ASC log 6/26/12: The First Day

Gas station in Nevada. This picture does not do justice to the sheer barrenness of the state.


We woke up bright and early and headed out to the RFS (the Richmond Field Station, where we do most of our work). After fumbling around a bit, we left almost an hour late. A reasonable time for our team. We headed out on I-80, the road with which we were to become intimately familiar throughout our journey, since it is going to take us most of the way to New York. Today we were scheduled to drive 9 hours, about 550 miles, ending up in Wells, Nevada. We went from Richmond, to Sac town, over the Sierra Nevadas (I just now realized that the Sierra Nevadas share their name with Nevada), and across the majority of Nevada itself.


For this post, it behooves me to explain the manner in which our team travels. We travel in a caravan, both to keep the team together and to mimic conditions in the American Solar Challenge itself, in which we maintain a caravan in order to optimally take care of our valuable solar car, Impulse. The caravan breakdown is as follows: Trailer -> Chase -> Impulse -> Lead -> Scout. Trailer is in the back, consisting of a truck pulling a large trailer, which houses Impulse (as well as misc. other equipment) when we are not driving it. Chase is in front of trailer, and it keeps close track of Impulse during the race by following behind it and by communicating with Impulse’s system wirelessly to analyze data from the car in real time. Impulse is the car itself, which is absent from the caravan during our road trip since it is stored in the trailer, but would usually be in the middle during any actual race or test drive. Lead is in front of impulse, protecting its front end and determining the route – our Impulse driver follows lead directly. Scout goes ahead, looking for potential dangers on the road, picking up food for the rest of the caravan, and acquiring lodging / setting up camp as needed.


For the race itself, myself and 2 others will be switching off driving Impulse, and in my downtime I will either be in the chase or lead vehicles. However, for the road trip to NY, I’m in scout, because it is my family’s car that we are using for the scout car. Scout is the funnest car because you can go far ahead and not give a fuck about staying in formation with the rest of the caravan for most of the time.


So, back to my story – going over the Sierra Nevadas today, we had some trouble with the trailer, since trailers tend to have trouble getting over mountains. Compounded with the fact that scout doesn’t have to stop for gas as often and can go 90 mph on Nevada freeways, we got a couple hours ahead of the rest of the caravan by the end of the day. This gave us time to buy some much-needed supplies, charge electronics (our inverter broke on the way) and scope out a potential campground, which we ended up using.


Before this trip, there was a stereotype that I knew about Nevada, which is that it is a giant desert with not much in it besides Reno and Las Vegas. This stereotype is absolutely true. There are no fucking buildings in Nevada. We passed through 80% of it today and there were only like 2 cities, and they were pretty small. Reno was by far the largest amount of civilization we saw for 6 hours, and it was 10 buildings. Everything else was just a random smattering of shacks / trailers, and thousands and thousands of trucks. The landscape was barren and red, and in some cases spotted with dry brush. It was a very interesting landscape and I’m glad to have experienced it, because it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before. However I’m not sure I would fancy to come back. It was very bleak and depressing. I should also note that I only ever actually saw houses twice in the entire drive. I have no idea where the fuck people live in Nevada.


We started setting up camp around 10:00PM, because Berkeley engineers are really smart and capable people who know how to plan ahead. Eventually we hacked the tent together, and all 7 of us fit in it nicely. I should go to bed now, since everyone else is waiting for me. Goodnight.


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