|July 5, 2009
Buckinghorse River Lodge, BC (Mile 175 Alaska Highway) - Fort Nelson, BC - 112.9 miles
By Willy Wanka
Bringgggg there goes the alarm that Claire had kindly set for me at five in the morning. Wow welcome up North, I was roughly disturbed out of my dreams by the alarm and temperatures around zero Celsius, thank you Marcelo for leaving the trailer door open! Haha he had the urge to go for a walk around 03.00 in the morning, I have to admit it is special to see that even at that hour it’s not completely dark. Laura and me had set up the array in 3 layers of clothes and a sleeping bag waiting for the sun to become stronger in power. It was Howard’s breakfast that really woke me up! Nothing beats a home cooked country breakfast! We filled up our bellies and the solar car his batteries. Everybody happy, time to hit the road again! We said goodbye to the fantastic people and beautiful place Bucking horse river lodge. Thanks again for all your kindness! Soon after we started driving we spotted a black bear to the side of the road. It was amazing! We were able to get really close but it was better to don’t stick around and let nature be. It was a good ride ending up in Fort Nelson. Unfortunate the super 8 was not sponsoring us this time but the Ramada Inn was happy to give us a double room for the night! We had set up the array when Sue from the local newspaper arrived. She brought Marcelo to an old friend Merl who owns the Fort Nelson museum. He had built it from scratch with the help of other people. It happened to be his birthday so it took us not long before we all came over and celebrated. I drove on the funniest bike ever; you steer with the front and back wheel. It was like one big play yard. After some good times we went back to hotel and worked on our updates. Marcelo and Josh selected footage for twenty-twenty and I called it quits around 12.30am.
Woke up very cold and very early. I sat bundled and rocking in the van until the sun came up over the mountains. Willy and I removed the icy solar car cover and wheeled the car into the sun. While it charged we sat covered in blankets and sleeping bags until the morning warmed up enough to come out from our cocoon. A brother and sister and their cat had been sleeping in the yellow car next to us and after they woke up we chatted with them. They were headed back home to Alaska from Hollywood. Josh brought us some coffee and soon we were inside eating another delicious hot meal from the restaurant. With a belly full of potatoes, veggies and eggs we head out on the road and soon spotted a black bear! He courageously runs across the highway without regard for passing trucks. I envision a tragedy but the bear’s speed saves him. Later on the side of the road we attach a camera to the solar car and a curious couple pulls over to take some photos of the car. They saw us on the road the day before and are happy to be able to ask questions and see the car up close. As I sit on the gravel next to he solar car, I hear grass crunching and look up to see their truck rolling into the ditch across the street. “Truck! The truck is moving!” I yell. Everyone looks over and oops! someone forgot to put it park. Willy and I take radios and block the road from either side while Marcelo uses the van to pull out their stuck truck. At one point he says over the radio that the van is now stuck in the gravel...now we’ll have to use the solar car to pull the van to pull the truck! But a little more gas and the van tires spin forward. A few vehicles have lined up on my side and one driver is impatient. In a moment it’s all clear and we prepare to get moving again. Super 8 of Fort Nelson declines to sponsor us but Ramada Inn is happy to have us. They give us a suite with a kitchenette. I am happy to have a place to lie down because I am still feeling horrible. Claire thinks I have meningitis and was somewhat unwilling to say so because it is a serious condition, she doesn’t want me to freak out. After doing some updates on the website I try to look up my symptoms online but end up confused, feeling worse and with no real answers. So I take a bath and lay down and try to get some rest. After a few hours Josh asks me if I am feeling any better and if I need to go to the clinic. Reluctantly I say yes, I’ve had unexplained symptoms for a few days and better safe than sorry. Traveling, I don’t have access to the herbs and things I would normally take if I get ill. Sue calls the clinic and they say they will squeeze me in if they can. We take a short ride and the doctor sees me within a few minutes. Willy comes in with me from the waiting room “What seems to be the problem?” Fever, chills, nausea, stiff neck and back, headache, no appetite, all for the past several days. He asks me to get up on the table and looks in my ears, nose, mouth, listens to my heart beat and breathing, palpates my stomach and asks me to turn my neck, I can’t, asks me to touch my chin to my chest, I can’t. Breath in, breathe out. He says meningitis too. Bacterial or viral infection. The only way to tell is by a inserting a needle into the lumbar area to test the spinal fluid directly. He suggests I take advil and prescribes some antibiotics. Advil maybe, antibiotics, no way! Seventy dollars later Willy and I are out on the grass in front of the clinic waiting for Sue to come pick us up. We head to the grocery store for sickie supplies: drugs, juice and soup. Back at the hotel Willy plays Momma for me preparing the soup and making sure I get right to bed. He even performs a shaman healing exorcism to rid me of the evil spirits causing the sickness! Eyeing the antibiotics I hope it is nothing so serious to warrant the destroy-all-leave-you-worse-than-you-were-drugs! I’m allergic as well as opposed to antibiotics so I take two advil with a big glass of organic apple juice and snuggle up. After soup and munching on raw garlic cloves, I am out. A few hours later we head over to the Fort Nelson Historical Museum which if you’ve ever seen the movie Nothing But Trouble...you’ll understand. It is a whimsical yet eerie maze of old machines and cars, strange and interesting art and carvings and lots of characters around. It is Marl, the owner’s, 77th birthday and we are invited to join in the festivities. The warehouse of old cars includes a hundred year old car that Marl drove from Fort Nelson to Whitehorse, traveling only about 25 mph, but not bad for a 1909! The boys try out this crazy bicycle with a spinning top and crooked frame that wobbles and they look hilariously ridiculous! We enjoy salad and bread, chips and cake and try to stay warm as the night goes on. Before we leave we get a tour of a log cabin full of really old and somewhat recognizable machines. The first waffle maker, a butter churn, knife sharpeners, vice grips, all the furniture is carved of wood and the place is dark and cozy. My energy is fading and when we get back to the hotel I pass out.
I could barely open my eyes today, as they felt like they were frozen shut. It was so cold that ice had actually collected on the solar car cover. I immediately put on some long underwear, and got a free breakfast courtesy of Buckinghorse River lodge. I thanked Howard and his son Lance for their hospitality, and we had to fill up the tires and hit the road. When all were woken up, we said our goodbyes to everyone at the ranch, and I got ready to be back driving the van on the road. Almost as soon as we got on the road, we saw a black bear on the side of the road. Everyone readied their cameras for a shot of the animal. It got pretty close to the van, but then noticed a truck coming from the opposite direction. The semi truck, seeing us pulled over, slowed down enough to avoid hitting the bear as it sprinted across the highway, barely missing getting hit by the truck. As we continued down the Alaskan Highway, seeing amazingly gorgeous mountainous scenery. We stopped to place the new video camera on the solar car, and a few passing cars pulled over to get a closer look at the solar car. One man's pickup truck rolled into a nearby ditch. We quickly unhooked our trailer, and attached his hitch to the van's. In no time, we had him pulled up to safety, and we were glad to have helped out a solar advocate. Our team went through some serious hills throughout most the day. We finally pulled into Fort Nelson, a place Marcelo had stayed a year ago. Marcelo asked the Super 8 if they would sponsor us with a room, but they declined. We had some support and amazement from the locals in Fort Nelson. Marcelo and I went looking for Earl Brown, a member of the team from last year. It turns out that he is actually in Whitehorse, waiting for the team to arrive at some point. We ended up going to a Ramada to find a place with wifi so that we could get some work done. Jim at the Ramada offered us a place to stay, and we took him up on his offer. After we got the array set up, I ran off to the store to grab some food for everyone. I put some gas in the van, got some groceries, and headed back to the Ramada. It turned out that everyone had gone over to the heritage museum to park the solar car and see the cars they had on display. It was Maral's 77th birthday, and he showed off some of his 100 year old cars. The Fort Nelson Heritage Museum had cars, a rear steering bike, plane propellers, huge pistons, and log cabins on display, just to name a few of the attractions. In the log cabin, there were animal hides, rustic tools, and more to see. It was great to see a 2008 solar car with the 1908 Buick. The press even came by to check out the Xof1 at the museum. We wished Maral a Happy Birthday, and headed back to the hotel to get some work done. Thanks Fort Nelson for the awesome memories and good times!
LET IT BE KNOWN THAT TODAY IS NOT ONLY THE DAY AFTER THE BIRTHDAY OF MY SWEET AMERICA, BUT OF COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE IT IS ALSO THE DAY I SAW A BLACK BEAR! Once again, pulled over on the side of the road, camera already in hand and a gorgeous bear 10 yards away. They are known for not having good eyesight, which was clearly demonstrated. A moment later, the bear ran out across the road and in front of a semi coming up in the oncoming lane. I quickly thought about how horrible this sight might be, seeing the bear lunge forward without hesitation, but the truck was able to pull off to the shoulder in time to avoid this fly laden honey lover.
I don’t know if I slept last night and dreamt that I got no sleep, or if I in fact got no sleep. It was so COLD. You
know how reading the word yawn makes you yawn (I’ll give you a moment), well when I write cold, I shiver. The fact that I have the cold tolerance of a penguin egg is an openly expressed admission, but that doesn’t mean I can’t wallow in my temperature driven self-pity. I had socks, leggings, and a zip up on, a blanket and my supposed 30degree sleeping bag. I don’t know who they test those sleeping bags on, maybe logs. It got down to 32 degrees, at least there was frost coating our immediate world. My sleeping bag is too tight to bend my knees up into the eversoothing fetal position, so I just kept waking up to remind myself that I was cold. I woke up at one point happy that the night was over, but the clock told me that it was only 3am. I shivered, shuddered, and shivered again, and begrudgingly started another round of nap & self-narrate. Willy had to get up to set the array and when the alarm went off at 5am I added empathy to my shudder/shiver sequence. Howard said it was “cool.” (shudder/shiver).
The sun came out early, as if to make up for what we were put through the night before. And it worked, it's hard to hold a grudge against the absence of the sun when you are warm and toasty. We were treated to breakfast at Buckinghorse and headed out around 10am to Fort Nelson, British Columbia. I was to act as navigator for the next three days, which was perfect, especially since we were only on one road the whole way. I was able to take pictures the whole time and help out with computer issues. It’s rare that there is ever a down moment in the van, especially with such gorgeous land surrounding us. Uploading videos, doing updates, plugging and replugging things, hanging out the window with the camera, and video taping, it doesn’t stop and that’s a good thing.
We got to Fort Nelson around 2:30 and stopped at the Super 8 where we set up the array. The manager was not in and so a sponsored room seemed out of the question. Willy, Laura and I waited with the car, talking to people, while Josh and Marcelo went somewhere, I don’t know. We ended up getting a place to set up the array at a Ramada just down the street and they gave us a suite for the night. THANK YOU.
I babysat the car in the Ramada parking lot while everyone else was doing their own duties. Marcelo got in touch with a friend he made here last year, who invited us to the Fort Nelson Museum, where the car could stay overnight and where we could join in on the birthday festivities already underway for the museum’s owner, Marl. The museum is a playground for young and old. He has an old room-size generator, an intact prop and engine from an old box
plane, antique cars, funny motorcycles and bicycles (like a bike that steers with the rear wheel), log cabins filled
with antique washing machines, cranberry pickers, waffle makers, and wooden vices. Add birthday cake and a lunch of wonderfully hospitable people to that list and you’ve got a perfect ending to a great day. So great to meet everyone, Sue, Marl, Judy, and everyone else!
|Snow cones anyone?|
|Ice, ice baby|
|Marcelo, put some pant on, its frosty!|
|Good morning sun rays|
|A hearty breakfast for another solar car adventure|
|A picture for your wall of fame, Howard|
|Ready for your close up|
|Will we see any bears in the Rockies?|
|Top of the world!|
|Hey big bear, look both ways before crossing the street|
|Solar Car Speed Cam|
|The carefree moment before Laura yelled, "The truck! The truck!"|
|"I thought I put it park..."|
|Roadway all clear for operation out-of-ditch|
|Charging at the Ramada Inn|
|The days drive is over, but work is never done...|