Articles

EV Road Trip Tips and Stats from our First Tesla Road Trip (1800 miles; 17 Superchargers)

I am documenting my experience driving an Electric Vehicle on our first 1800 mile road trip from Missouri to Colorado in March 2024.

ABRP estimated 26h24m total drive time and 7h32m total charge time for our 1699 mile road trip. These stats are for the round-trip journey, not including any additional driving while at our destination. I intentionally used slightly conservative setting for “Reference consumption” in TeslaFi, which means their times should have been higher than our actual.

We recorded 31h11m actual drive time and 10h25m actual charge time (at Superchargers) for our 1813 mile road trip. The extra 114 miles of sight-seeing during our visit added about 2 hours drive time and about 30 minutes charge time.

Check back for a future analysis of estimated vs actual times for each drive segment and for each charge. It is not clear to me why our actual drive times were 7% longer than ABRP, but I suspect our charge times were longer than ABRP because we would stop for meals and charge longer than ABRP asked us to.

Meet our Electric Vehicle

We drove a 2016 Tesla Model X 90D with 130K miles that we purchased just two months prior to this road trip. Our 4 passengers sat in the first two rows of this 6 seat (3 row) configuration and we folded down the 3rd row.

Cargo Space was sufficient for 4 passengers. Our second row had an empty area between the seats where we stored a cooler and food/snack bags. Our front trunk stored items that require easy access, such as charging adapters, spare shoes, coats, gloves, hats. Our rear hidden/lower cargo area stored items specific to our destination, such as snow boots, toilet paper, paper towels, heavy clothing. Our rear cargo area was spacious after folding down the 3rd row seats and easily stored 3 full size luggage bags, 1 carry-on size bag, 4 backpacks, and several extra jackets and blankets. As driver, I still had 80%+ view through the rearview mirror.

Autopilot (AP1) features significantly reduced my driving fatigue during our 31 hour road trip! AP1 features include Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Centering. These features use a forward-facing camera and a forward facing radar. These features performed very well.

Free Unlimited Supercharging (FUSC; SC01) allowed us to charge the battery for free at any Tesla Supercharger location.

Charging Thoughts

I wanted to be able to charge at our overnight stops to reduce time at Tesla Superchargers. Using several different charging adapters saved us 2h25m of charging time at Superchargers.

I wanted to be able to charge at any DCFC (DC Fast Charger) if a Tesla Supercharger was offline or full. We did not end up using either of our fast charging adapters.

  • All of the Superchargers locations were online when we arrived. I did have to move to a different Superchargers port one time on our trip due to a port not connecting properly.
  • All of the Supercharger locations had multiple available charging ports when we arrived. We only encountered Supercharger locations where >25% of the ports were in use when we were in the Kansas City and Denver metro areas.

Charging Adapters

I packed each of the following charging adapters. I also listed how often we used each adapter on this road trip.

  • Tesla J-1772 Charging Adapter
    • Used at hotel during return trip. Used 17 kWh ($6.66 paid).
  • Tesla Mobile Connector (Gen 2; Max 32A) w/ NEMA Adapter Bundle
    • Used 240V 30A adapter at friend’s home during outbound trip. Used 34 kWh ($5.10 worth).
    • Used 120V 15A adapter during our stay in CO. Used 54 kWh ($6.21 worth).
  • Tesla CSS Combo 1 Charging Adapter w/ Retrofit
    • NOT used during trip. We frequently use this when traveling non-Interstate in the midwest.
  • Tesla CHAdeMO Charging Adapter
    • NOT used during trip. We have not needed this adapter yet. Useful in rural areas if the CCS plug(s) are in use.

NOTE: I tested each adapter prior to our trip to make sure they worked with our road trip vehicle and to make sure I understood how to use each adapter. Nothing would be worse than using your last few % battery to drive to a charger, only to find out the adapter you have does not work!

EV Road Trip Preparation

Prior to this road trip, I drove our new (to us) EV on the following regional trips to get a feel for this vehicle’s power consumption. Efficiency improved as temperatures increased over the past few months, which was consistent with my prior driving experiences in our other EV.

  • 465 miles, 588 Wh/mile, 64% efficiency, 12°F (Springfield, MO to Kansas City, MO via Nevada MO)
  • 340 miles, 424 Wh/mile, 88% efficiency, 56°F (Springfield, MO to Kansas City, MO)
  • 570 miles, 387 Wh/mile, 96% efficiency, 64°F (Springfield, MO to Wichita, KS)

NOTE: Wh/mile shown above is from TeslaFi, which always reports a higher Wh/mile than the Tesla on-board computer. I have not determined why TeslaFi and Tesla on-board computer do not match.

I planned this road trip using ABRP (A Better Route Planner) to reduce my total charging time. The weather forecast was similar to the prior 340 mile trip above, so I adjusted the vehicle settings in ABRP and planned the prior 340 mile trip above in ABRP until the battery usage and charging times were similar to the actual TeslaFi battery and charging stats from the 340 mile trip above. Keep adjusting settings and planning new ABRP trips until your drive times and charging times match the actual stats from a similar prior actual trip. I used the Tesla navigation for my road trip. I manually added the extra ABRP charging stops to my trip in the Tesla navigation.

How can ABRP reduce charging time? If you use a DC Fast Charger (aka Tesla Supercharger) to charge your EV battery from 10% to 80%, you will quickly notice that the battery charges much faster for the first 10-20% and then charges more and more slowly as the SoC (State of Charge) approaches 100%. Tesla navigation tends suggest fewer but longer stops. ABRP can calculate when it makes more sense to stop twice and charge 10% to 50% each time instead of stopping once and charging 10% to 90%.

  • Example: It takes my EV about 20 minutes to add 40% SoC if I start with a low SoC (e.g. 15% to 55%). In comparison, it takes 1 hour 15 minutes to add 80% SoC (e.g. 15% to 95%). The second 40% (from 55% to 95%) takes 55 minutes! I save nearly 30 minutes by making two separate +40% charging stops, even if I allow 5 minutes to interrupt my trip for the second stop. ABRP handles the math for you.

Improving Efficiency Before Road Trip

I created this checklist to help ensure highest possible efficiency during our trip:

  • Tire Conditions need to be evaluated.
    • Are your tires road trip worthy?
      • Ask a tire shop to measure the remaining tread on your tires. Your tires should have no less than 4/32″ or 5/32″ of tread for a large roadtrip! For comparison, new tires have 10/32″ of tread. We were overdue for tires, so we purchased new tires with 10/32″ tread.
      • Ask a tire shop to check for excessive wear on the inside edge of your tires. Tesla vehicles are known for problems with inner tread wear due to improper wheel alignment. These issues cause flat tires and tire blow outs. You don’t need those problems on your road trip!
    • Do you have the proper tires for your road trip?
      • Mud and/or Snow Tires have the worst efficiency, but may be required if you plan to travel during winter, further north, or in mountains. You may also want/need studded tires for severe conditions and/or the low-profile removable snow chains sold by Tesla. Be aware your vehicle does not have enough clearance for most snow chains, even if you are able to raise your suspension height.
      • Highway Tires have the best efficiency, but may handle poorly in mud/snow and/or wet conditions. Most of the OEM tires (i.e. the same tires Tesla is known to put your vehicle when it was brand new) will likely fall into this category. Tire shops can tell you which tires are OEM tires. If you are trying to maximize efficiency, I keep hearing the “Hankook Ion EVO” tires have excellent efficiency and decent handling.
      • All Season Tires are a good compromise if there is a chance you will need to drive in mud/snow and/or wet conditions as long as you aren’t trying to drive through unplowed snow. We rode on a set of new Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4.
  • Full Wheel Alignment performed prior to trip. I hire this out. I ask them to also look for any tire issues or suspension issues I need to be aware of before my trip since tire problems and suspension problems will reduce efficiency.
  • Adjust Tire Pressure to recommended cold tire pressure (see sticker inside driver door frame) after vehicle has been parked in shade or indoors for several hours. Avoid checking and adjusting pressure while your tires are WARM (e.g. right after driving and/or if tires are in sun) since the pressure will drop when they cool down.
  • Enable “Chill” mode to avoid excessive acceleration. Passing on a two lane at Mach 5 is awesome, but your efficiency takes a huge hit.
  • Configure Excessive Speed Chime to remind when exceeding speed limit. My personal preference is to chime when traveling 5+ mph over the speed limit. I want to be reminded of excessive speed since speeds over 55 mph have an exponential negative impact on efficiency.
  • Configure Regenerative Braking to Standard (or highest) available setting.
  • Automatically lower suspension to Low Mode when driving 60+ mph.
  • Enable “Range Mode” vehicle setting.
    • There are several different theories on exactly what this setting does. My understanding is that this setting 1) adjusts how the motors operate at highway speeds to improve efficiency at the expense of handling (e.g. do not use in snow/ice) and 2) reduces climate control output to improve efficiency (e.g. cabin temperature may not be comfortable in extremely cold or extremely hot weather).
  • Schedule Charge to desired % SoC such that charge finishes about an hour before road trip.
    • Example: My home charger adds about 10% SoC per hour. If I want to depart at 6AM with 100% SoC, I will charge vehicle to about 80% the night before and then I will schedule charge to 100% SoC around 3AM so that charge is complete around 5AM. Charging to 100% allows me to arrive in Kansas City with 15-20% SoC.
    • TIP: Adjust your departure SoC according to your first planned charging stop. Example: If the first charging stop on my road trip only used about 50% battery and I wanted to arrive with 20% remaining, I would want to depart with 70% SoC. I can plan ahead so that my vehicle SoC is around 50-60% the night before my roadtrip and then schedule charging to 70% the next morning such that charging finished an hour before departure.
  • Schedule Departure and enable “Precondition” so battery temperature is optimal before departure.

Improving Efficiency During Road Trip

I follow the practices below to increase my energy efficiency. EV road trips definitely require a much different and more patient mindset. My driving habits on road trips are much different than my daily driving habits, and I am rewarded with fewer and shorter charging stops as well as low risk of receiving a driving reward (and the associated travel interruption).

  1. Prefer seat warmers (or coolers) over very high heat (or very cold A/C). For example, I run seat warmer on lowest setting and keep cabin temperature around 69-70F when driving in 30-60F temperatures. All of our vehicle windows have thermal tint, but I still encourage passengers to wear layers in case they get too hot in the sun.
  2. Very gradual acceleration and deceleration.
  3. Manual acceleration and deceleration in areas with traffic control (e.g. stop lights, stop signs, roundabouts, etc). I leave a pretty decent distance between myself and the next person so that I can always take advantage of regenerative braking. My goal is to only use the actual brakes at speeds below 10mph (e.g. immediately before or at a stop sign/light). See practice #2.
  4. Adaptive Cruise Control in areas without traffic control, set to 2-3 car lengths and barely over the speed limit. This includes interstates and highways or urban roads that have very few stops.
  5. Follow Large Vehicles in areas without traffic control. When paired with practice #4 and choosing the right vehicle, I average a 10-15% efficiency gain.
    • How to choose your vehicle? The larger and more box-shaped, the better! My preference is semi trucks with enclosed trailers, moving trucks, RVs, then heavy duty pickup trucks.
      • l usually hop behind the first large vehicle I find, even if they are going 5mph UNDER speed limit and I patiently follow along until someone comes along who is going 0-5mph over speed limit.
      • I switch to a different vehicle if their speed varies too much. The heaviest vehicles will vary +/- 10mph during up/down hills, which aligns well with practice #2 if you have the patience for it. There are plenty of large vehicles that hold a steady speed +/- 2mph.
      • I’ll only follow heavy duty pickups as a last resort since they don’t follow practice #2.
      • I avoid tanker trucks and high-riding enclosed trailers (with large air gaps between trailer and wheels) because I only see 1/2 the efficiency gain with those veicles.
    • TIP: Increase your adaptive cruise distance if you are in heavy traffic to reduce your chances of being rear-ended if your large vehicle makes a sudden stop.
    • TIP: I avoid using the lowest adaptive cruise distance. I have experimented with different adaptive distances during long distance solo drives in multiple EVs and I am getting almost the same efficiency gains following at 2-3 car length setting as the 1 car length setting.
  6. Plan your arrival with time to spare. If I need to arrive at a certain time, I depart early so that I can arrive early. This allows me to enjoy the ride without feeling like I have to rush, which would have a negative impact on efficiency. If the trip goes smoothly, I can make extra leisure stops along the route as I get closer to my destination.

Overall Road Trip Experience

We definitely had to change our mindset when driving an EV on a long road trip. We were prepared to take our time and enjoy the journey. We use the charging stops as opportunities to take a break from driving, enjoy meal times (e.g. breakfast, lunch, or dinner), and if time allows we will walk around and explore the area.

The combination of the extra stops and the AP1 autopilot assist features made the drive a LOT less mentally draining for me, compared to our other 18-26 hour drives in the past few years. I am looking forward to our next road trip!

Driving Stats

Total Miles: 1813
Drive Count: 65
Drive Time: 31h11m
Average Speed: 58 mph
Average Consumption Rate: 488 Wh/mile

Charging Stats

Total Count: 30
Total Energy Used: 891.7 kWh
Total Energy Added: 764.3 kWh (86% efficiency)
Total Energy Cost: $7.24
Total Time: 79h29m

Fast Count: 17 (Tesla Superchargers)
Fast Energy Used: 779.6 kWh
Fast Energy Added: 694.2 kWh (89% efficiency)
Fast Cost: $0.00 (779.6kWh @ $0/kWh; FUSC SC01)
Fast Time: 10h25m (74.8 kW/h)

Cabin Count: 8 (useful for pre-conditioning)
Cabin Energy Used: 54.0 kWh
Cabin Energy Added: 25.3 kWh (47% efficiency)
Cabin Cost: $0.00 (54.0kW @ $0/kWh)
Cabin Time: 56h (1.0 kW/h)

Lodging Count: 4 (2 locations)
Lodging Energy Used: 52.0 kWh
Lodging Energy Added: 39.7 kWh (76% efficiency)
Lodging Cost: $6.66 (34.4kW @ $0/kWh; 17.6kW @ $0.38/kWh)
Lodging Time: 12h15m (4.2 kW/h)

Home Count: 1
Home Energy Used: 6.16 kWh
Home Energy Added: 5.51 kWh (89% efficiency)
Home Cost: $0.58 (6.16 kWh @ $0.105/kWh)
Home Time: 49m (5.0 kW/h)

Garmin Index Smart Scale WiFi “Incorrect Password” RESOLVED

My Garmin Index Smart Scale suddenly refused to connect to our home WiFi network.

Symptoms

  • Garmin Index Smart Scale attempting to upload weight history over the existing (previously configured and working) WiFi connection, then showing an “X” to indicate that the connection failed.
  • Garmin Connect App showing “Incorrect password” and “Enter the WPA2 password for this WIFI_NETWORK_NAME network” messages when attempting to reconfigure the WiFi network settings for the Garmin Index Smart Scale device.
  • Garmin Connect App showing “Network Not Found” message when attempting to reconfigure the WiFi network settings for the Garmin Index Smart Scale device.

Solution

I resolved this problem by changing my network DNS servers.

My network was configured to use the “Quad9 filtered DNSSEC” upstream DNS servers in my Pi-Hole configuration. I temporarily configured my home network to use different public DNS servers (Level 3) and the issue cleared up immediately. The next time I attempted to reconfigure the Smart Scale WiFi network in the Garmin App, it connected right away.

Troubleshooting

I noticed the scale connected via my phone hotspot immediately. I was using an iPhone with with iOS 17.2.1 at the time. Unsure if it matters, but I enabled the “Maximize Capability” setting in the Personal Hotspot settings (Settings > Cellular > Personal Hotspot).

Someone else mentioned the scale had to connect to Garmin services before the scale would verify the wifi connection, which made me suspicious of network filtering.

I disabled my Pi-Hole filtering, which did NOT resolve the issue. If it had, I could have looked at the query log to figure out what hostname lookups were being blocked and I could have added those hostname(s) to my filtering whitelist.

I temporarily changed my Pi-Hole upstream DNS servers. I had to try a few different servers before I finally found servers (Level 3) that worked. Garmin Index Smart Scale failed to connect while using these upstream public DNS servers:

  • Quad9 (filtered, DNSSEC)
  • Quad9 (unfiltered, no DNSSEC)

Missouri Special Fuel Decal Renewal by Mail

Missouri requires annual renewal of a “Special Fuel Decal” for Electric Vehicle (EV) owners. The renewal can not yet be performed online, and must be performed annually at a DMV office or by mail.

I am sharing the EXACT steps I followed when I prepared my “Special Fuel Decal” renewal by mail. I received my renewal decal 14 days after mailing my renewal form and payment using the instructions below. I also included extra step-by-step detail for anyone who might be new to writing out checks or mailing envelopes, which is completely understandable since we have been living in the digital age for a while.

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind that I am only sharing my personal experience here. I do NOT work for the DMV and I am NOT a lawyer. If you have questions about how to complete the form, please contact your local DMV with questions or renew the form at your local DMV. I will not be held liable of you follow these instructions and your paperwork is not accepted.

Items Required

  1. Missouri Vehicle Registration Receipt
  2. Missouri Form 2300 (aka Application for Special Fuel Decal)
  3. Bank Check (Tip: Don’t use checks? Most banks will print 4-6 “counter checks” for a small fee OR you can buy a money order with cash at the post office for a small fee.)
  4. Envelope
  5. Postage Stamp (Tip: Don’t use stamps often? Buy “forever stamps” that will be valid even after stamp prices change OR pay for a single stamp at the post office.)
  6. Printer (Tip: No printer at home? Nearby options might include work, school, library, FedEx Office.)

You’ve gathered all of the items listed above? Great, let’s get started!

Missouri Vehicle Registration Receipt

First, find your most recent Missouri Vehicle Registration Receipt. You need to include a copy of this with your decal renewal. This also includes most of the information you will need when you complete the form for your decal renewal.

Here is a redacted version of the registration receipt you are looking for:

Missouri Form 2300 (Application for Special Fuel Decal)

Download Missouri Form 2300 and complete the form as follows:

  1. Header Section
    • Applicant’s Name: This should match the name shown on your Vehicle Registration Receipt.
    • Federal Employer Identification Number: Leave blank unless vehicle is owned by a business.
    • Driver License Number: This should match the number shown on your Drivers License.
    • Street: Current street address. This will usually match the name shown on your Vehicle Registration Receipt, unless you have recently moved.
    • County: Same as above. NOTE: This is your local COUNTY (e.g. St Louis, Jackson, St Charles, Greene, etc), not our COUNTRY. Do NOT put “United States” here!
    • City: Same as above
    • State: Same as above
    • Zip Code: Same as above
    • Telephone Number: Current phone number. I assume they will call you at this number if they have questions about your form.
  2. Vehicle Information Section
    • Year: This should match the info shown on your Vehicle Registration Receipt.
    • Make: Same as above
    • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): Same as above
    • Type of Fuel: Same as above
    • Current License Plate: Same as above
    • Exp. Year: Same as above
    • Kind of Vehicle: Same as above
    • Farm Plate: NO (Why? If you had a farm license plate, the vehicle should be exempt from road fuel taxes and should not need a fuel decal. This only applies to vehicles that rarely/never leave the farm and rarely/never use public roads.)
    • Weight: This can probably be left blank. I looked up my vehicle curb weight in pounds and entered the exact amount in pounds (e.g. “4567”). Search online for something like “2023 Tesla Model 3 curb weight”, and replace “2023 Tesla Model 3” with your vehicle details. Tesla Models S/3/X/Y weigh between 3,500 and 5,500 lbs. If you lookup your weight and it is lower than 3500, check to see if the weight is being shown in kilograms (kgs) instead of pounds (lbs). You can convert kilograms to pounds by multiplying KG x 2.2 (e.g. 2,000 kg x 2.2 = 4,400 lbs).
    • Zone: Leave blank
  3. Decal Section
    • New or Renewal: Renewal (NOTE: If you were able to register your vehicle without a special fuel decal, you should be able to choose “NEW” here and leave the next two field empty.)
    • Previous Decal Number: You can find this on your current decal OR this number is shown as the “Inventory Number” on your “Alternative Fuel Decal Receipt”
    • Previous Exp. Year: Same as above
    • New Decal Number: Leave blank
    • New Decal Exp. Year: Leave blank
    • Decal Fee: Find your fee on the second page of Missouri Form 2300.
      • Example: If you are reading this, you are most likely driving a “Passenger” electric vehicle so you would look at the first few rows of fees under “Passenger” and find the row for “Electric” fees. Example: If renewing a decal between 01/01/2023 and 12/31/2023 for a Passenger Electric Vehicle such as Tesla Models S/3/X/Y, you would enter a total “Decal Fee” of “$111.00”. NOTE: The fee increased on 01/01/2024 and is scheduled to increase every year for several years. Be sure to find the correct fee amount.
      • TIP: The amounts shown in the table on the second page of Form 2300 include the actual decal fee ($105) plus the processing fee ($6). You do NOT need to add a processing fee.
  4. Signature Section
    • Signature of Applicant: Sign your name
    • Printed Name: Printed version of the name you signed above (e.g. “Jane Smith”)
    • Date: Date you signed the form (e.g. 12/22/2023).

All of the other sections should be left blank. The notary information is NOT required if you are renewing your decal.

Here is a redacted version of the completed form that I mailed to Missouri Department of Revenue:

TIP: When I fill out PDF forms, I like to PRINT the form to a PDF file for my records rather than clicking SAVE. If you PRINT the form to a PDF file, the “Reset Form” and “Print Form” buttons at the top of the form should disappear.

You made it this far? Great! You’re almost finished. Only a few more steps.

Printing Instructions

You need to print these two items:

  1. Your completed Missouri Form 2300
  2. Your previous Missouri Vehicle Registration Receipt

TIP: I print TWO copies of Missouri Form 2300 so I can keep one copy of the renewal form in my glovebox until the decal arrives.

TIP: No printer at home? Nearby options for printing might include work, school, library, FedEx Office. You can save the forms to PDF files and email them to yourself (or save them on a USB thumb drive) so that you can access/print them from a computer with a printer.

Payment Instructions

Write out a check to “Missouri Department of Revenue” with memo “Special Fuel Decal Renewal“. I also included my license plate number (shown on Vehicle Registration Receipt) on the memo line, in case my check is misplaced.

New to writing out checks? Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Date: This will normally match the Date you put on your Form 2300 (e.g. 12/22/2023)
  2. Pay to the order of: “Missouri Department of Revenue”
  3. $ (small box): This should match the Decal Fee you put on your Form 2300 (e.g. “$111.00”)
  4. Dollars (large line): This should be written out version of the amount above (e.g. “One Hundred Eleven dollars and 00/100 cents”)
  5. Memo: “Special Fuel Decal Renewal” (TIP: I also included my license plate number from my Vehicle Registration Receipt on the memo line, in case my check is misplaced.)
  6. Signature: Sign your name. This should match the name printed on your checks. The bank may compare this to the signature card you signed when you opened your checking account.

TIP: Don’t have/want a checkbook? If you have a checking account at a local bank, they will usually print a few “counter checks” for a small fee (e.g. 1 page might contain 4 checks and might cost $2-$5). OR you can use CASH to purchase a money order at the post office for a small fee (~$2).

Mailing Instructions

Mail the following items to the “Mail To” address shown on the bottom of Form 2300.

  1. Missouri Form 2300 — Completed as described above.
  2. Missouri Vehicle Registration Receipt — If you have multiple vehicles, make sure this is for the same vehicle listed on Form 2300.
  3. Payment — Check or Money Order completed as described above. Do NOT send cash.

TIP: Make a COPY of your completed Missouri Form 2300 and a COPY of your Payment to keep in your glovebox until the renewal decal arrives (or take a photo of both items). If your current decal expires before the new decal arrives, these copies (or photos) can help show that you are waiting for a new decal.

New to mailing envelopes? Learn more at USPS. Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. Write your return address in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope. If you are using a small envelope, you can write your return address on the BACK of the envelope. If the envelope cannot be delivered, they will try to return it to your address. The address should be written as 3 lines, similar to the following:
    • Your Name (e.g. “Jane Smith”)
    • Your Street Address and Optional Suite or Apartment (e.g. “123 Sample St. APT 456”)
    • Your City, State, and Zip Code (e.g. “Springfield, MO 65806”)
  2. Write the recipient address in the center of the envelope. Use the “Mail To” address shown on the bottom of Form 2300. The address should be written as 3 lines, similar to the following:
    • Recipient Name
    • Recipient Address
    • Recipient City, State, and Zip Code
  3. Place a current postage stamp in the upper right-hand corner of the envelope.
    • Tip: Don’t use stamps often? Buy “forever stamps” that will be valid even after stamp prices change OR pay for a single stamp at the post office. If you have old stamps, you will need to add “penny” (1-cent) stamps to make up the difference between the old stamp price and the current stamp price OR you could waste postage and put two old stamps on the envelope. Avoiding this is why “forever” stamps were introduced.
  4. Place the 3 items listed above inside the envelope.
  5. Seal the envelope. Most envelopes use moisture-activated adhesive strip along the inside edges of the envelope flap to seal the envelope. Lick the adhesive strip or use a wet sponge to activate the adhesive, then close the envelope and press along the adhesive strip to make sure it is sealed.
  6. Mail the envelope.
    • Home mailbox: If you have a single mailbox with a red flag at your home, you can put the envelope in your mailbox and raise the red flag to let your postal carrier (aka mail man) know that you have an item ready for pickup.
    • Collection boxes: Lookup a nearby mail collection box on the USPS website. Each post office has a collection box, but many businesses and neighborhoods have collection boxes as well. If you work in a large office or live in a large apartment, you likely have a collection box at work or at the apartment.

Processing Time

Expect to receive your new decal in several weeks. Consider keeping a copy of your renewal paperwork in your vehicle if your decal expires before the renewal arrives.

I received my decal 14 days after mailing the renewal form and payment.

  • Friday 12/22/2023 (Day 0): Sent my Form and Payment (Bank Check) by mail
  • Thursday 12/28/2023 (Day 6): Renewal Processed, per date on Renewal Receipt
  • Tuesday 01/02/2024 (Day 11): Bank Check debited from Bank Account
  • Friday 01/05/2024 (Day 14): Received my Alternative Fuel Decal and Renewal Receipt by mail

Feedback

Did you find this helpful? Would you recommend any changes? Please use the form below to provide feedback! I would love to hear from you.

DCC from Scratch (Model Train Layout)

I enjoy trains. I enjoy software programming. I have experience with model trains, but did not have any model trains of my own. I want to build a small N-scale layout with DCC so I can combine trains and software programming. I am just getting started, but hope to be able to build a larger layout where I can automate running of a handful of trains running on a layout that would not normally be large enough to accommodate them through the use of various sensors and timing.

I started my DCC (Digital Command Control) journey from scratch with the following 5 items for about $500 a few years ago. This allowed me to better understand how DCC could control multiple locomotives separately and how I could setup a consist (two locos in tandem) before I started thinking about a more complex layout with switches and sensors.

If you’re new to model trains and are wanting to make your first DCC purchases, I hope my initial shopping list will provide you with some guidance or inspiration…

  1. Kato DCC Loco Santa Fe SDP40F 5250 1769211DCC — DCC loco w/o sound
  2. Kato DCC Loco Santa Fe SDP40F 5253 1769212DCC — DCC loco w/o sound
  3. Kato UniTrack Starter Set M1 — Small loop of track
  4. Kato UniTrack 24-825 (or 24-826 ??) — Wire from UniTrack to DCC controller
  5. Digikeijs DR5000 DCC Controller

Locomotives

New DCC locomotives are expensive compared to regular powered locos! I was looking for specific locos and was able to find some nice deals on eBay. The locos above do NOT have sound. If you want sound, be sure to find that option or plan to add sound after purchase.

Track

I rate UniTrack a 1/10 for realism, but I also rate UniTrack 10/10 for being able to quickly and easily setup, run trains, and tear down again. I’ve done this many times without any track connection problems. UniTrack is great if you don’t have dedicated space for a layout and want to be able to quickly/easily setup and run trains on the weekends! 🙂

DCC Controller

I chose the DR5000 after reading positive feedback from several members of our local MRR club. The $200 controller is definitely more than I need for my initial loop layout, but was purchased with the intention of growing my layout. I like that the controller supports so many different protocols.

I can start/stop DCC engines from a Mobile app (on my tablet or phone) or from a Windows app (on my laptop). I can connect to the controller via USB, LAN, or WIFI. I like that their Windows app runs fine on my MacBook M1 (ARM CPU) in a Windows 11 ARM virtual machine using the “Parallels” VM software. I assume you could use VirtualBox instead of Parallels without any problem.

Train Store Recommendation

Our local train store below (Iron Planet) had great pricing on the track and DCC controller when I purchased them a few years ago. Please consider buying from them online if you don’t already have a preferred train store…

Iron Planet Hobbies in Springfield Missouri
https://www.ironplanethobbies.com/

I don’t have any affiliation with this train store. I am only recommending them because I like to support local stores, I was impressed that they had competitive pricing, and their staff was very friendly when I had questions.

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Brewing Loose Leaf Hot Tea at Home

I began enjoying hot tea many years ago at our local tea house. They have a wonderful selection of teas and they are always glad to answer questions about tea or recommend new teas! They even had tiny containers with samples you could smell prior to the pandemic. In early 2020, I invested in several items so that I could enjoy the same hot tea at home.

I will share my experience purchasing loose leaf teas, storage containers, an electric kettle (used to heat water), and the disposable tea bags I use to steep my tea along with cleaning tips. I hope this helps others who would like to begin brewing loose leaf hot tea at home.

Loose Leaf Teas

There are many different types of teas! You can buy loose leaf teas from local coffee shops and tea houses, or you can buy online. I prefer purchasing locally because I can try the tea first and because they can recommend steep time (e.g. 3 minutes) and temperature (e.g. 205*F). We typically purchase 3-4 ounces of tea and store each kind of loose leaf tea in a separate 12 ounce glass jar.

Storage

You could store your loose leaf tea in a resealable bag. We store 4 different types of tea in glass jars. They are heavy duty, seal great, and look very nice. Each jar can hold about 3-4 ounces of bulk tea, depending on the kind of tea.

Le Parfait Super Terrine Glass Jar w/ Rubber Seal and Glass Lid 350ml 12oz (Pack of 4) $39
https://amazon.com/dp/B07M5HDRZZ

Bags

I pour a teaspoon of loose leaf tea into a disposable bag and cinch the bag closed. I then place the bag into a 12-16 ounce mug and fill the mug with hot water. I will usually brew 2-3 cups of tea in a morning using the same bag and same leaves. If the tea calls for a steep time of 3 minutes at 205F, I will usually brew my 2nd or 3rd cup a little longer (e.g. 3-1/2 or 4 minutes) at the same temperature of 205F.

I purchase disposable bags in bulk (e.g. 500 bags for $12). The following bags have worked well for me. Many people seem to prefer unbleached bags. Read product reviews when trying to find decent bags. Some bags are very thin and tend to fall apart, especially if brewing the same bag multiple times. Some people prefer a reusable/washable filter instead of a bag.

500 Pack Tea Filter Bags (3.15 x 3.94 inch) $13
https://amazon.com/dp/B07SQX416X

Kettle

I heat water using a small electric kettle with an adjustable temperature. After I fill the kettle with cold tap water and adjust the temperature (e.g. 165F or 205F), this kettle takes about 3 minutes to heat the water.

Bonavita 1L Digital Variable Temperature Gooseneck Electric Kettle, Stainless Steel $129.99
https://amazon.com/dp/B005YR0F40

Cleanup

Occasionally remove hard water buildup from kettle by heating a vinegar+water solution (e.g. 2 oz vinegar + 20 oz water) to 205F. Let heated vinegar/water solution sit for a few minutes, then pour solution down sink and rinse kettle. Good as new! :sparkles:

I sometimes pour the hot solution from the kettle into cups or mugs with stubborn stains and brush the cups/mugs clean with ease after a few minutes.

I leave COLD water running in the sink when I pour the HOT solution into the sink so that I don’t risk damaging our drain pipes. Probably not necessary, but better safe than sorry.

Summary

I hope you enjoyed learning about how I brew hot tea at home. Please comment below if you have specific questions or if you have any recommendations for me!