Road trips are their own kind of adventure. In today’s episode, join Whitney Lauritsen as she narrates her trip across the country. She gets into the details of her journey back from the East Coast to Los Angeles. From visiting family and friends to enjoying a magical night in a small town and encountering new people. Hear all about Whitney’s escapades from Maryland to California as she shares her favorite dining spots, products, and recommendations. She also shares helpful tips for anyone interested in Tesla camping, with instructions on how to take care of and use your electric vehicle to make the most of your trip. Go along for the ride with Whitney and find valuable advice you can use on your next road trip.
This episode is sponsored by Zencastr. Visit zencastr.com/pricing and enter promo code “wellevatrzen” to get 30% off your first three months.
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On the Road Again: Tales from My Trip Back Across the Country
I am back in Los Angeles after finishing up my road trip. I feel like a different person, and I don’t say that in a cliché way. I didn’t expect to feel this way. I have noticed how transformative these big cross-country journeys have been for me. I did the math. I drove at least 8,000 miles for almost three months. The day that I’m recording this in early November 2022 is a few days short of three months from when I left for this big trip. I’ve shared a number of details on this trip in previous episodes.
I’m also working on compiling a list of travel resources. They are mostly products I recommend. A friend of mine asked me what she should bring on an upcoming trip. I learned about so many different things through my driving adventures and plane trips when I went to Costa Rica, which I did an episode on, and I went to Singapore. All of the ways I think about travel have evolved over time. I like to preface that with the fact that as I explore more of my neurodivergence, I know that I tend to do things in a much more detail-oriented way than people that are neurotypical. That has been interesting to realize about myself because I thought everybody thought about travel the way that I do. I don’t know if that’s true.
I’m going to get way into the details of my journey back from the East Coast to Los Angeles. I will link to any products I recommend or talk about anything I experienced. It is a lot of food, mostly, and various gadgets that I got. I have a few brand-new things that I’m super excited to share. You can always message me on social media. You can email me. All of that is linked in at Wellevatr.com. It has my handles for social, which I don’t use that much.
I have continuously thought, “Where do I want to be on social media?” When friends ask me questions about my trips, I find that I much prefer to tell them privately or talk about it here on the show. I’ve lost a lot of interest in posting about these things on social media. The short reason why is that I find it energetically draining and not fulfilling anymore. There feels like so much noise on social media.
Someone like me spends so much time crafting posts. When the algorithms suppress you or when people have lost interest because there is so much information, it has felt less worth it. I am trying to think about how I want to approach social media in 2023, but that’s a whole other story. That’s not the focus of this episode whatsoever. With no further ado, let’s dive into all of this.
The last episode I recorded was when I was at my sister’s home in New York. I talked about how I had this interesting experience of horse riding. That was about mid-October 2022. Can you believe we’re almost in 2023? You might even be reading this episode in 2023. That blows my mind. I’m pulling up my Apple photo album because this will help remind me of everything that I did after that experience. I tried to savor the time in New York. It was beautiful. I put some pictures for that horse riding episode of the beautiful fall colors because that was a huge part of that experience.
Since I’m back in Los Angeles, I have a greater appreciation for how fall looks in different parts of the country and the way the air feels. It’s been chilly here in LA, but chilly is relative because it is how your body reads to the different temperatures. My sister and I spent a lot of time relaxing. We love to eat a lot of food together. I got into making a number of different meals. A recipe both of us got very fixated on, and I’ve also made since I returned to Los Angeles, is this incredible pot pie. It was from the Minimalist Baker.
That recipe is phenomenal if you like pot pies. It’s super easy to make vegan because the recipe is already vegan and also gluten-free. I have this crust I love that you can get at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or most natural markets. It’s called Wholly Wholesome Gluten-Free Pie Shell. They make a gluten-full option, too. If you are gluten-free like me, this crust is unbelievable. I love buying it from Trader Joe’s because it’s $5. If you have one there, it is so worth it. I found it at Sprouts. This is a crust I get any time I see it because you can make delicious pies that are savory and sweet. This pot pie was one of the things that my sister and I made together. I had it and it hits the spot.
Visiting Family in Marlyand
After I left my sister in New York, generally, I would’ve been sad about that. Fortunately, this 2022, we decided to go to Maryland to visit some family members there. I am glad that we did. We had such a great time. My sister works from Tuesdays through Sunday afternoons. She doesn’t have a ton of time off. I went down on a Saturday before her and spent some time with the family members on my own. She then met me down there.
These family members are so delightful and truly nourishing. I value them so much. They are on the older side. I don’t want to give out a ton of information about my family members to keep their lives private. I have wondered for years how much time is left. We never know how much time we have with people. It’s a little bit easier to focus on that when someone’s older. They’re in their older years of life. Yet, these family members are so full of life. It’s unbelievable, the experience with them.
They have this wonderful home that’s on the water. I felt so at peace visiting them. In my photo albums, I have these beautiful sunsets going down over the water. We’ve had great meals together. They’re mindful of my dietary preferences. We went out to get food together. Even in the small town, they live in, there are a number of vegan options. I got to sleep in. Their bedrooms are so comfortable.
We did a lot of water-related things because of the area they’re in. We went on a boat. We didn’t go out on the water, but there was this old boat that you could go walk on. There’s a whole guide there. It was from Baltimore. They sailed it up to this area where my family members live. We went and explored that. We hung out on their porch a ton. We then went to this museum. That was pretty neat. One of my family members got an electric bike and was showing me how to use it. I was riding around on that. That was fun.
I spent most of Saturday driving down there. I had dinner with them the next day and all those activities. My sister arrived later that night on Sunday. It brings me so much joy. My sister is probably my favorite person on the planet if I had to pick one. There is something about being with her that brings me immense happiness. Even the feelings I have of telling the story and looking back at pictures of her, I’m happy and beaming over here.
Once she arrived, we continued to hang out. We planned for that next day, Monday, to be our sleep-in day. That was so cool to plan to sleep in. We told our family members and made sure that was okay with them. Do you know how sometimes, when you visit people, you feel like you need to make the most out of every moment and not waste any of it? I felt some of that pressure, but setting those expectations in advance and saying, “This is what would make us happy,” made them happy. They were honored that we wanted to relax with them. It is great how something simple like that can feel so fulfilling.It is great how something simple like that can feel so fulfilling. Click To Tweet
On the following day, we hung out. We went back to that boat, so my sister could see it. She got to ride the electric bike. We went into a local natural market. I wish I could tell you some more of the details, but privacy is so important to me on another subject matter. I’m trying to protect the privacy of my life and my loved ones, especially when it comes to locations. I’m freaked out by how easy it is to find details on people. I’m not going to tell you the name of the natural market we went to on this trip, but I wish I could because it was so sweet. It was such a good one. We went in there. My sister and I loved shopping for different snacks.
That evening, there was this beautiful sunset. The rain was coming down over the water. We sat on the porch and enjoyed it. We then went to dinner at this local bar and grill. That was fun. We had a great time. The next morning, I got up on the early side because I was starting my journey further down the east coast. It was so bittersweet. I did not want to leave, but I was excited about my next stop. That’s when I said goodbye to my sister for the last time on this trip. I said goodbye to the other family members and continued down the coast.
A moment happened that I’d been waiting for. I’ve been hoping this would happen to me on every road trip. This was the first time that it did, but it didn’t turn out quite the way I thought. I pulled up to a Tesla charging station. It might have been the first one I went to that leg of the trip. There was a restaurant in the parking lot. With the Tesla chargers, a lot of them are either at gas stations or hotels. Occasionally, they’ll be part of a restaurant.
In fact, on my way to Massachusetts a few months prior to this, there was one that a drive-through restaurant had set up on their property to attract more customers. I mentioned them. They had cool drinks, vegan burgers, and all sorts of things. I don’t remember their name, but I believe it’s in the episode that I did a few months back on my drive out to Massachusetts.
This one was not a restaurant that I went to in Virginia. I pull up, see the restaurant, and looked over to my left after I plugged my car into the charger. There was a little section for the restaurant’s trash. It was a sectioned-off area where they had multiple trash cans, recycling bins, etc. When I looked over there, I had this big moment because there was a kitten sitting in the trash can.
I felt like everything froze at that moment. I got so excited because I wanted to get a cat. I have told myself that this cat that I get in the future needs to come organically into my life. I don’t want to go hunting for a cat or go to an adoption area. I could maybe if I stumble upon adoption in pet stores or organizations, at least in Los Angeles. They have them all the time out here. I could go the extra mile to go seek out a cat, but I don’t want to do that. I want this organic experience. I want it to feel like kismet. That would be a good name for a cat.
I see this kitten on the trash can and think, “The moment has come.” There are tons of videos of people on social media who have found cats this way. They come bouncing out from the woods or underneath the car. On road trips, they’re on the road and they saved their lives. I thought, “This was my moment.” Spoiler alert, it was not.
I walked up to the cat all excited, and then it ran away. As it ran away, I saw a couple of other cats running away and realized that they all lived there. I had this thought, “Should I try to capture them and try to find some local organization to bring them to?” I didn’t know where I was in Virginia, but I felt some ethical responsibility.
I noticed that there was all this cat food put out for them. They were right next to this interesting layout of the restaurant. It was tucked away in some woods. The cats ran away into the woods. They seemed to have safety and people were looking after them. They weren’t friendly, so I couldn’t even get close to them. There was one older cat who I wondered if it was the mama cat. That cat was not willing to let me get too close to it, sadly.
Road Trip to Charlotte
I waited around. I had to charge my car for about 40 minutes. The cats never came around to let me pet them. I had to leave and was bummed about it. Hopefully, they are in good hands somehow. On that night, I went to another family member’s home outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, to give you a vague idea of where I was. I’ve never spent a lot of time in Charlotte. In fact, the only time I’ve been there that I can recall was about a couple of ago. I had a long layover and went and got pizza in between flights. I may have driven past there, although I have to look at a map.
When I was growing up, my mother and sister would go to Florida for a few months out of each year because they were in the horse-riding world. I drove down to Florida with my mom a few times. I’m looking at a map and I don’t think we would’ve ever passed through Charlotte looking at the route. 95 is generally the highway we would take, and Charlotte is farther east. What’s interesting about these road trips is that they taught me so much about geography. Where things are in my brain versus where things actually are is a fascinating thing.What's interesting about doing these road trips is it teaches you so much about geography. Where things are in the brain versus where things actually are is a fascinating thing. Click To Tweet
I went down there and spent another amazing day with this family member. I was there for two nights. It went by so fast. The full day that I was there, we went into Charlotte. We went to this cool restaurant. I could tell you about this place because it’s nowhere near where these family members live. It’s called Optimist Park. It is a collection of restaurants in this old mill. It felt historical. There were tons of vegan options there. I went to this Ethiopian place that wasn’t the best Ethiopian I’ve ever had, but I appreciated it because it was very fast. They had gluten-free injera. It was nice and fresh. It was a good experience and not overly expensive.
There were so many cool restaurants. My family member went and got food from a different place. We sat down at the table. It was a cool vibe. That was my main experience in Charlotte. We drove around a little and went to a few shops. I got to understand more of what Charlotte’s like. We then went back and hung out at their home. Then, I had to leave. It was such a quick turnover.
It was interesting. The morning that I left, which was a Thursday, was so cold. There was a major cold front that happened. There was frost all over the plants that morning. It was 30-something degrees. It was intense. I was grateful I was not camping that day, but I did do some camping on this trip. From there, I drove to South Carolina to visit a national park down there. If you didn’t know this about me already, a huge component of these road trips involves going to national parks. By the end of this trip, I visited 41. That is my count. I believe there are 63 or 64 national parks. I still have a number to go to, but I’m getting closer.
I went to Congaree National Park in South Carolina. This national park was lovely. What a beautiful time of year to visit it. This was in mid-October 2022 at this point. There are all these paths that you can take. The area that I chose to walk in was dog-friendly. Paths are common, but to describe it in more detail, the one that I took was called the boardwalk trail. That is because you’re walking on these wooden pathways. It was shaped in a square formation.
It was such a neat experience because there were markers all along this pathway that told you the history of this area. It was fascinating to learn about what was happening there over different time periods. There was elements of the civil war. There were leftover things that people were using to make food. It was cool.
Plus, the park is composed of these specific types of trees because the area used to be filled with water. There is all this information that I forget about how that particular part of South Carolina is incredibly rare. I believe from cutting down trees or the way land has been used over time, there are very few parts of the country that have remained intact with their natural plants. I’m not doing it justice, so I highly recommend looking it up. It was so peaceful to walk around there. I’m so grateful I got to take Evie.
A Taste of Atlanta
After I left that park, I went to Atlanta. That lights me up, too, because to my knowledge, I’ve never been there at all. It did not look familiar at all. I only scratched the surface of it, but I was thrilled to get a little taste. I have clients that live in Atlanta. One of them was incredibly generous to let me stay at her home for a few days. I got to do some work in person with this client. They’re part of a company called eStreamly that I’ve been working with for a little over a year. We have another show.
If you didn’t know this about me, I have hosted a few other shows. We do that every week. It’s called The Live eCommerce Podcast. The cofounders live in Atlanta. We did an episode in person if you want to check that one out. It gets deeper into my history working in tech and my journey as a content creator. They’re a tech company. You can learn more about what they do. We did that all in person, which was cool.
I also have friends that are temporarily in Atlanta working on a project. I got to visit with them. One of them showed me all around their area, but I skimmed the surface. I barely saw Atlanta. Looking at the map, I went around the center of Atlanta. I was in the suburbs up near the Peachtree Airport, if you want to know generally where I was. That was cool.
The first night I went there, my friends took me to this restaurant. It’s called Rumi’s Kitchen. This place was so good. First of all, they had amazing customer service. I had to bring Evie with me because of the timing of everything. My car has dog mode in it with the Tesla, so Evie is completely fine staying in the car in most places, but I wasn’t sure if it was okay to leave her at the restaurant because it was valet only. They were so accommodating. They helped me find a good spot for her. That went incredibly smoothly. They didn’t have outdoor seating at this restaurant because it was fancy inside.
Right in their description, it says, “We’re fresh, healthy food. Persian hospitality awaits you.” That’s the perfect description. It was phenomenal. They had all these different types of rice you could get. They had a good number of vegan things. They had hummus and all different types of vegetables, but we had an eggplant dip. They were accommodating in terms of pointing out all the different plant-based options for me. I could salivate thinking about it. The atmosphere is beautiful. It was lovely.
The next day, my friend and I went to a cool coffee shop in this area. I don’t remember what the coffee shop was called, and it looks like I didn’t take a picture. The area we were in was called Roswell. There were all these cool shops there. There was a coffee shop we went to on the way that was in this little house. If you look up a good coffee shop in Roswell, Georgia, you’ll likely stumble upon this place.
The shops were on this beautiful street with the leaves changing color. It was a super dog-friendly area. Evie was welcomed in a lot of places. We went to a cool little restaurant that had pizza, burgers, and things like that. That was called Standard. They had the impossible burger, which I was thrilled to see. The next day, we went for a hike in an area in Marietta or right outside of it. This was the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
If you are into going to national parks like me, you may purchase a pass called America the Beautiful. That gets you to access not only all the national parks in the country but parking at places like this one that we went to, trails accepted it. You can display that pass on your dashboard. The America the Beautiful pass is $80 for the year. It has unlimited access to all these places.
For context, it is worth it for me because most national parks charge around $30 in entry fees. Although, the Congaree National Park that I went to was free. I thought that was cool because if you live anywhere near there in South Carolina, you can go there on a whim. Some of the other parks I’ve been to have been free, but most of them charge. It’s neat when you come across various trails all around the country that may normally charge $5 or so for parking. You can do that almost free of charge if you have that pass.
We went on a nice walk there. It was beautiful. My friend loved it. It was dog-friendly as well. We then went to this cool place called Good Kitchen + Market, which is also in Marietta. It was super vegan-friendly and gluten-free friendly. It was probably on the keto side, too. I air on the side of keto, but I’m not super strict with it. They had zoodles, which are zucchini noodles, and cauliflower rice. It was easy to modify. Plus, it was dog-friendly and kid-friendly. My friend brought her daughter with us. They had all these games for her to play. The whole atmosphere was amazing. The indoor and outdoor seating was one of the loveliest places I visited in terms of being accommodating to all people’s different needs.
Shortly after, I had to leave. I was in Atlanta from Thursday night through Sunday morning. It was a good amount of time, but I still missed seeing certain friends there. I barely saw the city. There is so much more to see, but alas, I had to move on to the next part of my trip. I feel so excited to share all these details. It’s like revisiting and reliving it all.
From Atlanta, I drove towards Nashville, where I’ve also never spent time before. On my way there, I met another family member in Chattanooga who came from Knoxville to see me. In 2021, I went to Knoxville to visit this family member, but this 2022, Knoxville was a little too out of my way. They agreed to meet me in Chattanooga, which was such a cute little town.
Driving Down To Nashville
Growing up, my mom would sing this song. It’s called the Chattanooga Choo Choo. It’s worth a listen. It’s a song about taking this train from New York down to Chattanooga. Glenn Miller is the man’s name. It was a song written in 1941. It was originally recorded as a big band slash swing tune by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. It’s a fun little song to hear. They pay homage to it. In the town, there’s an actual train station that you can go to. There is also a hotel called the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. It’s fun.
They had a great restaurant there that served vegan burgers. It felt random, but it was good. I had an amazing Beyond Burger. Urban Stack is what this place is called. It was also great. They were dog-friendly. They had an outdoor patio. They were also vegan-friendly. They were the kindest people. I remember when I was there that I started to notice how amazing southern hospitality can be. It felt so prominent in Tennessee, especially in the Chattanooga area and in Nashville. There were random strangers being super kind and helpful in unexpected ways.
I also got to charge my car a little in Chattanooga. They had a few different Tesla superchargers there as well as what they call level two chargers. There is this company called ChargePoint that anyone with an electric car, Tesla or not, can use it. Some of them are free. This one was free. Oftentimes, it is inexpensive. If it’s not free, it’ll be $2 for two hours or maybe $3. It is very affordable. It is nice when you’re at a restaurant.
I use an app called PlugShare, which is incredibly handy. People are often asking me how I figure out these trips. I’ve done probably four big road trips with my Tesla, not including times I’ve taken it to San Francisco and other closer areas. I would say my favorite tool, above all, is called A Better Route Planner. A Better Route Planner is the website. It’s free. There is a paid version that I’ve never needed. That’s how I map out everything that I’m going to do. There’s a big lesson I’ve continuously learned and had to learn again on this trip, which I’ll get to soon, thanks to that app.
I use that in conjunction with PlugShare. In PlugShare, you can search in whatever area you want for car chargers. They’ll tell you all the options, how much it costs, or if you have to pay for parking. There are reviews. It’s incredibly handy. I love contributing to that platform with the information that I come across. It’s a game-changer. Those two I would say I use the most.
Tesla, within the car, has a nav system. Some people get in the car and do a whole trip on a whim. They plug in where they’re going to go and their Tesla tells them where to stop and how long it’s going to take. You can certainly do that. You don’t have to use external or third-party chargers. You can do it all through Tesla. I’m a very detail-oriented person. I think things through. I plan a ton. Thanks to A Better Route Planner and PlugShare, I’m able to get into more of the nuances. I find out ways to save money with charging and also maximize my time. That is why I recommend those.
After Chattanooga, I got to Nashville. I loved it. It was very influenced by my friend who lives there. I haven’t seen her in years. She moved there from Los Angeles. To be able to experience her new life in a new town was so cool. She was the perfect person for me to see Nashville for the first time. I also have another family member who moved out there that I got to see.
My friend and I hung out. We didn’t do a ton. We went to one restaurant. We got takeout from a Thai place that was really good. I forgot where or what that was. It was a Japanese slash Thai restaurant because they had sushi as well. I went to another restaurant with my cousin that was fully vegan. Sometimes, I’m so in the moment that I don’t even take pictures, which is part of what I was saying at the beginning. I’m not focused on social media anymore. Pictures are not in my mind. I want to be there and experience the food, the people, and the places that I’m at.I'm not focused on social media anymore. Pictures are not in my mind. I want to be there and experience the food, the people, and the places that I'm at. Click To Tweet
I did take a picture of this place. It is called Avo. It was good. It was also a nice atmosphere. They had nice service and indoor-outdoor seating. They had good avocado margaritas. It’s one of the things that they’re known for. We had a great dessert. Since it was fully vegan, they had tons of cool options. I forget what I had beyond that margarita. The margarita wasn’t strong, but it was quite expensive. It was tasty, but I don’t even remember feeling buzzed or whatsoever from it. We had some interesting things with mushrooms. That’s what I remember. We had crab cakes and a salad which was also something to be desired. It was a Caesar salad and then some bowl. The bowl had mushrooms and a variety of different vegetables in it. That’s all I remember.
Before I went to that restaurant, though, the day before, I went to another national park, which was cool. This is called Mammoth Cave National Park. It’s about 90 minutes north of Nashville, so it is a quick drive. My friend and I went up there. You have to reserve cave tours in advance. I suppose you could get there and wing it, but there’s nothing else to do beyond going to the caves. You could walk around and appreciate some of the nature above ground, but the underground caves are the whole purpose of this park. It costs anywhere from $5 to $30, depending on which tour you want to do. They encourage you to reserve in advance, so we did that.
We did the historic tour, which takes you through a huge section of these caves. It’s barely a glimmer at them because there are over 400 miles of caves at this park. Apparently, it’s the longest cave system in the entire world, which is astounding. I had never heard of this park before, but some of my family members used to go a ton and they loved it. It’s neat. You join a huge group of people. 100 people are in these groups. You walk through the caves with the tour guide and they tell you the history of it. They will do some demonstrations.
They have lights all throughout the caves. They have to go and manually turn them on as you walk forward. You get to see the caves illuminate as you’re walking. At one point of the tour, they turn all the lights off and it is pitch black. You cannot see a single thing, not even your hand in front of your face. That was neat. The tour guide lit a lantern to show you what it was like in the old days. It was really cool. I enjoyed it. It took about two hours.
Our tour was about two miles of walking, but you go slowly. There are some stairs that you go up and down. They have all the details on the website about how strenuous it is. In this one, they over-explain. In other words, it wasn’t that strenuous to do, for me at least. I appreciate that they give you a lot of warnings because there are some parts of the trails that get narrow. They try to be mindful of people with different body sizes. They do have some accessibility to help people that are maybe in wheelchairs or have special needs with their bodies. They have all the details on the website, which is cool.
That was the essence of my Nashville experience. I didn’t do any major touristy things, which I don’t enjoy. I would do it if somebody wanted to. With my friend, we mostly just wanted to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Going to the national park took a whole day. Outside of that, we sat around and made a coffee latte. That is one of my favorite things to do. That’s one of the tools that I brought that my friend is impressed by. I got this new whisk that’s neat because my previous whisk broke while I was in Massachusetts. I was bummed because I love whisking in various sweeteners and milk into my coffees and making all sorts of different drinks.
I went on Amazon and found this neat whisk that is USB powered. Most whisks I’ve owned are powered with AA batteries, so you always have to charge them. If you use reusable batteries or replace the batteries, it’s a whole thing. Since it is battery-powered, they’re not super strong. I got this USB-powered one that is almost too strong. You have to be mindful because the liquid could go fly everywhere, which happened to me in the beginning. It comes with a special carrying case. It is so good for travel. My friend was requesting a link to that.
I have to go through my photos a little slower. At this point in my trip, things started to shift because I was staying with family members all along the way up until I left Nashville. That’s when I started to do my camping, and that’s where my travel gear starts to come into play. I left Nashville. I met another family member in Memphis for lunch. We went to this Mexican restaurant called Maria’s Cantina, which was technically outside of Memphis and South Haven, Mississippi. It was just south of Memphis.
It was a good place. They had incredible prices. It was also dog-friendly and had outdoor seating. I always pay attention to those things. I’m like, “Do they have vegan and gluten-free food options? Do they have outdoor seating? Can I bring my dog?” Clearly, those are important. If I can charge my car, it is even better. In that case, I found a free charger across the street from the restaurant at a hotel.
The rules when it comes to using free chargers at places like hotels are a little loose. I usually will use those for short periods of time, two hours max, during the day. I figure that if someone’s staying at the hotel, they have priority for using these chargers, but they’re probably going to need them overnight, later in the day, or early morning. You can check platforms like PlugShare, which will give you some more details and sometimes even tell you if the chargers are available. That’s my little hack. It’s so nice to get free charging, too, when you’re eating lunch.
After that, I drove and continued to the third national park I went to on this particular trip. I had to stay at some random places. The first was in an area called Mount Pleasant. It’s such a fascinating part of the country because it’s the border of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. In that area, there are towns with names that combine it all. One’s called TexArkAna. It’s combining the three states together. That’s the name of the town. I’m always fascinated when I drive by it. It’s on the way between Memphis and Dallas.
I stayed at a KOA, which is a popular camping destination. When I’m looking for camping, the number one that is most important to me is safety. I should back up a second if you’re curious about how I do all this. I need to consider charging my car every day and getting me from point A to point B. I will plan all that out in A Better Route Planner and then will see where I’m going to be at each time of day.
Tesla Camping at KOA
I like to get to my campaign destinations before sunset, ideally, or right after sunset. In that way, I have lots of light on the road. It makes me feel safer. Also, I love to get to campaign sites when I can still see them and they’re not covered in darkness. It feels safer. It has rarely worked out that way, though, especially this time of year when the light’s changing. It’s tough because I’m often on the road for hours on end and getting somewhere by 6:30 PM or 7:00 PM is hard. I do my best. That’s how I time out where I’m going to be.
Whitney’s Camping System
I’ll then use Google Maps to research what camping areas are in that location. In this Mount Pleasant area that I was in, there was a KOA. I’ll go and check the reviews and start with the places that have the highest reviews. I then look at accommodations and pricing. KOA is a great option, but unfortunately, they tend to be expensive compared to other places. By expensive, it means campsites on the lower end could be $15 to $20. On average, I would say it is $30. It is rarely above that. Maybe it is $35 or $40 for tent camping or a general campsite.
I prefer to get campsites that have electricity because that’s another way that I charge my car. If that isn’t going to be super expensive, $10 is pushing it if that’s an upcharge. For example, some campsites are $15, but if you want to have electricity, they’ll be $30. I have to weigh that out because I have to pay for charging at the Tesla chargers.
A lot of people are surprised, but most Teslas, in 2022 at least, charge you to go get electricity for your car. In the past, it used to be free. People assumed that it is free for electric cars. The free places I mentioned, at hotels, for instance, are rare. They’re there because somebody is paying the hotel. It’s a similar concept at campgrounds, where a lot of them offer it as part of your camping experience. There are also different levels of electricity. You’ve got your basic 120 volts. That’s what you would have at home on your wall. That’s another thing that surprises people. Electric cars can charge off of a regular power outlet. If you have that at your campsite, you are good to go.
The downside with a Tesla is if you’re going to use camp mode, which keeps the air circulating in the car, keeps certain electricity on for you, and regulates the temperature, it uses the battery. If you plug into the wall, you come out even. You don’t gain charge. When you’re on a road trip, like in this example, I prefer to gain more charge overnight, so I have to do less charging the next day. In order to achieve that, I need to get a 50-volt charging spot, and that’s usually extra.
I explain this all because, at KOAs, they’re cool. They have a combination of spaces for tent camping, cabin camping and rentals, and RVs. I generally go to the RV section of these campgrounds and park my car in between these big rigs because they have the 50 amp charging. At least for me, my model three came with a 50 amp adaptor.
This might be a lot of information, but if you’re ever going to get an electric car and want to do road trips, this is helpful. You can save a lot of money by not going to hotels. A lot of people prefer hotels. You can charge your car at a lot of hotels. You can use websites like PlugShare to help you determine all that. The campgrounds, given their low cost, are a great choice for someone like me because the car is designed for you to camp inside it.
I went to this Mount Pleasant KOA and pulled in. I got my RV spot and then set up my whole system. I’ve outlined this a ton in previous episodes. I’ll just give you the short notes for it. I have a mattress in my car. It is called TesMat. It’s a memory foam mattress. I generally will put some padding underneath it to make it extra comfortable. I bring my weighted blanket. I also have my favorite pillow from Essentia. It’s a memory foam pillow. I hate leaving home without it. That, combined, is great.
I lay out the mattress in the back of the car. There’s plenty of room for me and Evie. There could be room for another person there, too. I’ve never slept in the car with someone else, at least not yet. Most people I know are not that interested in Tesla camping, but I’ll make it happen one day. I do use the extra space in the car, though. If someone were to sleep there with me, there is enough space for another body. I use that for Evie’s supplies, my luggage, and various things that I’m carrying with me.
I also bought this luggage storage bag that you put on top of the roof of the car. I got that for the 2021 road trip to give myself some extra storage options. Anything that was filling up the space where I sleep, that goes up on top of my roof. It’s called a roof bag. There are a number of brands out there. It’s waterproof. I’ve used it when it has rained. Everything inside stays nice and dry. It secures to the top of your car so you can drive with it on. I don’t usually do that, but it also feels secure for other people around.
People often ask me about what it’s like, safety-wise, as a woman. Since I’m very mindful of where I spend the night by reading the reviews and making sure it feels safe when I get there, it’s rare that I even have a glimmer of fear at these places. That KOA, for instance, felt clean. They had great bathrooms. People often want to know about that, too. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Having that storage bag on top of my car, I’m not concerned that someone’s going to come by and steal it. I’ve even seen people drive all around the country with those storage bags in their cars. They’ll go and stay the night in a hotel and leave their stuff on top of the car. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable doing that, but you can do it. You have to take a risk because someone could break into it. You can get little locks for them, but if someone had a knife, they could slash it open. Sadly, people do these things, but rarely at campgrounds.
I reconfigure my car, move things around, put things on the roof, and put things in the front seat. I have my car refrigerator, which is one of my favorite things for road trips. It’s a game-changer because I love to have coffee, milk, and various fresh food. It keeps things from melting in my car. It’s great. That’s in the front seat. I have a box of food.
I did mention earlier that I would talk about some food beyond the restaurants. For instance, the evening that I was at this KOA, I pulled out my mini food camp stove. That thing has been such a game-changer for the last few years. They’re very common, lightweight propane tanks that attach to the bottom of a little lighter. On top of it, you have a container where you can heat up your food. It is great for boiling water and making things like soup.
At the KOA, I had this organic carrot coconut soup from Cadia. It came in a bag. It was shelf-stable for years. It was at least a year that I’ve had this. I didn’t think it was going to be that good, but it was surprisingly good. I cooked that up in my car and got inside. I like to tether my phone’s internet connection to my computer or iPad to watch a movie, Netflix, or whatever I feel like. I get all cozy inside my car and have my soup. It was great.
I mentioned the bathroom. KOAs are also known for, in general, having good bathrooms. They have showers. They have all the plumbing. If you’re traveling in a car like me without an RV that would have a built-in bathroom, you can go use KOA’s bathroom. They have codes on them to keep you safe. KOAs also have an internet connection, but sometimes, it doesn’t work great. I went into the bathroom, brushed my teeth, got changed into my pajamas, got in my car, and went to bed. That was nice.
A lot of people are also curious throughout my trip about bathroom stuff. If you didn’t hear me talk about this in the previous episode, I have to shout out The Carloo. It is one of my favorite road trip pieces of gear. While I’m driving all around the country, you’ll need to use the bathroom. I usually need to go to the bathroom every 2 to 5 hours, depending on how hydrated I am.
The Carloo is neat because it’s designed for you to pee in your car. This isn’t for everybody. Some people are weirded out by it but talk about saving time and also reducing your exposure to other people. Bathrooms can be gross and scary. As a woman traveling by yourself, you might not feel safe in some bathrooms. Men have the flexibility to pull their cars over on the side of the road and pee in bushes. I’ve talked about in the past that I have a female urination device from this brand called Tinkle Bell. That’s what I used a lot in 2020 and 2021. In 2022, I upped my game to The Carloo.
It is so great. It’s made by a woman in California. It is a plastic exterior with a stainless steel pan. It’s like a bedpan but has two lids on the top. One is a silicone lid to keep the liquid from spilling out when you’re transporting it. Another is a plastic lid with a little carrying handle. You can go dispose of whatever goes in there however you see fit. There are various thoughts on where you can do that. You can go flush it down a toilet or bring it somewhere else. They make different powders that you can put into your bodily fluids and then put in a compostable bag and toss in the trash. There are tons of options if you are willing to deal with that, which I happily am.
With the Tesla, sometimes, you go to charge your car and there’s not an accessible bathroom nearby. Sometimes, you’re at the campsite and it is 12:00 AM. You don’t want to walk all the way across. At this KOA, the bathroom was super far away, so having the toilet in my car as an option at 12:00 AM is great. I will continue to plug things like that because I have had to learn to be comfortable with my body on these trips.
The next day, I got up and headed out. My first stop was at Buc-ee’s. It is a huge convenience store in certain parts of the country. They are mostly in southern areas. It’s mostly in Texas, but I know there’s one in Kentucky and a few other states. I also learned that it’s one of, if not the world’s largest convenience stores. They have tons of gas pumps there. Some of them even have Tesla chargers. The one I went to in Texas did not, but I made a special stop there because I was super curious. You see signs all along the highway for Buc-ee’s. People wear their t-shirts. It’s got this beaver and it looks so cute. I had to go and see for myself.
There weren’t a ton of vegan options or food options in general. They did have a cool coffee bar. They did have pour-your-own plant-based creamers. Some gas stations have a selection of creamers to add to your coffee. They were accommodating to vegans. In the refrigerator section, I do remember a lot of vegan drinks and various vegan junk food that you can find throughout the store. They had fudge that wasn’t vegan, all these breakfast foods, hot dogs, and random stuff. It was cool, but there wasn’t much for me there.
As I’m going through my pictures, the next snack that I took a picture of is one of my favorites. It is popped water lily seeds. If you’ve never tried them before, they’re either an acquired or a very specific taste you’ll never acquire. I happen to love them. This one brand, Route to India, makes these delicious lily seeds with great flavors. They’re called YOGA POPS. I wish I had more of them. They are so satisfying. They are crunchy. They had the truffle flavor of this one. It was awesome.
A Magical Night at Marathon, Texas
I then had probably my favorite experience beyond seeing family. All those family visits were wonderful, but in terms of being on my own, my favorite part of the trip was the night when I went to the town called Marathon, Texas. I was on my way down to Big Bend National Park, my third and final part of this trip. I needed to charge my car overnight because there weren’t any Tesla supercharges in between.
I mentioned how I use A Better Route Planner. When I plugged in, I wanted to go from Memphis to Big Bend National Park to Los Angeles. It’s a V-shape on the map because it’s way down the southwest part of Texas. There are very few charging options. A Better Route Planner warned me and said, “You’re going to have trouble going here.”
The workaround if you do camping or hotel stays is that you can find the chargers overnight. I chose this park called the Marathon Motel and RV Park. It was super booked the night that I went. The only way I got in there is because there was a cancellation. I got one of the last spots at this place that evening. They were having some big chili events in town. It’s a super small town with less than 400 residents. It is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I go in there ignorant, thinking I have a place to sleep.
It ended up being one of the best camping experiences I’ve ever had on my Tesla road trips. This place is in such a small town that there is barely any light pollution. They have a star party event every single night. There are two employees. Their names were Bill and Andy. They were the nicest guys. Every night, they come out and offer this paid star-viewing experience for $10. You can go and look through their telescopes for hours. They tell you all about the stars, planets, and constellations. They tell stories and made jokes. It was delightful.
I showed up and the sunset had finished. It was getting dark. I pulled in, plugged in my car, walked over, and joined their star party. I had the most delightful time. I felt this immense level of joy. I wanted to savor every moment of it. It was also cool because, on that night, something special and rare happened, which was a SpaceX rocket launch. SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk. He is a very controversial man. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about him, but I appreciate him to the extent of how much I love my Tesla. I also think SpaceX is cool. There was this enormous rocket in the distance with this beautiful light trail. Everyone stopped in their tracks and watched. I found out from the guys that do these star parties that they’ve only seen that once before. It is a rare thing to witness. It was neat.
I also felt so incredibly safe there. I parked in the RV section and got some of the best sleep, if not the best, I’ve ever had while camping. There’s something about this little town and these kind people that worked there. It was quiet. There wasn’t any of that light pollution. With the stars, I’ve never seen stars like that before. I looked it up. That part of Texas is known for having some of the darkest skies in the country. If you are interested in that, I could not recommend it enough.
The next day, I drove down to Big Bend National Park. I didn’t do the calculations with my car charging well enough because I had what they call range anxiety. I didn’t get to see as much of the national park as I wanted to. I saw a good amount, but if you go all the way to the end of the park, it borders Mexico and the Rio Grande River. I wanted to see that, but it was a little too far for me to drive and get back to the next charger. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Perhaps my favorite part of that park was that there were tarantulas crossing the street. I’m not someone that gets that excited about spiders. I’ve always felt a little nervous around them, but super curious. When I saw these tarantulas, I couldn’t even believe it. I didn’t believe my eyes. I saw three of them. Apparently, it is common to see them at this time of year. Earlier in the fall and summer, the tarantulas commonly cross the road as part of mating season in this country.
At this time of year, it is a little less frequent, but I saw three of them in the span of an hour. There are these giant spiders walking across the road. You’re hoping that you don’t drive over them accidentally because they’re not that big. Within a few feet, you realize they’re there. I was like, “No.” At one point, I saw enough in advance that I pulled my car over, got out, and watched it close up. I was in complete awe.
The cool thing about this park, at least when I was there, is there were barely any cars around. I’m on the road by myself, watching this tarantula and thinking, “I want to learn more about tarantulas.” I loved it. I then drove back up. I could have gone in a different direction to get back to Los Angeles, but because of my car charging needs, I went back up to Marathon, which was north of Big Bend.
In the little town, a hotel called The Gage Hotel had a Tesla charger. I plugged in my car there for free charging. Sometimes, I feel guilty charging at these free chargers, so I went to their cafe and got lunch. I went to one of their stores and bought a gift. They had a cool natural market down the street that I went to. It was this quaint, cinematic little town where everyone there was so nice. The men are walking around wearing cowboy hats. I felt like I was in a movie from that evening with the star-viewing all the way through that experience in that little town. It was magical. I would go back in a heartbeat.
The Tail End of The Trip
Later that day, I felt like it was the tail end of my trip. There wasn’t much left to do except drive. I drove a ton and ended up spending the night in New Mexico. It was also in a very random area. This was probably one of the least favorite places I’d stayed. I’m not even going to mention the name. This area, due to the timing that I was driving and my charging needs, made the most sense to stop.
There were so many RV parks and this one had good reviews. I’m not sure why, though. It felt safe, but it was nothing special. It was gravel and tons of RVs. There were probably 100 RVs. There were multiple RV parks in a row, so there were probably hundreds of RVs parked here. Why? I don’t know. Are they living there as some people do? I think so. Some people are on their way somewhere. It’s blown my mind to visit these parks and learn about this whole subculture.
I know about van life, but with this RV life, there are so many RVs in middle-of-nowhere types of towns. It was fine. I felt safe. It was also cheap. It was $29 with tax. It was so inexpensive. I was super grateful for that. To get a 50 amp RV spot for less than $30 is on the rare side. Only a few places have been that low.
That evening, I grabbed dinner from Carl’s Jr. It is one of my go-tos. There are a couple of Carl’s Jr. at some of the superchargers. I’ll go there and get a Beyond Burger lettuce wrap. It hits the spot for me for dinner. I also had this awesome product called Hiker’s Hummus, which is worth a shout-out. The brand is called uBu. They have this freeze-dried hummus that you can take on a hike. That’s why it’s called Hiker’s Hummus. It’s labeled vegan and gluten-free. It is made in Wisconsin.
They’re part of 1% for the Planet. It’s an awesome brand. The pack has two snack-sized servings. It says all you do is open it up, pour water in it, and you can reseal it. It is probably best to eat it all in one sitting, but you could probably keep it for another day or so, especially if you have a fridge as I do. That was delicious. I was very impressed by that. It fell in line with some of the best snacks that I had.
From there, I kept driving. I drove through Palm Springs, which I enjoy going to. It’s so lovely. I stopped to charge my car outside of Palm Springs at this one area called Cabazon. They have two superchargers there. One of them is new and is right next to the Morongo Casino. This is a little side note for me. I enjoy playing slot machines, but I have a lot of boundaries around them. They have to be very specific casinos. I always have a limit of, at most, $20 that I will spend. I’m mostly doing it for fun with the slight chance of making money.
I only had $5 on me. If you didn’t know this about slot machines, usually, you have to pay with cash. If you want to use the ATMs at these casinos, they have all these fees tapped on. Another rule of mine is I have to have cash with me. While I plugged my car in to charge it, I ran in there because my car was only going to take 30 minutes to charge. I ran into the casino, found a cool slot machine, put my $5 in, and played. I probably lasted for five minutes because the slot machines go so fast. I walked away with $0.45. I spent about $4.50 at this casino, went back to my car, and left. That was it. I was back in LA a few hours later. My trip came to a close.
I have all these pictures from various things and various explorations. It is cool to do it in a Tesla or an electric car. It doesn’t have to be a Tesla, but Tesla has made it so easy to do this. You don’t have to be so detail-oriented. You could just get in your car and go. It depends on where you’re staying, where you’re going, what your comfort levels are, or whether somebody is with you. There are all these factors.You don't have to be so detail-oriented. You could just get in your car and go. Click To Tweet
What I love about the charging is that it forces me to go to places I wouldn’t normally go. I probably wouldn’t have stayed the night at that Marathon Motel and RV Park because I wouldn’t have had to. I could have stayed at some other random park. Reading the reviews on Google Maps and PlugShare and using A Better Route Planner takes you in different directions. You get to experience different cultures, different types of people, and different foods.
The camping side of it gets you to think more creatively. I’m constantly thinking, “How am I going to use the bathroom and what snacks am I going to have?” I don’t have a ton of videos of snacks. I thought I was missing some, but I’ve shared the highlights. One of them breaks my heart a little. I mentioned this in my episode about the Natural Products Expo.
I found this savory protein bar company called Afar. I was in love with their product and realized I had never looked at the ingredient list. It says right on the package that it is vegan, but I didn’t realize it contained almonds. Sadly, I’m super sensitive to almonds. Here I was, downing these bars and probably having reactions to them without even realizing they were causing it. I’ll shout them out because they’re a great road trip snack. It’s super convenient and filling. It’s rice-based. Sadly, I won’t be eating those anymore.
Another random brand is called Drizzlicious. People have referred to them as one of those brands you find at like TJ Maxx or HomeGoods in the random foods section. If you ever see them, though, get them. They’re so good. They’re rice cakes. They have different flavors with frostings on them. All of them are vegan and gluten-free. They’re so satisfying. I’m shocked at how good they are. I ate a few bags of those. I didn’t get them from HomeGoods, though. I got them from the food show.
Another brand I appreciate for on-the-go food is Lotus Foods. They make rice ramen noodle soups that are instant. You just pour water in them. They’re so delicious. I had one of those. I’m always on the hunt for products like that. I was able to go to so many great restaurants and have fresh food. I got to go to a few fast food places. I didn’t eat as much packaged food on the road as I thought I was going to. I made sure I had plenty of water and coffee.
One other brand, though, I’m noticing is called Lil Bucks. They were part of a giveaway that I did with Wellevatr some holidays ago. During the holiday season, I did a huge giveaway. I’ve been thinking about doing it again, but it is a ton of work. I don’t even know how much people appreciate it, but if you ever want to give feedback on that, let me know. The product is called Clusterbucks. They’re these grain-free, superfood clusters. I never had them when they did the giveaway with us. I thought they sounded good. I finally tried them and they were delicious. That was on my short list of snacks.
I also went to a lot of good coffee shops like the one I mentioned. At the Gage Hotel, their coffee shop is called V6. That was good. They had a nice salad that I had. I told you about some of the others that I went to. In the Atlanta area and Nashville, I mostly made my own coffee. For those curious about how I make coffee on the road, I love using my cold brew coffee maker. It’s a plastic cold brew coffee maker that’s leak-proof. It’s been great for these trips because I’m not worried about the equipment breaking. I’m not worried about it leaking. I can put ground coffee in it, fill it with water, and it lasts for days. That’s been my best solution.
I also have a French press maker with me. It’s a camping version of it. I usually carry instant coffee with me, but I rarely ever use those. I prefer either fresh coffee from a shop or my cold brew coffee maker paired with milk that I enjoy. I’ll usually bring this brand called Mooala. The other one is Strive. It’s brand-new plant-based milk that I tried at the Natural Products Expo and probably mentioned in the episode, too. Those are delicious. I like rich, creamy, but low-sugar or sugar-free milk. They’re hard to find, especially since I don’t do almonds. I’m always on the hunt for good milk. Having the refrigerator is so helpful because I can store my milk throughout my trips and put my coffee in there, too. It’s great.
If you want to geek out, you’re curious about these things, you might do a road trip or camping trip, or maybe you’re thinking of getting an electric car like a Tesla, I’m always happy to share more details beyond this. I would love to hear from you. If you don’t have questions but you’d like to give feedback, we’re coming up on 400 episodes of this show, which is amazing. Also, the three-year anniversary of the show is right around the corner. I’m evaluating how I want to do things moving forward. What will it be like in 2023? What content should I create? You are the person I want to hear from on that.
If you have feedback, suggestions, questions, or whatever it is, hearing from you lights me up. Please find my contact information, email, or social media handles if you want to DM me. Those are great ways to reach me. I hope you do that. Until then, happy travels to you if you’re on any of them. Happy upcoming holidays. I’ll be back again with a special guest episode. I get so excited about guests. It blows my mind.
The last episode with Lloyd George was good if you haven’t checked that out yet. The episode coming up is wonderful for people that might be experiencing things like Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, considering antidepressants, or struggling with their mood. It is an amazing episode to come out at this time of year. I hope you’ll tune in to that. I got a lot of other guests lined up for you for the rest of 2022. Please stay tuned and reach out whenever you feel ready. Thanks for tuning in. I’ll see you soon.
- Episode – Escaping to the Jungle: What the Costa Rica Retreat Was Like
- Episode – What the Horse Riding Taught Me about Emotional Courage
- Minimalist Baker
- Wholly Wholesome Gluten-Free Pie Shell
- Episode – Haunted Happenings: A Trip Through Salem’s Wicked History
- Episode – Women in Tech with Smitha Kommareddi and Whitney Lauritsen
- A Better Route Planner
- Electric Milk/Coffee Frother –
- Rooftop Cargo Bag
- Setpower FC20 Portable Freezer Fridge
- BLUU MOUNT Backpacking and Camping Stove
- Episode – The Power of Awe in Nature: Part of 1 of My 2022 Cross Country Trip
- The Carloo
- Tinkle Bell
- YOGA POPS
- Hiker’s Hummus
- Episode – New Plant-Based, Earth-Friendly Food and Drinks
- Lotus Foods
- Lil Bucks
- Takeya Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker
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