Drive-in at Tesla Science Center: Round 1
By: Stephen Pallotta
Before I proceed to provide my account of what was a very memorable experience, I need to publicly thank eight people, seven of which without this event would literally not have been able to happen: Carson Gallo, Gabe Tatay, Nicholas Palumbo, Jim & Heather Ferreteers, Jonathan Williams, and Keith Spiro. Even though he wasn’t able to make it out, I need to especially thank Luis Alicea. Luis was on his way over to volunteer for the morning shift, but got into a fender bender, I believe he deserves appreciation on another level for that.
I’d like to start off this blog by discussing how this all came into fruition, and trust me... it wasn't just press play and sit back. The best way to do this is to go in a chronological order from my drive leaving Albany on Saturday morning to my departure from Spiro’s house on Sunday morning (Keith, thank you so much for opening up the doors to your home for me, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it). There was also a substantial amount of prior planning and coordination that the Tesla Science Center engaged in, I don’t want to leave out their contributions and hard work.
Although I normally keep my car plugged into a wall outlet in the garage, we just had our driveway resurfaced, which meant that the car had to be on the street or at some other location. Since I was going to be taking a ~220 mile trip out to the island, I figured I might as well go plug it into a local free ChargePoint charger overnight so I can leave with a full charge the next day. I had my dad drive me over to the charger around 7:30 am Saturday morning, and I began my trip from Albany to the Tesla Science Center.
Thankfully my drive was mostly uneventful, I did however run into a fairly intoxicated individual at the Islandia Supercharger around 11:20 am. They kept trying to convince me that if I added an alternator with the step-up transformer package… I would never need to charge my car again… Elon… if you’re listening... you clearly need to hire this person. While charging I ran into the supermarket to use the restroom, get some water, and purchase a Father’s day card (all while being super paranoid about the individual outside bashing in my car). When I returned, I was very relieved to find out there was no damage done to Elixir, however… guess who came up to me again trying to tell me how I can drive my car forever without having to charge it…
I kid you not, I pull up to the Tesla Science Center exactly at 12:00pm, which is the time we planned to all arrive. When I pulled through the gate, Carson and Gabe were parked under the shade of a few trees waiting (where I can only imagine Nikola used to sit while sketching up designs for his inventions).
Gabe and I went for a walk around the grounds where we visited: the laboratory where Nikola worked, the exact spot where the tower once stood, and the statue out in the front to honor him (which was miraculously void of any presents left by pigeons, they must have passed down the message from generation to generation). Later that afternoon, Carson was able to show me the brick that Elon Musk donated, we also tried to figure out where those superchargers he promised would end up going ;)
When Gabe and I got back from our short walk, Jim & Heather arrived, we all met up with Debbi and Doug who supplied us with a great lunch and the tools to start going. Debbi also showed us some of the old photos of the location and gave us a little history lesson. It turns out that the previous land owners dumped a bunch of photo processing chemicals into the ground ( and in the secret tunnels ) which ended up turning the land into an environmental remediation center.
While eating lunch we started our planning: the location for the screen (which was actually double-sided and was originally expected to go in the middle of the lot), where the spots would go based on the number of current reservations, how cars should enter and leave, locations for trash receptacles, and anything and everything else. Once agreements were established and plans were drawn, we got to it! With some sprayable chalk, measuring tape, and some backbreaking labor on a hot summer’s day, we earned our certificates in Civil Engineering!
Around 4:00pm we had finally finished everything that we were capable of doing, and the company that was hired to set up the screen wasn't planning to arrive around 7:00pm, so we had some time to relax. 6:30 pm came around and I was feeling pretty famished, so Carson and I went out in his Model X to go pick up some food (I ended up ordering from the Greek Island Diner… some of the best stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had).
Ok… we’ve now reached the point in the story that I hope I never have to go through again... Shortly after we returned, the screen crew arrived and we showed them our plans and where the screen would get set up. One of the gentlemen was scooping up some grass and dirt off the ground and throwing it into the air. At first I thought he was just really bored and was trying to find a way to entertain himself… turns out he was checking for wind direction and speed. His coworkers noticed what he was doing, and it was at this point I began to worry.
The crew informed us that due to the height of the screen, and the current wind, there could be a possibility of a disaster if the wind speed were to pick up. What this translates to is, “remember those 4 hours you spent baking away in the sun, yeahhh…. well..…” Ok, so maybe those weren’t their exact words, but that’s pretty much what it felt like. So at this point, we had to quickly come up with a new plan, and also at this point… attendees with premium reservations were beginning to line up…
In a last second decision, the screen was placed in the corner of the lot where we wouldn’t have to worry about the wind being too strong, better safe than sorry. Oh and spoiler alert, the wind ended up completely dying down from the time the screen was set up to the end of the night. With the help of the volunteers as well as the staff from the movie screen company, we began to guide cars into the lot. We decided to go with a fan-shaped design for parking the cars, it worked out well even though it was never one of our initial proposals back when we first started our planning.
Once the movie was over, around 11:00 pm, we were able to guide everyone out and begin the teardown process. The front gate must have been on an automatic timer, because at one point while folks were leaving, it started to close. This made the person who was starting to drive out stop, which made a giant line start to form behind them. I ran around frantically looking for Doug, who just calmly let me know that all they had to do was pull up a little more…. oy vey… I swear I’m a somewhat peaceful person to be around. Once just about everyone was off the grounds, I began my one hour drive over to Keith’s house where he would let me stay for the night.
Somehow just about everything worked out that night, but it truly wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of those who helped volunteer. We learned a lot that night, and truthfully, I’m somewhat glad that we were thrown into a storm, sometimes that’s the best way to learn something. If you made it to the end, I have a gift for you… I’ll see you all on July 11th once again.
- Stephen Pallotta