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Getting Electrified - How I Talked Myself Into a Tesla

After about 8 months on this forum I finally have a major milestone to celebrate and I thought I'd take of my "waiting time" to explain how I got here. Perhaps my experience will resonate with some of you and maybe convince others to think outside the traditional boxes of what to buy for their next family vehicle.

I've been aware of Tesla for years now. Like many of you, the roadster caught my eye with its unique approach to renovating a Lotus Elise. I also winced during the infamous stint on Top Gear! The fact that the roadster had a usable range was intriguing but also irrelevant. I'd already committed myself to marriage, fatherhood, and a life of of backseats.

When the Model S was announced I was only peripherally aware. A car enthusiast since birth, I relied on traditional automotive sources to keep on top of all the latest and greatest gear. The magazines and blogs only casually mentioned the MS-- if at all-- and it didn't make much of an impression on me. We've all seen clever concept cars come and go and the MS was simply too good looking to become a production model, keep its performance promises, and still be attainable to middle class news drone like myself.

I remember seeing announcements about Tesla buying the NUMMI factory and I remember even seeing news of the MS' first deliveries finally happening. Remember though, my media sources we're enthusiastic about Tesla and my general impression from their coverage was that these were mere luxury toys and the company probably was unable to mass produce them. Hollywood would get another bauble to show off but otherwise, nothing to see here... carry on.

In June last year (2013) we decided to do a good old fashioned road trip with our two kids. We would spend half a week in Chicago, then catch a couple sites in Indianapolis, visit the Columbus Zoo, and return home to Pittsburgh. On the first day of the trip, while driving west somewhere in Ohio, I saw a semi-car-carrier fully loaded with Teslas flash by going the other way. While still processing what I'd seen... a few minutes later, ANOTHER one went by. Suddenly it began to dawn on me that dozens of these fabled Teslas had just passed me by and-- even more interesting-- they were headed BACK towards our house. So they DID exist! Not only did they exist, but apparently in large enough numbers that they were trucking them all the way from California. Hmm...

Our time in Chicago was awesome. The kids enjoyed the sights and sounds a big city and we stayed right in the downtown area so we did a lot of walking to restaurants and such. On the second night we were there, I saw this white Tesla on the street. I knew what it was... but seeing it on a car carrier didn't really give a sense of scale or presence-- THIS was right in front of me and it looked gorgeous. Fascinated, my eyes were scanning the streets everywhere we went and my brain was on red alert.


The next night we went out for pizza. Walking to the restaurant we happened upon a parked black MS. It was super clean and reflected the lights of the city back at up from all over. I didn't get close enough to see inside but I remember being struck by how curvaceous the MS is, accentuated by the pinpricks of reflected building lights all over the car's flanks. Those were the only two Teslas I REMEMBERED seeing. When I got home and started to sort through all the pictures, I found the one you see below. I never saw that car while we were there.... probably because I didn't hear it!


The fish hook was firmly set in my mouth by the time we returned to Pittsburgh. These cars had been out long enough that I knew SOMEWHERE on the vast confines of the internet, surely, there was a forum where owner's and enthusiasts had gathered. I quickly found Tesla Motors Club - Enthusiasts & Owners Forum and consumed information and anecdotes like the Donner party rolling up on a Cracker Barrel. I wasn't caught yet, but I was doing a lot of intense web searching and was utterly crestfallen to see that there was no Tesla presence anywhere near me. It wasn't surprising, but I resigned myself that despite all the incredible information I was reading, Tesla was still too exotic and rare to be on the near-term radar of a Pittsburgher.

July brought about the usual Summer time travel and road trips. One of these was to the Washington, DC area where my cousin was getting married. We had a whirlwind weekend planned full of family get-togethers, wedding festivities, and a couple museum visits thrown in for good measure. While researching the best route for our drive down and programming our GPS for the various wedding venues and such (I was extremely proud of myself for setting that all up in advance!) I found myself, once again, scrolling through Tesla forums and newly posted reviews. On a fluke, I checked the Tesla map... and found that we would be within striking distance of a Gallery. I scribbled the address on a piece of paper and self-consciously packed it for the trip. I didn't even mention it to my wife because it seemed so silly. Who drives that far to go to a car dealer for a car they can't buy??

After a day or two in Virginia (staying near Dulles Airport), I gingerly admitted my desire to -- if there was extra time, of course-- try and see one of these "Teslas". I further tried to sell the idea of making time for it by pointing out that there was a Lego store in the same mall-- We have a big Lego presence in our household (Bricksburgh.com). Sunday morning before everyone left town we were expected at a last call family brunch at my Aunt/Uncle's house (it was their daughter who'd wed the prior day). First we'd have to checkout of the hotel and then make the drive over for brunch. I can't remember the exact details but the GPS said the Tyson's Corner Mall was something like 25 minutes' drive away and formed a triangle with where we were supposed to be... and we had something like 75 minutes "free time" after checking out. It would be close. 20 minutes on site to park, find the store in a huge mall, see the car, see the Lego Store (because I promised), and get back on the road to brunch like nothing happened. I knew when we pulled out it was unlikely... but I was too close to seeing a Tesla to vocalize my concerns!

We hit that mall like Seal Team 6-- target acquisition was swift and we were off! Fortunately the Lego Store was on the way to the Tesla Gallery so we split up. Walking into the Gallery was exciting. A gorgeous red Model S sat at the entrance and another one (black, I think) was tucked in the back of the space with the "skateboard" in the middle. Wow. Dear Tyson's Corner Mall, thank you for making my day, Sincerely, Me. My wife and I crawled all around the two cars and I was utterly shocked to see how sturdily built they were. I was expecting a fair amount of cardboard and plastic (consistent with the kit cars and startups) and what I found was more akin to proper European sports sedans. The main screen was mesmerizing and even flashier in the relative dim indoor lighting. Unfamiliar with the controls, we opened and closed the panoramic roof enough times to get a raised eyebrow from the Tesla representative. We asked a few questions and then collected the kids and got back on schedule.

Needless to say, we were late to brunch. Not much. But enough to be noticed. I could scarcely keep my mind on the tasks and conversations at hand. I was still trying to process these amazing cars that seemed to have appeared out of thin air. I recall even mentioning to my relatives that if I lived in a city with a Tesla presence... it wouldn't take long for one to end up in my garage! Driving back to Pittsburgh later that day, I effectively wore out my wife's abilities to talk Tesla for the first time. It would not be the last.

Back home again with a renewed sense of zeal, I plunged into Tesla research. Having seen the cars on the street, having explored one in a gallery, having read all there was to read about them, I now needed to ride in one and talk to an owner. I ran a few searches and found an owner nearby... almost too close/too good to be true. A couple miles away.
I sent JakeP a message through the TMC private email and-- trying not to sound too much like a crazy stalker-- asked him about his local experiences owning an early Model S. Turns out we had a lot more in common than the car (and a lot NOT in common-- but that just keeps things interesting!) and we agreed to try and meet in person soon.

A couple weeks later Jake called my house and offered to swing by so we could see the car and talk in person. My wife took the call and afterwards met me stumbling out of the woods behind our house where I had been working (dirty, sweaty, tired). With QUITE short notice and little time to make a good first impression on appearances alone, we met Jake in our driveway and jumped right into familiar conversation. (If you look closely you can see my daughter's driveway-chalked greeting to Jake.)

Jake insisted I drive the car to really get the full experience. I insisted that I would not. We reached a compromise that he'd demonstrate a few nuances on a short drive our and I would drive back. The first "launch" came quickly and that was that. There would be no going back! All my research and pondering was answered. If Jake could alleviate my concerns regarding the day to day viability of the car and I could make peace with the price, we would have a Tesla soon. Then the time came for me to drive. With some firm prodding from Jake, I pounced on the throttle for myself for the first time. My mind went blank and I think I temporarily forgot my name. Oh. My.

It's a trite expression, but apt in this context... My friendship with Jake "blossomed" from that day and we began to have regular emails, chats on Facebook, and coffee shop runs. Conversations were liberally sprinkled with Tesla talk, to be sure, but even the world's best car can't be the only glue to a friendship and we found many points of common ground and-- I like to think-- entertain each other with our company. I'll admit I've developed a deep fondness for teasing Jake about how clean his car is and how crazy he is to let strangers anywhere near it. He is the consummate ambassador for the brand and Tesla is built upon personable and charming owners like Jake. Overwhelmed with his generosity, I wrote an open letter to him and those of you like him: H-T-to-the-Envoys-of-the-Brand

Since my first encounter with Tesla there were still two major shortcomings I was wrestling with. Surprisingly to some, the cost was never one of them directly. Sure, the price is high, but the potential for long-term savings was there to offset it. I'd long made peace with that: Permanent-Car

My remaining concerns were a lot harder to address. Winter driving is a strong component of my work life. Due to the off-hours I work, I'm frequently spending cold snowy nights driving home long after the snow plows have bedded down for the night. I'd committed mentally to only buy AWD vehicles (we are on our second Subaru already and they are absolutel snow tanks) and the Model S did not have that-- nor was it likely too. At the time there were few accounts of how the car did in real world inclement weather because the majority of owners had not yet owned the car through winter yet! Figuring it was a no-lose move to make, we put a deposit down on a Model X (number 6005) and waited to see how the growing fleet of Model S would fare in the upcoming winter.

Knowing Tesla was new to large-scale production and doing something completely new, my final concern was getting the car repaired. Pittsburgh did not (and still does not) have any official Tesla presence of any kind. No store. No gallery. No service center. Taking on a car I wasn't sure how I'd get serviced, or how quickly (more importantly)-- I couldn't quite make peace with that.

October order


alice tesla grin

tesla cancelled order- obscured.jpg

pericarditis = heart broken!

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plate frame curse



january somerset supercharger





march events


april cranberry supercharger


Your order has been confirmed - newscutter@gmail.com - Gmail - Google Chrome 432014 80443 AM.bmp.jpg

"sourcing parts" wheel pic, mats, sign
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