Posts Tagged ‘World Solar Challenge’

Beneath Australian Outback Skies

November 25, 2009

Upon arrival (finally) in Darwin, our first full day we headed out to the track to see the MIT kids and our son with Eleanor, their race car in the World Solar Challenge. They readied their car and drove it in scrutineering trials so the safety engineers could make sure the vehicles passed all of the tests.

Our son has completed this race as a driver of the solar car in a few previous years while he was a student. This year, now as a graduate, he drove the lead car, responsible for communicating with the solar car and the chase vehicle behind it. The drivers of the solar car this time were the small, slender girls of the team. (the lightest of all possible weight!)

I recall watching the slightly cheesy movie about the solar car experience in Australia, RACE TO THE SUN, where they showed the road trains – – those huge trucks barreling down the highway. They’d do a real number on a solar vehicle, and I’d imagine a roo or a misplaced wallabye could get in the way of the race, too. But since we didn’t actually go through the outback with the kids, and instead flew down to Adelaide to meet them at the end, we had to ask them about their journey.

Beginning in Darwin and following the Stuart Highway, through the outback to Adelaide, the group bedded down beneath the starry skies. Without the glare of cars and electric lights below to diminsh their power, the night sky’s stars really illuminated the blackness.
And their sleep “mates?”
“The kangaroos aren’t shy,” says Tofer.
They’d hop or even sit right by their heads as they slept.

Meanwhile, we toured a river via small boat to see the crocs and lovely birds near Darwin before flying to the Adelaide destination. After the cruise (47 degrees centigrade . . . we were told 37 degrees C equals 100 degrees F!) we hiked in the forest, while swatting bugs and viewing Aboriginal rock art.

Writing Exercise: Can you imagine a place you’ve never been by listening to someone else’s story? Reading a book about it? Write a scene in a place you’ve never been or in an unfamiliar time period. Discover details by reading or interviewing someone who HAS lived in this place or time era.

I apologize for the lack of pictures on this site. It is due to my lack of technological expertise!

What to do on a Fourteen-Hour Airplane Trip

November 18, 2009

We’re back from Australia, where we traveled to see the World Solar Challenge because our son, Chris (we call him “Tofer”) was on the MIT team. (More about THIS part in a future blog.)

Today I’ll focus on the journey. Although airplanes and airports are usually no one’s favorite part of the travel experience, there are ways to make the plane trip go by more quickly.

The first fourteen hours weren’t so bad, even with a baby who screamed a few rows away.
After the first twenty minutes of solid wailing . . . while we were still on the ground in San Francisco, the young man seated between my husband and me said with a smile and a nod to the child, “Did you buy chance bring a roll of duct tape?”

I looked at my husband. We exchanged glances. We knew immediately this man’s line of work.

“You’re an engineer, aren’t you?” I said to him.

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

I didn’t tell him when Tofer was a kid I left him a roll of duct tape in his Christmas stocking. (Yes, he’s now an engineer.)

A few tips for a long flight:

1. Bring some new pacifiers. Crying baby? Stick one in the baby’s mouth for comfort. You may need one for yourself too. . .

2. Great reading material. While others may dread a long flight such as this, I LOOK FORWARD TO uninterrupted (well, mostly) reading time.

3. Soft, squishy ear plugs. (you know why)

4. A book reading light so you can keep reading while others are snoozing or watching the movie.

5. Post-it notes to mark up the book for places you really like and would like to “model” your own writing.

6. Paper and pen of course! All that reading will spark ideas or help you get unblocked on a previous project.

7. Give yourself freedom to daydream about ideas and projects while you have that pen and paper handy.

8. All of that reading works fine until your eyes burn and begin to ache. Then sleep. However, you may want to give yourself a dream intention. “I will dream of a creative idea to help my writing.” (or change the word “writing” to be something more specific)

9. On the trip home, I actually watched the movie because the movie was good. (Julie and Julia) Movies are a great way to learn and help your own storytelling abilities.

10. What is YOUR secret for surviving a long airplane ride? Feel free to share it here and with others you know when they tell you they will embark on a long trip.

Once we landed in Sydney, we had a few hours to wait and another few hours on a plane to Darwin. Those are the “tired hours.” Daydreaming and sleep are usually the only thing exhausted brains can handle at that point. But with excitement looming, who needs more?

Just like with the writing journey, our projects have a multitude of steps and ways to help get through the process. What works for one, might help another.

Books I read on this journey and in Australia: BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett, DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE by Isabel Allende, THE SHIPPING NEWS by E. ANNIE PROULX, MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER by Claude Izner and TRACKS by Robyn Davidson.

The book I could not put down: BEL CANTO
Book I most looked forward to reading each night: TRACKS