Today I woke up, got ready, and then fell back asleep. It wasn’t from sleep deprivation, but because I get these awful migraines when the weather changes, usually before it rains. By the time I woke up from my migraine-coma, my mom had left without me. So basically, I was stuck at the motel all day. My brother, Zach, and his friend, Bert, came into town because my mom’s computer crashed last night, and they came to help fix it.
Nights around here are pretty boring. Like I said before, Infinity let my mom have one of their cars for three weeks while we’re out here. I noticed an auxiliary port inside the arm rest the other day, and wondered if it would work to play my Wii in the car. Since tonight was so boring, it was the perfect time to try.
Bert and I plugged in an inverter, and then the Wii. We could hear the Wii’s music playing but there was no video on the navigation screen. For a very good reason, the Infinity requires the parking brake to be set before video of any sort will play from the auxiliary port. Once we figured that out, we could play all the games we wanted!
We realized this feat could be done with an iPod or Zune too! This prompted Bert to say “Wow, we can really change things. You could go on a virtual date in your car now… you can go to a virtual concert, go virtual bowling, then watch a movie right in your car without leaving your house!”
My mom and I have had this ongoing inside joke that we should learn how to bake cookies for the car engineers. I know, silly right? We’ll I guess the heat gets to us sometimes, or maybe it’s the radioactive water here in town. Did I ever mention we’re just over the hill from Area 51 and the Nevada Test Site? Of course everyone in town claims there wasn’t any fallout here. I’m not so sure.
Today was a slow day, and I decided early on I was going to take a shot at baking these cookies we’re always joking about. We had separate ideas of course. My mom wanted to put a baking sheet under the hood, on top of the engine, and I wanted to make a solar oven and let them cook in the sun. We decided to try mine first because I had been successful at charring a hotdog in a shoebox solar oven when I was about ten, and thought for sure I could bake cookies if I could cook a hotdog…
It was 119 °F outside today, and the ground temperature made it up to about 165 °F. We have an infrared thermometer because most normal thermometers, that you don’t find in your chemistry class, only go up to about 120. I made my solar oven out of a shipping box from an online website, some foil and a sandwich baggie as the plastic part. It was made with lots of creativity, due to the lack of supplies here in town.
I started putting the cookie dough in as fast as I could because it was windy outside, and my mom was scarfing down the roll of raw dough. Unfortunately the first batch got blown away. I left it on the ground to see which would bake faster, the dough on the hot ground, or in my oven.
The instructions on the tube of dough says to “pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, and then put the cookies in for 10-15 minutes.” After i put the cookies in I waited a bit and I checked the temperature. Not too shabby for a makeshift solar oven.
I wasn’t exactly sure how long I should leave them in the oven, but I figured an hour was probably enough. I went and got some ice cream while I was waiting, and chased away the birds from eating the dough out on the ground. An hour later I was ready to get out of the heat… the car air conditioner doesn’t work well at an idle and it was getting hot inside. I grabbed the cookies out of the oven, they were a little more than half way cooked, probably the consistancy of pizookie and they were actually pretty tasty!
So that was my day, baking cookies in the middle of the desert. The cookies on the ground just turned to mush, and don’t worry, I put them in the trash before we left. We’ll it’s off to the pool for now. If I grow a third arm, I’m blaming the radioactive water…
Last night, around midnight, my mom’s other photographer, Robert, showed up. He just got in from Norway and drove to town to meet us. He brought his 15-year-old brother Patrick along with him this year for his first trip as a spy photographer. It’s his first trip to the U.S. too; I hope he doesn’t think the whole country is as hot as it is here!
We got a late start this morning, but my mom wasn’t worried: Robert and Patrick left for the desert early. I was still tired when my alarm went off so I put a pillow over my head and went back to sleep.
When we finally got going, we drove around town checking all the hot spots before leaving town in the afternoon. The gates at the BMW garage were opened again, but still no prototypes were in the lot, nor the ice truck they use to keep their computers cool in the desert heat. Feeling a little disappointed, we moved on, over the hills to the places we usually find booming with test cars. Unfortunately we didn’t see much more than the GMC trucks from Monday.
It’s been fun driving for my mom this summer, Infinity gave my mom an EX35 for three weeks while we’re out here. It has all these cool features like satellite radio, radar cruise control, and my favorite, lane departure warning system. The last is pretty neat, especially if you’re driving for long distances. For example, if you get distracted and you start to get close to the line on the side of the road, it beeps at you, slows the car just a bit, and gets you back in the middle of the lane. It’s just the type of thing that is completely unnecessary in a car, but I guess it’s just what you expect when you spend so much money on a vehicle.
Without much to see today, we started to head back to the motel. We ended up running into a small moving truck with some Honda motorcycle prototypes. I can’t exactly tell you what they were… they were all covered in black camouflage, and they didn’t even say Honda on them, we just know from all the summers we’ve spent spying in the desert. We snooped around, pretending to use the port-a-potty on the side of the road, sneaking a glance at them before dilly-dallying around waiting for them to take the covers off so we could snap some pictures. They never ended up taking off the covers to put the bikes back in the truck, as you can see. Lots of car companies do this, sometimes even loading full size cars into trailers only unzipping the window portion so they can shout commands to the driver. However when we got home we found out Robert had been snapping pictures of them all day long! SportRider.com bought the shots and they’ll use them tomorrow.
When I got home I started talking to some friends online, checked my Facebook and e-mail, and decided that in my spare time I’d find something entertaining to do online. I actually found something worthwhile of my time trying to figure out how to use. GE launched a site a little while ago with something called augmented reality to advertise for their new smart grid technology. You need a printer and a webcam to play, but it is definitely worth your time. Here’s a video that explains it…
It’s definitely worth trying, but you need to allow popups. If you’re having trouble, click on tips on the left hand side of the screen (especially mac users) and you should be able to get it to work.
It’s off to dinner for now, hoping for more cars tomorrow!
Let me tell you a bit about the strange little “town” we’re staying in this summer. I woke up this morning, staring at the popcorn ceiling, with a spring stuck in my back from the motel bed. The ceiling—probably asbestos contaminated—has more glitter than a high school dance team. The walls that aren’t faux wood panels, are a 1960s American interpretation of a Japanese garden. And if you look closely, you might be able to find hidden animals in the leaves or clouds. Wait, let me just show you…
The bathroom is iffy to say the least. The first day we stayed here the motel manager wouldn’t let us use it. Instead, he gave us a spare key to the room next door so we could use that bathroom until they fixed ours. If you compared our motel to the movie Psycho, you’d be pretty close. If that’s not creepy enough for you, the motel was owned by the Bates family once upon a time, and no I am not lying.
The town is… small. I don’t think it’s more than a square mile, which means dining options are limited to the saloon, the gas station, a casino, or a mexican food place. In 1906, this was the most populated town in the whole state, thanks to the gold rush, and like most mining towns, everyone left after the gold rush, and it hasn’t changed much since then. There are wild burro—descendants of the burro brought by the miners—and there are mines still littering the mountains.
Every morning we snoop around town, driving past all the car companies’ top secret garages to check things out and see who’s in town. This morning it was pretty dead, although the gate in front of the BMW garage was open, making me suspicious that they might arrive today. With nobody in town, we take the 50 mile drive to the top secret desert location. Most days we drive at least 200 miles, checking every corner of the desert.
We pulled up to the convenience store, and right there in front of us were about 15 prototype GMC trucks! They have a new Duramax clean burning deisel engine, but my mom’s photographer in another location already shot them yesterday and they’re already up on the web. With no point in shooting more photos, we turned to head back “home.” As I was driving through the parking lot, I noticed someone sitting in the back of an SUV dusting off, what looked like big foot slippers. As I thought how strange that was, and maybe that I could bust the next Big Foot hoax, I made another loop through the parking lot. By the time I got back around he was fully dressed, in a lion costume! Trust me, I don’t think I could make this up, even if I tried. Turns out he and his friend drove in from Vegas just to check things out. They’re part of a furry community in Vegas, and the lion’s name was Qubi. Who would have known I’d meet a lion out here… After a few photos were taken, we headed back to town, and checked out the BMW garage. The gates were locked up, and no cars were there. They’ll be here soon, it’s getting hot out.
After a great cheeseburger—from the mexican restaurant no less—we headed home. We’ll be out again tomorrow, and I’m hoping the beamers will be here soon!
Well, if Jon and Kate are going down, I have a great idea for the next big reality show.. Tomorrow Never Drives starring, yours truly.. and my mom of course! But, before I get too far into why we are deserving of a summer reality show, let me tell you a little bit about what I do during my summer break…
My mom owns her own company: she’s a photographer. An automotive spy photographer to be exact. This whole spy thing started when I was about six. My mom was taking me home from my babysitter’s house, and spotted a strange looking car in a grocery store parking lot. She snapped a picture, showed it to my “car buff” dad, and the picture ended up on the cover of Automobile Magazine the next week. The car ended up being a pre-production Ford Mustang, and it wasn’t going to be released on the market until almost two years later. This was the start to her new career, and she’s been doing it ever since, taking me along with her, always with a camera in my hand.
So, I grew up looking for these cars everywhere I went, spending family vacations in “hot spots” and even almost not passing my driving license test after seeing a semi carrying test cars and running a stop sign.. no joke. People have even written articles about her, my favorite was named My Mother the Spy
So every summer, my mom and I travel to an undisclosed location somewhere in the desert (trust me, I’m not telling) drive hundreds of miles each day, and we spy on these concept cars while they are doing high heat testing, take the pictures, and off they go to various websites and magazines. It’s actually a pretty neat job. It doesn’t come easy, as these pre-production cars are kept top secret the whole time, as you can see, they don’t want us snapping our pics.
So next week I’m going to take you along with us, right here on PLAID. Every day I’ll update you on what has happened, what cars we snapped, and how hot it got. (it gets HOT out here!) When we end up rescuing airplanes, touring brothels, or climbing trees to get the perfect shot (all of these have happened in the past) you’ll be the first to know!