Still in Darwin as I write this.
That morning was the 29th in Australia, so it was the evening of the 28th in California. Normally this would not be particularly important, but the 28th in California was the day that my master’s degree would be conferred. I paid $5 for 100 MB of Kulgera wifi and saw that I had received an email letting me know that my application to graduate had been approved. I had 2 degrees!
I kept joking that I would undergo some sort of master’s degree equivalent of the Sailor Moon transformation in the middle of the outback, and while that did not happen, this felt like quite a milestone in my life. This doesn’t change anything for my next few weeks of time with the Stanford team (October 19 marks my real final day of school-related activities), but it still felt like the end of an era.
Hayden and I rode with Kelsey and Gawan in Lead on the drive up to Darwin. On the first day, we stopped for a bathroom break at a random gas station and found camels. Why do they attach their leads to their noses? There were also some birbs that appeared to be Australian turkeys.
The four of us stopped for lunch in Alice Springs, the biggest city off the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory, save for Darwin. Gawan wanted to go to an art gallery, so we did that too.
Along the way, we stopped at the WSC control stops that we would be seeing, going the other direction, during the race. That was Fine.
The team camped at Devils Marbles on our first night. Hayden and I slept in the same place we had 2 years ago, and everything seemed really different. The rocks hadn’t changed, but lots else had.
The next day, we continued our drive. The team stopped for the day in Katherine, where we got a campsite at the Big4 caravan park there. Near the Big4 was a hot spring river, which Hayden and I wandered by briefly.
Kelsey, Gawan, Hayden, and I ended up driving the rest of the way to Darwin that night, leaving the team in Katherine with the slower moving vehicles. The objective was to secure a good paddock garage for work at the Hidden Valley Race Track, and to begin preparations to make our car completely ready for static scrutineering.
That night, we all stayed at Chilli’s Backpackers Hostel, which had poor reviews and grumpy people at the front desk, but air conditioning and a bed for the night. All I wanted was a drink to celebrate my master’s degree and food to satisfy my stomach, but Darwin was off the hook that night with tons of Party People and a club scene vibe that did not match the drink and food I had envisioned. It later turned out that there had been some Sport Thing earlier that day that everyone was worked up about, and that Darwin was not actually like this all the time as I had erroneously assumed.
Luckily, Hayden and I found a nearby pizza joint that had beers and things, so we did that and it was exactly what I’d wanted. Hooray, graduation, and stuff.
The next day would begin hard work to get our car 100% race ready.