Monday, February 26, 2018

Quest 2018: Myrtle Beach

426 All Electric Miles in one weekend.

This route avoided grated bridges

Every February I attend a conference in Myrtle Beach called Quest. This year I decided that I wanted to take my Zero SR ZF13.0 (with ChargeTank), due to the unbelievably spring-like temperatures forecasted for the weekend. Having gone to Myrtle Beach in the Smart last year, I was already familiar with one route to get there. However, I'm still a novice rider. This wouldn't just be my first long trip, this was going to expose me to a number of environments I've never encountered, mostly wind-related. I did know that there was a grated bridge that I had to cross to get into Wilmington. I had read online that motorcycles are a little scary on grated bridges, and that even the most seasoned rider feels weird when they cross one. I decided that was a little too outside my experience level, so I plotted a different route. This route started out like the last one: first stop Campbell University in Buies Creek. After that I'd head over to UNC Pembroke, then have lunch in Shallotte, NC while charging on a Tesla Destination unit at a Smithfield's Chicken-n-BBQ. From there, the Myrtle Beach Tanger (which was 4 miles from the hotel) was only 25 miles away. I had a departure target for 5:30am. I would up leaving an hour earlier, sometimes you just wake up raring to go at 3:30am. So I hit the road by 4:10am. Google took me a different route to Campbell this time around, down 401 to 55 and through Angier. Usually, it sends me Old Stage Road. But, there was no traffic and 401 is 55mph for most of the way once you're outside the city limits. It was cold, much colder than I had anticipated. I arrived at Campbell around 5:05am, and plugged in. The bike estimated 1.5 hours for a full charge. While I was standing around, the Sheriff pulled up and talked to me about the bike for a good twenty minutes. This would be the first of several conversations I had about the bike on this trip. The Sheriff took off, and wished me a safe ride. I let the bike charge to 95%, which took a little over an hour.

Charging at Campbell University
I then unplugged and set off. This leg of the trip was just as cold, but now we had fog. For those who have never experienced fog on a motorcycle, it's an experience. It's a colder moist patch of air, and it makes seeing out of your helmet almost impossible. I ended up flipping open my visor, because I couldn't see the road. I was lucky in that there wasn't a lot of outbound traffic on the roads, but I did have to contend with the headlights of all the late shift workers headed home. I also had to maintain 55mph, through sweeping curves. I got pretty tense, and pulled over one or twice to let cars pass by. I wasn't sure I could make it to Pembroke. However, I persisted, and I arrived at 7:32am with 15% power. I had two hours of downtime here, which I needed to thaw out, recover my nerves, and get something to eat. I have a friend who works at Pembroke, and he was going to come and meet me for breakfast at the Starbucks on campus. However, before he got to the school, a campus police officer came over and asked me if that was a Zero. He told me that their force considered Zero for their motorcycle officers but went with BMW because the dealer was closer. He said he really loved how it rode and wanted one.
Charging at UNC Pembroke
So, I can say that law enforcement loves the idea of an electric motorcycle. After my chat with the officer, who kindly gave me directions, I wandered over to the Starbucks for hot chocolate and a breakfast sandwich. My friend showed up shortly after I started to regain feeling in my hands, and we chatted for a good bit. I hadn't seen him in several years, so it was good to catch up. After he had to go start his day at work, I found my way to the gym which has lounge chairs. I camped out for an hour and caught up with my people via social media. At 10am, it was time for the next leg to Shallotte, NC. The ride to Shallotte was amazing. I was riding faster and more confident than ever before. It was only supposed to be 78 miles, but somehow I missed a turn and made it 88 miles. I then missed the service road entrance to the Smithfield's, and had to go up US-17 at 65mph, turn around, and come back. I rolled into the parking lot scared the bike was going to die on me, with 0% indicated power remaining. This particular location required the use of my QuickChargePower Tesla jDaptor on a Tesla Destination Charger. 
Cutting in close in Shallotte

As I expected, an F250 is blocking the parking space. However, this used to be a handicapped space so there was a wheel chair ramp space that was marked off with do not park lines. I pulled the bike right up next to the F250 in the lines, and plugged the Tesla conenctor into my adapter, then plugged it into the bike. The bike started charging, and I went inside to eat. I was a tad keyed up, and left the keys in the ignition of the bike (which was still powered on), but I did lock the Tesla adapter to the bike so no one could have taken off with it even if they tried. I didn't notice this under about 25 minutes into the charge, and after I had my third 20-minute conversation about the bike with an enthusiastic motorcycle riding employee. He told me the Tesla unit was new, had just been changed out two weeks ago because the old one just stopped working. I went outside and got my key after our chat and my meal, came back inside to wait until I had enough power to reach the Tanger 30 miles away in Myrtle Beach. I decided to go check on the bike and was really shocked to find that it had stopped charging. 
QuickChargePower Tesla JDaptor Stub in action

When I took the key out it was at 24%, and when I turned the bike back on it was at 28%. I really had a panic here, as it attempted to start charging again but all I heard was a clicking coming from the ChargeTank. I really thought the on board charger had just failed, so close to my destination. I disconnected the adapter from the bike, no dice. I disconnected the Tesla unit from the adapter and the bike, plugged it all back in, no dice. Restarted the bike, no dice. Restarted the Tesla unit (which you can't see the lights on in daylight), no dice. I had to know if it was the bike, so I looked up the next closest charging station -- Ocean Isle Beach Welcome Center, 5 miles away. OK, let's go. I set out, and got to the giant bridge that takes you to the island. I am not a fan of heights, and I'm also not used to the sea wind, and I made a hard stop in the median and threw on my hazard lights. I felt like this was it, I was going to end up renting a van to take the bike back to Raleigh. I pulled out my phone and it said there was a Novant Health center with a Charger, 8 miles from where I was sitting. I had 16% power -- enough to get me there. It's worth the shot. I back tracked to 17, and took it down to the Novant Health. 
Novant Health saved the day!

I rolled up with only 6 or 7% power (I didn't take a photo -- you know, this was a crisis). I plugged in the Schneider Level 2 and heard its relay thunk on, and to my amazement, the bike started charging. It wasn't the on board charger after all! I still need to test the Tesla adapter to see if it was it, or the station... This location was fortunate enough to have a Goodwill next door, so I spent some time in their air conditioning browsing at nick nacks while the bike charged to at least 30% power. When I hit 31%, I headed off to the Tanger. What was only a 20 mile ride from where I was at took me about 45 minutes with all the traffic. I forgot how crazy traffic was in Myrtle Beach, I also forgot there is no helmet law in South Carolina. It's still weird to see people in no protective gear riding 70 down the highway. This ride was really uneventful, and luck was with me as I was able to snag an open EV parking space (in fact, none of the spaces were ICE'd)!
As I was plugging in, and older couple came up to me and asked me what it cost to charge. I told them that it's free -- the bike, or most cars, can't really draw more than $2 in power, so it's like a small discount for shopping here. And shopping I had planned to do. I needed a new pair of Sketchers shoes! I did my shopping and wound up waiting for my the rest of my party at the food court. Once everyone had arrived we headed over to check into the hotel. I'd love to say that all the negatives of this story were over, but I got hit with one last blow. The hotel didn't allow motorcycles to park on their property. I had to mark in a metered space on the street, however, they aren't charging until March 1.
The conference itself was fantastic as it always is. But all good things must come to an end. Sunday morning at 5am, having waken up bright eyes and ready for today's challenge. I chose a new route home - Novant Health to Nissan of Lumberton to Campbell University. The mileage was about the same, but I knew all these chargers worked. 
State of Power at Novant Health

I got to Novant at 5:37, and plugged in for about an hour to get a full charge. It was dawn when I left, and I could clearly see the roads. I was able to run 55+ mph the entire way to Lumberton. I arrived at Nissan of Lumberton with 7% power. As promised, they left a space open so I could get to the charger (I called ahead and asked permission to use this location). I plugged in and walked down the street to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, and hung out there for an hour. I needed a full charge, which was estimated to be 2 hours and 35 minutes, so when I felt I'd stayed my welcome at Dunkin, I walked back to the dealership and found an old bucket to use as a chair and sit. I mostly read stories on my phone while the bike charged. About 2 hours in I checked on it, and it had stopped charging.
Charging at Terry Chapin Nissan of Lumberton
I turned it on, and it resumed charging. Weird, I thought, so I pulled out my phone. The battery pack was at 104F, and at 122F it stops charging. I'm parked in direct sunlight. Had the pack gotten too hot? I monitored it for the remainder of the charge, and it did just fine. It reached 100% and was at 102F, I knew once we started moving that the cool air would bring it back down into the 80-90F range. So, at 11am, I took off for Campbell. I arrived there at 12:30pm, plugged in, and went to the subway for lunch. I ate my sandwich and looked at the weather, which said I could expect rain. I decided that 30 minutes was sufficient (47% power) to get me home, so off I went. The last leg home was filled with anticipation, as I was really ready to get home and be off the bike for a while. I got to US401 with exactly 20%, and arrived at the house with 11% battery left about 2:10pm. I plugged the bike in, and it fully charged on my ChargePoint Home without any issues. 426 round trip miles and only one big scare. I think that's par the course for a motorcycle journey, regardless if it's electric or internal combustion. I posted the first photo to my social media, and have been getting a lot of 'street cred' from my friends. One said that "400 miles on an IC sport bike is a challenge, to do it on an electric is epic." If you say so, my friend! I just wanted to do the whole trip on $1.93 in electricity!

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