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Sneha Kulkarni: On the Road
Sneha Kulkarni, ctvcalgary.ca
Published Wednesday, July 23, 2008 3:29PM MDT
DAY 7 - Notes from the Road
We are back on Canadian soil and I have reached a personal record for time spent at a border crossing- 4.5 hours.
To be clear, I wasn't held up by customs or border guards, I chose to be at the crossing to see the solar cars roll into Manitoba.
We left the hotel in Fargo, North Dakota at 6 am on Saturday morning. The team had an hour to recharge their solar array and then hit the road. Since this race started on July 13th, we've lucked out with blue skies and sunshine every day. So, it seemed Day 7 was as good as any for that luck to run out.
The morning started with dark clouds and progressed into heavy rain. For the solar car, this weather can be its ultimate challenge. The array can't charge without sun, and if you're driving you use up the battery power you have stored.
The team considered just pushing the pedal to metal to try and race past the clouds. The hope was that if they went fast enough they could eventually hit some sunny weather. But after listening to the forecast, it seemed that they would have to make to the border before they could get any relief from the weather.
So, the drive to North Dakota was slow. They could only hit 45 kilometers/hour with the battery power they had. We raced ahead of them to the border to see if any other teams had made it and as usual, Michigan had beat us to it. They were first into Canada at 9:21 am. We arrived at 10:20 a.m. For the next four and a half hours I spent most of my time by making friends with the border guards and waiting for the rest of the cars to come through.
They even had a special solar car lane set up, a considerate move seeing as this is a race.
I think many of the drivers stuck in the lengthy 20 car line-ups were more then a little envious of the solar speed lane.
Waterloo was the first Canadian team through the border around noon. Although they had a special lane, passports checks and inspections were still in order. Seeing Jason, the border guard, ask Waterloo's solar car driver to lift his hood was a funny sight. The German team also had to open up their car so the driver could show his passport.
The University of Calgary's Schulich 1 solar car drove through around 1:30 p.m. and with fanfare. Lynn Cowe-Falls, the team's faculty advisor, stood on the Canadian side to greet the team. In her hands were large Canadian and Alberta flags attached to ski poles and in a fitting Calgary fashion the team yelled YAHOO as they drove past. One team member even had a white cowboy hat on as he cheered from one of the support vehicles.
Despite the excitement of being back in Canada, the team had a long drive to Winnipeg, much of it under clouds.
All of the teams arrived at Red River College in time for the 6:30 time limit. They prayed that after this slow painstaking drive, they would get a little sun on their side.