Hour -15: The slightly belated test drive

We take the factory tour, impressed by all the Kuka robots juggling Tesla parts. Both Model S and Model X are made here, and our car rolled off of this assembly line 6 days prior. No pictures are allowed inside, and so we didn't take any.

Alexei listens to instructions on how to open the trunk. Thank you, Tesla delivery specialist.

Alexei tries the autopilot. The autopilot is now tried and tested.

Ludicrous mode acceleration impressions. First, it hits you and splatters you against the seat. Time stops. You get tunnel vision, the world begins to distort like in a movie zoom effect. Closest comparable feeling is pulling Gs in an acrobatic aeroplane.
— Alexei

Hour -12: Can a supercharger be offline?

Waiting for Alexei to finish the paperwork, Dmitry is engrossed in the "Our Inevitable World Domination" map and the Tesla gift shop. No salespeople pushing expensive options or "finance managers" trying to squeeze a few extra bucks. The internet does all that.

The red Tesla hat reminds me of a certain political campaign prop, except this one says ‘America is already pretty great’
— Dmitry

Hour 1: The Premium Outlets

ALEXEI: We are following the list of supercharger stops provided by evtripplanner.com. The first suggested top-up is at the ironically named Vacaville Premium Outlets. We charge for 11 minutes. 

DMITRY: I don't think we needed that charging stop since we had to stop by before the big climb up to the Donner Pass anyway. On-the-job training.

Counter-intuitive fact: Tesla is loudest when it’s parked. During charging, battery cooling fans kick in, and it sounds like the car is revving up. When driving at speed, all you hear is a faint electrical whine.
— Alexei

Hour 3: Rocklin to Donner Pass and Lake Tahoe

Driving up Sierra Nevada on I-80 we encounter the only stretch of bad weather for the entire trip. It's foggy, raining and 47 degrees. It quickly gets so cold that the car warns us that we need to get to a charger as soon as possible. Still about 15 mountanous miles to go to the Donner Pass Supercharger.

Hour 5: America is big

ALEXEI: I am surprised how far ahead the Tesla software is. It really exposes all the pretend improvement activity other car manufacturers engage in. Superkudos for that. I am only slightly disappointed in Tesla for not offering an all-synthetic interior. I don't need my interior to be wrapped in strips of processed cow.

DMITRY: Model X has an all-cloth interior option. Just saying.

Hour 8: Speeding is punished

ALEXEI: We get pulled over for going 1-10 miles over the speed limit in a 75mph zone. Cops are suspicious of an out-of-state car without plates. We were warned about this kind of thing. In reality, they just want to talk about our car: "Do you like it?" We were not warned about this kind of thing. We lose 12 minutes.

DMITRY: First of all, I've never seen a more sophisticated police cruiser. It was something out of a near-future sci-fi thriller, or FOX's "24". It had enought blinking lights to power a midsize rave party, plus radars, lidars, midars and other ars. We saw no other highway partol cars in the entire state of Nevada, but here near Elko there were at least 6 units within a 10-mile radius. We are given a $195 dollar ticket for going 7 miles over the speed limit, and the ticket is presented to me and signed for on an iPad. Now it all makes sense – that's how Elko police has a nice budget.

I'm offered to contest the ticket by showing up in front of a Judge at Elko Municipal Court on July 18th. I pencil the date in in my "Yeah, sure" calendar.

Hour 12: Utah has the highest legal speed limit of the trip

You can drive 80 mph on the stretch from the Nevada border to Salt Lake City, passing through Bonnevile Salt Flats where speed records are made.


ALEXEI: We are 800 miles in, and averaging 375Wh/mi. Fellow Tesla owners report a lifetime average of about 350Wh/mi. Some of the difference can be explained by the elevation change. Plus an extra motor, 2 people in the car, etc. 

Hour 17: The tip

ALEXEI: Grand Junction is the longest charging stop of the trip: the next leg is 181 miles; I'll be spending over an hour here. It's 11:30pm; Dmitry is sleeping, or maybe trying to sleep. At the charger to my left is Joe, whom I met back at Price (162 miles west) and who drives around with a puppy dog. To my right is a guy in a Model X. We all talk, because this is what Tesla owners do at superchargers: they belong to a social club of people charging their Teslas. There are still very few of them and they are curious about each other. In a few years, people will be interested in other Tesla owners no more than they're interested in other business class passengers today. But today, everyone talks.

The charge rate is slow: I have another 45 minutes remaining, thanks to my neighbors gobbling up all the electricity. This is when Joe tells me about this very special supercharger which sits nicely halfway between Grand Junction and my next stop. All I have to do is get off the highway at Glenwood springs, drive just two miles up a mountain, and there I'll find it. I thank Joe and take his business card, which reveals him to be organicman123 at some domain (names changed to protect identities). Should I follow our carefully planned stop list prepared weeks in advance? Of course not! Local knowledge always trumps generic plans. I thank the organic man and take off.

DMITRY: Let's see: Joe the Organic Man traveling in a Tesla filled to the ceiling with sacks of something, with a pit bull inside, going from Oregon to Colorado, says he's done this trip many many times... Something tells me that this was a business trip. Stay classy, Joe.

Hour 19: The low point

ALEXEI: Glenwood Springs: The parking lot is full, there are Dodge Vipers everywhere. The supercharger is not easy to see. When I find it, every charging spot is occupied by a Viper. The supercharger is a new design -- the one that lights up -- but it hasn't been hooked up yet, so it's dark. I look at the map: I am out of range of all existing superchargers. I need to find a wall outlet; in 9 hours I will get the 27 RMs that I need. My muddled mind tries to conjure up the words I'll use to explain how this was a good idea.

Since I'm still beating the schedule by 20 minutes, I attempt some creative parking. The supercharger works. Thank you, organicman123! I enter the stop times in the spreadsheet, wake Dmitry, and go to sleep.

Hour 23: Moonlit drive through the Rockies

DMITRY: The road from Utah to Colorado was all super-windy mountains; rolling from side to side on every turn was not helping to fall asleep. And so I didn't. When I started driving through Beaver Creek, Vail and Breckenridge, my spirits were low. 

I engaged the Autopilot. Even with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, a part of your brain is less stressed about making driving decisions when Autopilot is on. Yes, I had to take over every few minutes, as Autopilot would get confused by pretty much anything from the orange safety cones to shifting lane markings to concrete dividers, but it still helped in a huge way.

Once the sun rises I realise just how much Colorado there is east of Denver.

Hour 26: Kanorado

ALEXEI: On the border between Colorado and Kansas lies the town of Kanorado. Just thought you might want to know that. We did not stop there.

DMITRY: The wind was so strong in Kansas that Dorothy's Tesla's on-board trip planner warned us that we have to slow down if we want to get to the next Supercharger. We slowed down, turned off AC and used other tricks to try to conserve energy, but all to no avail: the system warnings grew more insistent. As we had no Plan B (pretty much the M.O. of the entire trip), we had to improvise. Luckily there was no shortage of big rigs on that stretch of the highway, so we drafted behind one that was travelling at a decent speed for about 35 minutes. This saved a few kilowatts and we made it to the next charger with energy to spare.

Hour 51: You still have to do the driving

ALEXEI: Tesla's Autopilot is two things: a cruise control and a lane keeping unit. Its single-camera system cannot detect street lights.

Lane keeper's ideal environment is the New Jersey Turnpike. In other situations, it can be unpredictable and has a deceptively soft "ding dong" sound, which it makes as it leaves you to clean up a mess. I had mine cross the double yellow line, then correct sharply to the right and give up. Once, it couldn't see any cars because of sun glare. Its steering is jittery at 80mph, it appears optimized for lower speeds. When it doesn't see lane markings, it follows the car ahead instead. If that car is driving unevenly, so will you.

Cruise control uses a radar, which is very accurate and usable, but it also has its bugs. It can accelerate around curves, sensing an open road when in fact there are cars stopped just yards ahead.

DMITRY: This review was not written at hour 51. It was written two weeks after the trip, but neither of us can remember what happened at hour 51.

Hour 52: Submarine mode?

Having crossed a good 150 bridges we learned that we could have shaved off at least an hour by skipping a few... Alas, Musk's tweet is a little too late.

ALEXEI: Umm, no. But here's how to change your Tesla into a submarine.

DMITRY: It requires the Air Suspension option apparently. You should have "sprung" for one :) I did feel that the ride was on the stiff side at times. Especially when trying to sleep.

ALEXEI: Actually spring suspension is considered more lively.

Hour 54: The traffic

DMITRY: With 2 more states and a few hours to go, we hit a traffic jam at the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel in Pennsylvania. It gets completely shut down for about 30 minutes as soon as we pull up. Next, I-78 turns bright red on Waze and Google Maps. We bypass it using side roads, apparently saving close to an hour. Thanks, Waze!

Next forehead-slapping moment awaits at the Holland Tunnel toll booth, where we realize we don't have an EZPass. We consider just driving through an EZPass lane, but without valid license plates, there is nowhere to mail the ticket, this looks suspiciously like fare evasion. We sit in the painful cash line instead.

Hour 56: Finish Line

ALEXEI: And here's the finish line timestamp (and Dmitry's hairy arm). We travelled 3,100 miles in 56 hours, 56 minutes and 48 seconds. The Tesla screen shows that we're in lower Manhattan.

DMITRY: I believe the correct term is "follicle-endowed appendage." Also, while it may appear that I can't stand straight in the following picture – taken just after we got out of the car – it's an optical illusion caused by standing next to someone a good 7 inches taller than you. Essentially a parallax effect.

Oh, and this is the first and only stop without charging. We arrived with 42 RM in the battery (20 city miles).

That's it!

Thanks for reading! And many, many thanks to our families for putting up with this crazy stunt, actually agreeing to let us do it, and cheering us all along. Special thanks to Arthur Migdal for writing scripts used to analyze the gps data.

We'll keep you posted on our next great adventure: "Finding a monthly parking space in Manhattan for less than the price of the car you want to park there."