Saturday, March 9th. Dallas to Houston ought to be an eash drive. Our last night in Dallas we leave the car charging at the hotel from a 110V outlet that a hotel engineer allowed us to use out back by the pool’s utility area. We parked close enough to use the Tesla’s power cable without the need for an extension cord. At only 2-3 miles per hour charge I believe we didn’t quite charge the battery to full prior to leaving Dallas. The closest EV charger is around 4 miles away, which is the only disadvantage to the hotel location. Since our trip is only 240 miles we figured it wouldn’t be any trouble to charge over lunch. Famous last thoughts. In route to Houston, we select the small town of The Woodlands to charge and grab lunch. The Woodlands Mall has a lot of upscale restaurants and several EV chargers in the covered parking lot. Upon arriving we find quite a large mall and it takes close to 10 minutes to locate the chargers. There’s two chargers and the parking spaces are all occupied by gas cars. Sucks. Such inconsiderate drivers in this country!! Nearby is a movie theater so it’s possible cars may not vacate for hours. We locate mall security but they say there’s nothing they can do other than put one of those large, very adhesive warning notices on the window. The second EV spot actually shares its space as a handicap space. What the f__k. Now that really make sense. Is it suppose to be a charging space only for handicap vehicles, or is it suppose to double for both. Makes no sense considering how many handicaps permits are out there and there always seems to be more handicap spaces than necessary too.
I’m mostly bummed about not being able to eat in a decent restaurant. We decide to drive to another charger about 8-9 miles away. When we arrive, it’s bad news again. This time the charger, an eVgo HEB Freedom Station is from a network we’ve yet to encounter. It’s a pay charger requiring membership and upon calling the service number I learned customer service is closed weekends. The website for the network does not allow instant sign-up. You have to receive your access card by mail. Another 30 minutes wasted here.
We scout out a third location driving another 8-9 miles to Discovery Center, a GE WattStation charger and it’s no where to be found. The address leads up to a vacant lot in a nearly forested area. Now, we’ve run the battery down to our last 8-10 miles of charge, we’re a good 90 minutes past our lunch, we’re hungry and angry. We scout out another set of Blink network chargers around 7 miles away. The network says one of them isn’t working. We arrive more or less to the address, but cannot locate the chargers. It’s a commercial area, blocked off by a highway and one way streets. Now, we have 2 miles on the battery, we haven’t found the charger and we’re quite worried. Juan and I scout out in different directions on foot. Finally I locate the Blink chargers behind the last row of buildings in a commercial park, about 500 yards away. One charger is completely off and the other registers with a fault. To those who don’t know a fault reading generally means the charger won’t function. We drive the car over, get on the phone with Blink customer service and waste another 30 minutes trying to solve the problem. Another hour wasted.
Juan finds an RV park about 2 miles away from our location, but they aren’t answering the phone. We’re quite frustrated by now and Juan’s getting testy. We agree to drive slowly to the RV park, in hope of something positive, because there are no other EV chargers within 20 miles of our location. Amazing how disaster threatens when we least expected it to. The drive to the RV park takes us down a long rural road, our not knowing if this RV park even exists. By the time we get to the place, the battery is marking one mile (and that’s probably less than a 1/2 mile). Fortunately, the place looks open and there’s is a manager inside the office. It’s the Rayford Crossing RV Resort at The Woodlands and the place is packed to the brim. Northerners brings their million dollar RV’s down for the entire Winter season. The place is booked solid and the office attendant is telling me she has no space. It takes me nearly 10 minutes of pleading our situation, explaining I’ll need her to call us a tow truck and finally her husband intercedes suggests she ask a camper if we can borrow their electrical feed. A willing tenant graciously offers his electric outlet saying his RV will auto switch to LP gas. SAVED from disaster. We coax the Tesla another 500 yards to his parking space, unplug his RV and plug in the Tesla. What a relief, we’re drawing 240V, 40 Amps. In an hour and a half we’ll be good to go, as Houston’s only 20+ miles away. I suppose our mistake was not to leave Dallas with a full charge. Lesson two, you can never count 100% on an EV charger if you’ve never been to it previously. Rack this up as our fourth close call of desperation.
We end up grabbing dinner right at the RV park. The local residents sponsored a fried catfish dinner. They allow us to pay for two meals and we finally have our lunch at 5pm while the car is charging. After a few hours, we’ve got more than 50 miles on the battery and we move on to Houston for the night.
After arriving to Houston and checking into our hotel, we take the Tesla about 4 miles away to the Kendall Library, on North Eldridge Parkway. The library is closed, but the open parking lot has four, yes four Blink chargers. It’s a medium size library and who knows why they have so many chargers. These are pay to charge, but we use a free charge credit given to us from the customer service attendant who failed to get the Blink charger back online, over in The Woodlands. From the library we call a cab back to the hotel. The next morning, the hotel shuttle is kind enough to take me back to the library to retrieve the fully charged car. I can’t begin to tell you how important the Tesla mobile app has been on our trip. It’s so reassuring to be able to check on the vehicle remotely to make sure it’s charging, locked, as well as knowing the charge completion time.
Chargepoint has an interesting phone app. I have the membership with Chargepoint and their phone app allows me to remotely start the EV charger. There has been times when Juan has taken the car to charge at a Chargepoint location, he calls me up when the car is connected and I initiate the charger using my app. I like the Chargepoint chargers much more than the Blink chargers. Chargepoints encountered on our trip were more likely to be free than the Blink chargers. They had a lower defect rate than the Blink chargers. More than 50% of the Chargepoints encountered have been free, while more than 80% of the Blinks have been pay to use.
Sorry folks, I knew I snapped photos on this day, I just can’t find them.