First road trip – San Francisco, CA to Ouray, CO and back

My wife and I just completed our first road trip in our new Model X — a 2500 mile round trip from San Francisco to Colorado. It was a fantastic trip.

Here are a few things that we learned during our journey that might help others:

  1. Like several others, we have a December 2017-delivered Model X with a charger port that makes it nearly impossible to get the supercharger plug in and out of the charge port, especially in colder weather. You can find multiple threads on this in this group and on the various forums. We quickly discovered that we were affected.  During our trip, at one of our colder supercharger stops, I felt like I was pushing so hard, I thought I was about to push the car into the next space, yet I kept getting the orange light!  I was able to finally coax it in but it scared me. I called Tesla customer service and told them I was concerned about getting stranded at future stops. The person I spoke with said, “this is terrible advice and I feel bad giving it, but since you are nowhere near a service center, you might consider putting some WD40 or similar lubricant on the Y-shaped plastic guide in your port and you also try sanding the guide down slightly to make it a hair narrower.”  The person from Tesla sounded hesitant to give this advice, but nonetheless, I decided to try it. I stopped at a hardware store and got a small can of WD40, some fine sandpaper and a can of compressed air. I gently sanded the 3 edges of the Y-shaped adapter to make it slightly skinnier (very very slightly). I then used the compressed air to blog out the plastic dust I had just created. I then took a Q-Tip, wet it with the WD40, and rubbed it on the 3 edges of the Y-shaped guide. This minor surgery made a noticeable difference and allowed our trip to continue. It was still harder than it should be to insert the charger (especially when it was below 30F), but it was consistently connecting now. I’m still going to insist on a new port at my service appointment next week.One interesting thing to note here — many have speculated that the port is too narrow on the affected vehicles, but the problem is that the Y-shaped guide in the port is actually slightly too big.
  2. We were in temps between 16F and 40F the entire trip. As expected, the lower the temp, the more impact on range, but we were able to compensate. The “Trip View” on the energy use screen was super helpful. When we put in the destination in the car’s Nav system, it showed how much charge we would have at each stop along the way. The car’s nav system showed us arriving at a few of the superchargers with less than 25% charge. We knew this was cutting it close with the temps being so low, so we compensated by either adding an additional supercharger stop or by adding more charge than the nav system thought we needed to continue the trip.  This extra effort made the trip easy. Thankfully our route had plenty of supercharger stops along the route to give us options. Range mode and climate settings didn’t seem to impact things as much as I expected, but speed (and acceleration) definitely impact the range.  There was a long stretch across Utah (alongside the salt flats) that has a speed limit of 80MPH. Since this stretch of road was long and consistently flat, I experimented with speed vs range a bit. As expected, slowing from 80 to 70 added more range. Slowing to 60 added even more, etc.. However, due to the planning mentioned above, I was able to go back to 80MPH. If range had become an issue, I could have slowed down to 60MPH and stretched it by 10-15% easily.Before we even took possession of our new Tesla, we learned a lot about how cold impacts range by watching countless videos on the topic on YouTube. Our obsession with watching Tesla YouTube videos during our multi-week wait for our car production prepared us for a lot! We knew what to expect and we knew how to handle it.
  3. One morning, it was 24F and the battery was at 23% after a previous day’s travels, so we went to the supercharger near our hotel.  The charge rate was VERY slow for the first 30 minutes. It started at about 40MPH and eventually made it up to 160MPH. I did turn on the climate system before we left the hotel but was never prompted to turn on battery pre-heating (I have version .52). Maybe it wasn’t cold enough to prompt me or maybe the battery was too low for it to consider pre-heating the battery. It would have actually been faster to drive the car for a few miles to warm up the battery… and then charge the car, but we had the extra time and ate breakfast nearby.The smarter choice would have been to simply supercharge the night before while the car was still warm, but we were exhausted from driving 12 hours!
  4. While in Colorado, we drove on a couple of small roads that were covered in snow. Nothing crazy enough to required chains, but enough to make me extra cautious. The car did fantastic. The all-season tires that came with the car performed better than I expected.
  5. Autopilot (AP2) is absolutely fantastic on interstates and made the drive much less fatiguing. This trip gave us a lot of time to test it. There are a few things to watch out for with AP: (a) When you pass an interstate exit, the AP gets a little squirrely — when the right lane marker suddenly going away, the AP steers slightly toward the exit and then corrects back to the center of the lane. It wasn’t alarming, but it’s important to pay extra attention. (b) I don’t like the way the car handles curves, especially at higher speeds. The AP wants to stick to the outside edge of the curve throughout —  which makes the curve feel more dramatic than necessary. I hope they improve AP to take advantage of the lane width and do a proper outside-inside-outside turn. (c) The auto-lane change is a bit too abrupt, especially at high speed. I prefer lane changes that passengers don’t feel. The AP lane changes were too abrupt. Also, on a few occasions, both me and my wife would turn on the signal to start a lane change and then let go of the signal too soon and the car would suddenly steer back to the original lane (very abruptly!). It’s important to keep signaling until the lane change is complete.
  6. I discovered two ways to turn on the adaptive cruise. The usual way is to pull the lever toward you once and the adaptive cruise will auto-set to the current speed limit. However, this can create a faster-than-desired takeoff depending on the situation. The alternative way is to move the handle up or down (same action as increasing/decreasing speed). This will turn on the adaptive cruise set to your current speed.
  7. While in Colorado, we drove through a lot of small towns (Ouray, Montrose, Silverton, etc.) that had quickly changing speed limits (e.g. 65 to 45 to 25) and police nearby eager to enforce. There is a setting on the Tesla to give an audible warning (gentle bell) when the car exceeds the speed limit. I set mine to alert me when I exceeded the speed limit by 9MPH. I love this feature. (NOTE: Since I had the warning set to +9MPH relative speed, this also changed the default speed setting for the adaptive cruise to speedlimit+9)
  8. When we were in the coldest areas, the temp in the car wasn’t consistent throughout the interior. Either our feet were cold and our face hot, or vice versa. However, I discovered an easy workaround — I manually turned the fan speed higher (instead of auto). This moved the warm air around more and evened out the temp throughout the car. Maybe Tesla should modify the default auto fan settings when the temp gets colder.
  9. During our trip, when we started driving, the car started beeping — the same beep you hear if a seatbelt is left unfastened, but there was no visual indicator of any seatbelt or anything unusual. I pulled over and checked everything I could but the beeping continued. I decided to try rebooting (holding both wheels on the steering wheel down for a few secs until the screen goes blank). This fixed the problem. I have no idea what the problem was, but from everything I’ve studied, the reboot is the “try this first” step for many many problems.
  10. We spent the first night in Salt Lake City where it was around 18F, so I made sure to pick a hotel that had a Tesla destination charger so the car could slowly charge overnight and have what it needed to heat the battery, etc.. You can find these chargers at The ones we used were 16kW which gave us over 40MPH – perfect for an overnight charge. These chargers are more plentiful than I expected.  Even the tiny town of Ouray, Colorado had two.

Overall, this was a really fun trip and the car is fantastic despite the quirks. We drove 600 miles per day (2 days to get there and 2 days to get back) and in any other car we’ve owned, we would have been exhausted. However, the quietness, smoothness, and the automation made it much more enjoyable.

The obligatory referral code — 🙂

4 thoughts on “First road trip – San Francisco, CA to Ouray, CO and back

Add yours

  1. Nice post Greg, I’ve heard a lot about Tesla’s, but confess to being quite new to this level of detail. I found it fascinating. So are all the charging refills free? And is AP full auto pilot? Ie you don’t actually have to do anything? You should share a link to this with Elon on Twitter, I know he loves to hear stuff like this!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: