Florida in an Electric Car.

by grace on March 2, 2023

Last Monday, February 20th, Mom and I headed down to St. Louis to spend the night and fly out to Florida on Tuesday morning. It was a make up trip since Mom hadn’t been able to go to NYC with me in January.

We stayed in the Pear Tree Inn right across from the airport, a reasonably cheap choice that was perfectly nice and very clean. An old guy wearing hearing aids was rushing around serving everybody happy hour stuff – this included tortilla chips, salsa, potato chips, and up to three glasses of wine or beer.

I gave him a big tip because he was so nice and working so very hard.

We walked next door to a barbecue joint and I remembered that’s where Kevin and I ate when we started our honeymoon to Hawaii. We must have stayed at the same hotel. Although it wasn’t the classiest restaurant, the food was delicious.

Our flight the next morning was uneventful. We flew into the Bradenton/Sarasota airport, which was my first big mistake. We were headed to Clearwater Beach which, without traffic, is a little over an hour away. I guess I figured that wasn’t so far, plus I think the nonstop flight times were better than flying into Tampa, which was less than an hour to Clearwater Beach.

The problem is that the times when the traffic is light is probably only in the middle of the night.

When I studied the map I realized the Ringling Museum and Mansion was only five minutes away from the Sarasota airport, so we decided to stop there. This put us on the road at 4:40 in the afternoon, the height of rush hour. The drive to our air b&b took us two and a half hours. Not a great time.

But that wasn’t the worst thing – the worst thing is that when planning our trip I chose “manager’s special,” thinking that worst case we’d get a tiny car and best case, something better. Nope. We got an electric car. I have nothing against electric cars and I guess that’s what we’ll all be driving eventually but I have zero knowledge about an electric car. I don’t know how to charge it or where to charge it or anything at all about it.

When I finally got to the counter at Dollar Rental and the sullen young agent told me that I had to have the electric car I told him that I didn’t want the electric car, and he said “you have to take it. It’s the Manager’s Special.”

I should have had a fit and demanded a gas-powered car but I figured that maybe the electric car wouldn’t be so bad.

It was bad. I asked the agent who clearly hated his job where I could charge the car and he mumbled “Wa Wa.” WA WA? What the hell is a Wa Wa???

I didn’t ask, though, because i wanted to get on the road. The car, a brand-new Chevy Bolt, was roomy and comfortable and after a while I finally figured out how to get it into drive, by pressing a little button. We made the very short trip over to the Ringling Mansion and I have some lovely photos of it.

But here’s the car, and that expression on my face doesn’t do justice to the Car-Hassle that followed.

After we drove the very slow ride in so much traffic up the coast, we stopped at a 7-Eleven and I asked the woman working there if she knew of any places to charge an electric car. She looked at me, aghast, and said, “No, nothing here, not on the beaches.” I asked her about Wa Wa and she said, sure, there are Wa Was in Tampa and they have great sandwiches.

I felt a little better, figuring that we could stop at a Wa Wa, whatever that might be, at some point and charge the car and have a delicious sandwich.

We finally got to our cute little Air B&B at about 7:30 and I texted the manager and asked him about a nearby restaurant and he offered to take us on his golf cart to a close place to eat. What a guy! I decided not to worry about the car. But of course I can’t just stop worrying, and the next morning I spent a few hours reading online about charging electric cars and I found a Wa Wa in Tampa and called them and the guy there was very friendly but said they only charged Teslas and he didn’t think the charger would work on another kind of electric car. Oh boy.

I signed up for two different electric car-charging apps on my phone and searched for places to charge it. Finally I realized there was a charging station at a nearby Publix grocery store, so Mom and I headed over there, managed to plug the car in and spent about 45 minutes buying groceries. The charger was free! But when we got back to the car it had only given us only about 23 miles of charge. We were going to visit Mom’s cousin Barb on Thursday and I knew we’d need to charge a lot more.

We went back to our place and ate Publix sandwiches on the dock and hung out there, then finally made it the short walk over to the beach to see the sunset. When we got back to our place I spent a lot of the evening reading more about the car and in the car trunk I found a bunch of unopened plastic bags with all kinds of charging stuff in them and who knows what else.

I did find an instruction booklet that said you could charge the car at home, but that you needed an electrician to inspect your outlet to make sure that it didn’t cause a fire or an explosion or anything of that scary nature. I had thought maybe we could charge the car at Barb’s, but that was out of the question. I called Dollar and finally talked to somebody at roadside assistance, and they asked me if I was in an unsafe location and I said no, but I have an electric car and it isn’t working out.

I explained that I couldn’t find places to charge it, and I read the woman the passage about causing an explosion, and she didn’t seem to know much about electric cars and then located a quick charging place at some forest preserve in Tampa. I said that was not convenient, and this went on for over an hour.

I finally asked if I could exchange the car for a gas-powered one and she agreed to that. So on the way to visit Barb the next morning we’d stop at the Tampa airport and swap cars. Whew.

I ended up spending several hours of our short vacation dealing with the electric-car headache. But aside from that, we had a pretty nice time and soon I’ll be posting some photos. In the meantime…I do like the idea of an electric car and hopefully in the not-so-distant future there will be plenty of ways to quickly charge them. I did learn a couple of very valuable lessons from the experience, firstly being NEVER EVER choose the Manager’s Special, and never accept an electric car until they’re the only option because that’s all we have.


Ok then,

Mrs. H. Here in March.

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