A good friend of mine uses the phrase “We’re out like a herd of turtles!” This time, I was no exception. Packing for this adventure took more time than I expected. I’m thankful that I recorded all of the things I’ve used for motorcycle trips in the past, at Motorcycle Packing List. That gave me a framework for all the things I might need on this trip.
Traveling by truck gives me the ability to bring way more than I needed but at least the actual packing part was significantly easier. No longer will I be constrained by 138 L of storage on the motorcycle, but rather a giant truck bed full of stuff, LOL. Surprisingly though, the packing list generally held true – still 20 years later. The problem was, I didn’t start packing until the day I was ready to leave. Randy and I both laughed: “It always takes longer than you think – especially on the day of departure.” This trip wasn’t a quick work trip where I go see a client and then come home.
I had ambitions of getting to Bend, Oregon, but the realities of a 1 PM departure made it clear that I wasn’t going to make it that far. My neighbor across the way dropped by mid-packing and we both laughed “As soon as I make that turn at the end of the street everything here will be behind me.” He couldn’t have been more right.
I was on the road. At some point, I was going to be in Canada with no idea of the adventures between here and there.
Driving an electric vehicle is very different from a gas vehicle. With gas vehicles, gas stations are everywhere. When the fuel gauge is reporting low, you simply fill up. With an electric vehicle charging stations aren’t nearly as common, have different standards, run at different speeds, may be broken, or there could be a widespread power outage… Also, range and electric vehicle changes based on speed, temperature, and elevation changes. I’ve done the drive to Lake Tahoe a few times and understand on the way there I need to stop somewhere between Sacramento and Auburn as climbing the Sierras takes a ton of energy. On the way back I don’t need to stop as the truck picks up excess energy from rolling down the hill.
With this trip, I don’t have any prior experience and that’s where the learning comes in. I have to understand (and trust) the tools inside of the truck and on my phone to make all of this work. Call it the early adopter tax.
I charged the truck to 70% overnight and then extended the charge to 90% in the morning. Why? Batteries in electric vehicles don’t like to set 100% charged. Hence, the two-step charging. I wanted the excess range to be added shortly before I was to use it. The drive out of the Bay Area was uneventful. Soon after I was on Interstate 505 towards Redding. Adventure and new routes had begun.
About two hours into the drive, I wanted to stop, use the restroom, and get something to drink. Out of habit, I stopped at the local Chevron station and instantly felt awkward parking next to a gas pump. I found some out-of-the-way space and parked there. The guys working at the station were friendly folks. With a bathroom strop behind me, a beverage in one hand and some snacks and the other, I was back on the road in short order. I try to patronize bathroom stops with a purchase.
After getting on the freeway, one of the overhead changeable message signs read: “Accident ahead in Corning. Interstate 5 closed.” Ohhhh F. These moments are where driving an electric vehicle gets more complicated. How far was the detour? Was I going to go into the mountains? How much range do I need? Will there be a place to get power? (No there won’t be a place to get power so let’s take that one off the table).
Being conservative, I stopped a few minutes later to top up in Willows at the local Walmart. The app on my phone quickly errored out, however the truck seemed to be charging. Maybe I’d get a free charge? Either way, it seemed to be working so I didn’t want to upset it.
I also had the sudden realization that I had power when camping. My 40-year-old body likes way more comfort than my 20-year-old body ever needed. I swung into Walmart to pick up an inflatable mattress and a camp chair. The bed of the truck has two 120 V 15 amp outlets that would run that motor just fine!
The drive from Willows to Anderson was fundamentally uninteresting. Interstate 5 is as straight as an arrow across California’s rich agricultural farmlands. The Anderson charging stop was in a strip mall near a Safeway, AutoZone, marijuana dispensary, and other random establishments. It didn’t have anything I needed that the Chevron station had for my last stop. What it did have was plenty of electricity.
I met an older couple in their late 60s from Santa Rosa who were on their way to Portland driving a Porsche Taycan. I chatted with them about how they got over their range anxiety. He simply said we keyed in the destination and followed the computer rolling into this charging station with 13 miles of range! I laughed and said I’m not that confident, yet. The Porsche is a beautiful car. It isn’t any more efficient than the Rivian, so we both knew and laughed that all of those electrons go to raw power behind the accelerator pedal.
Dinner unfortunately meant stopping again at a restaurant. This time it was the town’s Chipotle. A quick burrito bowl later, I was back on the road bound for Mount Shasta. I rolled into town with 120 miles of range and figured I’d charge in the morning – ignoring the ABCs of electric vehicles (always be charging). I wanted to find a campsite for the night and time was not on my side as it was already 7:30 PM. Highway 89 quickly turned into a steep downhill grade which was great for the moment but range anxiety instantly kicked in about the potential climb back out of this deep valley. There is no charging on the side of the hill. Fingers crossed.
I wanted to stay at Fowler’s campground as it was near Lower, Middle, and Upper McCloud Falls. These three waterfalls are near the top of my list for Northern California water features. Unfortunately, by the time I got there all the first-come, first-served campsites were gone. I took a few moments to go exploring the waterfalls. At this point in the evening, everybody went home other than a few guys fishing near the river.
I remembered a friend of mine in Truckee introduced me to freecampsites.net. That was my next option looking for a place to go camping. The Mount Shasta Ski Lodge parking lot was open for camping and seemed to get good reviews. Turning down the road towards the ski lodge got longer and longer the more I drove it. The range in the truck kept dropping. Every mile in meant another mile out. I decided to abandon ship and look for a motel after charging up.
I’m learning at Rivian chargers you meet good people. The other family charging their SUV was coming from San Diego off to see grandparents in Portland. Two parents with two kids on a road trip. I couldn’t have defined Americana summer any better. All of the family loved to talk about their Rivians. Yes, Rivians. The husband had the R1T and the wife drove an R1S affectionately known as Lois and Clark. I appreciate the newness and vibrancy of the Rivian community. Whether you bought a vehicle or purchased stock, it’s an investment in the company. An most of us are good people who share in that community.
My next-door neighbor – and more particularly his kid convinced me to sign up for the Rivian initial offering. His kid knows everything about the truck: features, performance metrics, release notes, and the like at seven years old. On this trip, I think I met his future wife tonight. This family’s daughter could not stop talking about their Rivians. At one point her mom leaned over and said “You can tell me at any time for her to stop talking.” I replied, “I’m charging, all I have is time.” And for the next 20 minutes, she told me everything she loved about the truck.
Lodging-wise, I struck out in Mount Shasta. I wasn’t willing to spend 315 a night for a Best Western nor did I want to stay in a bargain-basement motel for half that. I decided to try my luck once more and head up to Weed, California – home of Abner Weed and the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill.
I’m calling it quits at the Comfort Inn. It’s a brand I know that looks reasonably solid. Now if I can only remember my Choice Rewards login number, LOL