Road Trip #3: Cherries and Black Diamonds

This week’s road trip was originally planned to be another state park, but we were invited by some friends to join them cherry picking in Brentwood, so we combined that with a visit to the nearby Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

After an unusually early start, we reached the cherry picking farm just after 9:30am (we had a reservation for the 9:30am to 11am time slot since they are limiting the number of people in the orchard for COVID). The drive was mostly uneventful, at least until we got near to the CA-242 split to head into Pittsburg. As we drove by a temporary roadside sign indicating that CA-242 would be closed until 10am (for overnight construction work), the Taycan’s navigation also announced that the road ahead was closed, and that it did not have an alternative route. Then it immediately repeated the announcement, but rather than not having an alternative route it worked out how to get around the closed section of road.

Cherries

A little over an hour of cherry picking netted us about 30 lbs (we’re giving most away to friends and family – I hope), we headed into Brentwood for a refuel. First stop, Krispy Kreme for doughnuts (or “donuts” in the local language).

Then on to another strip mall for lunch. Most of us opted for the banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) from Banh Mi Express, with one choosing their poke bowl option. A couple went for MOD Pizza.

The banh mi were OK, thought not the best I’ve had. They were larger than we usually get here in Alameda, and were packed full of veggies – perhaps over packed for some. The poke bowl got a mixed response, with the tuna and salmon being rated as better than our local poke place, the spicy tuna as being really spicy (🌶🌶🌶) and the crab salad as disappointing.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

Originally we were thinking of visiting Marsh Creek State Historic Park, but on further investigation we found that the parking and vehicular access is closed a part of their COVID restrictions, so instead we thought a quick visit to a coal mine could be a good alternative.

Although the park gates do not close until 8pm, it seems that the visitor center closes much earlier, at 2pm. The visitor center is a short walk from the parking area, which seemed a little strange until we arrived and discovered that it is actually located inside an old sand mine tunnel.

We arrived with just 5-10 minutes before closing time, but the staff inside stopped and talked to us about the history of the mines. How the area had first been a coal mine in the late 1800s (hence the name Black Diamond), but later they had mined the sandstone for sand, rich in silica, for making glass.

After our fleeting visit to the visitor center, we walked up above to take a look at the Eureka Slope, an example of how they mined for coal that is located just above the visitor center. The opening looks down a steep slope into the side of the hill. To the naked eye it is pitch black, but my iPhone camera was able to make out some details in the darkness.

Hike

In addition to the mines, there are trails all over the park, winding around the hillsides. Leaving the Eureka Slope mine head, we walked down the trail and off around the hill, originally planning to make the full loop back. Eventually we reached the top of the hill and decided that the full loop might be too much for the kids, so we turned back and took a slightly easier path back the visitor center and parking lot.

Trip Statistics and Charging

Trip Statistics

Distance for this trip was much lower than the previous two and we still had about 55% remaining in the battery when we got back to Alameda. Since we had a drive up pickup from Target though, we stopped at the Electrify America chargers alongside it.

The Porsche charging app showed two of 150kW chargers as being in use; when we got there only one space was occupied. I pulled into a space I have used before, plugged in and waited for the car to connect. Then I tapped start in the app, only to be told that the app was unable to start the session.

I moved the car to the next charger along, plugged in there and waited for the connection with the car to complete. This time the app was able to start the charge, but before the current charge percentage and the speed could display I was given this message on the charger screen:

Charging Session Error

Third charger worked and we bumped the charge from 55% to 82% in just 17 minutes, leaving us set for the next week at least.

Electrify America

Electrify America has the opportunity to build a charging network to rival Tesla’s superchargers, but if they cannot get the software to work more reliably, that will not happen. Given the number of issues I have had now with their chargers (three out of four visits I have encountered problems), I think they need to have a serious review of their software. Remember, EA is part of the VW Group, as is Porsche – these cars should be able to just plug in and start charging without even needing an application to start them. They definitely should not be failing in the seemingly random ways I have experienced.

Software seems to be the VW Group’s achilles heel. Whether it is in their cars, in the chargers or even their apps and online services, their software always seems to have problems. Building connected devices is a lot more complex than just connecting the device to the internet.

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