Bitter Cold and Wind

For the last few days I have been traveling through Wyoming and South Dakota in very high winds of gusts up to 55 mph and temperatures almost always in the 30s.  I’m a native Californian, and for me this weather is bitter cold and difficult to even stay out of the car for more than a few minutes to take some photos wearing a down jacket and a hat.  A few times the wind was so strong it was almost hard to walk.

When I left Lusk, Wyoming with a full range charge, I began the first 5 miles using over 500 Wh/mile, which is a huge number.  The battery was cold, the outside air temperature about 32 degrees fahrenheit (0 degree celsius) and very gusty winds even up to 55 mph.  I was quite cautious on the drive into the Black Hills area.  I was driving under the speed limit for most of the trip – beginning at 55 mph and then up to 65 mph.  Even if the route between the superchargers is only 149 miles, I used up almost all of my electricity during the journey.

Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

I took an “indoor” excursion into Wind Cave National Park.  This cave is quite interesting with many separate passageways that are very maze like.  And lots of unusual shapes on the walls.  I had lunch at the Black Hills Burger & Bun Company in downtown Custer, which has both traditional hamburgers, buffalo and a homemade black bean burgers.

I also stopped in at both the Crazy Horse Monument and Mount Rushmore.   I think all visitors to this area need to see both.  Both monuments represent people and movements that are important to the development in the United States.  Mount Rushmore honors four important presidents to our development as a nation, and Crazy Horse honors one of the last Native warriors and the cruel legacy of how the Native Americans were treated.

The Crazy Horse Monument scale is gigantic.  I tried to represent the two side by side in the montage photo below as a reasonably accurate representation of the size difference.  Although you can see Crazy Horse from the road, the cost of admission and the short ride to the base gives you a fascinating sense of the scale of this monument.  Only Crazy Horse’s face is complete; when complete the entire sculpture will reach the trees below.  I enjoy watching construction projects and can appreciate the amount of effort already undertaken and continuing for years into the future.

Crazy Horse Monument in Relationship to Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Monument in Relationship to Mount Rushmore

At the Mount Rushmore monument parking gate, the fee taker recognized my car.  We began to talk about Teslas and I gave him a ride in the car.  Turns out Elon Musk was seen here in his black Tesla along with a second silver Tesla.

During these journeys while supercharging, I took breaks in the nearby lodging facilities when not eating.  I have found that even in remote corners of the west, all the food service is now so fast even in sit down restaurants.  I also have stopped overnight next to the superchargers.  Late in the evening, the last thing I want to do is wait for the car to charge, I’d rather walk over to the closest motel.

I also found I needed to use my first non-supercharger on this journey in the Badlands National Park.  I wanted to see one of the minuteman missile sites.  The park ranger told me that the self guided site was back another forty miles (thirty in reality) round trip from the intersection where I was going to be turning east.  I asked the rangers at Badlands if I could charge using some of their RV spots.  Turns out I was lucky as the head ranger had been wanting to add a charging spot, and I added 60 miles of charge in their volunteer RV hookups at 40 amps.

First Charging in a RV facility in Badlands National Park

First Charging in a RV facility in Badlands National Park

In the end, the missile site was not overwhelming but worth seeing.  The decommissioned missile that was on view seemed so small for the huge amount of destruction it could have caused.   My best estimate if I had not topped off in the RV park would have run out of juice 30 miles west of the supercharger unless I had slowed down dangerously on the freeway.

The last leg into the first supercharger into Minnesota, I drove conservatively staying near the speed limit but only could average 400 Wh/mile.  I kept getting the “Service Tire Pressure Warning” light and went off and on a few times in Minnesota.

While on this leg of the journey, a reporter out of Los Angeles ran out of charge in his rented Tesla in the California / Arizona desert.  I chose not to drive direct from Barstow to Kingman because I was worried about the distance given the high speeds on the freeway and the wind conditions.  Driving an electric car does require more planning than a gas vehicle because charging options are not as ubiquitous today.

Near the supercharger in Worthington, Minnesota were a large number of windmills.  I’m hoping I charged with wind power.  I actually spotted another Tesla with California plates at the supercharger in Worthington when I left.

Wind Turbines Near Worthington, Minnesota

Wind Turbines Near Worthington, Minnesota




Wind Turbines

One of the Main Windmills at Pacheco State Park

One of the Many Windmills at Pacheco State Park

I am intrigued by all the different ways to help our planet stay healthy. Owing two Teslas, installing solar panels, not eating meat and simply buying less are things I have done in the last eight years.  I don’t have a wind turbine, and wind power seems to get very little mainstream press.  On a recent hike in Pacheco State Park off highway 152 I saw a lot of windmills.

Technically when using the wind to generate electricity, the correct term is wind turbine.  A windmill is used to pump water or grind grain.  I use both terms interchangeably.

For most home owners, a windmill is probably not the best choice.  I went to a Sunset design house with a windmill in San Francisco a number of years ago.  I could hear the windmill in the background, and would not like to have that level of noise in my home on a regular basis but I am very sensitive to repetitive background noise.  Also a lot of local zoning ordinances may not permit windmills. Even more importantly most people are not particularly fond of wind, so not a lot of homes are built in particularly windy locations.  I am not an expert in wind turbines, so perhaps there are appropriate models for home usage.

Pacheco State Park is a financially self sustaining park because over half of the land is a wind turbine farm.  The area is very windy for half of the year, when it probably is not to pleasant to go for a hike.   The park encourages the public to hike on the western side away from the windmills.  On our hike, the windmills were not particularly loud but it was a calm day with only a slight breeze.  Of course, we rode in the Tesla to the park.  The park is located directly between the Harris Ranch and Gilroy superchargers.