Road Trip #10: La Quinta & Back

Swimming Pool at Night

This road trip was a little different to the first nine in that we were staying at our destination for a week of vacation. Given the situation with COVID-19 in California, we had decided that rather than stay in a hotel, where we would be exposed to many other people all week, we would instead rent a house somewhere in the state that had a private swimming pool for the kids to play in all week. We would drive there, spend a week basically in the house we rented, and then drive back.

The final trip was pretty close to that, with only a couple of day trips while we were there, both of which we stayed mainly in the car.

The Drive Down

Trip Statistics

We left Alameda just after 8am on Sunday morning for what the navigation showed to be just over a 500 mile journey to La Quinta, in the desert south of Palm Springs in southern California.

For the south bound direction, partly to see if we could avoid crowds at the common stopping places on I-5, we took the slightly slower route south on CA-99. Consulting the charger planning maps, there seemed to be more options to charge on this route, and they were in small towns rather than freeway service areas.

We ended up stopping twice to charge, once at Tulare where we also picked up lunch, and once at Santa Clarita (near the Six Flags park just north of Los Angeles). For much of the journey, the temperature was above 100℉ (37.8℃). When we arrived at La Quinta, the car was reporting the outside temperature as 118℉ (47.8℃), but the car was not phased by this heat at all, and while we didn’t quite achieve the efficiency we have on previous road trips, 2.9 mi/kWh when we ran the AC for the whole trip, and no doubt had the battery & motor cooling systems running as well, seems pretty reasonable.

Villa Carranza

We were met at the house, Villa Carranza, by Rosa, the property manager and she got us all set up with keys, garage door opener remotes and showed us how to operate all the controls for the pool, the patio and the cooling systems. The house has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a well equipped kitchen, living room and dining area. Additionally, the bedrooms and the living room had Roku powered smart TVs. Outside was a pool with a spa, a patio with fan and misters and a gas grill.

We used Instacart to deliver groceries to the house, avoiding the need to visit a store in person, and then were able to cook most of our meals in the house. Despite the high temperatures, we spent most of the days in the pool (the water in the pool was around 100℉ (37.8℃) – heated via a solar water heating on the roof of the house .One of the days towards the end of the week, we saw the temperature of the water coming down from the roof at 115℉ (46.1℃)!

Windmill Tour

One of the interesting things about the Palm Springs area is that as you drive in to the area from Los Angeles along I-10 you come to a massive wind power farm with all sorts of turbines, two and three blade models, large and small, on metal columns or lattice towers. It turns out that this pass was seen as a good place for wind power back in the 1980s and a number of different designs were testing here.

Given the history of wind power in the San Gorgonio pass, we thought it would be fun to do a self-driving tour around the wind farm. The tour starts in an area where they have set up some of older components on the ground. While driving around, there is an audio tour played from your phone which pauses after each stop to allow for you to get out and take photos. Later in the tour we get closer to a larger, multi-MW turbine, towering up to 400 feet above us.

Joshua Tree National Park

The second place we visited was the amazing Joshua Tree National Park. Since we were in La Quinta, we entered the park from the south entrance, visiting the Cottonwood Visitor Center on the way in and stopped by the Cottonwood Springs Oasis.

Then we went for the long drive through the park heading towards the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, 54 miles away. Along the way, we stopped at various locations to take photos:

We learned the park sits on the border of two different deserts, the Colorado Desert in the south where we entered the park, and the Mojave in the north where we left the park. The plants in each park are very different, and the Joshua Trees that the park tales its name from are only found in the Mojave desert.

Along the way we stopped at Turkey Flats, the Cholla Cactus Garden, White Tank, Jumbo Rocks, Split Rock, Skull Rock, Hall of Horrors (this was too crowded for us, so we looked from the parking lot and then drove on), and Quail Springs, before leaving the park to stop at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center (which is several miles outside the park gate). We also grabbed some lunch at the Road Runner Grab & Go, which was in the same building as the visitor center. The sandwiches, potato salad and mac & cheese the kids picked were all excellent, and I would happily recommend picking up your lunch there!

The Return Journey

Leaving La Quinta around 10am on Sunday morning, we had decided to head back on I-5. We were starting with just 78% state of charge however, and the car was not confident it could get to Santa Clarita – I felt otherwise and we overrode the recommended first charging stop, that was not going to be a high speed charger, and told it to head to the Walmart in Santa Clarita that had worked for us on the way down. We arrived there without issue, and had lunch while we charged. As detailed in the separate post about the charging, the charger worked, but the user interface on the charger’s screen lagged by many minutes, and we had to stop the charge from the app rather than the on-screen button.

After that, we hit I-5 for the drive north, with the next planned charging stop at a Shell gas station in Firebaugh, just off the freeway. Along the way, we decided to make a stop at Bravo Farms in Kettleman City, mainly for ice cream (though a restroom break was welcome too), and to check out the themed outdoor space they have.

Bravo Farms, Kettleman City

They had upgraded the outdoor space with additional tables and also a overhead misting system. The remainder was very similar (minus the vehicle that used to poke out of one building – it was pushed back inside and the door locked.

Sadly, too many people at this location were unmasked, even indoors, so we did not stay long. The high ambient temperatures was keeping people from staying outside, but it also meant our ice cream melted fast!

Back on the road, we made good time to Firebaugh for what was meant to be a quick (under 20 minute) charging stop using one of the two 350 KW chargers. Sadly, this turned into a very long stay as we tried to get the Electrify America chargers to work. This is all detailed in a separate post, so I’m not going to cover it here, suffice to say after getting enough charge to make it to the next location, Patterson, we were over an hour behind schedule. We arrived at the Patterson charger around the time we should have been home.

At Patterson, in a Walmart parking lot in the dark (with stray kittens for company) we managed to get one of the chargers to work, and we also picked up some food for dinner. After that, the run home was uneventful, and the final stats for the trip, aside from the time, were not too bad:

We lost some of the saving in distance that I-5 was meant to provide over the CA-99 route by taking the detour to Patterson for charging, and we had a lower average speed, but the efficiency was the same at 2.9 mi/kWh. As with the southbound trip, we’d had the air conditioning on for the whole time, and the outside temperatures were over 100℉ (37.8℃) for much of the journey too.

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