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June 07, 2009

Cumberland, MD - Pittsburgh, PA - 114.3 miles

By Josh

I woke up today a bit more tired than usual. After a night of motorcycles and cars revving their engines next to the van in a CVS parking lot in a valley near Cumberland, VA,  I was at a lack of sleep. Laura and I set up the array today for the first time without Marcelo. We did have to ask him how to turn on the battery, but we managed to get it up and running without to much difficulty. The crew headed to McDonalds nearby to work on the route, and I cleaned the van for the day. I decided that I would drive today for the first time in the Appalachian Mountains. I had to quickly learn how to shift gears properly in order to keep the van from overheating.

Riding the Appalachian Mountains felt a bit like a roller coaster at first. The altitude differentials became quite intense as we went up 2900 feet and down at high speeds. We had to stop and fuel at a BP, and got some nice footage there. After filming and making phone calls in the van all week, it was nice to have the driving role for Sunday. The scenery was simply breathtaking, from the rolling hills, to the vast open plains, to the jagged cliff faces with honeysuckle scents and gurgling water falls, we had ample opportunity for some great shots. It took almost all day driving until the team reached the mountain peak. Driving up and down inclines and declines with 8 and 9% grades was dangerous, slow, and exhilarating.

We stopped mid-afternoon for some plums, peaches, and apples at a local farmer's market. I ate my first plum, as our vegetarian friend Laura continually encourages healthy eating. It was quite good, and I'm amazed at all the new experiences I have on the solar car trip. We rested and plotted the route, and hen....on the road again!

After reaching Pennsyvania, I drove through Uniontown, which had some of the fastest, busiest, and narrowest roads I've ever driven on...and with the van and the trailer no less! When we arrived in Pittsburgh, we had to find directions quickly as we entered the tunnel to the city. The van's inverter had overheated and started emitting smoke earlier, so we were relying completely on the Atlas for directions. When emerged from the tunnel, we crossed a gorgeous bridge with crystal blue water, and an indescribably beautiful panorama of Pittsburgh. The team drove past a the Three Rivers Art Festival, and immediately drew a crowd. Jamie had contacted some local press, and we were trying to find them to get in touch with them. Jamie had the contact with the press, and was also trying to help navigate as much as possible. We finally found a parking space, and proceeded to show off the car while waiting for press. A couple girls in a Red Bull car pulled in front of us, and gave the team free drinks. John Velak from the Electrical Vehicle Association came by to check out the car. KDKA Pittsburgh also came by to get an interview with Marcelo. After getting a few good driving shots with the car, the reporter left, and we followed John to the Carnegie Science Center to use their parking lot to charge the car. I thought it was strange that we would pay five dollars just to charge the array, but we weren't in just any parking lot. The Carnegie Science Center was right by the river, with vistas of bridges in the background, and even a submarine docked at port. We paused for a moment to lie down and hum a D tone centered on what we believe to be l’ombelico del mondo. While charging the array, a few of the attendees at the local event told us we might be able to get in, so we tried. I went inside the Center, and was greeted by automated bagpipes, which I: found rather strange. Then this huge robot comes out the door wanting to shake hands with the bagpipes. What is going on?!?! So I walked inside to find that one of the East coasts largest conventions on robotics was being held inside. I told a coordinator of the event that while we didn't have a robot to display, we did have a solar powered machine outside. They were ecstatic, and offered us a spot out front to show off the car. They even agreed to make an announcement, and even to pay the XOF1 team for their time at a potential future event. We set up the array to charge for the last couple hours of sunlight, and Barri, the coordinator, offered to announce the car right before the band resumed playing. The team snacked on Hors D'ourves and checked out some robots. Laura and I grabbed some wine and chocolate covered strawberries, and then went to see some robots. They had a robot playing basketball, one that mimicked human facial expressions, one that played air hockey, and more. The Carnagie Science Center is honestly the most fascinating hands-on, cutting-edge museum I've ever visited. Their tools for educating the public about everything from marine biology, to physics, to technology. Marcelo met Ronald Baillie and Ann Metzger, the directors of the center, as well as Mike Marcus, the Assistant Director Marketing and Community Affairs. Marcelo also met a man named Zoltan, who offered us a place to stay for the night. I drove on the interstate, since it was a Sunday, and we made it to Zolton's family's home. Their daughter Skyler was really interested in the car, and they stayed up late to ask questions about the car. Some of the team grabbed showers, while others worked on the website. What an incredible day!

By Jamie Trahan:
It's always nice waking up in the mountains. I definitely don't do it often enough. Josh and Laura set-up the array to charge the batteries so that Marcelo and I could get a little more sleep. After waking up, we went to McDonald's to work on updates. I can't remember the last time that I frequented fast food restaurants this often.

Around 9:00 am or so I headed back to the car so that I could get a few yoga moves in before departing from Cumberland, Maryland. We were on the road in the Appalachian mountains again. Josh drove today and Laura became navigator. I would liked to have driven but didn't mind the back seat at all - I get an amazing view from the side window.

Going up and down the hills was a roller coaster ride, not just for the cars but for my nerves. I was very worried about the transmission on the van, as well as the breaks, and the hills were incredibly steep. After a while I realized that I just needed to sit back, enjoy the scenery, and let Josh do the driving. We took some snap shots of the car then made our way out of the mountains, but not before stopping at a small fruit stand just inside Pennsylvania. The plums were sweet and juicy, very refreshing.

Before getting into Pittsburgh, we made contact with the local Electric Vehicle Assocation, with the help of Laurie (thanks Laurie!) and spoke with their president, Jonathan. He helped us make contact with a local news station, KADA, I believe. After speaking with them, we drove downtown to their station which just happened to be right next to a huge art festival. Josh was dying to go because Trombone Shorty was playing but Marcelo was persistant in avoiding the event. We stuck around downtown for a while then charged the car at the Carnegie Science Center. We lucked out ny doing this because it turned out to be the same night as their opening for a robot exhibit. We crashed the party, got lots of good free food, free robots, free robot cookies, and crazy neon straws. Then made our way to Zolton's house, a guy who was nice enough to put us up for the night. His family is very nice and seemed to be excited to have the car in their driveway.

By Laura Peruzzi;
Another wonderful sunny Sunday with the solar team and this marks two weeks for me! We continue to cross the Appalachians of West Virginia and Maryland. I ride the mountain curves hanging out the passenger window, holding onto the dashboard handle with one hand and the camera with the other. I feverishly snap pictures as we jog uphill, speed downhill and wind around the bends. When we stop to film I lay on my belly in the grass like a hunter, my weapon of choice a camera, anxiously waiting for the moment my prey comes into view and snap! gotcha! After capturing the solar car on film we run and pile back in the van speeding after it into the mountains.
We stop at a roadside produce stand just outside of Pittsburgh where we load up on peaches apples and plums... yums! I devour two plums and an apple and am reminded of TomatoLand in Tallahassee where I worked for a summer selling and munching on local fruit and veggies under the sun. The locals let us know about the Three Rivers Arts Festival going on downtown-music, food, people and art! When we arrive there 30 minutes later, the streets are crowded and our presence draws stares and attention, especially when we stop for a moment to figure out where we are going. The festival crowd swarms to the car like flies, and I have to get out of the van to stand as solar car security to keep people from touching it. A saxophone player starts playing next to the solar car for the crowd that has formed and it reminds me of Valerio! We head off before a riot starts and park down the street to meet a reporter Jamie has contacted. A Red Bull promotional car pulls in
front of the solar car on the side of the road to hand out free drinks to all the people we have attracted on the sidewalk, I think some people walk away thinking we are the red bull solar car team. High rises and clouds prevent us from charging while Marcelo does an interview and I play solar car spokesperson to the public. Josh jumps in the van with 6 cans of red bull and we fly away, following the gang from the Pennsylvania Electric Vehicle Club. They have suggested a sunny location for us to park the car and charge by the river. We follow the caravan into a parking lot that charges us $5 but turns out to be the best deal ever! The sun is strong and after setting up the array we realize we are at the Carnegie Science Museum and the bagpipes playing in the distance are welcoming an elite group of museum supporters and board of director big money types to the grand opening of the largest robotics exhibit on the east coast. Before entering the
museum we happen upon a circle of pavement with 6 concentric painted white circles = L’ombilico del Mondo! Jamie, Josh and I lay within this cosmic bellybutton to ommmmm and attune ourselves with the universe.
Inside the Carnegie Science center we are bombarded by robots of all shapes and sizes: RoboWorld! Three floors of robots and interesting people- engineers, professors, students, philanthropists and kids all enjoying food, drinks and the largest collection of robots under one roof. There are robots on the dance floor spinning to the live band, robots that recognize and mimic facial expressions, one that is shooting hoops (i saw him make 1 out of 3! not bad for a giant orange robotic forked arm), one playing air hockey, one that remote detonates bombs (or fetch butter) one that walks and talks in response to your actions and more! Along the wall of the second floor are actual size replicas of famous robots from the silver screen. Josh and I get our picture taken next to Dewey, the star of the sci-fi movie Silver Spring, where humans have destroyed earth so much scientists create orbiting bubble satellite forests and jungles to save the last trees and
plant life from our planet.
We indulge in the complimentary wine and navigate the maze of robots, meeting their makers and appreciators, and I hear the band announce ‘the amazing solar car’ parked right outside the museum entrance for all to see. Josh negotiated a prime spot for the solar car and the owners of the museum come outside to see it and talk with Marcelo. The sun sets over the river and the animatronics festivities go on into the night. We stand guard and answer questions by the solar car in shifts outside and when Jamie and Josh ask me to fetch them a robot and drinks, I deliver. Before we leave, we meet the PR guy for the museum who is happy to provide us with museum contacts throughout the rest of our journey. Zolton, who we met on the street earlier this afternoon offers us a place to stay in his home and we caravan 15 minutes out of downtown to his place for the night. He is excited to have us and his two young boys get to wake up to something better than
xmas- the solar car in their garage!

Xof1 on the road again!
Driving through the Appalachians.
Shot inside the van. We were all still excited to be driving through
the mountains.
So many steep hills. Xof1 seemed to handle the hills pretty well.
What?! Tractor crossing?
Jamie trying to put the screw back in the ferring.
There were many signs like this - 9% grade!
Both cars filling up - the van on gas and xof1 on sunshine.
People crowding around xof1 at the gas station.
Getting ready to go.
more bridge driving.
Paul Bunyon?
Taking a quick break to check out the brakes on the van.
xof1 got stuck briefly in the gravel.
Jamie's shirt.
Laura enjoying a peach from a fruit stand in PA.
Driving in to Pittsburgh.
Finally arriving in Pittsburgh. There was a lot of traffic. We were trying
to find our way to a local news station.
The redbull girls pulled right in front of us. Seemed like they were
capitalizing on the solar car.
Historic submarine at the Carnegie Science Center.
We think we finally found L'ombilico del Mundo.
humming in syncronicity while in L'ombilico del mundo.
Marcelo explaining the car to an EV owner.
One of the robots hanging out during the preview of the Roboworld exhibit
at the Carnegie Science Center.
One of the attendees checking out the car.
Hanging out at the Roboworld preview.
Infrared view of Josh and Laura dancing.
gravity ride at the roboworld exhibit.
Jamie and Marcelo hanging with the robots.
Robot on exhibit. I believe her name is Maria?
CP3-2 from Star Wars.
Last pic of the night with the solar crew, Zoltan, and the EV folks.