I discover this morning that the hotel has two Level 2 chargers and dedicated EV charging parking spots opposite the reception area, so I ask them to turn the chargers on so I can top up before checking out later this morning. I see a full 48 amps from the J1772 connection, so I gain about 75 kms before I check out. I walk three blocks down Kingsway to get a cappuccino at a Starbucks and then go for breakfast in the hotel breakfast room (an adjacent Chinese restaurant) before packing up.
I drive over to the Kitsilano area of Vancouver to meet my cousin and her friend. We go to the UBC Museum of Anthropology, which I haven’t visited since it opened about 40 years ago when I lived in Vancouver! The artifacts, totems, textiles, and other displays in the Museum are spectacular. We stay about an hour and a half to take it all in before leaving to go for lunch at an Italian trattoria on West 4th Avenue, close to my cousin’s place.
I then say my goodbyes and drive to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. I arrive in time for the 3PM sailing, but I end up waiting while two sailings leave before boarding the 5PM ferry. I go to the Seawwest Lounge, pay $12, and help myself to coffee and snacks while I work on the photos and videos from my road trip. It is a spectacularly scenic sunny day as the ferry sails through the southern Gulf Islands to Swartz Bay. Although I have enjoyed this 2-week road trip, it is good to finally be back home!
After another scrumptious breakfast at Peachcliff B&B, I fly my Mavic Pro drone above the B&B, taking high definition video and photos of Peachcliff, the Okanagan Valley, Skaha Lake, Okanagan Falls, and I also capture the cyclists riding in the Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx event this morning, which my friend and his son are riding in.
I leave at 10:30AM after most of the serious riders are clear of the route, however it is slow going as I head north out of Okanagan Falls to the turnoff onto Highway 3A to head south to Keremeos. Once I’m on 3A it is an easy drive. I recharge my Tesla at the Keremeos Fast DC charger for about a half hour (see banner image above) before continuing to Highway 3 through Princeton and Manning Park. I recharge at the Tesla Supercharger at Hope and indulge in another small Blizzard frozen dessert from Dairy Queen, which is right next door!
The drive from Hope to Burnaby on the Trans-Canada Highway is very stressful, since the traffic around Abbotsford and Langley in the Fraser Valley is quite heavy despite it being a Sunday afternoon. Once I cross the Port Mann bridge into Coquitlam and Burnaby, traffic improves. I find my way through Burnaby to my Best Western Plus hotel on Kingsway and check in by 6PM. I’m very tired as I settle into my room, and then meet a friend for dinner at Minoa’s Greek Taverna (review) down Kingsway a few blocks. It’s great to reconnect with my friend again – we both attended BCIT together (Photogrammetry & Surveying) way back in the 1970s! The food and service at this Greek restaurant is excellent as usual.
I slept fine last night, but I wore earplugs to eliminate the traffic noise from the road. The trains seem to stop running around 11PM and don’t start until after 6AM, so they presented no problems for me. I have a nice breakfast in the breakfast room at the motel before packing up.
The visitor centre opens at 10AM, and after clearing the security gate, I pay $5 for a Senior admission. I decide to take the self-guided tour, since they supply a tour map of the facility, and I want to stop to take photos, so having a crowd of people around me wouldn’t work. The first stop is the very impressive generator hall visible from the main lobby area through glass windows.
I then walk into the main dam structure through a passageway and take the elevator to the crest of the dam. There is a nice display here explaining what is visible from this vantage point, and the outside deck gives a great perspective of the reservoir and downstream outflow, power station and spillway. As I return to my Tesla Model S fully-electric car, I consider that this dam supplies some of the clean electricity I use to energize my car. It is ironic that the namesake of my car, Nicola Tesla is largely responsible for alternating current, and designed much of the equipment still used today to generate our electricity from dams such as this one!
The access to Revelstoke Dam is along the first few kilometres of BC Highway 23. I get a kick out of the “Big Bend Highway” road sign as I turn off to access the dam, since my parents drove the original gravel Big Bend Highway back in the 1950s when it was the only way to get to Golden and points east of there. The Rogers Pass highway was completed through the Selkirk Mountains in 1962 to great fanfare at the time!
Revelstoke is in a strategic location for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), since it is at the western end of the challenging Rogers Pass. Even today, CPR crews live and work on the railway from this city. The CPR has a massive switching yard and maintenance facility here; and the Last Spike signifying the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada in 1885 is located 45 miles west of Revelstoke at the railway station of Craigellachie. The museum shows the history of the railway, how it was built through the mountains and the operations that keep it running.
Perhaps most interesting for visitors are many pieces of equipment on display, which were used to provide the rail transportation services. The centrepiece is undoubtedly Steam Engine 5468, a Mikado P-2k class locomotive 2-8-2 oil-burner – one of the last steam engines built in 1948 in Montreal. It’s a beautiful and fascinating machine, and has the Business car #4 “River Humber” beside it in the inside display, built in 1929 as a solarium lounge car. I find the history of the surveying of the route fascinating as well. There is an outside display with a caboose, snow plows, tankers, box cars, Diesel Locomotive SD 5500, and many other service cars sitting on tracks. The museum is located right beside the CPR mainline, so working stock is rolling by continuously, providing great context for the history to be found inside the museum!
Driving from Revelstoke to Okanagan Falls
Since I am starting late on my road trip today, I stop for lunch at a Tim Horton’s in Sicamous. I then turn off the Trans-Canada Highway onto Highway 97, driving south down the Okanagan Valley through Vernon, and stop to recharge my Tesla at the Kelowna Supercharger, arriving around 4PM. There are two Current Taxis recharging while I’m there – a Model 3 and a Model S. It is pouring rain as I negotiate rush hour to cross the bridge over Okanagan Lake and drive down Highway 97 through more rain showers to Penticton, and then to my destination Okanagan Falls. I am warmly welcomed by Vera, the operator for Peachcliff B&B, where I will be staying for the next two nights.
I take my time leaving Hotel Alma this morning. Traffic is light as I drive west from Calgary through the Foothills and the Kananaskis area to Canmore, where I stop to recharge my Tesla at the Supercharger. I grab a cappuccino from Beamers Coffee, which is about a 7-minute walk south of the Supercharger. Back at the Supercharger, while enjoying my coffee I take a photo of the old Moon over the south end of Mt. Rundle before resuming my drive.
The very popular Castle Junction rest stop offers the classic view of Castle Mountain, the Sawback Range and the Bow River. I use three different focal lengths of lenses with my dSLR to capture the scene (see banner image above for cropped fisheye view). I discover later that my telephoto shot of Castle Mountain also captured a raptor in flight near the mountain – bonus! I pull into the rest stop at Eldon in Banff National Park for a rest and to have some lunch. Before resuming my drive, I take a panoramic photo of Castle Mountain from this viewpoint – there is spectacular scenery everywhere you look in the Canadian Rockies!
I recharge at the Golden Supercharger for a half hour before driving Rogers Pass to Revelstoke. Tackling the highway construction westbound doesn’t seem as bad as the eastbound experience. This is the second-longest driving segment for my road trip, so I’m tired by the time I arrive in Revelstoke later in the afternoon.
I’m staying at the Swiss Chalet Motel in Revelstoke on the main drag: Victoria Ave. The Village Idiot Bistro is recommended by the desk clerk, so I go there for dinner. It’s a very casual place with a patio going full bore since it is about 27°C downtown. I sit inside out of the sun and have a High Country Kolsch draught (Mt. Begbie Brewery). It is kind of sweet, but it’s a good summer beer that goes well with my grilled halibut which is excellent, and is served with grilled tomatoes, green beans, onions, and goat cheese – a very heart-healthy choice.
I have a Standard Queen Room in the motel, which is small, but nicely updated with a Queen bed, fast Internet, full bathroom, and air-conditioning. Each unit has a parking spot right outside the door, and the office doubles as the breakfast room. The motel is centrally located – it’s an easy five minute walk to the railway museum, and a 15-minute walk to the shops downtown. There is free parking downtown if you drive.
After eating the very modest continental breakfast the motel offers, I drive across the street to charge at the Tesla Supercharger in Golden. I pickup an acceptable cappuccino from the nearby MacDonald’s drive-thru before starting my journey. This is one of the shorter road trip segments today, which I planned to allow me to enjoy the scenery along the way through Yoho and Banff National Parks and the Kananaskis area on my way to Calgary. The Canadian Rocky Mountains are awe-inspiring on this beautiful sunny day as I take my time along the route.
Flying drones in national parks is prohibited in Canada, so I wait until I’m out of Banff National Park near Canmore before launching my drone, and capturing some beautiful panoramic photos and video of Mount Rundle and the Bow River. I stop to recharge my Model S at the Canmore Supercharger, and have a quick bowl of soup at Craig’s Waystation restaurant before continuing down the valley and emerging from the Foothills and onto the flat prairie farmlands east of Calgary.
I am staying at the Hotel Alma on the campus of the University of Calgary, which is easy to access from the Trans-Canada Highway. As I park in front of the hotel, I meet several astronomy buddies even before I check-in. The hotel arranges for me to charge my vehicle at the Level-2 chargers available on the campus in Lot 22, which I take advantage of a couple of times during my week-long stay.
The RASC General Assembly registration desk is setup in the hotel lobby, so after I get settled in my room, I go downstairs to pick up my delegate’s package. I connect with a few people I know in the lobby while we wait for buses to take us to the Members’ Welcome BBQ dinner and First Nations performances at the Rothney Observatory, in the country south of Calgary. We also get to tour the observatories operating from this site.
I’m up just after 7AM, get cleaned up and go downstairs for breakfast. Afterwards, I try to fly my drone from the parking lot, but the whole of Merritt is a no-fly-zone since the airport is nearby. I spend about a half hour across the highway at the Tesla Superchargers at the Best Western Plus hotel before starting my drive north on Highway 5. This is my longest road trip today, driving a total of 446 kms over 6 hours elapsed time.
First stop is Kamloops Visitor Centre, where I charge the car at one of the four Tesla Superchargers. This takes about 20 minutes, so I have time to get a cappuccino at a Blenz in the Aberdeen Mall across the street, I leave Kamloops eastbound on the Trans-Canada Highway 1, heading to Salmon Arm, where I have a quick lunch at a Tim Hortons before proceeding to the Revelstoke Supercharger. I get my fastest charge rate so far at that location, but have time to walk to a Starbucks for a cappuccino.
After leaving Revelstoke, I drive over the Rogers Pass to Golden, where I am staying overnight. Highway 1 through Rogers Pass is dotted with construction zones where they are repaving. I wait about 20 minutes at one location. The snow shed lighting is also being worked on, so it is slow going. Despite all the construction and delays, Rogers Pass is always spectacular, and today is a lovely sunny day, so the mountains and valleys live up to all my expectations.
After driving all day, I am exhausted by the time I get to Golden. Since it is 6PM, I go to a nearby Boston Pizza and have a beer and some lasagna for dinner, and then check into my motel. I am staying at the Ponderosa Motor Inn, which is a very modest motel. It is clean, but they obviously cater to work crews and truck drivers, since it is located on a highway access road, instead of being downtown. I wouldn’t stay here again, but there’s really nothing wrong with the room: it’s clean, quiet, and everything works.
I’m pretty well packed for my road trip to Calgary, which starts this morning. My partner and I packed a 14” Meade SCT telescope in the back of my Tesla last night. It just fits in the back with the back seats still upright. I jam other stuff around the telescope so it won’t move when I’m underway. My travel bags, snacks, drinks, and camera gear go into the back seat. I have a medical appointment this morning, but arrive at the ferry terminal at 12:10PM, identify myself as a senior in order to get a free passenger fare on BC Ferries, and get on the 1PM sailing to Tsawwassen (see banner image above). I grab a Cobb Salad from the snack bar and have lunch in a quiet area of the ship. The Strait of Georgia is calm as we cross to Tsawwassen, arriving on time at 2:35PM.
Driving Highway 17 along the Fraser River to Surrey is a stressful start to my road trip since it is so congested with trucks. The Langley section of the Highway 1 freeway is under construction, so it isn’t much better, except as an electric vehicle I can use the temporary HOV lane to bypass some of the congestion. Once I get to Mission/Abbotsford the traffic starts to speed up and thin out a bit, and past Chilliwack is easy going all the way to Hope.
The Hope Supercharger is located right downtown, so while my car charges for 40 minutes, I go next door to the Dairy Queen and splurge on a small Blizzard. Hope is a very run-down town, so I’m glad to get out of there and onto the Coquihalla Highway.
The speed limit is now 120 kmh along most stretches, so that combined with the steep climb out of Hope to the Summit means my Model S is using 450 watts/km of energy, as compared with about 200 watts/km in the city or on flatter sections of the highway. Of course, I get some regeneration on the descent from the summit, and the stretches on the last half hour along the Nicola Valley into Merritt are much flatter. I stop at the Britton Creek Rest Area to have a look at the pair of Fast DC chargers and a Level 2 charger for electric vehicles. This allows shorter range electric vehicles to now make use of Highway 5. Previously they had to stick to Highway 1 or 3.
After checking into the Comfort Inn in Merritt, I meet a fellow amateur astronomer to transfer the telescope to his car. I’m glad to get rid of that beast, so I have more room in my car. The hotel appears to be brand new, and is located right beside the highway and airport. It is quiet and well-run.
The reason I wanted to charge the Tesla last night at the hotel and not have to drive east for 15 minutes to the Tucson Supercharger is that I want to take the 11AM solar telescope tour at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive westward from the hotel, so driving east to the Supercharger would be inefficient and wasteful of precious time.
I have breakfast downstairs in the hotel, and I’m on the road by 9AM in my fully-charged Tesla. The Model S uses about triple the energy to climb the 1,200 metre (3,400′) elevation change up the mountain, but there is only about nine miles of actual steep climbing. The Model S still has 120 miles of range by the time I reach the summit.
Since I am so early, I am the only visitor for the telescope tour when I meet the Docent in the Visitor Center. She convinces me that the 2.1 meter observatory tour would be a better choice, since the solar observatory is closed, so all we can do is walk around it on the outside. A Docent-In-Training and a few more people show up before the tour leaves – we all agree to stick with the plan to visit the 2.1 meter telescope.
I take a few photos, but restrict myself to areas of Kitt Peak that I didn’t photograph last year. By 1PM I’m ready to return to Tucson, so I rig up my GoPro Hero 5 Black as a dash cam and drive down the mountain and along the highways back to the hotel. The Tesla gains about 25 miles of range due to the regeneration on the way down the mountain road, so I still have just over 100 miles of range after arriving at the hotel. Since the staff have left the Tesla Destination chargers powered up, I plug in for about four hours to top up the charge for tomorrow’s adventures.
I go downstairs for breakfast and then check out of the Red Lion Inn. I head down to the University of Arizona, since a friend suggested I see their Optics Museum at the College of Optical Sciences. the University is located downtown, which is on the way to my new hotel on the south side of Tucson. I manage to find pay street parking only a couple of blocks away, and use Google Maps to find the building on campus.
The Museum of Optics is self-guided, with displays on several floors of the building. After starting in the lobby with several beautiful glass sculptures and some telescopes, the tour starts at the top of the building on the 7th floor. I then work my way down floor-by-floor. They have an extensive collection of eyeglasses, binoculars, monoculars, opera glasses, historic cameras, stereographs, telescopes, and much more. It is all fascinating, and free-of-charge!
The architecture of the Meinel Optical Sciences Building is quite striking, since it has a segmented glass front, the sides and back are wrapped in dark copper, and there are internal light shafts that go top-to-bottom.
Since I have well over an hour left on the parking meter, I go to the Flandreau Science Center and Planetarium which is across the street from the Meinel Building. I pay the $6 Senior’s admission and spend time taking in what is perhaps the most impressive collection of minerals on public display in the Tucson area. Their amazing collection of meteorites includes some as large as a suitcase! It is a shame the displays aren’t better lit, since it’s hard to appreciate the colours and textures of the minerals when they are in glass cases lit from above with fluorescent lights.
After leaving the UofA, I check into the Baymont Hotel and Suites. I enquire about the Tesla Destination chargers outside, and am told they charge $2/hour and they will turn it on when I’m ready to charge. I’m pleased the rate is reasonable…this is going to be so much more convenient than staying at a hotel with no electric vehicle support. The Tesla Supercharger east of Tucson is only about a 15 minute drive each way plus charging time), so I have options. I decide to try out their Tesla Destination charger. The front desk clerk is thrilled, since this is new to her, and she has never seen a Tesla up close before. As it turns out, several of the charge points don’t work, but I find one that lights up green on my Tesla’s charge port. It is a 40 amp 209 volt supply, so the charge rate is about the same as I have at home (Level 2 charger). I end up paying for 3.5 hours’ worth of charging at $2/hr.
My friends and I leave the ranch this morning, bound for Tucson. With all the rain we’ve had over the last few days, I’m concerned about the washes on Sybil road being in rough shape, so I take the main ranch road to St. David and then take the state highway through Benson and join I-10 there. I meet my friends at their car rental agency in downtown Tucson and give them a ride to the airport.
I then head north to the Oro Valley and check in to the Red Lion Inn around 1:30PM. I ask them about using an external plug to charge my Tesla, but they say they have none. I look later, and sure enough there are zero plugs on the outside walls! My Tesla Model S is currently covered in mud from driving the ranch roads all week. I want to have a clean car to drive for my last few days in Tucson and when I return it, so I go to the nearby Mister Car Wash (4941 N Oracle Rd). I pay them US$45 for a hand wash and “Hog Wash” (power wash the mud off) and clean the interior. The crew also give the car a light detail and do a terrific job (see above banner image), so I give them a generous tip. My rental Tesla Model S now looks better than when I took delivery of it!
Since I skipped lunch today, I decide to treat myself to a nice dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill. I walk the block up the main drag from the hotel to the restaurant, arriving at about 5PM. Their Happy Hour is 4-6PM, so I order a Classic Martini, which only ends up costing $4.46, which I find is very nicely made! They also have a three course dinner special, so I have a lovely minestrone soup to start, Spiedino di Mare (grilled scallops and shrimp with broccoli) for the main, and mini cannoli for dessert. The food costs $18.99, so the total bill with tax and tip is US$28.97 which I consider a bargain for the good service and excellent drinks and food. I bring the cannoli back to my hotel to eat later.
After researching the Level 2 charge points near the hotel, I realize that once my existing charge is depleted, not being able to charge overnight is going to be a serious inconvenience. This issue is going to limit the distance I can take my rental Model S each day, so I decide to cut my stay short at this hotel and move to a hotel that has Tesla Destination Chargers. The Baymont Inn Tucson Airport has seven Tesla destination chargers (and 7 additional generic J1772 chargers), so overnight charging becomes a reality again. I book the next three nights at that hotel and go downstairs to cancel three nights off my stay with the Red Lion Inn. I will change hotels tomorrow. I should have done more research and booked the Baymont for my whole stay, since it is also a bit cheaper than the Red Lion.