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July 17, 2009

Dawson City, YT - Dempster Highway km 100 - 88.8 miles

By Marcelo
Today's posting is dedicated to Willy.
An exciting and sad day, we are loosing Willy Wanka and Anne.
Willy Wanka has been with me on the tour for months, he became the volunteer who spent the longest time on the tour. I'll sure miss him.
I almost lost my hearing every time the call came on the radio minutes after commencing our drive 'on the road again!!!", Willy would yell so loud, one would think it was the end of the world, birds flying, earth shaking. No doubt, his enthusiasm could be heard miles away. Sometimes we called him the crazy dutch, he fills the room with his presence, everyone notice when he arrive and definitely knows when he leaves because he leave a void behind. Willy is a tall man, his heart is as big as him, always sharing and caring for others, one of the most generous and kind people I ever met. Always making public announcements about his bodily function and needs, the so called "dutch oven" was named after him. It has been a privilege to get to know him and this great adventure with the fellowship of the solar car. I think of life as a journey on a train, some people will be on the same wagon a little while others will travel longer. Glad we our paths crossed. I am glad to see him go so others too, can met him and feel the same way. He is making the world a better place. Hasta la pasta Willy, a la prochene mon ami!
Sadly, Anne left us too. Her participation on the tour was short but memorable contributing to the project in so many ways, great sense of humor, took amazing photos, I learned so much from her, she brought a good balance to the team. We all wish Anne would stay with us, Anne we'll miss you!. Hope we'll see her again on the return trip via Whitehorse.
This morning, I had the opportunity to catch up with Roberta, we have been exchanging emails since my visit to Dawson City last year. She has been a wonderful supporter of the project. I was driving the solar car from the Fire hall back to Triple J, the crew was walking behind the car, a voice in the crowd "Willy, Willy Wanka", we all had a good laugh when she told us she recognized Willy from all the people on the tour because he didn't want photos showing his face posted online. Yet, from all the crew she pointed him out :) way to go Roberta!
Shortly before we left, I met with David and his wife from Inuvik who just traveled from Inuvik on the Dempster yesterday, he tells me the road is at its best since he moved to Inuvik 10 years ago. We talked about all the rain of last summer and the road, he was surprised we made it there.
The weather was perfect, clear sky the entire day, surprisingly very slow charging, I wasn't sure it was the low angle, a lot of air mass filtering the sun or if there is a malfunction somewhere, the car was on direct light, the array was tilted the max I saw was just over 4Ah (~400watts). I made a mental not to check the mppts :(
We got on the road late afternoon, I wanted to make sure the batteries were fully charged before braving on the Dempster highway, 40km from Dawson to the turn out of the Dempster. It will be a hilly terrain, 75km into the Dempster we'll come across the first major hill, the Tombstone Mountain, a long 10% gradient. Once on the Dempster I was surprised to see how well the road was compared to last summer, night and day difference. I have never been inside a washing machine but driving on the Dempster last year was felt as if I was inside one. XOF1 wheels are 14", its suspension is hard, short travel, the car wasn't designed to be an off road vehicle. Last year's drive was a slow and challenging drive.
Before leaving we tried to guess how far the car would travel on the Dempster before its first flat tire, last year the first flat happened on km 50. So, I call km50, Willy km65, Claire km55, Anne km70. We had our first flat at km55, Claire was the winner, very quickly we had the tire replaced and were back on the road. While making a short stop to install a video camera on the solar car a couple from Inuvik on the way to Dawson stop by to say hi, they knew all about XOF1 and were excited to see the solar car in person, donated $40 to the project. Except by me, everyone on the team now are Americans, from Florida, they commented on how generous Canadians are compared to Americans, they noticed the difference as soon as we crossed the boarder to Canada.
We arrived at Tombstone Mountain park at about 23:45, we were at the foot of Tombstone, we are in the shadow, the top of the mountains are glowing yellow, the sun is out. I was excited for Claire, Laura and Josh. They were about to see the Midnight Sun once we climb Tombstone. we made a quick stop at the park. It was late not much happening. We took the opportunity to empty the memory of the video camera, I wanted to film the climb from the solar car. I was watching the time, 23:50 doing a mental countdown / calculating the timing for the climb. Just after midnight we began the climb, the view was amazing. We reached the summit and start descending greeted by the midnight sun. Driving ahead of the support vehicle, I scouted for a good location to stop. WOW! what a sight, no traffic for hours, I veered "sunny" facing the sun. Everyone was so excited jumping out of the van, doing a happy dance. Hurray!!!!
A short stop to take some amazing photos, I resumed the drive on my own, they were still taking photos. I spotted an animal on a lake down below, I thought it was a bear, want to take a better look. I stop the car, the crew arrived, using a pair binoculars, it was a horse! We had seem signs of wild horses but I didn't really think there would be any, didn't think horses survive the severe winter of this region. We were delighted with the sight of this single horse by this small lake in the meadow.
We proceed to drive a bit further, it was 01:30 am still bright outside, I pulled over onto a gravel pit. We got the array set up for the early sun rise. By the time we all went to bed at around 03:00am the glow was stronger, the sun was rising. There was a few clouds in the sky, nothing that would indicate rain, didn't see the need to covered it up.
It is kind of funny to say "Good night" when there is always day light outside.
I guess "buenos nachos" will do for now :)
Special thanks for the Triple J hotel for their hospitality and to Anne for a delicious lunch.

By Josh
Today was both a sad and amazing day. Laura and I were up early with eggs and coffee. Laura and I spent the day checking out logistics for finding a ride out of the Arctic. After Anne waited for a while by the solar car, Laura and I took her spot for a while. We talked with Roberta about possibly sticking around for the music festival, but we all knew that we had to take advantage of sunshine. Willy left the team today. Not having Willy on the solar car team simply will not be the same. His charm, wit, and fundraising savvy really made the solar car team vibrant, and exciting. This isn't the first time he's left the team, and so Marcelo and I have a feeling that he may just cross paths with the tour again. I'll miss you Willy, and I will be seeing you in the Netherlands the next time I'm in Europe. Be safe and take care of yourself dude. I know you'll do great with school and whatever you set your mind to. Anne also surprised us with saying that she would not be joining us in Inuvik. It was so great to have her on the tour. She is very knowledgeable about environmental issues, and is an invaluable asset to the town of Whitehorse and to the Yukon as a whole. It was wonderful cooking with her, sharing stories, and having some great times between Whitehorse and Dawson City. We will greatly miss her and her dog Koodi. She gave us bug spray, groceries, laughs, wisdom, and hospitality. Goodbye Anne, and sorry you aren't able to join us at Inuvik. She has been the only person on the tour so far that agrees with me about promoting renewable energy policy with the solar car tour, and it was awesome to meet someone who is equally if not more passionate about environmental issues. I hope to see you in the future, and it was great to meet you. After saying goodbye to Willy, I played a quick rendition of “Imagine” on the Triple J hotel's piano, wrapping up a fun, musical, and heartbreaking day in Dawson City. We all drove to the Dempster Highway cutoff, and parted with our good friend Anne. After getting some supplies from the gas station, we hit the treacherous Dempster Highway with the solar car. Only 55 Kilometers in, we had a flat tire. Who knew we would need a spare so early? Oh yeah, Claire bet that we would get a flat in exactly 55 km. We drove through some of the most beautiful landscape I could have ever possibly dreamed about. I cannot even describe how incredibly isolated, pure, pristine, dynamic, and colorful the mountains surrounding the Dempster Highway were. We drove past moose, foxes, ice covered lakes, bush filled valleys, and alongside some of the steepest stretch of highway conceivable. We stopped at Tombstone, a campground Marcelo had been at last year. Around 15 minutes to midnight, we hit the road with blue skies ahead; that's right, bright blue skies. At around 12:40 AM, we saw the sun still in the sky above a mountain. We were all howling, hollering, and screaming at the sight of the sun still setting at almost one o'clock in the morning. This was an incredible sight, one that I never thought I would see at this point in my life. We took some photos of our silhouettes in the midnight sun, and got back in our van to see how far we could go. We ended up stopping about 261 km from Eagle Lodge, and 633 km from Inuvik. The crew was pretty tired, and so we set up the array and got some shut eye. Setting up the array before bed is quite a different experience from doing it in the morning. This is what it's like to drive with a solar car through the Arctic; completely different than anywhere else in the world. My memory for the night was Marcelo saying, “Hey Josh, you see that cloud by that mountain? After that we're in the Arctic.” Almost there, we are so close to achieving the goal of the tour. Goodnight Yukon!

By Claire
A late night lead to a missed morning...completely. I haven't slept that late since I was recovering from a bedridden illness. I can not imagine the face I gave Marcelo when he told me that they had already checked out of the hotel room and my next chance for a shower would be some river on the five day trek to Inuvik. I immediately thought of the practicality of taking a sink shower in a nearby restaurant, but Marcelo was kind enough, or thought me stinky enough, to get the room back just for a shower. It took a good 20 minutes to brush through my wadded hair, but I was no longer a human nest for miscellaneous critters. Thank you Triple J and Marcelo!

I walked with Anne to the camera shop to get a prognosis on Marcelo's SLR, where our initial theories were supported, it was either the battery or a circuitry issue, neither of which could be solved by the camera shop. On our way back we picked up soup and sandwiches for the group and hung out until a decision regarding departure would be made. Anne was having second thoughts about continuing on with the tour and the communal peer pressuring wasn't helping her otherwise sound judgment. We spoke of it lightly in private and decided that whatever would be, would be right. She ended up parting with us at the Dempster cutoff later that evening. With more time with her I know I would have learned a lot, but I had enough time to see that she is smart, playful, aware, loyal, funny, and happy to live in a loophole. She is a special lady with a lot of solar love. I'll miss your sweet nature and straight forward advice, both of which came in handy these few days together! She'll be back.

It was a long, but smiley goodbye with Willy, starting from the time we got up. With a departure closing in, each moment was an effort to absorb the humor and goodness he bought to me and to the group. I know I wrote it in almost every update, but he and Marcelo, each and together, would constantly have me rolling with laughter. They have mad love for eachother and seeing them part was a distinct weight laid down on my chest. He knows what's important in life, is the source of many a good times, and will always be "significant"! It's hard to say goodbye to someone that has quadrupled your daily dose of smiles, but I'll see him again. If not here, then the 2010 World Cup!!

We left Dawson at 7pm to a not so smooth start. Maybe it was the petty obstacles or maybe I was grumpy from saying two too many goodbyes. We were finally on the Dempster, a word that had crossed our lips like "State Championships" crosses a high school quarterback. This was it, the road and the leg that we have been waiting for. We drove for six and a half hours, through the most awe inspiring terrain I have ever laid my eyes on. As Laura said, there should be another word to describe the majesty of this land, a word specially reserved for these ultimate scenes. The start of the stretch past a purple mountain, bursting out against the blue sky with a cloak of bright fireweed. On a trip to the bush, I felt like I was in The Never Ending Story. The ground was a dark, rich green moss that sank down several inches under each step, deep enough to make you question if it would ever stop to support you. The thin, interwebbed tree branches dropped a dusty mist over me as I made my way through. It was the kind of mist that you blink your eyes alot to make sure you are seeing correctly. As long as fairies don't mind cold weather, that's definitely where they live.

Besides winning the "what mile will the first flat happen at" bet (55 miles on the dot...hows that for a rookie?!), we traversed a landscape that reminded me of the dramatic, ruggedness, and green of Hawaii and Ireland, but with scribbled paths of streams holding big patches of snow. I tried to send a telepathic filmstrip to Anne and Willy, who would be lifted in bliss with this natural display. Coming around a sharp corner, we came upon the solar car, sitting perpendicular on the road, glowing bright as it faced a full, booming midnight sun. We danced and jumped and hollered under the night's divine rays. The quality of my life never ceases to amaze me. I was in heaven on earth and it was sunny in heaven.

We stopped with 92 volts around the 100 km mark of the Dempster Highway. We set up the array at 1:40am so it could collect the night shine while we slept. The crew went from five to six to five to four in a matter of days. Now it was up to the Florida squad to What a day, what a day, what a day (Erykah Badu).

By Anne
this morning was kind of stressful mostly because i am a crazy bushed yukon spaz... the uncertainty of scheduling, lack of privacy and hyperdocumentation of the experience all became a little much for me. i hadn't realized joining the team would be like being on a reality tv show. i got panicky about being in dawson, the dempster highway and everything and for reasons i could not explain decided to jump ship. crowds make me need to run away into the bush so i knew i needed to get outta dodge pronto. the crew said bye to willy wanka which was sad because he's been with the tour for so long, knew what he was doing, spoke eloquenty with a nice accent and made everyone smile and laugh. he stayed in dawson to finish some work. after leaving willy wanka and hearing his last IT'S ON THE ROAD AGAIN! we left dawson just as the music festival was getting started. good timing.
at the klondike river lodge dempster cutoff i said goodbye to the crew and wished them luck. i was sad to say goodbye but i felt somewhat resolved in my decision to go to pelly. i shut marcelo in the car, hollered IT'S ON THE ROAD AGAIN, watched them start up the dempster and headed on my way down the north klondike highway.

By Willy Wanka

By Laura

clay nest
Red doors of the fire station
Magic doors opens, kids walk by; WOW!!! what is that?
Willy Wanka farewell message on the van
"Keep on Rocking"
Willy Wanka and Marcelo singing "sabao cra cra" and dancing the ping pong dance
Hey, we saw you lat year!
- Hasta la pasta little green man!
- hasta la pasta Willy!
Taking on Dawson's gravel
It's a long way to get there!
E.T. come home!
Camera on, camera off. Very dusty environment for any electronics but particularly harmfull to the camera lens
At last, the Dempster turn out sign
Crossing the bridge, the Dempser wait for us on the other side
735km (450miles) of gravel, mud, bolders, dust, hills and another great XOF1 adventure. Inuvik here we come!
lifting dust
Step into our playground
Mother ship is waiting on the other side
It belongs here!
Monkey drive without shoes
Km50 first flat
Visitors from Inuvik on the Dempster
Fox, shading its winter fur
Near Tombsone, the rageed mountains
At Tombstone park
Climbing Tombstone
Half way
Near the summit
Seeing the light, the midnight sun!
Midnight sun dance shadows
Josh and Claire By
Laura catching the midnight sun rays
A land of misteries and beauty!
Spetacular sight
The near impossible to see dot on left side of the lake is a lonly horse
It draws the solar car home
An abondone car
Many lakes
Our camp site
Home for the night