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July 18, 2009

Km 100 Dempster Highway - no drive

By Josh
The crew was up around 10:30 this morning ready to set up the array. We waited all morning for decent sunlight, but to no avail. I cooked everyone some oatmeal and hot chocolate, and walked around for a bit. I worked on my updates during the morning, and filmed Marcelo fixing the JVC. After we worked through most of the day in the van during the cold and drizzling raindrops, I took it upon myself to make some New Orleans style gumbo on the gas stove. Before cutting all the veggies, Claire, Marcelo and I threw a red pepper up in the air as high as we could, to see who could catch it. Claire threw it so far, Marcelo had to run for it. I dropped the pepper, ending our game, but beginning our lunch. I threw in some kale, carrots, garlic, celery, and of course the pepper. I even made some garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinaigrette toast on the side. Thinking that Anne or Willy might still be here, I made portions for five. I accidentally burnt some toast while a random passerby drove up to ask questions about the solar car. It was strange to run into someone on the Dempster, especially where we were camping. Everyone enjoyed their gumbo, and we watched a documentary from the Solar Light Fund, an organization that provides developing countries with solar electricity. After checking out the video, we had some cookies and started looking through some old footage from the journey. It was awesome watching Claire tease Marcelo with a granola bar, and watching Laura dance to the Bohemian Rhapsody, again!. I put on some music after a bit, which included some Supertramp, While I was trying to find some misplaced photos from our morning leaving Dawson City, we noticed a small car was parked outside the van. Noticing that it was a Toyota, we all wondered, “Could it be Anne”? Sure enough, there she was parked outside. She was driving back up the Dempster, and happened to stop at exactly the spot we've been at all day. I never would have expected it, but there she was, back on the tour again! We all hugged her and told her how much we missed her and were glad to have her back again. We all jumped in the van, continued working on updates, and I shared an orange with Laura and Marcelo in the back. I drifted to sleep in the van listening to the tapping of their laptops as they finished logging the days events.

By Marcelo
What the sun is not out? got to be kidding?
By the time we went to bed, 03:00, there was light, the sun was raising already, a few clouds in the sky. We got up about 10:30 the array was set up but not much of charge. The weather turned on us, haze, overcast, drizzle. A gust of wind, we took the array down. The clouds got thick and no longer could see the sun in the sky, playing hide and seek with us. Diffused light trickled charged the battery.
Far in the horizon, the deep green mountains are now different shades of blue/gray, just silhouette of mountains like in a paining, it is quiet, the welcome silence is only broken by the occasion twit of a bird.
Breakfast was handled by Josh, oatmeal and hot cocoa. The mosquitoes are out, they really like us. I keep thinking about a funny remark Josh made "there no singe mosquito in the arctic, they are all married with very large families". The weather has been dry, last year was much worst. In any case, there is an army of mosquitoes out there. We take refuge inside the van, write updates, listen to music, talk about life, the tour, the people we met. We miss Willy Wanka and Anne, wish they had continued with us.
There was some sad moment the past few days but we all hold strong, occasionally a watery eye. No one wants anyone to leave but life goes on. We'll cherish the memories and cultivate the friendship we made. Its been a life changing experience to all of us. I made an attempt to repair the video camera I have been using to document the project since last year. So many little screws. Hope I can put it back together. Gave up working outside after inhaling too many mosquitoes.
Got the munchies, start to boil water for a noodle snack, Claire jumped in but Josh took over, making a fancy gourmet meal with some of the perishables and Gumbo in the box mix. A touch of Louisiana, a present from Jim,  it brought fond memories from my visit to that beautiful state. Gumbo! Yeah baby! It was a bit watery at first, too much water went into it, adding a bit of noodles gave a special touch, fix the problem, a new dish was created :)
While gathering the veggies for our gourmet meal, Josh dropped a single red pepper on the ground, still inside the bag, it turned into a game, "catch the pepper" game. We were swinging and throwing the pepper into the air as high as we could, scrambling to catch it. Gravity works every time, the pepper eventually hit the ground at terminal velocity. Josh's comment "well, now I don't have to cut the pepper anymore", it was ready for the pot.
I went for a walk on the Dempster, I now called it "road to a dream". It is so peaceful here, no signs of humans only pristine nature, the tundra its so spongy like walking on a mattress. It is bizarre to think the ground is frozen underneath. I saw foot prints of large animals, mainly moose everywhere, I wonder how long before me they were here. I set up the camera to do a quick video diary recording and presto I hear a car approaching, 87.9% of the time when filming, setting up for that perfect shot a vehicle gets on the way spoiling the shot. We are in one of the most remote areas on the planet, traffic on the road is scarce. It is amazing to hear the sound of a vehicle over one mile away. So, I wait, for it to come and go, get the camera running and again another car. It happened 3 times. I finally got it done, turned off the camera, no more cars since. Compared to last year, we are not doing too bad. Last year we stop at km 152, this time we stop at km 100. There was still a bit of energy left on the battery it could been possible we could have stopped near the same place as last year, we left Dawson very late, I was excited to continue the drive but chose to rest instead.
While in the van we are listening to a variety of artists. The 5 O'clock tea of choice was market spice tea (thanks to big sis Laurie) and oatmeal cookies. Watched some of our own funny videos, one of Claire and Willy teasing me with cookies and a granola bar through the solar car visor, another from the crew singing bohemian rhapsody back in Ofordville, WI. A couple of short videos from SELF (solar Electric Light Fund), one about Solomon Islands in the pacific, it shows how the use of solar panels is changing life's of people relying on the use of querozene lamps as a source of light, and, CNN Amazon where solar energy being used to provide energy to power a satellite internet connection for a remote village, expanding the classroom, it is now giving the local school access to the world wide web and the local nurse a tool to get work with the help of far away doctors to diagnose patients locally. WOW! Great job SELF! I salute you in your wonderful work. I have been talking about driving the solar car across central and south America for its educational value, your work is inspiring me to think that I too could made a difference in those countries. Should I raise the funds, Tierra del Fuego here I came.
Around 21:30 we had a surprise, Anne showed up unexpected. Claire noticed a car near by, double look, - "isn't that Anne's car?" - Yes, it is. We stormed out of the van to welcome her. We were all happy to see her. We were hiding behind bushes and small trees, it was impressive that she was able to find us. I guess, from being a trapper on a past life she has good haunting skills. 
Its was raining, didn't set up her tent, "oh, my first night in the trailer" she said - as if sleeping on the trailer was a right of passage to be on the team. We all had a laugh. Took a while to fall a sleep. The excitement for being in the Arctic is still running high. Near one hour later, I got up to move the solar car for the morning. It never got completely dark.

By Anne.
do over! anne's back on the road again!
had a nice visit helping a friend in pelly and in the afternoon decided to head back with the crew to drive the dempster with the solar car. i can't say why i decided that... i was worried about them i guess and thought it would be nice to share the last leg of their journey with the solar car.
it had been raining since i'd hit the dempster cutoff after supper but it was nice to see the tombstone mountains even if they were veiled in mist from the rain. it was random and lucky that i spotted the support van tucked away down a side road not too far past tombstone. i figured they wouldn't have made it too far on account of the clouds and smoke that was in the air.
claire saw me and said “i called it” so i guess she knew i'd be back to join them. she said i pulled a huck fin because they'd all had my funeral only to have it crashed by me. laura was listening to boards of canada so i knew i was with good peoples and was happy i returned.
it's raining now which will hopefully freshen things up and clear the smoke. here is hoping for a nice sunny day tomorrow and a good safe ride to eagle plains for poutine and internet. remembering my last trip up the dempster in the summer of 2006, the section up ahead is a steep hill and can be pretty hairy if it's raining.

By Claire
What does the color blue look like again? I thought I knew but I can't seem to find it anywhere. As I sat down to start this update I asked my team, "Where did we stop last night? ugh, I mean, where are we now??"

Besides the occasional trip to the bush, we did not move. It was completley overcast, making the world I snapped hundreds of pictures of just a day earlier a distant memory. It looked like a Chinese watercolor with layered outlines of blue screened mountains. I have never been somewhere that the immediate world looked exactly the same for a whole 24 hours. The sky was completely whitewashed with a soft light filtering through. The afternoon and evening were filled with misty rain, a good thing in that it quells the dust, but a bad thing if it turns the gravel into mud.

The whole entire gray day was spent in the van working on the computers. I needed to be locked up in this cage though, I had so much work to catch up on and without this sun strike it would have only gotten worse. Bordering on hermit fever, by lunch time we found ourselves playing ridiculous games. One was the Red Pepper Olympiad, where one person would wind up and throw a bagged red pepper and having someone else run into to catch it. Josh got major style points for a lunged one hand catch, but then lost his lead when his plan to jump from the trailer door to catch the falling pepper failed. Once the pepper was adequately moistened and split from The Games, Josh put his chef hat on and went into creation mode.

He made the most delicious, down home Louisiana lunch for us: gumbo base, rice, noodles, red pepper, kale, celery, onions and carrots. Making our lunch break into a movie time, we all sat in the back of the van and watched some of the silly footage we had taken in the past couple days, like the granola incident and our group performance of Bohemian Rhapsody back in Orfordville, WI. But I still have yet to see that bladder-breaking footage of Josh running alongside the car the night we broke the record.

Around 9pm, my eyes drifted up from the keyboard to see a car parked next to the van we were all working in. It didn't phase me until I remembered that we were in the middle of nowhere and that it is a strange thing to have a car appear as such. I saw movement going on in the backseat and thought it funny that people would stop to share some love right in front of a very obvious entourage. "Doesn't Anne have a Toyota?!" We all leapt out of the van to see if it was our new then former crewmember, and it was! She received much love, but she couldn't avoid the beast of the update...back to work!

Close to 10pm I was sick of throwing my thoughts at a glowing screen and went to the trailer to lie down. I was terribly restless. I bundled up in my nighttime layers and tried to read a boring book to entice sleep, but the pages kept turning. After tosing and turning a while, I decided that I didn't want to feel the beastly breed of morning breath I would have if I didn't brush my teeth, so I wandered out into the wet cold bush and did my thing. Still not tired, I set up the bed and laid there without purpose. I ended up doing some sun salutations right there, only finding a sense of relaxation and focus on the fourth round. I stood on my head for a bit, read a little more, and eventually found sleep. Please let us move tomorrow!

Sun where are you?
Come out an play
Willy Wanka's writing on the side of the van before we said our goodbyes in Dawson "Keep on Rocking".
We will keep on Rocking
We miss you!
Breakfast a la Chef Josh, oatmeal and hot chocolate
Wind blows, it drizzle, array is taken down. Marcelo and Josh repositioning the solar car
Marcelo taking the down time trying to fix the high definition camera. Ops, there are a few screws left.
Irene hanging in the ceiling, watching over us
The monkey doing its thing
A moose print on dry mud next to where we stop for the night
Bear or wolf print?
We are looking on the hitchhiker guide to the galaxy to find out. No just kidding, we have the write book "animal tracks of western Canada. Stay tuned.
We got it!
It's a wolf print. Uauh auhw auhowwwww!!!!!
Solar car blues
Claire rock climbing in the Yukon or flipping pancakes we couldn't quite decide what to call it
The silhouette of mountains far in the horizon, a variant of blues and grays
Step into our office
Take number two, while we were waiting for the sun to shine, our crew grew a little.