Trippin’ in EV – Part V

We always make it a point to visit Asheville Visitor Center whenever we pass by – it’s the quickest way to find out what’s happening around during our stay (and if you’re a first-timer, get some trinkets or other souvenirs ;)). Another good reason would be the convenient parking lot right behind – you can leave your car there and do some walking around historic downtown without stressing out about where to park.

If this is your first time in Asheville, I would highly recommend spending a day touring Biltmore Estate – once home to famous George Vanderbilt and his family, it is one of the largest private residences in United States. Other than the mansion itself, there are plenty of other attractions to chose from, you won’t be disappointed. I hear that the winery is pretty good, too :).

Day 6 – August 3rd, 2017

We have skipped Biltmore this time round and instead focused on checking out downtown. First, we visited Basilica of St Lawrence located just a few blocks away from the visitor center. Praised for its architecture and historic significance as a place of worship it is definitely worth stopping by.

 

After walking around town for a while we were getting hungry. We decided to give vegetarian food a try. It took us a while to figure out the menu, trying to find something that would sound remotely familiar to our taste buds. After a while we settled for these creative dishes:

 

It was definitely an experience, but I think we are not going to convert anytime soon. We are grateful though for filling up our hungry stomachs.

Our next endeavor took us to Chocolate Fetish – famous for hand-made confection of chocolate. If you have a sweet tooth (I bet you do!) you should definitely take a tour. If you are still unconvinced, they provide free samples along the way.

If you like arts & crafts, Kress Emporium should add to your satisfaction. A few other places worth checking out:

  • Asheville Bee Charmer – pure honey (literally)
  • Grove Arcade – for your shopping needs
  • Biltmore Village, featuring a unique McDonald’s restaurant – inside you will find a grand piano (you can hear it on occasions, too) and the meals are ordered and brought to your table – not something you are accustomed to when visiting fast food.

Our last stop before heading back to the hotel was the Asheville Pinball Museum. For a small fee you can revive those childhood memories to your heart’s content. Some of the restored machines are available for purchase, too!

This concludes day one of our stay. Time to get back and catch some rest. My only regret: I didn’t charge the car before calling it a day. More on it later, so read on.

Day 7 – August 4th, 2017

Our second day in Asheville was dedicated to visiting some other attractions around Blue Ridge Parkway. First, we would stop at Craggy Gardens (mile post 364).

Asheville-MtMitchellBlue Ridge Parkway between Asheville and Blowing Rock. Image courtesy of Google.

Continuing on the Parkway we would reach Little Switzerland. On top of the beautiful scenery it is also a nice place to stop and take home some of the local craft, or to enjoy home-made food while engaging in conversation with the shop owner.

 

Next, we drove towards Mount Mitchell – the highest elevation East of the Rockies (6683 with a short hike to the mountain top, 6578 where you park your car). All along the way we have enjoyed a breathtaking vista intertwined with some of the most brilliant human engineering to make the great journey possible. One should definitely spare a thought to the hardship of people who helped to build the Blue Ridge Parkway, so the future generations can enjoy the best that nature has to offer up close.

 

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Judging by our previous experience on the scenic road I felt confident that regenerative braking will compensate for any ascent that will lie ahead of us, so I have decided to skip a supercharger visit the preceding night. Leaving the parkway then, we had to stop at Canyons Historic Restaurant and Bar in Blowing Rock to charge the car (the restaurant has Tesla HPWC!). This was the first time I have seen the energy bar showing a different color than green:

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Too close for my comfort, for sure. We had spend about 1,5 hours there, waiting for the car’s trip planner to advise that we had enough energy to make it back safely to the hotel. Lesson learned!

I have also realized that Canyons is closing its doors to make room for another restaurant. While I haven’t had a chance to chat with the Canyons’ owner (Bart Conway), I’ve read and heard only great stuff about him. I, for one, should be thankful for him providing the Tesla charger (thank you sir)! Hopefully the next restaurant will continue the tradition of providing EV charging for its customers.

Returning to Asheville, we have stopped at the supercharger. Next day (Aug 5th) we were starting our journey back home. We were about to leave the car to check out the mall nearby when we were approached by two older gentlemen that were clearly intrigued by the stalls and a never-before-seen car plugged in. They have not heard much about supercharger, but they were clearly interested in technology and modern inventions. It made for a very pleasant conversation. In exchange for me educating them on Tesla and EVs they offered a number of useful tips for our stay around the area. Too bad we would be leaving the next day, but we can surely use some of that information on our next returning visit.

Number of miles traveled: 220
Number of other Teslas spotted along the way: 0

* * *

This is pretty much it for the inaugural road trip in our Tesla Model S. It would take us another 2 days to get back home. We followed pretty much the same route that brought us here, stopping at the following superchargers along the way:

  • Knoxville, TN
  • Brentwood, TN
  • Jackson, TN (we would explore the train museum and surrounding shops/galeries this time round)
  • Memphis, TN (where we would stay for the night)
  • Little Rock, AR
  • Texarkana, TX
  • Sulphur Springs, TX

Number of miles traveled on this trip (total): 2390
Number of other Teslas spotted along the way (total): 6 (1 at Knoxville and 2 at Memphis on the way back)

Counting the number of fellow Teslas along the way was more of a fun-fact gathering exercise than anything, but it provided an interesting bit of information about how rare these cars still are. Model 3 is about to change it pretty soon!

Needless to say, we had a fantastic experience in the amazing, technologically advanced piece of machinery that Tesla is. The superchargers along the way provided the necessary convenience to make our trip stress-free. As I write this final chapter we are within days of embarking our our next road trip. I will make sure to report on it as well, so stay tuned!

 

 

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Trippin’ in EV – Part IV

Day 5 – August 2nd, 2017

After relaxing for two days in Pigeon Forge it was time to get going, as we had quite a busy itinerary waiting for us. We left towards Gatlinburg again to enter Blue Ridge Parkway. If you haven’t experienced this road before I would highly recommend to add it to your “to do” list. Many call it the most scenic road in United States, if not the world. I am not going to dispute that claim, but it is definitely one of our favorite routes. We have covered the whole stretch (over 460 miles) over the years of road tripping, but it is always a good excuse to revisit part of it if our schedule brings us nearby. Such was the case on that day. Our final destination was Asheville in North Carolina. Rather than following the main route (I-40) we have chosen to travel about 125 miles along the scenic route instead.

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Blue Ridge Parkway between Pigeon Forge TN and Asheville NC. Image courtesy of Google.

There’s only one piece of advice I can offer when it comes to the Blue Ridge Parkway: don’t rush. Enjoy the moment. The road was designed to travel at low speeds (45 mph maximum limit) in order to enjoy the breathtaking panorama. There are plenty of overlooks on the way, offering great vistas of the Smokey Mountains and the Appalachian region. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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The main point on our agenda was the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, NC. We have spent quite a few hours walking along the exhibits of Cherokee’s rich heritage and culture and there was still more that we could explore. Over 13,000 years of history is presented in brilliant fashion, often accompanied by interactive display and real life scale objects and figures representing day-to-day life of this once great nation. The museum was voted one of the best among Native American ones and it fully deserves that vote. It’s a great education for the whole family, highly recommended.

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Few of the other noteworthy attractions along this stretch of the Parkway include:

In case you are wondering, there was absolutely no range anxiety along the whole journey. While there are some drastic elevation changes, you are mostly travelling at 35-45 mph. You will regain a substantial amount of energy from regenerative braking, too.

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If you are really concerned, there is a Destination Charger (8 kW) in Cherokee, just outside the visitor’s center.

After yet another fruitful day we finally arrive in Asheville. Quick check into our hotel and we concluded with a top up at Tesla Supercharger before going for dinner.

Number of miles traveled: 140
Number of other Teslas spotted along the way: 0

Trippin’ in EV – Part III

A few years ago we have visited Custer State Park in South Dakota to check out one of the largest herds of bison that is publicly-owned – truly majestic creatures. One has to respect their size and prowess, especially when when you come close enough. The park management has done an awesome job preserving the area, so the animals can feel at home and roam around freely. If you close your eyes for just a second you would feel as if transported back in time, where bison ruled the hills and grasslands. Except for one small detail – the roaring noise of bikers passing by (not to mention their polluting motors). I felt that these man-made machines don’t belong there, disturbing the peace and serenity of the preserve. Don’t get me wrong – I LIKE bikers, a lot. I get the sense of union and community, the freedom to experience some of the most beautiful roads and trails across the country on two wheels, the wind in the face. That noise though… it is… dated. Wouldn’t it be nice if one could enjoy all that, but without polluting?

Day 3 – August 1st, 2017

One of the most scenic routes that Smoky Mountains have to offer is the Roaring Fork Motor Natural Trail. The name comes from the stream that flows nearby – the Roaring Fork. It is truly a breathtaking experience to be surrounded by a pristine forest, but also to explore some of the history of the early settlers and loggers in the area.

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The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail loops around Gatlinburg, TN. Image courtesy of Google.

After settling in Pigeon Forge, we decided to make it our first escapade for the day. The weather was really nice (mid 50s in the morning, low 60s later during the day), a perfect opportunity to roll down the windows and open the sunroof – which we did. Since there’s no noise from the engine (we turned A/C off, too), we could truly immerse ourselves in the sound of the forest: the trees creaking, moved by the wind, the birds up on the branches, the stream trickling nearby… What a joy! That’s how nature should be experienced: quietly, without leaving any trace or polluting. Yet another benefit and advantage of EV!

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This wasn’t our first visit to Gatlinburg, but we always find something interesting or new to explore. Since we like quirky stuff, why not The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum?

There’s plenty to do in both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. It doesn’t matter if you are into mountain hiking or prefer Disney-like resort-style vacations. Both places have a lot to offer. It is worth mentioning that not too long before our visit Gatlinburg was devastated by a fire that took lives and destroyed forest and property. It is amazing though how quickly the town was being rebuilt. There was construction everywhere – either replacing a destroyed property or building a new one.

If you would like some tips on what to do when in the area, feel free to drop me a comment. For what it’s worth, there are a few places I’d recommend to anyone visiting the area. In no particular order, here are some of our favorites:

Number of miles traveled: 160
Number of other Teslas spotted along the way: 0

 

Trippin’ in EV – Part II

 

Day 2 (July 31st, 2017): Memphis, TN – Pigeon Forge, TN

Memphis-PigeonForgeMap is courtesy of Google and A Better Route Planner.

Knowing that there will be another long day of driving ahead of us, we have departed Memphis early. Our first “pit stop” was at Jackson, TN. We hadn’t researched much on this town before arriving, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover Casey Jones Village, featuring – among other things – a railway museum and a historic farm.

Jackson_TN

Our next stop was Loveless Cafe on the outskirts of Nashville, TN. Famous for its home-made biscuits and jams and serving a wide variety of homely food, it became a mandatory stop for us on our journeys East. I will freely admit that I am not a huge fan of corn biscuits, but the ones from Loveless Cafe are exceptional. One could just delight in those alone, always served hot and fresh from the oven. All you need is a spread of butter and some jam to go with it. Yummy!

While we were there, we’ve met a Tesla enthusiast family. I was happy answering all the questions they had and demonstrating features of the car. I haven’t even realized that my girls were almost done shopping for gifts and souvenirs at the store. Time passes by quickly when you talk to other people sharing your passion :).

Continuing on, we had to stop by Tesla Showroom-Service Center in Brentwood, TN and get a full charge, as there won’t be another chance to stop between there and Knoxville.

It should not really count, but thus far this was only the second encounter with another Tesla on the road.
IMG_2481A tricked out Model X P100D outside of Tesla Showroom. Loving this black and white combination!

After relaxing at Tesla’s lounge and enjoying free beverages (Thank you, Tesla!) we have resumed the trip towards Knoxville, TN – our last supercharging stop before the final destination. Yet another convenient location, right next to restaurants and shopping center. We didn’t have to spend much time here since Pigeon Forge was just 30 miles away. It was good to stretch the legs and get some supplies at Target before continuing on.

A side note: it is amazing how quickly Tesla’s supercharging network is expanding. Just a few months after our trip there were at least 2 new locations opened: Dickson and Cookeville. Both of them provide a convenient alternative and help to shorten the charging stops required when traveling along I-40 corridor.

We have concluded our day by reaching The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, TN. It would become our base for the next few days as we explore the area. Other than the quirky idea of experiencing Christmas in July (who wouldn’t enjoy cookies with milk or Santa’s presence!), the hotel also facilitated Tesla Destination Charger which gave us a piece of mind before embarking on our daily excursions. Additional surprise: there was a Model X with Florida plates already charging when we arrived.

Christmas_Inn

Number of miles traveled: 440
Number of other Teslas spotted along the way: 1 (not counting those at Tesla Service Center)

Trippin’ in EV

I can’t believe it has been almost a year since we’ve got Nikola. Over 22,000 miles on the odometer is a testimony to the fact that it is still as fun to drive as when I picked it up. While some of the details might be fading away, I clearly remember the excitement leading to making it happen. The research, the test drive, the approval from my better half and my daughter, the pros/cons debate… finally THE day:

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I asked one of my best friends to accompany me to the Tesla Service Center in Dallas, as he was always very supportive of my journey to Tesla ownership. I could not have it any other way, but to share the joy with him (he’s the one taking a quick photo of me trying to put a believable grin on my face, as at that moment I could not come to terms with the fact that it is really happening ;)). He also had an honor of driving it back – not without a fuss though, as he was insisting the honor should be mine. He reluctantly agreed on the notion that I will have plenty of time to enjoy the time behind the wheel after that. I digress though.

Our family has always enjoyed taking road trips. Some people might think that I am crazy when I say that I love to drive, but I really do. Maybe it is because of the fact that I have only gotten my driving license in my 30s (there was no sight of me ever getting a car when I was growing up, then there was no need for it when I moved to Asia), or maybe it is the breathtaking landscape that United States has to offer. Probably both. Our first trip was just few months after I’ve got my driving license – I was invited to a technical conference at Virginia Beach, VA. What a great excuse to drive there!

It should not come as a surprise then that the tradition continues with our model S. Just a week into ownership we have taken it on a maiden voyage to Waco, TX. It’s about 2 hours away from our home, so it gave us a good opportunity to try out the range anxiety (spoiler: there was none) while sweetening the deal with some great pastries on the way: first at the Czech Stop, then at Collin Street Bakery while testing the Supercharger.

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On the way back we had found out about one of the (many) benefits of owning an electric vehicle – when the weather is nice (such as early summer in Texas) there’s very little penalty for idling in a stop-and-go traffic. The car has hardly lost any range despite being stuck in the traffic for about 45 minutes. Emissions-free, I might add. A win-win.

We’ve been thinking for a while now about revisiting some of our favorite spots from the previous trips, particularly Tennessee and North Carolina. Encouraged by the Waco excursion it was a quick decision to take Tesla for a real road test. Destination: Asheville, NC!

Day 1 (July 30th, 2017): Denton, TX – Memphis, TN

Denton-MemphisMap is courtesy of Google and A Better Route Planner.

We have traveled this route quite a few times before, so we decided not to stop much between our home base and Memphis. The only stops would be dictated by the need to recharge the car. We knew that we will need some extra time for that, so we left way before dawn. The first stop would be in Sulphur Springs (TX) some 100 miles away.

Sulphur-Springs

It’s a small, but lovely town – one that we promised ourselves to come back and explore later (since it is relatively nearby). The management seems to be taking a great care of restoring its buildings and streets to its prime, but also to attract some tourists by keeping the schedule busy with events. The Tesla Supercharger is definitely a great addition, conveniently located just a walking distance from town square. We plugged the car in and went to explore the town center while waiting for it to be recharged. That mirror-covered structure proved to be very handy before continuing on our journey ;).

Since you can see clearly from inside out, I wonder how it works after dark, when the light turns on…

Next stop was Texarcana, TX. Since we were new to the supercharging game we decided to get some extra “juice” on top of what the on-board trip planner was suggesting. We better not take any chances, especially that early into our trip.
IMG_2457The Texarcana Supercharger is conveniently located along I-30, right next to some chain restaurants and a strip mall.

From Texarcana we headed to Little Rock, AR. The Tesla Supercharger is located next to outlet mall. While getting off a freeway we missed the intersection/road that leads to it, so we had to loop back, which cost us few extra miles. No big deal though, since we had plenty of range left. The outlet was still closed when we arrived, but we took some time to wander around. Again, we spent more time than we needed, just to make sure we can arrive with plenty of range left at our final destination.

Finally, we were off to Memphis, TN.

Memphis

It is a must for us to stop by and have a dinner at Gus’s Fried Chicken. I would highly recommend to anyone to give it a try. It does have a nice kick to it, so be warned 🙂

This concludes the first leg of our trip. We stayed in the city for the night. The supercharger was right behind the hotel where we lodged in. I went to charge the car in the evening, since we would be on our way bright and early next day.

Number of miles traveled: 470
Number of other Teslas spotted along the way: 0