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June 18, 2009

Lake Elmo, MN

By Josh:
Swiveling down to the earth first thing in the morning, Laura and I rose almost before the sun did. I left my lounge chair to help set up the array. Julie and Randy offered us eggs, toast, and coffee for breakfast. Marcelo and Randy worked on the brakes all day with Claire and Willy's help. The rest of us cleaned the decals off the trailer. Claire prepared the loveliest impromptu salad as an alternative to our almost regular veggie sandwich regimen. I fanned out some Club crackers and put out cups of peanut butter and honey. Claire sliced some apples to pair them with. We indulged in a brief lunch, and proceeded to wash the van and trailer with Randy's help. After getting sufficiently dirty, and having gotten all the parts necessary for fixing the trailer, Tom buffered the trailer like a champion. Randy has one of the most professional garages I've ever seen. He even had an air compressed decal remover to help us clear off former sponsors from the trailer. Randy has been working on cars since he was in high school and he was reminiscing about his Ford Falcon. Nowadays, Randy races Volkswagens on ice. Tom has about 70 cars in his garage, and we couldn't find a better pair of friends to help with the solar car. We were ready to eat after a hard days work. Julie made veggie lasagna for everyone, and we enjoyed talking about falconry throughout our healthy dinner. I've always wondered how birds could be practically and peaceably domesticated. They bought cake, but Claire was promised pie. Randy, being a man of his word, deftly squashed her chocolate cake to achieve the semblance of a pie formation. Claire was pleased, and ate her flat cake (pie) with abandon. We finished by with some ice cream which was shared with the dogs Rosie and Freeway. Randy and Julie had some of the happiest dogs I've ever met. After all were fed, Randy showed us a great documentary on the Harpy Eagle that his friend had filmed. The videographer Neil Rettig also worked with Diane Fossey on covering mountain gorillas in the wild. We were plum exhausted by the time the movie ended, and I had to grab some z's. I took a quick hop in the jacuzzi bathtub, and I was out like a light.

By Marcelo;
Spent the day buying parts for the traielr, replacing all its brakes, bearings, etc... I thought my days dealing with the trailer were over. Well, 20,000 miles later, it was about time. This trailer have served us well, went once to the artic and it is on its way for a second time, enduring so much along the way. It is our garage, home away from home. As a old friend used to say. If you take care of your tools, your tools will take care of you. So, thanks Unicell for making this great trailer!

Got lots done thanks to the amazing support of Tom, Randy, John, July and the crew. Thank you everyone!

It was time to depart with the decals. I fulfill my commitment with all sponsors last October 30th, when XOF1 broke the world distance record. It was a great feeling of accomplishment, I felt wonderful to deliver on a promise, to be a promise keeper. To show appreciation, I've kept all sponsors decals on the trailer until now. As I continue to embarque on new journeys I now invite old and new sponsors to join the project and help me take on new challenges.

I was disapointed that we didn't drive today. Oh well, back on the road tomorrow.

The adventure continue, see you on the sunny side!

By Willie Wanka:
Another good night of sleep in the trailer does miracles! I woke up around 08.30pm, ready to rock! I felt like doing something back for the trailer so I immediately started removing the old sponsor logos. Randy provided me with the right materials and later on Josh joined to help me. The ladies were working on their updates and Marcelo was getting parts for the brakes of the trailer. During the clean the trailer project, Claire brought Josh and me a nice sandwich. She helped out a hand and later on Laura came and helped removing the logos too. Marcelo started installing the new brakes and I helped him out, a great way to learn some cool new stuff. Josh finished removing the logos and Tom polished it all up, nice and shiny.
After a good day of work we ended up eating a great meal with Randy, Julie, Sandy, Tom and the crew. It was great lasagna and for dessert cake transformed in homemade pie! With our bellies full we watched some cool documentary movies that Randy had shot and one of a friend of his. It was a great day, great food, great people, new breakes and a clean trailer. Good night!

By Laura:
The Minnesota sky darkens and dazzles for hours with a light show like no other.
Veins of electricity straddle the billowing and swelling storm clouds, igniting the sky with strobes of striking ionic madness! Hours and hours of phenomenal photonic illumination capture my imagination; I am witnessing the visual manifestation of planetary thought, the aero-terrestrial transmissions of the Earth- a grand cognizant entity whose heavenly masses of gases send diffusions of impulsive electric white light across synapses, bursting in chaos and beauty. Inspired and electrified, I twirl and spin, dance with fireflies twinkling all around me, lightning illuminating my fevered step. Josh is on the hill intensely picking his ukulele, creating a hypnotic and rhythmic soundtrack to the light show and my storm trance dance....if only I had Valerio’s poi chains to twirl fire between the glittering glow bugs and ethereal flashes...Tired, I decide to sleep outside under the bzzzzzzing power lines and just as I lay back, exhale and melt into the fully reclined chair, kaaaaaapow! The storm reacts on the power line above with a great and godly emanation of white and purple luminescence accompanied by the storm’s first boom of thunder a second later. My body pulses with heavy vibrations, an intoxicating current flows through my limbs and I experience the thrill of the dynamic atmospheric drama, within. It hits me that solar cells work a similar way to lightning and neurotransmission: a diffusion of charged particles across a gap, creating a channelled flow of current- be it jagged beams of descending light, a thought, or in the case of the solar car, photon derived electricity. This morning the clouds delay the solar car from charging, but last nights blazing display infused and saturated me with enough raw energy to jump up upon first wakefulness and initiate the array set up before 6am, on my morning off!

By Claire:
It’s times like this, when I wake up refreshed after five hours of sleep that that I think that even my own physical body really wants me to do this tour, evidenced by its biological willingness to invent energy on a whim.

Everyone was scattered, I was in the guest room, one was in the trailer, one in the van, one in a camper van, and one on a recliner under the free lightning show that was slicing the sky for hours on end. Another perfect 10 nights of sleep; with the windows open the breeze whispered through and the frog and cricket orchestra played its nightly tune.

Randy and his wife, Julie, have a simply idyllic spot in Lake Elmo, unsuspectingly planted down a private road that branches off a small highway. Their place is surrounded by dense foliage and sinks down into a small pond in the rear. They tell me that at any time there is bound to be a couple deer passing through and in the winter there are wild turkeys and a pair of coyotes. And there are two bird books next to me on the table that I’m sure give a sample of what else hangs out in the backyard.

I had coffee with Julie and she showed me around the house, talked about their babies (three sweet American Brittneys), and of her lunch date that lead into a black hole, also known as a casino, the night before. Around 6:15 I saw Laura and Josh pulling the car out of the garage and went down to help them set it up. But the sunrise that looked sure to shine bright was soon filtered by thick, low clouds. I can’t say it was too upsetting though. The trailer still needed maintenance and I couldn’t have asked for better company.

After breakfast, I worked on my update and then went out to the van to get the camera and upload some pictures. Willy and Josh were pulling stickers of former sponsors off the trailer and then scrubbing the adhesive off. I should have walked by them with more purposeful steps, but when Willy inquired, "Do you have long nails?" I knew I had just been assigned a new post. It's all good fun though. It's funny how repetitive, menial work can be so absorbing, rewarding even. After the first two stickers, I was progressing well to pulling off substantial chunks of the decal off in one smooth drag. Oh yeah.

After about the third near death experience of wobbleling on the top step of the ladder, I thought it practical to delegate that section of decals and set off to make my solar brothers some sandwiches. Around that time, the sun finally got up the nerve to confront the clouds and told them to drift on out. Even with 80% chance rain that day and a tornado watch for later that evening, I was forced to put a layer of spf bewteen me and the sun and the car was well on its way to a full charge.

With the sun burning bright, Josh and I repositioned the car and checked its progress, 98 amps, pretty good. A full charge is 109 volts, and a half charge is 97 volts. Amps represents how much energy is being collected and amps times volts gives you watts. This simple calculation indicated that we had around 500 watts. Marcelo put that in perspective for me saying that a toaster is about 1000 watts, so he was trotting around North America on half of a toaster. I will never look at a toaster the same again.

Marcelo gave me a tour of the anatomy of the braking system on the trailer and I felt really handy fastening nuts on the brake drum (or the part next to, under, or on top of the brake drum...somewhere in that general area). I also got to grease the tapered bearings with this pink goop that through my mindfulness still found its way onto my shirt. Another satisfying messy job.

By then it was time to feed the masses, so with the help of Josh I laid out all that we had to work with...mozzarella, bread, peanut butter, cherries, lettuce, apples, crackers, Goddess dressing, Tapatio, and tomatoes. The past few veggie sandwich meals were warmly received, but I didn't want to pinch team morale with monotonous lunches. With some donations from Julie's kitchen, we made up an appetizer dish of buttered crackers and apple slices with peanut butter and honey dips and a bowl of cherries and mandarin orange slices. The main dish (as termed by vegetarians) was a colorful salad of everything else in reach, except the hot sauce.

I spent the rest of the afternoon updating the web page template, loading videos, organizing photos, rinsing off the solar panels to cool them, doing my laundry, repacking my backpack, talking with Julie and Randy, and then hiding away with my book for a little bit.

Dinnertime was an event in itself. Julie laughed earlier when she told me that she asked Randy to go pick up food for dinner and a pie for dessert. Never one to disappoint, Randy comes back with two chocolate layered cakes. Also a gentleman, he pauses before cutting my much deserved (i think) piece, 'didn't you say you wanted pie?' and then wound his arm back, lingered there long enough for a roguish grin to match his gleaming eyes, and then ploughed the heel of his palm into my cake, “There’s your pie!” I eagerly thanked him for constructing a cupped nest, a perfect fit for a scoop of ice cream. I can’t recall what happened then, but I seem to remember him heeling my slice once more before it finally made its delayed arrival to my mouth.

Once that evil twitch of cake smashing (or pie making) had dissipated from Randy’s system, we got to pick his brain about his textbook and personal knowledge of falconry, a sport in which birds of prey are trained to hunt game for its human companion. He lightly commented about his plan to train the offspring of a local, wild Red-tailed Hawk to hunt and return game. I had never heard of such a thing, so saying I was interested is an understatement. He explained how he would capture the young hawk, work with it for about one week to train it, and then set it back into the local wild. He told us how he knew from his own experience that such birds do not hunt because they need to simply survive, but because they enjoy the hunt. It is in no way a possessive activity on the human’s part, respecting and encouraging the freedom and agility of a once scarce breed.

Later on Randy took some time to show us a glimpse of a few of the seemingly infinite and truly wide-ranging projects he is involved in, like filming TV commercials and teaching high school youth scuba diving in the Cayman Islands. We were also treated to the breathtaking footage of the Harpy Eagle of the South American rainforest, filmed by a friend and documentarian, Neil Rettig.

It was a successful day with a full day’s worth of needed maintenance, a full charge on the solar car, and full bellies. Everything happens for a reason, as you’ve probably heard a thousand times before, and I think meeting Randy and Julie is one of the reasons I am on this trip. This is a perfect example of the serendipitous nature of this tour that my sun mates happily forewarned. I think that a good guide for living is to do everything for the betterment of yourself, intrinsically speaking. From the things you eat, to the things you say, to the people you choose the associate with, try and make those things make you better. I think Randy and Julie are one of those people that make me better. PEACE.

Julie is making some great breakfast!
No brakes, no safety!
Owyeah!! Love green, Love life!
Say goodbye sponsor logo's!
Randy is helping out!
Fixing brakes!
Bye bye sponsors!
Josh !!!
Working hard or hardly working!
Never to old to play!
Grease it up!
Still cleaning!
New Sponsors or welcome to fill up the trailer!
The fight with the cap!
Tough girl!
Randy is helping again!! Awesome!
Cleaning the trailer project continues
What a life!
Don't drink any fluids from underneath the sink!
Lunch time!
Dinner with Julie, Randy, Tom, Sandy and the whole crew!
Mjammie Cake!
Homemade pie!
Doggies get ice cream!