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July 3, 2009

Grand Prairie, Alberta - Fort St. John

By Marcelo,
Willy Wanka and Laura greeted the sun this morning but the sun sleeped in until late morning, clouds were blocking its much wanted rays.

Thanks to Super 8 Grand Prairie we had nice confie beds and internet acess. Thus the updates :)

Before heading out we had some of the Supe8 staff joining us for a photo op. On then road again!... The cheap walk talkies we have been using are not the greatest, electronic noise from the MPPT nearlly make them usuless. I spoted a sign for Glentel, went over to buy a replacement charger. No charge, John donated.

Post cards
Sleeping bags,
Two people followed the solar car from Dawson Greek

By Willy Wanka
I woke up this morning at 05.00am. Laura and me had set up the array but unfortunately it was very cloudy. We were only able to put 0.2 volts in the batteries. Good thing about waking up early in a hotel is that you get to eat a lot of breakfast. I attacked the fruit loops and waffles. When everybody was awake and ready to go we stopped at Wall mart. I met somebody who was able to print some postcards for us. Thank you very much! But it was not all Marcelo arranged a shop to sponsor us with a new radio charger and an inverter. Thank you Glentl! Then I took of to wholesales sports, they sponsored us with a new sleeping bag, some warm socks and a survivors package, thanks you very much as well! We got very lucky with all the gifts! In the early afternoon we took of for Fort st- John with a side stop in Dawson. We met the mayor, did an interview and raised good donations! Laura didn’t feel very good so I took over the steering wheel. We had a good drive to Fort st-john, one flat tire but a lot of good laughs. Claire was distracting us big time! (In a good way) We arrived at Super 8 and got a free night sponsored! The donation bucket was out and the local people were incredible generous! We also had the restaurant Mike’s sponsoring us with a free meal. Claire and me were crying out of happiness, it was a steakhouse and ohhhhh boy IT WAS GOOD !!!! Thank you for taking great care of us!! We had a good evening eating, drinking and sharing stories! For dessert we walked through the Tim Hortons drive in, pretending to be a car! Once again we were all very satisfied going to bed with big smiles on our faces. Hopefully Laura will be better in the morning! It was a priceless day!

One of my good friends back home became 26 today! CONGRATIOLATIONS MOPPIE!!! We will drink one in your honor! :-D

By Laura
An early morning but I had a hotel bed all to myself. I knock on the door of the other room to rouse Willy from his slumber to help me set up the array. The sky is cloudy and slightly pink, the rising sun playing a colorful hide and seek. I munch on a peanut butter covered apple and sip some hot tea to keep warm this morning. The crew comes down and we hang out in the van waiting for Marcelo. I run back inside and grab a towering tray of goodies for the ride, dropping only one muffin, but it’s ok- dirt don’t hurt! After a photo with the Grand Prairie Super 8 staff we get going but stop a mile down the road at the Wal-Mart shopping center. The photo tech make us a huge stack of pictures for free, and the Glentel communications center replace our radios and charger for free too. The manager of Glentel, John, tells us about how they sponsored Manny Pasaro’s climb up Mt. Everest and would be interested in sponsoring our tour. John offers us coffee, hot chocolate and shows me pictures of his motorcycle...I’ve been thinking of getting a bike and riding back down through Canada to California and back home. The store puppy Diesel is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! He pees excitedly when I pet him but he makes no sound the entire time, just jumps and plays. Wholesale Sports donates some gear and I wish I had had the time to get a hammock from them, and a proper backpack. Back behind the wheel I drive all the way to Dawson Creek, Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway! Then I start feeling nauseous and take a nap in the back seat that lasts the rest of the day. I think I’m coming down with something. I even refuse ice cream.

By Josh
I slept in just a bit this morning at the Super 8. We left Grande Prairie at 9 AM, on schedule. After driving only a short distance, we stopped at a Walmart. Although I dreaded the thought of supporting the multinational, we waited in the parking lot while Marcelo got an HD camera that he could mount on the solar car. While we were waiting, several people dropped by the donation bucket with support for the tour. I was just beginning to relax during the wait, and then I noticed a man talking with Willy outside. Willy came back saying that the man offered to donate photos to the team. Since he was emplyed with Kodak, we could get prints made immediately. In the past we had used some post cards that Jamie had procured from her father's print shop. These postcards could be given to patrons of the tour as well as friends. Without Jamie's expert postcard making skills readily available, I had to improvise. Marcelo encouraged me several weeks ago to put some photos of the car on my computer; which might allow me to send e-mails with pictures out to press. I took one of the best photos from the album, put it in “paint” on my computer, added the website to the corner, and saved it on a flash drive as a jpeg. In a flash, we had professional, free, and shiny photos of the car, courtesy of Kodak. Marcelo also visited Glentech, who sponsored the tour with an inverter, chargers for the black walkie talkies, and more. We'll definitely have to stay in touch with them, as communication is essential to coordinating the solar car tour. We also went to the Wholesale Sports who, after talking with Willy, decided to sponsor the tour with a sleeping bag, first aid, socks, a dry bag, and more. It was so amazing to get such support from just one shopping mall. Although there was this one diesel pick up truck that wouldn't stop roaring around the solar car, the whole experience showed me an amazing sign of the potential for human generosity. I also talked with a man for quite some time about the failure of the auto industries. Solar seems like a pretty attractive solution in the face of oil wars, pollution, and economic malfeasance. It also provides the most green jobs out of any of the other renewable alternatives. One city that really embodies the kind of change needed to ensure economic and energy independence is Dawson Creek. We reached the Mile 0 post for the Alaska Highway, and stopped for a moment for a snack. The highway starts in Dawson Creek, and ends in Dawson City. Both towns are named after the same man, and we will definitely be going through both his towns. Before we could even get a few feet from the car, the press and townsfolk were running out of the buildings to check out the car. One supporter dropped $100 in the donation bucket to support the tour. The reporter mentioned that I should go to City Hall. Dawson Creek has gotten the Canadian Green City of the year twice under the former mayor; what better place to show support for solar power. The City Hall itself has solar panels on the roof, and if you were to look off the mountain ridge away from the city, you could see the towering wind turbines being constructed off in the distance. Finding out that there was only 30 minutes left to contact people in City Hall, I sprinted over to see if any council members remained. Within minutes of talking with Tamara, the receptionist, the new mayor came by for a photo. I called Claire, and she, Willy, and Marcelo with the solar car came over in no time. Everyone talked about the benefits of off-the-grid electricity. After showing off the superbly environmentally minded solar car with Dawson Creek's green town. Moving along the road further, we had to change a tire on the back of the solar car after it blew out, almost sending Marcelo into a ditch. It took about half an hour to change the tire, and had some good laughs while we worked. We were making it into Fort St. John a bit on the late side, but we also took some great footage while crossing through some valleys and river gorges. We arrived in Fort St. John with press waiting for us. We also had dinner sponsored for us by the steakhouse next to the Super 8 we were staying at. Mr. Mike's Steakhouse also let us store the solar car in the back. A man named Tim, who spoke with Claire for quite some time, donated $200, I was speaking with him about energy efficiency. It's great to see that Canadians are so supportive of renewable energy solutions, and also so generous and understanding of Marcelo, just another man following his dream.

By Claire
There are some days that almost nothing of any real interest happens all day and at the end of it all I sit at the computer and find myself documenting the components of salad making or the fast food fusion that is Tim Hortons. Then there are other days, like today, that just about everything happens and thats the only summary you feel you can muster. Where do I start. Waking up is a good place: 8am. Next, breakfast: the waffle maker screamed "Do Not Use" via laminated paper posted soon after Willy made his geometric pancake. He adamantly declared it was "the kid" after him that left the rest of us waffleless, but followed the denial up with a reminder of how satisfying it was.

A mile or two from Super 8 we stopped in a WalMart strip mall, the most productive stop since I joined, for sure. Glentel Motorola sponsored us a new set of radios and an inverter and was interested in sponsoring the project on a larger scale. THANK YOU! Next door, Outdoor Outfitters Wholesale Sports sponsored us with a sleeping bag, socks, a survival kit, and a thermos. THANK YOU! Back at the van, a gentleman from Kodak offered to sponsor us with custom postcards. We gave him one of our pictures of the car on a flashdrive and he came back with a heavy stack of cards. THANK YOU! Beyond that, people were throwing support at us, moral and financial. I saw at least two people drive up to the bucket and drop a contribution in, no questions asked. I'm sorry to say that I was surprised with the volume and quality of interest in the xof1 mission and the larger world issue of energy. I had a slight prejudgment about our reception in Canada's oil country, but I soon learned it bared no substance. From kids to mayors to 'good ol' boys to soccer moms, there is no way to pick out those who want change like we do.

We weren't too far out when we had to pull over to fasten the car canopy to the base with velcro. We were lucky that the wind made us pull over for that reason, otherwise we would not have seen that the coolant hose had loosened and was leaking. We were also lucky that a passerby stopped to see the car because he ended up having to give us a jump on the van. One thing that wasn't working out so well was Laura's health, just not feeling good in general. We tucked our feverish colleague in the back seat and Willy took over driving. On top of the constant laughter on the drive to Fort St. John the landscape was gorgeous. We got a flat tire, laughed some more, and later stopped at a truck brake check pull over. I quickly talked to a truck driver there who told us that we were late for meeting with press in Fort St.John, a fact that had apparently been spread over the radio! He warned about the decline just ahead and said he would put his lights on behind us for protection, thanks! Taking off downhill, we soared (by 1990 GMC Van with trailer standards) along the steep turn-back road, gliding down into the valley and over a tremendous bridge crossing the Peace River. Got to love that fresh air pulling my face back as I'm propped out the window probing the world through a range of millimeters.

The whole night at Fort St. John was spent out with the car as it collected sun in front of the Super 8 and Mr.Mike's Steakhouse. A reporter interviewed us (yes, even me) and we hung out in the cold talking with people until we took the array down around 10pm. Another night of wonderful people, especially Tim & Jackie! When I heard the subject of food come up between Willy, Marcelo, and Greg, the manager at Mr Mike's , I had to walk away for fear that my hopes would negatively influence the conclusion of this conversation. A minute later, Willy tapped me on the back and said dinner was on the house, only a hug and a series of uninteligible sounds could express our shared happiness at that moment.

Josh had to battle with the carnivorous voice in his head, but held strong in the face of luxuriously tender sirloin. It was so fun to watch Marcelo and Willy sink their lettuce-ridden teeth into those steaks. Willy literally set his silverware down after delivering each piece to his mouth and chewed slowly, meditating on the glory of meat. If they weren't so full, I'm sure they would have fallen to their knees in thanks when Greg came over to check on us. A midnight walk under a royal blue sky to Tim Horton's for a hot chocolate and our day was done. PEACE.

Not the best conditions for sunrise ray catching, but still a good view from this hot air balloon.
An early, cloudy morning for Willy and Laura.
Whachu lookin at? It's solar, man!
I see you!!
With a plateful gripped tight, Laura blows off a dropped extra precaution after the 3 second rule.
Laura and Josh get ready for the shot.
Working a different angle.
Buckling up in front of an audience. Nothing new!
Super 8 staff watches a solar departure.
First sign of the Alaska Highway!!
Stopping at Glentel for some communications upgrades.
Taking a closer look.
Glentel supported a team to climb up Everest!! Cool, huh?!
Now they show love for solar! Thank you for your support!!
Meet Diesel, the intimidating mascot of Grand Prairie Glentel.
Marcelo comes down to Diesel's level to talk about the energy crisis.
Checking in with mom and dad.
Laura believes in safety first, even if it looks a little ridiculous.
Outdoor Outfitters Wholesale Sports rallied for solar.
Sponsoring xof1 a sleeping bag, warm socks, a thermis, and more!
THANK YOU SO MUCH for keeping us warm as we chase the sun!
The clouds are coming closer for a better look at the solar car!
Laura and Willy spot a bird with lunch hanging from its beak, a mouse!
Alternative energy is a bridge to the future!
Vitals: apples, contacts, and the key to the solar car.
A roadside spectator.
We pull over to fasten velcro latches to lessen the impact of strong gusts.
Marcelo makes sure all is secure.
Laura hops back in, ready to get back on the road.
First sign of Fort Nelson, 489km away!
Beautiful layers of green.
Which icon is funnier??!!
Laura hops back in, ready to get back on the road.
Dawson Creek, 10km!!
We love to see gawking!
Welcome back to Dawson Creek, Sunny Serendipity!
I don't know if this little guy supports solar power, but definitely likes its shade!
A crowd comes out of nowhere!
At Dawson Creek City Hall, the Mayor tells us about the city's admirable energy development.
"The Torch Be Yours To Hold It High"
After a long skid, Marcelo finally comes to a stop.
Teamwork gets things done...unless your really really strong and have four or five arms.
Making sure the key lines up perfectly.
Just as we get back on the road, people jump out for some pictures!!
Back on the road with a fresh tire.
Josh returns with footage from a gorgeous hilltop view.
Over the Peace River we go!
Don't look down!
Got to catch the craziness behind the camera, too!
Welcome to Fort St. John, Team Solar!
Super 8 is so good to us!
Catching rays and talking solar outside Mike's Steakhouse.
Never a dull moment.
Marcelo leaps for joy after an eventful, successful day on sun power.
And the crew follows suit!
Dinner on the house at Mr. Mike's Steakhouse! Thanks Greg and staff!
Who ordered what, you think??! THANKS MR MIKE"S!!