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April 2020 Retrospective

In what will easily go down as the one of the most bizarre months of my entire life, I actually managed to drive from San Francisco, California to Toronto, Ontario during a global pandemic.

I will freely admit that I was quite terrified as I departed. I had been watching San Francisco descend into anarchy and had convinced myself that society was breaking down. I was working under the assumption that no rest stops would be open and getting food could be a challenge. I had packed a gallon jug of water in the trunk and enough food to last me multiple days. I was even thinking that I would have to sleep in my car. But as I quickly found out, it was mostly the denser, liberal cities that had lost their collective minds and Middle America was churning along quite well.

Day 1

The first day started at 6 am when I woke up, packed up the final remnants of my apartment and loaded it into the Tesla. My goal was to travel 800 kilometers to my overnight stop in Elko, Nevada. By 6:50 am I was on the road and heading for my first supercharger, 169 km away, in Rocklin, California. While traffic was surprisingly heavy given the circumstances I encountered no issues and arrived around 8:30 am. This supercharger was in a mall parking lot and nothing appeared to be open so my fears of society's collapse was gaining momentum.

After 30 minutes I hit the road and drove 131 km to arrive in Truckee, California at 10:30 am. If the first supercharger lead me to believe society was collapsing the second assuaged all of those fears. I was stopped right next to a Safeway that was bustling with activity. Not only was I able to use the restroom, I also picked up a freshly made sandwich for "brunch".

After charging again for 30 minutes I set off for what would be my longest stint of the day. Nearly 316 km which would take me into Nevada's vast, barren desert. It was on this drive I had my first unique experience of the trip. I am aware of tumbleweeds and what a nuisance they are but I did not expect to encounter any. Not only did I encounter some, I learned the hard way that they can form into a tornado and move across highways. While poor Nessie was scratched up something fierce, she soldiered on and we pulled into Winnemucca, Nevada at 1:30 pm. Not only did this tiny desert town have some of the fastest superchargers I had ever seen, there was also a public restroom that was spotless.

After 45 minutes of charging I got back on the road and drove 205 km to Elko, Nevada where I arrived just short of 4 pm. After another quick supercharge to top off the "tank", I headed to my hotel which was another pleasant surprise. It was well staffed, quite clean and with a half-full parking lot. If you didn't know there was a pandemic going on you honestly wouldn't have thought anything was wrong. I grabbed some grub, edited that tumbleweed video, wrote up a draft for this retrospective and was lights out by 10 pm.

Day 2

The second day started at 5:30 am when I awoke to what sounded like someone doing jumping jacks in the room above me. Rather than try to get some more sleep I hopped into the car and was driving by 6 am. This was going to be my longest day of the trip as I attempted to travel 1080 km to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The first supercharger of the day was 171 km away in West Wendover, Nevada. After an uneventful drive I arrived at 7:30 am where not only did I find another pristinely kept public restroom, but also a gas station with free squeegees that I could use to clean all of the bug guts off my windshield. A practice that would become more and more common as the days progressed.

I left West Wendover at 8:15 am after charging for 40 minutes and immediately crossed over into Utah where I experienced my first time zone change of the trip. I drove 195 km, past the Bonneville Salt Flats, and arrived in South Salt Lake City, Utah just short of 11 am.

By 11:30 I left Mormon HQ and continued to head east towards Wyoming. This was where I called my first audible of the day. Tesla seems to be much more confident in the efficiency of their batteries than I am. So when the car said I was going to make it to my next supercharger with only 5% battery I decided to call its bluff and make a pit-stop in Evanston, Wyoming at 12:30 pm after covering 125 km.

A quick 15 minute charge later and I started the 161 km stretch to Rock Springs, Wyoming. It was on this segment that I experienced my second bit of bad luck as a pebble launched by an oncoming truck put a nice toonie sized crack in my windshield. I stopped in Rock Springs at 2 pm for about half an hour to charge back up and covered another 184 km as I made my way to Rawlins, Wyoming and my penultimate stop of the day. It was here I decided to take a break and actually called into a weekly sync meeting at work because I knew my colleagues would love to hear how my trip was going.

I got back on the road just after 4:30 pm and finally arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming around 6:45 pm. I topped off the tank again and finally checked into my hotel at 7 pm. On the whole, what was supposed to be the worst day of the trip actually turned out to be quite tame. Tesla's Autopilot really does lighten the physical strain you feel from driving. Honestly think I could probably cover 1600 km in a single day if I really wanted to push myself.

Since I knew tomorrow was going to be a much lighter day I decided to treat myself to some tasty Chick-fil-a sandwiches and vegetate in front of the boob tube. Afterwards I wrote up a draft for this retrospective and finally hit the hay.

Day 3

Following a good night's sleep I hit the road at 9 am. There really was no rush today as I only had to travel 725 km to get to Lincoln, Nebraska. Two hours 15 minutes and 269 km later I pulled into my first supercharger of the day in Ogalla, Nebraska.

I charged up for 30 minutes and then drove another 301 km to Grand Island, Nebraska where I arrived at 3:15 pm because I transitioned to Central Standard Time. Just one more time zone to go! This supercharger was right beside a proper tucker's truck stop, Bosselman Truck Center. I had never visited a real truck stop in all my life but it was exactly what I imagined it would be. Bathroom full of Harley Davidson memorabilia that smells like you'd expect. Fried chicken and Little Caesars pizza. One thing that did surprise me was the "Trucker Vape Store" (actual name) so I guess truckers have mostly switched over to vaping now. I am not trying to disparage the truckers or anything along those lines. It was a very eye opening experience seeing these businesses that are the lifeblood of workers who transport the things that I use daily. Kudos to them.

After leaving the struck stop at 4 pm I only needed to drive 151 km before I leisurely reached Lincoln, Nebraska around 5:30 pm. Again I topped up my "tank" and checked into my hotel by 6. I had finally reached a city that had Uber Eats so I ordered myself some Mexican food and relaxed with some YouTube.

Once I was done chilling I looked at my route for the next day and decided that my original plan of driving to Davenport, Iowa was not aggressive enough. A drive of only 575 kilometers would barely take me six hours even with charging the Tesla. So I called another audible and decided to head to Minooka, Illinois instead which would cover 785 km. This would also have the benefit of making my last day before the Canadian border the shortest.

Day 4

I slept in again and ended up leaving around 9:20 am. This was honestly the most boring day but that wasn't a bad thing. I basically remember just listening to my audiobook for over 8 straight hours which was quite enjoyable.

I drove 140 km in about an hour to Shelby, Iowa where I charged for about 30 minutes. At 11 am I drove 176 km to Altoona, Iowa which I reached at 12:30 pm and charged until 1. I then headed to Coralville, Iowa which was 159 km away and took me about an hour and a half. After finishing charging near 3 pm I moved onto my final supercharger of the day in Peru, Illinois which was 231 km away.

Peru, Illinois was actually where I had my most excitement for the day because parked right beside the Tesla charging spots were two large pickup trucks. One had a Confederate flag bumper sticker and both sported massive monochrome American flags hanging out their windows. I was legitimately afraid to get out of the car because of those neckbeards and their pickups.

Eventually they left and I was able to take a quick bathroom break and depart around 4:30 pm. I traversed the final 78 km to my hotel in Minooka, Illinois where I arrived at 5:30 pm. One interesting point about this final segment was that I actually crossed over the Mississippi River using the Sergeant John F. Baker Jr. Bridge. After having my most indulgent meal so far (wings, tacos, and beer!) I prepared for the day when I would finally get to see the Canadian border and then let me head hit the pillow.

Day 5

My last day of full driving in America would also be my shortest at "only" 589 km. Because of this I let myself sleep in again and was out on the road by 10 am. I drove 126 km to Michigan City, Illinois where I experienced the fastest superchargers I had ever used. At its peak I was charging over 160 kW and getting 1071 kilometers an hour! Obviously that can't be maintained for an entire hour but after 20 minutes it didn't matter, I had more then enough charge to continue on.

Leaving a little bit before noon I started the 198 km trek to my second supercharger in Marshall, Illinois and it was during this segment that I transitioned to Eastern Standard Time. In has been over 1600 days since I last lived on EST but I was finally home. I charged for 30 minutes to recover what my battery lost on the two hour drive and headed back out.

At 3 pm I began the final stretch of my American journey as I headed towards Port Huron, Illinois. On the nearly two and a half hour drive my cousin Steve FaceTimed me to keep me company and play a round of Simpsons trivia. 265 kilometers later I parked at my final supercharger and a view of the US/Canada border. Nearly 4000 kilometers from where we started, Nessie and I were finally able to gaze upon the motherland.

Day 6

Finally, Judgement Day had arrived. Today I was going to attempt to cross the border and import my Model 3 into Canada. I had been planning for this for months but still had absolutely no confidence it would work.

I won't go into all the details here but to give you an idea of how long it took me, I woke up at 8 am and didn't cross into Canada until almost 10. I could literally see the border from my hotel parking lot, but bureaucracy will not be rushed and I had to sit through a ton of it. But even after being yelled at by three US government officials I made it across!

Being back in Canada for just 5 minutes made me question why I ever left. The customs agents were so cordial and legitimately interested in how my drive went. It honestly felt like I was just shooting the shit with a friend and after 5 days of isolation I would take all the social interaction I could get.

After breezing through Canadian customs it was just a "quick" 300 kilometer drive to Toronto. Nearly 4 hours after I crossed the border I backed into the parking spot of my new home back in the Great White North.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely! I had such an apocalyptic view of what this trip was going to be but in the end it actually turned out being quite fun. I can only imagine how much better it would be if I had someone to share it with and made some time to do sightseeing along the way. I think you could easily stretch San Francisco to Toronto out to be a 10 day trip and really get to enjoy Middle America.

Also I cannot understate how big of a difference Tesla Autopilot makes. I honestly felt like I wasn't driving most of the time. I wasn't tired or anything or dozing off while the car drove me. I was attentive and just taking in the scenery while listening to my audiobook or FaceTiming with friends. I think Autopilot makes the Model 3 the most perfect road car because the regular stops every couple hours forces you to stretch and refuel. I can't remember a single moment on this trip where I resented having to wait at a supercharger.

Also something that I couldn't find any way to mention earlier was that I actually made time lapse videos of the entire trip. I suction cupped a Fat Gecko Triple Mount to the roof of the car, attached a GoPro Hero 8 and recorded every second I was driving. I stitched the footage together into six videos (one for each day) and am trying to find a way to share them with friends and family. Regardless, I highly recommend you look into a similar setup because looking back on that footage was amazing.

What about the other three weeks of April?

I have been rambling on for too long so let's try a quick lightning round for how the rest of the month went.

Review April Goals

May Goals

#MonthlyRetrospective

🎮