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June 22, 2009

St.Pierre-Jolys MB - Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada - 107miles

By Marcelo;
Bon Jour Canada! (good morning Canada!)
My first time waking up in "Canada land" its been a while, good to be back home.
Woke up to voices and the sound of engines near the trailer. No point in setting up the array, thick overcast, Michael and Josh helped me removed its cover, turn it on. Everyone went back to sleep, I stayed out baby sitting the car. "bon jour", a gentleman approaches the solar car speaking french. I tried the best I could to speak a broken up french. Luckly he spoke some english, in a mix of french and english we were able to understand each other and laugh at ourselfs. One of the people that stopped by to see the solar car saw the solar car last year on the TCH (Trans Canada Highway) east of Winnipeg. He was thrilled to see the car again and learn about the previous journey to the Artic Circle.
It was early, before 07:00am, the mosquitos were so agressive I took refuge inside the van to work on updates. No internet acess at this stop. Willy seems to be the mosquito's favority, unwilling to keep feeding the mosquitoes he bought some repellent. I joked saying he is now getting older, compared to last year, his hormones are changing, female mosquitos are now attracted to him. Claire follow up by poing out to his mosquito bites saying "take it as a compliment, those are love bites" we all had a good laugh.

Laura was helping me check the battery voltage, we both were wearing mosquitoes net, don't like the idea of using chemicals.
Went across the street to invited the French emmersion school from across the street to see the solar car and make a presentation. Unfortunate, it didn't happened, the principal didn't seem to be interested. Not willing to miss an opporltunity, we made a stop at another school near by on the way out. We stopped at the school parking lot, Willy went in, a couple of minutes later we were doing a presentation at Real Berard School. Glad it happen!

The strong north winds were blowing the clouds away, the morning heavy overcast slowly thin out, pockets of blue turn to blue sky with only a few clouds, by the end of the afternoon clear blue sky over Winnipeg. The drive went well 50km (30 miles), we got lost trying to find our way to the Forks. We were greeted by a journalist and a photografer from the Winnipeg Sun. Coralea an old friend came by with her family. We spend the afternoon talking to people about the project, taking turns, checking out the Forks. Of course we had to have some ice cream!

Josh jammed with his Ukelele with a musician that was performing inside the Attritum. I was outside baby sitting the car, I heard it was a good improvised performance. Claire and I were pondering about this solar car adventure, not knowing how far we would be able to drive, who we will meet, where we would spend the night, etc... We find all these uncertanties to be the most exciting components of this wonderfull journey. As it turned out we made as far as Portage La Praire, 25km (95 miles). It was late, dark, I want to crew to sample another Canadian experience by making a stop at Tim Hortons, pulled over, parked on the street next to it, a few people came by to check out the solar car, among them there was Rudy, who offered us to park the solar car at his garage overnight, I gladly accepted and Randy and Allan two RCMP officers, who also came by to see the car. We ended the night with a secure place for the solar car, sample some of the Canadian cullinary from Tim Hortons, got a police escort and made some new friends.

All moving parts on the solar car and ours in working order!

See you on the sunny side

By Willy Wanka,
It was raining this morning. Waking up early to set up the array turned into sleeping in until 09.00am. It saved me toothpicks but the solar car was not charging. It was a morning of writing updates drinking tea and coffee until the sun would pop out again.
Finally at the beginning of the afternoon the sun was breaking trough and we were able to charge the batteries a bit. Before we left we did a presentation at a high school. By the way it was a French community and I was able to speak a whole lot of French, proud to be a Quebecer!
Winnipeg was close by and we arrived there after one hour of driving. There was some press waiting for us and we charged up the batteries. We were at a nice spot called The Forks and we had the chance to look around and enjoy the sun. It was a good afternoon with ICECREAM!
Around 09.30pm we left for Brandon. Trying to push the solar car to drive some miles… I mean kilometers (we are in CANADA) at night. We made it halfway and ended up in the port of the prairie. Marcelo treated us for our first Tim Hortons since we have been in Canada. Some nice hot chocolate but the best was that we met Rudy! Rudy invited us to park the solar car in his garage and park the trailer on his drive way! We took the offer and went to his garage were we ended the night with a couple good laughs. Good night everybody!! Watch out for the little green man in your closet!

By Laura
In St. Pierre Jolys the mosquito population is counterbalanced by the kindness of its residents. Our donation bucket fills with colorful Canadian bills as mosquitos swirl and dive in for the kill. Living in the everglades I became good friends with the tiny vampires and on the rare occasion they do stop for a snack on my arm, I send them on their way with a gust of my own personal blend of carbon dioxide. The crew retaliates the unwarranted blood donations with fatal smacks and chemical warfare. Standing firm by a belief that if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin, I avoid the DEET. While using the voltmeter to test each of the 26 batteries, I feel like one of those grey aliens. My smoky colored jeans and silver mosquito net jacket all zipped up hides my face and keeps me in a safe yet eerie cocoon. In the trailer, forgetting the hood is still over my face I try to pop a chocolate covered almond in my mouth and run into the wall of a predicament, trying to eat through a net so fine grains of sand could not penetrate.

Later in Winnipeg we stop at The Forks, It is a center of commerce and trade established hundreds of years ago. It is adjacent to the river and all abuzz with shoppers and locals kids on skateboards and unicycles, buskers and little kids. A tv station does an interview with Marcelo and films us as we tilt the array. After some ice cream and talking with curious folk, Josh, Willy Wonka and I walk around a bit, climb up a big stone wall surrounding constellation statues and soak up some sun while the solar car charges too. A native shows us an ancient stone with images of owls, wolves, ghost dancers and his chief...the faces are darker spots naturally occurring in the rock and if you looked hard enough, could see too many to count.

Late in the afternoon we continue, driving on the Trans Canada Highway surrounded by prairie... the road ahead is paved to infinity. As the charge depletes and the sun take a dip around 10:30p, we pull into the town of Portage la Prairie. Excited, Marcelo stops at a popular Canadian chain restaurant- Tim Hortons. It is late and their case of donuts and pastries is looking scarce, the workers are busy with the drive thru so we strike up conversation with another customer, Rudy. He tells us we would be wise to not park the solar car outside tonight, not in this town. A few hours later I realize why. Willy Wonka and I sit back to back sipping hot chocolate and looking up at the stars while Marcelo talks to an off duty mounty wearing a Neil Diamond concert shirt. He arranges for a Royal Canadian Mounted Police escort for the solar car to travel the few miles to Rudy’s place. Back at his garage and used tire shop Randy shows us his car collection, including his candy grape Ford model T...that was vandalized parked in his own driveway. He pulls the chains of the garage door and offers the solar car a spot to sleep, safely locked inside. Between cigarettes he tells us stories about his cars and living in this town. Around 2am we get to sleep and I remember how generous these neighbors to the north have been. Counting the donations I am fascinated by the images on the Canadian bills- ice skating and snowflakes on one denomination as well as the following quote: Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?

By Claire
MOSQUITOES! Vermin of the air! I already had a great deal of respect for northerners (anyone living above Orlando), but residents of St.Pierre Joyls have gone a step beyond in my eyes, dealing with sheets of mosquites day and night. It should be against karmic law to have to plug your car into a block warmer when its below zero only to be hunted down by pinhead sized soldiers. I was talking with some folks the in the evening about the car in a considerably professional manner, but I was waving my scraf around so much they could have mistaken me for a performer of sorts. It was then that I remembered a customer of Ampride the day before commenting through a chuckle that as we traveled farther north we would be practically picked up and carried away by these winged beasts. I am all for wind-powered transport, but there are some things I would rather not part with, which would include my blood.

We left St.Pierre Joyls around 2pm for Winnipeg, which lay about 30 miles north of us. We pulled past Marcelo two times to set up the camera for a passing shot, but both times, on a considerably quiet road, trucks blocked the view of the car right at the wrong time, both times. I was navigator again and I did pretty well on the 30 mile straight shot toward Winnipeg, but the fact that we did not have a clear destination point once we got there was a should be obvious recipe for deja vu driving. With the bog of one ways, overpasses, and new construction I had gave the entire crew a tour that never wanted to be on. It got to the point where Marcelo pulled over to look at the GPS, at which time I was looking around for a sizable rock that Josh and Willy could tilt up and allow me to crawl under. To my very pleasant surprise, I did not have to disturb the rock and we were now on a clear path to somewhere that might be the right place. Low and behold, it was. I would like to thank the tax payers of Manitoba for investing in colorful, contiguous signage for The Forks.

***The computer had a craving for masses of adjectives and relatively witty remarks and, consequentialy, gobbled up the rest of my update. It was a good one.***

By Josh
Today I agreed to drive the van towards Canada, and away from my home country of the USA. Their was some pause to see if Laura could get her passport, but we were confident in our solar car immunity. We had ourselves a police escort helping to block traffic while we were leaving Crookston. I drove for the majority of the day, getting many good side shots of the car. We stopped near the border in a town called Lancaster. We tried to get rid of almost all the fruits and veggies, since we were going through border patrol. The girls made a wonderful guacamole spread. I played some tunes on the ukulele, and we all enjoyed some chocolate cake with my improvised lyrics. Some of it was filmed too. The mayor of the town dropped by, and we spoke with some locals about the Red River Valley and the impressively low crime rate. Apparently, Lancaster, Minnesota and the country of Georgia are two of the most fertile lands in the world. After getting back on the road, my non-Canadian passport made it necessary to have Willy drive us across the border. I was the one to let Marcelo out of the car when we got to the Canadian Border Patrol. With only a couple impressed glances at the solar car, we were allowed to pass without a hassle. I rested a while as we entered a new country with metric units, French language speakers, and new currency. We arrived in St. Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba. When we stopped, we were greeted by friendly locals, gravy fries, pirogies, and hot apple cider. I talked with Laura and Willy a bit while we realized just how vicious Canadian mosquitoes can be. What a long day. O, Canada, here we come! So long America, I will see you later!

Setting up the array in St. Pierre
Willy chatting with some locals in St. Pierre-Jolys
The mosquito haven.
We checked the battery bank balance right away.
Josh writing down Laura and Marcelo's measurements of the battery bank.
Laura wearing her mosquito net hood while checking out the batteries.
Sealing up the batteries
We really wanted to take a bath in this lovely jacuzzi.
This was right by the school we visited today.
Willy was talking about all the Xof1 specs with some Manitoba ladies.
Some statues in the town of St. Pierre-Jolys
Canadian traffic signs!
A school Marcelo presented at.
Some of the students at the elementaery school.
The students were so enthusiastic to see the solar car.
It's even better on the inside!
How does it work???
It's a spaceship from Toronto!
A solar semi-circle of students.
The school's mural.
I can't believe he can fit in there. He must get claustrophobic.
Une, deaux, trois, solar car!
The elementary school was quite excited to see the solar car.
Ready for liftoff!
A house on wheels.
An aerial view of the Xof1.
Welcome to Winnipeg!
The solar car among some tall grass.
Heading in to town.
The bridge greets the crew in Winnipeg.
Thumbs up!
Don't get hurt staring at the solar car!
A neighborhood in Winnipeg.
Solar power peace!
Our arrival at Forks.
Tilting the array to compensate for a cloudy morning.
Jason interviews Marcelo for the Winnipeg Sun.
Marcelo from the Winnipeg Sun videotapes Marcelo.
We got the interview for the documentary.
This photo made the newpaper!
Marcel and Jason getting some good footage for the paper and for the website.
The cells are paper don't touch the cells!
Laura describing the solar car to a Forks shopper.
"The only thing between you and your dreams is yourself."
Sharing ice cream!
Josh videotapes the interview.
A baby ponders the possibilities of a solar revolution.
Coralea (Marcelo's friend) stopped by to say
Josh getting a motion shot.
Can the solar car catch a bike?
Closing the gap.
Downtown Winnipeg.
The Canadian flag flies high.
Get that shot Claire!
A shot reflected.
The solar crew departs Forks.
Thanks for watching the solar car!
Laura sells some sweet orange flavored carbonation.
They loved their ice cream, but they love solar power even more.
Sittin' by the dock on the river.
A Winnipeg museum.
"Need your windshield on the solar car cleaned?"
Some shopping opportunities, that we cannot afford the time or money for on tour.
Goodbye Winnipeg!
This was probably around 10:00 PM
Claire sprints for the best shot.
Solar cars only need a little sunlight.
This was almost 11 PM
Some kids rode their bikes to check out the solar car.
Laura finishes writing in the log book for the night.
At a late night visit to Tim Horton's we meet police officers...
...who offer an escort to Rudy's garage where the car will stay overnight.
Pulling up to Rudy's garage
Rudy takes a better look at the car
Thanks for your help, Rudy!!