August 5, 2019

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“There’s a whole lot of nothing between here and Winnipeg… the road goes on so straight for miles you can fall asleep at the wheel and it wouldn’t even matter.” - Campground patron. Maple Creek, Canada

Beyond the (Rapid) Charging Network: Campground Electric Vampire (Adventure 1 of 2)

After four hours on the road, we arrived late in Maple Creek, Canada (pop. 2,200). Driving into a rural town in the dead of night tends to add a spooky and dramatic flair to the experience, even in Canada. Common roadside structures, like a railway crossing and a silent grain loading facility feel ominous and suspect.

We tentatively pulled up and parked the car in front of the motel where we checked-in and quickly unloaded our suitcases as we had done almost every night since we started our road trip about 4 weeks ago.

Our son, unaccustomed to seeing the night sky deep and rich with stars, proceeded to count each one indiscriminately. We quickly reminded him to get ready for bed making him reluctantly give up. Then, I looked up myself and paused in awe.

The Big Dipper hung suspended over the silhouetted horizon, each star arranged, appearing thick and substantial like overgrown crystal. An obsidian black sky brimming with stars tends to stun and captivate native New Yorkers.

Because we intentionally went beyond the reach of Tesla’s rapid charging network, we needed to power our Model 3 over the Great Plains of Canada with what the Electric Vehicle (EV) community calls destination chargers, typically found in some hotel parking lots and campsites.

This informal network of chargers offers tremendous variety and potential but also dizzying complexity. Applications like PlugShare help EV owners navigate and utilize this loose web of charging stations.

Deepa booked a small lot in a campsite within a two minute drive (8 minute walk) of our motel. So instead of dropping into bed for the night I drove down the main road, found the designated plot in the campsite, plugged in the car and walked back to the motel. While plugging in the car with the help of my iPhone’s flashlight I looked around the campsite harboring trailers attached to pickup trucks, and other road-based domiciles. I felt almost ghoulish - like an electric vampire.

Along the main road, on the walk back to the motel, I inadvertently startled what must have been a dog guarding its home. The streetlight that illuminated the road didn’t reach in between houses where the dog, apparently upset by my midnight trek, barked and quickly started towards me.

I prepared my defense against the night-shrouded dog by gripping my full-sized umbrella, which I brought on a whim in case it rained, and quickly estimated how long it would take me to climb on top of the roof of a nearby car.

Luckily, the leash attached to the dog yanked back its advance. I could only gather that’s what happened from the sound of chains crashing since I still couldn’t see through the darkness.

Walking much faster now back to the motel, I thought to myself what other adventures lay in store. This was our first night off the fast-charging network in Canada’s vast prairie land.

Stay tuned next week for adventures in the town of Carberry, Winnipeg, North Dakota and scenes from the great cities of Milwaukee, Detroit and Toronto.