Before arriving in San Francisco, we stopped at Muir Woods Park to see the famous California Redwood Trees, just north of the city. The trees seem as tall as skyscrapers, and their trunks have such an enormous width that four people can pose for pictures inside some of the hollowed out trunks.
While attempting to get the dry-tech box posed in front of the towering trees, it tipped over and fell off a bridge into a creek. But fear not, the dry-tech box survived the fall and the water, as the bearings are sturdy and waterproof. Sascha came to the rescue, jumping over the railing, and climbing down the bank to fish out the box.
From Muir Woods we approached San Francisco. The car drove over the famous 1.7 mile-long Golden Gate Bridge into the hazy city. As we drove, the iconic fog began to roll in and cover the arches of the bridge.
After touring the city the iglide car had two customer visits, the first was in San Jose to a company which specializes in designing and manufacturing medical laboratory equipment. Next it was time to head to Santa Clara, where the car visited a potential customer that designs specialty bicycles, which hopes to reduce the weight of their bicycles, in addition to other advantages igus bearings can provide.
In San Francisco, the car had no problem scaling the steep (vertical) streets, reaching the top for panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the storied Alcatraz Prison, and then driving down the well-known zigzagging Lombard Street. The hand-break was constantly in use, essential on the streets of San Francisco, putting igus bearings to the test. We were able to ride on the cable cars, which are a form of public transportation in the city, racing up and down the hills, as cars dodge the fast-moving trolleys, and passengers hang off the side of the cable cars. The car also visited Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory for a little treat.
San Francisco has a retro feel, teaming with tourists, hipsters, and eclectic personalities. The Dungeness crabs, mussels, and fish and chips were delicious and fresh, fished from the San Francisco Bay, which hosts America’s Cup sailboat race, and is known for its vicious currents. We said goodbye to the cool mist of San Francisco and drove south to Los Angeles. We drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at Pismo Beach and Santa Barbara. From there we headed to our destination of Los Angeles.
We had two customer visits in the Los Angeles area, the first with an electric car designer and manufacturer, known for their innovative and sleek style. The engineers at this beautiful design facility where highly intrigued by the iglide car, and the parts we had on display. Our next visit was to a company which provides measurement solutions designed to improve product quality and productivity for many different kinds of manufacturing equipment. One manager said if she had to sum up igus in one word she would use “excellent”, noting the reliability of the iglide line.
After the customer visits it was time to take the car on an adventure through downtown Los Angeles. After battling the infamous 405 traffic, weaving through all six lanes on the highway, the iglide car wanted to partake in the excitement of the Walk of Fame. The car posed with the Hollywood sign, made an appearance at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Sunset Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, and even spotted a celebrity or two.
We are now hitting the road to Las Vegas; look for us on the strip!
Thanks for reading,
Mingling with the stars at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
After eight months of leading iglide on tour, it is time for the world famous Sascha to go back to a life that does not involve driving across the world in a bright orange car. I have been lucky enough to get to know Sascha and see the man behind the car and the iglide on tour operation. After witnessing the daily commitment needed to make this tour what it is, I can safely say that igus could not have chosen a more exemplary individual to take on such a demanding task. Sascha is the perfect choice; someone who loves to travel and experience different cultures, who never backs down from a challenge, and is always professional.
Off the job Sascha is easy going, selfless, a good sport, witty, a team player, and extremely kind hearted. He has carried dozens of suitcases up and down hotel stairs, into elevators, and in and out of vans. He always looks out for his iglide crew by opening doors, lending an ear, arm, hand or the shirt off his back, buying coffees for everyone, and is constantly smiling, looking to make light of any situation. He is a problem solver, and will always find a silver lining, even when the team has driven 17 straight hours. Best of all he can always make everyone laugh by attempting to rap to American music with his German accent.
While on the job, Sascha is incredibly professional, and enthusiastically interacts with our customers by speaking about the tour and igus products. He always says that he sincerely enjoys speaking with customers and getting to know their company by explaining how igus can provide them with the best solutions for their products.
iglide on tour has become the amazing adventure it is because of the tone Sascha has set. Everything is well organized and planned, leaving enough time for customer visits, while also making sure that there is enough time to take the car out for adventures and sightseeing. He has an amazing eye for the camera and knows exactly what moments are important to capture.
It has been such pleasure to work alongside Sascha while he showed me the ropes. Here in the U.S. we cannot speak more highly of his character, good humor, and professionalism.
We will all miss you Sascha, thank you from all of us for an outstanding job with this tour. It is no easy task but you came, drove, and conquered.
As we crossed from the Norther to the Southern Hemisphere, we also changed from summer to winter. Even so, it certainly doesn’t feel like winter here in Rio de Janeiro.
It’s close to 90º, and despite my SPF 50, my entire face is sunburned. Good thing the iglide bearings in the car can handle this heat better than I can – they’re still working perfectly, which isn’t surprising as they’re used so often in harsher environments than these. One of our bearings, iglide T500, can even work in long-term temperatures nearing 500º! Despite the heat, Rio de Janeiro is completely beautiful.
One of our first customer visits in Brazil was outside Rio, at a factory that manufactures equipment for Brazil and Latin-America’s biggest TV network. At their factory, they were creating a custom chairs for a TV singing competition that will sound familiar to some of our readers. The chairs use igus’ PRT slewing ring bearings to rotate around smoothly, used by the TV show’s ‘singing coaches.’ The coaches will hear the contestants sing – without being able to see them. If interested in working with that contestant, the coaches will rotate their chair around to face them (sounding like any show we have here in the US??) The PRT slewing rings from igus are used because they are almost completely silent, so they will not compromise the sound quality of the TV program, and they are also maintenance-free, so the coaches can turn to face as many potential rock-stars as they want without worry.
We also had some time to explore a bit of the city, much of which is located between mountains, including the Pao de Acucar, or Sugarloaf Mountain, which rises 1,300 feet above the harbor below.
If you aren’t feeling quite ready to climb the mountain, you can take a cable-car ride to the summit, where there is a breathtaking view of the City.
From the top of Pao de Acucar, you can also get a glimpse of the ultimate symbol of Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, located on the peak of Corcovado Mountain. The 130 foot statue was built to celebrate 100 years of Brazil’s independence from Portugal, celebrated in 1922. We visited the statue around sunset. The giant amazing statue, coupled with the sky’s changing colors was a sight I don’t think I will ever forget.
As a tourist in Rio, there are 2 very obvious passions of the Brazilians. Obviously, with the World Cup happening, the first one is football. I found an amazing place to join in the football obsession, at the FIFA Fan Fest at the Copacabana!
The Copacabana is one of the world’s most famous beaches, and when Brazil’s football team is playing, the Fan Fest extends across the entire thing.
At the Fan Fest, you can also experience Brazil’s second most notable passion – Samba. Before and after the matches, and throughout the night in the city, you can hear Samba music everywhere. They even have Samba schools throughout the city!
We also came across a Brazilian favela. These neighborhoods are notorious for crime and corruption – until recently many were governed by gangs and criminals instead of Brazilian government. Over the past few years, gangs are starting to be expelled from the area, and local police stations are being built.
Despite its problems, Rio is a city with many facets, and surely one of the most beautiful cities worldwide.
Soon, we will leave Rio and head South until we reach the Argentinian border.
Samba, Caipirinha, and soccer. Many would associate all these words automatically with Brazil. Since arriving, I can to you that while I haven’t seen everyone dancing the Samba or drinking Caipirinha, it IS the World Cup after all, and Brazil is futbol obsessed! Everyone, young and old, men and women, even those not interested in the game, all are all a sudden obsessed. I was able to get the full Brazillian experience, watching a World Cup match at a public viewing in São Paulo.
The lighthearted atmosphere turned tense when, during the game, Chile caught up to Brazil, leading to a penalty shootout.
In the end, everyone was relieved and the party resumed after Brazil finally came out on top!
While the World Cup will be an important part of our Brazillian tour, I wanted to share another “Cup” with you – one that has been hidden and pushed into the background with futbol-mania. Taking place from the 19-25th of July, right here in Brazil is the RoboCup 2014! igus will be taking part in the tournament, running in Joâo Pessoa, putting our robots up against their toughest competition in a number of disciplines – one being Robot Soccer!
Students from the University of Bonn, teamed with igus, created a humanoid robot that uses a number of igus plastic components created using a laser-sintering process. The plastic bearings used in the robot allow for smooth motions of the robots joints, as well as reducing the total weight of the robot without compromising any strength – a big advantage over the competition!
I have to keep referring to our little soccer machine as “the robot,” as he doesn’t have a name; but you can help change that! We’re having a naming contest for our competitor, pick a name and enter the contest here: http://goo.gl/mkYJ54 Whatever name both igus Germany and the University of Bonn agree on wins a prize!
I’ll tell you more about our robot over the next few weeks as he competes in his own version of the World Cup.
As I mentioned, I am in São Paulo at the moment. The city is the economic capital of Brazil, and with more than 20 million people, the largest metro area in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, our awesome iglide car is still 400 miles away in Rio de Janeiro! The customs in Rio is more specialized on imported items like cars, and so it should be through much more quickly than if we brought it through the São Paulo airport.
Over the next week, we’ll be hopping on a plane to Rio, and from there we’ll start the tour – driving South to the Argentinean border.
I’ll keep you up to date, as always!
Over the past three weeks, we have explored many areas of Japan. Wrapping up our travels through the country, we drove more than 800 miles south to reach Mt. Aso, the country’s third largest active volcano. From there, we looped around and headed 1,000 miles North. If you add up this daily driving, we have reached a total of about 3,250 miles through Japan. Our car and it’s bearings endured these miles just as easily as the 10,000 miles before. While driving North, we passed through the Miyagi prefecture. Located North of Tokyo, Miyagi was in the international headlines when a giant tsunami hit and destroyed large parts of its coastline in 2011. Near the shore, about 80% of some town’s buildings were destroyed. The blue sign on the building below marks the height of the wave as it crashed onto the area.
An astounding amount of reconstruction has happened in the area in the last three years. All the rubble was removed, and many new houses and buildings have popped up, including many with added safety features, like the one below. The wave signs on the this building signals that it was built to withstand a possible tsunami; in case of emergency, area residents can climb up to the roof.
Life has continued on for the people of Miyagi. There are still some physical reminders of the terrible tsunami, like massive areas of former urban landscape, left truly abandoned, and many of the city’s houses still stand, but are not fit to live in.
Some citizens never returned after the wave, same for many businesses. Many facilities that were destroyed are either out of business, or have relocated to different areas of Japan. Some residents not only lost their home, but their jobs as well. Some are still living in temporary housing, which are often too small to provide adequate privacy.
The Hatachi fund is just one of the several foundations that is helping residents, children in particular, with the aftermath of the tragedy. Hatachi means “20 years old” in Japanese, named such because the foundation follows children until their 20th birthday, when they are legally officially an adult. The foundation serves as an umbrella for various other charity organizations, each specialized in a certain aspect of aid, one of which being the “Chance for Children” foundation, which focuses on education.
igus Japan is supporting CFC, donating one Euro for each km driven, and the money will be used to help with educational things like study rooms. In these rooms, children are able to learn, play, and get help with their schoolwork. Also, CFC gives “education vouchers,” which children can use as a form of payment at a wide range of institutions, such as tutoring centers, sporting clubs, museums, and music schools accept the voucher from children, then exchange the vouchers with CFC for their actual payment.
Now, our time in Japan has come to an end. I want to take the time to say “arigato” to my Japanese colleagues, who showed me great hospitality and support during my time here. What a great tour!
We are now on the way back to Tokyo; from there the car will depart to the other side of the globe. The next time I write will be from Brazil!
See you soon,
We are still driving North, soon to reach our Northernmost destination – Sendai. Sendai is the capital city of Japan’s Mijagi prefecture. The coastal cities in this region were the most affected by the powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit in 2011.
On the way to Sendai, we passed through Fukushima, where the tsunami hit and damaged a nuclear power plant, resulting in the meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors. The cleanup is still ongoing, and expected to last at least a few more years. As radiation is high in the area, robots are replacing humans wherever possible. One robot, that us used to remove rubble, is making use of our Triflex R cable carrier system. Triflex R protects the energy supply by guiding and protecting the cable package in multi-dimensional movement.
As we traveled North, we stopped for a visit to Mt. Fuji, the national symbol of Japan. At 12,388 feet, it is also the highest mountain in the country. The height does not sound very impressive, but seeing the mountain, which stands alone, is incredible. The mountain was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013, and rather than being considered a “natural site,” it was named a cultural heritage site. Mt. Fuji has not only inspired artists and poets, but has also been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to take the car up to the top, I really would have liked to place our iglide on tour flag at the summit! 😉
The tour in Japan is wrapping up, in the next week the car will leave the land of the rising sun to make its way to Brazil!
Immediately after the press conference, we left Tokyo for Isesako, about an hour East of the capital city. There, we started our visits to our Japanese customers. At our first stop, the entire R&D department were there to welcome us as the iglide car entered the grounds. About 20 people gathered to get a closer look at the car, and learn about igus products.
Currently, the customer is testing where our bearings would work best in his exhaust system. Millions of iglide bearings are installed into new cars every year, so I am sure he and igus engineers will work together to find the perfect solution. Even though they are plastic, the iglide bearings are not affected by high temperatures, and are an inexpensive and lightweight alternative to metal. Believe us? We filmed the following clip in Taiwan, proving the resilience of iglide bearings in high temperatures.
Though the trip from Tokyo to Isesaki should have taken about an hour, it took us more than double that! First, we had to pass the suburbs of Tokyo, some were as large as major European cities!
As you leave the city behind, everything slowly turns a bright green. Our route brought us right to the center of the island – in the summer, the mountains are transformed into a famous ski area. For now, though, we are able to see the real Japanese countryside.
As more and more people move to the metropolitan areas, the rural areas become more and more abandoned. While they are shrinking, the cities are booming. Most Japanese people that grow up in the country leave their villages behind for the city. With their villages, they are leaving behind traditional cultural practices, like food. I had the chance to taste a traditional fish dinner, which was incredibly delicious.
One evening, we visited a restaurant and bar where an old woman both cooked and served traditional “Grandma food.” We all know that grandmothers are the best cooks, and she was no exception!
After visiting “the grandmother bar,” we continued our journey towards the sea. Along the way, we stopped to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic village of Gokayama. The village is preserved as a traditional village with wooden houses and straw roofs.
From Gokayama, we continued on to Hakui, which is located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Seeing as iglide bearings are water resistant, we took the opportunity to take the car along the shores of the sea.
iglide bearings are all water resistant and corrosion free. We also offer special bearings that are exclusively manufactured for meeting the demand of under-water applications. iglide H, our underwater specialist, is the perfect choice for water, but also a variety of chemicals and other fluids.
Currently, I’m writing to you from Kyoto, where we are going to visit a very traditional and important Japanese site. I’ll tell you all about it soon.