An electric vehicle drive to remember

Jonathan Make
7 min readMar 17, 2024


Coasting into Rawlins, out of electric charge, I started to wonder if this was another one of my quixotic quests. You see, I am a bit of an electric vehicle fanatic. I was determined to make this trip in my E.V. from Cheyenne to Rock Springs via Rawlins. I had started planning for it weeks ago by checking on the charging locations, confirming their equipment was working.

You know the saying about best-laid plans. Although I had planned for snow and the poor driving conditions, I had not bargained on Interstate 80 being closed. That is what I ran into, just a few miles into my trip.

The weather was fine in Cheyenne, and according to my weather app, it was pretty good in the rest of southern Wyoming. What wasn’t so good was the condition of I-80 in many sections.

I-80 about midway between Cheyenne and Laramie.

This situation is pretty typical in winter when it snows, because the strong winds tend to blow the white stuff all over the highway, and the plows just cannot keep up. So, wisely, Wyoming has a comprehensive plan where they shut down the interstate and all other roads between the main cities of southern Wyoming. This, of course, includes Cheyenne, Rawlins and Rock Springs. Laramie, too.

The first few state patrolmen I came across wanted me to have a hotel reservation in Laramie, which is the next city to the west from Cheyenne, before they would let me proceed on the closed interstate. Seemed like a good bargain to me, so I called Marriott and was able to make a temporary reservation at one if their hotels in Laramie — the one that has chargers right in the parking lot.

As soon as I got out of Cheyenne, the road got treacherous. The highway was filled with snow. At times, the visibility was perhaps only a few hundred feet.

Following the greatly reduced speed limits helped. Usually, this stretch of roadway between Cheyenne and Laramie is 75 miles per hour, while further west, it’s mostly 80 mph. Much of the roadway to Laramie was 45 mph and some was 35 and even lower.

I saw that a plow passing in the opposite direction was poised to turn around and go down my stretch of highway. So I pulled over and waited for the driver to do a U-turn, and then I followed him. That was a help, although, of course, the truck was going below the already reduced speed limit. And if I wanted to follow exactly behind him, I had to drive on the very edge of the road along the shoulder and the rumble strips.

Also a big help was our EV, a Subaru Solterra. This is why, after all, we got an all-wheel drive. It was also the reason why I had put snow tires on the car for the end of the winter. That’s another story, about the difficulty of getting anyone to put on those tires. Thanks to Discount Tires, it was pretty easy in the end.

Towards the western end of Laramie on I-80, the highway was physically barricaded again. And there were no kindly state troopers around who could wave me through after an explanation of why I wanted to proceed. Going to judge a spelling bee on the other side of the state did not impress the barricade.

I made a miscalculation when I exited the interstate.

I could have doubled back a few miles and charged the car at a level two somewhat-fast charger at the hotel where I had a reservation in Laramie. I was close to doing it, while also weighing the opportunity cost of extending the time of my drive. The longer it took me to get to Rawlins, where I also had a hotel room at a Marriott property and planned to spend the night, the higher the risk that I would not be allowed to proceed at night by the authorities.

I made a miscalculation when I exited the interstate. I could have doubled back a few miles and charged the car at a level two somewhat-fast charger at the hotel where I had a reservation in Laramie. I was close to doing it, while also weighing the opportunity cost of extending the time of my drive. The longer it took me to get to Rawlins, the higher the risk that I would not be allowed to proceed at night by the authorities.

So I took what I thought was a calculated gamble. I also canceled the hotel reservation in Laramie.

After all, the range of the car, even in winter at temperatures slightly below freezing, was about 30 miles more than the trip on the interstate to Rawlins. I knew in the back of my head that the alternative route was a bit longer, but the road is more flat than the corresponding stretch of interstate. This is why the federal government surprised some Wyomingites when it built I-80 a good distance away from the existing U.S. highway, which meant that, while the mileage was less, the terrain was considerably trickier. Steep grades and long, heavy freight trains don’t go together, so the railroad wisely stuck to the less treacherous path.

What this all meant is that I was risking running out of battery before I arrived at the super-charger, a level three fast charger, in Rawlins. I should have also considered that the U.S. highway would be a rougher road, being less plowed than the main highway, and so the car would have to work harder and expend more energy. Translation: My driving range would be reduced.

The first part of the drive was good. The roads were pretty clear and this is a sturdy highway. Not that I was going that fast, but the speed limits were 70 mph in many sections.

Even during the portion where the road was closed, the drive went OK. Another nice trooper let me through, while reminding me that the road was a bit treacherous up ahead. For a while, it was smooth sailing.

It was at around this time that I started to realize it would be a stretch to make it to Rawlins without any charge along the way. I was kind of glued to Waze since it showed how many miles were left on this journey. Although at Laramie, Waze showed there was 10 to 15 miles of excess charge, by the time I passed the trooper, it was a wash. As I continued, and the road became snow-covered and slick, I started to accumulate a range deficit.

So I pulled over at a building that had an electric outlet outside. This looked to be like a kind of community center, and this might have been in Medicine Bow, or maybe Hanna. There was a surprise waiting for me when I took out the portable level one trickle charger I had in the trunk. I had forgotten to bring the 220-volt to 110 V converter plug. No dice on charging.

I had no choice but to continue on my memorable journey, because the only charger in this part of the I-80 corridor west of Laramie was in Rawlins.

On the plus side, my deficit was at least not increasing. It was hovering around 5 to 6 miles. On the downside, no matter how much I tried to extend the range, by using all of the tricks I use in daily driving and then some, the deficit was not budging significantly.

By the time I got back on I-80, where it intersected with U.S. 30, I was getting pretty worried and driving well under the speed limit to try to conserve energy. At least the road was in good shape. I was doing the math in my head and wondering how far I would have to be towed to the charger and whether AAA would cover the cost. I had my emergency blinkers on, since I was going about 45 mph in a 75 zone.

I had been getting warnings for the last maybe 15 miles. At some point, I had even turned off the bun-warmers and the steering wheel heater, even though those do not use very much energy. I turned off the radio.

About 2 miles before I got off the highway, I finally had exhausted the battery. There was almost no acceleration, and I was practically coasting. By the time I got into town, I was not sure I would make it to the supermarket where the charging Nirvana was. With the car literally creaking, I made it to the charger just in time. I could scarcely believe my good luck.

Of course, that didn’t mean I could actually begin charging. No, it’s pretty common for chargers not to work as they are supposed to. This one was no exception. It would not work with my app for the charger and the credit card reader would not recognize my account with Electrify America. So I gave up and paid twice the rate I should have, in order to charge. I’m still trying to recoup the cost difference from the company.

On the plus side, the car was charging at a fast clip. Something approaching 40 kilowatt hours. And the hotel was only half a mile away, so the walk there wasn’t too bad.

As I picked up the car later that night, this time with a full charge, I realized this was a drive I won’t soon forget. My family at home, too, since this tale worried them.

Once I got to Rock Springs the next day, it was all worth it. The bee this weekend went off without a hitch — save for the fact that attendance was low due to the storm. Still, about 60 elementary and middle school students from across Wyoming competed for the honor of representing the entire state at the national Scripps spelling bee in Washington in the spring.

The winning word was ‘reprieve,’ spelled by Eli Jernigan (below, left) from Kemmerer. Second place was Alexandra Kitterman (middle) of Douglas. Third was Levi Goodwin (right) hailing from Saratoga.

First-, second-[ and third-place winners.

Congratulations to all of the contenders. Thanks to Western Wyoming Community College for hosting us. And a shout-out to Dave and Laurie for shuttling me around in Rock Springs while the car charged so I could make the trip back home post-bee.



Jonathan Make

I work at USPTO but my views only here. Buff about good journalism, writing, art & culture. Heart my wife, son & pets.