Howdy from the road! After a long several months of silence, academia struggs, hockey madness (go Blackhawks!), and solar car crunch time, I’m back! Straightaway after graduation, I headed out to North Carolina by Delta Airlines economy class to ride horses and see some family in Raleigh and then meet up with the solar car team in Mooresville. After Mooresville, I started back with the team on a road trip across the upper states of the US of A.
Thus begins the summer of Polaroids and solar car. I bought a Polaroid camera with some graduation money and, although I was initially teased by my teammates about it, eventually people came around to the idea of how AWESOME it is. Throughout the trip, my dad continued to message me with purposefully blurred photos of random things, claiming them to be “Polaroids,” to protest the low res images. This is your chance to decide for yourself!
It was cool to see Lauren, the Natural Horsemanship instructor I rode with last summer, at Red Hill Farm again. Her lifestyle was so different from the tech hullabaloo of the Silicon Valley. It was simpler, quieter, and homier, and it reminded me that I want that. A place where there’s still animals roaming across wide open land. The farm, the dog, cat, horse, the ’69 Corvette Stingray, and the big truck.
Raleigh was neat.
I had a Hyundai Accent rental set to an infuriating “Eco mode” setting that made the driving experience Super Lame. There was a button that appeared to function as an off switch, but I made my peace and left the Eco mode on because I think it was giving me most excellent fuel economy. The drive down to Mooresville was pleasant and I listened to country radio all the way down. Whenever I’d pass out of range of one country radio station, all I had to do was flick down a few channels to yet another country station.
I picked up Jamie and Aravind at the Charlotte airport. It was as if the rental car knew that it had suddenly become a part of the bruised and beaten solar car convoy and started making sketchy noises. At a stop sign, we heard a vague crunching sound from the bottom of the vehicle. Jamie theorized, after hearing the sound again later, that that was the sound of the Eco mode falling out.
We posted up at a luxurious Motel 6 and slowly the rest of the team trickled in at a very late hour. Before the others arrived, Jamie and I checked into the other rooms and littered one of the rooms with ads for WOODWORKERS NEEDED and CHRISTMAS TREE SALE that we had found in the motel lobby. We put the flyers all over the beds, wedged in the TV, in the window, in the shower, behind the toilet handle, and other assorted locations. Darren, Max, Tom, and David, upon entering their room, met the flyers with mild confusion and amusement. Unsure if the flyers in the window were ever removed.
The next morning at 6 am, I had my first Waffle House experience. My dad had warned me about how terrible Waffle House was, but I didn’t see how it could be that bad, and after painfully slow service and a decent waffle, I can safely say 5/10 would not do again. We had a long day at Aerodyn wind tunnel doing aero testing on the team’s latest car, ArcTan. Some people passed out and those who didn’t took pictures with the ones who did. After Aerodyn, we ate a dinner that made my heart hurt and it was overall a good time.
Since Logan’s family lives near the wind tunnel, so next day we headed to his house and had good food and relaxed by the community pool. I was starting to lose track of the days around that time. It was a good feeling.
Right after we took this photo, Jamie iced Max by approaching Max and saying “here can you hold my shorts,” which were clearly dirty and wrapped around a bottle. Despite Jamie’s lack of subtlety, Max obliged and entertained us all. Little did we know, this was the first of three icings to come…
We headed towards Kentucky by way of Tennessee, stopping just barely over the North Carolina border to get food. We were notified by a kindly lady sitting in the corner at Subway that “You’re in God’s country, now.” Anna T got some expensive fruit from a local vendor in front of Subway and we headed on our way.
I’d been to North Carolina and Tennessee before, but Kentucky was completely new. We stopped for the night at the home of the parents of old team lead Sasha. The Zbrozeks were super welcoming and we all got a hot shower and our own beds (wow!) They served us a fantastic brunch of pumpkin waffles, triangles filled with goodness, and other yummy stuff.
Pardon this interruption by an enthusiastic Hayden, on our visit: “The triangles were filled with radish greens and feta cheese, then you fold them up and put them on a baking sheet and sprinkle Parmesan cheese. Also eggplant bacon. Oh! Did you have the hibiscus iced tea? That was pretty good. They has all types of teas, like peppermint tea for your stomach, and sleeping tea. They had homemade sausages! No fillers or preservatives. just the good stuff. Maybe it’d be good to be retired. Have a little garden in your backyard, relax in life. I could do that.”
Hayden, following up: “My memory’s pretty bad.”
Before we left, Hayden put aerodynamic tassels on the Power Wagon, and we’re pretty sure we achieved laminar flow.
We touched Indiana, then crossed the Ohio River and stopped for gas and took a picture because I wanted to really remember my first time in Ohio. Then we crossed back into Indiana and I took a long nap and missed most of the state. That was okay, though, because I’d been to Indianapolis for work last summer. The highlight of the day was a pulled pork sandwich dinner packed for us by the Zbrozeks, and a Polaroid photo by a gas station Marlboro sign.
Once we reached the hotel, we iced Jamie and the team attempted to ice Hayden but he was too suspicious so Reed had to just hand Hayden the room temperature ice to get him to drink it. That night, Hayden and I worked on the unveiling flyer for ArcTan and Hayden made an alternate flyer as well. It is still unknown whether Hayden made the flyer before or after the ice.
We visited our sponsor, Christensen Fiberglass, and Hayden was supposed to hug Mr. Christensen when he met him but he didn’t and we were all disappointed. We saw the huge mill where they make the mold masters and then in the back we saw the ArcTan masters! Then we all went outside, workers and all, and I sat in the car as a demonstration but it was honestly more because it was fun for me.
We passed through Indiana yet again, and it was not nearly as exciting the third time around. We picked up a Chicago-style deep dish pizza in what Greg said was “Chicago, Indiana” because it was close enough. There was a huge debacle and the convoy got separated and it ended with Greg, Anna T, Hayden, and me pulling over next to a random empty flea market and eating pizza in the trailer with ArcTan because it was raining outside. That was cool. Then Hayden went outside and “peed on Chicago,” mostly because he was still upset that the Ducks lost, but also because he had to go to the bathroom.
Then Hayden and I fell asleep and when we woke up, everyone was mad. 😦 After a combination of navigation confusion and miscommunication worked itself out via the process of everyone just not wanting to talk about it, we made our way grumpily through Wisconsin. Eventually, things cooled off and trailer had a great time. Hayden made a couple more alternate flyers in his spare time.
Reed announced all of a sudden that he wanted to get in a fake fight with someone, and we all started yelling at each other until I screwed up the navigation and Hayden had to take over. During that time, I managed to put a sticker on Jamie’s back without him noticing.
When we all got out of the car in Minnesota, we were all pretty hyped up for no reason whatsoever. Jamie chased after a bunny and then Reed took my hat so I played tag with him to get it back and then Jamie wanted to play too but instead he ended up whacking my camera out of my hand and then the games were over.
We visited the University of Minnesota solar car team, which was definitely the highlight of the day. We showed each other our respective cars Jamie had the sticker on his back for entire visit and only after we left did Hayden notify him that it was there. We called a truce since he’d dropped my camera. Overall it was really cool to see a team that we will see next in AUSTRALIA. Whoa.
In the morning, we made our sponsor round at 3M. Hayden got really excited about the tape and 3M sent us home with a bunch of cool tape. We got to show and tell with a lot of employees and it was super neat. Then we packed up and headed out to South Dakota.
After a long nap, I woke up and discovered that after an egregious wrong turn, we had ended up in Iowa instead, and never made it to South Dakota.
I got a McDonald’s smoothie.
We stayed in a city called Ogallala and at the end of the day, half the crew was pretty sick and the other half was getting there. We created a leper room and a non-sick room and forbade all contact.
Come morning, I realized as I ate yet another waffle that I had eaten waffles five days in a row.
Wyoming was really beautiful. There were a lot of really peaceful windmills and I thought to myself, “I could have that in my backyard.”
We stayed the night on the border between Utah and Nevada. People were feeling better so some of the crew crossed the border into Nevada and lit up fireworks they’d purchased earlier in the day. In the morning, I saw the option of waffles and said NO MORE! Luckily, the motel had eggs for once. However, Jamie was apparently still okay with waffles and I got a great picture of him with these miniature waffles!
Onward we drove, feeling California so near. Unfortunately, turns out that the states get bigger as you head West, so things slowed down a bit. Nevada was mostly desert, with the exception of a cool mountain pass at the end, and we followed the I80 into California.
We made it home!
Highlights of the Trip