a contained lake. The park area consists of massive sand dunes and regions known as pannes, which are at times completely filled with water and completely dry at others (as they were during our visit). We had an excellent site, very remote from any other campers, with easy walking access to a multitude of hiking trails. We walked along the Dunes Trail on Tuesday afternoon and planned to do more hiking on Wednesday, but – you guessed it – it started raining shortly after our hike, coming down in sheets and buckets at times, and rained all Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. So, instead of hiking, we drove to the nearby town of Picton for groceries on Wednesday and hunkered down in the RV until it was time to move on.

Our site at Sandbanks Provincial Park
West Lake Beach at Sandbanks Provincial Park
Dunes Trail at Sandbanks
Dunes Trail at Sandbanks
Panne adjacent to the Dunes Trail
West Lake viewed from the Dunes Trail

Sep 23- (Thursday): On Thursday morning, we headed for my sister’s home in Dundas, Ontario. We drove through rain for about the first half of the journey, after which it finally cleared up in time to make our way through the massive multi-lane freeways in the greater Toronto area. At one point, my phone’s GPS gave up the ghost so I was following Pat in the Tesla. When she moved a lane to the right, I couldn’t immediately follow due to cars whizzing by in the right lane, and by the time I got over there she was completely out of sight and I was completely lost. It took me about five miles to find an accessible freeway off ramp, but I finally did, stopping to reset my Google maps app and reestablish the route to a Tesla Supercharger in Burlington, Ontario. When I got there, Pat was halfway through charging up the car. We ate lunch in the RV while the Tesla finished charging and then took off for Ellie’s place. She and her husband, Richard, are octogenarians in excellent health, and they did a fine job of feeding and entertaining us Thursday evening, as we caught up on each other’s lives and shared tales of each other’s escapades. We spent the night in our RV, parked in their driveway.

Our RV site in Ellie and Richard’s driveway
Our evening entertainment, with appropriate social distancing
Ellie and Richard’s “million dollar view” of the Dundas Valley

This stop essentially ended the Canadian portion of our Escapade, as our plans called for returning to the US in the morning. Here’s a map of the journey so far:

Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade through September 21, 2021

So, this epic post has finally come to an end. All is well. The Eastern Escapade will conclude in the next episode, so stay tuned …

Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade – PART 2: Awesome Acadia

As I sit down to write the second installment of our Eastern Escapade, Pat and I are holed up in the RV at the Houlton / Canadian Border KOA in Houlton, ME. She’s engrossed in one of her consulting projects, while I’m just uselessly twiddling my thumbs (or at least I was before I started writing.) The weather outside is miserable, with a steady rain that has persisted for more than 24 hours with nary a break, punctuated by extended periods of drenching downpours – apparently due to the presence of Hurricane Larry in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Our journey has ground to a halt as we wait. What are we waiting for, and what have we been up to until now? Read on, and all will be revealed.

Sep 5-7 (Sunday-Tuesday): On Sunday we departed from the Forest Ridge Campground in Ellsworth, ME, for our much-anticipated visit to the Acadia National Park. Before describing Acadia, I need to clarify something I wrote in Part 1 of this narrative. When we started looking into possible dates for this trip back in July, we were thinking of going in late September or early October, but we quickly learned that the demand for RV camping spots at Acadia is very high. They take reservations up to 2 months in advance (not 6 months), but were nearly fully booked for that entire window. While a few sites were open for a day or two, we could find only one site available for as much as three days and decided to reserve that one before it, too, was gone. We would have loved to stay longer, but there was simply nothing available.

In short, Acadia is AWESOME. We had a fantastic RV site at the Schoodic Woods Campground, located in a newer portion of the Park on the Schoodic Peninsula, across Frenchmen Bay from the main part of the Park located on Mount Desert Island. Here’s a rather poor photo of the park map indicating the various roads and trails we drove, biked, and hiked on during our stay.

Map of Acadia national Park

The Schoodic Woods Campground is a recent addition to the Acadia National Park, opening in 2015. As such, it is the only campground in the park that offers electric sites for RVs. The main part of the park on Mount Desert Island was designated as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1913 and was soon upgraded to a National Park in 1916. The contrast between the two parts could not have been more stark. While both offer stunning views and ample opportunities for hiking and biking, the main park was teeming with people; most parking lots were overflowing, and the hiking trails were jammed with park visitors. The nearby town of Bar Harbor has lots of hotels and motels for visitors who don’t want to camp. We made a brief pass through the town for a grocery stop and the traffic was unnerving. Over on Schoodic, on the other hand, we encountered very few people, and the RV sites were so widely spaced we were barely aware of any other campers, even though the campground was filled to capacity. Any readers care to guess which part Mr. Introverted Finnlander preferred?

Our RV site at Schoodic Woods Campground

Shortly after arriving on Sunday, we headed off on our bikes to Schoodic Point, the southernmost tip of the peninsula. There we found a fascinating rock outcropping that reminded us a great deal of our beloved Lake Superior North Shore, although the colors of the rocks were generally much lighter. The bike route was a combination of wide, gravel trails and the park road itself. The gravel trails were not very well packed and felt quite treacherous when winding down steep hills, but the two-lane, one-way road was excellent for biking since cars could easily pass in the left lane without bothering the bikers. The complete biking round-trip was just over 10 miles, and it felt good to be riding again after the long drive from Minnesota (although my knees didn’t feel so grateful that evening.)

Biking along the Schoodic Loop Road
Schoodic Point
Rock formations at Schoodic Point

On Monday, we drove from Schoodic Woods to the main park sector, where we had reserved a 10 AM time slot to drive up to Cadillac Mountain. Even though all we were doing was going from one part of the park to the other, the drive was 42 miles around the bays and took well over an hour. We had reserved this time way back in July, and the NPS does not allow one to make a second reservation on the same day, so there was no opportunity to change the time – we just had to go. The reason I’m lamenting this inflexibility is that Monday morning came with pea-soup fog and intermittent drizzle. As I drove the Tesla up the winding road to Cadillac Mountain, there were places I could not see ahead more than 100 feet. So, when we got to the top, the expected spectacular views of the ocean and surroundings were, well, not exactly spectacular. All we could do was adopt a Zen-like attitude and imagine what we were missing. At least there were some nice signs with pictures of what we could have seen on a clear day.

A brief break in the weather
What a view!!
Here’s what we might have seen …

Despite the weather, we did enjoy some nice hiking on the trails at the top of the mountain. The rock formations and vegetation were particularly interesting. Cadillac Mountain granite has a pinkish tint, and prolific lichen growth gives it a unique appearance. And, at the end of our visit, I did get a cool T-shirt at the gift shop.

Cadillac Mountain Granite
Memento of Cadillac Mountain

After Cadillac Mountain, we drove around the perimeter road, stopping occasionally to admire the coastal views, and eventually made our way to a beautiful inland lake called Jordan Pond. We had another nice hike there, followed by a late outdoor lunch at a very good restaurant where we enjoyed enormous popovers, seafood chowder, and lobster stew.

Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park
Jordan Pond outflow
Jordan Pond trail
Outdoor Seating at the restaurant

As the afternoon wore on, and especially as we drove back toward our camp site, it was only to be expected that the sky cleared, leaving us sadly wishing we had scheduled Cadillac Mountain for the afternoon instead of the morning. C’est la vie!

On Tuesday morning, I took a quick bike ride to Frazer Point and back and then stowed the bikes on the RV’s bike rack once again. I then drove to the nearby town of Winter Harbor for an excellent takeout lunch from a place called Chase’s Restaurant (lobster roll for Pat, and something called a lobster BLT for me). Once properly fueled, we took a hike along the Lower Harbor Trail, just across the main access road from the campground. This was a great trail that passed through the woods and alongside the waters of Winter Harbor to the east of Schoodic Peninsula. However, in contrast to the easy, open trails we took at the Jordan Pond on Monday, this one was rough and rugged, with lots of small hills and many sections that were strewn with roots and rocks. The return leg of the hike followed the wide, gravel paths I mentioned above, but my knees were not in any way happy when we got back. While it was only a little over 5 miles, it felt like 25 to me. It’s no fun getting old, dear readers.

View from Frazer Point
Lower Harbor Trail at Acadia National Park Schoodic District
View from Lower Harbor Trail
Now that’s a trail!!

Once we had recovered from the hike, we took to the car again and drove to Schoodic point, where we enjoyed a lovely sunset, our last memory of a wonderful stay at Acadia.

Sunset at Schoodic Point

Sep 8-10 (Wednesday-Friday): On Wednesday morning, we sadly departed Acadia, wishing we could have stayed several more days. Oh, well, we’ll just have to come back again someday. We proceeded to a KOA located in Houlton, ME, where we had scheduled Covid-19 tests at the local Walgreen’s for Thursday morning. Why do we need Covid tests, you may ask? Because we would like to go to Canada next, and in order to do so we need to show proof of vaccinations as well as a recent negative test. The test must be a molecular test (PCR or NAT or similar), not a rapid test such as one typically gets at Walgreen’s or CVS, and it must be done no more than 72 hours before crossing the border. Since it takes 48 or more of those hours to get the results, this poses a bit of a logistics problem. We spent a fair amount of time back at Acadia trying to find a test site and eventually determined that the regional hospital in Houlton would do the tests for us. But by the time I called them on Saturday, no one was available to schedule anything and I was told to call back Tuesday (after the Labor Day holiday). And then when I called on Tuesday, I was told we needed a referral from a doctor to get the test. So, no joy there. By then, we had booked the site at the Houlton KOA, so we were in a real dilemma. Pat eventually discovered that Walgreen’s now offers PCR tests as well as the rapid tests, so we were able to schedule those for Thursday morning. Thus feeling guardedly optimistic, we drove to Houlton.

Our RV Site at Houlton / Canadian Border KOA

During the night, it began to rain. In fact, it poured buckets before easing at dawn. But, as we drove to Walgreen’s Thursday morning, it began to rain again. The testing was quick and easy, only taking 10 minutes for both of us, after which we returned through the rain to the KOA, where we still sit this Friday morning, patiently waiting for our test results. Wait a minute, is that the sun I see? We seem to have a respite from the rain. How long will it last? And will we get our test results in time to enter Canada? I’ll let you know in the next installment.

One final note: Several readers have expressed dismay about the fact that I haven’t done any golfing. (Apparently my links exploits in past blog posts have been appreciated more than I would have thought.) Just to put your minds at ease, I wanted to mention that I did go golfing last Monday. I played 18 holes on a nice course with lush, green fairways and a spirited creek running through it. I had a good round, with 3 birdies, 7 pars, 6 bogeys, and 2 lousy double bogeys for an overall, fairly impressive, 7 over par. And Pat played well, too, with 14 over. Wait … what? Pat played golf, you gasp! Why yes, I had 42 and she had 49. Oh, did I mention that it was a pretty short course?

Brandishing my golf club
Strolling down the lush, green fairway
Consorting with the course proprietor

But seriously, though my clubs are back in the garage at the Cabin, I’m doing fine with no golf on this trip, so don’t look for any golf stories going forward. That’s our story of the Escapade so far. Here’s a map of the trip to this point:

All is well. Stay tuned as the Eastern Escapade continues.

Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade – PART 1

Dear readers: It’s time for another in our series of travel blogs. As some may remember, I’ve documented two winter trips to the southwestern US through multiple blog posts, each covering roughly a two-week period. The blog posts were great fun for me and also provided records of the trips for posterity. As with most things Saari, having done this a couple of times means that it now must be done every time we go travelling. Doing something twice makes it an absolute requirement for all future Saari activities of a similar nature.

This time, we will be travelling to the Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine, which is something we had wanted to do back in 2019 but put off due to an annoying medical issue. When we started looking into possible dates for the trip back in July, we were thinking of going in late September or early October. We quickly learned that the demand for RV camping spots at Acadia is very high. They take reservations up to 6 months in advance, but were nearly fully booked for that entire window. We did find one site available from September 5th through 8th and decided to reserve it before it, too, was gone.

So here we go with our next big RV trip: Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade!

August 25 (Wednesday): I played the last match of the 2021 Senior Golf League at Gunflint Hills in Grand Marais on Tuesday and then immediately took off to join Pat at our condo in Minneapolis (she had already gone down a few days earlier). We spent an hour on Wednesday morning loading up the Tesla with stuff for the trip, which wouldn’t have been that big a deal except that the elevator in the condo had died, thus requiring half a dozen trips up and down the five flights of stairs between the condo and the parking garage. Totally soaked with sweat and feeling very much like a rickety 71-year-old, I was almost ready to cancel the trip before we even started. But I couldn’t bear to disappoint my lovely bride, so I screwed up my courage and soldiered on. I did make her drive the Tesla, which was overflowing with stuff and carrying our bikes on the bike rack, to Lakeville, where we grabbed the RV from the Airlake Self Storage facility and headed to Whitewater State Park in Altura, MN, for our first night’s stay. The park was not very full, and we did some exploring on our bikes before transferring the rack to the RV and stowing away the stuff we had brought along for the trip. We charged up the Tesla overnight at our campsite (the RV uses a 30 amp outlet, leaving the 50 amp outlet available for charging at those campsites that include one) so we were ready to head off again in the morning.

Our Site at Whitewater State Park
RV and Tesla connections
Whitewater River (seems pretty low due to lack of rain)

Aug 26 (Thursday): On Thursday morning, we took off for the Mill Bluff State Park in Wisconsin. As always, I drove the RV and Pat drove the Tesla. The park was sparsely occupied, with no other campers in our vicinity, perhaps because it’s a no-frills campground, with pit toilets and no showers, and only 30 amp and 15 amp outlets. The 15 amp outlet can only charge the Tesla at a rate of 5 miles per hour of charging, so we plugged it in right away and left it on all afternoon and all night to add enough miles for the next day’s travel.

Our site at Mill Bluff State Park
The beach at Mill Bluff State Park

Aug 27 (Friday): On Friday morning, we left Mill Bluff and headed for the SS Badger Ferry terminal in Manitowoc, WI. It had been sprinkling on and off since Thursday afternoon, and the rain intensified to a steady drizzle as we drove eastward. Before boarding the ferry, we stopped at a small lakeside park in Manitowoc for lunch in the RV, at which time a downpour ensued. It continued to rain as we drove to the terminal and left the RV and the Tesla in designated parking spots for the crew to load on the ferry. By the time we had boarded, we were quite wet, and the rain persisted (though more lightly) for almost the entire 4-hour trip across Lake Michigan. Thankfully, it stopped before we arrived at the Ludington terminal in Michigan and held off as we drove 6 miles to the Ludington State Park. We managed to find our campsite and get settled in, though it was dark by the time I had plugged in the RV and the Tesla (again only a 15 amp outlet was available). We could tell that our site was quite nice, though it was hard to fully appreciate it in the dark. And then it began to pour again, coming down in buckets for several hours, during which time the 15 amp circuit breaker tripped. As a result, we only managed to add 20 miles to the Tesla, clearly not enough to get to our next stop. This was the first time we had any problem charging the car at a campsite, but it proved to be only a minor glitch in our plans.

The Tesla being unloaded from the SS Badger
Our site at Ludington State Park

Aug 28 (Saturday): In the morning, we drove to a Tesla Supercharger located about 10 miles from the Ludington State Park, charging up the Tesla at a high-speed, high-voltage DC charger in about a half hour before heading off for the Groveland Oaks County Park in Holly, MI. We encountered only intermittent sprinkles along the way, but the park roads had some very large puddles from the previous night’s downpour. The park was very spacious, with large sites, and our neighbors were having a family outing with about five tentfuls of exuberant campers. It was so hot that we ran the RV air conditioner for the first time in ages, and that drowned out the noise. Meanwhile, the Tesla was happily charging at 30 miles per hour from the 50 amp circuit, and we were ready to go again in the morning.

Our site at Groveland Oaks County Park

Aug 29 (Sunday): We took off in the morning for the Geneva State Park in Geneva, OH. Though the Tesla had enough charge to get there, we stopped along the way at another Supercharger in Sheffield, OH, to top up because our site at Geneva again only offered a 15 amp circuit for the car. The Geneva park was located next to Lake Erie, and I took a nice walk to a place on the shore where a funky looking creek entered the big lake. We got a good night’s sleep while charging the car with the slow circuit and were once again ready to go in the morning.

Our Site at Geneva State Park
Lake Erie beach at Geneva State Park

Aug 30 (Monday): We left in the morning for the Darien Lakes State Park in Darien Center, NY. This was an out-of-the-way park established on former dairy farm back in the 1960s. We again had only a 15 amp circuit available, but I was rather annoyed when I realized that the campsite right next to ours had a 50 amp circuit – I had not understood the legend of the on-line map when I made the reservation for this site. At any rate, we charged the car with the slow outlet and were ready to go in the morning.

Our site at Darien Lakes State Park

Aug 31 (Tuesday): On Tuesday morning we departed for the Villages RV Park at Turning Stone in Verona, NY. Due to my faulty reservation skills at Darien Lakes, we once again stopped at a Supercharger, this time in Victor, NY, to make sure we had enough juice. (Hopefully, this is the last time we’ll need to do that at least until we leave Acadia.) The RV Park is operated by a local casino and was quite nice, with a scenic pond winding among the RV sites. It also had the best showers we’ve seen so far on the trip. Our site even had cable TV so Pat could watch the US Open Tennis. We handily charged up the Tesla with the 50 amp outlet and once again were ready to go in the morning.

Our site at Villages RV Park at Turning Stone
Villages RV Park at Turning Stone

Sep 1 (Wednesday): On Wednesday morning, we drove to the Kampfires RV Campground in Dummerston, VT. This turned out to be a relatively small campground nestled among towering pine trees, but it had a nice laundry which we (the Royal we, that is) used to wash a week’s worth of stinky clothes. It also had cable for Pat’s tennis and a 50 amp circuit for car charging. Big surprise, we got more rain, and in the morning the vehicles were covered in pine needles, necessitating a bit of cleanup.

Our site at Kampfires Campground

Sep 2 (Thursday): Next, we drove to the Wassamki Springs Campground in Scarborough, ME. This turned out to be an enormous place with hundreds of RV sites located around a man-made lake. It was a bit incongruous, in that the roads were very crummy – rutted and dotted with puddles – yet there were dozens of very fancy, permanent RV sites with all sorts of decorations and attached buildings. More cable TV for Pat, a 50 amp circuit for the Tesla, and even a store for me to buy some unneeded but delicious chips. Pretty nice!

Our site at Wassamki Springs RV Park
Wassamki Springs RV Park

Sep 3 (Thursday): Next up was the Pumpkin Patch RV Resort in Hermon, ME. We had originally planned to spend two nights there, since it is close to Acadia and we thought it would be good to rest up a bit after our mad dash across half the country. However, they were so busy with the Labor Day weekend coming that they could only offer us one night. Oh well, what’s one more one-night stand at this point? Our site was in a grassy area at the very back of the property, probably used for short term reservations. But that left us very close to the restroom, so we had no complaints. No cable here, and the wi-fi was off more than it was on, but all in all it was OK. Since it was such a short drive from Wassamki Springs, we didn’t need to do any car charging.

Our site at Pumpkin Patch RV Resort

Sep 4 (Friday): On Friday morning, we drove to the Forest Ridge Campground in Ellsworth, ME, for our final night prior to reaching Acadia. Again, no cable TV, but the wi-fi is excellent, which prompted me to write up this blog post. We also got to listen to a nice concert by a local pop/rock band that played 60s and 70s hits. We went into the town of Ellsworth to have an excellent dinner at the Union River Lobster Pot – Pat had lobster pie and I had clam chowder and crab cakes, both accompanied by a Maine wine called Buoy. Now we’re back at the campground. A bit of a top-up for the Tesla and we’ll be ready to go in the morning.

Our site at Forest Ridge Campground
Waiting for a table at Union River Lobster Pot

So that’s the story so far. Here’s a map of the Escapade to this point:

All is well. Stay tuned as the Eastern Escapade continues.

The Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn – Summary

As some of you know, I’ve been writing a travel blog of sorts over the past six months, documenting a wonderful trip that Pat and I took with our Leisure Travel Vans Unity RV and, for the last half or so, our new Tesla Model Y that we bought in Las Vegas. We were at first hesitant to go on this trip due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we took care to wear our masks and maintain social distance in public places, and we always felt safe in the private bubble of our RV. In retrospect, we are very glad we made the trip, and the Covid cautions did not diminish our enjoyment to any significant degree.

All in all, we put 5,600 miles on the RV (starting from Grand Marais, MN, on October 13 and ending in Lakeville, MN, on April 17) and 5,400 miles on the new Tesla (starting in Las Vegas on January 14 and ending in Minneapolis on April 17). We stayed at 18 state and regional parks in Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma – of those, I rate the Arizona parks the best in terms of overall quality, although Palo Duro Canyon in Texas was the most spectacular. We stayed at 10 private RV resorts and campgrounds, all of which were quite nice, but many of which made us feel somewhat claustrophobic due to the closer quarters (as compared with the state and regional parks). We visited 3 National Parks, a National Monument, a National Recreation Area, and a National Conservation Area (again making excellent use of my Lifetime Senior Pass) as well as a National Wildlife Sanctuary and a National Wildlife Refuge.

Here is a map of the complete trip, noting all the places where we stayed with the RV and a couple of the other places we visited with just the Tesla.

Map of the Saaris’ (Sorta) Safe Sojourn

It’s pretty hard to see the details in Arizona and Nevada, but maps in the individual posts make things clearer for those portions of the trip. Here’s a list of the ten Parts of the Sojourn story, listing the places identified on the map that I described in each post:

  • Part 1: The Cabin (1), Baker Park Reserve (2), Blue Mounds State Park (3), Louisville State Recreation Area (4), Webster State Park (5), John Martin Reservoir State Park (6), Questa Lodge and RV Resort (7)
  • Part 2 – Winterlude: Mountain Meadows RV Park (7), also including White Sands National Park, Wolf RV Park (9)
  • Part 3 – Sunny and Warm: Wolf RV Park (9), Kartchner Caverns State Park (10), Rincon Country West RV Resort (11)
  • Part 4 – Tarrying in Tucson: Rincon Country West RV Resort (11), also including Saguaro National Park
  • Part 5 – On the Road Again: Catalina State Park (12), White Tank Mountain Regional Park (13), Lake Havasu State Park (14), Pirate’s Den RV Resort (15), Lake Mead National Recreation Area (16), Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort (17)
  • Part 6 – Vacillating in Vegas: Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort (17), also including Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area)
  • Part 7 – Mellower at Lake Mead: Lake Mead National Recreation Area (16), Valley of Fire State Park (18)
  • Part 8 – Ambling Back to Arizona: Nevada Treasure RV Resort (19), Death Valley National Park (20), Cal-Nev-Ari (21), Tradewinds RV Park (22), Point of Rocks RV Campground (23), Dead Horse Ranch State Park (24), Leaf Verde RV Resort (25)
  • Part 9 – Easing Eastward: Leaf Verde RV Resort (25), Ajo Heights RV Park (26), Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (27), Picacho Peak State Park (28), Patagonia Lake State Park (29), Rockhound State Park (30), Boot Hill RV Resort (31)
  • Part 10 – Heading Home: Santa Rosa Lake State Park (32), Palo Duro Canyon State Park (33), Boiling Springs State Park (34), Salt Plains State Park (35), El Dorado State Park (36), Worlds of Fun Village (37), Griff’s Valley View RV Resort (38), Airlake Self Storage (39)

Feel free to click on the links above if you want to read more about these places.

Thanks to those readers who followed us along the way, and I hope you enjoyed the journey! Stay tuned to the blog, as I plan to write about additional travels that we will (hopefully) be taking in the future.