It was an adventure all right! The weather was perfect for a duck, lots of rain and some thunder storms, which made me think...huhmmmm, the steering of the solar car for the XOF1 walk is a long metal rod!
Earlier in the week, we thought we had all the transportation taken care, the trailer from Yourshelteronwheels.com, the truck from U-haul, everything was all looking good the only challenge was to schedule the pickup and time. Well, to make a long story short, there was no truck with the proper hitch available to make the match for the beautiful trailer that was being lent to us. As a last minute resort, we borrowed a tiny little utility trailer from Peter, who is a great supporter of the project. It ended it up being a long day, after a very long unproductive night, which created a set back on several levels.
I ended up going to bed at about 06:00. No way I would be in any shape to get up at 8. I woke up about 10:00 still feeling a bit comatose. Rob had just arrived from an overseas flight the day before and had managed to get some rest, but not enough. Ben was in a similar situation. Well, before I had finished packing my bags, the two super heroes Ben and Rob were knocking at my door. As I opened the door, rain was saying "good morning." As we got XOF1 outside and onto the trailer, the rain worsened and it started lightning and thundering. We all got soaking wet. It was a bit chilly; it was miserable. In spite of all that, we were all in good spirits.
On the way to Niagara, I decided to play it safe (I guess, I am getting old) and drive down the same route I would be walking. It took us a very long time to get to Niagara. We stopped at a gourmet burger restaurant to fill our belies, we were 3 hungry men. I enjoyed a great veggie burger and some putin (French fires , cheese and gravy.) Rob and Ben had a burger, putin and coffee. We got lost a couple of times, and then had problems with the walkie talkies not working properly. It was about 16:30 PM when we made it to our destination. Our 12:00 departure had gone out of the window. We began to get the car ready, and the steering. There was a snag with the brake fluid reservoir and the latching system. I already was wearing the harness when a Niagara Parks Commission police officer appeared. The officer told us we could not be at that location and that we would not be allowed on the Niagara Parkway. We talked to the officer to try to understand the reason why we could not drive it there and we learned that not too far from where we were there was a different police department jurisdiction. We decided to abandon the route we had posted and embark on another route. It was a pity, because it was a beautiful day. By the time we arrived at Niagara Falls the sky was clear and temperature had increased to a comfortable 21C. It would have been a great PR opportunity to promote Niagara Falls. The officer made sure we left the area and kept us under her surveillance. I was disappointed to turn my back to the falls, but at least the officer allowed me to walk away pulling the solar car for the 500 meters that it took to leave her jurisdiction. While we were at that particular location, we only saw about 7 cars going by. I took my first step at about 17:45 PM. It didn't take long until I began to feel the weight of the walk. To minimize slowing down any traffic, I pulled the XOF1 onto the gravel shoulder. The wheels were sinking into the gravel, which presented a good challenge. Very soon, I was sweating and quickly getting dehydrated. Fortunately, Rob had some water in his car and came to the rescue. We literally made the route up as we were walking; I had a vague idea of the direction I was supposed to be going. We asked one of the locals for directions. To the right was the center of the Niagara Falls tourist area, and it would been a great PR opportunity, but with a steep climb up Portage Rd. Already struggling to pull the car, I knew I wasn't capable of pulling the XOF1 up that road. To the left, was a long but gentle climb.
As I was climbing, I began to feel the pressure of the harness on my belly. It was causing some discomfort so I moved the shoulder harness a bit, then moved the waist belt up some also. I could not find a “sweet” spot. I start to feel so dehydrated, I was getting desperate. I had never felt such a thirst; I can only describe it as very primitive feeling of survival. My body was dry. Fortunately, Rob was always checking on me and went to get me fluids, I didn't want to take a break. Rob was noticing my struggles and asked me in the most diplomatic way if he would pull the solar car, too. I agreed. However, I wanted to continue as far as I could. In the back of my mind, I didn't want to push too far and be in too much pain the next day. Rob shared the same concern with me and asked me not to push too hard. A few people briefly walked next to me asking me questions, I could barely talk but try to convey as much information as possible. Ben was following as close as was safe with an escort vehicle, and was constantly being asked questions as well. He cheerfully answered all questions. Laurie, all the way from Wenatchee, WA, who have been helping with keeping updates flowing on the Facebbook page she created to help get the word out couldn't have asked for two incredible supporters like them. They help made it all more worthwhile.
I finally made to the top the hill and began to descend walking fast, almost running. I was trying to make up for the lost time. There was no way we would make to Niagara on the Lake, but I wanted to try to gain as much terrain as possible. Rob caught up with me and gave me choices of beverages. I chose the biggest bottle: Ice tea. It was gone in very little time! and the guilt of drinking something out of a plastica bottle. Rob also brought me some water. Drinking never felt this good.
We got confused about what direction to go a couple of times. The sun was getting low on the horizon, I didn't want to be pulling the solar car in the dark. Rob took off to scout for a garage to store the solar car for the night. There was another long hill. Then half way up the hill, a traffic light. During the few seconds I stopped and was waiting for the light to turn green, I began to wonder if I was going to have the strength to make to the top. As I crossed the light and walked a bit further up the hill, there was a large family. Two parents with 3 kids, and they were all by the sidewalk taking photos, and waving and smiling. I felt a bit emotional, wondering about what kind of impact I would have on their lives. A guy pulling a funny looking car that runs on light... As a passed them I quickly mentioned about the page on the website where we teach kids how to build a mini solar car. I found the strength to charge toward the top of the hill.
The sun was hiding behind the buildings, and there was less and less light. I didn't hear from Rob so I wasn't sure if he had found a place for the car. I notice a gentleman working in his front yard, and found a safe location to pull over. I asked him if he could allow us to leave the car for the night at his home. His garage was leaning and looked like it might fall with the next severe weather and was too small for the solar car. With his permission, we left the solar car in his driveway.
In the mean time, Ben was across the street talking to one of the most enthusiastic persons we met today. He had seen the XOF1 on the news a number of times and was thrilled to see it in person. He took a photo of Rob, Ben and I.
Ben had a smile from ear to ear and said loudly, “14 km! You pulled the car for 14 km in just less than 2 hours!” I was sharing his enthusiasm, but at the same time was trying to wrap my head around it.
In spite of all the setbacks, I was feeling great enough to do it all over again. It was just euphoria I know.
Tomorrow I have 14 less kilometers to go!
Ben can only join us in the afternoon, and Rob may not be able to join me again because he already took a lot of time off to help me. He needs to catch up on his own affairs and will be traveling for work on Tuesday, and not be back again until Friday.
So, I'll be looking for more people to help out tomorrow and the rest of the week. It would be nice to get some of the candidates for Prime Minister to help :)
Tomorrow I'll take a look at the new route.
I am a slow writer, as you can imagine, it took me a while to write this update. It feels like I am "on the road all over again". I even yelled "on the road again" because it reminded of Michael Feith, a long time crew member who always yelled this at the beginning of a day driving the solar car.