Finance A year ago, I had an epic adventure in a Tesla Model S — here's what happened (TSLA)

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The idea was to see if this four-door "family car" with supercar-beating acceleration could handle a journey to summer camp.

Oh sure, everybody is happy now. play

Oh sure, everybody is happy now.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)
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The $35,000 Model 3 was designed to open up Tesla ownership to a much wider range of people than the relatively expensive Model S and Model X.

New Tesla owners will quickly discover than electric cars have one major difference from gas-powered vehicles: they have to be charged up. The Model 3 has a range of 200 miles, superb for an EV, but it will need to be rejuiced, and if you're used to refueling in five minutes, EV ownership required some advance planning and behavioral changes.

Fortunately, Tesla operates a network of Superchargers that make longer trips possible (the automaker asks owner to do their everyday charging at home). The company has also worked with partners to install even more charging locations that offer slower charging than what's available at Sueprchargers but provide a gap-filling fallback.

I've spent a lot of time driving EVs. In 2015, I drove one of my kids to camp in a BMW i3, an extended-range electric vehicle that at the time was rumored to be a basis for the Apple Car.

The trip went great, so last year I decided to make our annual camp sojourn to the scenic Catskills in upstate New York a regular EV-paloooza. And what better car to serve as our futuristic chariot in 2016 than ... the Tesla Model S?

And not just any Model S, but a P90D with Ludicrous Mode — at the time the baddest, fastest, coolest Tesla in all the land (until the P100D arrived in early 2017.)

The idea was to see if this four-door luxury "family car" with supercar-beating acceleration — zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, claimed — could handle a journey of decent length (about 240 miles round trip) involving two adults, three kids, and gear for a pair of campers for two weeks. Quite a test, eh? And with a few scheduled stops to dine, take in the sights, and recharge the battery.

Our adventure began on a pleasant Sunday in July and all initially went according to plan. Until it didn't. Read on to learn all about our most excellent misadventure with the world's most famous electric car.

The pearl-white Tesla, equipped with everything, landed in the driveway of our suburban New Jersey test car HQ.

The pearl-white Tesla, equipped with everything, landed in the driveway of our suburban New Jersey test car HQ. play

The pearl-white Tesla, equipped with everything, landed in the driveway of our suburban New Jersey test car HQ.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


My Prius was intimidated.

My Prius was intimidated. play

My Prius was intimidated.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Our Tesla was the Model S sedan ...

Our Tesla was the Model S sedan ... play

Our Tesla was the Model S sedan ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... in P90D trim. The "P" for "performance," the "90" for the 90 kWh battery pack, and the "D" for a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup.

... in P90D trim. The "P" for "performance," the "90" for the 90 kWh battery pack, and the "D" for a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup. play

... in P90D trim. The "P" for "performance," the "90" for the 90 kWh battery pack, and the "D" for a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Just in case you needed a reminder: all-electric equals no tailpipe emissions.

Just in case you needed a reminder: all-electric equals no tailpipe emissions. play

Just in case you needed a reminder: all-electric equals no tailpipe emissions.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The P90D is loaded with sexy extras, like this carbon-fiber spoiler ...

The P90D is loaded with sexy extras, like this carbon-fiber spoiler ... play

The P90D is loaded with sexy extras, like this carbon-fiber spoiler ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... and door handles that retract flush, but present themselves to you when you get close by.

... and door handles that retract flush, but present themselves to you when you get close by. play

... and door handles that retract flush, but present themselves to you when you get close by.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


But enough about the fancy stuff. Can this ride handle a lot of gear? Well, here's what the rear hatch swallowed up ...

But enough about the fancy stuff. Can this ride handle a lot of gear? Well, here's what the rear hatch swallowed up ... play

But enough about the fancy stuff. Can this ride handle a lot of gear? Well, here's what the rear hatch swallowed up ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... meeting my son James' approval.

... meeting my son James' approval. play

... meeting my son James' approval.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


And here's what we got into the "frunk," a front trunk that's there because the Model S doesn't have a conventional engine.

And here's what we got into the "frunk," a front trunk that's there because the Model S doesn't have a conventional engine. play

And here's what we got into the "frunk," a front trunk that's there because the Model S doesn't have a conventional engine.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


James also dug the frunk!

James also dug the frunk! play

James also dug the frunk!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


In 2015, the BMW i3 got us to our destination, but it did so at a lower sticker price, about $50,000 less than the Model S P90D, and with less cargo space. We only had one camper's gear to deal with for that trip.

In 2015, the BMW i3 got us to our destination, but it did so at a lower sticker price, about $50,000 less than the Model S P90D, and with less cargo space. We only had one camper's gear to deal with for that trip. play

In 2015, the BMW i3 got us to our destination, but it did so at a lower sticker price, about $50,000 less than the Model S P90D, and with less cargo space. We only had one camper's gear to deal with for that trip.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


We were all smiles as we saddled up in 2016.

We were all smiles as we saddled up in 2016. play

We were all smiles as we saddled up in 2016.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The trio in the back was joyful.

play

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


My lovely wife was psyched.

My lovely wife was psyched. play

My lovely wife was psyched.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


I even pulled out my lucky hat.

I even pulled out my lucky hat. play

I even pulled out my lucky hat.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


It would shield me from the rays pouring in through that humongous sunroof.

It would shield me from the rays pouring in through that humongous sunroof. play

It would shield me from the rays pouring in through that humongous sunroof.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Oh yeah, lucky hat!

Oh yeah, lucky hat! play

Oh yeah, lucky hat!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


We'd rely on Tesla's massive center touchscreen for all our infotainment and navigation needs.

We'd rely on Tesla's massive center touchscreen for all our infotainment and navigation needs. play

We'd rely on Tesla's massive center touchscreen for all our infotainment and navigation needs.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The trip would cover 117 miles, one way.

The trip would cover 117 miles, one way. play

The trip would cover 117 miles, one way.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The Model S when fully charged has 270 miles of range, enough to comfortably make the journey up and back. But we wanted to investigate the charging options along the way, so we didn't top off before departing. Still, almost 200 miles of range! Plenty, right? My plan was to get to camp, then head over to a Tesla destination partner charging site, get enough juice to make a Supercharger station on the return route, and be home by early evening.

The Model S when fully charged has 270 miles of range, enough to comfortably make the journey up and back. But we wanted to investigate the charging options along the way, so we didn't top off before departing. Still, almost 200 miles of range! Plenty, right? My plan was to get to camp, then head over to a Tesla destination partner charging site, get enough juice to make a Supercharger station on the return route, and be home by early evening. play

The Model S when fully charged has 270 miles of range, enough to comfortably make the journey up and back. But we wanted to investigate the charging options along the way, so we didn't top off before departing. Still, almost 200 miles of range! Plenty, right? My plan was to get to camp, then head over to a Tesla destination partner charging site, get enough juice to make a Supercharger station on the return route, and be home by early evening.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


We had Tesla's innovative, redesigned cupholders to keep us company ...

We had Tesla's innovative, redesigned cupholders to keep us company ... play

We had Tesla's innovative, redesigned cupholders to keep us company ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... as well as the old-school versions.

... as well as the old-school versions. play

... as well as the old-school versions.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Ample storage for gadgets and chargers.

Ample storage for gadgets and chargers. play

Ample storage for gadgets and chargers.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


And classic rock!!!

And classic rock!!! play

And classic rock!!!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The Model S has Tesla's simple digital instrument screen ...

The Model S has Tesla's simple digital instrument screen ... play

The Model S has Tesla's simple digital instrument screen ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... which can display various types of data.

... which can display various types of data. play

... which can display various types of data.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Gorgeous weather to start!

Off we go! play

Off we go!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


And away we go!

And away we go! play

And away we go!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Some threatening clouds along the route. Little did I suspect that there was some dramatic foreshadowing afoot.

Some threatening clouds along the route. Little did I suspect that there was some dramatic foreshadowing afoot. play

Some threatening clouds along the route. Little did I suspect that there was some dramatic foreshadowing afoot.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


What road trip is complete without a stop at McDonald's? Sadly, this burger has been discontinued by the chain.

What road trip is complete without a stop at McDonald's? Sadly, this burger has been discontinued by the chain. play

What road trip is complete without a stop at McDonald's? Sadly, this burger has been discontinued by the chain.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Happy Meal, happy kid.

Happy Meal, happy kid. play

Happy Meal, happy kid.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


We arrive! But there's just one problem ...

We arrive! But there's just one problem ... play

We arrive! But there's just one problem ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


I've screwed up my range calculations. We don't have enough to make the closest partner charging station. The car was warning us of this, but we needed to get the boys dropped off on time. So we took a chance and ended up ALMOST RUNNING OUT OF GAS, er ... ELECTRICITY!

I've screwed up my range calculations. We don't have enough to make the closest partner charging station. The car was warning us of this, but we needed to get the boys dropped off on time. So we took a chance and ended up ALMOST RUNNING OUT OF GAS, er ... ELECTRICITY! play

I've screwed up my range calculations. We don't have enough to make the closest partner charging station. The car was warning us of this, but we needed to get the boys dropped off on time. So we took a chance and ended up ALMOST RUNNING OUT OF GAS, er ... ELECTRICITY!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


There's a cable in the truck of every Tesla that enables you to charge on the fly. But there are no high-speed charging options up here in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills. So we had to resort to the slowest option, good old 120-volt, wall-socket-level rejuicing.

There's a cable in the truck of every Tesla that enables you to charge on the fly. But there are no high-speed charging options up here in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills. So we had to resort to the slowest option, good old 120-volt, wall-socket-level rejuicing. play

There's a cable in the truck of every Tesla that enables you to charge on the fly. But there are no high-speed charging options up here in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills. So we had to resort to the slowest option, good old 120-volt, wall-socket-level rejuicing.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


You plug into this small charging port at the left rear of the Model S.

You plug into this small charging port at the left rear of the Model S. play

You plug into this small charging port at the left rear of the Model S.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


No exactly the most scenic location. We had to ask the camp maintenance staff to find us an outlet that we could use.

No exactly the most scenic location. We had to ask the camp maintenance staff to find us an outlet that we could use. play

No exactly the most scenic location. We had to ask the camp maintenance staff to find us an outlet that we could use.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


This one was down by a maintenance shed.

This one was down by a maintenance shed. play

This one was down by a maintenance shed.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


We are charging away ...

We are charging away ... play

We are charging away ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... and the Model S looks plenty sharp ...

... and the Model S looks plenty sharp ... play

... and the Model S looks plenty sharp ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... but we'll be getting only 1 mile per hour of charging! That's mega-slow.

... but we'll be getting only 1 mile per hour of charging! That's mega-slow. play

... but we'll be getting only 1 mile per hour of charging! That's mega-slow.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


A few hours, a few more miles in the battery, and we have enough to head back through the lovely scenery to find lodging — and charging — for the night.

A few hours, a few more miles in the battery, and we have enough to head back through the lovely scenery to find lodging — and charging — for the night. play

A few hours, a few more miles in the battery, and we have enough to head back through the lovely scenery to find lodging — and charging — for the night.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The Blue Hill Lodge was nearby.

The Blue Hill Lodge was nearby. play

The Blue Hill Lodge was nearby.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


There's a café and store.

There's a café and store. play

There's a café and store.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


And beautiful views of the Catskills heavens.

And beautiful views of the Catskills heavens. play

And beautiful views of the Catskills heavens.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


My son Dante had endured a long, rough day. He conked out over a plate of chicken tenders and fries.

My son Dante had endured a long, rough day. He conked out over a plate of chicken tenders and fries. play

My son Dante had endured a long, rough day. He conked out over a plate of chicken tenders and fries.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


I enjoyed a delicious specialty of the house, small Russian dumplings covered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, sprinkled with dill, plus a side of sour cream. Totally hit the spot.

I enjoyed a delicious specialty of the house, small Russian dumplings covered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, sprinkled with dill, plus a side of sour cream. Totally hit the spot. play

I enjoyed a delicious specialty of the house, small Russian dumplings covered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, sprinkled with dill, plus a side of sour cream. Totally hit the spot.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


We retired to our quaint, blue-doored room.

We retired to our quaint, blue-doored room. play

We retired to our quaint, blue-doored room.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


And once again plugged into a basic outlet.

And once again plugged into a basic outlet. play

And once again plugged into a basic outlet.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Still lookin' good, Model S!

Still lookin' good, Model S! play

Still lookin' good, Model S!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


By the next morning, at a charging rate of 3 miles per hour, we have enough juice to make the closest partner charging location.

By the next morning, at a charging rate of 3 miles per hour, we have enough juice to make the closest partner charging location. play

By the next morning, at a charging rate of 3 miles per hour, we have enough juice to make the closest partner charging location.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Off we go!

play

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


It's located at the charming Inn at Lake Joseph.

It's located at the charming Inn at Lake Joseph. play

It's located at the charming Inn at Lake Joseph.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Bingo!

Bingo! play

Bingo!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


We're plugged in ...

We're plugged in ... play

We're plugged in ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... and drawing power again.

... and drawing power again. play

... and drawing power again.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


But this time, we're charging much faster. In a few hours, we'll have enough power to get to the closest Supercharger location.

But this time, we're charging much faster. In a few hours, we'll have enough power to get to the closest Supercharger location. play

But this time, we're charging much faster. In a few hours, we'll have enough power to get to the closest Supercharger location.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The inn beckons.

The inn beckons. play

The inn beckons.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


There's an alluring spread of breads, bagels, fruit, jams, and preserves, as well as heartier breakfast fare.

There's an alluring spread of breads, bagels, fruit, jams, and preserves, as well as heartier breakfast fare. play

There's an alluring spread of breads, bagels, fruit, jams, and preserves, as well as heartier breakfast fare.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The decor is soothingly old-fashioned.

The decor is soothingly old-fashioned. play

The decor is soothingly old-fashioned.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Art!

Art! play

Art!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


And pre-internet distractions.

And pre-internet distractions. play

And pre-internet distractions.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


But most important for me ... a bottomless cup of coffee!

But most important for me ... a bottomless cup of coffee! play

But most important for me ... a bottomless cup of coffee!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


After breakfast, we retired to the billiards room ...

After breakfast, we retired to the billiards room ... play

After breakfast, we retired to the billiards room ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... where I taught Dante the art of the hustle.

... where I taught Dante the art of the hustle. play

... where I taught Dante the art of the hustle.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


My wife took in the scenery.

My wife took in the scenery. play

My wife took in the scenery.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Later, Dante reconnected with the modern world.

Later, Dante reconnected with the modern world. play

Later, Dante reconnected with the modern world.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


The Tesla, meanwhile, stayed connected to its power supply. Tesla has set up these partner charging sites to provide relatively fast charging in more places and to fill in some of the Supercharger gaps. A Tesla vehicle can find them all using GPS and can calculate the state of its charge at all times so you never end up like unlucky, stupid me. Trust the car!

The Tesla, meanwhile, stayed connected to its power supply. Tesla has set up these partner charging sites to provide relatively fast charging in more places and to fill in some of the Supercharger gaps. A Tesla vehicle can find them all using GPS and can calculate the state of its charge at all times so you never end up like unlucky, stupid me. Trust the car! play

The Tesla, meanwhile, stayed connected to its power supply. Tesla has set up these partner charging sites to provide relatively fast charging in more places and to fill in some of the Supercharger gaps. A Tesla vehicle can find them all using GPS and can calculate the state of its charge at all times so you never end up like unlucky, stupid me. Trust the car!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


I couldn't resist messing around with some of the high-tech Easter eggs, including the famous Lotus submarine goof from the James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me" (Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a big Bond fan).

I couldn't resist messing around with some of the high-tech Easter eggs, including the famous Lotus submarine goof from the James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me" (Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a big Bond fan). play

I couldn't resist messing around with some of the high-tech Easter eggs, including the famous Lotus submarine goof from the James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me" (Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a big Bond fan).

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


With 76 miles in the battery, we can comfortably get to the nearest Supercharger.

With 76 miles in the battery, we can comfortably get to the nearest Supercharger. play

With 76 miles in the battery, we can comfortably get to the nearest Supercharger.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


It's about 50 miles away, in Newburgh, New York.

It's about 50 miles away, in Newburgh, New York. play

It's about 50 miles away, in Newburgh, New York.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Some of the route was over unimproved roads, so we saw how the AWD system performed — and it performed just fine.

Some of the route was over unimproved roads, so we saw how the AWD system performed — and it performed just fine. play

Some of the route was over unimproved roads, so we saw how the AWD system performed — and it performed just fine.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


At last! Superchargers! We should have been here a whole day earlier.

At last! Superchargers! We should have been here a whole day earlier. play

At last! Superchargers! We should have been here a whole day earlier.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


I'm thrilled — and finally relieved. Our excellent adventure had become a misadventure. But the car handled everything fantastically well: It was fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable, roomy, and the navigation was flawless — and the infotainment options kept us entertained.

I'm thrilled — and finally relieved. Our excellent adventure had become a misadventure. But the car handled everything fantastically well: It was fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable, roomy, and the navigation was flawless — and the infotainment options kept us entertained. play

I'm thrilled — and finally relieved. Our excellent adventure had become a misadventure. But the car handled everything fantastically well: It was fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable, roomy, and the navigation was flawless — and the infotainment options kept us entertained.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


One hour on a Supercharger will get us a whopping 206 miles of range.

One hour on a Supercharger will get us a whopping 206 miles of range. play

One hour on a Supercharger will get us a whopping 206 miles of range.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Bzzzzz ... electrons in, at high velocity! Go Supercharger, go!

Bzzzzz ... electrons in, at high velocity! Go Supercharger, go! play

Bzzzzz ... electrons in, at high velocity! Go Supercharger, go!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Cosimo's restaurant is right there, and it's time for lunch.

Cosimo's restaurant is right there, and it's time for lunch. play

Cosimo's restaurant is right there, and it's time for lunch.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


They have one of these ...

They have one of these ... play

They have one of these ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


.. and they used it to make one of these. Really tasty, some of the best I've ever had. This is my new favorite Tesla Supercharger location.

.. and they used it to make one of these. Really tasty, some of the best I've ever had. This is my new favorite Tesla Supercharger location. play

.. and they used it to make one of these. Really tasty, some of the best I've ever had. This is my new favorite Tesla Supercharger location.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


I got myself fully fortified for the remainder of the trip ...

I got myself fully fortified for the remainder of the trip ... play

I got myself fully fortified for the remainder of the trip ...

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


... and so did the Model S. Yep, almost a full charge for what's left of the drive.

... and so did the Model S. Yep, almost a full charge for what's left of the drive. play

... and so did the Model S. Yep, almost a full charge for what's left of the drive.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)


Tesla makes it abundantly clear how charging its vehicles works. You can look it up ... in the car! We explored — unintentionally — three choices: 120V slow charging, destination partner charging at a faster rate, and Supercharging. My takeaway? ALWAYS START WITH A FULL CHARGE. And then plan to hit a partner charging spot or Supercharger along the way, with some margin for error — say, 50 miles of range.

Tesla makes it abundantly clear how charging its vehicles works. You can look it up ... in the car! We explored — unintentionally — three choices: 120V slow charging, destination partner charging at a faster rate, and Supercharging. My takeaway? ALWAYS START WITH A FULL CHARGE. And then plan to hit a partner charging spot or Supercharger along the way, with some margin for error — say, 50 miles of range. play

Tesla makes it abundantly clear how charging its vehicles works. You can look it up ... in the car! We explored — unintentionally — three choices: 120V slow charging, destination partner charging at a faster rate, and Supercharging. My takeaway? ALWAYS START WITH A FULL CHARGE. And then plan to hit a partner charging spot or Supercharger along the way, with some margin for error — say, 50 miles of range.

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)

This doesn't change with the Model 3, or for that matter ANY electric car. Since 2016, I've had the chance to try out the rival Chevy Bolt, which has about 200 miles of range per charge. The same general rules about planning ahead and keeping a nearly full charge in the battery apply.

In fact, the rules will apply to all EVs launched over the next few years. In this respect, Tesla has an advantage in that it's invested so much in the Supercharger network, which is coast to coast and enables Tesla owners to take long road trips to most locations without ever worrying that they'll run our of juice.



We made it home in style, and I returned the Tesla to its Brooklyn home. Let me just state for the record: IT WAS ALL MY FAULT THAT I RAN OUT OF JUICE. Tesla had abundant charging options all along my route, so there was really no excuse. Live and learn!

We made it home in style, and I returned the Tesla to its Brooklyn home. Let me just state for the record: IT WAS ALL MY FAULT THAT I RAN OUT OF JUICE. Tesla had abundant charging options all along my route, so there was really no excuse. Live and learn! play

We made it home in style, and I returned the Tesla to its Brooklyn home. Let me just state for the record: IT WAS ALL MY FAULT THAT I RAN OUT OF JUICE. Tesla had abundant charging options all along my route, so there was really no excuse. Live and learn!

(Matthew DeBord/Business Insider)