Well EV enthusiasts, I’ve talked you through chargers and charging apps and all you need for Pitney Bolt Roadtrip 2017. Now, as in our global climate crisis, it’s past the time for talk. Let’s get this show on the road! Erin and Amy here we come. Wallowa Lake or Bust!
We packed the car to leave at 5 am. The monitor screen gives tells us all we need to know. We’re charged to travel 270 miles—max 318 and minimum of 221. It says we average 3.9 miles per kilowatt hour of charge. The yellow charge icon on the right reads “1 kW.” This is how much power we are using as we drive. At 55 mph on the level it typically reads yellow and 15 kW. Climbing a mountain, it will register around 30 kW. Below, see the word “Regen” for “regenerate.” When we brake, a technology in the wheel “regenerates” power, so we often gain range in stop and go driving! The most fun is going downhill. The charge icon turns green and the number increases as we regenerate more and add to our range. For instance, when we drive up the mountain to Bend, 240 miles of charged range just barely gets us 165 mi. to the city because it takes more power to climb. On the way back home we regenerate so much on the descent that we arrive home in McMinnville with 60 miles of range to spare! So cool.
We took off at 5 am, heading for Arlington, 187 miles east, up the Columbia River. We hoped to fully charge there and get 125 more miles to the city of LaGrande for the night. We made our way around Portland onto The 84 past Hood River, The Dalles, Bonneville and The Dalles dams and the ancient fishing site at Celilo Falls.
I am often overcome by deep sadness on this stretch of road. March 10, 1957, when I was 8, the Dalles Dam went on line and submerged Celilo. The thundering waters where tribal peoples had fished for salmon with dip nets for thousands of years went silent. There is still deep anger and grief among the Yakama, Wasco, Nez Perce and Warm Springs peoples whose way of life vanished beneath slack pools and mute treaties. We tend to think of hydro-power as clean, but it comes at great price. That day we exchanged power-with for power-over. As we drive by, I try to picture the falls and remember her keepers. Our choices of how to heat and cool, transport, manufacture and generate matter now more than ever. Passing the longhouse at Celilo village, I secretly hope for a massive earthquake to liberate the thunder, bring the salmon people out of captivity and teach us a new way of energizing.
We arrived in Arlington at 8:00 am. We held our breath, as the orange dashboard light warned us we were near the end of our cord. 187.3 miles from home with 27 miles of range to spare. Whew!
Hooray for the City of Arlington! As we’d hoped, there was a Level 2 sitting next to a Level 3 Fast Charger…a Level 3 plug we could use and one we could not.
Debbie activated the fast charger at 8:15, hooked it to the Bolt and the green dash light came on, telling us charging was underway!
One of the cool things about EV travel is the chance to pay attention to where we are in the landscape, when we would otherwise speed on down the highway oblivious. We get to meet some of those humans who’d otherwise be invisible to us and find out what matters to them. We walked across the parking lot to Pat’s Pheasant Grill and Drive-In for breakfast.
Pat’s is also the U-haul headquarters so you could get a truck with your hash browns. I’m guessing kick-boxing might be showing 24/7. On the wall are reminders of the values by which citizens will be served and treated there.
We went back to the car to check the screen. We were supposed to be able to get an 80% charge in just 30 minutes, so it seemed like we were on track. I knew the town of Arlington had been relocated at the same time the Celilo people had lost their fishing grounds, but what’s most visible to the eye in 2017 are the flocks of wind towers on the horizon, their giant sweeping blades gathering a new kind of energy for a more just and regenerative world. The sign at the kiosk told us Gilliam County windmills generate 1800 megawatts, enough to power 1.4 million homes for a year.
At 10:15 we returned to the charging station. The Bolt had fully charged to a range of 222 miles in exactly 2 hours.
Thank you Arlington! We bid farewell to the Pheasant Grill and got back on the road, heading 125 miles to LaGrande. How much power would it take to get over the Blue Mountains? That was our next test. Passing Pendleton, we were glad not to stop and find the guy with his charger in the garage. East of Pendleton you hit Cabbage Hill, an 8 mile steep, switch-backing climb. We did it with our eyes glued to the screen on the dash. We really started to panic when, in a 3 steep miles, we lost 35 miles of range!
But never fear, after we reached the 4,193 foot summit of the Blues, the rest of the way to LaGrande was a gentle downward ride and, by the time we arrived, we had regenerated much of what we’d lost. We left Arlington with 222 miles and arrived in LaGrande with 77 miles, using 145 miles of range to travel 125 actual miles, so it pretty much evened out over the ups and downs. NextCharge had showed, in LaGrande, a Level 1 charger (110v) on the campus of Eastern Oregon University, but no other chargers. So Debbie had phoned the Chevy dealer. They were glad to charge us during business hours. Goss Motors opened their service department and we plugged in. So cool to have that kind of cooperation (or so we thought).
For the next 3 1/2 hours we did the town. We found a brewpub with the kind of kombucha Amy and Erin like. We found ice cream. But our favorite discovery was Community Merchants. When a store says they sell only local products and meats from in county (Union), we feel pretty close to Eden. Inside were several freezers of lamb, beef, pork, chicken and goat in the back. I asked the young woman behind the counter if she could tell us about the farms where these meats are raised. She said, “Sure, the beef and pork is mostly from my place!” They didn’t have any of the t-shirt Debbie wanted in her size, so the woman made her one while we waited!
Done with the local tour, we went back to Goss Motors. Guess what? In over three hours of charging we’d gained only 35 miles range. Seriously? Well it so happens Level 2 chargers like ours at home are usually powered on a 40 amp circuit. But some are wired 30 A. Those charge half as fast. This must’ve been a 30. Oh well. Charge and learn.
We had reservations at the TraveLodge down the street. The manager was glad to have us plug in at the 110v plug outside. 12+ hours of charging @ 4 miles range per hour gave us 50 more miles + 35 from Goss Motors + the 77 we already had = 162. That should easily get us 87 miles to Wallowa Lake in the morning. Life was good.
Next morning we drove our last leg to Amy and Erin’s summer hideaway. If you’ve not travelled in the Wallowa Mountains, wow. Through range country and river bottoms, wheat prairies and peaks like the Alps, the sky is large and the beauty immense. We stopped at the Blonde Strawberry Deli in the town of Wallowa to eat breakfast on the patio across the street from the old United Methodist Church. On a Sunday morning, there was nothing going down at the church that we could see. The action was at the Blonde Strawberry. The annual Pow-Wow was in town and the Deli was packed with Nez Perce families. The sacred community was sharing bacon and toast.
Back on the road, we got to Joseph. You can’t miss the bold message of welcome as you enter. The whole countryside is Heaven, pretty much. And, I suppose, given the truth that the way Americans drive is a big reason why the rest of Creation is sinking into Hell, there’s a certain gospel in the message.
We proceeded south past Joseph, past the north end of the Lake where Chief Joseph is buried, down to Wallowa Lake United Methodist Camp at the south end. After 399 miles, 3 chargers and our trip half done, we found Erin and Amy, but not before learning how the locals practice hospitality.
On our way from LaGrande, Debbie told me how the Pendleton charger guy has an adapter allowing him to charge at any RV site. Pulling into Camp, I saw an RV space with an electrical box! Eager to investigate, I opened the lid. It was FULL OF YELLOW JACKETS!!!!!! Before I could even think, one mean dude nailed me squarely between the eyes! Then, as if that weren’t rude enough, I was soon covered with hives. The camp staff hovered around me for an hour with their epipens drawn and ready. It was a welcome I’ll not soon forget in the annals of Pitney EV lore. We spent the next 4 days immersed in the awesomeness of that place with our daughters.