Editor’s Note: This is the second part of our Road-Tripping Tesla Mom. In case you missed it, don’t forget to read the first part of her Tesla adventures.
BATON ROUGE — Vivienne’s windshield wipers are on full blast. It’s raining so hard I can barely see. Each crack of lightning has me sinking deeper into the black leather seat of my Tesla Model S.
“Perfect. I’m about to get electrocuted in an electric car.”
Abbey, my 7-year-old, is on her iPad oblivious to the storm. It is the second leg of our ‘Zero Emissions Road Trip.’ Our destination: the Place d’Armes Hotel in New Orleans, a reward for crossing the country in seven days, and making it to my sister’s Texas wedding [almost] on time.
A friend in D.C. calls, her voice filling the car with moral support.
“Your car might be the safest place to be in a lightning storm. The rubber tires make it non-conducive to transporting electricity.”
One minute we’re racing down a dark rainy highway, the next we’re inching along Rue St. Ann behind a horse-drawn carriage. Ahead, I see the sign, “Place d’Armes Hotel,” and we pull in to unload. The next morning, we’re ready to explore.
“Abbey! We’re in N’awlins. Let’s get some beignets!”
After breakfast, a carriage tour through the French Quarter. We’re transported to 18th Century Colonial New Orleans when horse-drawn carriages pulled aristocratic families to their homes through brick archways and unloaded into lush courtyards.
“And those balconies, see how they’re held up by posts over the sidewalks?” the guide explained, in perfect rhythm with click-clacks on concrete. “Those are called ‘galleries.’”
“What are those spikey things?” Abbey asked.
“They put spikes on the posts to keep daughters from sneaking out at night… and to keep boyfriends and robbers from sneaking in. They’re called ‘Romeo Spikes.’”
I didn’t notice, but now I see them everywhere.
“Isn’t it interesting, Abbey?” I lean in, “Every detail in the architecture has a purpose. It tells us so much about how they lived.”
Just had the most amazing crab and shrimp salad at Muriel’s. Every evening in the bar, they set a table and serve a glass of red wine to the ghost who lives here.
“He was a gambling man who lost his home in a bad poker hand,” our waitress explained.
“He couldn’t bear to hand over the keys, so he committed suicide, right upstairs in his slave quarters. Now it’s ‘the Séance Lounge.’”
Walking down the gritty streets of New Orleans at night feels… dangerous. Cars speeding by, people shouting. Music blares from bars and clubs, blending together as we pass.
Abbey, inspired by a saxophone busker, stops. She’s been clutching beads in her little hands all day. Now she’s moving them around her head and body as she dances to the rhythm of this saxophone jazz. By the time I find my phone to record, the song’s over. I make a mental note to experience the moment, instead of trying to capture it.
After checking out of our hotel, we turn to Vivienne (the Tesla) to find a place to charge. She suggests the Ritz Carlton Destination Chargers less than a mile away.
Ooh la la! Vivienne has good taste.
We pull into the luxury hotel off Canal Street and cautiously approach the valet.
“Hi, uhh… We aren’t staying here. OK if we charge?”
“Yes, ma’am! You are more than welcome.”
He hands me a ticket and escorts Vivienne to the chargers.
We enter the Ritz Carlton, find our way to Davenport Lounge and make ourselves comfortable on a white Victorian sofa. A bow-tied gentleman takes our ticket to get validated while we enjoy warm beverages and live piano jazz.
My phone chimes. Tesla app notification. Vivienne is ready to go.
This beats any gas station anywhere. Ever.
People always ask, “What do you do when there are no Superchargers?”
We arrived in New Orleans with less than 10 miles of range on the battery. The Supercharger station is still “under construction” and the closest operational Supercharger is 30 miles north in Slidell, Louisiana. Hence, we had to charge at the Ritz.
“Why not always charge at the Ritz,” you may ask? The simplified answer is: Destination Chargers (approx. 25-50 mph) are much slower than Superchargers (approx. 200-300 mph.) Perfect if you are spending the night at that hotel, or all day at a theme park. Not so much if you are ready to go.
We are on the road again, and only two Superchargers from our next destination. I’m not excited about the next stop, but it’s something I have to do.
“Welcome to Florida, the Sunshine State,” the sign reads. Minutes later, we are barefoot in the white powdery sand, sea oats waving gently from the dunes, and clear water as blue as a bottle of Sapphire Gin.
Abbey teases the ocean, running back and forth as waves approach the shore. I played that game when I was her age. On this exact beach!
This is Pensacola, the beach I grew up on.
Debbie has invited us to spend the weekend. I was Abbey’s age when Debbie was my babysitter. She was kind to me. She taught me chess, created spelling games and fun scavenger hunts with riddles to decipher. In an otherwise non-nurturing environment, her love might have been what saved me.
Abbey colors and plays with the dog while Debbie and I catch up on three decades of personal history. We reminisce and lament all the things we know now that we wish we’d known then.
“Villa Woods is just down the street. Wanna go?”
“Sure, let’s take the Tesla time machine,” I say half-joking.
As we turn into my old neighborhood, I don’t recognize it. Then I do.
“This is… much smaller than I remember…”
We pull up to the house where I lived with my parents. I stare in silence, placing the memories in their proper slots. This place is haunted by a different kind of ghost.
After we were separated, Debbie met and married Chip. I’m amazed at how attentive he is, “How ya doin’, babe?” “You need anything?” He makes us spaghetti for dinner, and coffee before he leaves for work.
“Where are you going next?” Debbie asks.
“The Space Center at Cape Canaveral, then we’ll head north.”
It’s sunset as we set out. I was only thirteen when I left Pensacola the first time. I was not ready to say goodbye. This time I am. Abbey sleeps while I drive for hours, embracing the silence, the dark, and the opportunity to process everything that has happened. When my eyelids get heavy I know it’s time to stop for the night.
OK, I confess. Occasionally we sleep at the Superchargers. (Shhh… Don’t tell Elon.) After we crawl in, I press the key fob to close the power rear liftgate above us. Then with the Tesla app on my phone, I lock the car and set the a/c. Using my phone’s hotspot, I connect Wi-Fi on my laptop. Then we snuggle up in the surprisingly roomy and luxurious Tesla bed, ‘Netflix and chill’ until we pass out. So far, no problems. As long as you’re supercharging, no one bothers a Tesla.
Vivienne is low on charge upon arrival at Kennedy Space Center.
“I didn’t been to outer space before,” Abbey says, following a little boy in a baseball cap around the ‘Heroes and Legends’ exhibit. They are admiring Gemini 9A.
“No kid has,” he responds, inspecting the capsule, as intently as an electrical engineer.
We walk through the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and take a photo with Sally Ride.
SpaceX is a huge part of NASA culture now because of the Commercial Crew Program. The goal is to get astronauts to the International Space Station on American spacecraft, so we don’t have to keep paying $80 million /seat for rides on Russian capsules. We watch footage of astronauts in the ISS, and breathtaking images of planet Earth.
“Isn’t it great, Abbey? How all the different countries work together to stock the Space Station? In space we’re not Americans, we’re Earthlings.”
As we wait for another attraction to begin, the Falcon Heavy launch plays on a big screen.
“Can you believe there’s a Tesla in space?” I ask in amazement.
The image of Starman driving Elon Musk’s Roadster floats across the screen, blue Earth lurking behind. Abbey is not impressed.
“It’s too weird. Cars can’t fly. They don’t even have wings,” she says annoyed. Before adding, “Is that some kind of joke?”
From horse-drawn carriages to electric cars to private spaceships… it’s an exciting time to be alive, I muse, as we walk past the gift shop.
That’s when I see them. Tesla Destination Chargers, in the front row of the parking lot! Wait. Where did I…? When we arrived, I was in dire need of a restroom and completely forgot to ask Vivienne about chargers. Ughhh! We’d be fully charged by now. This is why we need self-driving cars, I grumble.
As we wait for the battery to charge, I check my email.
Re: White House Tour: REQUEST DENIED.
Stay tuned for the next installment…
A former flight attendant, Tiffani A. Van Ee now balances her time as a travel writer, professional organizer, and single mother living in the Greater Los Angeles Area. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in 2011 from UC Berkeley and worked as a grant writer in Hawaii. Tiffani recently returned from a 10,000-mile cross-country sojourn in an electric car with her 7-year old. You can follow along on her continuing adventures on Instagram at @TeslaMom.usa