The trip back.

The landscape of Yellowstone was stunning. You can see more pictures on my facebook.


After ASC ended and awards were doled out, we spent the next couple of days around the St. Paul area (where the finish line was). 3M offered to give CalSol, Iowa, and Minnesota tours of their facility shortly after the race, so they graciously paid for some hotel rooms for us to stay in in the meantime. It was great to further our relationship with them, because they make a lot of useful products for our team, and because they represent pretty significant employment opportunities for our members. This is just another thing on the laundry list of reasons CalSol has been great for me – more job opportunities!


Our team lead Mike also lives in Minnesota, so we got to go to stay at his house, meet his family, and show Impulse off to his neighbors and family friends. We also all went out to see the Dark Knight Rises together (it came out right in the middle of ASC). It was pretty fun casually driving around town in caravan formation, communicating with radios and having signs and antennae all over our cars. I kind of wish we always drove around like that. It made it really easy and fun to communicate with each other on the fly.


After staying at Mike’s and touring 3M, we eventually had to get back onto the road to head home. We had wanted to have a bit more buffer time with the trip back so we could waste a lot of time sightseeing – unfortunately, even our very small return crew had time constraints, and we still had to get back home rather hastily. Luckily we had a few extra hours to spare, and we used that to great effect.  After a couple boring days of passing through North Dakota and Montana, we spent a day going south through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, which was extremely awesome. Most of us had never been to Yellowstone before, or at least I hadn’t, and I was blown away. There was just so much to take in.


Imagine that you want to go on a hike with your friends, and you randomly discover this really awesome place with scenery, wildlife, and cool rock structures, and you play around for a few hours and get bored and go home. This has happened to me a few times and has probably happened to you too. Now imagine that you had about five million areas that are just like that, all in one place, that take entire days to DRIVE through. That’s what Yellowstone is like. It was amazing. I could probably spend years hiking and camping around there and still not see everything there is to see. We spent the entire afternoon there, and it was nowhere near enough for me. I will definitely be going again in the future. Highlights included running through a field taking pictures (see my cover picture on facebook), getting stopped on the road by buffalo crossing the street, seeing multiple gigantic waterfalls, skipping rocks on and drinking water from a beautiful lake, and blasting the theme from Jurassic Park while driving through redwood trees. We were able to find a campsite in Grand Teton National Park (just south of Yellowstone), and Pol and I went swimming for a bit in the freezing cold lake as the sun set. The morning there was beautiful, and the crisp mountain air was refreshing – if a bit shockingly chilly – compared to the hot and humid conditions that we had become accustomed to over the course of the trip. We got some nice shots of the Grand Teats (or so I called them) and went on our way, not having any more time to waste before getting home.


We passed through Idaho and back into good old Nevada, where we stayed the night. We had delicious pizza for dinner, and made sure to get in one last round of Bang! before the trip was over – bittersweet times were had by all as we realized that we wouldn’t be Banging each other under tents and in hotel rooms for days on end anymore. On the last day, driving through Nevada I had a bit too much fun singing in the car. Who am I kidding singing in the car is awesome, even if you have a passenger and are singing poorly to a 4-car caravan over a HAM radio. I like to think that I kept everyone awake for the long and boring drive. Unfortunately I distracted myself just enough to get caught in a speed trap in a construction zone, but let’s not talk about that.


Coming down from the Sierra Nevadas was a very surreal feeling. This was the first time I was in California for a month. I have never been gone from California for this long before – the most has been for a couple of weeks. I had gotten accustomed to being away from home, to going to new places. It felt like that was just a part of my life, and I started realizing that it wasn’t going to be the case anymore. I was going to return to California and everything was going to be just like before we left. It was very strange. I experienced weird emotions. I wasn’t sure if they were good or bad. I actually really wanted to see my friends from home, so I was excited to be back to see them, but of course I was disappointed that my adventure was over. Even if I’m just sitting in a car, there’s something special about going to new places. It’s like taking a drug. I had been taking it so much for the whole month long journey that I had forgotten the feeling of NOT going somewhere new. Now going back home was new in and of itself. Anyways enough of that. I think my favorite part of the home stretch was watching the thermometer as I drove, since I could see it dropping from the 90-100 degree range down into the 60-70’s as I entered the bay area. Good ol’ Berkeley.


I am proud to say that by the end of the trip, I was the only person who drove the entire way there and back. Never did I let someone else take over for me. I don’t think this really proves anything about myself as a person nor my abilities. But for some reason I’m proud of it anyways. Maybe I just like feeling special. That accomplishment doesn’t count ASC – I didn’t drive my car during the race itself, although even when I wasn’t driving Impulse I still drove Lead car occasionally. But from California to the starting line, and from the finish line back to California, I drove the whole way. I actually really love driving. A pity that it’s so dangerous and carbon-intensive. I could drive all day as long as I have good music and a friend to talk to. The various landscapes of America were also quite the sight to behold.


Once we got back, we unpacked some shit and then all went home. It felt good to be back in Berkeley. Being gone made me realize just how much I loved and needed my friends. Well, my non-CalSol friends. I love my CalSol friends as well, and honestly I wasn’t even tired of them after a month of exposure, but I still missed my other friends a lot (not to mention my girlfriend…), and I couldn’t wait to see them again. Yes, my summer adventure has come to a close, but the adventure of life continues. In fact it has just begun.


It’s a magical world… let’s go exploring!

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