What many may not know is that it isn’t just having a well-built car or superior electrical system that can produce a win for a race; but it is also the strategy a team instills that can become the difference between first and second place. Part of that strategy entails having an expert knowledge of the race route, which can only be obtained by driving the route itself. And every year before the race a few umsolar strategists embark on a journey that is commonly called, “Route Survey”, where they drive the entirety of the race route from start to finish and record every inch with various technical instruments. By the end of Route Survey, they will be able to know every twist and turn from Rochester, NY to St. Paul, MN.
Day zero of Route Survey 2012 started out at just past 6 p.m. on Friday night from the team’s home base – the Wilson Center. Armed with food, blankets, gear, and passports, team strategists AJ Trublowski, Bryan Mazor, Cameron Herringshaw, and Jeffrey Cwagenberg had a plan to drive through Canada and reach the Rochester Institute of Technology in time for sunrise. After mounting the antennas to the top of the car, team meteorologist, Jeff Cwagenberg, took a quick look at the weather and to see how the snowstorms were developing. While the forecast that he had seen earlier in the day called for heavier snow south of Lake Erie (the US side of the border), the northern (Canadian) end appeared to be getting hit not only by heavy snow, but by freezing rain as well. And with that bit of information and Rochester, NY in their sights, they headed off through Ohio towards the starting point of ASC 2012.
Besides some cold temperatures, the weather was excellent for driving as they left campus. Their first stop on the estimated 7.5-hour trek to Rochester was a rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike. From there, they experienced much more difficult weather conditions. As the night progressed, strong winds and heavy bursts of snow caused weather data to become an important thing to look at. After trying to use their cellular Internet to get estimates, they found that the signal kept jumping in and out. At the next opportunity, Jeff pulled out what he likes to call the “little black XM box”. Solving their spotty cell signal problem, this “little black box” (graciously leant to the team by Baron Services Inc.) became the primary source of weather data as it is designed to collect weather data from XM Satellites anywhere in the USA, and provide this data virtually anywhere.
As they approached Rochester, signs reading “High Wind Warning” began to let them know what was yet to come. And even though they read the signs and analyzed their observations from the “little black box”, they were not prepared for what greeted them in Rochester. Opening the doors of the car, napkins and receipts immediately flew everywhere. Strong gusts of wind made it difficult to collect their belongings, but after doing so, they mounted their antennas for the morning, found their sleeping bags and tucked themselves in for a short night’s sleep in the parking lot.
After their brief nights sleep, it was once again time to start hittin’ the road, as Day One of Route Survey was about to begin. Although the wintry winds did not subside throughout the night, they did not stop the strategists from continuing on their journey. The first stage of the race starts in an exceptionally scenic area, running from the Rochester Institute of Technology to Erie, Pennsylvania (right along the coast of Lake Erie). It was then that the strategists all agreed that this year’s ASC looked to be a promising and exciting race. From there, they continued to go into Stage 2 of the race, which runs from Erie, PA to Mansfield, OH, then back to our hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. However, it was only a few hours later when the route turned south that the strategists found that the race seemed to shift gears from the hilly northeast to the technically challenging city driving Quantum would have to endure in Ohio.
After what would be considered fairly smooth sailing since the beginning, disaster appeared to strike the team – a disaster found in the form of transmission trouble. The trusty Chevy S10 generously loaned to the team by Bryan’s parents began to struggle when shifting on the highway. Fearing for the worst, the strategists immediately pulled off the road to the closest gas station to assess any damage. Thankfully, after close inspection, they found the culprit of the problems to be leaking transmission fluid rather than a busted gear. After filling the truck with a mechanic recommended transmission leak sealer, the team was back on the road again, where they continued until their final stop for the evening in Lima, Ohio, where the Holiday Inn Hotels and Suites- Lima East generously provided them with lodging for the night. Needless to say, it was quite a step up from their sleeping accommodations from the night before. The team would like to thank Holiday Inn Hotels and Suites– Lima East and Michele Knoch-Hicks for their wonderful generosity and hospitality!
Please check back tomorrow for Day 2 of the strategists’ journey through Route Survey!
This post was written by team Meteorologist, Jeff Cwagenberg, and Head Strategist, AJ Trublowski, who were very happy to be able to sleep in beds after sleeping in the truck the night before.