On Tuesday, Tesla Trips had the pleasure of touring part of Oregon with Harry from Travel Oregon and Ashley of ODOT. Ashley was part of the group that made the West Coast Electric Highway a reality. Travel Oregon has been trying to promote this network and some of the beautiful scenery of Oregon by creating itineraries specifically for EVs. We recently drove part of the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge EV Itinerary from Travel Oregon. Ashley and Harry were both featured speakers for Green Drinks, a Gorge Owned sponsored event. Patrick Connor with the OEVA (Oregon Electric Vehicle Association) presented as part of the panel as well. For our adventure we rode out into the Gorge in Tesla Trips’ new 2013 Tesla Motors Model S, more affectionately known as ‘Scarlett.’
We got a late start on Tuesday, leaving Portland around 3:30. Since the event that evening began at 6:30, we decided to drive only a portion of the Itinerary. The farthest we made it out that day was to the charging station in front of Full Sail Brewing in Hood River. In a previous blog post, I mentioned how after participating in the Hood River 4th of July parade we decided to take a day trip up to Timberline Lodge and Government Camp. This is where the rest of the itinerary goes and is very doable in the Tesla.
After getting out of Portland, we headed east on I-84 and took the Corbett exit to put us on the Historic Columbia River Highway. I always recommend taking it, especially if you are new to the Gorge and have the time- it’s always beautiful, and there are so many great little rest stops along the way. We couldn’t have picked a better day in July to do it either! Our first stop was at the Women’s Forum Scenic Viewpoint. While it was a bit hazy in the distance, which we’re pretty sure was because of a fire in the Gorge past Lyle, it was still beautiful.
Chase and Ashley playing the role of tourists in the background and ‘Scarlett’ in the foreground taking a quick break
From there we drove farther east up and down beautifully twisty roads to our next destination, Crown Point Vista House. The roads on the scenic highway are perfect for highlighting the Tesla’s performance. With the windows and top down, we could hear birds chirping and other aspects of nature that one might miss driving something other than an EV convertible. The silent driving provided by an all electric drivetrain creates an intimate driving experience with nature unlike anything else. In addition, because of the car’s regenerative technology and large battery, we still made excellent time, even going up and down the hills. At no time did ‘range anxiety’ or any other traditional pitfalls of EVs cross our mind. All we thought about was the scenery.
Our stop at Crown Point
Our next stop was at Multnomah Falls. If we hadn’t been pressed for time, we would have stopped at 0ne of the hiking trails along the way. Quite a few go up to some of the many waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge. We arrived at Multnomah Falls, which is one of the most visited sites in Oregon. Being an easy stop off of I-84, the place is usually busy, and the perfect Oregon July weather made it even more so. Of all the places we stopped that day, Scarlett probably received the most stares at Multnomah Falls. It’s always interesting to get feedback from people who are not expecting a car that looks like Scarlett to be electric.
Admiring the view of Multnomah Falls
We drove a bit farther on the Columbia River Scenic Highway after our stop at Multnomah Falls. We got on I-84 and headed out to Hood River. We drove down to the event site to snap some photos and check out the windsurfers and kiteboarders. From there we swung by the Electric Highway charging station in front of Full Sail. When we got there we found a Nissan Leaf charging there, and the gentleman who owned it returning to his vehicle to top off the battery. We spoke with him, and it turned out he was going to the same event that evening in Cascade Locks that we were attending.
Because it was about 6 PM after our stop at the Hood River charging station, we decided to head back to Cascade Locks for the Green Drinks event. Now, as part of the normal Travel Oregon EV Itinerary for the Gorge and Mt. Hood, this is where we would have continued onto Highway 35. From there we would have seen many great attractions and ended up at Timberline Lodge. What is great about this route is that there is a charging station being put in at Government Camp as part of the West Coast Electric Highway. When Tesla Trips drove up to Timberline on the 4th of July, we found on the way back down that we had only used about 3 miles of range since the battery was used very little due to the regenerative brakes and very efficient cruise control in the Tesla.
While Hood River has many great attractions, the upper Hood River Valley also has many great stops. One of my favorite stops off of Highway 35 and just outside of Hood River is the Gorge White House. In the main house you’ll find one of, if not the, best selection of wines from all over the Gorge. The grounds are also amazingly kept and are very great places to take photos during the summer. They’ve also opened up a tasting room where they are now brewing various ciders that have received lots of praise. Probably my favorite, though, is the food cart that is operated by Jack Kennedy. He is an amazing chef, very entertaining and incredibly personable. Within walking distance (but most people drive) are two other amazing companies: Mt. Hood Winery and The Fruit Company. Mt. Hood Winery has a great, approachable selection of wines and a beautiful tasting room that has become a hit for weddings. The Fruit Company specializes in boutique gourmet fruit baskets, which they package and sell all over the U.S. The Fruit Company’s fruit basket has even been voted as one of Oprah’s favorite things. These are just a few of the well known and amazing stops in the valley, known as the ‘Hood River Fruit Loop,’ a popular tour unto itself and one Tesla Trips even offers. Continuing up on the Travel Oregon Mt. Hood EV tour takes you all the way up to Timberline Lodge. One other great scenic point before going up all the way to Government Camp is Panorama Point County Park & Viewpoint. A great place to take photos of the whole Hood River Valley.
Continuing our adventure from Tuesday, we traveled to Cascade Locks. When we entered the city we drove by the West Coast electric charging station in Cascade Locks and were greeted by a Nissan Leaf charging there. Having a bit of time before the event we were able to snap some photos around Cascade Locks, including one of Bridge of the Gods in the background near the boat launching site.
We continued over to the meeting and saw quite the sight:
Cascade Locks that evening was a hotspot for EV activity. Nissan Leafs, Chevrolet Volts, Teslas, Prius Plug-ins, Brammo motorcycles and a couple conversion EVs as well. The Hood River Valley High School’s award winning electric car program also had a couple of their student-made cars at the event. Patrick from the OEVA also documented the event very well.
After some networking and everyone checking out the cars there it was 7:00 and time for the presentations from the guest speakers: Ashley, Harry and Patrick. Everyone headed inside and was greeted by a bevy of snacks and drinks. Some interesting facts from the presentations highlighted how much had been done for electric vehicle drivers to take advantage of installed chargers to travel all over Oregon. Another interesting takeaway is that electric car drivers are more likely to travel farther to go to a business that has a charger installed at their location. This means instead of an EV driver going to the nearest grocery store, they would actually be more likely go to one even a few miles further if it had a charging station. This is an interesting notion since people think of electric car drivers as always being worried about range; instead they are open to traveling farther. This is also welcome news to businesses who decide to invest in chargers because it not only brings in customers who might not normally shop there, but research shows these that EV driving shoppers will have a high probability of being strong repeat customers over time.
Patrick from the OEVA presenting at the event
After the presentations from Ashley, Harry and Patrick everybody went back outside to enjoy the sun and surplus of electric vehicles. Zach Henkin with Drive Oregon was also there and highlighted some of their upcoming events. (Thanks to Lisa at TheGorge.com for taking this photo of Zach and me). Another person we met at the event was Adrian, who is part of a company in Odell, Oregon that is designing motors for various high end performance electric vehicles. They’ve even been helping design motors for Brammo‘s racing team.
The event turned out to be a lot of fun, and it was great to see so many people passionate about electric vehicles. It was interesting to see how connected everyone was to the event, both people who had been driving EVs for a long time and others who just had heard there was something going on at the park.
After the event we headed back to Portland as the sun set on the Gorge. We’re looking forward to doing the full Travel Oregon Mt. Hood EV trip again in the future and trying some new trips soon.