One Year In

Today marks the first anniversary of our emancipation from gasoline. A year ago – on December 4, 2018 – we brought our Chevrolet Bolt EV (for “Electric Vehicle”) home from the dealer. We have not driven a single inch on fossil fuel since. And I have not had a single regret.

The Bolt beside our garage, one year ago

A scorecard: During its first year, our Bolt has traveled 12,469 miles and used almost exactly 2900 kilowatt-hours of electricity, much of it generated by our solar panels. We have made four overnight trips of 300 miles or longer – the longest was 800+ miles – and countless day trips into our surrounding mountains, including travel to trailheads as much as 100 miles away. A few of those trailheads have required a mile or two of travel over roads marked for 4-wheel-drive only. Aside from two flat tires (neither of them the car’s fault) and a single tire rotation (time for another), we have not seen the inside of a service garage. Electric cars require almost no maintenance.

Some observations: first, the car is incredibly enjoyable to drive. It’s not just its ability to pass gas stations – it can pass almost everything else on the road as well. 200 horsepower and all the torque you can handle, available instantaneously, means we are usually the first away from stoplights and have no problem passing on hills. Cornering is excellent, due to the low center of gravity provided by the “skateboard” of batteries the car sits on. Driving really is fun again.

Second, the car is bigger than it looks. It’s a full five-passenger vehicle. Rear-seat legroom is about the same as we had in our Ford Escape – a medium-sized SUV – and greater than any other car we’ve owned in recent memory, probably back to the 1954 Kaiser we started married life with in 1967. The floor is flat. The luggage space behind the back seat looks tiny, but we got all of the luggage we needed for a week away from home – including a guitar and a laptop computer – into that space, with a little room to spare, in mid-July. The back seats fold flat if more space is needed. There are really very few restrictions on what we can carry.

Charging with a twin in Winters, California. That’s ours in the back.

There aren’t many restrictions on where we can go, either. Ground clearance beats anything we’ve owned recently except the Escape (I’ve already mentioned the 4-wheel-drive roads). Refueling problems on the road have been over-hyped. Range varies with conditions – very cold weather can drop it by as much as 20% – but during the warm-weather travel season it is generally 250 miles or more, the same as a 25 mpg gasoline-powered car with a ten-gallon tank. Stops can usually be planned around meals, so the hour or more it can take to refill the batteries at a DC fast charger isn’t often an issue. And many motels are putting in so-called “destination chargers” – you can plug in before you go to bed and wake up with a full battery in the morning. There are still places without either of those options, but they are getting fewer. And we’ve invested in a portable 240-volt charger, so we can charge in just about any RV park or in any home garage wired for a dryer.

Plugging in at the Last Resort RV campground on the North Umpqua River.

It’s been a great travel year, and we’ve been extremely pleased to do it without producing any greenhouse gases. I’ll grab a few of my favorite pictures from earlier posts and repost them below to show you some of the places we’ve gone without gasoline in the course of the year. Enjoy – and if you’re thinking about a new car but are hesitant about going electric, talk to me.

Our most recent picture of the Bolt, at the trailhead for the Split Rock trail in the Siskiyou Mountains on November 9.
Sunset over the Pacific at Crescent City, California.
Crater Lake in the snow.
The Applegate Valley from the East Applegate Ridge trail near Jacksonville, Oregon. Snowy peaks of the Red Buttes Wilderness in the left distance.
Ice on Shoalwater Bay on Klamath Lake – Oregon’s largest natural lake – near Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Mt Shasta from Lower Panther Meadow, near timberline on northern California’s highest mountain.
Upper Ruffey Lake and Etna Mountain, Klamath Mountains near Etna, California.
Kangaroo Lake from the connecting trail between the lake and the Pacific Crest Trail, Klamath Mountains near Callahan, California.
Meadows in Grouse Gap at peak bloom, Mt Ashland, Siskiyou Mountains near Ashland, Oregon.

Farewell to the High Country

November on McDonald Peak

McDonald Peak from the knoll.

Snow has not yet come to the high country of the Siskiyous. This is worrisome for the winter we are about to have, but it is also an opportunity. On November 6 we took advantage of that opportunity, with a ramble along the Split Rock Trail from Road 20 to the summit of McDonald Peak.

The Bolt at the Split Rock trailhead.

The Split Rock Trail begins at a tiny parking area just west of the ridge that forms the west wall of Grouse Gap, the large basin west of Mt Ashland. It ends at the summit of Wagner Butte, five miles to the north along the same ridge. A “use trail” for many years, maintained by hikers’ feet, it has recently been adopted into the Rogue River-Siskiou National Forest trail system, and now rates a trailhead sign and occasional maintenance. McDonald Peak is roughly a mile in. It is 7226 feet high, but that is less impressive than it may sound; the trail goes almost directly over its summit, and the entire route from trailhead to summit stays above 7000 feet.

I suffer from Reynaud’s Syndrome, which cuts off the circulation to the tips of my fingers if I get too cold, so we didn’t leave the house until after noon. The drive up was uneventful (although I do wish Road 20 would get some proper maintenance for what are developing into some pretty bad potholes), and we were on the trail by 1:30. There was haze in the valleys, but we were above most of that, and the views were glorious, stretching from Mt Shasta to the Crater Lake rim and almost everything in between. A flock of bluebirds swirled past as we climbed the south slope of the small knob we call “Little McDonald Peak” near the trailhead: they flew in 15s and 20s, fifteen or twenty feet in the air and then fifteen or twenty seconds on a convenient rock or red-fir limb. Near the same spot we found a few sulphur flowers still partially in bloom.

Western bluebird.
Sulphur flower

The actual summit of McDonald Peak is a rock outcrop about fifteen feet high, which the Split Rock Trail bypasses on the west side. It’s an easy scramble, so of course we summited. This was the site of the “geezer climb” my old friend and former climbing companion Cliff Olin and I made together in August 2017, roughly 50 years after our last previous climb together (and a lot easier than that one was!). Being there brought back pleasant memories of that trip.

The summit of McDonald Peak.
One lone phlox in bloom just below the summit.

Right: Cliff Olin and me summiting two different mountains. The top photo was taken on Sacajawea Peak in the Wallowa Mountains in 1966; the bottom photo is from our “geezer climb” in 2017.
Looking west from the summit.
Above and below: two views of McDonald Peak from the Split Rock trail.

It was still early when we got back to the car, so we added the half-mile round trip to the top of the gentle, nameless knoll west of McDonald Peak along the main crest of the Siskiyous. The electric propulsion system of the Bolt performed its magic on the way home, actually adding fuel to the battery instead of using it up as we came down the Mt Ashland Ski Road and the stretch of I-5 between Siskiyou Summit and Ashland, so we reached our garage with about the same charge showing on the range indicator as it had shown at the trailhead (just try to do that in a gas-powered vehicle). What I hope is the first of our winter storms is expected to come through at the end of this week, so this was probably our farewell trip to the high country for 2019.

Mt Shasta from the knoll.