There and Back Again

Hybrid Fun on a Summer Roadtrip

Part 1: Coasting to Hybridfest

Part 1:   first leg to Hybridfest
Part 2:   local Wisconsin tourism and slightly beyond
Part 3:   South Dakota, Black Hills
Part 4:   bangin' around the Northwest
Part 5:   meandering east toward Denver
Part 6:   doing tech at Denvention (aka Worldcon)
Part 7:   the journey home

"I love the road, it's the people I can't stand"

In the spring of 2008 a slightly wild idea began forming in my mind as I looked ahead toward the rest of the summer. Hybridfest in Wisconsin was pretty much a given -- I had made that pilgrimage twice in the past and in June '08, already did a good part of that same distance and back going to a fuel-economy event in Indiana. But Worldcon also beckoned from the figurative snow-capped mountaintops of Colorado -- originally I wasn't planning to go, but as I learned that I could do it on the semi-cheap the appeal of getting there too and helping out my tech buddies grew.

However, I would have to occupy about two weeks between the events -- and decided that the right way to do this would not be to go home in between, but to continue west from Hybridfest and wander around the northwest part of the country for a while, to *drive* through some of that "flyover country" and see it up close for a change. As time went on, I grew more confident that I could pull this off.

Various arrangements were salted in around the key events themselves, although what I would be doing in between was still loose and undefined. That's okay, it would be one of those "serendipity" trips like my parents and I used to take back when I was a kid, with only a vague concept of a destination and path. I started with a baseline list of contacts and addresses and figured I would just build onto that as I went. The car was prepped as usual for a long roadtrip, and I'd decided to leave the heavy Prius tech-education demos at home and just throw in my small card table to put flyers on.

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I set out on the morning of July 15, and made my way through my usual route of I-84 and I-81, down through Scranton to I-80 in PA for the bulk of the westward run. While there are other ways throuth NY/PA that are prettier and and a little less traveled, they are also substantially longer and twisty and I wanted to make sure I got to the first waypoint in good time. There were unusually few "proctologists" out that morning -- those drivers with an inexplicable compulsion to closely examine the rear end of my car -- but I was confident that that would change soon enough.

Whenever I've come across one of these fellows, it's been a pleasant experience -- they amble along in the right lane at about 55 - 57 MPH and don't tailgate, give other traffic plenty of room at on-ramps, and are generally among the better-behaved drivers I've found on the roads. High kudos to whoever in their training staff promotes the idea that aggression isn't the path to profit, and in fact takes a much higher toll in fuel costs, driver fatigue, and community goodwill. I followed him for a little while but even this pace was a little slower than I wanted to go by a slim margin, so I eventually went around.

[Observe the big picture for what "follow" means here in terms of safe distance between me and the truck. There's a lot more discussion of that topic further on...]

Only in eastern Pennsylvania have I seen this amusing sort of load. [Here's another one from a different trip.] Some company in the area must manufacture these -- pretty much full size swimming pools, and they just get trucked like hot-tub shells to where they'll get installed. Things get interesting when someone wants to pass them, of course.

Maybe when people get tired of cats [no, they'll never get tired of cats, they're too photogenic] they can start doing loltraffic instead.

Make no mistake, there's plenty of bad behavior out there. Someone should ask the AAA if the guy in the pickup was out to save any gas by "drafting" -- obviously not even thinking about it, given the way he blasted past the truck when it finally moved over. If AAA had any PR clue at all they'd launch a massive anti-tailgating campaign and teach the motoring public how to smooth out congestion and frustration with simple behavior and spacing changes.

When the order is reversed, it's about ten times more dangerous. You could probably write your own captions for some of these, too. Or you could just phone in to their dispatchers; I'm sure they'd love to hear about this. What about that four seconds minimum buffer that the FMCSA and many other organizations advocate, as told to me by one of their Share the Road exhibitors who's also an OTR driver?

Despite one or two by-choice slower stretches, I clocked off about a mile a minute most of the way and passed the Ohio border that evening showing a "moving average" of 55.3 MPH on the GPS and an MPG of exactly 60.0 in the car's display. That includes all the slow-rolling getting into and out of various stops, so such an average is always lower than how fast anyone thinks they drove. That's also with an altitude rise from 50 to 920 feet overall, since the bulk of the country is at a considerably higher elevation than near-coastal New England, and there was some amount of prevailing-westerly headwind.

I overnighted in some random rest-stop and reached Sandusky OH early in the morning.

Clearly, much of Sandusky's infrastructure is dedicated to keeping the Cedar Point amusement park operational -- and that's reflected in their roads. Only if you take a tiny, almost through-the-orange-cones offshoot in the left lane here do you get into the town itself! Everything else heads for the park, with huge signs and special lanes to handle the volume. I missed this the first time and had to wiggle my way back through places that looked like blocked-off construction sites to see the town proper.

Then I went out the park causeway thinking I could just bypass it and kill some time cruising down the rest of the island, but it turned out I had to go through its entrance gate anyway. An attendant out setting cones told me to just go through the leftmost booth and then turn right after passing the parking lots. They actually dinged me 50 cents for this privilege, too, and only later did I realize I could have come in the other way and avoided that. But the GPS basemap wasn't showing me enough detail to find that road from the other end. [It's an older unit without a lot of memory, and I was already way outside the home-area detail maps I'd loaded.]

It was way too early for most of the personnel to be there, let alone any customers, so I got a not-too-common shot of the EMPTY parking lot. There is clearly a forest of roller coasters over there, just looking above the trees.

The road did split and bend away from the park, and I tooled down the long narrow straightaway past numerous houses on the right and this "seawall" on my left before reaching the lower end. In the detail pic [which is a slightly different view] we can see the park's tall things waaaay up at the other end.

I'll bet this wall does nothing for a real flood, it's probably just there to keep windy-day chop off the road.

Finally I went back up to the motel and raided a nearby AAA office for some new maps [well, they're still good for something], and then met up with Jay and his parents. We all piled into his Prius and left mine at the motel to save on parking costs, and got in early enough to park reasonably close to the admission gate.

I didn't do too many pictures in the park, although I did keep the camera with me. It was quite hot that day and I had it hung around me *under* my shirt to help ensure it wouldn't fly away on a vigorous ride. But that meant that it and the strap spent most of the day stuck to my soggy body, and was very hard to actually shift around and bring out to use. I had this little fantasy of getting some from-coaster action shots [like they tell you not to try] but there was really no way it would have worked with my setup. That's okay, since other people have raised rollercoaster image-capture to a fine science and I'm sure many more examples can be found with some creative searching.

Anyway, I thought this emergency-access stair up to Raptor was visually interesting. Now all I gotta do is learn to hold the camera straight.

The camera was useful sometimes when waiting in line and bored, though. At least the park provides shade over many of the cattle-runs, but not necessarily up to the final loading area. The second pic gives some sense of scale on how high and steep Millennium Force is. Definitely high on the fun scale when we finally got on!

Note the big white truss screen back there in the first pic...

Of course many of the lineup areas are located right near some of the rides' run paths, yielding the occasional loud roar of passing roller coaster. Millennium Force's final return runs right *next* to the path and loops around the whole crowd area before the last "violent braking event" going into the loading station.

Here's said big screen, which they project on during the evening laser/fireworks/multimedia shows. I was amused to see these Mac 700s mounted in weather domes, although one of them seems to be missing. Not likely to be one of the more frequently photographed items in the park, to be sure, just some amusement for the production-tech folks back home. These units are all the rage these days, apparently.

While waiting for Disaster Transport to reopen we took the nearby "Space Spiral" for its short, 360-view run up and down; the scratched-up plexi windows didn't help picture quality but obviously the park was fairly well attended that day, even on a midweek Wednesday afternoon. I even figured out where we parked -- if you consider where the clear path bends around the upper right quadrant as (0,0) in a coordinate system, Jay's Prius is at about (21, 13).

Part of Disaster's waiting run takes visitors through room done up as space-related set, one part of which is the "repair bay" complete with a conceptual craft held up by a crane and little robot welding arms poking at it. It's a little lame and contrived -- the Mouse would have probably done much better but it was kind of a fun idea. And dark enough that a 2-second exposure was barely enough to get anything.

However, it seems much more appropriate to drop a real ship into it instead.

The tangled lower loops of Mantis struck me as somewhat artsy, even through the fence. You can see the first drop of Millennium way behind it.

And sometimes all that finely-honed ride tech can still go a little squirrely, as Mantis stopped halfway up its lift and the operators had to walk up the stairs and recheck everyone's restraints or something.

[This is the stand-up coaster -- definitely an odd one, but I liked it.]

The longest wait by far was for Top Thrill Dragster, which is the tallest big yellow loop in the earlier pix and was down most of the day. Occasionally rumors would spread that it would open soon and bunches of people lined up outside its closed gate, but that was for naught. Eventually it *did* open late in the day and we queued up, but it kept having control trouble of some sort. We decided that dammit, we'd gotten this far, and we'd stick it out and wait. From our ill-informed standpoint of about halfway through the stated two-hour line it sounded like the stuff that sequences dragster sound effects with the ride's operation wasn't doing so -- we postulated that they could certainly run the thing without that, since once that sucker launches the last thing you're thinking about is a bunch of speakers making engine and tire-squeal noises. Eventually they got it sorted out and we eventually made it up to the front.

It is basically a railgun you sit on, using the new breed of linear induction motor that is becoming popular in the coaster industry, which accelerates the car to 120 mph in some idiotically short time and gaining enough kinetic energy to turn upward and *coast* over a 420-foot hump unassisted from that point on. [Sometimes it doesn't quite make it, and returns backwards -- the ride accomodates this.] That crests the highest structure in the park by far, almost in freefall. After screaming vertically down and leveling back out to streak toward certain doom, the electric braking kicks in for a stop almost as abrupt as the launch was.

It's like the ultimate "pulse and glide" machine, except that they *squander* all that energy at the end. The braking system is a series of vertical aluminum vanes sticking up off the track that basically do the eddy-current thing with strong magnets in the car to damp the motion. After the car finally passes, the aluminum fins sit there with plenty of heat shimmer coming off the top -- no effort is made to save any of that claimed 10,000 horsepower used to launch the car. Oh well. Theme-park rides are probably one of the last things on the list to be "greened".

I'd love to see something like this with about a mile more track bolted on to usefully convert all that extra energy into more gravitation-vector entertainment, but frankly it's pretty amazing how Cedar Point has already sandwiched the runs of its 15 or so rollercoasters onto the island and still has any room for any people. Maybe something run out over the water... but of course the waiting time would be *four* hours for something like that and it would be a huge project to build.

Even with the long waits I think we got ourselves sufficiently roller-coastered out over the course of the day, not to mention mildly fried despite the sunscreen, and eventually made our way out the exit. Definitely a worthwhile trip, as Cedar Point is one of the major coaster destinations and I'd never been before. Jay and his family settled into the motel for the night while I briefly borrowed the shower in their room, grabbed a quick sandwich at the place next door and headed off into the evening, thinking to put at least some of the next stretch to Madison behind me before sleeping. For expedience I got onto the I-80 tollway at this point but did less than an hour before pulling into a rest-stop that was fairly new, huge, squeaky-clean and almost completely deserted. I decided that was good enough and tucked into the berth for the night.

The sunrise woke me the next morning and I got rolling. It was weird seeing this salted in amongst several GM assembly plants and the like scattered along the same route. It's only part of a large company, headquartered in Tempe AZ [well, where else would a solar panel outfit likely want to have its main offices?].

Soon thereafter I crossed into Indiana, whose most notable attribute that day seemed to be the Smell of Shit Happening amongst another couple hundred miles of well-fertilized corn and alfalfa fields.

They run triples out here -- sorta scary, they're called "wiggle wagons" for a good reason. I don't see these back home, probably because there's not quite enough wide open space to let them safely navigate.

This idiot with a *double trailer* insisted on sniffing my butt for a while and not only ignored several entreaties to pass but copped an attitude about it and got closer. He got called in -- it's pretty stupid to pull stunts like that with your company name and number plastered all over the back of the trailer.

Same message sent here: GO AROUND already, there's plenty of room. And in the big pic, look carefully in the lower left of the window to see what I got in response as he finally did! I'm apparently his #1 buddy. This one got called in too, although it was tougher to identify who the driver was because DOT numbers are unique to a company, not to a truck and I didn't have anything else in the picture to really ID the tractor. He was running bobtail, but that still weighs quite a bit more than a Prius, so no excuse. The Triple Crown safety folks concurred, and hopefully they found whoever it was and had him considering his future career options shortly thereafter.

We joke about it sometimes, but this pretty much summed up my run past the Chicago area. Not that this particular truck was a problem -- just pulled up to a tollbooth which is about the only reason I'm to the left of it, but the company name is just priceless.

Seriously, this country needs a firm smack upside the head with regard to how we drive. In relatively recent years it has turned into a real horror show out there, noticed particularly sharply by the members of the hypermiler community who tend to be much more aware of what's around them. America needs to wake up, get off the phone, and pay attention to what they're doing, without all this "me-me-me-first" vehicular threatening bullshit. Especially when they're calling themselves professional drivers.

These clowns are what can mar an otherwise perfectly enjoyable roadtrip and turn stretches of it into a nightmare gauntlet that makes you sometimes wonder how you ever get there alive. We supposedly have laws against reckless endangerment with a vehicle, and it's high time to put them to work. Police departments keep complaining that they don't have enough personnel to deal with it, perhaps without realizing that handled properly, these relatively serious and easily-proven violations could fund their own enforcement efforts and allow hiring and equipping of more traffic officers. The real challenge is to have it ultimately cause positive change in the target drivers rather than have it just be a purely punitive thing that people simply try to avoid. A sense of active cooperation and responsibility for the common good is what it's going to take, and America has largely forgotten how to do that.

Trucking company dispatchers and safety officers *do* want to hear the reports from the road, because it's their only way of knowing what's going on. I've called in my share of bad actors and for balance, have even called in a few *good* ones and asked "this is great, can you get all your drivers to follow this guy's example?" [And for the record, I find somewhere to stop before making said calls, where I can review and discuss captured info at leisure. Yes, sometimes it makes my trip longer, but for a worthwhile cause.] Either way the people back at the trucking or service-provider companies have always been cordial and say they'll get right on taking misbehavior issues up with the drivers in question. Everybody knows the *theory* on what the right thing to do is, drivers just get too caught up in that common mythology that tailgating and being pushy somehow gets them there faster. It doesn't, or maybe only by a very slender margin, and the increased risk to themselves, everyone around them, and their own professional image far outweighs any perceived time/miles advantage.

I decided to exit the rat-race [and a nasty quartering headwind] for a while and take a "shortcut" through Joliet IL, where I noticed that double-stacked freight trains seem to have become the norm. Even more efficiency in the rail system, I suppose!

But this about sums up my impression of Joliet. About as dehumanized as it gets.

My great shortcut idea turned out to take much longer than I thought, because Joliet is apparently the capitol of the badly-timed traffic light. I probably got more 50-to-zero surprises here than anywhere else on the whole trip. They don't bother installing any warning blinkers or anything, of course. That and several long chains of lights 100 yards apart with NO perceptible linkage or sensibility of their timing made it all pretty slow going.

Another astounding idiocy about Illinois is its tollways; like some other states now they have *unattended* exact-change-only lanes so if you haven't bought into their privacy-invasion "iPass" or "iZoom" system and don't have exact change, they force you to just blow through the toll and try to remember to contact a badly-designed website later and pay after the fact. This is a *horrendous* setup for traveling out-of-staters who have no idea what they're getting into when they jump on an otherwise innocuous-looking interstate. Fortunately I managed to scrounge up enough coin, but it was close. Really, if they're going to charge for passage on parts of the US interstate system, they should be prepared to handle all forms of US currency and cheaping out on hiring toll personnel [or even just installing bill scanners, like any modern self-checkout lane at a store] is no excuse.

Finally I turned north and crossed into Wisconsin, and as I began to get near the Madison area things started packing up again. Barreling along at 60-65 MPH at this point, 59.9 MPG in the display, but at least the wind was more behind me by now.

I finally reached the "official Hybridfest" Days Inn and parked next to the spankin' new Lexus GS600h that Eric had been loaned for the weekend. Talk about a disparity of purpose here! The GS outruns most muscle-cars and coupes and costs well into six digits, and Eric was driving it like he stole it most of the time -- enjoying the performance aspect and showing it off to people who rode with him, but I would argue rather out of character with what Hybridfest is all about.

I went inside and found the early arrivals, and then a bunch of us got to work and assembled up a couple hundred attendee packets.

Later I went over to the nearby campground and got set up along with the other folks who opted for the cheap-sleep route.

The mosquitoes were *vicious* all weekend -- as soon as dusk fell it was almost impossible to stay outside. Fortunately I was able to rig my window screens before they descended too badly, and dive into the protection of the car after running back from the shower. As long as no hint of rain was in the forecast, I had nice cross-ventilation at night.

Friday morning brought the MPG competition, based out of Olin-Turville park again. A few local press people showed up but it wasn't nearly as well-covered as last year. No major networks this time, I don't think.

Still, it has become standard practice in the morning before any of the contestant runs, to put members of the press into a car, give them some basics on efficient driving, and let them run the course to see how they do. They can do this with or without an advisory copilot along, their choice. I got teamed up with one who wanted some coaching, we jumped in one of the dealer-supplied Priuses, force-charged the pack to help get warmed up, and out we went.

The first of the two of these that we met coming over the hill was right spang in the MIDDLE of the road, and while advising my able pupil on how to react and still not destroy the ongoing glide too badly I didn't think to grab the camera soon enough and only caught this second one after he shuffled over a bit. But it made a good picture to hold up on the laptop at the drivers' meeting later and say "... and you very well might meet some of THESE on the course!"

And my journalistic journeyman did quite well, especially for never having driven a Prius before! Note the disparity between the car and the Scangauge below in the storage compartment -- I have no idea how the Scangauge was set up or calibrated, but nonetheless we came back with some pretty good numbers all round.

Now I'll admit I was doing a healthy part of his job for him -- watching the terrain, eyeballing the map, keeping track of what was coming up behind us, lighting the 4-way flashers when needed, gesturing over the roof to get people to go around, advising my driver on where to start a glide over this hill and oh by the way watch your RPM which is getting a little high, and see that sign waaay up ahead on the right -- that's where we turn so you want to get there without using the brakes if possible and that rise at the end should help stop us...

Fairly soon his brain was full -- nothing against anyone new to the game, but he began to realize that most of us who had gathered for Hybridfest routinely keep track of all this stuff at once by ourselves on a daily basis. Besides a nicely executed run with some help from me, he also gained a deeper understanding of just how *aware* hypermilers are of all their surroundings and because of that they are hands-down the safest drivers on the road.

Here's this year's route, which included a bit more elevation change than in previous years and was a bit more challenging. The high point is at the orange arrow, and the second high point is roughly in line with it on the return leg since it's basically a north/south ridge through there. I captured this on the GPS when I went out later for my own semi-unofficial run that afternoon. Unfortunately, the detail maps for the lower half don't appear to be present so few of the roads there are shown.

The highest irony? The press guy KICKED MY BUTT. When I ran it later, I didn't reset the car but opted to just use my own brandy-new Scangauge as the sole readout of MPG, and came back showing only about 81 MPG. I turned this quandary over in my head for a while -- what was my real score? The "by proxy" one from the morning, or my own inferior performance later which included a time penalty as well? The whole Prius class actually fared less well in general this year overall, and I don't think any of them broke 100 -- just because of the changed course. Oh woe, the centurions have fallen!

[My run wasn't actually on the official list because I'd apparently just missed the signup deadline through simple lameness. But Linda stuck me in at the end of the day so I could just give it a whirl anyway.]

As the official runs got started, Ron from Linear-Logic was on hand to make sure everyone's Scangauges were set up and reset correctly. Including mine, which I hadn't worked with at all until then so I had no idea what I was doing and just let him punch the buttons and trusted him to make it accurate. Given that they were running sort of a weird calculation offset in all these units, I suspect that if I had also reset the car I would have shown a somewhat better number there -- but heck, the idea is to have fun so I wasn't particularly worried about it.

Since then I have dug into the Scangauge and its capabilities in much more detail. But I still have no clue how to best calibrate the tank offset percentage, and I doubt that anyone else really has it reliably right for a Prius yet.

Hybrids pretty much owned the park that day. The big pavilion is in use almost every weekend, frequently for weddings.

Matt and his Zenn, a small all-electric car. He's a local, and has a fistful of laminated maps showing all the roads he can or can't drive on based on speed limits. He let me do a short test-drive in the Alliant parking lot the next day.

George Gladic's plug-in Prius conversion, using one of the Plug-In Supply Cal-cars style kits with lead-acid. He had a lot of info about this and gave a talk on some of his observations, although he's finding himself having to do a few hacks here and there to improve the system.

While GM didn't exhibit in the main show this year, they did bring some vehicles and people to the MPG competition and some contestants ran the loop in some unlikely vehicles such as the new hybrid Tahoe. [No Volt prototype to be had, though!] We got a fairly good look at the vehicles they brought along; I crawled under the Tahoe for this shot of where the 3-phase cables go into the 2-mode tranny. Not a whole lot to see, and the rest of it looked like a truck.

Then I went around and raised the back seat and removed the the panel over the battery pack service plug, and after checking that the vehicle was off, pulled it. And noted how remarkably similar, nay, *identical*, it is to the service plug in a Prius. Hmm, I wonder where GM is getting its hybrid parts?

At this point Kristin looked like she was just about to lose it, but she managed to barely cling to her professionalism as I put everything back together and turned the conversation to something more mainstream like interior luggage space.

(Image from seftonm)

Meanwhile, Alexandra from GM engineering was getting a stern talking-to by Wayne, probably about all the fuel-sucking pigs on the market...

But she gave a fairly engaging and confident-sounding talk during dinner, insisting that the Volt was on schedule and looking promising and that GM was becoming more committed to fuel efficiency.

They were in there trying, and had come a long way to spend the day with us, so I felt it appropriate to leave the usual GM-bashing out of my own talks over the next couple of days.

Dinner was once again catered by Quaker Steak & Lube with ice cream from Culver's.

I left the camera running in two-second timelapse-movie mode over the MPG awards, and then picked out some of the better frames out of the .AVI later. Presented here without annotation, because I certainly can't remember all of who's who! I think Evan captured this much more thoroughly but I figured I'd take a backup just in case.

The next morning it was raining, making it interesting to try and paste up all my display stuff inside the car windows since gaff tape doesn't stick at all to humid surfaces. While we were waiting around for the time to parade into the fairgrounds, I wound up running the A/C to try and keep the interior dry while I hung as much as I could without totally blocking visibility. The HF crew had me lead the line in, possibly because I knew the drill from last year and would certainly make myself easy to follow. All this had to be done early in the morning before the Fair opened, to avoid endangering attendees.

And here we are, lined up out front of the Alliant center. It cleared up over the morning, and the people flocked in. The idea here was to provide a lot of public exposure, making it so fairgoers had to work through the line of "weird cars" to get to the other events inside the hall.

There's a guy designing a skid-plate for the Prius, something that's definitely needed to protect that delicate transaxle housing from road debris. The main difficulty is finding solid points to mount it to, as well as fabrication to work around some of the weird bumpy bits under the transaxle. This prototype is rather elegant, and made from mirror-polish stainless which is why it's completely reflecting the pavement underneath it. I was probably one of the few people who crawled under his car to give it a good eyeball, and provide feedback on things like proximity to the engine-mount torque link and a slight hard-to-avoid buckling point at the rear edge, and he seemed to appreciate the eval. Trouble is, I don't remember who he was!

In contrast to many other events I do I was able to actually walk away from the car for extended periods of time, leaving all the reading material in the windows and a stack of flyers on the table. I gave my "why hybrids are good" efficiency talk around midday. I still spent a reasonable amount of time outside answering questions regardless -- that's usual. At the end of the day the car had spent most of the time closed up, and even with all that paper blocking the sunlight had picked up an astounding amount of interior heat which I had to try and get rid of as the time for us to file out of the fairgrounds neared. This only sort of worked since my bedding is essentially a big dead-air insulator and tends to retain a lot of the heat by itself.

We re-parked outside the fair area and went back into the mercifully air-conditioned hall for the banquet.

Felix Kramer, one of the original Cal-Cars guys, gave a short but poignant talk.

The next day I spent the morning at the hotel giving my talk [again] and listening to some others, and then headed to the Alliant again. Part of the Dane County fair includes bands at night, so they'd set up a pretty reasonable stage in the middle. So here are some obligatory "how it's set up" shots for the techies. Pretty basic on the lighting, but then again that roof probably has a fairly stringent weight limit and six-bars aren't particularly heavy.

[That is *not* Jesse at the sound board, despite a certain resemblance...]

The whole thing is on a truck trailer -- note the wheels tucked underneath. But it creates a large well-sheltered space, so bands could probably play in the rain and not get too wet -- until they went "backstage" down the steps, of course.

I didn't really even think to take any pictures inside the hall that day, since others have covered the fest in much more detail. But that's where I spent most of the afternoon, including a nice long chat with Ron deLong about CANbus stuff, and then helped the staffers with teardown and loadout at the end.

This struck me with an odd aesthetic, so I stopped in my tracks on my final walk out from the hall to whip around and snag it. Note the capitol dome in the distance; that becomes relevant in the next section.

The usual post-HF dinner at Culver's. This one was *not* punctuated by Wayne doing a half-hour Prius clinic in the parking lot like last year, but a good time was had by all. I mentioned that I was about to continue my roadtrip and go into total tourist mode, and got some good recommendations on local sights and points around the area.

Go to Part 2:   local Wisconsin tourism and slightly beyond

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