Emerald to Barcaldine
Heading out of Emerald, it was great to see a solar farm in the midst of coal country. The future is slowly intruding. On the long, straight, seemingly endless roads, it was great to use Autopilot — the car steering, braking, and maintaining an even speed on its own. No more leg cramps from holding my leg in the same position for hours.
We had a lovely stop at a lookout as we passed over the ranges. We shared the lookout with a V8 aficionado. Turns out he knew a lot about electric vehicles — but wouldn’t want to own one as he would miss the sound of his engine!
When we put Barcaldine into the navigation, we got the warning that we wouldn’t make it — the yellow triangle of death! It was only 310 km and the range said 320 km. Fortunately, I had a backup plan! Before the trip, I thought this section would be a little tight, so I rang a motel in Alpha (170 km from Emerald) and had a great chat with the manager, Rav. He said, “No worries mate, I’ve got a 15 amp socket in the driveway you can use.”
Dev opened up the pub for us, made us lunch, and shouted us a beer. While we ate, he told us of the town and how it was doing tough under covid. Many trucks and caravans stop at Alpha, but they don’t seem to spend any money. They use the toilets and have a picnic with food they have bought elsewhere. He thinks it is only the local coal mines that are keeping the town alive. As a thank you for the charge, we took him for a drive. He was very impressed with the torque and the tech.
We talked solar energy. He was paying $23,000 a year in electricity when he got involved. He did the research and put on as many panels as he could. He also installed energy efficient HVACs and light bulbs. Now it is much more manageable.
The owner of the general store was very interested. He was keen to install a destination charger and hopeful that captive EV travelers might spend a little in the town. The bakery made great cakes, so we got some for the trip. Time for a little relaxing in the shade of the trees and a play on our iPads.
Soon, we had enough charge to carry on. We bid farewell to Dev and Alpha and headed back out on the road. It was a reasonable, uneventful section of road and we arrived at the Barcaldine Country Motor Inn and the comfort of its Tesla Destination Charger with 35 km of range in our battery.
Barcaldine to Winton
We were surprised to find a golf cart charging at the Barcaldine Country Motor Inn (see picture at top). Apparently, it is used to moving around the rooms, delivering room service, and transporting cleaning equipment after guests check out. Chloe delivered our dinner that night and was most curious about the Tesla. She had never seen one before even though PlugShare had recorded three Model 3s and a LEAF charging at the motel in the past 12 months.
The 287 km drive from Barcaldine was long and boring until the yellow triangle of death reappeared and we had to change our driving habits. It was like having an extra wife. We were instructed by the car to drop our speed to 95 km/h for the last 100 km. We also rolled the windows down and turned off the A/C. We arrived at Banjo’s with 30 km range in the battery.
Winton is famous for dinosaurs and Waltzing Matilda (composed by Banjo Patterson). I had seen enough of Matilda, as we all had to learn to recite the poem by heart in primary school, but I was really looking forward to the Dinosaur Stampede and the Age of Dinosaurs exhibit. We would tour these in the next few days. But first, let’s charge the car.
We had been assured that we would be able to use a 15 amp power point, but in the end that proved impossible (it was in the laundry) and we ended up with an extension cord from an external trickle charger. We planned to spend 4 days in Winton, so it didn’t matter that the screen said 24+ hours to charge. We had plenty of time to walk into town, buy some food to cook for dinner (our tummies longed for vegetables rather than more chips) and play tourist for a while.
This, of course, included a beer at the famous Gregory Hotel. Good beer, good service, and art deco finishes. What more could we want! Oh yes, good conversations about electric cars, too.
Time to go back to the holiday units, cook dinner, and while away the evening with a glass of red. We also got visits and questions from our curious neighbors. The most interesting of which was, “is it true that electric cars lose power if they are parked on a hill?”
One amusing story from a fellow traveler: He drove a massive diesel pickup and had been told by his mates that there was no diesel available in Longreach and Winton. He was really concerned and kept filling up his tank on his way from the coast, only to find that it was a furphy (Australian slang for false rumor). So, it isn’t just electric cars that cop the FUD.