a nearly ideal long-distance electrical car road trip
Wednesday, April 13 2022
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY
Today would be a travel day; Gretchen and I would be driving in the Chevy Bolt down to Washington, DC, leaving the dogs and cats for Powerful to care for until our return. This was to be the first road trip for us traveling together in an electric car where it was impossible to reach our destination without stopping for a fast charge along the way. I drove the first leg, running into a patch of very slow-moving traffic somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike. But eventually we made it to our first (and, as it turned out) only charging stop on this drive: the Electrify America charging station at the Walmart in Magnolia, New Jersey. Gretchen had done some research as we drove and discovered an Indian restaurant combined with a store within walking distance of that Walmart, so that was where we intended to eat while waiting the hour or so it takes for a complete quick charge.
The motor mile of Magnolia (does it have anything else?) is a pedestrian-hostile riot of commerce, ugly vinyl-clad houses, and patches of unclaimed real estate strewn with trash, a place where muscle cars feel free to burst into mini two-car motor rallies. It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day with temperatures well into the 80s, but it wasn't easy to find much joy walking through such a blighted landscape.
The Indian restaurant/store was called MAMA's Indian Kitchen & Food Mart, which led us to think it was both a restaurant and Indian grocery, selling both samosas and bags of rice. But no, it was a conventional American convenience store, the kind run, say, by Apu in The Simpsons combined with an Indian restaurant that also specialized, for whatever reason, in fried chicken. It's a logical combination, since Indians are disporortionately represented in the running of convenience stores, and such combo restaurant/convenience stores are rather common in India. It turned out that one could get all the common Indian dishes at MAMA's, as well as some less ones like rajma (kidney bean curry). I of course wanted the rajma, and Gretchen ordered the matar aloo gobi. We were waited on by a very nice young woman who said she was born in New Deli but had almost no accent. Gretchen explained that we are vegan and she knew exactly what to recommend, which wasn't actually necessary given our familiarity with Indian food.
There's a phenomenon one could call "samosa amnesia,"" where one never remembers that ordering samosas is a bad idea, given all the curry that one also orders. But when one sits down and is hungry, a samosa always seems like a good idea. So we ordered samosas, and when they proved excellent, we knew it portended good curry as well. It all ended up being surprisingly good, certainly much better than expensive Indian food we've had at fancy Indian restaurants. And all of it was prepared from scratch right there while we waited, presumably by MAMA. We had such a good experience that we left a 45% tip.
Back at the Walmart Electrify America charging station, our Bolt's battery was charged to 90%, so off we went, this time with Gretchen driving. We ran into a few spots of congestion, particularly on the Washington-Baltimore Parkway. But this kept our speeds low, which is great when trying to maximize the range of an electrical car. So we easily made it to the Watergate on just that charge in New Jersey. Overall, though, we'd experienced a nearly ideal long-distance electrical car road trip.
So then we were in Gretchen's parents world, with Gretchen and her father immediately launching into some long conversation about food preparation that made my eyes glaze over while her mother got ready to go to dinner.
For dinner, Gretchen's father drove us in his electrical car to the Sticky Fingers Diner in the greater Capitol Hill neighborhood. The weather was gorgeous and we would've sat out in the back, but there's a very loud air conditioning unit there, so we dined inside in a booth. We ordered much of what was on the menu, since it was all vegan (and Gretchen's parents were investors in the restaurant). I got the reuben, which was fun because it contained mustard with strong back-of-the-head-panging notes of horseradish. Gretchen and I also shared some vegan hot wings, which were incredible. I was feeling a bit sleepy, so I managed to drink two cups of coffee.
For some reason dinner conversation dwelled for a long time on the unpleasant subject of how to make vegan food more eggy, which, given my egg aversion, was not something I wanted to be party to. At some point Gretchen figured out that the subject matter was making me uncomfortable, and she quickly reminded her parents about my egg aversion and that we should change the subject. This was when Gretchen's mother comitted an epic room-reading fail and decided to agree that eggs were gross in some circumstances, particularly when they are runny. She's my mother-in-law, but I made a sound that indicated deep discomfort.
Back in the Watergate, we started charging our Bolt via our anemic 120 volt charger, and I climbed into bed up in the guest room, which we'd been told we could stay in. Gretchen's brother's family would also be coming, but they'd be taking the smaller "butler's room" and, for their kids, the couches in the living room.
Gretchen in front of MAMA's in Magnolia, New Jersey. Click to enlarge.
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