Stage 5 of ASC: 150 miles from La Crosse, WI to St. Paul, MN. It seemed simple at first. Since we’d been driving 200+ mile stretches of road for most days before this, this seemed like it would be a relatively simple day. Except when it started raining.
Our strategy from the days before thankfully allowed us to start this day with a full battery pack, but since Stage 5 was a so-called “sprint” stage, we would be driving Impulse at highway speeds for good portions of the route.
We set our target speed at 59mph and blazed through the portion of the route that had us driving on the I-90, passing several surprised teams along the way. Partway through that segment, a surprise for us: The University of Michigan was pulled over on the side of the road! The radio chatter through our caravan was both confused and delighted: We had actually never seen their car on the road before – we would always see them at the start line, and then at the finish line, with nothing in between. Seeing them pulled over, making repairs to their car, really drove home the point that the rain affects everyone.
In the middle of the stage, we slowed down to reduce our power draw to save up for the large hill that was to come at mile 100. Long story short, the hill was no match for us, especially when the sun came out around that time. We increased our target speed to 62mph and set our sights on St. Paul. As the sun got brighter, our hopes of finishing strong soared. While pulling near the finish line, we saw the familiar faces of Principia College, crawling up a steep hill. With our extra reserves of power, we were able to pull ahead of them at the last moment, arriving second at the finish line!
As we ran across the finish line, we were both excited and exhausted. Finally, we had completed the 1652.8 mile rayce across half of the country, and completely on solar power! Going into the final stage we were 4th overall, so now we patiently await the final result.
The order of arrival went like so: Minnesota 1st, CalSol 2nd, Principia 3rd, Iowa 4th, then University of Michigan 5th. Interestingly enough, this is the exact opposite order that the five teams departed from in the morning, proving that in a competition like this, anything can happen.