Unlike our previous road trip to Monterey, this one was going to be a three day, two night stay. That gave us extra time to do a little more around the area than just the aquarium, although we did manage to fit in a visit there as well.
We left relatively early in the morning, traveling with some friends, and met up at Sea Harvest in Moss Landing for lunch.
After lunch, it was a short drive down to Pacific Grove to visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary and see all the monarch butterflies stopping there for the winter season.
Coming out of our daughter’s quarantine from being in “close contact” with somebody who tested positive for COVID (another student in her class), we thought we’d take advantage of the weekend and head out for a short road trip. This week we chose Jack London State Historic Park, near Glen Ellen, as our destination.
Not far from home, and mostly freeway driving, we made it to the park in around an hour and a half, starting the journey with around 85% state of charge (our home charger is offline at the moment as we are getting it rewired as part of upgrading the central heating and water heater in the house to be electric heap pump systems – more on that in a future post).
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.
When making long trips in an EV, plentiful, reliable, fast charging locations are essential. Electrify America has done a good job of installing fast (150KW and 350KW units) in lots of locations, but the reliability is simply not there today.
Before getting to my thoughts on the state of Electrify America, I will recount our recent experiences. Also, I am restricting this to Electrify America for now for two reasons: firstly, they are the network that provides the Taycan’s included charging service, and secondly, they are the network with the most 350 KW charging units. We have used ChargePoint for a long time with our previous EV, and once with the Taycan too, and while I have never experienced serious problems with their network, the DC chargers they have deployed in most locations seem to be 50 KW units.
I should also note that Electrify America did reach out to me on Twitter and arrange to call me to talk about the experiences we had on this trip. In general, Electrify America support personnel are great, and will do everything they can to make it work, but, much like the Porsche Connect support team, they have very limited tools at their disposal to diagnose issues or resolve problems. Most of the time, the best they have been able to offer is to pass the message on to maintenance to get the charger looked at.
Our recent trip down to SoCal and back highlighted just how much the reliability matters, and how far from achieving it we are. The round trip was just over 1,000 miles, so we needed several charging stops (we also had no charging facilities at our destination, so we needed a charge while there to prep for the return journey). We left Alameda with 100% state of charge; enough to make it to the charger at Walmart in Tulare, about 220 miles away.
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’s road trip was down to Castle Rock State Park. The park is located in the hills above Saratoga. While most of the journey is typical bay area freeway. the drive up to the parking lot along Highway 9 out of Saratoga is another “winding” road with a very smooth surface, and amazing twists and turns.
Aside from the rock that the park is named for, one of the main attractions at the park is a 75 foot waterfall. Given the current conditions in California, it was not a surprise to find that the waterfall was more of a trickle of water down the stone wall, but still offered some impressive views. After that, we continued around the trail to complete the 3 mile loop.
Wilder Ranch State Park is down near Santa Cruz. According to Apple maps, it is about 1hr 20m drive away from Alameda without traffic. It was a lot longer than that on Saturday morning.
We encountered traffic in several places along the route, mainly on HWY-17 before Los Gatos. Sadly, even once we passed that, there was too much traffic on 17 to really enjoy the curves. (“Winding Road” is not really a warning sign, is it?).
Since the traffic was so bad, we stopped for lunch in Santa Cruz; not down by the boardwalk, but on Pacific Avenue. Eating outside on the street we had a mix of poke from Poke House and sandwiches from Zoccoli’s Italian deli. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
As members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we have visited multiple times a year most years. Last year, as we all lived through the lockdowns and the global pandemic, the aquarium remained closed and we were unable to visit one of our favorite destinations.
This trip wasn’t quite back to normal (we had to book tickets for the aquarium ahead of time – actually back in April) and we had an assigned 30 minute window when we could enter. Once inside, a few things were different too, though much of the experience was the same. Outside of the aquarium, our trips normally include at least one night in our favorite hotel (the Hilton Garden Inn) where we love the cooked breakfasts, the sheltered outdoor pool and hot tub and the s’mores by the firepit each evening. We also typically enjoy local restaurants for dinners, visit the Dennis the Menace park and perhaps the beach or boating lake. This time we did a day trip, mainly focused on the aquarium visit, though we did get manage to get some other activities in too.
About two hours east of Alameda, in the foothills of the Sierra mountains is a small town with a big focus on trains. Not modern trains though. Steam trains mainly, and one old diesel loco.
Railtown 1897 is part of the California State Park system, but the trains are operated by volunteers. Entry into the park comes with a ticket for a train ride, and includes a walking tour of the roundhouse, the old machine shop and part of the train yard, as well as a brief history of the Sierra Railway system, and its relationship with Hollywood for both movies and TV shows.
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.