Tuesday, February 16, 2021
We left South Padre Island on Monday, and headed to Brownsville, where we had hotel reservations for the night. The hotel had several electric vehicle chargers, all but one occupied by non-electric vehicles. We squeezed our Tesla in and didn’t leave until we checked out the next day. Before we left the island, we stopped at the supercharger, which worked just long enough to get us about 5% more energy than we had stored.
Many thanks to the Homewood Suites in Brownsville for letting us into our room mid-morning. They even offered a dinner that evening. I doubt we would have found any restaurants that were open. Once again, I have to recommend the HiltonHonors loyalty program which has helped us out of jams more than once.
To add to our worries on Monday, our car’s communication system went down. Tesla uses the AT&T network, so we think their cell towers were down. The car was drivable, but we had no GPS, nor any way to see if other superchargers along the route would even be powered. Fortunately, it was back in service by Tuesday morning, so we were able to head out. We kept our speed under the limit to conserve power, just in case any more of the superchargers were down.
We had some food and beverages left over from our condo stay, so we weren’t too concerned about starving. At one stop by an H-E-B grocery store in San Marcos, the line to get in was stretched about a block. With more bad weather on the way, people were stocking up. At another stop, we went into the nearby convenience store to pick up a few things, but the power went down before we could pay.
Along the way to Austin, we saw cars that still hadn’t been pulled out of the ditch from the last storm. We also saw the effects of several accidents that had occurred this afternoon. Icicles hang from road signs, snow blows off of passing trucks, overpasses and underpasses are treacherous since the ice forms there first, and melts last. Electronic signs on the freeway recommend no travel.
Much of the Texas is still without power, and other areas are experiencing rolling blackouts. The wind turbines are not winterized, so many of them have become inoperable, which is a small part of the reason for the outages. Another part of the problem is the fact that Texas was completely unprepared for this type of emergency. Much of the power grid is shut down during the winter months, and not brought back on line until summer when there is increased demand for air conditioning.
We drove by a few tent communities in Austin, and I do hope those people have been able to find warm shelter somewhere. The roads are slippery, sidewalks are not walkable, lights are off at many of the establishments we passed.
We’re so happy we made our hotel reservations yesterday, as it was sold out by the time we got here. We are staying at a Homewood Suites, a fairly good sized one, and only three people were able to make it to work here today. They are doing all of the checking in (and turning people away), housekeeping and other services. These hardworking young people are doing an amazing job. Reminder to self: Big Tips!
We were told that a local pizza joint was still open, but the line was around the block. We have tuna, meat, cheese and crackers, not a feast, but it works. We will stay here tonight and tomorrow night for sure, then decide if we can hit the road again. The plan is to be home in Minnesota by next Tuesday at the latest, but we’ll see. What an adventure!