Our 6th Roadtrip
to California
in our Model 3

Mark D Larsen
July 11-18, 2021

Back in Tesla Town
(Click to enlarge)

Now that we’ve been vaccinated, we could finally take another roadtrip. Like the last one, we again drove to the Sacramento area in California to visit Tamara’s family. Her parents are getting up there in years, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be around too much longer, so we felt grateful to be able to see them again after such a protracted lockdown. Here is the usual long-winded narrative.

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

We charged Correcaminos to our usual 80% to start the journey. The energy graph estimated that we would still have 36% when we reached Las Vegas.

We climbed up the summit of the Beaver Mountains, gobbling up lots of kWh.

As we descended the other side of the range, regenerative braking put many of those kWh back in the battery.

It always amuses me to see how the energy graph displays the ascent (using power in orange) and the descent (regenerating power in green) when traversing that summit.

In this movie I describe where we're going on this roadtrip and our intended route for the day. You've gotta love what we call Moxie's "steam vents" coming out of her ears. So cute! She'll probably shed those long, white puppy hairs in the future, but for now they really give us a chuckle.

As we were nearly to Las Vegas, Moxie perked up and starting looking around. I can't help but wonder if she remembers when we took delivery of her at the airport here. She's a clever girl and has found her perfect spot behind the air vent in the rear to stay nice and cool in the summer heat.

In this clip I indicate that we'll stop at the original Supercharger in Las Vegas get some lunch, stop by a pet store for Moxie, and then head toward Beatty, NV.

Moxie heard me mention the pet food store and started looking for it.

When we arrived at the Supercharger, we had 29% left in the pack, a little less that originally predicted, likely because Autopilot drove the usual 5+ mph over the posted speed limit on the interstate.

We lucked out at the Supercharger and managed to find an empty slot to plug in. Because Tesla is upgrading many of the Superchargers in Las Vegas, the ones in operation are in high demand, and thus impose limits at 80%. No problem for us, since that's as high as we usually charge anyway.

Despite the slower charge rate imposed when pairs of 150 kW Superchargers share the electricity, instead of the 40 minutes predicted, it took only 38 to reach that limit, shortly after we finished our lunch.

We drove to the pet store and got Moxie some more food, then set the navigation to take us to Beatty. It predicted that we’d arrive with a 28% charge.

Upon leaving Las Vegas, we saw that so much of the smoke was coming from a wildfire on Mt. Charleston. I had just camped there in the McWilliams Campground a few weeks previously! Yeow!

As we anticipated, the temperatures were alarming as we approached Beatty: a cool and refreshing… 118°F!

We arrived at the Superchargers in Beatty with a 24% charge, i.e., 4% less that predicted.

Oddly enough, the charge rate was unusually slow… perhaps because of the extreme heat?

It wasn't as if the site was fully occupied. Correcaminos was the only Tesla plugged in.

I took Moxie out for a bathroom break, but she immediately wanted to get back in the car and stay cool.

Despite the slow charge, instead of the estimated 30 minutes, it took 27 to recharge to 80%.

The display estimated that we'd arrive at the next Supercharger in Tonopah with 35% still in the pack

I am always disconcerted driving through the town of Mina on the way to Tonopah. It seems like a quintessential libertarian enclave, with all its broken down machinery and vehicles, its “antique” and gun shops. Kinda scary!

We arrived in Tonopah with a 28% charge and plugged in.

The charge rate was faster than in Beatty, and predicted a 25 minute stop.

Again, ours was the only Tesla there, and Moxie was happier to be out of the car in temperatures in the 90s.

The charge was completed in only 21 minutes, and we set the navigation to where we would spend the night in Hawthorne.

En route we can see that a few rain clouds were moving in, sprinking a few drops on the windshield.

We arrived in Hawthorne as the sun was setting behind the sheets of rain.

Moxie was happy to get her paws into some grass at the motel.

As we were about to turn in, the sunset bid us goodnight with a large rainbow.

The next morning we drove to the town's Superchargers to plug in. We still had 69 miles of range left, after driving from Tonopah and the vampire drain overnight.

Again, Correcaminos was the only Tesla at the site.

The Superchargers are 150 kW v.2 models, but still 3 times faster than most DC fast chargers.

In 23 minutes, we again had our usual 80% charge.

We set the navigation to take us to the Superchargers at Topaz Lake (listed as “Gardnerville”) and hit the road again.

We arrived there with a 40% charge.

The display estimated it would take 20 minutes to recharge, just enough time to visit the restrooms.

I was sure glad to be filling up on the far side of the parking lot rather than on this side!

The Supercharger finished putting 118 miles back into the battery in only 17 minutes for a cost of $9.46. If we'd driven our previous gas car and filled up there, the pump would have charged us… $25.84!

We set the navigation to take us to Tamara's folks' home, and set off for the last leg of the trip through the Sierra Nevada mountain.

Here is a video showing how Autopilot handled the winding, steep road through the first foothills into the mountains.

Before long we entered the denser forests where there was more traffic.

In one section, we came up upon a biker descending the canyon road, going nearly as fast as we were. Autopilot kept us a safe distance behind him. I have to admire the biker’s stamina to have pedal up that road, but what a thrill for him to now ride it downhill!

I had Tamara take a photo of the display with the biker in front of us.

We eventually merged onto Highway 50 that would take us out of the mountains toward Sacramento. Tamara managed to snap a photo of the impressive waterfall up ahead, something that we hadn't been able to do when driving this road in the past.

Highway 50 is one of the more picturesque routes between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, and we noticed that the traffic started to get thicker.

When we reached Folsom, we decided to change our plan, and stopped at the Palladio Parkway Supercharger before going to our motel, even though the battery was still nearly half full.

I had charged there on previous trips, and was amazed to see that the original 8 Superchargers had been expanded to a whopping 40! It didn't take the predicted 20 minutes to recharge, only 14.

We drove to our motel in Roseville and checked in. The next day we drove to Tamara's parents' home in Lincoln.

Tamara was very glad and relieved to see her dad again, for he had fallen a couple of months previously, and undergone hip surgery at his advanced age.

We all caught up on their news and her dad's recovery during several visits that week.

Moxie quickly became right-at-home, settling down by her dad's wheelchair, and periodically going out to their back yard to search for lizards and rabbits.

She was, of course, delighted to snuggle up on Tamara's dad's lap, and I think he was equally delighted to snuggle her, as she reminded him of his best friend dog that had passed away a few years ago.

After the first visit, we stopped by a new Supercharger site in the Lincoln community that wasn't there before on our many previous visits.

These Superchargers weren’t the brand new v.3 units, and estimated 20 minutes to recharge to 80%.

I was intrigued that in the middle of the row of Superchargers were two ChargePoint DC fast chargers for other brands of EVs, with both CCS and CHAdeMO plugs. Apparently Home Depot insisted on having those units installed along with the Superchargers.

Using those fast chargers is more complicated than merely plugging in, for drivers need a ChargePoint account, app or card to initiate a session. I actually have such an account, app, and card, but didn't bother using them, as Superchargers are so much faster and more convenient.

Indeed, the Supercharge finished in only 16 minutes. We then drove back to our motel in Roseville.

One afternoon while we were there, I set an appointment with the Tesla showroom in nearby Rocklin to take a Model Y for a test drive. We were truly impressed, as its features were what I wished our Model 3 had when we took delivery of it. Once the new Austin factory has started to ramp up the Model Y production, hopefully with 4680 battery cells, we will definitely be upgrading to one.

After several days of visiting Tamara's family, we checked out of the motel to start our journey home. I don't think Moxie was thrilled at the prospect of spending the whole day in her car seat.

We plugged in at the Roseville Galleria Superchargers to get our usual 80% charge before driving to Reno on the I-80 interstate. Once again, 20 minutes were predicted.

The Superchargers at this location had expanded greatly since our first trip to the area. Besides the original 7 near the mall, there were now 20 more on the opposite side the street. It was early morning on a Sunday, yet many of the spaces were already occupied.

I had to roll my eyes at this Model 3's license plate. So many fellow Tesla owners have turned into fundamentalist Muskites.

The recharge took 19 minutes, the slowest we had seen on this trip, but still impressive. I was even more impressed to see that our 80% charge now estimated 241 miles of range —a few more than I had been seeing for months. Correcaminos feels more at home in a Tesla town…?

We set the navigation to take us to the Supercharger in downtown Reno, and it estimated that we would arrive there after traversing the Sierra Nevada with a 29% charge.

And… we're off! For a l-o-n-g day's drive. Here we are just starting to enter into the first bit of forest climbing back up the Sierra Nevada. It was prudent to leave on a Sunday morning, when the traffic over the summit wouldn't be as heavy and congested.

At Donner's pass we could see the train tracks and tunnel on the opposite side of the gorge. I would imagine that these must be the trains that transport the battery packs from the Gigafactory to the main factory in Fremont.

We arrived at the Reno Supercharger with 27% left in the battery. This site is in a Casino parking garage and lot, and was absolutely packed, even though it was Sunday.

There were few Superchargers open among the 16 here, but they were all v.3 250 kW models, unencumbered by multiple Teslas. Our unit estimated 25 minutes to again put an 80% charge in Correcaminos' battery.

In reality, it only took 18 minutes, and I was pleased to again see a range of 241 miles.

Next stop: Hawthorne again, where we would arrive with a 40% charge.

We deviated slightly from the plotted route, because I enjoy driving backroads more than main highways to see different landscapes like this dormant volcano.

And here was an impressive estate in the fertile valley irrigated by the Walker River.

Arriving at Hawthorne, Moxie seemed to recognize that we'd been here before and was happy and ready to take a break.

We arrived with a much lower charge than the 40% predicted, only 29%, probably because of a strong headwind from the south.

The display told us we had 25 minutes to visit the restrooms, take Mosie for a walk, and get some snacks.

The Supercharge finished in 22 minutes, and I was astounded to see that the predicted range was now 242 miles, even higher than in Roseville and Reno!

I forgot to take a photo of the energy graph this time until we'd driven a few miles, but it predicted we'd arrive in Tonopah with a 35% charge.

En route we passed a thermal solar farm in the distance that was shining slightly, despite the cloudy weather.

We arrived back in Tonopah with a 25% charge. Those headwinds were taking their toll on our predicted ranges.

The recharge would take 25 minutes this time, so Tamara wandered across the street to find the nearest restroom.

I took Moxie for a walk, where she could pretend to be the pet of Tonopah's original mining founders.

Correcaminos was ready to go again after 21 minutes, and I was please to see another 242 mile range.

We'd arrive in Beatty with a 54% charge.

In reality we plugged in with 49% left, due to the strong headwinds.

Another 20 minutes to Supercharge while visiting the restrooms.

But it only took 13 minutes to finish charging. This time showing a 241 mile range.

Next stop would be Las Vegas, the last Supercharge of the journey home, where the computer estimated we'd arrive with 35% in the battery.

Nevertheless, we stopped en route to visit a grocery store and get some sandwiches for dinner, and I calculate that we plugged in with about 26% remaining. This time we visited the newest v.3 Superchargers at the Grand Central Parkway, which started out with an initial rate of 1,068 miles-per-hour at 250 kW —the fastest rate we’d seen on this trip— estimating 25 minutes to finish.

The site was absolutely packed for a Sunday evening. We had never been here before, and I doubt I'll ever return, as it is difficult to find and too overcrowded.

Making matters worse, the driver of this truck said to hell with the signage, he'd just occupy a needed charging space with his gas-burner. We saw three Teslas lined up waiting for a spot before we unplugged.

In reality, the v.3 Supercharger put 167 miles back into Correcaminos in only 18 minutes, with a result of 241 miles.

We set the navigation for home, with an arrival estimate of 31%.

We could see rain storms ahead as the sun was setting. To make matters worse, a semi had overturned on the I-15 freeway ahead, and we had to wait for about a half-hour in Glendale before the traffic could resume. And after the downpour of rain, the air was suddenly replete with flying bugs all over the place. Yuck!

After driving 123.3 miles from Las Vegas, we arrived home with a yellow 19% charge left in the pack —the lowest we experienced on the entire trip.

You can see the result on our windshield from the swarm of flying insects we drove through after the rain storm.

We’d driven a total of 1,557 miles on the entire round trip, using 442 kWh. By my calculations, that's an average of 3.52 miles-per-kWh, just a tad shy of the 3.86 EPA estimate for our Model 3. No complaints from me!

Our odometer after the trip now totaled 42,125 miles. The total amount spent at the Superchargers on the trip was $152.88. If we'd driven our previous gas car instead, it would have cost us at least $340 at the prices shown above at Topaz Lake on the California and Nevada border. Again, no complaints from me!

It was wonderful to finally take another roadtrip in Correcaminos. I have genuinely missed them during the prolonged lockdown. I have to say, however, that during the trip I noticed the latest software updates from Tesla have caused Autopilot to behave more erratically than ever: ping-ponging between lanes, suddenly and inexplicably dropping to lower speed limits, multiple phantom braking events, swinging haphazardly between lines as lanes merge, slowing for every yellow warning light even though they were not flashing (railroad crossings, high wind areas, school zones, etc.). I was almost tempted to just turn it off and drive, but… I know the data transmitted to Tesla will help improve the software, so let’s hope the next upgrades will eradictate those unsettling quirks and Autopilot will return to its earlier behavior.