THE Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World – Staples Center and L.A. Live!


One really fun place to go with nearby public chargers is “Staples Center, THE Sports and Entertainment Capital of the World.” Last weekend, the hopes and dreams of three of Los Angeles’ Pro sports teams were seemingly headed in a positive direction.

In the course of four days, Staples Center was hosting the NHL Western Conference Playoffs with now Stanley Cup bound Los Angeles Kings, the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. Though the record ended up being a depressing 2-4 with the Clippers eliminated at home and the Lakers on the road on Monday. It made for an exciting sports-filled weekend.

Out of the six games this past weekend, we decided to try to make it to all six initially, but was too late to make it to the Thursday Night LA Kings victory.

So, we started our Downtown LA long weekend with the Fleming’s Steak House on Thursday night. A very good national steak house with a very good wine list. However, if you find yourself in the area, I prefer the Palm.

Friday night was our first game at Staples Center. It was my Los Angeles Lakers battling the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the Second Round.

The Lakers in-game production is quite a spectacle and it always starts with an awesome tip-off video like below –

At this point in the series, the Lakers were down 2-0 and needed a victory to regain the momentum of the series. We sat in our regular Section 216 seats for this game.

This was the playoffs, and the Lakers came in and executed in this game.

The Oklahoma City Thunder put long-time Lakers favorite Derek Fisher on Kobe Bryant in this game and my better half had some good shots of them together:

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and

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It does look like they gave each other high-fives here!

As with all Lakers games, we had our celebrities out as well

Denzel in his understated New York Yankees Hat.

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Jack Nicholson in shades and Andy Garcia, not in his usual seats in Section 113, but courtside.

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AC Green spotted in the crowd.

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Penny Marshall with Denzel.

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Thank goodness for a very hot shooting night from the free-throw line, the Lakers won this game and the series became 2-1.

So, game one of five of our weekend was complete…

Next up, was a 12:30 pm Saturday Clippers game against the San Antonio Spurs.

We sat in Section 210 for this game and there are some stark difference between Lakers and Clippers games. First, Staples Center is darkened for all but the court for Lakers games. The crowd sits in darkness, much like a boxing match, whereas the Clippers crowd is bathed in gymnasium lighting. Second, Clippers fans are a LOT louder than Lakers fans (side note, I AM A LAKER FAN.) That being said, I always root for the Clippers when they are not playing against my Lakers. However, I was not as emotionally invested in this game and the Clippers ended up blowing a rather sizable early lead to lose to the Spurs.

Here is an interesting crowd photo of our weekend, note the Clipper, Laker, and Kings attire in the crowd.

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A photo from the seats to show what the view was like.

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Not being familiar with who attends these games, I believe Billy Crystal is the big Clipper Celebrity fan, no shots of any celebs.

Game two of our weekend ended in a loss, so we were rather subdued, but had to take figure out what to do in downtown L.A. for four hours in between Clippers and Lakers games, so we decided to take in a movie at the Regal 14 at L.A. Live. We saw Battleship, which was a BAD movie with not enough explosions to redeem itself.

However, it did keep us cool and entertained while we get ourselves ready for the 7:30 pm tip of the first of two Staples Center doubleheaders that weekend.

Game three of five for us was the Los Angeles Lakers Game Four of the Second Round. This was a hard one to take for Lakers fans. The team lost this game on the home floor and had the victory in hand, before it was lost. We were in our regular Section 216 seats that evening.

Ashton Kutcher was courtside for game four. (I blame him for the loss ;-))

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Andy Garcia was in his regular Section 113 seats. Maybe it is HIS fault, since he changed seats for this game versus Game 3 of the series! Perhaps he should’ve sat courtside again.

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Either way, I and a few of my closest fellow Lakers fans were disappointed that evening.

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Thus Game Three of our Five Games at Staples Center ended in a massive disappointment with the Lakers trailing the series 3-1. Still better than their Staples Center neighbors at 3-0, but Lakers fans don’t compare the team against other teams, they compare them against past Lakers Championship teams.

Another disappointing game, so we headed back home for some respite and hopeful that the Kings and Clippers can do better on Sunday… Boy were we wrong.

Sunday was an interesting day in this weekend of sports in that the Final leg of the AMGEN Tour of California bike race was ending at Staples Center/L.A. Live before the start of the Kings game.

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So, I guess one could count the last leg as the Finals for this race.

Either way, we were back to Staples Center on Sunday for a 12 noon L.A. Kings Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference Finals versus the Phoenix Coyotes. The L.A. Kings, at this point were hoping to close out Phoenix and find themselves in the Stanley Cup for only the second time in their history.

Game Four of our Five Game Staples Playoff weekend was fun, however, the real Kings fans would’ve picked us up to be “new” fans. I was at the game with a short-sleeved shirt and was promptly chilly throughout the whole game. We sat at the San Manuel Club Restaurant above Section 215 for the game and enjoyed a bountiful and tasty brunch buffet as well as a good view of the game.

Our flickr stream has more photos, but I think video will give you a better feel.

Needless to say, Game Four of Five ended in a disappointment with the Kings ending up being shut out at home. At least we got a good meal, and great service at the San Manuel Club Restaurant at Staples Center.

Sunday was easier than the previous two days in that we got ourselves a room for Sunday night to Monday morning at the Ritz Carlton, L.A. Live. Parking is $40 valet only with in and out privileges.

Here is a panoramic shot of our room (on Monday morning).

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The view from room 2358 for that weekend was quite nice.

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So, after some rest at the Ritz, we went ahead and attended Game Five of our Five Playoff game Staycation in Downtown Los Angeles with our last game of the series with the Los Angeles Clippers hoping to stave off elimination against the San Antonio Spurs. Alas it was not meant to be…

We had great seats in Section 114 for this last game of the Clippers 2011-2012 season.

Once again, hats off to Clippers fans who seem to be louder than my fellow Lakers fans. And they really have a talented kid in Blake Griffin (pictured here defending Tim Duncan)

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This is a nice panoramic crowd shot from my seat at Section 114.

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Nice shot of the nearby basket.

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At the end of the night, the Clippers succumbed to the San Antonio Spurs and were swept off the playoffs 4-0. Our weekend at Staples Center was a resounding thud with the Los Angeles home teams going 1-4. With the Lakers eventually losing Monday night in Oklahoma City and the Kings getting in the Stanley Cup with a road victory in Glendale, AZ versus the Phoenix Coyotes.

This conversion video from Youtube is rather impressive –

So. You may be asking yourself. Aside from four Los Angeles team losses, how does this past weekend relate to my ActiveE and EVs in general.


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Well, it so happens that across the street from the Staples Center is L.A. Live. An entertainment, retail, restaurant, office, residential, and hotel complex par excellence. Currently charging is free, but the parking could be free (on non-game days AND with a minimum at one of the restaurants at the complex) to very expensive $30-$40 for the day.

At Staples Center, there lies a total of TEN (10) Blink Network Chargers. Now, I must reiterate that the Blink Network Chargers require two things to operate.

1) You need to have a Blink Card. (If you don’t have one, get one. They’re growing in SoCal, not as many as Chargepoint, but definitely growing.)

2) You need to use your ZIP Code to activate the charging process (like the Gas Stations you used to use when you pumped for gasoline.)

There are four chargers in the East Parking Lot.

Two in Parking Level 2 that are back to back from each other.

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and

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The other two are side by side in Parking Level 1.

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There are four chargers in the West Parking Lot, these are at GROUND Level, around the corner from handicapped and the entrance. It’s almost adjacent to 11th Street.

Three face forward, and the fourth is by itself on a column.

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And lastly, there are two chargers in Valet Parking at the Ritz Carlton/J.W. Marriott. Though the actual chargers are in L3 of the West Parking Lot.

One word of warning, the Valets at the Ritz are very helpful, but you need to instruct them on how to use your charger and how to check if it is working. The helpful valet that assisted me ALMOST did everything correctly, except he plugged me into a non-working EVSE. I had to move to the operational charger. Remember to give the Valet your Blink Card AND Zip Code to charge the car.

The Valet Parking is $40 for overnight guests. I don’t know what it is if you’re just visiting. Charging is free, however.

Here is my ActiveE in one of the valet spots:

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and here is the other charger at the hotel Valet Parking.

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Here is a photo of the non-working Blink charger at L.A. Live hotel valet parking (it should be fixed by now), it was stuck trying to read the RFID card.

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It was an emotionally draining weekend and we were glad to have been able to get a room at the Ritz on Sunday night. Los Angeles home victories would’ve been sweeter, alas, one of the three teams are still playing in their playoffs and were looking ahead to the next season.

Here is the full Flickr Photostream of the Staples Center Playoff Weekend.

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #2 in an ongoing series – Santa Monica Place


Been meaning to write another of these posts in a while.  I had a good time this past weekend at L.A. Live, and thought to write about that, but decided instead to write about Santa Monica Place/Third Street Promenade first.  MKnoll on the BMW Forums had a quick post on things she does in Santa Monica, which inspired me to go with what I would recommend in that area for #2 in this series.  As a quick refresher, #1 was at the Helms Bakery District for breakfast at La Dijonaise

The EV Chargers that I use in Santa Monica are in the lot corner Broadway and 4th Street (Santa Monica City Lot 7).  It is in the ground level onramp toward the second level. There are four Chargepoint Network Coulomb chargers and One Clipper Creek J1772 charger. These Chargepoint chargers (at the time of my visit) are the older ones that do GFCI trip at times and it may take several attempts before the charge process takes. The Clipper Creek works great, but, as a good EV citizen, I only use those if all the Chargepoints are taken since all BMW ActiveE drivers are provided at least one Chargepoint RFID card to use, and I’m sure not all EV drivers have those.

The parking at the Santa Monica Place lots are Free for 2 hours 8 am to 6pm ($1 ea additional 30 minutes; $9 maximum daily) and $5 flat rate after 6pm.  Zengo provides free valet parking, but that defeats the purpose of great food by public chargers.


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I figure #2 should be a place for brunch… namely Zengo.  This place has a highly rated brunch and though I’ve been there for brunch, I prefer the dinner service.  Additionally, next door to Zengo is it’s sister restaurant La Sandia, I’ve only had dinner at La Sandia and I was not as fond of the food there.

As I like to leave the better option last, I will cover La Sandia quickly here.  Basically, the food was interesting, but I felt that it was somewhat overpriced and really a better bar experience than food experience.

The Kiwi Margarita was very good –

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As was the Mango Margarita

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This was the Guacamole Sampler that we tried… And yes, they had the edible insect on it on purpose (I ate these, the better half skipped on it)

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I went with the Chili Relleno, which was top-notch, but I felt that it was a bit over-priced.

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And the better half decided to go with the Carnitas Tacos. Again, tasty, just over-priced.

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More La Sandia pictures.

All the photos that I have included in this article will be from dinner service that I had there earlier in the month.

So, brunch at Zengo is very popular aside from great food also provides unlimited drinks in its weekend brunches.  The fine print on the menu states – that the unlimited brunch has a 2 hour time limit per table, the entire table must participate in it, it includes unlimited small plates & brunch cocktails- bloody mary / bacon bloody mary / mango mimosa / traditional mimosa / sake sangria / lychee bellini for $35 per guest.  Thus if you like the things listed, it makes for a great deal.

When we went for brunch, we opted A La Carte as not everyone in the party would have made full use of the brunch deal.  However, I do intend to take them up on that deal one of these days.

As I previously mentioned, I actually prefer the dinner at Zengo. The servers are very good at explaining that Zengo translates to Give and Take in English, I boil down Zengo’s dining experience as Latin-Asian Tapas.  Their menu is split between smaller and larger plates and the mainstays stick around in the dinner menu and every month and a half to two months, they add a special “tasting kitchen” menu inspired by one Asian location and another Latin location, such as Hanoi and Havana (April 9 – June 30, 2012) or the previous menu of Shanghai and Sao Paulo.

On our third trip to Zengo, we had some dishes that stayed with us from the previous trip and we felt compelled to order again, and the Peking Duck-Daikon Tacos stood out from our previous experiences, and it was, once again, excellent.

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Here is the Peking Duck-Daikon Taco ready to eat on my plate:

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and another one

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We decided on pairing our dinner with a Malbec that we found to be light in tannins, smooth, and very good with meat and duck.

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We decided to go to the Pork Belly Steamed Buns next. I was expecting Char Shiu Bao, but got this instead:

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And it was wonderful.

One thing that through us off was the next course, which I did not expect to be in a soup/broth form was from this Hanoi and Havana test kitchen menu of Morcillas.  I had no indigation that it was in a soup/broth format and was my least favorite in the meal, but it was still very well executed.

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We ended our mains with the Wok Fried Rice and it was excellent. It’s a main on it’s own, though normally a side in many Asian restaurants.

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We did get dessert, but did not quite make the photo gallery.  If you want to see more Zengo pictures just head over to my flickr gallery.

After a fun dinner like we had that evening, and since the parking is paid for the rest of the evening, a nice stroll down 3rd Street Promenade or some shopping at Santa Monica Place is quite easy to do from this location.  Additionally, the Santa Monica Pier is also very close and navigable at this point.

For this particular evening, we opted to go to a nearby AMC Theater to catch the Avengers again.  It made for a great date night with the better half.

After dinner and a movie, we got back onto our fully-charged ActiveE to head home.

Just a few more pics from Lot 6… Finally got a charge…


Didn’t get a chance to post much (or drive much) this week as I’ve been on a business trip to Chicago…

Here are some pictures we took before the trip.  My sister and her family were over and my brother-in-law, who is a car guy, was daring enough to take apart parts of the car to take a look… mainly the plastic cover thing, so I snapped some pics of the “engine” area of the ActiveE.

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Additionally, it did provide me with the opportunity to get some updated pictures from my better half.  She had her first day with the ActiveE and was a trooper.

She found LAX Lot 6 and was able to get us plugged in for the recharge for the drive back home.

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and to verify that it was plugged in fine. She did a video of the blue blinking light of happiness!

Lastly, ’cause she thought it looked cool and teased me (I hope) with what she tells me she wants for her next car.

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Yes, a Fisker Karma, what can I say, the better half has great taste!

Update to back of napkin math using first month’s SCE Time of Use Tariff


It’s time for an update.  As a response to my $0.31 per kWh price for charging my ActiveE on Southern California Edison’s Domestic Tariff, I signed up for Electric Time Of Use (TOU). Now there are TWO flavors of the TOU tariff.  One requires a separate meter, the other does not.  The approximate cost for the separate meter and installation at my house was an additional $2,000 to $4,000.  Since, we were not sure if we would be staying on Electric after the two year closed-end lease of the ActiveE, we decided to go with the one offered for customers with a single electric meter.  At this point, barring the lack of good choices after the 2 years, we probably will go ahead and get at least a replacement electric vehicle.

So what did we find out after the first month on the new tariff.  First, let me spell out what assumptions were made to calculate the amount of energy used by the AE.  I could have gotten more detailed (counting ALL the emailed kWh usage identified by my Chargepoint EVSE, but decided that I did not really want to do all the calculations and since most of my charging is done at the super-off peak hours and very few outside of these times, that I would overstate the amount of energy and calculate based on the total super-off peak usage AND 10% of off-peak charging to come up with my model.) but I would’ve run out of room on the back of the napkin.  Bottom line, in the new month, I came up with $0.12024 per kWh to charge this past month under the winter rates.  This assumption puts me at the cost to fill up at home at $1.20 per day

So, using the 70 mile number – from my electric cost per mile last month is approximately $0.01714 per mile.  After two months of driving, I have noticed that my average roundtrip is actually a little higher than the 70 mile number.  Let’s call it 85 miles…  So, using this mileage, I was able to recalculate this cost down to $0.01412 per mile.

Using the revised mileage numbers, 407 miles is $5.75 vs. $60.00 approximately 1/12th the cost of ICE.

Folks with lower kWh pricing obviously come out a lot more.  In fact, it’s practically free for those that are on solar power, though not really free, since installing solar DOES cost money.  Now that BMW got a nice group discount at 35%, but still not “free.”

Of course the subsidized power may disappear as electric cars gain greater traction, but there’s a lot of room to go before it gets close to the same level as an ICE car of a similar caliber.  Additionally, it would seem that my rates are bound to go up when Summer Rates kick in, so I will have another update when those bills come in.

Inane disclaimers on cars…


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So, I was a little bored and thought to look at some of the things around my ActiveE, and I started reading this disclaimer sticker on the front windshield of my car.

I am especially infuriated by “…telephones (including operation of any portable cellular phone from within the vehicle without using an externally mounted antenna) … may cause extensive damage to the vehicle, compromise its safety, interfere with the vehicle’s electrical system or affect the validity of the BMW Limited Warranty.”

Talk about your inane disclaimers.

My cell phone, which works with the Bluetooth system so much so that I can access MAP messages on it could invalidate the warranty because it does not have an “externally mounted antenna”.  Last I looked, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 was too new and not on the “approved” list.  This is one of the most senseless disclaimers around.  It ranks up there with the caution of a hot beverage that one gets with a disposable cup (yes, I said disposable and no, even for the 10 cents saved at Starbucks, I do not reuse my coffee cups. ONCE AGAIN, it’s ACCIDENTALLY ENVIRONMENTAL and 10 cents a cup wasn’t enough to move the needle with me on this issue.)

So, yes, my fun car may handle like a dream, but it too has some stupid things attached to it.

Range Anxiety and the Longest One-Way drive so far!


I’m sure others have done longer and I’ve had longer days (with multiple charge stops… personal record – 175 miles in one day (two charge stops)) however, aside from Las Vegas, folks around LA normally think of driving to Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, or San Diego to be a long drive, so I figured to try one out.

Since we live in the Southern Tip of Los Angeles County, it seemed best to pick San Diego as the destination.

Trip planned, remote charger identified.  Time to conquer range anxiety…

Our planned stop – The North County Transit District stop in Oceanside.  Ideal choice because on May 6, they were running extra trains for the weekend (Cinco de Mayo was just the day before and there were still festivals and a Padres game going on).


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This is a 65 mile journey one way, of which around 25-30 miles near the end there were not only NO public chargers listed on any of the Apps, but no gas stations Between San Clemente and San Onofre, so even ICE vehicles were warned of “no services for the next 20 miles” .

The plan was to get to the Train Station and hop on the Coaster to get down to San Diego.  Blink Network and the North County Transit District had both installed 6 chargers at the station and taking the train from here would provide a day’s worth of entertainment.

I debated as to using the cruise control and setting it at a moderate 67-68 miles per hour on the ActiveE (it overstates it’s speed and that would get me around 65) but opted to enjoy the drive and use the pedal manually.  I decided to go Eco Pro and also was not driving as aggressively as I normally do and found myself being passed by many cars (that last stretch by San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant tends to be a really fast one)

Though the navigation had recommended that I use the toll road around the El Toro Y. I opted around it as that route has a lot more hills and I decided on staying on the 405 to the 5 freeway as it is considerably flatter and I wanted to arrive at my destination with as much charge as possible (to minimize the charging time for a full charge.)

This conservative driving worked wonders for my range.  I ended up at the train station with 25 miles left and State of Charge (SOC) around 20% (the car did its customary warning at 27 miles to go).  However, plans #1 and #2 for the day was shot as I arrived at the chargers only to see the Coaster pulling away from the station and the Amtrak soon after.  There were five chargers available as one was being used by a Leaf and I decided to plug in and charge.

Luckily, we had a plan #3.  Four hours to charge the car and a few miles away was the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.

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So, we decided to jump in a cab ($23 one-way, $25 with tip) and get down to the outlets to do some shopping. This is a smaller outlet a stone’s throw from Legoland.      It has a lot of the same stores one finds at other outlet stores around Southern California, but it does have a nicely stocked Crate & Barrel Outlet, not that we ended up getting anything there.

The shopping center was well attended, but not crowded and the sales were actually very attractive.  Ended up picking up a few items that more than off-set the round-trip cab fare ($50, I did $25 with tip on the return cab trip as well.)  Additionally, the food choices near the outlet stores were quite good (namely a PF Chang’s, and BJ’s across the street and Ruby’s Diner in the outlet stores) and it helps that Starbucks had the Frappuccino Happy Hour going to recharge during our 4 hour shopping trip (that’s about 3 3/4 hours longer than the better half can stand).

We made it back to the ActiveE right as the blue light stopped blinking.  I literally saw the car blinking when the cab arrived at the train station, and stay off as I walked up to the car to get it disengaged from the Blink Network charger.

Having the confidence of making the range on the Southbound trip earlier, the Northbound trip was a lot more pleasant.  I stayed on Eco Pro, but definitely drove a little more aggressively.  I stayed OFF the Toll Road route as I wanted the opportunity to get off the freeway at any of the cities in between.

The roundtrip was approximately 135 miles with a single 4.25 hour charging session in between.  I arrived home with about 30 miles left on the car and about 25% SOC.

Charge It! – Great food near public chargers #1 in an ongoing series


One of the things about charging my ActiveE at public chargers is trying to figure out what to do while I wait for a couple of hours.  Shopping center public chargers are great ’cause there’s a ton of stuff to do at shopping centers. However, as much as I like to shop, it gets boring.

So, I figure that one thing that would be very helpful for readers of the blog is figure out what great food places there are around some of the public chargers that I use. The ActiveE has provided me with nice opportunities to slow down and enjoy life at times.  So, rather than fast food, some great food near chargers (read walking distance).  Though ever since I got this car, I’ve found myself walking more and more. (the L2 charger nearest my office is 3/4 of a mile away.) So I get a mile and a half walk most work days (for non-SoCal readers, that’s a long walk for Southern Californians.)

So, without further ado…  Let’s go with the first one…  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so I figured to choose my first location accordingly.

The Helms Bakery District


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This place is great. Two Clipper Creek J1772 L2 chargers are available and parking is free.  So, you can always shop for furniture and other home stuff at this location.  But, how often does one need to buy a new couch, table, bed, or chair.  At the prices that they are sold at the Helms Bakery District, not too often.

So, it makes it the ideal spot to grab something to eat.  The question is what time of day are you at Helms Bakery.  Breakfast or a snack at La Dijonaise is always great.  I’ve found it a great place to grab a cafe au lait and a macaron. They make some of the best macarons that I’ve ever had.  The one pictured below is a coffee flavored macaron. They have several different flavors, and the coffee is my favorite, the chocolate is pretty great as well. I’ve tried a raspberry, orange, almond, and others and the worst is better than most places macarons.

A little pitstop to recharge myself and my @BMWActiveE at the Helms Bakery charger...  Enjoying a Cafe au lait and Macaron!

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This one was a little too tart..

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Just tried today – Chocolate Eclair..  It was good!

Chocolate Eclair at La Dijonaise

Really the only other thing I’ve grabbed at La Dijonaise has been a raisin roll.  So, I can’t comment on the other food, (one of these days I will, just not today) but they really do the baked goods well.

Dinner or lunch (on some days) another popular place to go at Helms Bakery is The Father’s Office. I’ve been there once. The burger is good and it is very popular (there seems to be a good crowd at The Father’s Office making it a good place to hang out). It has been considered one of the top burgers in LA. However, I’m the wrong guy to pick burgers. I can tell good from bad, just not good from great nor any other superlative to describe burgers.  According to experts, this burger is really good, so I take their word for it.  If you prefer the reviews of others, it does pretty well on Yelp as well not too bad on Zagat either.  In all, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Helms Bakery is good.

The J1772 chargers and easy access 24×7 makes it a good place for an Electronaut or any other EV driver in LA to stop by the Helms Bakery.  This place is a good place to go and charge it! (and get yourself a fill up as well).