Road Trip #8: Columbia

Another trip to the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, and back in time to the gold rush era. We have had a couple of trips out this way before to visit parts of California’s gold rush history, including Coloma where the first gold was discovered in 1848.

This week we headed east again, past Jamestown, home of the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, through Sonora and into the town of Columbia, and another State Historic Park. This one is a little different however. Columbia is like taking a trip back in time.

Horse Drawn Vehicles Only

Many towns have pedestrian-only streets, but Columbia has signs up on all the streets into the main part of the town announcing Horse Drawn Vehicles Only. That’s the first sign that something is different here. As you walk down the street it becomes obvious that this is not a normal small town.

Lunch at the Saloon

By the time we arrived, we were all ready for lunch, and after even a short walk in the 100ºF (38ºC) temperatures we were ready for a cold drink too. As we walked down the street we came across the Jack Douglass Saloon. Looking every bit the part of a period saloon, they also offered lunches and had tables along the wooden sidewalk of a quiet side street.

Two of our party opted for sandwiches (a chicken salad on sliced sourdough and a ham & cheese on French roll), but we also had one pesto chicken salad and a Beyond burger.

Unlike many places which overcook them, the Beyond burger was cooked perfectly, and tasted great with the additional blue cheese topping. Regular fixings included the jalapeños which gave the burger some zing. Fries would have been nice, but the bag of Lays chips (crisps) was OK.

Stagecoach and Panning for Gold

After lunch, we went over to check out the long line for the stagecoach rides. Turned out to be about 45 minutes wait, so while one of us waited in line, the kids went to check out the gold panning.

Stagecoach Ride

At the small store next to the line for the stagecoach ride, we were able to secure a couple of pans and a 5 minute lesson from an expert showing the kids how to pan for gold. If you already know the techniques, you could get the pans for less, but the included lesson also came with a guarantee of finding gold (they add some to the sand they use for the lesson so they can show you what it looks like, and how to separate it from the sand etc).

Once the lesson was completed, there are a number of water filled troughs set up with sand in the bottom where you can search for more gold. Our ten year old mastered the techniques and got quite good at finding the tiny flakes in amongst the sand, and he came home with quite a few flakes in the bottom of the little plastic vial they give you with the pans for collecting your gold in.

We had to pause the panning for the stagecoach ride, but the price of the pan is an ‘all day’ offer for kids (max 2 hours for adults) and they happily gave us back pans on our return just by showing the vials.

The stagecoach ride takes you out of town along a trail through the woods and the rocks of the surrounding Sierra foothills. Part way around a bandit holds up the stagecoach, which scared one of the younger kids on our coach, but added a bit of fun to the ride.

Ice Cream and Shopping

After the ride and another half hour of panning, the heat was taking its toll and we went in search of ice cream. The ice cream parlor was packed, and the line seemed to be barely moving, so we went the other way to Browns Coffee House and Sweets Saloon, where we picked up some ice cream floats and a frozen lemonade.

Refreshed by the drinks, we explored the shops, starting with Columbia Mercantile, Provisions and Grocery and working our way back down the street towards the car. Along the way, we picked up some stuff in Towle & Leavitt Dry Goods, stopped by the park information center (where the kids picked up their Junior Ranger info, badges and stamps), bought sweet treats at the Candy Kitchen and popped into the Variety Store. Next door to the ticket office for the stagecoach ride is a Wells Fargo Express office.

Homeward Bound

Although the town was prepping for a free event with a band, the kids were tired and wanted to head home, and we had a long drive ahead of us. On the way to the park we had not been making any attempt to conserve battery (although even at freeway speeds, the Taycan easily gets 3 miles per kWh). On the way back, since we knew we would need a charge and I wanted to try to make it to one of the ElectrifyAmerica 350kW units rather than stopping at the 50kW Oakdale ones, I switched into “range” mode.

Only Porsche could warn you that in range mode you will be limited to a mere 90 mph! When we pulled into the charger at the Walmart in Tracy, we were at 9% state of charge, and showing an average consumption of just under 4 miles/kWh – the early part of the journey was mostly downhill which set us up nicely for that average, although, comparing to the Railtown trip, I think range mode may have helped a little too.

We ended up spending 15 minutes at the charger – 10 minutes more than the car was suggesting we stop for – mostly spent working out where to get dinner. In that time we picked up 57 kWh of energy, getting us back up to 72%. When it started, the charger was reporting running at 254 kW, by 53% state of charge it had dropped to 206 kW and even at the end it was still pushing 150 kW.

At 15% state of charge the car started suggesting that I “monitor” range, but did not seem to be limiting me any further than it already had by my selection of range mode. The main change I saw in range mode vs normal mode is that it switched from favoring the rear axle motor to favoring the front one for delivering power; interestingly, it switched back to the rear each time for recovering power during braking.

Fiery Shanghai

While the kids initially asked for Five Guys or Blaze Pizza (both near the Walmart in Tracy where the chargers were located), we persuaded them that there were better options near the Livermore outlets in the Pacific Pearl mall. We ended up eating outside at Fiery Shanghai and both kids admitted that the food was better than burgers or pizza.

We had a couple of Shanghai style fried noodle dishes, a noodle soup and an eggplant dish. All were excellent. The only misses where the restaurant was concerned was that they were very limited on vegetarian food, and they were sold out of vegetable spring rolls. Unusually for Chinese restaurants, they were unable to make tofu variations of dishes like their kung-pao chicken, although they did manage to switch the pork for tofu in my noodle dish.

Final Stats

Final Trip Stats

I grabbed the photo of the dash back home and it showed the return journey was 3.3 miles/kWh.

We did the drive from Livermore to home in normal mode again, but I switched it into range mode to see what the estimate range was. Without a destination set in the navigation it was telling me the max speed was only 80 mph (not sure how it decides what the maximum speed should be).

In range mode, it was suggesting a range of 134 miles from a 49% state of charge. That works out at about 273 miles for a full battery – significantly more than the EPA estimate, which currently stands at 227 miles. That number is equivalent to just 2.7 miles/kWh and yet we have consistently seen over 3 miles/kWh on our longer trips. Believe me, I am not trying to maximize range – this weekend was the first time I’ve even used range mode, and to be honest, I’m not that convinced it made much difference. The car seems to agree too: in normal mode, it was estimating we’d get 130 miles from the 49%.

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