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Mike Craner during Renew America Roadtrip stop-over

Mike Craner during Renew America Roadtrip stop-over on the South Omaha campus of Metro Community College.

Tesla Comes to Omaha

The Renew America Roadtrip stops long enough to charge up the city and the Roadster.

By Bill Moore

July 22, 2009 was a very, very long day for Michael Craner.

It began at 5:45 AM near Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he was interviewed by a CBS television news crew. It ended in Villisca, Iowa, whose chief claim to fame is an alleged haunted house were grisley axe murders took place in 1912.

Michael Craner is the co-founder of Renew America Roadtrip, in which he and his companion Madushini "Maddy" Gunawardana are driving a Tesla Roadster from New York City to San Francisco, while spreading the message of renewable energy, electric transportation and charitable good works. But undertaking such an ambitious venture isn't without its challenges.

Craner was supposed to arrive in Omaha sometime in the late evening of July 22nd. He arrived in my driveway at 5 AM this morning, July 23rd. He had spent most of the night outside an aging power plant in Villisca charging up the Tesla as it slurped electrons at 240 volts and 50 amps. While he waited on the battery, which had something like six or seven miles of range left on it when he arrived in the small southwest Iowa farm town near dusk, his host drove him past the Josiah Moore (no relation, I hope) house where the entire family and two overnight guests had been bludgeoned to death almost a century ago.

According to Craner, he and his escort saw unexplained lights in the house that to this day is said to have no electricity, plumbing or running water, just as it was in 1912.

After the living in Villisca had gone to bed, Craner was left to himself and his imagination, trying to get a bit of sleep in the cramped confines of the Roadster. Around 1 AM, some people walked around the car after noticing it was a Tesla, commented and then walked away. Hopefully they weren't Josiah and his clan.

By 3 AM, the car had a full charge and the weary inventor, set off toward Omaha, 70 miles away across rolling Iowa farmland, along a highway shrouded in fog and occasionally crossed by White Tail deer, always a hazard when driving in the country at night.

The plan had been for Craner, Gundawardana, and their advance man, Jerry "The Spirit of DC" Asher to arrive in time to get a good night's sleep at the Marriott, rooms paid for courtesy of the Omaha Green Building Council. Asher and Miss Gundawardana eventually got to enjoy the rooms, Craner would catch a couple hours in our spare bedroom, while the Roadster sipped juice from our now world-famous 30 amp clothes dryer outlet. (Greg Hanssen had charged his EV1 on it in 1999 and Louis Palmer his Solar Taxi in 2008). With the car's surprisingly noisy cooling fans whirring away, we agreed to awake a little before 8 AM and climbed back into our respective beds.

Any time you plan one of these events, you can only hope at least a few people will show up. Gratefully, due the great work of Dan Lawse at Omaha's Metro Community College, a sizable crowd turned out for the 10 AM event, including the college's interim president, members of the college board, faculty members, staff and Omaha's newly elected Mayor, Jim Suttle.

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