Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Our First Tesla Road Trip

Yes, we bought a Tesla Model 3! This is our first-ever all-electric car, and we've wanted it for a long time. (Big thanks to our friends A and S for getting us a sweet referral code after they bought a Model 3, too!) So what better way to break in our shiny new car than with a home leave road trip?

We drove over 2,000 miles in two weeks from Virginia to Illinois (to visit my bestie S, who visited me in Kenya) and back. We typically charged our car for free at hotels and other places we visited. The total amount we spent on charging at superchargers when we needed to in order to cover that whole 2,445 miles was just $55. (Compare that to the $200 we probably would have spent on gas!)

We made a lot of stops, so I'll keep the recap of each one brief so this post doesn't get too long. The highlights are listed by city below:

Pittsburgh, PA

The Heinz History Center was hands-down our favorite part of Pittsburgh. It had displays on Heinz ketchup (which were very expected) and exhibits on random things like the history of the Vietnam War (way less expected). They even have a special collection for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, including the set and props from the show! It was so cool.

Cleveland, OH

Obviously, the main attraction in Cleveland was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We learned a lot, such as the fact that rock music is defined pretty broadly and you can only be inducted into the hall of fame 25 years after your first album is released. We also coincidentally happened to visit during the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, so they had a special exhibit where uptight folks like us could gain new insights into festival and hippie culture. I would recommend anyone plan to spend at least half a day there to appreciate more fully the vast collections celebrating legendary artists, classic and new. (I was particularly excited to see Lady Gaga's outfit from her "Bad Romance" music video on display.)

Detroit, MI

In Detroit, our main stop was the Motown Museum in the same building where Berry Gordy cultivated the Motown sound enjoyed around the world from the 1960s to today. We even got to see the recording studio where legends like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Temptations, the Jackson 5*, and Stevie Wonder made magic happen. We also learned how Motown music became such a powerful force for social change and desegregation in the arts and ultimately general society. It was hard not to sing and dance along to the great soundtrack playing there the whole time!

Chicago, IL

We made it to Chicago and finally saw S! She and I enjoyed a super fancy ladies' night out at Smyth, which was my first time eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant. (Trust me, that experience is going to get its own blog post later.) M and I did some sightseeing the next day, and then we met up with S to see Hamilton. Y'all. Hamilton definitely lived up to the hype. It was expensive, but we thought it was worth every penny. It combined the best of musical theater, rap, hip-hop, and history. It was unforgettable.

M and I also spent a freakishly long time at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). We have been to a lot of museums all over the world, but MSI was truly a standout--one of the best we've ever experienced. The exhibits were very interactive and interesting for pretty much all ages. Just check out this Tesla coil in action, for example:

Cincinnati, OH

We spent our time in Cincinnati at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center, an institution devoted to educating the public about slavery and fighting it in all its modern-day forms. The real stories in there were heartbreaking, but it gave us a lot of hope to hear about the incredible rescue efforts under way around the world to help victims break out of slavery and start a new life.

Louisville, KY

The main attractions in Louisville were definitely the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center. At the Kentucky Derby Museum, we enjoyed the exhibit of over-the-top hats people wear to the Derby and the tour, which included walking out to the racecourse and learning more about the amazing history of horse racing in the United States. At the Muhammad Ali Center, we learned more about the life, career, and activism of this extraordinary boxer and philanthropist (and I will admit I totally had a celebrity crush on him when I was younger).

Nashville, TN

Nashville was such a cool city! Of course, we had to spend some time at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which did a fantastic job of balancing history and present-day trends. Next to classical, country was probably the genre of music I most grew up with living on the rural edge of suburban Virginia, so it was a nice trip down memory lane. (Also, I saw that dress Taylor Swift wore in her "Love Story" music video! Wow!)

Greensboro/Chapel Hill, NC

We hung out with M's family and met up with B, one of my best friends from college! We didn't do much sightseeing in North Carolina, since we were just there to meet up with people, but we did drive through the breathtaking Great Smoky Mountains on the way over from Tennessee.

Charlottesville, VA

We spent most of our time in Charlottesville catching up with my first-ever boss and one of my favorite professors. (Definitely stay in touch with your favorite teachers and mentors later on in life, y'all! It's so fun and enriching for everyone involved.) We also visited some of the places I spent a lot of time in as an undergraduate at UVA, including Rev Soup (a soup-focused restaurant with some socialism-inspired flair that can even be enjoyed be capitalists like us) and the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar (a tea house with a hippie vibe). We also tried MarieBette, an adorable French cafe that definitely didn't exist when I was there. It's now right up there with Paradox Pastry on my list of favorite places in Charlottesville! We also strolled the Downtown Mall to see what had changed and what had stayed the same. I was surprised to see an alley with so many chalk messages of love and peace, and then I realized it was a beautiful memorial to Heather Heyer. I loved how the walls both mourned her loss and celebrated the values she stood for when she was murdered by a white supremacist two years ago. May she rest in peace.

Home Sweet Home, VA

So we had a whirlwind two weeks that was fun but exhausting. I'm so proud of myself for staying awake in the car the whole time we were driving between cities (a total travel time of 48 hours). I've never been able to pull that off on a road trip before. (Special shout out to the NPR Invisibilia podcast for helping with that!) Anyway, we can say that just a few weeks in we really felt like we've "broken in" the Tesla, and we're loving every minute of it. We both highly recommend the Model 3 (and two-week American road trips in general).

*Neither the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland nor the Motown Museum in Detroit seemed to even hint at child sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, even though he was prominently celebrated in photos and exhibits and these accusations had already re-emerged as major news in 2019 as a result of the Leaving Neverland film.

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