They don’t seem to be releasing the cars at the regulated intervals,” shouted Maggie Hayes, the sprightly woman who would become our guide on the 1,800-mile race across some of the planet’s roughest, most challenging terrain.
It was gibberish to me. “What?” This became a frequent question that I would throw back at Maggie.
The sleek, brightly colored vehicles drove under the banner and between the temporary barriers that marked the beginning of the race in the State Square of humid Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.
At the starting line for the 2011 World Solar Challenge, I was fumbling with a headless tripod (in what I imagined would be the perfect vantage point). Anxiously waiting for my partner, Marcin Szczepanski, the College of Engineering’s Multimedia Content Producer, to emerge from the bramble of spectators. This bulky thing was useless without a camera or its photog.
The sleek, brightly colored vehicles drove under the banner and between the temporary barriers that marked the beginning of the race in the State Square of humid Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. It was Sunday, October 16th – the season of Spring Down Under.
“They’re supposed to be spaced one minute apart at the start.” Maggie was at a full sprint. “Keys! Let’s go.”
“I got them,” I was juggling the tripod, two beverages, an iPhone, mobile WiFi (had to be ready to tweet at a moment’s notice)…did I even have the damn keys? Oh, right, I was the driver for first leg; I had to have them.
Was there time for a quick tweet? After all, the race was officially underway. And what if I didn’t update Michigan Engineering’s Facebook status, would this thing even really be happening?
As the official embedded social media manager it was my responsibility to alert the—
“Get the truck.” She waved me off. “Bring it over this way. I’ll find Marcin.”
I glanced at my watch/GPS. Maggie was right (as I would find out, she usually was). I realized the solar vehicles were heading out of the gate closer to 15 seconds apart.
The keys. Attached to my belt.
I downed my hot cappuccino (in Oz they know how to brew killer coffee drinks but they take their time), chased it with bottled water. We were heading into the Outback; I had to be hydrated and alert because things were already getting out of hand. Still confounded by the tripod. Glanced over my shoulder and there went the University of Michigan Solar Car Team’s entry. It looked like a low flying UFO.