The purpose of this blog is to inform those who are interested about my journey as one of three students from around the world who earned placements at Infiniti-Red Bull Racing as a result of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy. Family, friends, colleagues, aspiring engineers, and any other followers are welcome to visit this page and, if desired, give me feedback or ask questions. It is an effort to streamline documenting the next 12 months for all of these varying audiences, some of which do not participate in social media.

I have never written a journal, never written a blog. This is a first for me. This being the most meaningful and fantastic opportunity I could ever dream of, I would like to share best I can the details of what goes on in my day-to-day during the academy. I am incredibly honored to have won a placement at Infiniti-Red Bull Racing, and I seek to make this opportunity worth everything it possibly can be.

I will write once or twice a week, depending on the accumulation of events and catching up on the previous few days. If you'd like, you can sign up for email notifications for when I create a new post! See the link toward the bottom of this page. I hope you all enjoy, and thank you so much for visiting!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

New Years Road Trip to the Continent!

Back in Milton Keynes with all of my precious gifts and American beer intact, the first thing I had to do after work on Monday was hang up this beauty.

This was another gift from my parents.  It’s funny, the things you want when you move abroad!  Your move, Will.  I expect a Union Jack to be painted on the ceiling or something.

I worked on Tuesday as well, and then Hope flew in on Wednesday morning!  We decided to spend New Year’s together and to finally get some proper traveling in.  After recovering from the flight in, we exchanged gifts.  Mostly we gave each other some food and clothing items, little luxuries, deciding that more money should go to traveling.  To me, nothing beats the experiences you gain from traveling.  After gifts, we went out to London late to watch the fireworks from Primrose Hill.  We made it with six minutes to spare!

Amazing firework display in London, viewed with a fun crowd from Primrose Hill

Hope reminded me of the previous year, where I had said “who knows was 2014 will bring?”  What a year it was, and what a year 2015 will be.  I look forward to every year getting better and better, but it will be very difficult to beat 2014.

The next day, we left pretty late for our first destination…Brussels!  Rather than take the train, we took the Infiniti Q50 out for the first long road trip.  Here are some of the highlights of the seven hour journey to Brussels.

First big road trip for the (dirty) Infiniti Q50!
On our way!
We got to France via the EuroTunnel, a double decker train that transports you under the English Channel while you sit in your car.  It will go between France and England in 35 minutes, and the rates are generally very reasonable.  It also is set up such that you are driving on the correct side of the road in either country.  For those who don’t know, England is left hand side, France (and the rest of mainland Europe) is right hand side like the United States.
Boarding the EuroTunnel train in England
Disembarking from the EuroTunnel train, and all of a sudden...
...Vive la France!

We arrived in Brussels very late, and we crashed immediately at our hotel.  The place was nice, and it had a good breakfast for us in the morning, but this wallpaper in the room freaked me out a bit.

Not sure what the idea was here...
At this point, it was Friday.  We had all day to walk around, and so we did!  Of course, it being Belgium, we picked up some of the basic Belgian stuff.  Waffles, chocolate, and beer.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The scarf I'd picked up in Princeton was awesome!

Amazing open-flame salmon


Incredible chocolates
Belgian beer!
I will let the vehicle dynamicist in me out for a second here.  In the center of Brussels, the cobblestone streets are highly crowned to allow for water drainage.  All roads are crowned, but old roads like these were created initially for foot traffic and horse-drawn carts and wagons, not modern cars.  They clearly illustrate a point that I first learned from Maurice Olley’s notes in Milliken’s book Chassis Design.  Olley is often cited as the father of vehicle dynamics.

Because the roads are crowned, and tires are meant to be in contact with the ground as much as possible (what we refer to as the contact patch), wheels would be angled outward to allow for better contact. 

Early roads, like these in Brussels, were highly crowned to encourage proper water drainage
Photo credit to David Coleman Photography

Horse-drawn carts incorporated 'camber' because of the high crown of early roads
Photo credit to KarimHaddad
Thus the term camber to refer to a vehicle’s vertical wheel alignment was born.  The initial reason for this geometry, the crown of roads, meant that the top of the tires angled outward relative to the center of the vehicle, and so this naturally became positive camber.  When the tires lean inward, it is referred to as negative camber.

Clarification on positive versus negative camber

Most vehicles and race cars today exhibit negative camber in their static setup, and this is done in combination with other alignment and suspension geometry features (namely caster and toe) to provide optimal and/or inherently stable performance while cornering, depending on the desired handling characteristics of the vehicle.

Brussels was a nice city.  Hope and I really enjoyed our time there and had a lot of fun together!  We planned to drop in to a CrossFit box in Antwerp, about an hour away, so we headed there in the early evening.

I’m glad we got to the CrossFit Antwerpen box early, because it was hard as hell to find.  Turned out that it was down some breezeway driveway which opened into a small walled courtyard of a parking lot, none of which was lit, at the back of which the box was located.  It was pitch black and super shady.  But the box was cool!

CrossFit Antwerpen was in the back of a parking lot down this driveway.  Weird.

Tery welcoming coaches of CrossFit Antwerpen
After a good workout and ripping my hands open, we sat down for dinner at Charlie, a nice restaurant around the corner.  Then, it was off to Amsterdam!

A few hours later, we arrived at our hotel near the Amsterdam airport.  It was very late, so we passed right out.  In the morning we grabbed breakfast as late as possible, and we were still very tired, so we rested some more before heading out in the late afternoon.  By the time we got to Amsterdam via the metro, the sun had set.  But at night, the city comes alive!

Really awesome tulip displays
Amsterdam at night is very pretty.  The culture is rich beyond the pop culture stuff of the Red Light District and the coffee shops.  The city’s canals are beautiful, as are the streets themselves and the few squares we found.  If the temperature has been -4*C for at least four days, they can stop boats from traveling down certain canal routes, and you can ice skate on them.  It was nowhere near that cold when we were there, but that would be an awesome experience!  There was ice skating, however, at one of the little squares we found.  Pubs lined a horseshoe of the square.  The outdoor tables had tons of heat lamps in the umbrellas above them, allows patrons to sit outside in the freezing weather and be completely comfortable.  So Hope and I took a break and ordered a couple of drinks.

The heaters made it very comfortable to sit outside
Ice skating in the square with seal sleds?
We headed off and did a bit more wandering and toured the Red Light District.  Only a few photos from here ;)
Coffee shop in the Red Light District
Red Light District
After a few more hours of exploring the city, we headed back to the hotel.  Early the next morning, we had our second CrossFit drop in of the trip, this time at CrossFit 020.  Turns out, it was 5 minutes walking distance from our hotel…pure coincidence.  The workout was tough!  Rope climbs and tire flips were two things I don’t have a lot of experience with which were exceptionally demanding.

Reebok CrossFit 020 in Amsterdam
Thanks for the drop-in, guys!
Post-workout Dutch breakfast
After the workout, we decided to go back into Amsterdam.  After being there for an hour, we realized we’d have to leave immediately if we were going to catch the EuroTunnel we had booked back across the Channel.  But we weren’t ready to leave.  So we didn’t!

Funky Dutch architecture near the hotel
On our way back into Amsterdam!

The Dutch love their bicycles...this parking lot was too large for even a panoramic picture

Another parking lot of bikes
Last-second waffle!

More awesome bridges.  Amsterdam is beautiful!
When we finally felt like we had seen what we wanted to and purchased our souvenirs, we headed back to the car at the hotel and then back to Calais, France for the EuroTunnel.

Six hours later, we arrived in a huge line waiting for the trains to cross the Channel.  They even had groups of incoming cars stage at an overflow parking lot to allow for all of the cars to be accommodated.  The trains were running four times per hour though, so we only waited for about an hour or ninety minutes before getting a ride across.  It really wasn’t that bad for the sea of cars that were there.  And the EuroTunnel was still very fascinating.

Waiting to get on the train

Hope and I got back to Milton Keynes around midnight.  I will say that the Q50 was a great touring car for the road trip.  It was comfortable with plenty of room to relax, a quality sound system for the hours on hours of music, and it’s also very quiet at speed, despite being a diesel.  The rain sensing automatic wipers were a nice feature, too.  But the mileage is what impressed me most.  With the 2.0-liter direct injection turbo diesel fitted, this car averaged over 46mpg for the duration of the trip!

46mpg average for the trip, not bad...
It’s also nice to travel in countries (including the UK) where people actually understand that the ‘fast lane’ is a relative term, meaning passing, and where people exemplify common courtesies rather than power tripping on the fact that they’re driving 2 ton machines.  Very refreshing!

Four countries and 754 miles over four days, with no itinerary until the day before leaving.  We had one awesome trip, and Hope was a great travel companion.  Hope’s flight home was delayed due to weather by an entire day, which was a nice surprise for the end of her trip here.  Before she left, she gave me a very personal and thoughtful gift: a scrapbook commemorating a lot of the awesome adventures we’ve been on over the past year and a half.  The two of us are always up for fun and living life in unplanned moments, the ones you cannot recreate.  That reminds me of the quote I’ve always liked from Lester Freeman, a character on the awesome HBO series “The Wire:”

“A life, Jimmy, you know what that is?  It’s the $#!+ that happens while you’re waiting for moments that never come.”

Something about trips like this makes you feel like nothing else matters…not the finances, not the to-do list, not the uncertainty of the future or the transgressions from the past…you just feel free.

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