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June 24, 2009

Virden, Manitoba - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada- 182.4 miles

By Marcelo
A crow was tap dancing and singing on top of the trailer this morning, my alarm clock to get up and set up the array. Had one eye barelly open peaking through the small window of the trailer's door to see the sky. No clouds, just a pink orange redish tiny cloud, the sun was also waking up, a grin. Thanks Mr. Crow for the wake up call.
It was Claire's and my turn to set up the array. It was cold, Claire is doing a funny dance, jumping up and down to warm up, "brrr, its cold" she says. I laugh, "wait until we cross the mountains in the Artic" I said. We walked around looking for the best place to set up the array, moved the solar car, tilted the array. Oh oh, I realized it had it facing the wrong direction. Gees, how many times have I done this and yet I managed to get it wrong. Well, not the end of the world, rotate the car. Presto!, the sun is shining, the batteries are charging, I am sitting on a bench next to the solar car, Claire is doing her morning strecth yoga thingy on the field behind the gas station. Someone walks by while she is doing the splits, -"good morning" said Claire - "good morning" he replied, - "you are welcome to join me" - said Claire. I guess he didn't know what to make out of it, he replied "its a little too streched for me". I just heard the last of the conversation, I turned arround, I am shaking my head with a grim, thinking "this is my solar car team, instead of guys, wrenchs and multimeters" happy to have the most unusual solar car team in the world. It will definetly be a good dinner conversation some day :)

The battery this morning was sitting at 92.5V. The array was set up just before 06:00am, at 06:15 fully exposed to the low angle sun, yet, generating about 150watts. Wow, looks like a very promissing day, still a long way to go, batteries are empty, full at 109V.

Earth is flat here, really. Even I am starting to think that the Earth is flat (just joking). The Canadian prairies are so flat, its amazing! I heard people joking that if you loose your dog here, 3 days later you can still see the dog running. I agree.

Josh was up early, out and about exploring the surroundings, later joined Claire and I now working on updates. Hope someone is reading them.

Writting yesterday's update Claire asked me what was the name of the other hitch hiker? "what? other hitch hiker?" Yeah, the other hitch hiker". I didn't know we had two hitch hiker". "we did". We all start laughing.
Yesterday, just as we got back on TCH (Highway #1) yesterday, after the interview with a news crew in Brandon I noticed a hitch-hiker on the side of the road, I stopped next to him with the solar car. He problably thought "heck, this space ship is going to ubduct me". He was heading to Calgary, since we were going in that direction I asked the crew to give him a ride, offer food and water. While driving the solar car, I asked via the radio his name so I could welcome him onboard, "Gary", I was told. Well, sometime later, as we were about to pull over to charge the solar car batteries Gary asked us to drop him off at an intersection near by. Array set up, batteries charging, we are sitting in the van writing updates I noticed "Gary" still on the road, I walked over to invite him to join us for some food, water and to tell him that we can give him a ride later once we get back on the road. He introduced himself as Franky. Didn't think much at the time, it wasn't until talking to Claire this morning I learned we gave rides to two hitch hikers at the same time, Gary and Franky.

It's almost time to get on the road, plan to starting to drive at 09:00am.

More later... see you on the sunny side!

The sun was shining, strong head winds, new record is being set with every turn of the wheel, having a good ride.
A CTV crew meet us just outside Regina, they got some good shots of the solar car on the road, made a short stop for an interview, resumed our drive to downtown Regina. There we met with a newspaper reporter and Global TV for another interview. The Global TV reporter was born in Innuvik. Usually, nobody heard of Innuvik let alone be born there. I was very excited to met her. After the interview we found a large lot to park and charge the array. The crew was craving some Thai food, we made our way to a Thai restaurant a few blocks away. I didn't feel confortable parking the car unatended anywhere in downtown Regina. While looking for a place to park the car for the night I came across a fire station, the solar car has been parked at another fire station before, I hoped if there was some space availiable they woudn't mind having the UFO over. Sure enough, the Fire Department was very accomodating providing a safe place to park the solar car for the night. We overnightted at a truck stop on the outside of the city

By Laura
Today we perform the quickest tire change yet. The front left tire blows while on the Trans Canada Highway on the way to Regina. Just as we are finishing the emergency transplant a native couple walk up and offer help. They give us a talisman for good travels. It is an eagle feather that was part of a recent horse ceremony. We take a picture of both Tim and Kathy standing next to the solar car on the site of our own tire ceremony, with the feather in their hands. The wind and passing cars send the ribbons tethered to the feather fluttering and flickering about. Marcelo attaches it to some wires inside the solar car and with our new luck are on the road again.
At Weird Willy’s in Walolpsa we stop to charge and I end up standing in the sun with two chocolate ice cream cones. Creamy rivers of coco flow down my fingers, winding and pooling in the space between. Soon this second cone will be mine if Wily Wonka doesn’t hurry up. Candy coated I have a delicious mixture of chocolate ice cream dripping down my hands, and honey from the folded slice filled with PB and bee sweetness. I walk a bit and find a nice place to stretch, do some push ups and swing on a tree. I nap under the clouds on the grass with Willy Wonka who is excited about stopping at this place...on his road trip last year he signed the guest book at the tiny visitor center and today got to sign it for the second time. He took the same route we are taking now and often recognizes the scenery and towns. Recharged we hit the rad again.
Welcome to Regina! The second largest city in Saschatchewan. The CBC tv crew and the Globe newspaper photographer are waiting for us at Regina City Hall. After the tv interview where Josh gets the footage needed for the 20/20 piece, we have our first real dinner since Indiana. We catch some thai food just before the restaurant closes and secure the solar car at the Regina fire house. mmm....spicy thai curry fills my belly and makes my lips vibrate with chili pepper heat. It’s goodnight after Marcelo, Claire and Josh pay $7 each for showers at the truck stop...I’d rather have funds for ice cream than clean feet.

By Claire
Marcelo and I woke up at sunrise, not because of an soft oranged light cascading through the window, but because an atrociously attempted song and dance by a weighty crow scratching on top of the trailer. Not the most romantic waking, but it did the trick. After Marcello had a good, you-dont-know-what-you're-in-for laugh at my pre-sun shivers, we set up the array, made a coffee run, and made an office out of the picnic table the car was secured to. This was the perfect opportunity to stretch my neglected body, so I did, inverting myself and what not in an grassy lot. With my eyes closed I envisioned myself in the center of one of the boundless, flower speckled prairies we had been driving through for the past few days, when, in actuality, I was in a mud patched field behind a gas station, in full view of the breakfasting guests of the adjacent hotel. Whatever, I choose my own reality, the prairie it is.

Josh got up early and joined us at the open air headquarters and we worked on updates. The occasional spectator stopped by and we later met the owner of the station, who generously filled up our gas tank and then posed for a photo opp. Marcelo did a quick interview with a local reporter and we left Verdin around 10:30am headed toward Regina, which lay about 160 miles west.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, blue skies and breezy. The kind of day that has cemented my staunch allegiance to the cool tropical lifestyle for the rest of my days, with a jaunt to the Arctic Circle being the exception. We listened to Jack Johnson to backup the prairie slideshow going on outside. I would have previously cringed at this music choice due to my sister's near lethal overplay of his tunes, but now, reminiscing about the torturous repetition she put me through was a comforting place to be. Sprinkle in some Bessie Smith and Roots and we were all good for the rest of the way.

I can't say the van is always an oasis of mature quietude. While on the phone with 20/20, arranging a story about the solar car, Willy sat calmly next to him finishing off a sweet apple. Sitting in the spot farthest away from door or window, he didn't want to disturb anyone by asking them to toss it outside on his behalf, so he took a final nibble, pulled his arm back and made a missle out of the apple core, destined to the prairie abyss via my front seat window. About 3 feet out from deployment, Willy's vision turned to slow motion, blurted out a choice word but was otherwise powerless as the fruit's remains blasted into the very clean, closed window, dismembering and richocheting, before finally landing in several locations in my vicinity. Looking at the fresh juice dripping down the window, all but Josh bent over in a horribly restrained laughter. The fact that Josh had to maintain face throughout the apple triggered commotion, with a hotshot broadcasting agent nonetheless, made it even harder to hold back. GREAT NEWS THOUGH... 20/20 wants to do a couple minutes on Xof1, using our footage too!

We picked up a hitchhiker named Tyler, who we initially joked to be Josh's Saskatchwanean father, based on his possession of a ukulele and a beard. But our not so scientifically determined father-son discovery was disproven by the fact that he did not, in fact, have a ukulele...sorry, Josh. I think he said about four and a half words before he asked to be let off at a spot next to nowhere. Everyone's got standards, I suppose.

As we got close to Regina, around 5pm, CTV filmed us driving along and then pulled over on a side street to do an interview with Marcelo to put on the 6pm news. Then we met Global and the Leader-Post at City Hall for another interview. Around 8pm (which was our 9pm, as we just went through a timezone), we set up the array at an empty parking lot nearby to soak up some of the last remains of light. We were all very hungry and tired, to the point where we were slurring words and walking with much less purposeful steps. I don't know whether it was the combined sight of us or the fact that the last time we showered was in America, but Marcelo was in high spirits and treated us to a Thai dinner, one that we were literally running to get our curry on before it closed for the night. It took a while for us find a safe spot to put the car for the night. We usually find a quiet area behind a place with facilities and tuck the car out of sight behind the van and trailer, but it's more of a challenge in some more populated areas. The firehouse agreed to keep it on their lot and we set out sans solar to find a spot for us to camp in the trailer. We ended up at a truck stop around midnight and a couple of us eagerly bought a shower stall to lather off the past couple days of souveniered grime. Choosing wet bedhead over strengthening dreads, I said GOOD NIGHT.

By Willie Wanca
9.00am, waking up in the beautiful grasslands of the prairies in Canada. It was breakfast time, not only for the solar car but also the crew. We had some food, brushed our teeth and had Marcelo did an interview with a local news paper. The gas station ESSO in Verdan sponsored us with a full gas tank. Thank you very much!
We went for a good drive, only one flat tire on the way. While driving I was eating an apple and threw it away outside the window back into the forest. At least that’s what I expected, there was a window in between which I thought was open. KABEMM! The remains of the apple were dripping down the window. I guess this is one of these stories you should have been there but I was laughing my teeth out.
In Regina there was lot of press waiting for us. Marcelo did another three interviews and made the 10 o’clock news. We tried and look for a place to park the solar car overnight and ended up in a local fire station! In the mean time of all this we had some Thai food to still our hungry bellies. When I say hungry I mean hungry there was a thunderstorm going on down there. We left the car at the fire station and looked up a place for us to camp out, ending up at a truck stop. Almost everybody took a shower and went to bed shortly after that.

By Josh
Today was quite the eventful one. I woke up earlier than I needed to, and got a hot breakfast. I had a veggie scramble with broccoli and cauliflower. I gave the cheesy potatoes, eggs and cheese to Claire and Marcelo. I checked my e-mail, brushed my teeth, and we were on the road again! We stopped at a gas stop called Weird Willy's for some ice cream. They had a really strange building with a question mark on it. A nice lady inside had information about the town. Upon leaving, I received a call from ABC's 20/20. We were talking about getting Marcelo on national television, and sending the footage to the national headquarters. Willy had finished eating an apple and had to dispose of the core. Thinking that the window was open, he chucked the apple has hard as he could, aiming for the bushes on the side of the road. Of course, I was still talking to 20/20, and had to keep my cool in spite of the fact that every one was near bursting from laughter all around me. I had to restrain myself as well while I watched juice and apple chunks drip slowly down the passenger's side window. Nevertheless, I kept my composure, and organized a deal with 20/20. After this, we saw CTV driving alongside the solar car on the highway as they tried to get a motion shot of the solar car. They stopped for an interview, and said that they might send some of the footage to ABC national. We continued to drive into the city of Regina, and we met up with Global News. The reporter was actually from Inuvik. She was nice enough to give us a hard copy of the footage to send to ABC. She made friends with Marcelo, and they spoke Spanish to each other while we made plans in the car. Marcelo stopped at a nearby lot to briefly charge the array. After charging quickly, we got some great Thai food for dinner. Once we had a fantastically savory curry under our belts, we went over to a truck stop with showers. A shower is like the most sublime revival after a few days without it. I can now say I went through the entire Canadian province of Manitoba without a shower, so this was pure perfection.

From Warm Florida on the way to the Arctic
Come to the light
Bottling sunshine
Claire ninja
Writting updates
Some onlookers in Saskatchewan
Horses checking out the Xof1
Look, there's a man in there!
Red rivers.
Even grandma love solar power!
"Wait a minute...."
"I gotta tell my friends about this one!"
Curving through the prairies
An interview with CTV Canadian Television
Solar car ladies Claire and Laura with a curious reflection in their eyes.
Coming into Regina.
Some ice cream lovers at the Milky Way in Regina.
"It's like nothig I've ever seen"
Solar Car carving through downtown.
Global news.
The Regina Leader-Post shoots the Xof1
"That car is the coolest"...really, that's what he said.
An interview at City Hall
This reporter was born in our destination, Inuvik.
A quick charge after a day of driving.
Claire kciking back for some relaxation.
Looking for sunshine.
These brave men helped us keep the solar car overnight.
Firefighter in Regina pose for a shot.