Tesla Model S - Returning Home
Primm Supercharger Model S
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Days Charging at
Destination   Supercharger
0 1
Primm Supercharger
TimeEventRange Remaining
9:04 amDeparted Las Vegas232
9:51 amArrived Primm Supercharger178
Range/Distance ratio: 1.38
Conditions: 91°F

Eager to return home ahead of schedule for our crossing of the Mojave Desert, our family decided to depart Las Vegas as early as we reasonably could. Nevertheless we needed a bathroom break at the McDonald's in Primm.

Cost to Charge: $0

Barstow Supercharger
TimeEventRange Remaining
10:07 pmDeparted Primm215
11:43 pmArrived Barstow Supercharger61
Range/Distance ratio: 1.29
Conditions: Fast, 100°F

Per the schedule, this leg was two hours. Leaving Las Vegas at 9 am and some fast driving made it possible to start lunch at the Chili's in Barstow before noon.

Cost to Charge: $0

Barstow Supercharger

This was the last stop I planned on my itinerary before we arrive home. While we were eating lunch, I wanted to check traffic conditions on my phone to get a new estimate for our arrival time.

I didn't know why my AT&T data connection was failing and couldn't give me an answer, so I just wrote it off as another AT&T coverage problem. My previous calculations would have us arrive home a little over two hours later.

Blue Cut Fire blocking Cajon Pass
After our 9 am Las Vegas departure, and therefore unknown to us, the Blue Cut Fire started at 10:30 am. This wildfire grew to 6500 acres by the end of the day after blocking I-15 at Cajon Pass, precisely on our route south of Barstow.

Shortly after we departed Barstow, the smoke from this fire was readily apparent. We finally were able to obtain news about the event.

This was no joke. Little did we know days later the fire would expand to over 37,000 acres. It was a major real-world emergency prompting fire crews from all around to respond and mandatory evacuations of ultimately 82,000 residents. No one could predict this so how could it possibly be on our travel itinerary? The fire blocked our direct route home. No wonder my Tesla navigation was not routing us through Cajon Pass.

Speaking of driving the car, did we panic? Did we worry about this electric car running out of range? No of course not.

In fact the Tesla navigation was offering detours. At first it routed us to highway 14 via Palmdale, to join up with I-5 and I-405. That was a long journey, bringing us home very late. I knew that part of Los Angeles has four Supercharger sites, so again we would not run of range.

Blue Cut Fire

Cajon Pass Closure

Then it offered a route through Hesperia, by Silverwood Lake, and over Crestline. This route I knew because we took the reverse two months ago to Vegas. Meanwhile we could see white ash from the fire falling on the car. Near Silverwood Lake we could see four fire helicopters picking up water from the lake to bring it to the fire, plus two fire airplanes dropping red-dye fire retardant just past the ridge line.

Not that this was a great route. Remember that thousands of other drivers are looking for a way around Cajon Pass too. The northbound traffic was enormous, so local sheriffs were outside in the heat directing traffic through the major intersections of Crestline and other highways.

Meanwhile we pointed out to the kids the emergency aircraft trying to put out flames, and when they asked why it was so slow we said, "it's the fire", whose orange smoke was pervasively apparent. We set the air conditioner on recirc.

Rancho Cucamonga Supercharger
TimeEventRange Remaining
12:41 pmDeparted Barstow233
4:28 pmArrived Rancho Cucamonga Supercharger116
Range/Distance ratio: 1.92 (!)
Conditions: 6500-acre fire, First-responder vehicles, Major highway closures, Emergency detour, 105°F

Cost to Charge: $0

Rancho Cucamonga Supercharger

After three and a half hours of driving, we made the decision we had to stop at Rancho Cucamonga for a bathroom break. To reward the kids for their good behavior, we bought them Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Us grownups could use a break too.

The car navigation said that we had enough range to make it home without recharging, and anyone can see its prediction confirmed by reading ahead. Human physiology and a regional disaster together made us take an unscheduled stop, not the need to charge. So even when something big goes wrong, Tesla's technology works. (Ironically we made an unscheduled stop here at the beginning of the trip, also to go to the bathroom.)

TimeEventRange Remaining
5:12 pmDeparted Rancho Cucamonga233
6:24 pmArrived Home173
Range/Distance ratio: 1.07
Conditions: Traffic, 103°F

Driving at rush hour was not the plan, but circumstances made it so. The fire today made it a relief to be home.


Dean E. Dauger holds a Ph. D. in physics from UCLA, where his group created the first Mac cluster in 1998. Dr. Dauger is the award-winning author in multiple American Institute of Physics' Software Contests and co-authored the original, award-winning Kai's Power Tools image-processing package for Adobe Photoshop. After founding his company, Dauger Research, Inc., its debut product, Pooch, derived from Dr. Dauger's experience using clusters for his physics research, was soon awarded as "most innovative" by IEEE Cluster and continues to revolutionize parallel computing and clusters worldwide with its patented technology.

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