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June 20, 2009

Staples, MN - Cookston, MN - 190 miles

By Marcelo
My thoughts; Everyday is a surprise, until now the only thing that has been consistance is the solar car. The green machine is surviving me, I am not very kind to it.

Tech garage; One year later, I had to fix the fairings a few times, the first time was due to a potwhole the size of a bison in the Yukon. Hey, next to that potwhole there were parts of other cars too. The solar car wasn't the only victim. I actually, collected a car wheel cover from the side of the road as a souveneir from that day, still inside the trailer.

The days event;
Willy Wanka, Josh and Claire turn to set up the array, got to sleep in a little. Yeah, I could use some rest.
The overnight stop at Napa Autoparts parking lot in Staples was quite. We need a couple of things for the van (enginee coollant, wheel nut socket and an extention), the store manager didn't want to charge us for it, said was his contribution to the project. Thank you Brian!
While driving we passed next to of the longest trains I have ever seem, it was crarrying gigantic wind turbine blades. We made a few passes by the train to film and take photos. Seeing those blades made by day. Go wind!
The other highlight of the day was our arrival in Crookston. The stop to charge the empty batteries behind the gas station turned out to be one of the most fun stops we had. The staff from the station came out to see the solar car, than the sherif, a reporter from the ABC, thing we were driving the solar car down the road escorted by the sherif, Willy Wanka on the passenger seat playing with the lights and sirenes, lots of photos and film. To top the warm welcome the owner of the gas station gave us cart blanch on the store, help yourselfs with anything you want. Well, needless to say some of us got brain freeze a few times before the end of the night. We all got a sugar high, kids in a candy store :)
See you on the sunny side!
The great solar car adventure continue tomorrow ...

By Laura
Vvavavrrrrhooooooooom....the seat vibrates heavy beneath me, my hair flies wildly like fire in the wind because there are no helmet laws in Minnesota. I hold my legs tight to Sean’s bike as we noisily chase after the solar car up and down the empty highway in Crookton. I feel his heartbeat in my left hand held fast around his chest. The local newsreporter has his videocamera resting heavy on a shoulder as he squats on the side of the road. Willy Wonka is riding in the sherriff’s cruiser, operating the flashers and playing with the siren like a young boy on a joyride with his policeman dad. Marcelo speeds down the road and I am in hot pursuit on the back of the motorcycle, amataurly filming with our small hanheld video camera that shakes uncontrollably with the turbulence. After a few laps, we pull back into the Ampride parking lot where Willy Wonka’s and my excitement are equally matched. He steps out of the cop car with the same adrenaline smile as I have dismounting Sean’s righteous bike. This kind army biker boy is from Climax, MN., the tiny town we all screamed joyously for when we reached it.
Beyond the excitement in the distance is a wind turbine, slowly oscilating and from afar it’s hard to believe just how big they actually are. In our travels earlier today we drove alongside miles of railroad tracks that at one point carried a train hauling wind turbine blades...each one longer than a semi truck...must have been more than 20 on this train, stretching as far as the eye could see down the tracks.
As the sun sets brilliantly backlighting trees with gold light shining through the leaves, I sit and talk with Ken. Our small glowing stars burn bright like the sun, increasing in luminescence with each deep breath. Ken was the first one to come outside to see what we were all about, the one who contacted the reporter and the one who offered and made us food, as well as open his house and his heart to us. Thank you Ken.
-Laura Peruzzi

By Claire
I don't know that I should be admitting outloud that I got cold last night, a temperature Marcelo estimated to be around 50 degrees (Im positive it was much much, if not, much colder). The trailer was closed up and I was in a 30 degree bag with a fleece pillow. Is there a word for someone how actually fears coldness? Not spiders, not heights, but an entire weather system. I would definitely consider supporting solar to the northern tundra a descent phobia therapy. I am so happy I listened to my sister when she told me to buy mid-chin socks over anklet socks. Common sense, but still a good call.

The valley bottom prairies of northern Minnesota lined our mostly unswerving route northward. My duties behind the wheel evolved into a more natural work flow and, once again, the day was a clear palette of blue and green and the cool breeze winding through the van masked the lobstery hue developing on my left side.

We were able to take quite a bit of footage of the car as it cruised through the grassed flatlands. It was fun to see everyone explore different angles and styles of taping and photographing. It's good to know that Marcelo encourages trying new things when it comes to documentation. I just wish that there were more hours in the day, a rare request I know, so that I could turn a few other viable concepts into something at least electronically tangible. Putting together slide shows and short videos is on the top of that list. I reassure myself that I am not wasting time with gaps of nothing based on the fact that it is hard for me to recount gaps in which I'd even be able to do nothing. I'll get the hang of it soon enough.

We started out in Staples, MN and aimed for Fargo, North Dakota to meet up with press. One of the issues with GPS is that you don't know what you are really looking for. For example, the map showed a nicely situated park, but you don't know how to get into that shaded little patch lit up on the cracked screen. So, what looked like an entrance point ended up to be the parking lot of a senior living complex. I was amused to overhear one of the center's residents wearily ask a friend about the funny car out front, with a sigh the friend said, 'aw, Judy, that's a solar car...', a 'duh' explaination loaded with a Wisconsin accent.

The highlight of the drive today was drove alongside a train carrying at least 18 wind turbine blades. The contoured rods gleamed a pure white color against the aged beds they were tied to, an untouched glow reflecting the clean energy they were on their way to provide. We got a lot of great footage as the railroad tracks curved to and fro, always coming back to greet the road, eventually rising up a grassed dune where the conductor waved and the train whistled before we finally parted ways.

The afternoon in Crookston was packed. Before I even stepped into the gas station we landed at for the evening I was told that we were being treated to the coffee, fountain drinks, pizza and internet the the station boasted. We took pictures with the owner, staff, and onlookers and moments later, Marcelo was being interviewed for a radio program and the local news was coming to get a shot of the car driving down a nearby pass, escorted by the sheriff, nonetheless. Willy rode in the police car armed with a camera, I rode with the news cameraman, and Laura was able to volunteer a passerby motorcyclist to give her a lift to get our own footage of this spontaneous parade.

The enthusiasm of the staff and visitors at Ampride gas station would be hard to surpass. Especially that of Ken, who made us pizza, which is a most respected act on its own, but also offered his home to use to shower up. Thank you to all the staff of Ampride...and everyone else we came into contact with our couple hours living there. Another sun-drenched press-filled smile-ridden day with the solar car.

By Willie Wanca

This morning was early again, 05.30 to put our friend on wheels into the sun again! We charged the car, ate breakfast and left ON THE ROAD AGAIN! What a day, we arrived in Fargo and did a press interview with ABC, a side of that the miles flew by. It was evening before we knew it and we stopped in a nice little town called Crookton. We charged the car again and had free ice cream, pizza and drinks at the gas station AMPRIDE. All the people around where very enthusiastic and before we knew it there was more press interviewing Marcelo. And of course…. WEEEHOOOOWEEHOOO there was a police officer arriving as well to check what was going on. He joined the crew for that evening and I was able to drive with him in his car and play with the sirens!! IT WAS UNBELIEVEBLE!!!!! As a little kid I was always dreaming about playing with the sirens (and still am) and yesterday my prayers where heard! Laura got to drive on the backseat of a motor; Claire was driving with the television man while Marcelo was driving the sunshine car! YEEHAAA it was a nice adventure. After all this we were invited to take a shower at Kens place and so we did. We all got cleaned up and shared some good life experiences with each other. (Thanks Ken!) Before going to bed we had a little meeting with Marcelo and at 01.30 the light finally switched of.

By Josh
Staples, Wisconsin was quite the lovely town. I woke up at a Napa Auto Parts, and I set up the array with Willy and Laura. We found a small sliver of sunshine between the building's shadows, which was just the right size for the XOF1. Laura and I scouted the neighborhood for a bathroom after we had a decent charge going. I noticed she was eying a loaf of rosemary bread for the second time in 24 hours, so I insisted we get it. After getting back to the solar car, we passed around the ukulele while we waited for Claire and Marcelo to arise from their slumber. We set out on the road, and I navigated with Claire as our driver. We set the route for Fargo, North Dakota, where we had some press waiting for us. We landed at Viking Ship Park, where we unintentionally parked the solar car in front of a retirement community. The girls stood upside down on their heads to invert themselves for a while. After getting some nice topsy-turvy shots, they realigned themselves with Earth's regular gravitational pull, and proceeded to speed off to get some fruits and veggies while Marcelo, Willy, and I waited for reporters to arrive from ABC. Marcelo had a brief interview, and we were able to impress some of our new elderly friends. The girls returned later, finding us guys lying leisurely in the fresh cut grass by the retirement center's parking lot. We gathered our belongings and hit the road...AGAIN!!! The crew fueled up on some fresh salad courtesy of Laura and Willy's preparation. Pepper Jack AND Feta on a salad is like some sort of undeserved slice of cheese heaven, especially when I've cut back so dramatically on my meat and dairy intake as of late. We took some great photos on our way North; some of the shots requiring me to lie in the middle of the road to snatch that most sublime angle. We even drove alongside a train that was carrying a huge load of wind turbine blades. Seeing the solar car speed past these other forms of alternative transportation and energy (respectively), gave me unparalleled inspiration to continue to pursue and promote solar energy in all it's forms. Even still, It was great to see that for even a moment both wind and solar power were moving forward together, and alongside one another; two solutions to save our planet from the rut that fossil fuels and coal transportation have drilled us into. It is also interesting to note that last night in Staples we saw a huge payload of coal traveling opposite our direction. At least from my perspective, continuing to mine, ship and burn dirty, filthy coal is literally driving us the wrong direction, literally. The Solar Fellowship decided to stop in Crookston, MN to charge the array upon stopping, we were greeted by the employees of the Ampride gas station. Even the name of the gas station bears honorable mention, considering the solar car “rides” on “amps.” The employees called the press, and had their manager bring his custom truck by for a picture of his car with the gas station. The gas station offered us free fountain drinks and fresh pizza. Once the press arrived, I took some video of the interview that a local NBC reporter was conducting. An army guardsman named John was there with a motorcycle, and even the local sheriff dropped by. Willy jumped in the cop car, Laura on the back of the motorcycle, Claire, with NBC, and I awaited their return while they took some amazing shots. Kenneth, a chef for Ampride, offered us his place to shower. He showed us some amazing heirlooms from his mother's Mexican shop that she had owned. We talked about Hawaii, and I brought out my ukulele for fun. We got into some deep conversation about inspiring each other through our own personal challenges, and sharing with each other our strength, happiness, and compassion. After listening to some of his great music, Claire and I departed to pick up Marcelo, since we had gotten our showers already. Kenneth does some awesome work in the community, and is continuing an admirable life as a student, chef, and father. It is really something special to get to meet people like Kenneth, who have shown the tour kindness, and friendship. By 3:00AM, I sang an Iron and Wine cover with Laura, and promptly clocked out.

Staples sun rising on Willy.
Willy is learning some ukulele.
Napa auto parts helps us out with free antifreeze!
Wind turbines ready to transmit alternative energy to America via railroad.
Solar vs. Wind, or Solar AND Wind??? I prefer the latter; there is no one solution to our energy crisis.
Wind turbine blades stretch on forever.
Laura is soo green, she uses turbine blades as toothpicks!
Old school onlookers
The lands flattens out as we go farther north
Making solar look oh so good
Marcelo gets a break from the dreaded duh-dunk duh-dunk duh-dunk with this new smooth road
Fargo is in our sights!
Claire is keeping it real at the wheel
I think she means she's hungry
Telling Fargo about our mission
They can't get enough of us!
Josh, turning the camera on his own
While the rest off the crew helps with the interview, Claire takes some time out upside down
Congratulations from xof1!
A feather, a comb, and Willy's masterful hands gets Laura a new attached accessory
Claire gives a word up to traveling by the sun
Tapatio really does go good in salad
Josh tries a new angle
Getting people to the edge of their seats is one thing, getting them to pull over and wait to see you is taking it to the next level!
That would be a good areial shot!
Crusing with blue skies
Willy and Laura set up for the passing shot
Make solar a part of your fututre
Clouds move to let the sun shine down on the car
Pulling into Ampride gas station for the night
Setting up the array...
Tilting it down to receive direct light
Laura holds it down in the name of solar!
Solar chitchat...
....and picture sharing
Laura robo-runs (not necessary for solar travel)
It's doesn't bite.
Claire points the way to alternative energy!
"So, what do you think about the auto industry?"
"The auto industry has the technology, but it needs to be implemented..."
Marcelo takes time out from being a solar celebrity
Claires reaction to Ampride providing soda, pizza, internet, and a place to park for the night
Root beer floats on the house!
Dessert then pizza then updates
How about a solar side car for a goat mascot? The crew will work out the details
Support from the Crookston Police Department!
The Sheriff escorts the car for local news footage!
After playing with the sirens, Willy takes some shots from the police car
The cameraman catches some solar action, and Claire stays down low to keep out of his shot and get some of her own!
Claire's gravel-eye view
That motorcycle looks good on Laura!
The solar family from the car's windshield
Laura shows us how much gas the car has used after 19,000 miles of travel...
Give me an "x"!
It's already been a great day, should we try our luck??
$10 to the cause!!!
Not Wonder Woman, Wind Turbine Woman! (not as catchy, but it gets the point across)
Another day, 190 miles closer!
Putting the array down for bed
Marcelo bids the car a good night!