Day 1, or the Day of Massive Improvment (Statistically Speaking)!

June 24, 2012

We started the day out with a little run into downtown Traverse City- amazing the number of people that turned up! Hundreds, easily. I was personally amazed by the number of people that showed interest in, or shared their own stories about the little Squareback. Normally when my VW ends up in a show (which is really what that was) with the Imperial that my father runs, there’s a swarm of people around it, and some people walk by mine reminiscing about how many VWs they crashed in their early years. The “pushing it across the border” story is, like any good story, getting better every time we relate it.

We headed out of Traverse City bound for St. Ignace across the Mackinac bridge. Lots of forests flew by, an we slowly grew accustomed to the oddities of our 50-year old cable-driven speedometer. Mostly its jerky reactions to any input caused us to err slow, because it only smoothly shows multiple-MPH changes, and it was easier to lose speed than gain it. One little problem showed up- when we calibrated behind the Imperial last night, we asked their opinion on whether we needed to calibrate 50. They said no.

The first leg today… was mostly 50. Thankfully the highway calibration was at 50, so we got repeatably within 5-tenths of the time, and stuck another pointer on the speedo. At lunch, we were fairly confident of the first two legs, as we ate while taking in the very beautiful sights of Lake Michigan.

We set out again, bound for Sault Ste. Marie. These routes had some complacency-inducing 20-minute-with-no-changes sections. Yes, we fell for them to a degree. While we never got lost, we would often spot the next instruction, but not have time to think through it, so there was a frantic jumble of numbers, signs and directions lumped into a few seconds. We caught on as the day went along, slowly getting into the rhythm, and when we finally arrived in Marie (blowing past the finish because we were too focused on the timing- OOPS), we had taken our total error below a minute! In fact, our final leg times were: +9, +7, +7, and -21. Yeah, we seem to like getting ahead of ourselves on the last leg, but we’re thinking a large part of that is down to our lack of knowledge, both about our current speed, and about the accel/decel times for our car. We guessed, a lot, and we guessed wrong. A lot.

So, once we arrived tonight, we drew up this handy-dandy (excellently colored-Nick Jones, the star 1st grader!) chart:
Power Chart
Downward, the starting speed, across the top, the target speed. These are based on the typical gear and driving style for all the speeds. We just need to trace the two speeds, and boom, we have a time to start with. We have one advantage here, too- because we’re so lacking in power (compared to the V8s, and 9-litre 4s, etc), we go full throttle for most all the speed changes. It’s the most repeatable (boot it is easier to reproduce than 72% throttle), and we don’t need to worry about accelerating faster than we can deal with (we got an average of 18.5 seconds from 0-50).

Hopefully tomorrow we can really dial in our first few legs, and maybe rein in that wildly early final leg habit. It’s now 11PM, though, and we’re too young to be good at getting up early, so we’ll be off to la-la land now. See you all in the AM! (Okay, maybe not all. We need to make the start, after all!)

PS- this was supposed to go up last night, but the internet here was preventing any real work being done. Had to wait until 7AM to get it finished.

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