Between a Rock and a Sweet Spot
(Click to enlarge)
First Overnight Roadtrip
in our Model 3
to Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park

Mark D Larsen
June 3-5, 2018

Our first day trip in Correcaminos to Cedar Breaks National Monument whet our appetite to do some more sightseeing. We therefore decided to take a 3-day roadtrip to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. The journey was delightful! Driving a quiet, clean, comfortable, responsive, nimble, fun electric vehicle makes all the difference in the world when traveling the backroads to explore the natural wonders in our area. Below are several photos and a few video clips of the trip.

NOTE: You can click on the following photos to enlarge them, and the movies to play them.

I charged the Model 3’s battery to 90%, and this is what the charging window displayed when we were ready to leave.

Rather than take the freeway, we opted to instead drive through Zion National Park and then up Highway 89 to Bryce.

This is an introductory video to explain where we are, where we’re headed, and how the Model 3 is performing. Toward the end, when we see the entrance to Zion canyon, you can catch a brief glimpse of a white Tesla Model S parked on the side of the road.

I decided to swing the car around to take this photo of Correcaminos next to the Model S. I wondered why the owners would have parked it so far from the Visitor Center, since there are two reserved charging stations there.

The mystery was solved when we arrived at the Visitor Center: both spots were being ICE’d! My guess is that those drivers thought they were handicap spaces, and didn’t bother to actually read the signs.

Even more irritating was to find that previous EV owners hadn’t bothered to wind up the charging cords, but just left them lying in the dirt. I confess that this is one of my biggest pet peeves. It greatly discourages me that supposedly “enlightened” people can be so ungrateful to the park for providing the charging, and so downright rude to the next EV owner to plug in there.

We left notes on the windshields of the ICE cars, and also alerted the park personnel of the problem. We did not hold our breath for a solution. Fortunately, however, another visitor pulled out of a space on the opposite side of the divider, and close enough to the charging stations that we could plug in regardless. Phew!

When we plugged in, the battery still had 224 miles of range, but it would take two-and-a-half hours to charge it back up to 90%, since the EVSEs charge at only 30A, slower that the maximum rate of 40A in our garage. Time to take a leisurely lunch!

We found a pet friendly café near the park entrance to have lunch, where ‘Tisa had it made-in-the-shade to stay a bit cooler in the 100°F temperatures.

After lunch, Tamara did a bit of shopping in the adjacent shops. When the Model 3’s battery had again charged to 90%, we continued our journey. In this video we’re driving first up the switchbacks on Highway 9, then through the east side of Zion, and finally up Highway 89 toward the turnoff to Bryce.

This is a still photo of climbing the switchbacks.

And here’s another one after a... switch back. I tried using Autopilot on these corners, but they were so sharp that the Model 3 would end up too close to the center line for comfort, so I disengaged it and steered manually, albeit with the adaptive cruise control maintaining the posted speed.

To make matters worse, when cars were descending in the opposite direction, they would often cross the center line and I would have to take control to swerve away from them.

I am willing to wager that ours is the first Model 3 to visit the east side of Zion, where you can see the odd cracks running both up-and-down and side-to-side on “Checkerboard Mesa.” Uh... your move, automakers!

After driving about an hour up Highway 89, we arrived at the turnoff to Highway 12 that leads to Bryce. On Correcaminos’s navigational display, you can see that we had stopped at a viewpoint before entering Red Canyon.

They tourist plaque describes why this route is known as a Scenic Byway through Southern Utah.

We had gotten out of Correcaminos to read the sign and stretch our legs. Another tourist then pulled in behind us, and gaped at the Model 3. It was the first one he had seen in person, and was thrilled to have happened upon us at the viewpoint. His first question, of course, was: “How do you like it?” What do you think I responded?

And here are Tamara and ‘Tisa, enjoying the temperature at this higher elevation, which had dropped over 20°F since we left Zion.

We continued up Red Canyon in this video, and were impressed with the formations and colors along both sides. We made a mental note to stop at the Visitor Center in the canyon on our way home a couple of days later.

Not long afterwards, we arrived at our motel, checked in for the night, and the next day we drove only a couple of miles up the road to the entrance of Bryce Canyon National Park.

We stopped to walk along the trail between Sunrise and Sunset Points, one of the only pathways where dogs are allowed. We would have loved to also hike this trail below the rim among the pinnacles, but doggies are only allowed on the paved paths.

So here are Tamara and ‘Tisa on the paved path at one of the overlooks to Sunrise Point.

And here I am with our l‘il girl farther along the viewpoint.

The view from Sunset Point is too large for a standard photo, so I took this panorama shot.

We then drove by Bryce Lodge, and saw a decrepit, shuttered gas station nearby. How fitting! What do you need such a facility for when you drive a Model 3?

We decided to drive all the way to the end of the park highway to the farthest outlook, Rainbow Point, and then stop at the other viewpoints on the way back, since they’re all on the canyon side of the road.

Here Tamara is framed by the “rainbow” shape for which the viewpoint is named.

This was the only turnout where it was possible to take photos of both the Model 3 and the rock formations. A photo from the front at this same spot is at the top of the page.

I think what makes Bryce so spectacular is that the red sandstone stands out starkly against the green forest background below.

Although named Natural Bridge, this formation is actually an arch, since wind formed it rather than water.

This panorama shows the vastness of what was the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument beyond Bryce Canyon. I won’t mince any words in saying that the stupid, greedy puppets Trump, Pruitt, Zinke, Sessions —emboldened and supported by our Utah Senators Hatch and Lee, as well as our Representatives Bishop, Stewart, Curtis, and Love— have opened up nearly half of its original 1.88 million acres so that their fossil fool cronies can excavate, drill, and frack for natural gas and oil shale under that pristine wilderness. I wish a plague on them with all my heart, so please do not excuse my “french”: they're all unconscienable, unmitigated bastards who don’t give a rat’s ass for the damage our selfish species is doing to this planet.

At the Fairview Point overlook, I introduced myself to a group of German tourists when one of them was taking a photo of Correcaminos. As best he could in English, he asked me the usual questions about range, where to charge it, cost, etc. Was he impressed? I’d like to think so.

The best vista of all, in my opinion, is from Inspiration Point, because the rows and rows of pinnacles add a perspective of depth to the view.

We swung by the Visitor Center on our way back to the motel, and I was very impressed by the huge solar arrays that help power the facilities.

Unlike Zion, Bryce has yet to install EV charging stations, but I was nonetheless able to plug the Tesla UMC into an RV panel’s NEMA 14-50 outlet.

By the next morning, the UMC had finished charging.

And you can see in this screenshot from the Tesla app on my iPhone, the battery was once again at 90%.

We started to head home, and remembered our mental note to stop at the Red Canyon Visitor Center.

I learned that there is a nice campground just across the road, laid out among those trees. I now have a goal to return there sometime soon to do some camping.

The sandstone formations in Red Canyon are not as vast and towering as at Bryce Canyon, but the good news is that you can easily see them from your car on both sides of the highway.

And, if you can bear it, remember: only you can prevent forest fires.

When we again reached the turnoff for Highway 9 to Zion, I stopped to take a photo of this restaurant sign. Apparently, the Thunderbird is famous for its... Ho-Made Pies. Hmmm.

While there, I also took this photo of our energy efficiency since the last charge. Thanks to all the regen while descending Highway 89, we had now averaged 6.08 miles-per-kWh. Can’t beat that!

Here are a few more video clips. First, we were driving back down Red Canyon, and Autopilot/cruise control slowed down and stopped us behind a line of cars at a stretch of construction. Second, those features also did a great job in the stop-and-go traffic entering Zion again from the east.

Back again at the Zion Visitor Center, we were glad to see that this time the EVSEs were not being ICE’d.

Dropping back down even lower into Zion Canyon had further increased our energy efficiency. Since charging from the RV panel in Bryce, we had achieved a whopping 6.56 miles-per-kWh. I am astounded at the Model 3’s level of efficiency. I guess I did beat that, after all!

This was a great overnight roadtrip, the first of many to come, I am sure. I enjoyed using the adaptive cruise control and Autopilot. My initial impression is that, even with the limited functions of the current software version, those features make for much more relaxed driving on the highway. One observation I will make: they actually work best if you are following another vehicle. When that car slows and even stops, so does the Model 3. But if there isn’t another car ahead, you have to turn those cool features off when you come to a red light or stop sign. Tsk. In point of fact, I now also wish Tesla would increase the regen even more so that the car will come to a complete stop when the accelerator is fully released. See? I’m already spoiled by such conveniences.

I will admit that I am still learning how to best use Autopilot. For example, I am not sure what is required to “keep your hands on the steering wheel.” On the top of the wheel? How about on the bottom? Both hands? One hand? Gripping it? Or will resting your hand on the wheel suffice? I wonder because there have been a few times when the warning would appear to place my hands on the wheel, yet... they were already on the wheel! True, I like having the steering wheel down low, in a position where I can rest my left hand on the corresponding upraised knee and hold the wheel at about 7 o’clock on the bottom. I am unsure, however, if the Autopilot hardware can detect my hand in that position. So far, I would venture a guess —perhaps totally mistaken— that the function doesn’t rely on touch (like a touchscreen) or pressure (like a seatbelt sensor), but on whether there is a slight “resistance” from the driver’s hand(s) when and if Autopilot turns the wheel in a needed direction. Dunno. But I’ll keep playing around with it and see if I can draw a definitive conclusion.

Finally, I’ll offer a suggestion: when on winding roads, just turn those functions off and relish the exhilarating thrill of the Model 3’s instant torque, regen, and nimble, tethered handling. I haven’t had so much fun driving a car for years as I did on the curves around Bryce Canyon. As an old ( ::cough:: ) BMW commercial used to say: “Happiness is not around the corner. Happiness IS the corner!”