ON July 31 – the day before I was due to turn 77 – Melody and I spent a full-day touring Crater Lake National Park. We’re lucky to live less than 80 miles from this spectacular park, whose creation year (1902) puts it among the oldest national parks in the world, and we’ve been going there several times each year since 1970. We haven’t tired of it yet. I don’t think we ever will.
This particular trip was primarily planned because smoke from the Milepost 97 fire near Canyonville, Oregon had made the air unhealthy in many of the places we usually go, but had largely bypassed Crater Lake. But I’ve also been wondering, ever since we got the Bolt, how it would fare on a full Crater Lake day. We’d taken it to the Rim Village overlook and back (see https://drivingonsunlight.net/2019/05/06/the-story-so-far/), but the park includes much more than Rim Village. There is a road – Rim Drive – all the way around the rim of the caldera that holds the lake, with side roads to several other points of interest, including one of the highest spots reachable by car in the entire state of Oregon. Since buying the Bolt in December, I’ve preached that an EV is perfectly adequate for all uses anyone would normally put a car to. Taking Rim Drive its entire length, plus as many of the side roads as we could fit into one day, would add many extra miles over our previous visit; but for outdoor enthusiasts such as us, it would certainly qualify as “normal use”. How would the Bolt’s battery hold up?
So let’s deal with that question, first. We left home with less than a full battery – we usually charge to 95% instead of 100% (there are reasons), and I forgot to make my usual adjustment for longer trips. I drove the 72 highway miles between Medford and Crater Lake as I have always driven them, a few miles over the 55 mph speed limit, with bursts up to 75 and a bit over for passing out-of-state tourists gawking at the big trees. We covered almost every road in the park (we left out only the road from Rim Drive to the north entrance, and the last few miles of the road to the Pinnacles, neither of which we had time for) – a total distance of 195 miles. We got home with 30% of the battery remaining, and 103 miles left on the range indicator. If you have had any doubts about an electric car substituting perfectly for a gasoline car in all normal circumstances, please lay them aside.
Otherwise, the trip was a mixed bag. We got to Mazama Village, where we had planned to have brunch, just as the breakfast line was closing. (We were standing by the counter preparing to order when they suddenly announced that breakfast was over and took all the food away. We were the only ones waiting.) The small collapsible tripod I was carrying to try out for flower photos kept pinching me, leaving me with a blood blister on one hand and a cut thumb on the other. I left my camera bag behind at one stop (the camera wasn’t in it, so I lost only my spare camera battery and cleaning cloth, but still…). But the scenery and the flowers overwhelmed all of that. Looked back on, it was a simply glorious ten hours. Enjoy the pictures. You can follow the course of our day in the captions.
I will normally report events as they happen and thoughts as they occur to me, but – since this blog is to be primarily about our life with an electric car – I thought I should use the first entry to summarize that life so far.
We bought the Bolt in early December, so as I write this in mid-April we’ve had it for approximately 4-1/2 months. In that time, we’ve put about 4,200 miles on it. This has been mostly local driving and short trips within our southern Oregon/northern California region, but we’ve also used the car on two extended overnights, one to the northern California coast (with a side visit to Redwood National Park) and the other to our daughter’s home in San Jose, California. Not once while on the road during any of those trips have I wished I was driving a gasoline-powered car instead. Like any other car, it’s just a matter of drive it, fuel it, drive it some more. It’s good for several straight hours of freeway driving, and you want a break after that anyway.
But you will notice that I said “on the road”. While planning for the longer trips, I have definitely felt a little gasoline envy as I tried to decide where to stop to refill the battery. Gas stations are everywhere; public chargers are still few and far between. Where we’ve gone so far I’ve always managed to find convenient ones, but I’m uncomfortably aware that this will not always be the case. Empty spots on the charger map still exist, and some of them are places I wish we could go, but at this point cannot.
The problem was brought acutely home to us when, less than a week before we were due to leave on the San Jose trip, all the public Level 3 chargers (the ones that can recharge a car like ours in a bit over an hour) suddenly went down along Interstate 5 from just south of the California border to just north of Sacramento. Panic quickly ensued: we were going to need a charger somewhere in that gap. I began to envision spending several hours at a Level 2 (household 220-volt level) to get just enough juice to reach Dunnigan, where the first available Level 3 was located. Fortunately, one of the two chargers in Redding came back up twelve hours before the trip’s start, and we were able to proceed according to plan. But gasoline envy was strong, there, for several days.
This, of course, is an infrastructure problem, not an electric car problem.
But enough with the generalities, already. For several years, now, I’ve been posting short descriptions of our trips on Facebook, together with photos. I’m going to make this already long blog post quite a bit longer by posting a few of the post-Bolt-purchase trip descriptions and a small selection of their accompanying photos below. This will give you an idea what to expect in this space in the future. Captions have been added for some of the photos, and a few bracketed additions have been made to the texts for clarification.
Dec 4, 2018: Well, we’ve gone and done it….purchased a Chevrolet Bolt. Farewell, gasoline. This isn’t ours – I lifted this picture from the dealer’s website, and ours isn’t there anymore because, well, they sold it – but it looks just like ours. White isn’t my favorite color, but I’ll live with it. I’m pretty sure this will be our last car ever.
Dec 9, 2018: First trip out of the Medford/Ashland corridor with the Bolt. We took it to Gold Hill, then home again via Sams Valley. Stopped in Gold Hill and took a walk on the bike path upstream along the Rogue – here are a few pictures from that walk. We got home with 189 miles of electric range left. Gasoline-free travel is now practical.
Jan 3, 2019: Not the best afternoon for playing in the snow – or for photography – but it’s what we had, so we took it. The Great Meadow beside Lake of the Woods in the southern Oregon Cascades, at the foot of Mt McLoughlin. It was largely a test of the Bolt’s winter range – we’re gradually building familiarity with the car, so we’ll know where to plan to spend the time necessary to recharge it on our longer trips. Round trip, our house to the sno-park area at the Great Meadow and back again, is 84 miles. The Guess-O-Meter (the car’s range estimator) read 202 fully charged at the house and 130 when we pulled back into the garage, so we did roughly 12 per cent better than the car thought we would. Of note: the range estimate at the High Lakes Summit on the way home read 120 miles. That’s at 5100 feet, about 3700 feet higher than the house. Regeneration coming down ten miles of 5% grade will do wonders for an electric car. If you’re running on gasoline, of course, the same descent won’t add so much as a drop. Anyway – enjoy the pictures.
Jan 14, 2019: Today’s trip explored an area I’ve been curious about for a long time. Driving from Medford to Klamath Falls on Highway 140, you cross the Cascades and come down close to the shore of Klamath Lake – the largest natural lake in Oregon – then leave it temporarily to go over a saddle on the west side of Spence Mountain, a small mountain that forms a peninsula into the lake. I’ve always wondered what was out there on that peninsula; today, we found out. The peninsula is split by an embayment called Shoalwater Bay, and there’s a fairly new Klamath County park on the shore of the bay called Eagle Ridge, out four miles of gravel road from 140. The road narrows to a ribbon of rough dirt right along the shore beyond the park’s campground; we parked the Bolt in the campground and walked about a mile further out the bay’s shoreline, along the road. Total time from home was about 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Got home with over a hundred miles left in the car’s battery – I don’t think all-electric driving is going to limit us very much.
Jan 26, 2019: We took a quick trip to Crescent City on Thursday and Friday. This was partly because we hadn’t been to the coast for a while, and partly a test to see how the electric car would do on a longer trip, where we would have to charge on the road. The Anchor Beach Motel in Crescent City has level II chargers, is right on the beach and a short walk from the seafood restaurants on the wharf, and was a steal with an ocean view 2nd floor room for $72 including tax. The Bolt came through splendidly: we drove down on Thursday, drove around Crescent City and points nearby, plugged in overnight, drove around a bit more, and drove home. Pulled into the garage with nearly 50 miles left. Range anxiety? What’s that?
Mar 30, 2019: Took advantage of a sunny afternoon and took our first real flower hike of the season in the Cathedral Hills, a joint Josephine County/BLM wild area on the southern outskirts of Grants Pass. We went in by the Sky Crest trailhead (circled in blue on the map) and followed the route marked in red – out via the Timber Riders Trail to the intersection marked with a small 3 in a yellow circle, then down the Outback Trail to the Ponderosa Pine Loop. Back via the Outback Trail to its closest approach to the trailhead, then the rest of the way back to the car on the Timber Riders Trail again. Flowers are about three weeks behind last year. A feature of the Cathedral Hills is the massive number of Indian Warriors (Pedicularis densiflora) found along its trails, and they certainly didn’t disappoint – but there were plenty of other species, too. Here is a small smattering of the 83 photos I took: enjoy.
Apr 5, 2019: In Winters California this morning. We parked the Bolt at a charger, went to breakfast, came back to the car, and were suddenly seeing double.
Apr 8, 2019: We’re back in Medford after a whirlwind four-day trip to San Jose to help our daughter Sara Scholz turn 46. I’m sorry to say that I took no pictures of Sara, of our two (now adult) granddaughters, or of the delightful birthday party at Mountain Mike’s Pizza that included six of Sara’s highly compatible inlaws. I should probably turn in my grandpa badge. However, we did manage our usual side trip to a point of interest on the way down, and I took plenty of pictures there. You’ll have to be content with those.
This time the side trip destination was Observation Point at Black Butte Lake, west of Orland in the northern Sacramento Valley. We’d been to the lake before, but not to this particular part of it. It was an overcast day, but it didn’t rain, and the flowers were near their peak; the pictures, as usual, are mostly of those. We met one woman walking her dog, and a couple doing some bird watching, but other than those we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Always pleasant when that happens.
I should say a word about our mode of transportation. We took the Bolt (had to: we no longer have any other vehicle), so we were driving on electricity the whole distance. I have to admit to a little trepidation about refueling stops, but it was unnecessary. There are a lot fewer quick chargers than there are gas stations, so one has to plan more carefully, but the actual drive was no different from past experiences along the same route. We have almost always had to stop twice each way to refuel – we stopped twice each way this time, too. The stops were longer (an hour or more each), but we were usually able to combine them with meals, so we were rarely just sitting around and waiting. On the road, the Bolt did what electric cars do, which is to do everything a gasoline car does, but better: they are quicker, more reponsive, and – due to the weight of the batteries, which are evenly distributed on the bottom of the vehicle – more solidly planted on the corners. Most of the way north from Redding we were in a pouring rain, which the car dealt with at least as well as any other vehicle I’ve ever driven. Thinking about a new car, but fearful of going electric? Talk to me.
OK – enough sales talk. We enjoyed the car. You enjoy the pictures.
Apr 18, 2019: We took advantage of a nice warm sunny spring day and went up to see the results of this winter’s monstrous snowfall at Crater Lake. Snow on the rim is between 12 and 20 feet deep, and it’s close to that down at Park headquarters; there is some snow down as far as Union Creek. We’ve lived in southern Oregon for close to 50 years and have never seen the park in this condition. But it set off the lake nicely, and the lake itself looked gorgeous – still as a mirror under a cloud-dotted blue sky, surrounded by all that white. We stopped on the way up to visit Mill Creek and Barr Creek Falls near Prospect, and on the way down to walk along the Rogue River Gorge at Union Creek (and, of course, enjoy a piece of Beckie’s pie).
This was the Bolt’s first trip to Crater Lake, and I was curious to see how much juice we would have left when we got home. I was expecting the trip would take maybe 4/5 of the battery, which would leave us with about 12 kwh. Turned out we made the trip on just a little over half the battery capacity; we got home with over 26 kwh left. That’s enough to go well over 100 additional miles, and to put a huge grin on my face.