Last night soon after we arrived, Bianca a beautiful dog was in a playfull
mood, chasing me down the drive way. This morning, I was the only one running,
she wouldn't move other than on her own will as if she was saying "you
run, I watch".
Willy wanka and Laura set up the array this morning. As a reward they got
a ride with Harry on a turn of the century classic in immaculate condition.
I was a bit concerned the crew would want to stay behind. Harry spoiled
everyone with amazing omlettes made to order, naturally our carnivore Willy
Wanka got his loaded with bacon.
Rosalie and Tyler both driving Porsches escorted us to meet the press
at Calgary Science Centre, there we met with The Calgary Sun and the
Calgary Herald, looking forward to seeing the photos and reading their
articles. We ended up staying a bit longer then expected waiting for
CBC and Global but they never showed up. At 12:24 we got on the way to
Edmonton. - "on the road again" Willy Wanka yells on the radio!. He
does it with so much enthusiasm that I started to ask him for a bit of
warning so I don't loose my hearing at the end of the tour :)
Looking forward to seeing the great people I met in Edmonton last year,
I was excited to be on the road again.
I chose to drive on highway 2 under the assumption it would be light traffic,
it is Sunday, as it turned out today is the busiest day. Near Calgary,
traffic was intense. I kept driving between 75-80kmh, not super fast but
enough to keep up with some of the slow traffic on the left lane. Further
away from Calgary it reduced from 3 to 2 lanes, traffic was starting to
ease but it was still busy. At the top of Antlers Hill (20km south of Red
Deer) we got pulled over by the RCMP. Someone called to complain about
the solar car. The officer's initial contact was aggressive and loud, he
was very adamant about getting the solar car out of his highway. By the
time I got out of the car, Josh had already talked to him about the solar
license and showed him the documentation. Some University solar car teams
registered their solar car as motorcycles, 3 wheel vehicles. XOF1 is licensed
in the country of Barbados as a regular car. The officer demanded a document
from the Canadian government stating it passed Canadian automotive standards
in order to be on the road. I explained XOF1 is not licensed in Canada,
it is a foreign vehicle passing by, and as such, it does not have to be
licensed nor comply with Canadian regulations the same way a Canadian vehicle
travelling in a foreign country doesn't have to comply with local licensing
regulations, thanks to the 1949 Geneva Convention Road Traffic Treaty that
over rule local laws. Canada signed the Treaty in 1949. I provided the
officer with a copy of the treaty, mentioned I had already driven the solar
car on highway #2 last year. His comment was that he wasn't on duty that
day, otherwise the solar car would not have been allowed on the road. He
asked me to trailer the solar car, I said no, and then I was told it was
going to get towed. At that moment I lost it, to make matters worse I raised
my voice too. In my head it was all coming to an end. A million thoughts
going through my mind. He was going to call a tow, I walked away. Well,
if this is going to be the end of the tour, I may as well let the rest
of the world know and started calling the media. The Herald jumped on the
story right away, calling the RCMP to hear their side of the story. Great!
I thought! that's good journalism. The officer was making calls to his
superiors, I was making calls to the media. I had a pep talk with my alterego
to calm down. -"at least the batteries were being charged" I
said, Claire looked at me and started laughing. Oh well, got to look at
the positive side of things. CBC was on the way. Near two hours later the
officer came to let me know that he was waiting for a phone call from his
superior. -"If they tell me you are good to go, you are good to go!
By now the officer and I were much calmer, I apologized for how I reacted.
The call came, the solar car was free to proceed.
The officer asked for a compromise, he asked me to only drive until Red
Deer, stop for the night and proceed in the morning after rush hour traffic
or choose a less traveled road. I agreed. The officer and I ended our dealings
in a very amicable way. He wished us a safe journey. I prefer to travel
on secondary roads, and was happy to comply. We drove to Red Deer, met
with CBC, did an interview. Got on the way towards Edmonton on secondary
roads. The scenery was breath taking with almost no traffic. I am glad
we changed route, it was a much more enjoyable drive.
I look at situations like this from a spiritual angle. It help me cope
with life. Perhaps, if I didn't get pulled over, I could had been in an
accident further down on the road. Thus, the delay was a blessing. So many
wonderful and unusual things happened in this tour, in many occasions I
wonder if there was a touch of divine intervention. I would like to think
so. Someone is watching over us.
A little thank you note for my guardian angel, today in the shape of an
RCMP officer, THANK YOU for being there!
Perhaps it was my uncle Francisco's way to get my attention, he was always
joking around or had something funny to say, life is precious and fragile.
My uncle Francisco passed away today, I'll sure miss him.
By Willy Wanka
What a morning, Laura and me had to wake up early to catch some sunlight.
Just after we had set up the array Harry arrived. He wanted to show another
car of his. He opened up his trailer and there was a beautiful Ford Depot
Hack 1922. We helped him unload the car and there it came… Harry said:
Hop in and let's go for a ride. Happy as kids with candy we hopped in and
enjoyed a beautiful bumpy and noisy ride in the oldie.
That morning there was some media set up at the science museum in Calgary.
Before we left we had an amazing omelet that Harry had made for us. And
then the opportunity came… Rosalie wanted to escort the solar with her
Porsche and I was able to go along with her. Wowww my first time in a Porsche!!
Rosalie was like a young girl showing of her car, racing to high speeds.
It was fantastic! We arrived at the museum and Marcelo did his interviews.
I even got a quick drive in another Porsche with Tyler the son of Rosalie
In the beginning of the afternoon we left for Edmonton and it was back
on the road again. Of course it was all to good to be true. We got pulled
over by the RCMP and the police officer wanted us of the road. Marcelo
did everything he could to prevent it but with no results. Marcelo started
calling the media about what happened and the officer contacted his office.
After 3 hours it became clear to the officer that we were legal on the
road and he finally let us go. Shortly after that CBC TV arrived and did
a story on what happened. Because of all the delay we were not able to
make it to Edmonton and we had to camp out. We met a nice married couple
that offered us their yard. After a busy day full of adventure we finally
went to bed
This morning we go back in time to the 1920’s. Harry takes the two of us
for a ride in his 1922 Ford Depot Hack. It is a taxi type car in mint condition
with room for five plus the driver. Acceleration is by handle on the steering
wheel and in addition to the brake pedal and clutch is a separate pedal
just for reverse. Open wooden frame, no windows, and tiny quarter doors
that remind me of the kind on kiddie train rides. Willy Wonka stretches
out in the tiny backseats while my skirt billows in the wind surging in
from the open front seat. It is a smooth sunrise cruise at 15 miles an
hour down the country backroads. We park next to the solar car still charging
in the mroning sun. Before our eyes lays the past and the future of transportation.
I think of how this solar car tour is making history. Years from now this
trip and every mile we go is part of something larger, part of the evolution
of technology and how a thought or a dream can come to fruition and manifest
itself in the material world. All that we see around us started as a seed
in someone’s mind. We are one big cosmic tree, branching out into new realms
and spreading seeds for our future to grow.
The chill of the morning air grows warmer as the sun rises and small
yellow flowers bloom over the span of a couple hours. As I lay in the
grass catching a few winks more of sleep before we head out, ants begin
to crawl on me. At first I shoo their tickelish steps away then
eventually I give in and at one point I feel over a dozen of them
lightly stepping on my body. The sensation is calming and I embrace
this feeling. Is this what the earth feels? Millions of creatures
moving about, giving the earth a tickle by buzzing around on the
surface. I wonder if I tried hard enough could I feel all the tiny
microorganisms on my skin...is the earth so big she doesn’t feel all of
us on her...I’m sure she does.
Inside the house Harry is cooking up omlettets and toast. I have a big
glass of milk and savor the warm cheesy omlette with peppers and cilanto,
then crunch into some buttery toast..mmm- a hearty meal to start a beautiful
day. Today we are meeting with press at the Telus Science Center in downtown
Calgary. Yesterday was my last day of contacting and organizing press and
I really enjoyed talking with the producers and sharing Marcelo’s story.
They ask me my name and I am so grateful to be a part of all of this. At
one point I feel like I am channeling Marcelo, the words flowing out just
how he would say them. We park in the back of the museum and Mike, a photographer
from the Calgary Sun is already there. He uses a reflector and asks me
to hold his flash while he takes some amazing photos of Marcelo with one
hand on the top of the car, the other up to the sun. The Herald shows up
a bit later and before we head off we say goodbye to Rosalie, Harry and
their son Tyler. With their two Porches they gave us the most expensive
escort we’ve had so far. Rosalie draws a map on her hand of where we can
find her mother-in-law’s house farther north on our route and away we go,
on the road again!
With the cell phone still in my back pocket I answer a call from Dave.
He is from Winnipeg working on the 130mpg car challenge and is asking
me about where to fly in to join the team since he missed us a few days
ago. Marcelo says he is not interested in having more volunteers, even
with Willy Wonka leaving in two weeks. It is now that I ask both Josh
and Claire what their plans are and begin to evalutate my own
committment. Four people work well, especially with the rotation we
have established and I am surprised when Marcelo says it is too
stressful, that he only wants three, actually just two. I am excited
about the people we meet briefly passing through but even more so about
new crew members...loosing them is saddening.
Since the beginning Josh and I have been gung-ho about going all the way
to the arctic. Claire will be most likely jumping off in Alaska to do some
traveling and sightseeing of her own. Myself, I would like to be a part
of the South America tour pending sponsorship. Currently I am at liberty
with a break from school and my business managable from a distance, it
is my love I worry will not be so understanding in a spontaneous solar
car summer tour becoming a year long project. An hour later while driving
up highway 2 the tour seems to come to a standstill and this is the first
time since the accident with the ferrings that I fear the breaks have been
put on, for good. A RCMP officer pulls us over and he is angry and hostile,
demanding we go no farther. The tour means nothing, the distance record,
the Barbados license plate and even the Geneva Treaty mean nothing to him.
Marcelo slams down the folder of documents at the cop’s feet. “Do whatever
you want with the car then!” The tension is high and as I stand holding
the solar car from the oncoming gusts of 80+kmph freeway traffic, I think
about how much he had to go through already with the Ontario government
and others to get the car on the road. I remember Marcelo telling me how
the United Arab Emirates was offering him money, lots of money to register
the vehicle there, but Barbados was geographically closer, so hence the
current standing. Marcelo has put everything he has ever made into this
car, blood, sweat and tears as well and my heart beats faster and my belly
twists when I see him yelling at this cop. This is our fight, this is our
right. How rediculous is it that there is such strong opposition to the
solar car? But that is how it is at first: civil rights, women’s rights,
everyone has their struggle...but this is about energy, does the government
have the right to deny us to travel on clean energy from the sun? The officer
asks me about crash tests, “Has this vehicle gone through the crash test
all cars must pass to drive within Canada?” I tell him this is a prototype
and it is legally registerd and fully able to drive on roads in any country
complying with the Geneva Treaty, despite the crash test. This is not good
enough. Another cop pulls up on a motorcycle, curious about the car, and
the two policemen chat, discussing the car, smoking a cigar. I see another
set of red and blue lights just up ahead on the shoulder as well. Three
hours passes on the side of the highway. We talk, we eat, we play games
all while sitting on the side of the road keeping the top of the solar
car from lifting up. Eventually, while leaning back to back against each
other and the car, Willy and I fall asleep, big trucks and vehicles whizzing
by and the future of the tour in limbo. We wake up from our roadway slumber
and the cop is gone. Apparently the chief and the up-tops said let them
go, and off we go, headed towards Edmonton. However, the day’s delay brings
us only as far as Clive. It is 9 o’clock and we are still able to charge
a bit. Willy finds a patch of grass and lays out with a book while Josh
and I go running through the tall grass, hoping to build a small fire next
to the lake. We succeed, despite the wet marsh beneath us and watch the
flames consume the sticks and kindling, smoke swirlig aound our feet. I
say a mantra and offer this fire as thanks to the sun and the powers that
be making this whole journey a possibility. Walking back to the van we
come across a famous wild Alberta rose bush, its blush pink buds and blooms
are crazy fragrant, like if the sunset had a smell. Farther on is a field
of young broccoli growing and I pick a small bunch, munch, and offer some
to Josh and Willy up on the grassy slope. It tastes so fresh and its tiny
yellow flowers remind me of the broccoli growing at home. Claire is doing
yoga by the van and Marcelo asleep within. I find a soft patch of grass
next to the solar car and shut my eyes to the world. Some time later I
awake to the sunset. Within my view is the moon on the left and the sun
on the right, and my wild rose like a toothpick still in my mouth, seen
in between the celestial bodies above.
I join the others across the street doing balancing poses. Claire is
teaching us how to do the impossible balancing peacock pose. The night
draws to a close and we park in the yard of the house down the gravel
road just off the highway. I sit in the gravel watching the sunset
while honey drips from my sandwich and my body shivers in the cold.
Before bed I put on my running shoes and warm up with a run into the
night. Returning to the van I find Willy Wonka standing in the shadows.
He tries to scare me but what really alarms me is that it is close to
one in the morning and still the magenta and lavender light from the
sunset hangs in the sky. The night is shrinking as we continue
north...soon the night will be no more.
I used to be afraid of being on the side of the road, with the vortex gusts
and random squeals, honks, and clattering, but it's beginning to feel a
little homey. Whether I have a camera in my hand or I'm lying on my back
under the car, I feel quite at ease. Maybe when I get back home and start
having solar car project withdrawals I can just pull over on I-95 to get
a quick, consoling fix. (I'm being sarcastic, don't do that). This is the
random thought kicking off this update because I have been on the side
of the road for over three hours, waiting for a Royal Canadian Mounted
Police (RCMP, po-po) to decide the fate of our journey. We were pulled
over about 90 miles outside of Calgary and were told, quite intensely,
that we would be towed.
I stood amid the confrontation with a video camera in hand and allowed
the officer's waving hands and shaking head to ignite an internal questioning,
'Where should I go if this whole thing is off? What's Marcelo going to
do? Can this whole thing really be shut down? Can Lucy come up here? Maybe
I'll just buy a ticket or maybe go to the station...' Several negotiatory
talks ensued...'I talked to such and such from the department of such and
such and he said such and such,' etc. In that time I finished a couple
updates and Josh scanned the entire 1949 Geneva Treaty to defend the legality
of the solar car, while Laura and Willy napped peacefully, sitting back
to back next to the car on side the of the highway and in full view of
the officer that was detaining us. By the end of the mandated waiting period,
Marcelo and the officer looked as though they were mates on a champion
bowling team sans the high-fives.
The agreement of the stand off was that we could either continue up 20k
to Red Deer where we would have to stay the night or we could take an alternative
route north. Minutes within the RCMP leaving, CBC (Canada's national broadcasting
agent) called saying they were nearby to report on our dilemma. Marcelo
talked to them saying that they should still stop since they were so close
and they did. We pulled off at a gas station where they interviewed Marcelo
and took some passing shots. This is good, VERY VERY GOOD! From there we
headed in some direction to take a different route and it was meant to
be because there were some breathtaking views of acreages and a section
of road that crossed water with a steep gorge to one side.
We stopped on the side of the road around 8:30pm, I'm guessing, and as
if it was prearranged, everyone scattered for some independent r&r.
Willy grabbed his book and laid out on the thistle trodden grass, Laura
and Josh explored the pond and made a small fire, Marcelo napped in the
van, and I did some much needed body bending. At 10pm, with the sun
still on its descent, we gathered to determine where would sleep
deeming the edge of a small highway a not so homey arrangement. We went
down a nearby driveway, but no one was home. We sat in the van a few
minutes talking about what we should do, but then the residents pulled
in and were more than accommodating for our needs...a power outlet,
room to turn the trailer around, and a straight shot to sunrise. The
lot was something else, facing north one had a complete 180 degree view
of the sky with the colors of the sunset reaching over to the eastern
Thank you Shirley and Marvin for the space, the watermelon (and tupperware),
and your generous disposition.
Laura and Willy set up the array this morning, and got to ride a model
T while I was sleeping. Harry prepared some excellent omlettes for the
crew, and I got ready quickly so that we could get to a photo opportunity
at the Calgary Science Center. We drove through downtown Calgary with two
porsches as escorts, and met with the Calgary Sun and the Calgary Herald.
Marcelo got interviewed, by both of them, and told us that he had stopped
at this same place last year on the tour. I talked a bit with Tyler, Harry's
son, about potential sponsorship opportunities that we might pursue. Harry
has been working with Exxon, and we entertained the idea of getting them
to support renewable energy. It was great to meet Harry and Rosalie, and
maybe we'll see them again if the tour goes down to Tierra Del Fuego, seeing
as they just built a house in Panama. We drove for a little while with
our sights set on Edmonton. Just as we were getting ready to be on the
road for a good amount of time, we were stopped by the police. An officer
pulled over the solar car and pointed at us forcefully. He scolded the
solar crew for about three hours. I quickly had to learn all about the
United Nations 1949 Geneva treaty Convention on Road Traffic. Section IV
covers the provisions applicable to motor vehicles and trailers, which
ended up being our legal backbone. The Alberta province did not wish to
hold back the tour as much as the officer, and so he let us go. Learning
that Marcelo, like he, was also from Ontario, possibly persuaded him to
be a little more friendly and lenient. We called the media, who had already
started coming after the officer left. They proceeded to get some footage
of the solar car, and I showed them the section of the treaty that made
us officially street legal. After some great passing shots, the team drove
on to change highways, since the busy-ness of the highway prompted the
police officer's paranoia that we would crash and sue him. We stopped by
a field of broccoli, and Laura and I made an impromptu fire by a marshy
lakeside. After humming and checking out the setting sun, Claire and I
did some yoga. Michael, and then Laura later joined us as Marcelo rested.
After realizing that it was 10 PM, despite the sunny sky, we looked for
a place to park the car. Marvin and Shirley said they would allow us to
keep our vehicles on their land overnight. This was a pretty exciting Sunday
for the solar car, but I must go, because the sun rises in about 4 hours,
and we must charge with solar power!