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June 16, 2009

La Moille, MS -Diamond Bluff, WI - 90 miles

By Marcelo;

My thoughts!
A few years ago I heard the expressions "the law of the farm" and "the law of school", where in the farm there is no cheating, it requires, focus, get up early, prepare the land, plant the seeds, nurture the plants, plan the harvest, etc... otherwise ain't just gona happen. While in the school, there are ways of cheating into a diploma.

The solar car falls into the "law of the farm". We have to get up early (ideally before sunrise), set up the array, charge its batteries, while the battery is being charged run errands like fuel the support vehicle, maintenance / readiness of the solar car, route planning, write updates, etc... for example; yesterday we had a flat tire, it hasn't been changed yet. Unless, I get to it, that tire won't change by itself, and, if doesn't get done during down time it will cause a delay on the side of the road, it create a snow ball effect.

People ask me "How do I keep going and keep on pushing". Would anybody ask a farmer that same question? probably not.
I have a burning desire to change the world, to promote the use of clean and sustainable energy and inspire others. There is no financial reward in doing this. In fact, quite the contrary, it cost me everything I ever made and then some. Yet, I feel content to continue. The pay back for me is intangible, cannot be measured in monetary ways. It is a privilege to fulfill a dream, I am living it everyday, with every turn of XOF1's wheels. It is awesome to share a dream with others, even more special to be a "dream catalyst" to others. To date, I drove over 18,300 miles (~30,000km) using only sunshine as fuel, double the previous world distance record. Achieved my "Objective, (develop and build a solar car to set the world distance record), "Mission Statement" (to fulfill a dream and inspire others to accomplish their dreams in a positive way to benefit mankind and the environment) and "Commitment" (promote the use of clean and sustainable energy).

Driving the solar car all the way to the Arctic Circle, the greatest challenge on the planet for a solar car created a paradigm shift. The first time around people didn't believe it could be done, even a dear team member from Toronto told me before I left "the solar car would not last more than 1,000km". Now things have changed. The comments are of praise and encouragement. I would like to do more, if I manage to raise funds to hire a crew and have the proper equipment and pay everyone a decent salary I would like to drive from the Arctic Circle to Newfoundland and Labrador and all the way to the tip of South America or perhaps continue driving across North America covering all 49 States and Canada.

When I talk about going to South America, people try to discourage me by saying "it is dangerous, the crime, mosquitos, the heat, the cucarachas, the rough roads or even the lack of roads, etc...". Yet, it is something I would love to do it. In North America nearly everyone, have seeing, heard or have some understanding of its technology behind a solar car. It would be great to share with other earthlings in remote and poor areas.

The days event;
Had a typical farmers day!
Claire and I got up early, set up the array to charge its battery, everybody else slept in.
The early showing of the sun was a tease, it soon got blanked by clouds
I tried to write my updates in the van but there was always someone causing a distraction.
Drove the solar car 90miles under overcast sky's until the battery was complete depleted.
Ended the day early as the battery got empty. At the last few miles, I came to a long uphill, called the support van on the radio to pass me so they wouldn't loose momentum climbing the hill. They waited at the top, I pass them while they were taking photos and filming. I called on the radio to say the battery was dead, I was going to pull over once I found a good place to stop, turned into the parking lot of Netsbit nursery farm, clearly visible from the road, the support vehicle drove right by, not realizing they already had passed me, they had to drive back.
Made some new friends, show the car to a small group of kids
Had a great ice-cream
We are back in Wisconsin, had more cheese!
Met with Tom and Sandy, they were my escort last year when the Minnesota State troopers gave me a hard time. It was great to see them again! I was glad to learn they got married soon after our solar car experience last year. Car guys usually ended up single. So, I guess, Tom didn't want to be like me and poped the question to Sandy, happy for him :)
(I still have a cat at home).
Tom and Sandy took the whole crew out for dinner. Lee Netsbit showed us the way to a nice local restaurant, provided safe place to house the solar car for the night and then invited us to stay at his home. Warm shower and confie beds, yeah!
The weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking very good. Hope we'll make it to Stillwaters.

By Claire;

For any of you that have scanned Willy's update, the appearance of the word "VEGETARIAN" (like so, in caps). He definitely has nothing against this evergrowing league of plant devourers, but he often feels the need to tell complete strangers that we are members. 'Nice to meet you, my name is Willy Wonka, I am from the Netherlands, and they are vegetarians.' Sometimes that order varies, depending on how low it has been since he has had his fill of meat. Well, last night he could have built a small house with the bones he left cleaned at dinner that night. I don't think he started chewing until his second or third serving. We were definitely entertained, seeing him reach carnivorous bliss. I will admit that his meat-crazed happiness brought back memories of my mother's fall off the bone ribs, but I held strong.

We were treated by Tom and Sandy, a couple that Marcelo met last year in Stillwater. Marcelo was pulled over by state police and told that he could not continue without a frontend escort. Never meeting Marcelo before, this generous couple offered to lead him all the way north out of Minnesota. It's not often one commends the Law for bringing people together, but thanks Officers. And THANK YOU Tom and Sandy for dinner!

After dinner we followed Lee* to his house proving his gracious offer made earlier that day. He offered us much more than a shower, though. His home was just beautiful, a statement that was not influenced by the fact that it possessed a walk-in, scalding hot shower (scalding good, not scalding bad). I got a chance to learn more about the man behind the kindness, an extremely dedicated business owner, that races mountain bikes, hunts impressive game with bow and arrow, spends a month each year diving off Mexico, and has a strong interest in wildlife photography especially that of Jim Brandenburg (known for his shots of wolves). All this from some nice guy that I bought an ice cream from just a few hours earlier. The luxury did not end there, either, with his offer to have us stay the night my eyes shone like highbeams at midnight.

Now, I am a really big fan of sleep and like to think that I have had some really memorable encounters with it, but this sleep was something else. There were a few times I roused from hibernation mode justelf, 'I am so comfortable right now, this is so good, so comfortable, so good,' and then I would drop back down into the self-imposed coma. Thank you, Lee, for facilitating my venture into a new dimension of R.E.M sleep. Your generosity to a pack of formerly stinky solar travelers will not be forgotten or left unappreciated. We offer most sincere thanks and wish you health and happiness, snow or shine.

By Laura;
With sun salutations we greet the light sparkling on the Mississippi River. The sun is sleeping in today, snuggled in comfy clouds and wrapped in wisps. This tiny town of La Crosse, MN has no convenience in sight, so Josh and I take to the woods. Crossing the highway we find an animal skull in the grass. I pick out a good spot and chase a butterfly before settling in. Back at riverside headquarters, everyone is hard at work on the updates, writing about every moment before it happens. On the road ahead there is construction; a line of orange cones provide a shalom course for the solar car to zig and zag. Marcelo quickly weaves through the cones like a skier on smooth black asphalt, the anti-snow of the city. In taking pictures today I end up running through fields of wildflowers, crossing highways, hopping over railroad tracks, laying on the road feeling the vibration of passing trucks and balancing on fences over the Mississippi. The sky stays a wall of grey, forcing us to stop after driving only 90 miles. Nesbbit’s Nursery offers us a space to park and more. Nesbbit’s is a 400 acre spruce tree farm and apple orchard. We step out of the van, talk with the owner and then I notice the playground. Willy Wonka and I run over to the horsey swings and ride until it hurts then play on the wooden choo choo train too. Marcelo is glad we are having fun but would like some work done as well. We spend the rainy afternoon in the van writing and snacking on Wisconsin cheese and crackers. Marcelo pays us our daily dairy wages- gourmet homemade ice cream from inside Nesbitt’s store. The have unique and seasonal flavors made fresh and locally with no preservatives. I choose Norwegian chai with a kiss of chocolate on top. Nesbitt’s uses compostable cups and bowls! Just like the ones I offer from my company. I ask Lee if they compost them here and he tells me about the ginormous compost pile on site...70yds long and 10 ft high. They turn it with a bobcat and add soil on top. The familiar compostable cups take about 6 months to biodegrade for them here. The solar car sparks so many environmental conversations about climate change and alternative energy. Wind power comes up again here as it did in Indiana, Lee tells us it costs $90k for a wind turbine but the government will reimburse you half of the cost. Why not set up wind turbines as a renewable energy infrastructure to lower the cost of public power instead of rewarding the wealthy?
Willy Wonka and I sit on wooden rocking chairs sipping hot chocolate until the rain starts to fill our mugs. He used to make furniture from all kinds of wood, even African Black wood, as hard as stone. The rain suggests we retreat back to the van until Tom arrives and Lee leads the way to the only restaurant for miles. It is a spacious bar with pool, darts, and an all you can eat ribs and chicken buffet...and salad. Claire and I discriminate between questionable pasta and potato salad and fill our plates with mashed potatoes, salad and bread. Willie Wonka sits proud behind a tower of ribs, we think he will keep the bones and bury them for later when all we have is hummus and carrots. Talking with Tom and his wife who were married soon after their two day adventure with the solar car, we learn about Tom’s car collection- 70 in total. He escorted the solar car to the Canadian border after the police stopped Marcelo in Stillwater, MN. We finish our meals and enjoy some local Spotted Cow Wisconsin ale. A local tells me there are more bars in Wisconsin than any other state in the union, wow, they must like to drink up here doncha know! After a game of darts and doubles pool we head to Lee’s house for hot showers, mmmm! At his house just a mile from the shop, the fireflies light up the night, like fallen stars twinkling at our knees. Inside we are greeted by a buck, mounted on the wall above the descending stairs on which also hangs pelts of fox and coyote with mounted fish below. With only bow and arrow did he hunt these animals and somehow that makes me more comfortable with his accomplishment. Lee offers us the spare beds in his home: two upstairs plus one more and a couch downstairs as well. The four of us go downstairs, Marcelo still in the shower, and upon arrival in the tv room are shocked into horrid laughter. Eight more deer are mounted around the room, looming over the couch, their presence is staggering and alarming. Claire and I reenact the scene from Ace Ventura Pet Detective when Jim Carrey walks into the room filled with stuffed safari kills, reacting by screaming hysterically yet comically as the room spins, panning to show the haunting and silent brutality. We sit and chat with the deer before turning in, it is already past midnight and Willy, Josh and I must be up at 5 to set up the array, weather permitting. I lay back onto the couch and stare up at the deer hovering above. I notice their fur converges and peaks at the chest, chins held high and antlers branch wide to make shadows like trees on the wall. Staring into their eyes I try to decipher a mood, a feeling, some clue into their last moments of existence... with one swoop and release of an arrow their expression is forever preserved and the moment forever remembered. Willy Wonka teaches me ‘goodnight’ in Dutch before we fall away behind our eyelids under the watch of proud deer above. Soominlikker, goodnight.

By Willie Wonka

Waky wake, rise and shine! This morning me, Josh and Laura are able to sleep in a bit while Marcelo and Claire are the early birds this time. We wake up around 09.00am welcomed by a beautiful view over the Mississippi. The sun is shining, he is a little bit shy this morning but we are reasonable, everybody has his moods.
We hit the road at 11.30am, driving to a gas station to fill up the van and to get some water. After the short brake we left and pushed the batteries to drive for another 80 miles, ending up in overcast and rainy skies. We stopped at Nessbits, a apple and tree farm were we had some ice cream. We met Lee and he offered us a place to shower, we started to have the same odor as the skunks that are living around here. Thank you very much Lee! Later on Tom arrived an old friend of Marcelo, he took us out for dinner! Woohooo I was happy to see some meet again! Sorry team but the salad loving rabbit in me changed into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We had a lot of fun, I played darts with Laura and we broke the world record of throwing 501 points. It took us 30 turns! (Each) And wooww… I also played a game of pool, teamed up with Claire against Josh and Laura. Claire and me won but I had delegated ALL the shots to her. (That’s right Willie didn’t score one ball)
After a good evening we said goodbye to Tom and Lee guided us to his house. He offered us to sleep at his place and so we did. We all had a great shower and prepared for some serious dreaming. We finally felt a sleep under the eye of many guarding dears.
Before really saying goodbye I would like to end this update with a quote:

”John Holton Senior: It is better to fart and feel the shame, than hold it in and feel the pain.”

By Josh

Yet again, I looked out the window this morning to be greeted with panoramic, awe inspiring beauty. The scenic view of the northern Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge was breathtaking, and the open cliff faces were dotting the green hills surrounding the river valley. Laura and I walked around looking for a good bush/restroom. The view from the van showed the Mississippi River with hills on the other side, a train on our side, and a steep drop about a foot from the van and solar car. So Laura and I sprinted across the highway and tripped over an animal skull of some kind...ahhh! We fake screamed and proceeded to find a suitable bush for relieving ourselves. Getting ready at the van, we got on the road, again! We stopped almost immediately to wash the array. I procured some McDonald's H20 for the van. Claire and I indulged in a little iced coffee. We hit the road, driving through the countryside. I spent the day updating the website and catching some still shots of the solar car on some rolling hills. We stopped at a nursery called Nesbitts because Marcelo's battery died. I got some Norwegian Chai Ice Cream, and they even gave us free banana bread. Lee, who grows spruce trees at the nursery was nice enough to offer us his place to stay when it became clear that the sky wasn't going to clear up any time soon. Marcelo called his friend Tom whom he met last year. We all went out for some food at a local bar. Willy demolished a plate of ribs, and the rest of the crew conquered the salad bar. Laura and I did a Wisconsin bar photo shoot. We talked with Tom about his collection of 70 cars. Claire and I played a round of pool, While Willy and Laura played darts. I won by her scratch, but then she turned it around and won when she teamed up with Willy. With the odds evened up, and some good times behind us, we decided to Go to back to the trailer for clothes to change into. We went to Lee's for a shower, and he ended up offering us a place to stay. Laura, Willy and I slept in the basement with several deceased forest critters. They comprised what believed to be seven of Santa's reindeer, with rudolph in the next room, and dasher in the room above. Laura inadvertently posed as half a deer, and Willy attempted to give her deer nightmares with a strobe effect on the dear dead deers on the wall. Would you dare to dream a deer? We'll ask Laura in the morning...

Good Morning!
Don't touch the solar cells!
Down by the river
Another road gipsy
Looks like Hawaii
Marcelo doing monkey business
Zig Zag!!
Improving the roads!
Thumbs up from the biker
The bridge of madison country
snake road
Arriving at Nesbitt
Lunch time, wisconsin style
We have got fans!
Sunlight, Camera, Action!
Not enough sun today
Plugged in
Tom and his wife Sandy
The whole gang at Valley bar & grill
Solar car safe in Nesbitt's garage
Meow Mouzer
goodnight solar car, see you in the morning