By Willy Wonka
We woke up this morning on the parking lot, overslept a little bit and
arrived at the fire station around 07.30am. We had set up the array and
left Sunny at a nice spot to charge. Then something extraordinary happened,
I ate cereals with soy/almond milk!! I would never think I would be drinking
that flower milk, without knowing it the crew is slowly transforming me
into a veggie man… Happily enough there came lunch and the firemen invited
us to eat with them, steak sandwich and garlic bread, back in heaven!
This day was a late start, there were a lot of updates that needed to be
done but we were finally able to leave. We were racing the clock and wind.
It was really windy and we had to tape the car down several times. The
prairie is a beautiful place, one moment it is sunny and within no time
the weather can change in a heavy rain and thunderstorm. (This weather
part is dedicated to Claire, because she loves talking about it)
After 106 miles the batteries were nearly empty and we stopped in the
middle of nowhere to charge the solar car. Everybody did a little work
in the mean time and we had some good Mr. Noodles as dinner. The sunset
was beautiful and it was even better when the stars came out. So many
of them, it is easy to get lost in them. I counted seven shooting stars
and went to bed with a big smile on my face!
I met Crazy today. Crazy ran across the highway to tell me to be careful.
Crazy knows about the best place to see the stampede, the hot springs and
the best seafood in Canada. Crazy made me smile. I say farewell to Crazy
and walk over to the solar car. It is parked under a rainbow just outside
the storm on a gravel road that dips and peaks as far as the eye can see.
These legs want to run to infinity on this road. We set up the array, and
tie it from the mighty prairie wind. A moment later I am tying the shoelaces
on the pair of sneakers I bought one month ago exactly, my first morning
on the team, in Georgia. Meeepmeep vroooom...I take off and feel like roadrunner
zooming up and down the hills with dust clouds trailing behind. What seems
like eons later my stride evolves into a curious saunter, taking in the
scenery, birds, cattle and the butterfly hover-fluttering above the gravel.
Looking up from the stones I see a proud and majestic deer in the middle
of the gravel road on the top of the hill. She is looking right at me and
has been waiting for me to notice. As I approach she is still as a statue
but breaks the mold as soon as I stop to make eye contact. She leaps off
and our game of hide and seek begins. Dozens of fence posts later I find
her figure within the leaves of a hammock of short trees. When I kneel
and we lock eyes she springs forth and we continue to play like this for
a while until she darts off into the prairie. Once she’s out of view I
head back to the crew at the van. This morning at the Regina Fire Station
Willy Wonka and I were talking about what two animals we would like to
be and why. He is a social wolf and a giant whale. Myself, a butterfly
dancing from flower to flower and a graceful deer. These two animals came
to me today, not so sure the whale will make it to the prairie. After tinkering
with the radio charger and dangling noodles into my mouth I try my hands
at juggling in the sunset. Across the highway, the slice of moon hangs
ornamental over the railroad tracks as our silhouettes balance and pose
on the rail. Our matching flashlights are paintbrushes in the palate of
light in the night. Standing in the middle of the Trans Canada Highway
I am illuminated by the light of all four others, but the camera shows
not a hint of their bodies, just their streaks of luminosity surrounding
my body. Before bed we lay under the prairie night sky and watch shooting
stars glow across the sky. The fire in the sky reminds me of the Regina
Firemen who so generously helped and fed us...amazing garlic bread...and
told us stories, haunting, exciting and hilarious.
After a clean sleep (for real, I was very clean), we all got up to drive
the van over to the firehouse where the car was being stored. Once there,
we had a few moments of 'where are we going now?' but the firehouse relieved
us of this question mark by offering their lot to park and grab some sunlight.
I put together a grand breakfast, cereal and vanilla rice milk (upon Willy's
request) and a fork for utility and entertainment value. They adopted us
for the morning, offering coffee, toast, shower, power outlets, a garlic
drenched lunch, and a load of good laughs.
We spent most of the day doing stuff in general, rewiring the walkie talkies,
installing hooks in the trailer, talking with 20/20 about a future spot
for XOF1, sorting out other press contacts, and, of course, working on
updates. Being the one in charge of the updates is the most frustrating
position for me. The computer is constantly shutting down, I'm always jumping
in and out of the car, and it is just really time consuming. I hesitate
to even write this because I feel like a pansy, but I'm not too proud to
admit a measure, however miniscule, of pansiness. Final conclusion: sitting
for hours at the computer gets two thumbs down and a tired butt from Claire.
We drove through Moose Jaw, deciding that we would drive until 7pm or keep
going...I didn't really understand the purpose of a faux deadline, but
baseless motivation has proven itself before, as it would this time. We
ended up pulling on to a gravel road sprouting from the thin highway where
we set the array up for the last few moments of shine and settled ourselves
for the night. I worked on the computer with Marcelo, Laura went for a
run, Josh was setting up dinner, and Willy was...I don't know where he
was. Dinner was an exceptional one, ramon noodles topped with the leftover
curry from the night before.
On paper, I should have be completely exhausted by this point, but I got
a third wind and we took some really cool night shots. Colors from the
sunset still painted the sky at midnight, one color gently diffusing to
the next, stacked on top of the horizon. Everyone lined up on the elevated
railroad tracks with me directing the shoot from the road beyond the ditch
that separated us. They teetered on the single track and tried to hold
still as they posed their personalities, laughing all the while. With a
sliver of the moon pinned above them, they were perfectly black silhouettes
against the hued backdrop. After that, we set an extended exposure to capture
the light from a flashlight as one person painted around us.
It wasn't until I stepped away to brush my teeth that I took the opportunity
to look up where the colors faded to darkness. I tried to gulp down the
magnificence of the starry display, but it was too much to take. I picked
out a section I liked and carefully pulled down a square of sky to fold
up and keep, but I didn't have anywhere to put it, so I decided to put
the patch back for someone else who had pockets.
I was woken up before dawn at the truck stop in Regina. We raced over to
the firehouse parking lot across from the Thai restaurant. The firemen
were nice enough to let us keep the car there overnight. I spent the day
catching up on updates while Marcelo worked on fixing the radio charger.
We also went in search of a battery charger for the dell, seeing as it's
adapter was fried from all the inverter mishaps. In the meantime, I helped
Claire familiarize herself with updates, while Willy and Laura worked on
theirs. The firemen allowed us to take advantage of their facilities, and
they even made us lunch. Willy enjoyed a steak sandwich, and the rest of
the crew had some Caesar Salad with some of the best toasted garlic bread
I've ever had. We had a quick meeting discussing responsibilities, and
then we set up for a photo opportunity in front of the fire station. It
was great to talk to these guys about saving the world, living day to day
(while not knowing what to expect), and having life revolve around fire
(the sun is fire too). They had a couple calls today, but they basically
had to take medical calls from drunk and disorderly folk. We set out on
the road around 4:00, and we got many good shots of rain with sunshine
along the road. Because of the wind, we had to duct tape down the car doubly
well, as to prevent the top from lifting off in to the air. Getting shots
of the solar car with a rainbow was awesome. Claire's lenses were perfect
for getting these shots, and we owe her very much for lending them to us.
Thanks Claire! Due to severe wind throughout the day, we had to stop both
due to a late start, an exhausted Marcelo (from fighting the wind currents
without power steering), and from a depleted battery. We stopped off the
highway in the countryside with a beautiful view to behold. Laura went
off running on a dirt road while Willy tanned. Marcelo did some work on
the charger while I prepared noodles on a gas stove for everyone. We also
had some excellent Thai curry leftovers from last night. When all were
done, we posed for some shots with the sunset. We had some sweet silhouettes
on the railroad tracks, and we did some breathtaking light painting pieces.
We watched the moon setting on the horizon, which was a bit of a turnaround
from our Virginia moon rise experience. After dark, we used our LED flashlights
to help us see as we took down the array, which had been set up right at
7:00 when we stopped. For only 3 hours of low horizon sun, the solar car
charged from 90V to 93V! I gazed up at the stars with Laura and Willy,
catching comets in peripherals. I finally ended my night with a glimpse
of the Ursa Major constellation from the moon roof.
My thoughts: The late departure put a dent on catching up with my run
from last year. It is kind of interesting to compete against
The days event: The cool night was refreshing, confine sleeping, still
above freezing, a good prep travel for the Florida team members. The sun
was shining, the weather warming up. Couldn't leave early, waiting on a
team member to catch with duties. Spent the time trying to solve the mystery
of our radio charger but no luck. The alternative is to use our cheap walki-talkies.
It can get very noisy inside the solar car. We'll be repeating everything
we say a few times. The back up walk talkies are also suseptable to electronic
noise from the MPPTs (Maximum Point Power tracker). Depending on the state
of charge of the battery and solar radiation the radios can almost became
useless due to electronic noise.
Everyone at the Regina Fire Station No.1 have been wonderful hosts; helped
us with a sunny place for the solar car, a place to park the solar car
trailer, invited us for coffe and toast and later for lunch. WOW, great
prairie hospitality. The time we spent at the Fire station gave me the
opportunity to appreciate their work. When not attenting calls there is
always something to keep them busy; training, equipment maintenance, etc...
While we were having lunch, a call came in, they droped their forks without
blinking an eye, down full uniform and off they went. The crew staying
behing quickly covered the plates of those who left with saram wrap to
keep their food fresh. They were taking care of each other and us like
Everyone including Willy Wanka was having a steak sandwish, the rest of
us had salad and some amazing garlic bread. The captian jokes with Willy,
if I go on a call and my steak is not here when I came back I know who
ate it, we all had a good laugh. A few minutes later he was off to attend
a call. No, Willy didn't take the captain's steak. No serious Fire calls
while we were there.
We brought the solar car outside for a photo op just in time before
they were off again for another call. Thank you Regina Fire Station
No.1 for the wonderful hospitality and support!
It wasn't a flowery drive, I started a bit peeved for leaving late, it
was extremelly hot, the drive was plagued with strong head winds. Yes,
we are in the prairies! The sun right in my eyes, I even had wear two sunglasses
to cope with the intense solar glare, the current visor is not coated,
it is made out of a special plastic that blocks UVA and UVB but unfortunatly
allows near all visible light through.
Trying to catch up on lost time, I drove as fast as I safely could. Looking
on the sides I could see so far away, the landscape slowly went from flat
to gentle hills, beautifull. Late in the afternoon the support team was
on the side of the road waiting to film and photograph the solar car passing
by, the battery was depleted, it became an overnight stop. The array was
catching the last rays of the day, the horizon touching the sky, slowly
the night descended upon us, gourmet dinner ala Mr. Noodles by chef Josh.
The landascape became our playground. Laura took off running towards infinity
on a narrow gravel road, later she tolds us about a magical encounter with
a deer on top of the hill. Josh, works his magic on the ukelele, I was
off looking for berries and taking photos, Claire was also exploring the
surroundings with a camera. The slow disappearing light created a beautiful
backdrop for some amazing photos. We experimented with some light painting,
the camera sensor as the canvas (using long exposure) and light as paint
brush. We were all so tired yet having fun like kids.