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June 13, 2009

Valparaiso, IN - Chicago, IL

By Marcelo;
The sun was faintly shining at just after 06:00am, got a grim, happy face :) but by the time I stepped out of the trailer to set up the array, the big great fire ball in the sky disappeared behind the clouds. Well, at least it wasn't raining, not yet. Just before getting up, I heard voices outside, "its a space ship", "it's a solar car, it looks like a space ship" Bob Evans restaurant morning staff were checking out the solar car.

The array was up, pointing skyward, a small crowd gathered around the solar car, mainly the restaurant staff and one patron that happen to be the local Sheriff, David Lain, lots of questions and positive comments, Vanessa offered us some coffee, Jackie the restaurant manager invited us for breakfast. Josh and Jamie were up and talking to everyone about the project.

While we were having breakfast at Bob Evans the sheriff came back to talked to us, after leaving the restaurant he visited the project website check us on-line, thrilled to learn about the project he came back with some cool Porter County Police goodies, coffee mugs, pens, a really cool pin and a cozy sweater for everyone on the team and offered us a police escort which I gladly accepted. Thanks Sheriff David Lain!

No rush to go anywhere, the heavy overcast was providing very little energy, raining in Chicago I was told, the weather system is moving east, best to delay the departure as much as possible. At 13:48 we left Bob Evans parking lot with our police escort and a fan club of restaurant staff waving us off. Just as we start driving, a light drizzle sprinkled the canopy, driving only on bottle sunshine in its battery at first. Nearly 25 miles into the drive the sky brighten a little. I was mesmerized to see 4Ah (~400Watts) under overcast sky, loving the solar juice, the sky got brighter and brighter, by the time we arrived downtown Chicago we were greeted by the sun, yeah!!! got lucky, started the drive without enough energy to make to Chicago. At last we arrived in the wind city, all smiles :)

Nice to be back in Chicago, its been one year, I forgot how bad its roads are, full of potholes, a beautiful city with friendly people. We drove straight to the Museum of Nature, parked the solar car at the receiving area. It worked out really well, the Museum of Nature is located near where we'll be sleeping tonight, the Arlington House International Hostel. Willy Wonka, made the arrangements. The stop at the Museum was brief, Jamie is leaving us, returning to Tampa. Sad to see her go, she's has been a great crew member!

The 15:51 arrival didn't leave much time to get Jamie to the airport, we quickly disconnected the trailer from the van, Josh and Laura stayed by the car to set up the array, Jamie and I rushed to the airport. It is Saturday afternoon, traffic is jammed on I90. We arrived at the airport at 17:28, Jamie's flight leaves in less than one hour. I stay by the airport just in case, got a call from Jamie, she made the flight, glad to learn she didn't miss her flight. I headed back to Chicago, first making a quick stop at the Hostel to pick up Willy Wonka, he is returning to the tour after a three week break. He is one of the most enthusiastic team members I had on the tour, always smiling and cheering everyone around with all kinds of funny comments and observations. We said our hellos and headed to the museum. By the time I got back to the museum the solar car was in the shade, we quickly moved it to the park next to the museum to bottle a bit more of sunshine.

Claire, our new team member arrived just as we were parking the solar car for the night, placed hidden under a white and blue party tent in the receiving arear. We all left for the hostel on the A team van. Today, is Willy Wonka's birthday, with so much happening. I had to wait until everyone settled and got occupied before I could sneak out and come up with something to celebrate his birthday. Claire was my alibi, the new team member need to learn a few things about the project. We came back about half hour later and walked into the room with a parade of other hostel guests singing happy birthday to Willy. We got him a few goodies to mark the occasion including an Elmo Helium balloon replaced a rubber chicken since I couldn't find one.

The night was ending well until Josh couldn't find his wallet, as it turned out it got stolen. By luck or by divine intervention, the "thief", now a passed out drunk was back in the scene of the crime. He was carried back into the TV room by two good samaritans guests, they placed him in of the the couch (the TV room is huge). Josh recovered his wallet, police arrived sometime later only to sent the perptrator back to bed, which happened to be in the same room we were staying, next to Josh bank bed.

...what an interesting life we are living :)

By Willy Wonka;
This morning in I woke up in The Arlington House International Hostel Chicago, this is the day I am returning to the solar car tour. WOOOHOOOO IT’S ON THE ROAD AGAIN!! The hostel has been amazing, a great atmosphere and place to meet new people. They have sponsored us with two nights and have been a great help! After 7.00pm Marcelo picked me up at the hostel to meet the rest of the crew at the Museum of Chicago were they were charging the car. It was cool to meet everybody again including the new crew members! After charging the car we went back to the hostel where we did some work and…… HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILLIE!!!!! Marcelo and Claire walked in to the room where we were working, accompanied by half of the hostel singing a birthday song for me and giving me the best presents!! I mean laxative chocolates and baby shampoo, what else could somebody desire? (part I: a drunk guy gets carried in to the room and falls a sleep on the sofa) The solar crew organized this incredible surprise without telling me and it was MONSTERLY GREAT!!! THANKS CLAIRE, LAURA, MARCELO and JOSH!!!! After this cool little party we ended with a team meeting and went to bed…. Part II: Josh had lost his wallet and we were on a mission but the last place he could remember was having the wallet in the same room. The only man that had been near Josh’s wallet was the drunk man sleeping on the sofa, see above.
Part III: His pockets were fuller than normally showing the shape of Joshes wallet and guess what we found…. INDEED…. Josh’s wallet!! The drunken guy sang me a birthday song, considered Josh’s wallet as a gift, had to much beer and ended up in the same room sleeping of his buzz. WOW what are the odds? Police came in and sent him to bed.
Part IV: We all go to bed and guess who was snorring in the same room with us? The same guy that stole the wallet. WAUW! Life is magical!

By Claire;
First stop, Goodwill. "Excuse me, Ma'am...Have you ever lived somewhere cold?" I ask in my humble souh Floridianess. "Could you please tell me if these things are warm." 'No' was the polite answer. Apparently, south Florida is saturated with such imposter winter wear. I personally think its the Florida converts who still want to look warm, but don't want the committment of actually getting warm. Anyways, an expensive looking wool top and a boy's flannel buttton up eventually found me - undesireables in the land of sun. Total Arctic gear cost: $2.54.

My last day was so hectic that I didn't have time to meditate on the fact that I bought a plane ticket the day before and would be traveling indefinitely with the GMC Savana as my place of residence. Moreover, I would be going up, way up at that, a fact that still makes me shiver. I stayed up all night because I had an early flight, but when you're coming up on the 21st hour of wakefulness a 6:30 flight doesn't seem early enough to stay up all night for. It worked out though, based on the fact that I only have a vague memory of the first flight to Charlotte. I was so exhausted that I was doing that can't-lay-down-to-sleep-head-drop for extended periods with no concern for the audience that may be enjoying it.

I met up with my Solar fam later that evening at the Nature Museum. Needless to say, it was a most natural induction. It must be some kind joke that three Floridians end up traveling to the top of the world. That must be a new record of some sort. Later on Marcelo and I stepped out to find Willy a birthday cake, but we did much better than that. Knock-off hygiene products, bubbles, addictive energy drinks, and personal protection devices...what else would a sprouting Dutchman possibly desire?

The meeting was a good crash course for what this project is all about. I don't usually like to admit my naivete, but I must surrender here...there is so much work that goes into this effort. And as if this point was not clear enough the next day's activities would make sure I understood...

By Laura;
Starting the day off right in Indiana with a get out of jail free card from the local sheriff. Coffee and corn mush for breakfast thanks to the folks at Bob Evans who let us camp in the parking lot and fed us dinner too. The town sheriff came by this morning with arms full of gifts; mugs and hoodies for the arctic as well as badges, but we don’t need those stinking badges, we have solar car immunity! He has an officer ride with us for about 10 miles, lights flashing and reflecting off the solar car. Last year on October 30 Marcelo broke the world record of 9,070 and had a police escort then too. Today we are very likely close to doubling the record, seven months later.
As we drive into Illinois, the skies clear and Chicago, the windy city, is uncharacteristically sunny. We come to Lake Michigan and I want to jump in, even though it is 59 degrees outside. Chicago is a beautiful city with sprawling museums by the lake and amazing architecture. We park the solar car at the nature museum and rush Jamie off to the airport. Hopefully she will miss her flight and just have to continue on with us to the arctic. It won’t be the same without Jamie from Tampa. Josh and I stay behind and set up array successfully and make a meal out of the near spoiled food in the trailer. Upon his return, Marcelo has brought along a returning crew member- Willy Wonka! He picked him up at the hostel where we will be staying tonight. We get to know each other in the grass next to the solar car, basking in the late Chicago sun. Josh and I chase rabbits in the rosebushes until its time to roll the solar car into the tent behind the museum for the night. While fetching the blocks I see a girl with a backpack walking the sidewalk and know immediately this is Claire, our new crew member. We claim adjacent top bunks at the hostel and talk with the girls from Germany and Austraila before they go out on the town. In the tv room of the hostel we work on updates and Marcelo and Claire go to find something in the van. (Does anybody need anything from the van?!?) About half an hour later I go to grab my laptop and the two of them are coming down the hallway with balloons, ice cream sandwiches, a six pack and everyone in the hostel. They walk through the door I am still holding and surprise! today is Willy Wonka’s birthday and we celebrate his return and turning 22. Bubbles, beer, magnum condoms and ‘special’ chocolates are showered upon the birthday boy. We drink and talk into the night about the upcoming journey then head to single separate beds we have all to ourselves tonight. I place the crazy fragrant pink rose I picked earlier under my pillow and float away into flowery slumber....zzzz....

Bye Jamie

By Josh

Woke up at a Bob Evens with somewhat overcast skies. We were offered free breakfast by Jackie the manager of the restaurant. We also met the sheriff David Fain. He offered us an escort out of Valparaiso, IN, and he even gave us hoodies, mugs, pens, and pins. The XOF1 squad rolled out of Valparaiso with it’s very own police escort. Burger King was a major pit stop on the way to Chicago. We got crowns for naming kings of the van, Burger King style. Finally we rolled into Chicago a bit late. We got to the nature museum after their presentation, but we were not deterred. Laura, Marcelo, Jamie and I asked the security guard Brenda if we could speak with Josie, Laurie’s major contact with the nature museum. She called Josie, and soon we were given permission to park the solar car and trailer in the nature museum parking lot. After parking the solar car and trailer, we quickly unhitched the trailer and said our goodbyes to miss Jamie from Tampa. It was so sad to see her go, but she had to go back to Tampa to help a friend start a solar energy business and get started on a master’s program in engineering. Marcelo raced her off to the airport, and I talked with Rafelo about potential press tomorrow. It wasn’t looking good for press. Chicago is busy, the unpredictable and weather dependent solar car combined with a weekend arrival made press opportunities hard to come by. Laura and I had set up the array, and had some moderately spoiled salad and apple juice while waiting. I took a quick look inside the nature center while waiting. They had a whole section on renewable energy oriented for kids. It displayed solar panels, wind turbines, talked about net metering, water filtration, river flow infrastructure, wetland protection, and more. Shortly after I returned, Marcelo returned, but instead of Jamie sitting next to him, we saw Willy Wonca! It was great to see him again, and he and Marcelo definitely were glad to see each other once more. We set up the array in the park on a hill by the sunset, and took some good shots. We even went “hunting wabbits” with the SLR camera. With Willy and Laura acquainted, we were all feeling like a new team. Just as we were putting the solar car under a tent and between some tables for the night, Claire came onto the team! We met Claire at White Springs’ Florida, and are finally now meeting back up with her. She helped us position the car for the night, and we were off to the Arlington House Hostel. After checking in, Marcelo and Claire quickly ran off, and we had no clue where they went to. Laura, Willy and I continued to work and plan out the trip, wondering where they went. After some time, Marcelo and Claire burst in with an impromptu party for Willy. They brought with them several of the hostel residents, who perhaps Willy had met the nights prior. They had ice cream sandwiches and Heineken to eat. For Willy’s gift, he got baby shampoo (at 22 he‘s the baby of the group) , condoms, chocolate laxatives, and bubbles. What a party! We then organized an XOF1 meeting in order to review established positions and responsibilities. After some time, a clearly intoxicated African American man, who was chastising me for what could only be interpreted as “white man’s burden” for the aftermath of colonization, asked me if I really knew Africa. I obliged him, and looked up the etymology of the word Africa while he fidgeted with personal belongings on the table. We had to ask him not to touch the SLR camera. After entertaining his questions for some time, we asked him to give us some privacy for the meeting. He slowly left, and we went on with the meeting. After about an hour, the same man, whose name was Anthony, was carried back into the room, and was laid on the couch. We didn’t think much of it, and we finished our meeting. Afterwards, I realized that I couldn’t find my wallet. I checked the room, my pockets, luggage, the van, and then I realized I definitely left it on the table where we were. I asked the front desk too. The surprise party wasn’t close enough to take it, but that drunk man certainly was. How convenient that the prime suspect was carried into the room we were in, despite his drunken and wandering state. Amazingly, he had my wallet stuffed in the pocket that was facing up. If he had been laid on his other side, There’s no way I would have seen it. After grabbing back my most personal source of information, I had the front desk clerk at the hostel call the police. The police merely sent him off to bed, and the hostel listed him as an undesirable resident. He was taken to bed, and I decided I needed some sleep too. The hostel room had about 8 beds in it, and guess who was right next to me? The same guy who took my wallet. I place my belongings pillow side and tried to get some rest.

Jackie (Bob Evans manager)
Say free breakfast, thanks!
Sherif David, Marcelo.
Solar car immunity!
Solar Car Deputy Badges
Interview with a local paper
Howdy Sheriff
Police escort, solar car coming through!
Nice to meet you, I'm the king of my planet
Hot car in the city
Sunny skies in Chicago!
Jamie's last task on the solar team
Marcelo and the Florida team, bye bye Jamie
Catching rays
This is our gas station
Spaceship landing in Chicago.
Rabbits in the rose bushes by the solar car
Solar car sleeps in the circus tent
Rabbit ears
Funny bunny
Claire is a rabbit too
Claire joins the team at sunset in Chicago