Tesla Model S - Road Trip to Grand Canyon Railway
All-electric road trip
from Orange County to Grand Canyon Railway

Our family boarded the Grand Canyon Railway after driving in my Model S starting from Orange County. In operation since 1901, this railway runs 65 miles from the train station in Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This vintage train ride includes live entertainment and beautiful views of scenic landscapes.

With four Supercharger road trips under our belt, one five years ago to San Francisco, one four years ago to San Luis Obispo, one three years ago to Santa Barbara, and a 2824-mile road trip to Indian Country eighteen months ago plus my Supercharger Table, we had plenty of experience with over 5000 miles of electrically-powered road trips.

Planning this trip was tricky because the decision to use the Grand Canyon Railway occurred first: we purchased train tickets through a school fundraiser. Consequently the hardest part by far to figure out was booking our room at the Grand Canyon rim. The scarcity of date fitting our childrens' school schedule while subject to the popularity of the Grand Canyon therefore required us to book the room a year in advance.

Grand Canyon Railway Tesla Model S

By comparison booking the rooms in Williams and Kingman and working out the driving route was easy. Our 2824-mile road trip took us on the same Superchargers and nearly the same roads as before.

But then we discovered the weather made the road different. And, despite catching bronchitis, I was determined not to miss my childrens' first visit to the Grand Canyon. Read on for our picture log of our family trip in my Model S.

Model S Grand Canyon Railway Trip
Days Charging at
Destination   Supercharger
2 2
Cargo Space
The cargo space in the Model S was plenty for this trip. The front trunk held my son's luggage, my laptop bag, jackets, video camera, and provisions. The back trunk carries luggage for my daughter, my wife, and me. frunk   trunk
Rancho Cucamonga Supercharger
As we traveled, I logged the time, odometer, and range remaining for every event of interest.

Thursday, February 15, 2018
TimeEventRange Remaining
6:32 amDeparted Home209
7:40 amArrived Rancho Cucamonga Supercharger120
Range/Distance ratio: 1.53
Conditions: Fast

We left home early to beat the traffic and have breakfast at the Corner Bakery in Victoria Gardens, which hosts the Rancho Cucamonga Supercharger. Knowing these plans in advance, I lowered the charge level at home because I knew our pace eating breakfast would allow more than enough time at the Supercharger. Cost to Charge: $0

Tesla charging at Lake Arrowhead
Barstow Supercharger
With the humans fed and awake, we continued northeast on I-15.

TimeEventRange Remaining
8:30 amDeparted Rancho Cucamonga239
9:39 amArrived Barstow Supercharger144
Range/Distance ratio: 1.46
Conditions: Uphill

With the bulk of the traffic behind us, we could take a more relaxing drive to our next stop. The family had a nice bathroom and snack break at the nearby Starbucks. Cost to Charge: $0

Barstow Tesla Supercharger
Needles Supercharger
This was one of the longer legs of our drive. At slower speeds the car can clearly make the distance. I conserved energy at higher speeds by drafting behind various big-rig trucks and buses.

TimeEventRange Remaining
10:12 amDeparted Barstow218
12:23 pmArrived Needles Supercharger50
Range/Distance ratio: 1.12
Conditions: Drafting

After arriving in Needles, we walked to the Wagon Wheel restaurant which had a pleasant home-town feel and Route 66 memorabilia. We ate our comfort-food lunch while the car charged. Cost to Charge: $0

Tesla charging at Needles Supercharger
Kingman Supercharger
I let my wife drive this short but uphill segment. She was a bit of a leadfoot, which made me concerned about State Troopers pulling us over now that we entered Arizona. (She never reads this log.)

TimeEventRange Remaining
1:29 pm PSTDeparted Needles233
3:18 pm MSTArrived Kingman Supercharger128
Range/Distance ratio: 1.28
Conditions: Uphill, Fast

The weather brought in some beautiful puffy clouds for this stop. Meanwhile we bought some snacks and drinks at the local Carl's Jr. I wanted to get an extra charge because the next stop was at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, before the Flagstaff Supercharger. Cost to Charge: $0

Tesla Model S charging in Kingman
TimeEventRange Remaining
4:00 pm MSTDeparted Kingman218
5:44 pm MSTArrived Grand Canyon Railway Hotel52
Range/Distance ratio: 1.41
Conditions: Uphill, Cold

We stayed one night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, because they conveniently offer to take our luggage directly on to the train.

Grand Canyon Railway Hotel
Grand Canyon Railway
Friday, February 16, 2018

The weather was below freezing overnight and very cold in the morning so we were bundled up. At the station there was live entertainment in the form of an Old West shootout,

Grand Canyon Railway Kokopelli Fiddler

Grand Canyon Railway Station

which was the premise for a "train robbery" later on the ride. But the better entertainment was a guitarist and a fiddler who came by to help pass the time in our comfortable seats as the scenery swept by.

The Grand Canyon

After we arrived at the Grand Canyon Depot, it was a easy hike to our first view of the Grand Canyon. The weather was windy and cold but clear. It was the first time my children have seen this wonder of the world.

Grand Canyon Panoramic

On Friday we checked into the Bright Angel Lodge and enjoyed the sights. Every morning on our way to breakfast we could see a different Grand Canyon, because the weather was different each day, and we couldn't resist taking in such an amazing sight and taking pictures every day.

On Saturday we hiked the Bright Angel Trail into the Canyon. Later that day and on Sunday we visited other parts of the South Rim. There was snow to be found in shaded parts of the Canyon.

Grand Canyon Snow and Trees

On Sunday we returned via the Train back to Williams.

After disembarking the train we loaded the car back up with our luggage and checked into the Holiday Inn, which participates in the Tesla Destination Network. It's an arrangement where travelers can charge their cars overnight at the hotel, just like we do at home. Cost to Charge: $0

In our original plan we had in mind visiting Bearizona Wildlife Park on Monday.

Meanwhile the weather delivered more cold and wind; note the ice on the hood.

Tesla Holiday Inn Williams

Escaping from the Snow Storm Monday, February 19, 2018

The weather changed dramatically. A major snowstorm from the east moved in, forecast to hit Williams by 11 am and close many highways and roads in Arizona. We and many other travelers decided to escape to the west.
Tesla in Snowstorm

TimeEventRange Remaining
10:04 amDeparted Williams243
11:55 amArrived Kingman100
Range/Distance ratio: 1.05
Conditions: Cold, Very Windy, Snowstorm, Ice, Slow, 31°F

Tesla driving in snowstorm

The snow and ice were pelting the car and covering the roads in below-freezing temperatures in the daytime. The traffic was compressing the freshly-fallen ice into water, but we had to be wary of "black ice". I was very glad that I just bought four brand-new tires the week before this trip, so that, despite being two-wheel drive, this electric car felt confident and comfortable driving this all-electric car in such stormy conditions. Its low center of gravity really helps. For extra safety, I kept the speed low and followed the lead of various trucks.

Tesla Ice

This Model S behaved perfectly while braving the cold stormy weather. A few miles outside Kingman, we exited the storm, just as forecast. When we arrived in Kingman we discovered the front of the Tesla encrusted with dirty ice, which my kids felt obligated to pick. Wash your hands!

Tesla at Mr Dz Because we the storm cancelled our day visit to Bearizona, near Williams, we had some free time on our hands, so we decided to make Kingman our tourist stop for the day. We visited various Route-66 sights such as the Mohave Museum of History and Arts, the Locomotive Park, and Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner.
Tesla Best Western Kingman

We checked in at the Kingman Best Western, another participant in the Tesla Destination Charging network. The place had a spa, which I thoroughly enjoyed after so much time in the cold. Cost to Charge: $0

Needles Supercharger Tuesday, February 20, 2018
We had breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel before heading home. Driving this leg, my wife wasn't quite as much of a leadfoot this time.

TimeEventRange Remaining
10:27 am MSTDeparted Kingman Cracker Barrel229
10:31 am PSTArrived Needles Supercharger158
Range/Distance ratio: 1.05
Conditions: Downhill, 37°F

We had snacks and drinks at the nearby Carl's Jr while we charged the car. It was still pretty cold outside. Cost to Charge: $0

Needles Tesla Supercharger
Barstow Supercharger
This being our last long leg of the trip, I similarly took to some big-rig trucks for drafting at decent highway speeds. Along this route I crossed the 75,000-mile mark while the rest of my family was asleep.

TimeEventRange Remaining
10:55 amDeparted Needles214
1:18 pmArrived Barstow Supercharger19
Range/Distance ratio: 1.3
Conditions: Drafting, 40°F

Before we arrived, the family woke up ready for lunch at the Chili's near this Supercharger. The front of the Tesla carried evidence of yesterday's snow storm. Cost to Charge: $0

Barstow Tesla Supercharger

Unlike the last time we passed through this way, no major fire was ahead to slow us down.

TimeEventRange Remaining
2:17 pmDeparted Barstow Supercharger211
4:20 pmArrived Home76
Range/Distance ratio: 1.12
Conditions: Downhill then Traffic, 48°F

I knew there would be no problem having the charge to get home, so it was easy to skip the Rancho Cucamonga and Santa Ana Superchargers. South of that, we encountered Tuesday-afternoon traffic, the only bummer at this point.


Like before, the Model S makes a great road trip car. Traveling without the extra engine and transmission noise, creating an low-frequency rumble and roar that shakes one's innards, makes for a confident and relaxing driving experience. This was our first, and unexpected, test of the car in a real snow storm, which just happened to occur on an all-electric road trip.

The heater was on, and we were charging our phones with outdoor temperatures sometimes below freezing, quite the opposite of the heat in our previous summer road trips. Fortunately the long range of Model S in combination with a well-deployed Supercharger and Destination charging networks made it easy to travel. As before, humans were the limitation, not Tesla technology. Despite leaving the car parked unplugged for days in below-freezing cold at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, which surprisingly, for no rational reason, didn't give me permission to charge there, even on a working available 120V GFCI outlet in their lot, we were able to drive to the Holiday Inn for Destination Charging. Next time we will stay at a place that welcomes charging like the Holiday Inn.

The other major limitation was my own health. I caught bronchitis weeks before this trip. Despite following every prescription, I still had bronchitis, along with the wheezing and fevers, through this trip and the hiking in freezing temperatures. I wouldn't shake the bronchitis until March. Nonetheless Tesla's technology came through for us humans, protecting my family from cold, wind, snow, ice, and storms while easing the burden on me as its physically ill driver. Again the humans were the weakest link, not the electric car.

With this trip, I've tallied over 6000 miles of all-electric long-distance travel. This experience gives me the confidence I know how to use Tesla's technology for the most ambitious trip ever in this car.

I must reiterate: rushing from place to place without delay, as some critics presume, is not a lifestyle we should expect. Maybe uncommitted single people and truck drivers can live that way, but the pace of a family works best at a considerably slower pace. It so happens that Tesla designed its cars and Supercharger network to fit that real-world human pace very well.

Tesla Model S at Grand Canyon Railway

The Locomotive Park in Kingman, Arizona
On this trip in winter - and - 18 months earlier in summer.

Thanks to Tesla, the Holiday Inn in Williams, and the Best Western in Kingman, the cost to refuel on this 931-mile trip was $0. Sweet!

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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