Carver Go West

How far can we go and get home on a single charge?

This weekend we decided to “go for a quick drive, and be back around noon to take a nap”. Predictably, it turned into a large-scale adventure of the best sort. In order to test how far the Carver can go and get back home without being charged, we decided to “go West” until the battery hits 60% (more than half left, to give us enough buffer) before turning back home. We were hoping to get to Lomba da Maia to walk to the Praia da Viola, the beach that made us fall in love with the Azores.

Bear in mind, the Carver was absolutely not designed for this type of trip. It is designed for short urban trips, not two people pretty much maxing out its carrying capacity and certainly not hauling those people up multiple moderate to very steep hills. TL;DR: We were very impressed.

We set off and cruised along past the Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões, and our pizza place Café Moagem in Salga (16km, 80% battery) without a fuss, we have done this trip before. We easily got to Lomba da Maia, 25km from home, and with 70% battery remaining! Well, we thought, let’s go a bit further and then come back and hike to the beach.

View from Lomda da Maia looking down towards Maia
View from Lomda da Maia looking down towards Maia

The road down from Lomba da Maia to Maia had a warning sign about construction work, but we weren’t sure if it was warning about delays (not a problem on a Sunday) or saying it’s closed, as the top half of the sign talking about the delays were taped over but the tape was loose and Graham being Graham said, meh, let’s go see, we can always turn around.

Graham parking the Carver, with Maia in the background
Graham parking the Carver, with Maia in the background

Well, there were significant roadworks and a car won’t be able to go through. There was a walkway though, so we parked the Carver on the side of the road in the shade, and walked down to Maia.

We stayed in Maia when we first came here last December, so we had to revisit the place and have a beer on the beach. We had a refreshing caneca (pint) of Super Bock on tap.

When we walked back, we eyed this walkway, considered the battery and it’s potential to go further west and went, fuck it, and carefully rolled down the hill, going where no car could go, lol! Then we continued through Maia, past São Brás to Porto Formoso, where many scenes of the Rabo de Peixe series was shot. It has narrow little roads and a wonderful little harbour and we thought that would make a fitting turn around point. Problem was, after 34km, we were still at 65% battery.

Porto Pescas do Porto Formoso

I said, please let’s go to Moinhos. The bus doesn’t go through there but looking down on it from the main motorway it looks so cute, and it’s only 2km away. Fair enough, a bit more hills and things, we get to Praia da Moinho, 36km from home and the battery says 60%. OK cool, let’s go home.

Praia dos Moinhos

But here is where the real adventure starts. Graham, being reasonable, says, let’s turn around and go back the way we came. I see a road on the map that goes to the main motorway and I want to see what that stretch is like. Google maps says it has a “very steep hill” for cyclists, but I think, it can’t be that bad.

Well, we started at the bottom at 60% battery remaining, less than a km later (37km from home) the battery was at 50%. Very shortly after starting I had to get out because the Carver couldn’t move forward with both of us in. Some stretch in the middle I had to push the Carver while Graham drove (he’s the lighter of us). All this accompanied by Graham complaining that we must turn around and me countering we must almost be at the end! every couple of meters.

That hill should have had the description “very, VERY (VERY!!) steep hill”. My shirt was soaked with sweat after that.

So this was definitely time to get home, and we started talking about maybe getting a charge in somewhere. Problem is it’s Sunday in peak tourist season, and we don’t want to bother places with our strange requests. And there was still the scientific aspect: we said “get home without charging”.

We went on the motorway back to the Porto Formoso turnoff (despite me saying stay on it until Lomba da Maia as it’s flatter) and then carried on until just before Maia, then carried on straight to enter the Chá Gorreana tea factory’s back entrance. Here we decided we can definitely do with a drink after all that uphill huffing and puffing, so we had a “tulip” – the pretty shaped beer glass holding, I think 250mL or thereabouts of the local lager, Especial on tap. Delicious!

View from Chá Gorreana terrace

This ticked a box because I’ve wanted to have a beer on the Chá Gorreana terrace since I first drove past the place.

We were getting a little concerned at this point. The trip was at 53km now, with 30% battery, but the bigger issue was the we were getting hot battery warning beeps. The Carver is not designed for a long continuous trip, and we should really take a longer break, go for a hike or something. Unfortunately at this point we’ve been adventuring for most of the day, we’re hot, tired and hungry, and it’s getting late. So we pushed on, after checking the manual that the warning beep isn’t a crisis yet. We were also trying to drive more conservatively to have the battery cool and last longer, which seemed to work. It was also overcast and nice and cool by now.

We reached Salga, 63km trip length, with 20% battery, doable, but getting tense. Starving and thirsty, we headed in to Café Moagem hoping to order pizza and get electricity on the side. Unfortunately for us, there was a first communion celebration, so the only thing we could get was more Super Bock. Well, we’ll take it for the nerves, and the trip was turning into a pub crawl by now!

Going past the Parque Natural da Ribeira dos Caldeirões which apparently serves burgers, we were hopeful, but the restaurant was too far from the road to see an easy way to charge, and heaving with tourists, so Graham recommended we “fok voort” and so we did.

Next plan was to stop at the Repsol petrol station in Santana where Graham goes to buy cigarettes. It seems to be a casual hanging out place, the bus always stops there for longer than it probably should, just to chat, people are always sitting there drinking beer and coffee, so we thought they would be supportive of our plight.

Unfortunately there was a navigation misunderstanding, as I navigated Graham around the traffic circle to go over the bridge that crosses the main motorway, but Graham took the first exit that went onto the motorway instead. I don’t know how he didn’t see the bloody bridge right there, and he doesn’t know why I didn’t clearly say take the SECOND exit. There was a car behind us and we were grumpy and tired so we just kept going and that meant no petrol station.

The next offramp was ours, and we remembered seeing a cafe in Algarvia that we can get food and maybe ask for electricity. At this point I was sour at missing pizza, my mouth was watering and “we have food at home” wasn’t cutting it. We were now only about 3.5km from home so worst case we walk home and get help the next day. But really we wanted to get home as a unit.

Well, the cafe Sonne do Norte or something like that, in Algarvia, was not just closed, it was gutted. That place has not seen life in quite a while.

Bugger. Well, the only way is forward, we figured we can free-wheel to the picnic place Parque de merendas da Ribeira Despe-te Que Suas, and take it from there. Graham was keen to see how far we can go, and I am strong so I figured I can probably push it home. It was 1.4km of uphill home, we had 5% battery left. We estimated that 1km takes a bit more than 1% battery, and while hills take more it might be possible to get home.

By the time we reached the Parque de merendas at the bottom of the downhill before the big uphill the battery was at 6%! We gained a percent by the free-wheeling recharging! Feeling motivated we tackled the big hill. About halfway up, the performance really went down, to about 7km/h, as an engineering safety precaution for the dying battery, so I got out to lighten the load. A little bit further and I had to push. I pushed until we hit the turn-off into our road, which is EVEN steeper, and I couldn’t go anymore. The battery was also hot again. At this point Graham suggested to leave it there, we walk the last few hundred meters home, let the battery cool, we take a break, and come back in an hour or so.

We got home and had more beer, then I went to feed the strays. We were feeling quite mellow, the Carver was close enough to get home one way or another, and we were probably quite tipsy at this point, lots of effort and sweat, and beer, and no food, but we were happy.

The strays in question, I call them Trixie and Bonzo.
I daydream that they come live with me but I’m not sure they’re keen on contained life.

Just after 7pm I said, let’s go try to get the Carver home, it’s my baby, it needs to sleep at home. Graham agreed, and brought a broom to hold the power pedal down in case we both need to push.

True enough, the battery was now really flat and I just couldn’t push it uphill on my own. Before Graham could organise his broom pedal system, lo and behold, an Italian couple on holiday was enjoying sunset with some wine, and the guy came over to help, flexing his considerable muscles as motivation. We laughed and chatted and pushed the Carver uphill, with Graham getting flak for making his woman push (“In Italy, it is the man that pushes!” Well, in Italy the women probably also weigh less) until the hill flattened out and the Carver got a new breath and took Graham another 100m or so before I had to push again, but now we were on the flat so it wasn’t a problem. We parked the Carver, and, you guessed it, grabbed a few beers and went to join the Italians to celebrate, to end off a lovely day!

Total trip length 79km, battery remaining 1.4%. The advertised range is 100km “when driving very conservatively”. We were very impressed that carrying two people and doing all sorts of hills it travelled 79km. Probably not something to push on the daily, but wow, well done.

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