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Friday, August 22, 2014

High Horsepower Cleveland Day Trip

It's funny how the planning pendulum swings.   As a pre-kid hip young couple you do everything on a whim-- but then the kids arrive and ruin that.  Now you're planning around naps, eschewing long distance anything and schlepping tons of paraphernalia (items vast in their array of complexity and use), all of which conspire to keep you closer to home.  The trips you do take are planned with military precision and coordinated attacks with other similarly constrained family units.  Ah, but the kids... you feed them = they grow!
  Suddenly the kids are the ones asking to go places.  They pack their own stuff and eagerly leap into the car ready to depart-- with all their mishmash of backpacks still safely in the house.
Well... it is progress?   Whatever it is, we'll take it!  Off we go!

Ha!  As if it were that easy.  We've long bristled at the idea of over scheduled kids but even with just "normal" activities the schedules between 2 kids of opposite gender and separated by a Presidential term can get very complex.  They have NOTHING in common as far the calendar is concerned.

With Summer slipping away we decided on a Friday night to connect with my wife's college roommate and see if... say... tomorrow they were busy?  Yep, tomorrow morning?  Cool.   And just like that we had a day trip planned from the wonderful and beautiful city of Pittsburgh to...  Cleveland.

I'm kidding... I'm kidding.  I'm sure Cleveland has nice parts too.  Okay... okay...

When I came home from work Friday night I plugged Serena in for a scheduled charge to end around our expected departure time.  Our friends live just South (to our side) of downtown about 10 miles north of the Tesla Supercharger in Macedonia, OH.  This trip would be a complete no-brainer in terms of charging.

The question became:  could we charge TOO much?   The route one-way was about 100 miles, add in some demo hooning (possibly) and other local trips, plus the return trip... and a full range charge would be plenty.  But c'mon!  Supercharger ON THE WAY!  It would be a great photo op if nothing else and we have to eat dinner anyway.  Even knowing that a fuller battery would Supercharge more slowly, I opted to charge Serena up to about a tick over the daily amount and we woke up to about 250 miles ready to go.
We arrived at our friends' house with no drama other than (STILL) waving our big ancient EZPass through the open sunroof.   The windshield coating on the Model S leaves only a small area by the rearview mirror that is transparent for the RFID tags the transponders use...  and I have cleverly mounted my dash cam there instead.   I really have to look into getting the newer, smaller units.   Anyway, the lead picture on this post was taken in their circular driveway which I am jealous of despite dropping one of Serena's wheels off EACH TIME we went around it.  Wide car, wide car, wide car....

The family there is very involved in horse riding, which was a huge attraction for my horse-crazy little girl.  We try to be supportive of our kids' interests but draw the line well short of owning horses-- for a number of reasons-- but this family has been blessed enough to not make the same choices.  A field trip to the stable where their horses are was a welcome side trip!
I'm not turning this into a horse blog--honest!-- but here are a couple of horse pictures to justify the title.  The big white horse here belongs to my wife's college roommate (the rider in the picture is an employee at the stable).  Horses can often be very intimidating and this horse is part draft horse and quite large.  I'm fascinated by how imposing and massive these animals are and kept asking their weights-- worst first date ever??  This horse was somewhere around 1800 pounds.  Just amazing and beautiful.
We spent quite a bit of time around the stables so my daughter could have some saddle time.  She learned some of the care and configuring that goes into getting a horse ready for a ride-- something new to all of us-- and our friends' daughter was an excellent teacher.  They have a smaller horse-- a pony technically-- that was a better size for my daughter to ride.   She still had to walk up a flight of stairs to get up on this 1500 pound pony though!  Wide grins, big smiles and a resolution that we'd have to try and find local trail ride opportunities sometime.  Something with a lower price point than owning a horse outright.  

The rest of the day we spend having a picnic lunch at a nearby park and enjoying the weather.  I rode their sons back to their house in the Tesla and gave them some prudently chosen moments to get a taste of the electric drivetrain's capabilities.  They were impressed with the big screen and I was getting a lot of grins in my rear view mirror every time a traffic light changed to the "fun" color.  Appropriately, they boys spent the rest of the afternoon launching rockets in the back yard while the rest of us talked.   The girls were off painting various parts of their body different colors... something about polishes that change color in sunlight.  My gender precludes me from understanding it better than that.

Leaving our friends behind, we headed straight to the Macedonia Supercharger and (we thought) a dinner stop.  The Supercharger is located in a typical suburban plaza with lots of sprawl nearby.  No other Teslas were around so we plugged in off to one side and surveyed our dining options.  Immediately behind the Supercharger is a Steak n' Shake but we were trying to avoid fast food.  The Outback Steakhouse was in view but the wait was long.  Jersey Mike's Subs weren't good for our gluten free folks and the Japanese Hibachi place near the Walmart was pricier than we wanted.  It occurred to me that we could walk back to Serena and ask the navigation system where a specific restaurant was... DOH!

As we sat in the car to see what we could dig up, I noticed a silver Mercedes whizzing past us-- in reverse!  It was weird behavior in such a wide open parking lot, but when he turned our direction the intent became clear.   I walked over to see if he needed directions or something and it turned out that he was a longtime TSLA stock owner and ours was the first car he'd ever seen!  He had lots of questions and pretty much my answer to all of them was:  "BUY THE CAR."   My dashcam has the audio turned off (for legal reasons in my state) but you can see how this all looked from the car:
I sure hope he trades that Mercedes in on a nice Model S.  If you ever find this post, Mr. Ward, please let me know how you're enjoying your new Tesla!

Back in the car, we searched for "Food" and found the next plaza over had all SORTS of more interesting options.... so we decided to go to Chipotle.  Arriving there, they had a big sign out "No Lettuce".  REALLY??  Ugh.  Pass.

While leaving the plaza where the Macedonia Supercharger is, my son pointed out that this SUV crossed in front of us with grins and thumbs up pumping.   I completely missed it at the time... but I think you can make out some of the enthusiasm in the video clip:
Still hungry we decided to just hit the road and start working our way back to Pittsburgh.  Apparently we could search for "Food" and "Restaurants" on the nav screen as we went to get all the local eateries as cruised along, so we would hold out for someplace that actually stocked the food they claimed to sell.  It was at this point I realized that Mr. Ward had called me out of the car as I was getting my camera for that photo op at the Supercharger.  Uh...no Supercharger pic!  Oh well, so much for that; not going back!

We'd been going for a while when I noticed the distinctive DRLs of a Model S way off behind us.  I'm guessing our cruise controls were set within 1mph of each other because it took them FOREVER to close the gap.  Not that I'm complaining-- with the sun setting behind, it was a wonderful view.
As they passed in slow motion we exchanged waves, smiles and thumbs up.  Their car was a glorious green like my friend Jake's and the PA plate read "WATT UP".   I'm pretty sure they're actually from a few miles away from our house as I'm sure someone I know mentioned seeing such a car.  
Here's a clip from the dashcam as they went by.  After they were a little ahead of us I tried to adjust my cruise control to match their speed (why not enjoy the view?) but I think maybe they weren't on cruise control after all.

After 20 minutes or so we ran another search "Where is food?" and weirdly the navigation continued to show us restaurants from where we'd first run that search-- miles behind us now.   I haven't thought to try it again here at home, but apparently my supposedly clever and sophisticated search technique has some serious limitations.

Eventually we found ourselves at an Eat n' Park restaurant somewhere in Ohio.   I think we were just below Boardman, OH, but really... I have no idea.  We picked a random exit and started hungrily wandering around... a product of having too much range left, I guess.  We'd wanted to eat somewhere interesting but instead were at another chain.  <sigh>  Exploration Fail.  Lesson to be learned here is EAT AT THE MACEDONIA SUPERCHARGER.  If you are heading Eastbound and don't eat while charging in Macedonia, your next potential (realistically speaking) food stop won't be until you're at the Supercharger in Cranberry, PA.
Coming out after dinner I noticed a motorcycle parked suspiciously close to Serena.  I had her well away from the busy spots but for some reason a biker had parked up beside her.   As we approached I noticed the rider on an intercept course from a store beside us.  He caught my eye and immediately said, nodding towards the car "Any regrets?"   What a setup!

We dove into conversation and it turns out he has test driven the cars several times but as a single guy was struggling with the idea of a 4 door hatchback body style.  I'm sure the presence of my family whooping it up inside the car and smudging up the screen as we talked did little so calm his fears of settling down.  It was clear he'd done at least one lap around the car in our absence as he asked detailed questions about the tires, colors and other options...  then I noticed his motorcycle.

It that a ZERO??   Suddenly the tables were turned.  I had only read about them prior to this and here on a back road in Ohio was a Zero.  It's an electric motorcycle with crazy performance and a range of over 100 miles.  Also made in America.  Also dead silent and high tech.  The parallels with Tesla are uncanny.

They're really "the Tesla of motorcycles" if you think about it.  Also a proud electric product from California with a mission to change their niche in the industry.  If you can't afford a Tesla or need a different kind of silent thrill, you should definitely look into www.zeromotorcycles.com.

I asked him about his experiences with it and how he liked it-- basically all the questions he had just asked me about the Tesla!  His other bike is a Ducati but he never rides it anymore.   The Zero has no hot engine, no vibration, no sound and when he rides he says the experience is closer to flying like a bird than anything else-- silently blasting through the countryside with only the wind buffeting.  Wow.  I'm scared to death I would like riding motorcycles.. to my death, which is why I can't get one.   But I love riding my bicycle because it also has no heat, no vibration and is silent.  A Zero would be like biking on super steroids.

As we prepared to part ways after 10 minutes or so of eagerly explaining our rides to each other, I insisted he go first.  He climbed on his bike.. no starter or anything... then just disappeared.  No sound.   A moment later he reappeared on the main road below, accelerating hard up to speed in what seemed to be an action movie on mute or a special effect of some kind.  Surely he's just CGI, I thought, watching him silently vanish into the night.
Just shy of our home, Serena quietly rolled over 5000 miles.   4987 of which we'd driven, since she'd arrived with 13 already on the clock.  It's hard not to smile admiringly at a machine so perfectly attuned to its task.  Well done, Mr. Musk.  I seem to think that do myself every night when plugging her in, grateful for having been so securely delivered back to my home again by a car so much better than anything else I've ever seen... and blessed by the opportunity to own it.  Well done, indeed sir.

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