So, the vehicle is pretty much finished! It's been a heck of a couple of weeks since the last time I posted, and things are pretty rushed here at the end, but I think the results of the project are turning out well. Literally twelve hours after my last post, I found myself with another rather serious bacterial infection and amoebic dysentery, which put me on my back for several days. I just finished the meds today (with pleasure- Flagyl is some pretty strong stuff), but the first three dyas I was barely able to sit upright.
Once I was feeling strong enough to ride out to Douvangar, the guys and I were able to finish the vehicle to a usable state:
It was a weird experience getting on the thing for the first time. As soon as it started to look more like a vehicle than a cart and bike parts, quite a crowd of kids and men gathered to watch it in operation. I didn't even have the thing out the door before 6 young men hopped on it, straining some of the welds. These guys likely weighed in the neighborhood of a half ton - four times the maximum load I designed the vehicle for. After an explanation that people weigh a lot more than grain, I think they came to understand the vehicle's real uses.
I got to ride the thing around for a bit, and got a good feel for how it would perform. I think the oddest (why should this be odd?) feeling was that it drove almost exactly as I expected from my simulations. After a year of simulating the vehicle's performance with various tools, I knew in my head almost exactly how it would respond running over ruts, and how hard it would be to ascend a slope with it. To actually feel the thing under my legs, responding to the steering, etc., was pretty exhilarating. Jess said I rode around with a dumb smile on my face. I'm fine with that :)
I didn't get a whole lot of playtime, because I needed to finish my ASME paper to submit it today, so we rode into Maroua after doing some work with Jess's trees yesterday morning. Being sick had put me behind with writing the paper,, so I needed to take time to finish it now. I wish I had more time to test the vehicle, but I've already learned what I came to learn.
Leaving for home is always bittersweet. Sunday evening will likely be the last time I get the chance to see this part of the world. Another 6 days, and I'm on a plane bound for Detroit, drinkable water and the rest of my family. This is the longest I've been away from home, and it's going to be good to see my family. I hear my one nephew is starting to stand up, and I can't wait to see him, my other nephew and everyone else. I'm really looking forward to taking three weeks and relaxing before hopping back in the saddle again. It's been a hell of an experience, to be sure.
There's still a lot of work to be done and blog posts to be made, especially once I get to Yaounde, and when I finally get home - I'll be working on the documentation packet likely for the next month, and some other ideas I've come up with for the project, and I'll be able to upload some videos once I'm home to an actual broadband connection. Next post coming to you from Yaounde, Cameroon!