“A Man, A Plan, A Canal . . . LOCKPORT!”
By: John P. Weiksnar
Part of the fun of being a kid in the ’70s was the tradition of piling into the family car for a random Sunday drive. Sure, it was invariably an Olds Cutlass wagon and never an EV (though the first one I ever saw in person was a Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar during one of those rides that took place on, believe it or don’t, July 4, 1976).
But I digress. Those often rural, sometimes urban rides made for some great memories.
Even with billows of just-barely-catalytic-converter-era exhaust fumes.
I’ll admit, I don’t know if we ever targeted Lockport on those rides. I’m guessing we must have.
Either way, this place in Niagara County ended up being the logical destination for the Niagara Frontier section’s inaugural group drive on Saturday, June 13. Our group would easily be the greatest number of EVs ever in this underrepresented city at one time.
Combine a mild, crystal clear morning with twenty, count ’em, twenty Teslas at the Buffalo Supercharger in Clarence and you’ll have an idea of how this historic event kicked off. This first in-person monthly meetup since March had full face mask compliance and a mix of owners from as far as the Capital region, Southern Ontario and all across WNY . . . including a big turnout of Finger Lakes region members. It appears we had a total of 31 souls taking the ride, from kids to folks up to 90.
The stunner: no one at all voted for the direct, 14-mile route straight up RT-78, or even the 19-odd miles of back roads that was dubbed “Route A.” Nope. It was a unanimous choice of “Route B” as the longer, 29-mile alternate.
By a few minutes past 10:30, all of us aside from one Model S P100D that was there only to charge queued up and followed Yours Truly, solo in “Zappa” the Model 3. Our nineteen total vehicles (Model 3, S and X) barely eked out a lead over the previous month’s successful Finger Lakes region social distancing drive to Canandaigua. At least at the start!
After a sprint up Transit, we took the first exit to RT-324/Sheridan Drive and then the first left on Ledge Lane—easily the most slalom-like road in the region, and a great way to warm up everyone’s tires for the rest of the trek.
Next, it was due east. We made it to Salt Road and the edge of the suburbs. The bulk of the ride would be rural, with wide-open views, farm-fresh scents, and not enough traffic to impact the convoy too much. I made just a couple of stops to let the accordioning work itself out.
We wound our way through Sand Hill, Shooktown, and eventually to the edge of Lockport. Part of the goal was to highlight the urban fabric via Locust Avenue, where one of our Key Members later said he got a whiff of a most delicious aroma from one of the corner delis.
Part of that same stretch of Locust was recently milled, and the daughter of one of our TOCNYS Divas later remarked to her dad that they had been “4 wheeling” on that leg of the trip!
The approach into the city center of Lockport at 1 Locks Plaza gave us the chance to populate their 22-space lot (two dedicated to a ChargePoint station) with 17 Teslas. Apparently one didn’t arrive on time, and another showed up and soon left.
All in all, a rousing success. We did have one loyal member meet a State Trooper—that’s right, he got pulled over—but only for a minor wellness check since the Trooper had seen him stop on the shoulder of a road, twice, to let a trailing Tesla catch up. Now that’s teamwork!
The group kept up some spirited conversations, we were coal-rolled and snickered at only a couple of times, and more than a few members took the opportunity to gaze down at the Erie Canal locks or else grab a coffee or ice cream at locally owned establishments nearby. A win-win for all. Add one more win for the “future owners” who stopped to ask questions, and even a random Model 3 that drove past the last few stragglers and saluted.
One lesson learned: make sure you have Full Self Driving if, like me, this was a maiden voyage through not quite familiar territory. FSD was driving most of the time while I dealt with the Google Maps Go app to guide us from one turn to the next. Since Tesla’s nav doesn’t yet support waypoints, that meant setting no more than eight “destinations” between the start and finish. Then the voice navigation from the app would more or less guide you to the next one, even if there were intermediate turns. I was hoping that “A Better Routeplanner” might have indeed been better but Google Maps Go seems to lead.
Thank you to all TOCNYS participants and guests for making this a smooth and memorable kickoff to the summer season. We already have a few follow-up group drives in the works, so please stay tuned.
Last, I dedicate this event to the memory of my late father, who never needed FSD or an app. He arrived at his final destination two years to the day of this trip, but I’m sure would have been overjoyed to see the parade of participants in this historic drive.
Photo By; David Perez
Video by Eric Milligan.