Mars, Egypt, Motel 6…and Us

Day Four: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights
Imagine a game like this: A hat is filled with cards. Written on each card is a random proper noun. You are instructed to reach in and pull out 3 cards. You must then use your cards to write a story about the nouns you picked. Here are the words you pulled out: Mars, Egypt, and
Motel 6.

“What?” you say to yourself.  “I can’t make up a story with those three seemingly unconnected words!  It would sound like a preposterous piece of fiction.”  But sometimes truth truly is stranger than fiction as we found out yesterday, May 31, when checking out of Motel 6 in Green River, Utah
This is how universe decided to put these 3 words together. Just as I was emptying the previous night’s melted ice from our little red Coleman cooler onto the grass, I noticed a canopy under which stood a whole slew of handsome young men. When you’re 72 years old,  people don’t think badly of you if you approach a group of 20-somethings, any one of whom could theoretically be your grandchild.  (Age does have its privileges).  So that’s just what I did.  I walked up and asked this impressive group if they were having some kind of sale, knowing full well that this didn’t seem like a sale.
One by one, the smiley guys standing before me took turns explaining that the object I was looking at was a prototype of a Mars Rover they designed for the “University Rover Challenge”.sponsored by the Mars Society. The competition would be held the next day at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. Teams from all over the world will be attending from June 1-3, 2017.  Their team, the Pharaohs, composed of mechanical, electrical, design, and software engineering students, are from the Military Technical College in Cairo, Egypt.

As Mike approached, the talk shifted to the rover itself – the tire design, the strips of gym shoes that were glued on for better traction and so on. I continued asking more personal questions while being struck by clear eyes that shone with intelligence – perhaps brilliance, I surmised. But over and above any of that, there was a warmth that radiated from each of these young men – their excitement to show a stranger their project – their pride at being part of this group. Maybe it was the serendipity of it all – the unexpected confluence of unlikely circumstances – a Mars Rover in the parking lot outside a Motel 6 – respectful, generous, open-hearted young men across the world who took the time to talk to two lone strangers under unexpected circumstances. Maybe it was that serendipity that ignited an intuitive sense that I had just touched something of future greatness. It was an honor.

Click here for a list of participating world teams



4 thoughts on “Mars, Egypt, Motel 6…and Us

  1. What a lovely experience! Thanks for sharing. It reminds me that the world is full of wonderful people. A very uplifting post.

    1. I was a bit reticent about blatantly asking these young men what they were doing, but I went ahead anyway and was really so glad I did.

      1. the honor is all ours & it was a pleasure meeting you hoping it won’t be the last time.

        P.S: thanks for the lovely way of writing.

        1. Just checked the scores at the Mars Society website. Congratulations Mohamed Assy on your team’s high ranking. I hope you had a wonderful time here. Safe journey homeward.

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