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June 25, 2009

Regina -SK - Ernford, SK - 106.0 miles

By Willy Wonka
We woke up this morning on the parking lot, overslept a little bit and arrived at the fire station around 07.30am. We had set up the array and left Sunny at a nice spot to charge. Then something extraordinary happened, I ate cereals with soy/almond milk!! I would never think I would be drinking that flower milk, without knowing it the crew is slowly transforming me into a veggie man… Happily enough there came lunch and the firemen invited us to eat with them, steak sandwich and garlic bread, back in heaven!
This day was a late start, there were a lot of updates that needed to be done but we were finally able to leave. We were racing the clock and wind. It was really windy and we had to tape the car down several times. The prairie is a beautiful place, one moment it is sunny and within no time the weather can change in a heavy rain and thunderstorm. (This weather part is dedicated to Claire, because she loves talking about it)
After 106 miles the batteries were nearly empty and we stopped in the middle of nowhere to charge the solar car. Everybody did a little work in the mean time and we had some good Mr. Noodles as dinner. The sunset was beautiful and it was even better when the stars came out. So many of them, it is easy to get lost in them. I counted seven shooting stars and went to bed with a big smile on my face!

By Laura
I met Crazy today. Crazy ran across the highway to tell me to be careful. Crazy knows about the best place to see the stampede, the hot springs and the best seafood in Canada. Crazy made me smile. I say farewell to Crazy and walk over to the solar car. It is parked under a rainbow just outside the storm on a gravel road that dips and peaks as far as the eye can see. These legs want to run to infinity on this road. We set up the array, and tie it from the mighty prairie wind. A moment later I am tying the shoelaces on the pair of sneakers I bought one month ago exactly, my first morning on the team, in Georgia. Meeepmeep vroooom...I take off and feel like roadrunner zooming up and down the hills with dust clouds trailing behind. What seems like eons later my stride evolves into a curious saunter, taking in the scenery, birds, cattle and the butterfly hover-fluttering above the gravel. Looking up from the stones I see a proud and majestic deer in the middle of the gravel road on the top of the hill. She is looking right at me and has been waiting for me to notice. As I approach she is still as a statue but breaks the mold as soon as I stop to make eye contact. She leaps off and our game of hide and seek begins. Dozens of fence posts later I find her figure within the leaves of a hammock of short trees. When I kneel and we lock eyes she springs forth and we continue to play like this for a while until she darts off into the prairie. Once she’s out of view I head back to the crew at the van. This morning at the Regina Fire Station Willy Wonka and I were talking about what two animals we would like to be and why. He is a social wolf and a giant whale. Myself, a butterfly dancing from flower to flower and a graceful deer. These two animals came to me today, not so sure the whale will make it to the prairie. After tinkering with the radio charger and dangling noodles into my mouth I try my hands at juggling in the sunset. Across the highway, the slice of moon hangs ornamental over the railroad tracks as our silhouettes balance and pose on the rail. Our matching flashlights are paintbrushes in the palate of light in the night. Standing in the middle of the Trans Canada Highway I am illuminated by the light of all four others, but the camera shows not a hint of their bodies, just their streaks of luminosity surrounding my body. Before bed we lay under the prairie night sky and watch shooting stars glow across the sky. The fire in the sky reminds me of the Regina Firemen who so generously helped and fed us...amazing garlic bread...and told us stories, haunting, exciting and hilarious.

By Claire
After a clean sleep (for real, I was very clean), we all got up to drive the van over to the firehouse where the car was being stored. Once there, we had a few moments of 'where are we going now?' but the firehouse relieved us of this question mark by offering their lot to park and grab some sunlight. I put together a grand breakfast, cereal and vanilla rice milk (upon Willy's request) and a fork for utility and entertainment value. They adopted us for the morning, offering coffee, toast, shower, power outlets, a garlic drenched lunch, and a load of good laughs.

We spent most of the day doing stuff in general, rewiring the walkie talkies, installing hooks in the trailer, talking with 20/20 about a future spot for XOF1, sorting out other press contacts, and, of course, working on updates. Being the one in charge of the updates is the most frustrating position for me. The computer is constantly shutting down, I'm always jumping in and out of the car, and it is just really time consuming. I hesitate to even write this because I feel like a pansy, but I'm not too proud to admit a measure, however miniscule, of pansiness. Final conclusion: sitting for hours at the computer gets two thumbs down and a tired butt from Claire.

We drove through Moose Jaw, deciding that we would drive until 7pm or keep going...I didn't really understand the purpose of a faux deadline, but baseless motivation has proven itself before, as it would this time. We ended up pulling on to a gravel road sprouting from the thin highway where we set the array up for the last few moments of shine and settled ourselves for the night. I worked on the computer with Marcelo, Laura went for a run, Josh was setting up dinner, and Willy was...I don't know where he was. Dinner was an exceptional one, ramon noodles topped with the leftover curry from the night before.

On paper, I should have be completely exhausted by this point, but I got a third wind and we took some really cool night shots. Colors from the sunset still painted the sky at midnight, one color gently diffusing to the next, stacked on top of the horizon. Everyone lined up on the elevated railroad tracks with me directing the shoot from the road beyond the ditch that separated us. They teetered on the single track and tried to hold still as they posed their personalities, laughing all the while. With a sliver of the moon pinned above them, they were perfectly black silhouettes against the hued backdrop. After that, we set an extended exposure to capture the light from a flashlight as one person painted around us.

It wasn't until I stepped away to brush my teeth that I took the opportunity to look up where the colors faded to darkness. I tried to gulp down the magnificence of the starry display, but it was too much to take. I picked out a section I liked and carefully pulled down a square of sky to fold up and keep, but I didn't have anywhere to put it, so I decided to put the patch back for someone else who had pockets.

By Josh
I was woken up before dawn at the truck stop in Regina. We raced over to the firehouse parking lot across from the Thai restaurant. The firemen were nice enough to let us keep the car there overnight. I spent the day catching up on updates while Marcelo worked on fixing the radio charger. We also went in search of a battery charger for the dell, seeing as it's adapter was fried from all the inverter mishaps. In the meantime, I helped Claire familiarize herself with updates, while Willy and Laura worked on theirs. The firemen allowed us to take advantage of their facilities, and they even made us lunch. Willy enjoyed a steak sandwich, and the rest of the crew had some Caesar Salad with some of the best toasted garlic bread I've ever had. We had a quick meeting discussing responsibilities, and then we set up for a photo opportunity in front of the fire station. It was great to talk to these guys about saving the world, living day to day (while not knowing what to expect), and having life revolve around fire (the sun is fire too). They had a couple calls today, but they basically had to take medical calls from drunk and disorderly folk. We set out on the road around 4:00, and we got many good shots of rain with sunshine along the road. Because of the wind, we had to duct tape down the car doubly well, as to prevent the top from lifting off in to the air. Getting shots of the solar car with a rainbow was awesome. Claire's lenses were perfect for getting these shots, and we owe her very much for lending them to us. Thanks Claire! Due to severe wind throughout the day, we had to stop both due to a late start, an exhausted Marcelo (from fighting the wind currents without power steering), and from a depleted battery. We stopped off the highway in the countryside with a beautiful view to behold. Laura went off running on a dirt road while Willy tanned. Marcelo did some work on the charger while I prepared noodles on a gas stove for everyone. We also had some excellent Thai curry leftovers from last night. When all were done, we posed for some shots with the sunset. We had some sweet silhouettes on the railroad tracks, and we did some breathtaking light painting pieces. We watched the moon setting on the horizon, which was a bit of a turnaround from our Virginia moon rise experience. After dark, we used our LED flashlights to help us see as we took down the array, which had been set up right at 7:00 when we stopped. For only 3 hours of low horizon sun, the solar car charged from 90V to 93V! I gazed up at the stars with Laura and Willy, catching comets in peripherals. I finally ended my night with a glimpse of the Ursa Major constellation from the moon roof.

By Marcelo;
My thoughts: The late departure put a dent on catching up with my run from last year. It is kind of interesting to compete against myself...Run Forest...runnnn!!!

The days event: The cool night was refreshing, confine sleeping, still above freezing, a good prep travel for the Florida team members. The sun was shining, the weather warming up. Couldn't leave early, waiting on a team member to catch with duties. Spent the time trying to solve the mystery of our radio charger but no luck. The alternative is to use our cheap walki-talkies. It can get very noisy inside the solar car. We'll be repeating everything we say a few times. The back up walk talkies are also suseptable to electronic noise from the MPPTs (Maximum Point Power tracker). Depending on the state of charge of the battery and solar radiation the radios can almost became useless due to electronic noise.

Everyone at the Regina Fire Station No.1 have been wonderful hosts; helped us with a sunny place for the solar car, a place to park the solar car trailer, invited us for coffe and toast and later for lunch. WOW, great prairie hospitality. The time we spent at the Fire station gave me the opportunity to appreciate their work. When not attenting calls there is always something to keep them busy; training, equipment maintenance, etc... While we were having lunch, a call came in, they droped their forks without blinking an eye, down full uniform and off they went. The crew staying behing quickly covered the plates of those who left with saram wrap to keep their food fresh. They were taking care of each other and us like a family.
Everyone including Willy Wanka was having a steak sandwish, the rest of us had salad and some amazing garlic bread. The captian jokes with Willy, if I go on a call and my steak is not here when I came back I know who ate it, we all had a good laugh. A few minutes later he was off to attend a call. No, Willy didn't take the captain's steak. No serious Fire calls while we were there.

We brought the solar car outside for a photo op just in time before they were off again for another call. Thank you Regina Fire Station No.1 for the wonderful hospitality and support!

It wasn't a flowery drive, I started a bit peeved for leaving late, it was extremelly hot, the drive was plagued with strong head winds. Yes, we are in the prairies! The sun right in my eyes, I even had wear two sunglasses to cope with the intense solar glare, the current visor is not coated, it is made out of a special plastic that blocks UVA and UVB but unfortunatly allows near all visible light through.

Trying to catch up on lost time, I drove as fast as I safely could. Looking on the sides I could see so far away, the landscape slowly went from flat to gentle hills, beautifull. Late in the afternoon the support team was on the side of the road waiting to film and photograph the solar car passing by, the battery was depleted, it became an overnight stop. The array was catching the last rays of the day, the horizon touching the sky, slowly the night descended upon us, gourmet dinner ala Mr. Noodles by chef Josh.

The landascape became our playground. Laura took off running towards infinity on a narrow gravel road, later she tolds us about a magical encounter with a deer on top of the hill. Josh, works his magic on the ukelele, I was off looking for berries and taking photos, Claire was also exploring the surroundings with a camera. The slow disappearing light created a beautiful backdrop for some amazing photos. We experimented with some light painting, the camera sensor as the canvas (using long exposure) and light as paint brush. We were all so tired yet having fun like kids.

The Regina firehouse.
The solar car, secured in Regina.
Unveiling the solar car.
Setting up the array.
The firehouse parking lot was the perfect place for safety in sunlight.
Firemen pose with the girls and the car.
A fantastic garlic bread/caesar salad lunch prepared by the firemen. Thanks guys!
These guys were full of laughs, stories, and good times. Thanks for helping us out!
The fire truck on the way out as the solar car is about to leave Regina
Claire and Willy taping down Marcelo, due to crazy winds in Saskatchewan.
Laura mourns Michael Jackson in style.
Josh is enjoying the drive.
Off to Swift Current.
Zoomin through the grasslands.
Solar team, go!
It drives ok!
Trucks line up to see the car.
Expansive scenery surrounds our view.
Stopped on the highway with Crazy, Laura keeps her sanity.
A dirt road complements the car's yellow coat.
Looking out into the countryside.
Claire helps Marcelo out.
Marcelo getting out of his work of art.
Laura attaches tripod supports with amazing speed.
Willy helps out as well.
Screwing the array supports.
Our countryside abode.
A gorgeous sunset.
Our future album cover
Balancing on the tracks.
A Laura giraffe.
The team with a lovely sunset.
Stop if you dont' drive a solar car!
Laura has a halo, the rest of us lines
Light painting, take one
...take four
...take eight, we got it!
many smiles
The inner light outside
Human light bulb