OFF THE GRID by Randy Denmon


My Ride from Louisiana to the Panama Canal in an Electric Car
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An engineer and novelist’s account of how he traveled from Louisiana to Panama in an electric car.

Successful but bored with the “yuppie robot” he had become, Louisiana native Denmon (Lords of an Empty Land, 2015, etc.) decided he needed to “get off the grid, away from the cell phones and emails.” So he and a peripatetic college friend named Dean packed Denmon’s new Tesla Model S electric car with a GPS, two long, 240-volt extension cords, and “all the plugs and adapters I could lay my hands on” and headed south across the Rio Grande. Beyond possible encounters with crooked immigration agents, drug lords, carjackers, and roving bandits, they faced other dangers and challenges. Fully charged and traveling on flat, well-paved roads at an average of 65 miles per hour, the Tesla had a driving range of 265 miles. However, the terrain they encountered between Mexico and Panama was highly unpredictable, and the roads were often covered with large asphalt chunks that they had to dodge in order to avoid damaging a car that sat “six inches—at best—off the ground.” Finding locations where they could charge the car also proved difficult. “It would likely take all of our creative juices and ad-libbing to keep the sleek, high-tech machine moving south every day,” writes the author. Sometimes, they found hotels with the electrical outlets they needed; other times they had to beg and bribe and make due with whatever equipment they found. Denmon’s experiment in high-tech travel through the developing world is intriguing, but his observations about the countries through which he traveled are as limited and simplistic as they are pedestrian. With the exceptions of Costa Rica, “the planet’s biggest natural amusement park,” and former American protectorate Panama, Denmon typically depicts Central America as consistently dangerous and primitive and the U.S. as a place that has the “comforts that most of the world craves.”

A facile narrative about haves traveling in a land of have-nots.

Pub Date: April 4th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5107-1739-8
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2017


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