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June 15, 2009

Ofordville, WI - La Moille, MS - 192.9 miles

By Josh;
Since Claire and Marcelo set up the array yesterday, Laura and I volunteered to do it this morning. I was up around 5 with the sunrise. The sounds of chirping birds rustled me from my slumber, and persuaded me to awaken and get the XOF1 charging. After a gorgeous sunrise, we were greeted by a local Ofordville officer. Someone thought we were camping in Knute's parking lot unlawfully. Fortunately, we were only setting up the car to charge, and not doing anything reprehensible. The officer let us go, and we went to a local gas station for a bathroom. We would go in the bushes, but apparently someone has been watching us, seeing as the cops were phoned in. The gas station was quite cool, being built in an old house. It was very old, yet fully operational. It turned out that Bill, who worked at the Ofordville gas station for more than 30 years was good friends with Johnny Cash in the 1960s. He even had several photos up in the shop. Laura and I slung some OJ back to the team. Claire made us some sandwiches. They were filled with greens and goodies for the day's diet. We worked on updating the website for a bit while the array charged. I had a conversation with a man named Butch about renewable energy, and we soon left after the battery was almost full. We drove for a while, getting amazing landscape shots. After a bit, Marcelo decided we needed an XOF1 tire check. The tire would not budge, but I finally pushed it loose with help from Willy and Marcelo. After struggling with the tire for some time, we packed up and kept going. We stopped in Kickapoo for Ice Cream and sugary drinks. The caramel crème soda was pretty terrible. Laura and Willy spit guava seeds at each other until the cops came because the donation bucket was left out, thus representing solicitation. We continued running around all afternoon taking photos, on bridges, highways, and fields. We finally made it to Minnesota after a day of speeding through Wisconsin. Hopefully we will get better media tomorrow. The crew ended the night with some cups of noodles and tea over a small gas stove. The shoulder we parked on was quite large, and the view was amazing. It is incredible to me after four years of living in New Orleans, and enjoying the Mississippi, I was now going to sleep by it in Minnesota...indescribably and mind-bogglingly awesome!

By Marcelo;
It was almost one year ago, I was at the same parking lot at Knutes Bar and Grill. I spent that night sleeping undearneath the solar car inside the trailer. I struggled to drive XOF1 to Ofordville, its batteries were empty, it was a painfully slow drive, it was dark, I probably could walk was faster than I was driving when I finally brought it to a stop, pulled into someone's drive way, 10 miles from Ofordville, load the solar car into the trailer. Drove to Ofordville, Knutes parking became the stop for the night. There I met Don (the cook) and a few other people. The next day a number of people stopped by to see the solar car, made new friends. I never thought I would be back driving the solar car on a return journey to the Artic Circle. Looking back at this past year, WOW! what a year! what adventure!
It was very late at night or early in the morning by the time it quited down with patrons leaving the stablishment and got quiet enough I could sleep. It wasn't much different last night. However, this time was the solar car crew enjoying themselfs. I thought I should let them have a bit of fun.

The first time around, I was being asked things like What is this? how does it work? you wan to drive this where? drive a solar car to the Artic? are you crazy?, etc... questions reflecting skepsism. One year and ~18,000 miles later I noticed a paradigme shift, the skeptcism is no longer there, the "impossible" is now possible. The questions I am now being asked reflect the change in the thinking process, and YES is the right answer!

Today had to replace one of the most stuburn wheels, ever on the solar car.
The day started sunny, got haze, overcast, cutting the drive short. Only 192 miles
It was great to see Don and Butch again.

By Laura
At 5 am the sky is in rewind, replaying last night’s sunset for this morning’s rising. The greatest show on earth is the rising and setting of the sun, filling the eyes and skies with a palate of colors so warm and inspiring. The cold Wisconsin air smells like apple juice and makes me thirsty. Josh, Willy Wonka and I set up the array and somehow provoke the locals to call the cops on us. Apparently someone thought we were setting up a tent and camping right there next to the street in front of the bar. Adding to the list of solar car mistaken identity of ufo and bicycle is now a tent. The officer understands the situation and we snap a photo of him in his cruiser next to the solar car. Josh and I wander in search of juice and facilities still before 6am and happen upon a tiny old time gas station. The owner has a candid and fading picture of Johnny Cash with a guitar, up on the wall behind the counter. He says Johnny was a friend of his back in the 60’s...we were just singing Johnny Cash songs in the van yesterday. Back at Knutes we enjoy our juice and do some work while the car is charging. A man from the car dealership across the street has come over and is interested in our motives for being on this adventure. He got married young and settled down too quick to do any traveling abroad. “So, is this similar to what the hippies did, traveling this like that- some kind of hippie trip?” He continues on a sort of rant about us having long hair and not wearing suits, me and my uncoiffed hair and no makeup...I’m not sure if he is mocking us or if he could himself, leave the suit, job and societal norms to join us on our gypsy road tour with the solar car.
Passing farms in Wisconsin the animals take special notice of the solar car today. I see a horse stop munching on grass to look at the solar car and follow it with it’s gaze as we pass. Later, a cow chases the solar car, running along side until she reaches the end of her grassy confinement.
We stop for a tire change, the front right tire needs to be replaced and just after we changed it on the Chesapeake Bay bridge only a week ago. I lay in the grass, overlooking the corn field, offering moral support while the three boys use all their might to remove the tire. When putting the new tire in place, Marcelo and I use the aluminum cleanser as perfume...yeah its been that long since our last shower...‘monkey grease,’ the new fragrance from xof1. We clean up and cool off with water squirts to the face and get caught up in a water fight before heading back on the road. Hours later we stop at the Kickapoo restaurant for a break and some ice cream! Josh buys a soda that tastes like pure molasses. After we all try the foul sweetness that contains more sugar than a 3-tier wedding cake, he empties the contents out onto the grass, flooding the natural habitat with a sugary river sure to mutate the wildlife present. After only one sip I feel my stomach turn and end up eagerly masking the aftertaste with some fresh guava. Marcelo slices it up and I am excited to try a new fruit. It is fleshy pinkon the inside, sweet and sour an the consistency of a soft avocado. There are tiny gold seeds too hard to chew. Guava looks like a tiny watermelon, but instead of being juicy, it is custardy. Marcelo devours the whole thing, seed and skin too. Willy Wonka and I spit seeds back and forth at each other, seeing who can get it the farthest and who gets the best shot at the other person. I almost get one right in the eye but I blink just in time and fire back with one that lands right in his hair, my next shot is a fatal blow to the chest and he is out of ammunition. The local cops show up in response to another local paranoid call. Are we that strange? Yeah we have a spaceship looking vehicle and yeah we look like a bunch of hippies, and yeah, we eat strange fruit and act like we are from another planet...but we are human, at least I think we still are. Back in the car Willy Wonka teaches me some Dutch words...there are two different words for orange, the fruit and the color. English and Dutch are similar and most of the words sound the same, either pronounced with a different emphasis or more throaty. I think ahead to visiting Valerio and now Willy too in Holland maybe later this year. One of the musicians from the Florida Folk Festival will be touring the Netherlands in September. Holland is very Americanized from what Valerio tells me and Willy Wonka is proof, despite the accent. After crossing the Mississippi River and entering Minnesota, we come to a blocked road on our route, closed a mile down with down trees and construction. A u-turn brings us back to a side road that ends up being the most scenic and intimate detour yet. The road is narrow, hugged by low hanging trees on either side, winding and curving, becoming the solar car’s mountain side roller-coaster. We pass houses with expansive back yards high up the sloping hills, overlooking the river and the cities below. Willy Wonka and I are ready to set up camp right on the side of the mountains...I can’t wait for the arctic...mountains, wolves, wild blueberries and towns with populations of 7 people. We stop for the night right on the side of the road at a scenic overlook shoulder in the tiny town of La Crosse. Beyond the railing the land slopes sharply downward to the railroad track. I could jump from here and land on top of a passing train, or fall into the Mississippi River. The view is tasty; I swallow the mountains across the river and the fireflies lighting up the darkness, but still hunger. After covering the solar car we get cooking! The gas ignites, a disc of blue flame swells and engulfs the water pot balancing on the single burner. Cup-o-Noodles! our future is porridge, noodles and hot chocolate: the cuisine of the arctic, still 3700 miles away!
-Laura Peruzzi

By Willy Wonka;
Hoeehahhhh (yawn)!! Me, Josh and Laura wake up to charge the array at 05.20am. It is early but the sunrise is beautiful! We lay down next to the solar car and a police officer arrives and asks what we are doing. (He had received a call about people trying to set up a tent at the parking lot) We tell him what we are doing and make a picture of his car next to the solar car.
A bit later Claire and Marcelo wake up as well, we all write our updates, arranged our stuff and prepared ourselves to hit the road. We received a generous donation of Butch and soon after that around 12.00pm we left for the Arctic Circle. ON THE ROAD AGAIN!!! We had a good drive and the miles flew by as we were driving up ahead many times to make some good shots, changed a flat tire and had lots of fun along the way. We had a short stop at a restaurant called Kekapou*, we all paid our sewer taxes, had an ice cream and some drinks. And weeehooooo weeehooooo (siren) the police came to tell us that the owner of the restaurant wanted us to leave. It became a good song: Kikapou will call the police on you! We made some more miles and after 09.00pm we finally arrived!! Next to the Mississippi river we camped, just missing our destination by 3700 miles for the Arctic Circle. We had some noodles, did some work and went to bed around 12.00am except for Claire she was snoring a bit more early. Stay tuned for the next episode!

By Claire
I don't care how played out it may be, Bohemian Rhapsody is the ultimate rock out jam. Any song that involves air piano, plays out an operatic dialogue, incites a series of almost grotesque facial expressions, and encourages trippy modern dance moves AND headbanging is a hands down winner. Which brings me to the scene of Knutes Bar & Grill last night, where the solar crew threw down to this song with an, I'm sure, amused audience of the bartender and two lingering locals. I don't know if it was the couple hundred miles of travel, hours sitting, and sleeping in the van or just that one song that has made my neck revolt against me today. Herniated discs for a good cause, I'd say.
The night did not did not want me to take advantage of its peace. Neither did Josh, judging by his snoring. It wasn't all bad though, his noise pollution actually made itself into my dream, becoming its repetitious soundtrack. The rest of the crew got up at sunrise to set up the array and let me sleep in. They tried to wake me to see the majestic entrance of the sun and all the colors it brought along, but the only thing I wanted to see was the backs of my eyelids and a blanket over that.

It was a quiet morning. Everyone was typing away, writing updates, uploading pictures and footage, checking logged miles, and planning the day's route. I took a sink shower in the bar's restroom and then put together the crew's breakfast, an choice of peanut butter and honey sandwich or cheese and lettuce sandwich. I shouldn't downplay them though, as they are hearty staples of travel and something I consider myself good at making.

We left around noon and the van was considerably calmer than the day before. Mostly because we were taking an unfamiliar route and I spent every free moment writing the previous day's update. One thing that I love about this trip is the fact that we are taking smaller roadways that show "real" America, which I loosely define as an absence of a Wal-mart. The road became more windy and the hills came so often that I no longer felt the urge to go, "wwwwwhhhhhhhhhhaaaoooooooooooo!" on the way up.

Marcelo was able to hear a growing bald spot on one of the tires and we stopped to change it before it could perform it's own version of the Big Bang. Maybe I should qualify the use of "we" in that sentence. I hovered a bit at first, but I saw that they would be OK without my supervision so I went back to the van to work on my update in a rare slice of silence.

We stopped at a country diner and Marcelo treated us to ice cream. We tried to treat ourselves to a cold old-fashioned soda, but our blood sugar levels peaked just from a sniff of it. "32g of sugar, TIMES FOUR!" Josh proclaimed, which was the moment my support of universal health care wavered. I can't afford to pay into a pot with THIS stuff accessible to all, even minors.

One of the highlights today was crossing and driving along the Mississippi, so we really lucked out when we found a pullover spot just above the the Mighty Miss. Roadside roman noodles, a page and a half of reading and I was out. Only 3,700 miles to go.
There's the sun!
Our 6 armed emanation of Vishnu.
The sun is up, the sky is blue!
Laura wearing her clown shoes.
Laura's a butterfly
We're pulled over first thing in the morning.
Working on updates.
Don with his coon hound dog.
Butch with Marcelo.
The Solar Car Dynamic Motion Capture Duo
The Flatlands
Solar Car evades oncoming traffic, yet again.
The XOF1 stops for no one!
Solar cars bring happiness
Sunny's comin' 'round the corner when he comes, yeehaw!
Changing a tire
Claire is a spokes fan.
Work that wheel.
Grab the brake as hard as you can!
Not For Highway Use
How to fix the car???
Laura working hard.
There was some dirt in the bearing.
Mission Complete
Breaking past the barricades.
Solar car speeding.
Getting some hills again.
Ice Cream!
Guava seed spitting in Kickapoo, WI
Kickapoo will call cops on you!
Heading down the highway, looking for adventure.
Doing some updates
So much corn in the Midwest.
Finally, some mountains
Beautiful scenery.
Wisconsin cliffs.
Flowers support solar travels.
A steep cliff looms overhead the XOF1.
Come stay at the MOOtel
A bridge to the future.
Since when did Wisconsin look like New Zealand?
Nature is art.
XOF1 coming to a crossroads.
Was that a UFO?
Steep hills, and sharp curves.
Winding roads ahead.
Carving out those hills with solar driven wheels.
Prickly plants.
Sun power stored up for a night drive.
Solar UFO.
Some tea and a ukulele.
Our first gas stove meal, at least for the Floridians