Thursday, August 4, 2016

It Takes an Airport to Raise a Child

Perhaps you have noticed that Val is not really one of those people who practices hands-off parenting. Perhaps you are one of those people who have used the term helicopter parenting in reference to VAL! Shame on you! It is not for you to judge, but merely to read, and turn to your wife or husband or platonic life partner and snidely reveal your judgment away from the eyes that are the windows to Val's tender self esteem.

The helicopters are circling, people! The helicopters are circling.

Wednesday, I had planned my day around watching Genius and his solar car team race across the Midwest. That tracker-lojacker thingy on each solar car shows up as a green dot on the map. And it updates every 30 seconds, allegedly, though it seems to take three minutes for a car to change position. You can zoom in and see the street and buildings, and where the car is. Of course you can't see the actual car, because you are just seeing landmarks.

Anyhoo...I don't get up real early. My day consists of checking my blog and sometimes email and the local online newspaper until it locks me out of free views for the month, and then a drive to town for my 44 oz Diet Coke, the making of lunch for myself and The Pony, and then down to my dark basement lair to New Delly to watch the race online.

The cars were scheduled to leave at 9:00 a.m. I knew they'd be running all day. So I could catch up to them once the pack thinned out, and see what place Genius was in. He's not the driver, but the team leader. As in the person who oversees all components and construction and controls the purse strings and handles logistics. I think they have five drivers, and the rules say they have to switch out because nobody can drive more than six hours at a time.

I got up late (9:30) and had to take my thyroid medicine and wait an hour until the blood pressure medicine. No sooner had I sat down with my laptop than I got a text from Hick.

"Are they moving yet?"

"I am not downstairs yet."

"Okay just text me when you find out."

"I won't be watching the tracking until lunch time, but I will send you updates."


Meanwhile, my sister the ex-mayor's wife sent me a text.

"Did Genius run into problems this morning?"

"I don't know. Haven't been looking yet. Now I'm concerned. I can only watch on my basement computer. They have tools to work on stuff. The very first day, they had a flat tire."

"Don't be concerned. I probably am not reading it correctly. Twitter said all teams were on the road at this time. It just looks to me like they are in 10th or so place and still near Springfield. I thought maybe they didn't make it through the traffic like the other teams."

"I don't know. They start at 1 minute intervals, so they're all bunched up at the beginning. Genius's team does better on the open road, on a divided highway. They spent the first stage on two-lane roads, and couldn't pass slower cars. Half the team was upset that other cars wouldn't pull off, but Genius said, 'These cars aren't made to drive on gravel. Would you want OUR car to pull off?' I'm taking a shower, then heading to town for my soda. Then I will catch up on the race."

"Okay, I won't bother you. I think I need lessons on how to read it. I thought Michigan had already passed thru Osceola, and Genius was still outside of Springfield to the south. I'll try to figure it out."

[Let the record show that Genius's team started in 11th place on the first day of the race, and was in 6th place overall and was 5th to the staged stop the night before. So I didn't expect him to be in 10th at the start. I went downstairs after my shower to check it out before my soda trip.]

"You're right. It looks like Genius is still at the start. It shows the car is going 72 km/hr, though. So at least moving. Must have had mechanical issues. Wait. It's not moving. I don't know how they can be going 72 km/hr, but not moving. Car hasn't moved on the map."

"The Twitter feed said all 12 cars were on the road."

"Okay. I'm going to town. I'll check when I get back."

[Let the record show that I could not drive off for a 44 oz Diet Coke while wondering about Genius and his team. What if somebody had a medical emergency, and they had to wait behind? I didn't want to bother Genius, but he DOES have a full staff of 23 other people along on this trip. So I sent Genius a text.]

"Everything okay? Map shows you still in Springfield, going 72 km/hr yet not moving."

"Our transponder doesn't seem to be updating."

"Where are you? Who are you running with?"

"We passed Appalachian State about 10 minutes ago."

"Thanks. I'll watch them and go from there."

[Let the record show that I had to notify my fellow worriers.]

When I got home and fired up New Delly, I could not find Appalachian State. Its transponder had also quit working. So I was in the dark until I got word from Genius that they had arrived 4th at the checkpoint, and that the transponder was back in action.

I spent the rest of the day watching dots on the monitor move at a molasses-soaked snail's pace. Then this morning, I watched some more, as each solar car crossed from Kansas into Nebraska, and sat unmoving, going all pale green. Then a few hours later, the race Twitter stated that Nebraska has terrible cell phone signals, so the transponders were not working.

[Let the record show that I had to text Genius mid-morning.]

"Apparently, Nebraska is the black hole of the Midwest. Solar cars enter, then pile up like the doomed crew of the Nostromo, to be discovered years later encased in goo in an alien queen's hive."

And later, after his car appeared in a new spot for five minutes, then froze again, I sent him another.

"You are suspended in time, going a perpetual 73.9 km/hr. Kind of like that guy with his face in a bowl of soup at the beginning of The Stand."

[Let the record show that Genius appreciates my sense of humor, and gets my references.]

I don't know how he'd make it along this race route without all of us looking out for him!


  1. Hysterical! And nerve-rattling. How far are they going anyway?

    1. From Brecksville, Ohio to Hot Springs, South Dakota. An 8-day race.

  2. I think in this case watching like a "helicopter parent" is perfectly OK. I know I would be glued to the screen and texting like crazy...Did pretty much the same trying to follow some of my son's football games on-line...sounds very exciting, hope they sneak into first!

    1. They don't have any grandiose dreams of taking first. Michigan has been in the lead since the first day on the track to qualify for the road race. They're a powerful team. Genius-and-them just want to make a good showing on their shoestring budget. They were thrilled to come in 4th at a couple of the checkpoints. It's a cumulative time record for the whole trip that determines the winner.

    2. What if Michigan was to have say a little accident? I'm from Jersey you know.

    3. Heh, heh. I don't think you can fit a car's tires for concrete boots...

  3. If my son was engaged in an activity like this I'd have my nose pressed to the screen monitoring that dot all day.

    1. And now I don't even have a dot to press on! Maybe for the last day, when they break out of that Nebraska black hole, I can see the end.

  4. What kind of roads are these cars traveling on? Two-lane roads along the highways?

    What an incredible experience for your son. I'm sure he'll have stories to tell once the race is over.

    1. I believe it was mostly 2-lane from Ohio across Indiana into Illinois, then they got on a divided highway where they could pass easier. When I was on the map following them through Kansas, it looked like a lot of it turned into two-lane again, but with wide shoulders.

      One team put up a picture of their solar car traveling behind a shed on a trailer. I think their caption was, "We're following a shed." I need to check the whereabouts of Hick at that time...

      Here, they left Grant's Farm and went down Hwy 21, where Iowa pulled off the side to let a line of traffic pass, and caught a wheel in the eroded blacktop, and broke an axle. they had it fixed within 30 minutes.

      The cars headed across 110, down 67, and across the bottom of the state on 60 to Republic, MO.

  5. Replies
    1. Tough going today. The arch nemesis of solar cars, CLOUDS, reared their fluffy heads.

      Still, Genius and team made it to the checkpoint already, with about two hours to spare before it closes, and did not have to trailer their car. That's a good thing. I think they are in 5th place right now.

  6. I would be watching and reporting, too. When my dancing grands are in a competition that is pod cast, I will make campers wait to check in if one of them is actually performing, and I make the campers watch with me!

    1. The wrap-up will be tomorrow. Awards ceremony is going on right now in South Dakota.

      So...I am kind of forcing you all to live this with me, too!