Solar Birthday

People remembered my birthday this time! #goals, I guess. Gillian put up a banner that I appreciated and gave me a birthday pin to wear. The birthday pin got me a couple “happy birthdays” from strangers but then in the chaos of convoy driving, I lost it. I really felt bad because I think it was meant to be passed on to Maggie, whose birthday would be two days following mine.

morning set up

For my birthday, the convoy began our three days of speed runs for the strategy model. Fun! Kate got the first solar car shift and along with it the 50 and 60 kph speed runs. Those were real slow. She endured 5 hours in the solar car as we slowly made our way from Coober Pedy to Marla.

We ended Kate’s shift at the Marla airstrip, where I hopped in to do some dynamic testing. World Solar Challenge requires that you be able to execute a figure-8 maneuver of certain dimensions within a certain time limit, so we wanted to validate that we could do this within the allocated time. Unfortunately, the surface was super gravelly so the solar car tires very easily lost traction. Fortunately, Hayden and I had set aside tires that we could destructively test on such an occasion, so no harm was done to race tires. We established that we could very likely pass the test if the pavement was better than terrible, but that we would not be able to pass it here.

Hayden: “It’s like our tires were a hard cheese like parmesan and the road was a cheese grater.”

I also did a 50 kph braking test on the airstrip, since that is also tested at scrutineering. We very easily passed the test, even though the brakes locked the tires and the gravel just completely demolished both front tires in one swift blowout. Though it was never my intention to destroy tires wantonly, I must admit that the testing was pretty well timed with my birthday. Sundae also granted me the gift of limit understeer during the figure-8 test, which was all I had ever dreamed of for this car. Boring, Toyota Corolla behavior. I am so proud.

The team got back on the Stuart Highway and I drove more speed runs until sunset, at which point we high tailed it back to Coober Pedy for the night. The best present was coming back to a hot (free, sort of) shower in the apartment and clean sheets.

Hayden and the mech kids stayed up kind of late again doing more things to the wheel shrouds, so they stayed at the campervan park for the first solar car shift the next day. I was a little apprehensive about leaving the entire mech team (except me) behind, but we did Just Okay without them. I drove the first solar car shift to finish my 12 hours in the car (required by WSC). At one point, a wheel shroud had not been fully fastened and fell off, so I had to jump out of the solar car and fix it up as Me, The Mech Team. The other race crew members definitely helped but I was missing the mech team.

Max found a plant growing in one of our access panels and killed it.

After completing my shift and my 12 hours and making it back to Coober Pedy, Hayden and the mech kids arrived to rejoin the convoy. I drove the solar car past Hayden as he was walking down the street to the control stop, and I beeped the solar car’s air horn at him. Boop. Hayden greeted me with a bag full of lunch (!) and a notice that there would be cake and ice cream later that night. I was very happy.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. It ended with late night cake and ice cream in our apartment, which was the final chapter of my outback birthday.

The next day we’d be leaving Coober Pedy to begin our mock race, so we said goodbye to the hot showers and clean sheets and hello to bush camping.


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