Travelling Light

WARNING:  This is a rare instance where I’m not talking (obsessing) about Maggie.

Last week Nate and I went to Le Mars, Iowa several times to cover a murder-suicide where a father killed his two teenage kids, his wife and himself.  While doing this, we came across one of those crazy adventures that probably mean nothing to anyone but us.  But, it’s still one of those moments in life you like to look back on and laugh.

While driving through the Ice Cream Capital of the World (not universe, that’s some place else), we head downtown.  We drive in circles looking for the newspaper.  At a stop light, on the other side of the intersection, we notice the craziest contraption.  It’s a low-rider in the truest sense.  A little blue, Jetson-inspired, single seat solar-powered car waits at the light and then buzzes by us.  We both chuckle.  It reminded me of those pods from the movie Cocoon, if you covered them in foil and painted them with an 11-year-old’s bright blue glitter fingernail polish.  As the pod passes us, so do at least three vans with huge Iowa State logos.

We go a block or two and then decide this might be a fun little VO/SOT.  Nate whips around.  We begin the hunt for the Cyclone’s convoy.  In theory, three vans packed with presumably smelly engineering majors and a solar car that looks like it could be squashed by Sasquatch, should not be difficult to discover in a town of 5,000.  Should not and would not — two different things.

Block by block we back track, track down and trace the tracks of this futuristic four-wheeler.  Finally, we drive to Highway 3, assuming they will go out of town.  In true photog driving style, Nate slams on the brakes when I scream, “STOP!!  Let’s talk to that lady!!!”  There’s some crazy lady.  Wait — forget the crazy part.  I didn’t realize her mental state yet.  I see a woman on the side of this very busy business highway walking her bike.  She looks like she is on a mission, focused, not really fit and in her 50s.  We pull over and ask her if she saw a little blue solar car.  Her eyes scan us.  If I could be telepathic, her mind would say, “Whoa, these kids must smoke as much weed as I do.”  Needless to say, her answer, “No, but if I see it, I’ll let you know.”  How she would contact us from bicycle, I’m not sure.  Maybe she can do some telepathy.

We turn back around to search back in town.  Just then, coming around the curve, we spot the college caravan.  Elated, we try to flag it down, but it just keeps going.  Maybe one guy gave us a obligatory nod “hey.”  So then we start stalking the solar students.  We get behind them and all of us pass the bike woman.  As we do, she non-chalantly points to the arachnid-like automobile.  I don’t know why she would think we did not see it, being just a car length behind one of the ISU vans (and clearly breaking all drivers ed rules).  At this point, I determine she bikes along Iowa ditches to search for mushrooms.

Back to the car.

I wave, to no avail, as Nate passes each of the vans like a NASCAR pro.  The odometer climbs as high as the solar car’s fuel source.  We push past the paneled pod with its lone driver crammed inside.  While most college kids drive around with caps, this guy sports a helmet.

In the vans, most of the men (not to sound sexist, but I did not spot a woman in any of the vehicles), seem oblivious to our bright Bravada branded with big KTIV logos.  We get ahead of the group and set up, hoping they will stop when they see us and the camera.  If nothing else, maybe they will pull over for a girl standing on the side of the road in a skirt and tank top.

I scream with excitement as they come over the crest of the hill.  At last, victory will be ours.  The first van whips by.  Then the King of the Hill itself goes past.  It makes an amusing MMeeeeuuurrrrrrr sound.  The rest of the vans follow.  I energetically jump, wave and motion for them to stop (NOTE: I did not yell.  Per the adivce/tongue lashing of some wonderfully talented photogs, Josh, Buddah and Nate namely, I learned many years ago to shut up and not ruin the nat sound.).  I get a glance, another nod and a mouthed “no.”

We later learn ISU runs a solar car racing team and every so often, take it out for test drives.  It appears they could not stop because on this day, they did a practice run to clock its speed.

So, all this for a 15 second story that ran in a Friday 5 o’clock show on a day with beautiful weather.  At most, maybe some psychotically loyal viewer like my mom watched it, but did they actually see it?

It all makes me ask, for one little story, this nugget of solar car news fluff, is this dedication or dementia?

(If the great internet service provided by a certain cab1e company — hint, that’s not a typo — every stops sucking, I will try to upload a picture or video of the solar car.)

UPDATE (May 22):  My internet connection improved slightly tonight, while my insomnia worsened.  Good news, there is now a picture and video of the infamous ISU solar car!


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