Following our third place finish in Normal, IL, another stage loomed in front of us: Normal, IL, to Verona, WI, to La Crosse, WI. Our strategy from the days before seemed to be working quite well, so we decided to apply that same strategy to this stretch: drive sustainably, such that our batteries neither gain nor lose charge, such that we could net a gain over the evening and morning charging hours. This way, we would also be somewhat protected from bad weather conditions, since if the sky decided to be cloudy, we would have battery power left to use.
Indeed, the weather became cloudy halfway through the first day of Stage 4, and our strategy paid off. We made it comfortably to the checkpoint in Verona, WI around 4:30PM, and achieved a nice 1-hour break in the cool, cloudy weather. Some other teams weren’t as lucky, however, since the combination of the heat and clouds from the previous days had caused them to drain their batteries, making this stage tougher to weather.
Leaving the fully cloudy checkpoint, we made it just 10 miles out of the checkpoint before it became apparent that it would be uneconomical to continue on. We decided to try to find a large parking lot to set up for the night and for the coming morning.
Little did we know that we would run into some friends when we stopped! Iowa State University’s Hyperion was parked in the same parking lot that we had located through our Google maps searches. We exchanged some speculations for day 7’s possible sunny weather, and packed up for the night.
Next morning, as the weather forecast said, was sunny! We were all happy setting up our solar arrays to soak up the bright light that graced us, and set off with a full charge. And since it was nice and cool out, we were even able to set our target speed to 47mph, a full 10mph over what we had usually been traveling at the days before!
We arrived third at the stage stop, and charged up to full with the evening charging hours. Our strategy is working beautifully! There’s only one day left in the race, so wish us luck!