No one needs a date night more than a mommy to young children. No one. When someone offers an evening of live music, transportation and hotel, you take it. And then figure out the details.
So that’s just what I did when General Motors (you remember the folks who loaned me the GMC Terrain a few weeks ago to go on a few food adventures) offered to loan me a Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle for the weekend, complete with a date night.
But this is a food blog, right? Yep, so I’ll tell you where to get the best bagels in the Washington, D.C., area, but let’s start at the beginning of the story. We’ll get to the bagels.
It’s been a little dream of mine to drive an electric car. The first time I rode in a hybrid, I couldn’t comprehend the lack of idling and other noises made by a traditional vehicle. I was dubious about the Volt. But then I learned more over a three-day test drive that began with a “Date Night” sponsored by GM.
The show that started off Date Night was Barry Manilow at Wolf Trap, so I convinced my husband (didn’t take much ‘convincing’ at all) to let me take my mom to the concert. It was everything you’d expect a Barry Manilow concert to be: a sea of retirees. Ha ha. But seriously, there were some great songs – yes, he played Copacabana and Mandy – and Mom and I even got up and danced.
Manilow is surprisingly spry for a man made almost entirely of plastic. His sense of humor was refreshing; as he prepared to play a song, he joked about how he wrote it in the 19th century. Manilow puts on a great show, and if you can get past some of the cheeseball songs, it’s absolutely worthwhile to see him perform.
Leaving Wolf Trap, Mom and I got some quality time in the Volt (I forgot how long it takes for cars to filter out of a concert venue) listening to XM Radio and examining features such as the navigation system and leaf button on the console that breaks down fuel efficiency stats and gives tips on optimal driving conditions that will help you drive more efficiently.
Perhaps my favorite feature was the nifty little gauge on the right-hand side of the driver’s display that helps you balance braking and acceleration for fuel efficiency. It’s almost like an oversimplified video game; try to keep the green ball in the center of the gauge. Not only did I save fuel, I also stayed within posted speed limits. (I mean, not that I speed in my own car or anything, uh…)
Anyway, back at the ranch, I dropped Mom off and my husband jumped in the car so that we could spend the last portion of the date night together at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. We were given a key to an eighth-floor suite. I worked for a few years at the office building next to the hotel, though I had never set foot in the hotel and had no idea what to expect. We learned from the desk clerk that the hotel just completed renovation, and they clearly spared no expense.
The suite – room 826 – was modern and lush. Beautiful fabrics, gorgeous tile, lots of chic finishes. Late at night, we were confused by the new lighting system. There are preprogrammed settings on the wall switches for TV watching, reading, relaxing and one button even turns all of the lights in the suite on or off. (Unfortunately, around midnight, we learned this while my husband was brushing his teeth…in the dark. My bad.)
In the light of day, I got up to find a gorgeous flower arrangement from Karin’s Florist in Vienna, Va., with gerbera daisies, roses, freesia, hypericum berries, calla lilies and more. (I took good care of the arrangement once I brought it home, and it lasted for over a week.)
The suite was totally decked out, as you can see in these photos, but my favorite element in the suite was an elegant area rug of a map of Washington, D.C., streets. I moved the furniture off the rug and got down on the floor to find the street on Capitol Hill where I lived for four years. I pine for this rug (that happens to match the colors in my living room at home), but despite attempts to find out who made it, I’m at a loss. I’m about ready to put a picture of the rug on a milk carton: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS RUG?
After coming to the realization that our toddler-free escapade was coming to a close, we packed up, checked out and got in the Volt to pick up bagels at our favorite bagel bakery: Brooklyn Bagel. This Arlington, Va., deli – in the Court House neighborhood – is as close to New York as you’ll find in the D.C. area. The homemade veggie cream cheese is our favorite “schmear,” and we enjoy it best on pumpernickel. Another benefit of Brooklyn Bagel is the people watching readily available on weekend mornings. You would not be-LEIVE what the girls wear out to the clubs these days! Scandalous!
Back home again, we enjoyed the bagels with our family and plugged in the Volt to charge up the battery. We don’t have an enclosed garage, so we borrowed our neighbor’s extension cord and ran the plug out the dining room window to the car. That was on Saturday. Good thing we had chores to do around the house all day or we wouldn’t have had a chance to charge the car. It’s also a good thing the Volt has an efficient gasoline-powered backup. All day (about 7 hours) was not long enough to charge up the car on our 120V outlet. You need about 10 to get the full charge, and there’s no way I could have left the car plugged in like that overnight. You really need a garage with outlets to make the most of the vehicle.
And then Sunday it rained, so charging was definitely out. Charging stations are out there, but either not readily available or, in D.C., many are located in pay parking garages. Yikes. If I’m going to pay that much, I might as well buy gasoline (and save several hours of charging, to boot).
After driving the Volt for a few days, you get used to the quiet ride real quick. And it’s not just the lack of engine noise. The interior is very quiet. I noticed a big difference when I got back into my six-year-old Honda CR-V. Goodness, that car is loud in comparison to the Volt.
Over that weekend and subsequent days discussing the Volt with friends, we realized you could go back and forth about fuel economy, up-front costs, electric versus gas, etc. Instead of rehashing all of that, read Motor Trend’s breakdown of the Volt vs. Toyota Prius vs. Nissan Leaf.
My bottom-line: if I had an enclosed garage with a 240V outlet, I would seriously consider leasing a Chevrolet Volt as a secondary vehicle. But I’m a mom. A four-seater is just not my bag, baby. But if you’re looking for an efficient car to drive around town and have a place you can easily and affordably recharge the battery, take a look at the Volt.
DISCLOSURE: General Motors loaned me the Chevrolet Volt, sent me to Wolf Trap, put me up at the Hilton for a night and sent me a gorgeous bouquet – all gratis. Their generosity did not affect my review of the amenities I was afforded.
Have you driven an electric vehicle? Do you own a hybrid? What’s your take on these cars?