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Tech Tour Day One: Wild Weather, Gorgeous Scenery

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A rainbow over Lake Huron in the Straits of Mackinac. Matt Roush photo.

A rainbow over Lake Huron in the Straits of Mackinac. Matt Roush photo.

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ST. IGNACE — Greetings from the Upper Peninsula, as the Great Lakes Innovation and Technology Report 2012 Fall Tech Tour is officially under way.

I spent four and a half thoroughly enjoyable hours behind the wheel of this fall’s Tech Tour Mobile, a gorgeous, loaded 2013 Ford Taurus packed with high-tech features. The adaptive cruise control worked like a charm on I-75 North, from the busy parts from Flint to Bay City to the not-so-busy parts north of Grayling. The thing handles really nimbly for such a big car, too, and the performance of the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which displaces a mere 2.0 liters, is simply astounding. And somebody has finally married a navigation map with weather radar, so you know what you’re driving into. (In my case, apocalyptic-looking clouds, driving rain, and a 20-degree temperature drop — 61 degrees in Bay City, 41 in West Branch.)

The numbers so far: 358.4 miles driven, 14.9 gallons of fuel consumed, 24.0 mpg average. (I’m betting that mpg number will go up as I head onto the two-lane highways of the UP, where I’ll be driving considerably more slowly than on freeways.)

Traditionally, I’ve started these fall tours of the state’s university tech transfer efforts at Michigan Technological University. MTU is an absolutely amazing research institution that’s worthy of coverage — but that’s limited by its remoteness, since Tech is farther away from Detroit than Washington, D.C. I used to drive up all day Friday and see people from Michigan Tech on Saturday. But I finally figured out that it wasn’t necessarily fair to ask the Tech folks to give up a beautiful fall Saturday. So now, I drive halfway to Houghton on Thursday night, and finish the long journey on Friday morning — that way I can offer Tech some Friday afternoon interview time.

My past visits to Tech have yielded such jaw-dropping surprises as an invisibility cloaking device and an atomic rocket engine, as well as successful tech-based business incubators, all in a setting of incomparable natural beauty. I can’t wait to see what the Huskies have to show me this time.

CLICK HERE to follow me on my Fall 2012 Tech Tour.

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