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June 21, 2009

Crookston, MB - St.Pierre-Jolys MB, Canada- 107miles


Claire and I are up, our turn to set up the array. One of the perks of getting up early to set up the array is to watch the sunrise. It's one of those things people contemplate in deep philosofical conversations about living live to the fullist. Often, I'll hear watch more sunrise, sunset, have more ice-cream, walk bare foot, laught, etc... included in the list. We are living it everyday! Okay, its not all flowers all the time, living like a "solar gipsy" has its down fault.

The days event;
This morning the sun was hidding behind clouds for a while. Occasionally, it gave us the grace of its power, by late morning no longer could be seem. Started the drive on less than half of the battery pack, no sun, Winnipeg was just a wish.
We were all excited about crossing the boarder into Canada. Near the boarder, I remember "food restrictions". Called the crew on the radio to make a stop, it was past lunch time, we nearly forced fed ourselfs so we wouldn't waste any of the fruit and vegetables. I had an overdose of pineapple, we just did groceries yesterday. Our improvised picknick took place on a soft short grass of a gas station/store in Lancaster, 10 miles from the boarder with Canada. It turned out to be a good place to stop, quiet. Willy Wanka enthusiastically talked to eveyone who stop to see the solar car, using his charm to stratigically bring up the fact the project does not have a sponsor. One day he will be selling fridges to skimos. Great job Willy!

Crossing the boarder was uneventfull. Laura (American citizen) was concerned, she didn't have her passport nor the new enhanced secure driver license. It all worked well, only the USA impose new document restrictions, she was welcomed to Canada with open arms using only her regular drivers lisence.

In spite of the bad weather, we managed to drive to the french town of St.Pierre-Jolys, 30 miles from the boarder, better yet 50km from the boarder. I welcomed the crew to Canada, gave them a quick intro. Here in "Canada land" we use metric system, not imperial. Liters (spelled litres) instead of gallons (one gallon = 4 liters), kilometers instead of miles (one mile = 1.62km), decimals instead of fractions, everything is labelled in english and french (official languages of Canada).

Today is solstice, the longest day of the year, we arrived in Canada, its Claire's first time in the great white north, we got to celebrate, food is one of the best way to say welcome. We walked to Le Routier a family restaurant. Willy and I have been talking about putin for a while (not Putin the presidend of Mother Russia), the artery clogguing french fries, cheese and gravy, the kind of food that increase your collesteral 10 folds per serving but taste so good, it makes hair grow in your chest. I am skiping being a vegetarian on this meal, the gravy is beef based. Josh stayed strong, shared chesse perogs with Laura, Claire had a spinach-strawberry salad, it looked great! Needless to say Willy endowge himself with a burger and on the side.
The weather forecast does not look promissing for tomorrow. I was looking forward to spending the brief overnight stop in Winnipeg to catch up with friends but it will depend on the weather. Looking forward to seeing John, Debie, Tracey, Greg and Coralea.

The rain helped keep the mostitos down. Welcome everyone! we are near Winnipeg (also known as Winterpeg), today we were calling it Mosquitopeg. Rain descent upon us, we took refuse inside the van to catch up on updates, the mosquitos were eating us alive. Willy who until recently have been bragging that mosquitoes don't bother him was complainting. Canadian mosquitos are vicious!

Other than that, all moving parts of the solar car are working well and so far all of ours are in working order :)

Willie Wanca
We woke up at the gas station AMPRIDE. I rolled out of the trailer and walked up to the rest of the crew in the gas station. This was one of these mornings I was looking for tooth picks to keep my eyes open. We said goodbye to everybody and left around 10.30am.
We wanted to make some interesting footage so we removed the roof window of the van and filmed out of there. We looked like a bunch of drunken girls driving through Las Vegas in a limousine with the sunroof open.
Unfortunate the blue skies were turning into clouds and we stopped just before the Canadian boarder to eat all our fruit and vegetables while the car was charging. We were fooling around with each other, rubbing chocolate cake into to Claire’s face and Laura hid my personal belongings high up in a tree. It was some nice downtime.
With the rabbit food as good as gone we left for CANADA! It was a short drive and before we knew it the customs were waving us goodbye. It is good to see the old familiar mountain police again.
We stopped about 20 miles across the boarder in a little town called Saint Piere Jolly. We celebrated the longest day of the year and Marcelo and me had a great POUTINE! The other crewmembers chose for some more veggie/rabbit food. It was a good day and we ended it working on our updates going to bed at a reasonable time. Buenos nachos with cheese everybody!

Summer Solstice, daylight is extended today an the most light is available to us, for our journey and to illuminate any darkness within. As I unscrew the sunroof glass, light begins to flood the van and now we have a new angle from which to video and film- the rooftop! The open sun roof allows access for Willy Wonka and i to erupt from within the van yelling and hooting wildly. We eagerly climb on top and sway with the driver’s maneuvering, keeping the cameras as steady as we can. After securing a strap up top, I am able to ride above comfortably, birds eye height now. Today is the second time I’ve been told by Marcelo: “Be careful, if you die, I’ll kill you.” Yesterday it was in response to the motorcycle idea. Uncaged speed is a great thrill in life, now I understand why dogs like to stick their heads out of moving cars. Ten miles from the border we stop to charge the batteries and consume as much produce as we can before having it potentially confiscated upon entering Canada. Laying in the grass next to the solar car we feast on cantaloupe, pineapple, chips, salsa, guacamole, and chocolate cake that ends up smeared on Claire’s matches her freshly dyed hair! I play a game f hide and seek with Willy Wonka and we are monkeys in the tree. We talk with the locals and prepare to leave the USA. at the bored we try to hide the last two carrots under the seat and see Canadian bunny hop freely across the border line. He sniffs the gravel, checking for any produce tossed out the window of border crossing cars. Willy Wonka is driving now and he has a Canadian passport so all should go smoothly. My Florida driver’s license is sufficient and the napkin I wrote my passport number on is of no use...even after Josh illustrated a strikingly recognizable image of me on it for identification purposes, making it my new official, unofficial entry pass into the wild. I have no fear- Marcelo says we have solar car immunity and I firmly stand by the unspoken exchange agreement between Canadians and Floridians. With the amount of Canadians flocking to my Florida beaches, they should let at least one of us in to their country no problem.

Aaahh- Canada...the grass is greener, the air different and even the cows moo in a different dialect: le meaaauuuuu. As soon as we stop we order Poutine, the Canadian delicacy Marcelo and Willy have been drooling for since they left Canada. The family restaurant in St. Pierre Jolye offers us the famous dish as well as ‘strong’ water too. Sulfurous well water...mmmmm....minerals...excuse me waitress, there is a rotten egg in my water.
We talk with the owner, sip hot apple cider and work on some updates before battling our way through the mosquitos back to the van. Goodnight Canada.

The world of the outdoors has been a more recent discovery for me. Sure I had my good share of oxygen growing up around water and palm trees, but things like hiking, camping, and gardening were not really options for the lifestyle I had. No one else did it, so I didn't too. It has only been the past year or so that I have been abe to indulge in these new, not so tropical activi

I think one thing that makes them so fulfilling is that they make you look around. That fact looks silly when it is written, but anyone who fishes, surfs, takes the bus, or rides a bike or motorcycle knows the importance of knowing whats going on around them. With a more 'normal' daily routine, driving to work, working inside, and driving back home, I didn't really need or get the chance to acknowledge the world behind tinted windshields and angled window shades. Not to say I was caged, but I craved more interaction in my days scheme, even if it was only riding the bike instead of taking the car.

The absolute first step in this trip, ever single day, is to look up and search for the sun, to feel the wind, and anticipate any kind of change. We only go as far as the sun will take us, which may be aggravating when you try to weld progress to a deadline, but it is also very liberating. It's the yogic pratice of detachment applied to transportation. Always looking around is a good thing and I encourage more people to do it.

I can't say I was anything like the rays of sunshine begining to sprout from the horizon that morning, but I was functional enough to help Marcelo set up the array and then go in to the gas station to work on the computer. I got to speak with a few people after they found themselves pulling off the road to see was this saucer car was all about. I met a couple that gave me a contact in Winnipeg if we had trouble finding somewhere to stay and a family of three, father, son and dog, that surprised us all by returning to the station was a box of locally made chocolates (dark chocolate covered potato chips are equivalent to heaven in saturated fat form), THANK YOU!

We left Ampride with 96.7 volts to make our milestone exit from the States. We stopped 8 miles short of the border to gas up, charge up, and eat the fruits and vegetables we anticipated to be tossed out at customs. Laura put together a killer guacamole, I cut up some cantelope and pineapple, and we picniced on the gas station lawn on Alaska Street. After getting my fill, my face must have looked plain and even toned, so Willy decided took the liberty of decorating it with a sweeping sideburn of chocolate frosting. Not that I have anyhing against beards, I jut prefer food items in my mouth.

At last night's meeting new jobs were assigned for the next three days and on this rotation I would be the navigator, the person in the passenger seat who makes the day's route and keeps an eye on the GPS. With a front row seat, navigator also takes pictures like a maniac which I have no problem doing. So much so that I missed the opportunity to notify everyone about one of the only two turns of the route, but lesson learned. We did about 107 miles, cruising a depleted battery charge into St.Pierre Joyles, where we would spend the night between Le Routier, a family restaurant and a small gas station. I was introduced to poutine, a dish from Quebec consisting of fries with melted cheese and topped with gravy. I admired it in honor of my dad, a guaranteed would-be poutine fan, but was content with a fresh spinach and strawberry salad.

After some computer work we were eager to zip into our people pockets. Hasta la pasta!

Today I agreed to drive the van towards Canada, and away from my home country of the USA. Their was some pause to see if Laura could get her passport, but we were confident in our solar car immunity. We had ourselves a police escort helping to block traffic while we were leaving Crookston. I drove for the majority of the day, getting many good side shots of the car. We stopped near the border in a town called Lancaster. We tried to get rid of almost all the fruits and veggies, since we were going through border patrol. The girls made a wonderful guacamole spread. I played some tunes on the ukulele, and we all enjoyed some chocolate cake with my improvised lyrics. Some of it was filmed too. The mayor of the town dropped by, and we spoke with some locals about the Red River Valley and the impressively low crime rate. Apparently, Lancaster, Minnesota and the country of Georgia are two of the most fertile lands in the world. After getting back on the road, my non-Canadian passport made it necessary to have Willy drive us across the border. I was the one to let Marcelo out of the car when we got to the Canadian Border Patrol. With only a couple impressed glances at the solar car, we were allowed to pass without a hassle. I rested a while as we entered a new country with metric units, French language speakers, and new currency. We arrived in St. Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba. When we stopped, we were greeted by friendly locals, gravy fries, pirogies, and hot apple cider. I talked with Laura and Willy a bit while we realized just how vicious Canadian mosquitoes can be. What a long day. O, Canada, here we come! So long America, I will see you later!

Claire has been gifted with chocolate.
Claire could sell cones to the Dept of Transportation.
Marcelo, the cone master!
Chocolate covered potato chips!
Working hard, as usual.
Professional squeegie wielding Claire.
Leaving Crookston
We had an escort out of town. It was an honor to work with you officer!
Willy with a happy Laura.
Solar car passing solo.
Josh posing while the hitch is fixed.
Almost to Canada. Free from power lines, we ride electrically.
Josh driving with Claire on the navigation.
Prairies surround us as the sun powers us through
Claire getting some great shots of Laura.
Laura getting some great shots of Claire.
Riding by the railroad.
XOF zoooommm!!!
Farmlands to infinity.
Driving even in overcast weather.
Run towards renewable energy.
Green pastures as far as the eye can see.
Grain elevators
Almost to Canada!
Eating off the sky!
Even the horizon moves to get a better look!
I think we're going the right way
A picnic 8 miles before our grand exit from the States
Get your passports out!
Here we go/come!
ID, please
Funny tasting water