New Plug-In Stations For Electric Cars Expand Road Trip Options

electric car
Tesla Motors

There are not many electric cars or plug-in hybrids on the road but there may be a good reason for that. Past the sticker shock and into the driver’s seat, summer road trippers wanting to take advantage of their fuel-saving vehicles are having a hard time going very far. Other than in California and the Northwest, plug-in stations are hard to find. One car manufacturer is doing something about it.

“It is very important to address this issue of long-distance travel,” said Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk in a Mercury News article. “When people buy a car, they’re also buying a sense of freedom, the ability to go anywhere they want and not feel fettered.” Musk has a road trip of his own planned for this summer, driving his kids across the country.

Tesla wants their premium electric vehicles to be driven coast to coast and is rolling out a rapid-charging network for its electric cars, tripling the number of stations they now have. That will allow drivers to travel to New York from Los Angeles. Not that a lack of charging stations should keep those cars from making the trip; it will just take longer. Rapid charging stations fuel their cars in about an hour. Plugging into ordinary current requires an overnight charge.Tesla’s plan will add more stations every 80 to 100 miles on heavily used routes such as the corridor between New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. They also hope to improve the technology used for charging so their Model S cars will get three hours of driving time from only 20 minutes of charging. They will eventually install 100 of the stations along U.S. and Canadian highways.

Thinking of an electric car? In this video, a recent Consumer Reports test of Tesla’s Model S brought surprisingly good results:

Motor Club Membership Has Pets Wagging More, Paying Less

motor club

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is a not-for-profit motor club that has been helping travelers since 1902. Formed mainly in response to a lack of roads and highways suitable for automobiles, AAA membership has evolved to serve the changing needs of more than 50 million members. Tackling everything from emergency roadside assistance to road maps, travel guides and travel services along the way, AAA is relevant today too. Advice and discounts cover everything from saving money buying a car to caring for and traveling with pets.

“Owning a pet, whether it’s a dog, a cat, a hamster or a bird, can be pricey,” says AAA in its monthly newsletter. “In this sluggish economy, everyone is on the lookout for ways to shed unnecessary expenses, and spoiling our pets may not make the budget.”

AAA directs members looking to save on spay/neuter services, discount pet food and medication to partners such as Pets Warehouse, PetFoodDirect and large retailers like Costco, PETCO and PetSmart.

On the road, AAA’s hotel search engine will help travelers locate a AAA Diamond-Rated hotel fit for them and their pet. A copy of AAA’s “Traveling With Your Pet” ($9.99 digital edition available at the iTunes Store, and, details pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions and more.The AAA website has free information on traveling with pets too, including:

AAA also offers discounts on vacation packages, cruise vacations and more. A lot has changed at AAA since 1902, including up-to-date mobile apps and a YouTube channel that can be a great help to the travelers of today.

AAA online guidebooks, launched last year, let members download free digital guides for their Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Reader or smartphones equipped with an e-reader application. Site visitors to can view the available eTourBook titles, but only AAA members can initiate a download. To complete the process, members login to download titles to their personal computer and then sync the files to their portable device.

This video about safe summer travel is typical of what AAA has for motorists.

[Flickr photo by TheGiantVermin]

Summer Road Trip With Kids Made Easy

summer road trip

A summer road trip sounds like a lot of fun. Planning where we might drive to, what we will see and do along the way, and even packing the car are all fun parts of the experience. Heading out on the open road with friends can make for a legendary trip. Traveling with children, however, can make the road seem awfully long, especially when patience and attention spans grow short. What we do to deal with long periods of time with seemingly nothing to do becomes of primary importance.

There are multiple apps available that can be helpful for distracting children while on the road. Admittedly, I have this picture in my head of mom and/or dad in the front seat and the kid(s) in the back seat, buried in a iPhone, missing everything that is passing by.

Not so with some interactive apps.

Funny Road Trip– Turn it on and select one of the four included virtual “hitchhikers,” and meet the characters from different parts of the world. Each character will introduce themselves then give your child 50 things to do such as, “Find 8 horses then clap your hands.”

License Plate Travel Game– Simple: compete against the others on your next road trip to see who can find the most license plates during your drive.

Roadside America– Older kids might like the Roadside America app that shows upcoming oddball monuments, quirky museums and tourist attractions. It even keeps track sights seen and wonders visited.

Making frequent stops, planning when to eat, sleep or just get out of the car to move around are also commonly suggested tips for having a good road trip.

Allowing a kid to be the “navigator” and decide where the road will lead and talking to one another along the way are also ways to kill time in the car. Oddly, those cost the least amount of money but can reap the best return later, long after the electronic device is gone.

Flickr photo by Stuck in Customs

Iconic Road Trips: Blue Ridge Parkway Paradise

The Blue Ridge Parkway is famous for a reason. It’s a 469-mile stretch along the Blue Ridge, which is a mountain chain within the Appalachian Mountains. The mountains out west might be more grandeur, but I grew up in the Appalachians, so this drive has a special place in my heart. Contrast to the jagged, towering, snow-capped mountains you’ll see in the western parts of the U.S., the Blue Ridge Mountains are subtler in their majesty. You’ll see rolling hills upon rolling hills all the way into the horizon while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. The park connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the Shenandoah National Park. When you feel moved to stop and take photos of the jaw-dropping landscape, you’ll find there are plenty of places to pull over and do just that. Buy some homemade jam, salsa or an assortment of other treats when you stop. These kinds of Blue Ridge specialties are widely available along the route and unlike so many gimmicky regional foods many of these offerings are worth the price.In addition to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, you’ll pass through the Pisgah National Forest, Stone Mountain State Park and George Washington National Forest, among other destinations.

Iconic Road Trips: Enjoying Idaho’s Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

If you’re already in Idaho, chances are you’ve already had your breath taken away at the hand of your surroundings. But the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, also known as Idaho State Highway 21, will make you fall in love with the Idaho landscape if you haven’t already. Beginning in Boise, the “City of Trees,” this road is carved within the Boise National Forest and the scenery here is unbelievable. Flat pastures will merge into green hills that will remind you of photos you’ve seen of the Irish countryside. The highway begins at 3,000 feet above sea level. You’ll see the Boise River, the Boise River Diversion Dam, the Lucky Peak Dam and much more on this drive. Rocky mountains, summits good for stopping and taking in the fresh air, rushing waters and densely packed Pines make this drive worth the trip. It’s best to avoid driving this route in the winter. High elevation points throughout the highway are often closed during the winter because of snow.

[flickr image via bmarmie]