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.