I know people expect me to write about food. But this is related – because everything is. Honestly. This is a tale of how a jam-packed day starting with my son’s college graduation in one town was supposed to end with me hosting my youngest daughter’s pre-prom party at our home 150 miles away, and how I missed my own party.
It’s also about my new and wonderful all-electric car, Tesla’s Model S. And my first “I knew-it-was-coming” moments of being an early adopter. You know what I’m talking about.
The day before starting out promising. We opted to take the Tesla to Merced, a cow-poke town in central California where the newest University of California, in its 8th year of operation, resides. We could have driven our old Ford F-150, but that would have burned up 25 gallons of gasoline for the roundtrip. My Tesla gets about 220 miles to a full charge, which meant that we would make it down there with no problem. And I had worked it out with the hotel: they had a place where we could charge overnight. Other than than, Merced is still stuck in the ’90’s, with only one official charging station, at the local Nissan dealership where they are trying to get their own electric vehicle, the Leaf, off the ground.
It was close to 10 pm by the time we finished our Friday and got down to Merced. As it turned out, the 220-volt outlet I was going to plug into at the hotel was on the other side of an exterior wall and the 20-foot cable wouldn’t reach. The hotel manager was kind enough to hook me up with their sister hotel, a block away, where I drove to plug in. The only problem was that when I got there in the morning to get the car, the cord had been partially unplugged. Not intentional, but someone had inadvertently knocked it loose so it never charged. This left me with just 40 miles range left on the car.
As we sat through the commencement ceremony under the hot Merced sun watching my son graduate, I had at the back of my mind the aching worry of how we were going to get back to the Bay Area by 5 pm when the dolled-up girls and debonair young men would show up at my house for the pre-prom party. This is one of those rare instances I was thankful that I had an ex (my son’s father) and was on amicable terms with him, because I was able to send my daughters (from my marriage to my current husband) back to the Bay Area with him and his girlfriend. So at least my daughter would be home in time for her prom and pre-prom party. Next, as soon as the ceremony was over, I called the local Nissan dealership and explained my predicament. I wasn’t sure how they would be about charging their competitor’s vehicle, but they came through – they were more than willing to help out, proving that those at the forefront of such important technology are willing to support and help each other.
My daughters headed home with my ex, and my husband and I spent the afternoon with my son as the Tesla charged at Nissan. We took in a matinee, Iron Man 3 in 3D. Then we had a triple iced soy mocha with an extra shot of espresso at Starbucks and read the Wall Street Journal. We tried to get a few words of conversation out of my son, who is off to Japan in a few weeks to play professional basketball. (He graduated with a degree in engineering, but I think he really majored in basketball.) And then after killing about 4 hours, we wandered back to the dealership.
The car showed it had drunk up 142 miles of juice. According to google maps, our house was about 143 miles. My husband, a “good enough” type of guy, decided that was, well, good enough. I nervously got into the car. “How about if we take the long route through Gilroy? Tesla has a supercharging station there, and we can recharge in 15 minutes,” I suggested. He shrugged, and headed north, not in the direction of Gilroy.
“I know it’s hot, but we shouldn’t use the A/C,” he reminded me. I opened my window. “That’s going to create drag, so you should close your window,” he said. He turned up his Slacker radio (which he loves) and tuned me out. The last thing he wanted was my nervous energy.
It was around Livermore when he finally admitted that we weren’t going to make it back home. He asked me to start looking for charging stations. The car comes with a computer, so I started checking and found a couple in Oakland’s Jack London Square. We figured we could grab a bite during a hour of charging, enough to get us home. But that turned out not to be as fortuitous. One of the stations was already occupied by another EV. The other one had mysteriously disappeared, although comments by users as recent as April 13 (yes, of 2013) seemed to indicate that it was in existence and functioning. By that point, the car had 6 miles left. The little battery icon was in the red. It was 8:30, and many of the charging stations were closed.
IKEA in Emeryville was open until 9, and had multiple stations, according to recargo.com. It was 5 miles away.
We didn’t speak to each other as we cautiously got back onto the freeway. He didn’t even speed. As we drove into the Ikea parking garage, we had 1 mile left to spare.
We wandered over to Pasta Pomodoro and had an uneventful dinner. We spent the hour looking at our phones, not at each other. Then we perused some titles at Barnes and Noble. When we got back to the car, it had enough juice to get us home. It was 11 pm when we finally pulled into our driveway.
It’s clear to you by now that I missed the party I was supposed to throw. I’ve thrown a lot of parties over the years, so I guess I can say that’s one for the record. My older daughter stepped in and helped pull the event together, and another high school rite-of-passage went without a hitch as the revelers boarded the party bus to San Francisco. And even though I was exhausted, I stayed up until my daughter came home so I could just admire her in glittery dress (which, I’m proud to say, she bought for a song at a consignment store). She was thrilled to see me, and threw me a big hug.We had hired a friend to take photographs, so this morning I got to enjoy the evening’s glamour through the lens.
What’s the moral of this story? Not to get an electric car? No, actually just the opposite. Get one. Don’t wait. Be an early adopter. It’s the only way the infrastructure to support them will develop. And it will develop. Because we just can’t continue along the petroleum route, just as we can’t continue to deplete our oceans of sea life, or the planet of arable land for livestock production, or starve certain populations so others can eat. Whatever little steps we are capable of taking, be it going vegan one day a week, or shopping consignment stores, or recycling, or using public transportation, or getting an electric car, we need to do it. We can’t wait until it becomes convenient, or it’ll take too long. And by then, it’ll be too late.
And by gosh, what a big rush we all are in. Back in the day, you’d have to let the horses rest and eat every now and then before you could continue your journey. You probably wouldn’t schedule a graduation and a prom in different towns in one day, but that’s life in 2013. But maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s just a bit too crazy. Maybe an unplanned matinee, lingering over bad coffee at Starbucks, and checking Facebook a few too many times over a bland dinner will become a bit more common in my life to come over the next few years, but that’s okay with me. Maybe I just need to give my horses a break. And slow down a bit myself. Perhaps my Tesla will help me do that and I can start planning these rest stops, and actually enjoy them.
Just thinking about those necessary pit-stops just gives me a charge.