Our Journey into Life with an Electric Car

2017 will always be remembered as the year we became an EV family.

I had been interested in electric cars for years, ever since Tesla’s original Roadster proved that a full electric car could be fast, fun, and outperform even the nicest sports cars on the market. The Roaster was niche, of course, priced way beyond my budget, but it sparked the hope that one day I might drive an electric car.

This was nearly 10 years ago when the infrastructure for EV charging was almost non-existent. Owning an electric car was still considered more of an environmental statement than a sustainable lifestyle, but Tesla was slowly changing the game with their network of Superchargers and the introduction of the Model S and Model X, which put a high-end EV in the same range as most luxury sedans or SUVs.

Other car companies followed suit, and the Nissan Leaf was on my radar as a possible everyday car for the future. When Volkswagen settled their diesel lawsuit, we had an opportunity to take advantage of a buyback offer for our Jetta wagon, a hefty sum that I decided should go toward an EV.

I was already eager to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, but that diesel mess made up my mind for good. Nothing like finding out the car you use to transport your infant son is spewing toxic emissions way beyond what’s considered normal! It was time for a zero emission vehicle.

We test drove a Leaf in early 2017, and while it seemed nice enough for a commute to and from work, it was not impressive enough to justify the price tag. Tesla had recently announced the Model 3, and even the base configuration at $35k would be so much better that I couldn’t look at the other affordable electric cars with any seriousness.

I put in a reservation for the Model 3, securing my place in an already long line of people hoping to receive a car sometime in the next 18 months, but we also visited a Tesla store to ask questions. This led to our first test drive of the Model S, which my mom fell in love with, and about seven weeks later we had a our first EV parked in the driveway.

The S quickly spoiled us for driving any non-Tesla vehicles. Autopilot made interstate traffic far less stressful, the backup camera was huge on the 17″ touchscreen, and the responsiveness was thrilling, even with the smallest battery Tesla offered. The car is fast, and that certainly adds to Tesla’s appeal. Their cars are fun to drive.

We put our extra car seat in the Model S so that my folks could take our older son on day trips, and it wasn’t long before they took him on a long road trip to visit family in Virginia. That long drive, punctuated by Supercharger stops and hotels with Tesla Destination Chargers, was so much better than previous years in a large gas-guzzler.

When they got home, my dad raved so much about the trip and the ease of the drive that we decided to trade in our family minivan for a Model X.

It’s been almost six months now since we ditched gasoline engines and we couldn’t be happier. Although EVs have grown in popularity and will continue to eat away at the traditional auto market, we still get questions from strangers when we’re out with the car (especially if we have the doors open) and while we’re several years late to the EV lifestyle, in the long run we may still be regarded as “early adopters”.

That just means we have a story to tell, sharing the good and bad of these early years of EV growth, and giving you a glimpse into life with an electric car, from the short trip to the grocery store, to the multi-day family road trips.

An Uncharted Christmas

I was never big on the holiday season.

I didn’t like the Santa mythology, didn’t like the way gift-giving was treated as an obligation, and really didn’t like the push to buy more more more!.. year after year. Having children changes everything, though, and this morning, as our boys dug excitedly into their stockings, I experienced Christmas through their eyes.

Henrik is three and a half, so this is far from his first holiday season, but this was the first year he took notice of Santa. Whether it was conversations with his friends in preschool, or more awareness of the themes running through every Disney Junior cartoon this time of year, he was anticipating Christmas morning just enough to make it fun.

And his Poppop made sure it was a magical morning, decorating the tree after bedtime and arranging the playroom with stockings and a few big presents the boys could share. (Most toys are shared at this stage, since our one-year-old wants to do everything his older brother is doing.)

The stockings were a big hit, and I wondered if the boys were ever going to unwrap the bigger presents! Poppop put an orange in the bottom of each stocking (an old family tradition from when I was little) and Henrik thought that was hilarious.

Before the presents we enjoyed a peaceful family morning, our first hours spent cuddled on the sofa and eating a big breakfast in the dining room. Although Henrik was excited about Christmas, he didn’t wake up and run around looking for gifts from Santa. He spent his morning like any other, talking and playing and just enjoying his family. It warms my heart, though I fear he may grow out of that eventually.

There were a few moments of toy overload, despite the conservative amount of gifts compared to my own childhood memories. In those moments, I’m reminded how little we actually need to be happy, how our boys could have spent all day just playing with the few cars and small toys from their stockings.

But for parents and grandparents, the spectacle of a big box wrapped in bright paper is what Christmas morning is all about. The act of giving gifts and the enjoyment of unwrapping them has more to do with the giver than the one whose name is on the package. I think I got more joy watching Henrik play with his new wooden train set than he got from unwrapping and opening the box.

The rest of the day was hectic: cooking food to share with family, Henrik busy in his play kitchen at the same time (“I want to cook the same thing Poppop is cooking!”), packing the car and heading to my grandmother’s house for an early dinner, then the chaos of a large family meal with two young boys who just want to get up and play.

On the ride home, Jamie remarked how different this year was than the past 10 years we spent together. Back then, it was just another holiday, another day off work. There were still family dinners and presents, but it didn’t mean anything… at least not compared to what it means now thanks to Henrik and Kasper.

There’s still plenty of things I don’t like about the holidays, but as long as I can share them with these two little guys and watch their sense of wonder and excitement take over, perhaps I’ll start to look forward to Christmas from now on.

Camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness

It doesn’t matter how much I love reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, camping will never be my favorite activity.

When my dad was growing up, camping was the way his family saw the country. Driving miles by car and spending the night at campsites allowed them to see parts of this continent that I still have not visited, national parks and natural treasures that nurtured his love of the outdoors.

And when I was little, he tried to share that love of camping in hopes that I would enjoy the outdoors, too. Unfortunately, I had too much of my mother’s genes, so our camping experience was limited to one campsite only 45 minutes away, and close to the one outdoor activity I enjoyed: Disney World.

Camping at Disney in the mid 1980’s

Fast forward thirty-some years and I’m proud to say that, despite my own inclinations against sleeping outdoors, our oldest son loved the first camping trip with his Poppop!

Fort Wilderness, Disney’s campground within a short boat ride to the Magic Kingdom, has grown considerably since that old photo. The campsites seem to go on forever, loop after loop of camping pads surrounded by a thin veil of trees. It is the only Disney resort to have it’s own internal bus system, as walking from one end to the other would take the better part of an afternoon.

Our visit was unique, with the family split between two distinct wilderness experiences. Henrik was sharing a tent with Poppop on a campsite alongside my uncle and his son, while the rest of us setup camp in one of the wildness cabins.

These log-cabin-style dwellings have all some of the comforts of home, with a nice kitchen that’s as big as those in a Disney Vacation Club suite, but without the full range and oven. Instead it has a large microwave that can act like a convection oven, and two smaller in-counter hot plates for basic cooking. I guess they expect you to do your cooking outside, which is understandable given the location.

We arrived a couple hours after the rest of the family, and thanks to some quick thinking by my wife, we scored a cabin just around the corner from the tents. Driving into Fort Wilderness with the Model X was one of my favorite moments, the early evening light filtered through the trees. Moments like that always make me appreciate our car’s huge windshield, with a panoramic view of the forest above us.

The cabins have electrical sockets on the outside, as many visitors rent golf carts to get around the property. I plugged in the X hoping to charge overnight, but no such luck. Perhaps they are only turned on for those who rent a cart? We didn’t need the charge, so I didn’t bother calling guest services, but if we decide to go back I will find out.

No green light, where’s the power?

We loved the quiet atmosphere around the cabins, and enjoyed a nice stroll to the campsite where the rest of the family was cooking dinner. The quiet didn’t last, however, as the campsites were jammed with people. The area around the cabins felt like a peaceful nature retreat, but the campsites were more of a weekend jamboree in a huge park.

There is a lot to do at Fort Wilderness, though, and Henrik loved it. From the pancake breakfast outside their tents, to the pony rides, large playgrounds and of course, rice krispy treats in the gift shop, it was everything a kid could want.

Henrik enjoying breakfast

We only stayed one night in the cabin, but Henrik and Poppop spent an extra night in the tent and explored more activities around the resort. I experienced most of the trip vicariously via text message as my dad shared photos of Henrik enjoying his special outdoor time.

Henrik about to go on his first pony ride

I don’t know that we would stay in the cabins again. As Disney Vacation Club members, we are most likely to opt for a DVC resort whenever possible, but since there are two such properties at Fort Wilderness Lodge, within biking distance of the campground, there may be more pony rides in our future.

A blog two years too late

Welcome to Uncharted Parenting!

I’ve been wondering if this blog would ever get rolling. It’s been over two years now since my wife Jamie and I first discussed our ideas for a joint project sharing the stories of family life, and a lot has changed in that time.

Back then, our toddler was barely a year old and we were collecting funny tidbits with the goal of creating a webcomic about daily life. Jamie and I are both longtime webcomic fans, and as a writer married to an artist, it seemed like the perfect match.

Well here we are, two years later, no webcomic other than our very first idea from that initial conversation: a lead in to that moment when our lives changed for good:

I always thought I’d get time to write our story, to introduce each of us one by one and start illustrating the funny things our boy did while learning about the world around him. But somewhere along the line, another boy joined the family and suddenly we were hit with the reality of multiple children.

Having two kids isn’t twice as hard as having one. It’s at least four or five times more difficult!

A rare peaceful moment…

So where are we now? Our oldest is three and experiencing preschool for the first time, only recently potty-trained (a change I thought would never happen) and learning to be a big brother to our one-year-old boy. Two boys… Jamie is going to have a heck of a time keeping up in a couple more years, heh heh.

We live with two black and white kitties who are largely responsible for teaching me how to be a dad, and we share a house with my parents, living together as an extended family. We also drive electric cars, devote an entire room in our house to coffee, and did I mention we’re multicultural? After 10 years of marriage, we’re still trying to find the balance between Korean tradition and my native Florida upbringing.

Most of all, we’re doing this a dozen years later than our parents. When my dad was my age, I was making the transition from middle school to high school, chasing dreams of music and whining when I had to mow the grass on Saturday mornings.

Our oldest toddler is at least 11 years away from that stage of life, and it’s easy to think that we waited too long to start a family. But here’s the thing: every year of our lives led us to where we are today.

And no matter how frustrating young children can be, the rough nights, the whining, the crying, the sniffles, the please-stop-asking-why-in-response-to-everything… No matter what, I wouldn’t change a thing.

So welcome again to Uncharted Parenting. I don’t know where we’re going, but it’s bound to be a bumpy ride so hold on tight!