Wanderlust: Rollcage cars and parking lot drinking

by Cody Montoya

For my senior design project we did a SAE Baja car. It’s basically a miniature UTV (utility task vehicle). It’s like a single-person four-wheeler with a roll cage. We designed a car in two semesters. It was a shit-ton of work. Then we drove from here to Portland, Oregon, to race it.

There were 100 entries and schools from all over the country … Our car was definitely not the best one out there, but considering it was our first year and the first year the school did it, I think we did pretty good. We were solidly mid-pack.

In order to get into the competition you had to do tech inspection – it’s like a safety inspection. It took us two days to get through that. It was a lot of stupid stuff we overlooked. Usually you get there and the teams that knew what they were doing would get through in half an hour. With us, our car had frame issues and we had to bum a welder and materials off another team because we didn’t have any of the stuff there. There was nobody in charge; it was just us. We didn’t have time to deal with everything so we were winging it. It was a shitshow. We had to go to Home Depot every day for parts.

I didn’t care that we broke down or weren’t prepared. We made it there and competed. It was awesome that we got to go. We finished the car here, we loaded it up, we drove 20 hours straight, showed up, and barely got there in time.

On the first day we showed up at the hotel. We tried to check into the hotel and the credit card that the school gave us didn’t work. We couldn’t get into our room so we ended up getting drunk in the parking lot waiting all day to get into the room. Somebody brought a bottle of Jameson. It was for-real drunk. I think we finished the bottle in the parking lot, before we got a hold of the chair of the engineering department and he gave us his personal credit card for the room.

Meanwhile, all these teams are showing up and working on their cars and we’re like, “How are they still working on their cars? Shouldn’t that be done?” Later, we realized that we should have been working on our car, too, to prep for inspection.

Cody MontoyaGot a travel story worth telling? Write it in about 400 words and send it to [email protected] If you’d rather tell your story, send a brief synopsis to the same address. Either way, your story should be true.

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