‘Beyond Heart Mountain’ book tour memories in an Electric Vehicle

I’ve been figuring out how to slow down my life since I arose from my deathbed in 2014. That was when I had an “aha” moment about my mortality, and I should take time to enjoy what the world has to offer rather than rushing around from place to place.

I was a not so happy camper after pulling into the Casper Nissan dealership to charge up after a 15 hour drive.

I didn’t know that an Electric Vehicle (EV) would be in my future, and ended up writing a book about my experiences called On the Trail: Electric Vehicle Anxiety and Advice, Navigating 2,600 miles over open and desolate highways. My experiences are a cautionary tale about aspects of EV driving that the sales people might not tell you.

My 2015 VW Sportwagen gas tank was close to “E,” and I stopped by the Loaf and Jug filling station to use my loyalty points which are at a minimum good for three cents off per gallon.

“$40?” I thought. That was double what I paid before. I don’t drive that much and knew I’d pay more because of the various economic uncertainties, but not that much more.

I began researching EVs, thinking now would be an excellent time to trade in my internal combustion engine (ICE) VW. I thought that would be my last car, but even after seven years, maintenance costs would loom, like changing the timing belt. I just bought new tires, too.

I did some research into EVs. There were the Teslas on one end. Used models are $40K to $75K but in exchange, the driving range is 300 miles. For a starving artist, those were out of my price range. I could buy a lot of Uber rides, plane tickets and hotel rooms for those prices.

A 2021 Nissan Leaf on Carfax dot com was advertised in Longmont. I decided to check it out on Friday afternoon. Sure enough, it was on the lot. After talking to Ben, the sales guy, he wouldn’t let me out of his store without the title to that EV.

He offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. The trade-in value was nearly what I paid for the VW, plus he gave a pretty good discount. I drove it off the log, not knowing what to expect.

I learned about the various charging stations and that driving an EV around town was like an ICE car. The battery range was 240 miles which I thought was a good compromise between the Tesla and others with ranges in the 150 miles. The Leaf range would be more than enough to get to Denver or Fort Collins and back.

What about a road trip? I’d been planning a couple of treks around Wyoming for two conferences and stops on my “Beyond Heart Mountain” book tour.

I’ll recount the first day of my first outing. I read that long EV drives require some preplanning. I plotted out my routes. My first stop was Casper, Wyoming, 278 miles from Boulder. I left Boulder with a full charge and reached Cheyenne with 150 miles of range. My idea was to charge at the Nissan dealer, which had a Level 2 charger. The Level 2 charger rate is about 10 miles per hour. I had a meeting that lasted two hours and would charge then.

As bad news would have it, I didn’t plug in correctly and lost two hours. After my meeting, I sat there for three hours to get 180 miles of battery range. That would have been enough to make it to Casper, but I knew there would be wind and charged for two more hours.

I became impatient and took off. When I made it to Glenrock, 24 miles from Casper, my battery indicator estimated that I’d be 11 miles short. I was anxious about that. It was getting to be dusk, and I pulled off at Glenrock looking for an electric socket on the exterior of a building and ended up creeping into an RV campground. I sat there for four hours at a 110-volt socket that provided only five miles per hour of charge. The owner allowed me to charge up for $30.

I got back on I-25 and crept into Casper with 1 percent battery to spare. It was now 10:00 p.m. The Casper Nissan is right off the highway, I pulled in there and charged for an hour, not knowing if the hotel had any outside plug.

I rolled into the Ramkota and checked in at 11:30 p.m. after 15 hours on the road and charging. The drive in an ICE car usually is five hours.

Little did I know that slowing down my life would ironically mean triple the stress. The second time I made this drive three weeks later, I cut the drive time to 11 hours.

I was interviewed by a news reporter the other day. The story was picked up by a variety of the conservative outlets like Breitbart and Fox News. They viewed my experiences as negative and anti-EV.

I can see how my story could be spun in that direction, but my experiences show how much farther the industry has to go before EVs become mainstream. Anyone who would rather fight than switch should rest at lease. ICE vehicles will be around for decades and not being obsolete anytime soon.

Always be unprepared

Had I canceled my gig at the Sidekick Books and Wine Bar, I probably wouldn’t have returned.

I never know what to expect. Last night I was at the Sidekicks Books and Wine Bar in downtown Rock Springs, Wyoming, giving a Beyond Heart Mountain book talk.

The opening event was a solo guitarist and singer named Wayne. He’s an indie musician and his own roadie. He started his set at 4:30 and ended at 6:30 pm. After he packed up, he was on his way for another gig in Ogden, Utah.

Four people sat and listened to his music. That’s the life of an indie artist. We move from place to place, not knowing if anyone will show up.

“Do you want to cancel?” The bookstore owner named Lisa had called me the day before. She didn’t know if anyone would show up because of other activities happening in town.

“No, I’m pretty sure there will be people,” I reassured her. “Even if it’s two people, that’ll be worth the drive.”

Rock Springs is 350 miles from Boulder. At a minimum, I’d sell some books to the store. I also planned a stop at the Centennial, Wyoming library in a small town 25 miles from Laramie.

On my way to Rock Springs, I made a cold call at The Second Story bookstore in Laramie and closed a book sale there.

After leaving Laramie, I stopped in Rawlins to stretch, went to my bank, and deposited some money. On my way to Centennial this afternoon, I’ll deposit the check from Sidekicks.

What I have learned over the years is that I can’t plan for everything and go into everything unprepared. I set things up to be around 75 or 85 percent complete. The remaining 15 to 25 percent are unknown challenges. Resolving them can be routine or a mad scramble.

The four people who sat down for Wayne stuck around for my book talk, along with six others. It was a small but appreciative crowd who all bought books, beer and wine. A good time was had by all!

Beyond Heart Mountain

Beyond Heart Mountain is a three-part multimedia project. It consists of a memoir by Alan O’Hashi about his life in Wyoming as a Baby Boomer growing up after World War II. Donate to Boulder Community Media and receive an autographed copy of the book. The book evolved from a coffee table book entitled Nishigawa Neighborhood. A documentary also aired on PBS and is available on DVD.

On the cover is author Alan O’Hashi and his sister, Lorinda, in their grandparent’s backyard circa 1956.

The Beyond Heart Mountain memoir was released by Winter Goose Publishing. It is available as a printed book and ebook available on Amazon.com. The book was released by Winter Goose Publishing on February 27th.

That week coincided with the 80th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 that sent 120,000 Japanese to 10 war relocation camps, that included Heart Mountain in northwest Wyoming.

As a Baby Boomer, Alan documents the overt and quiet racism pervasive in Wyoming and throughout the United States during and following World War II. He relates his experiences to current violence towards Asians and the issue of civility within society. The backdrop to Alan’s account is the history of the once vibrant Japanese community in the 400 and 500 blocks of West 17th Street in the downtown area of my hometown, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“My grandmother and grandfather Ohashi and their large family lived in worked in that neighborhood where I spent quite a bit of time between elementary and high school. Having been away from Cheyenne for many years, I stashed those two blocks in the back of my mind until I learned that two classmates of mine were planning to build a housing development at 509 W. 17th St. The biggest obstacle was obtaining permission to tear down an old building. It was the last structure in the Japanese neighborhood. It was the site of a rooming house operated by Mrs. Yoshio Shuto.”

Nishigawa Neighborhood hardcover coffee table book

Get the Nishigawa Neighborhood coffee table book from Amazon.com, which is a self-published 11 x 8.5-inch hard-cover coffee table book with over 100 color, black and white images of the neighborhood. Donate to BCM and get an autographed edition from the author.

There are two Nonfungible Tokens (NFT) versions of Nishigawa Neighborhood. One is a one-of-a-kind unlinkable digital version of the book. The second is a one-of-a-kind MP4 version of the 84 pages tracked by original music by the Author.

Mrs. Shuto’s tenants were mainly Japanese residents who made their way to Cheyenne. She later opened the City Cafe across the street which became a gathering place for the Japanese in town.

My grandmother was a cook at the City Cafe. Next door, my grandfather was the third owner of a pool hall.

Whenever we went out to eat, the restaurant of choice was the City Cafe. It was a gathering place for the Japanese in Cheyenne.

My friends enlisted me to do a cultural and historical survey of the Japanese residents who lived and worked there from the 1920s through the 1970s.’

Beyond Heart Mountain aired on PBS in December 2021

Donate to BCM and get the Beyond Heart Mountain DVD that was produced by Boulder Community Media (BCM) and aired on PBS. It is mainly about the West 17th Street Japanese community history and a general overview of Executive Order 9066 that President Franklin Roosevelt signed that relocated 120,000 Japanese into 10 internment camps, including Heart Mountain in northwest Wyoming.

I interviewed four childhood friends for the documentary. Robert Walters formerly worked at the City Cafe. He still lives in Cheyenne, where he practices law.

Terie Miyamoto and her family-owned Baker’s Bar. It was the only racially-integrated bar in Cheyenne at the time. She now lives in the Denver Metro area.

Brian Matsuyama now lives in Seattle, Washington. He resided in Cheyenne during his childhood. His family owned the California Fish Market.

Carol Lou Kishiyama-Hough is in Cheyenne. She and her family purchased the Fish Market from the Matsuyamas.

Donate to BCM and get a Beyond Heart Mountain cap are also available. They are low-profile baseball-style hats. Select Beyond Heart Mountain from the dropdown menu. The logo is an adapted version of the Wyoming state flag. One size fits most.