As it turns out, though, Ekalaka’s sparsely populated corner of southeast Montana — the town, two hours in any direction from the nearest Walmart, is home to all of 400 residents — is still an uncharted frontier as far as electric vehicle charging networks are concerned. Lauterbach and Markham said the Tesla’s built-in navigation system spent the entire stretch of the drive up from Gillette, Wyoming, telling them they were headed into a charging desert.
“It kept throwing warnings and red banners and stuff,” Lauterbach said. “It was trying to protect me from doing something stupid.”
If push came to shove, Lauterbach said, he figured he’d be able to plug the car into a standard 120-volt outlet in someone’s garage, even though charging that way would have taken days.
As luck would have it, though, the couple pulled into Ekalaka to discover an RV-style outlet attached to a utility pole on Main Street. The cover, Lauterbach found, was unlocked.
“It was just sitting there, so I plugged in,” he said.
Markham said she warned him he shouldn’t leave his car charging off a random outlet without getting permission, lest the locals assume he was “just some jerk from California, doing what jerks from California do.”
It literally became front page news.