Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Weeks late....

... and lets not even get into how many dollars short. But, in spite of relevancy issues, here is The Team Ramrod Fightsong, as recorded (poorly) by me and performed at the benefit show, and then performed (incredibly poorly) in a small village in Kazakhstan.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


I have a flickr account now and have uploaded some of the photos. These are just from my camera and start after Volgograd and continue to the end (although I ran out of batteries around that time and soon lacked the car in which to charge them). More to come!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Team Ramrod circumnavigates the globe

Team Ramrod landed in Seattle about 5 PM Thursday evening, completing their round-the-world journey. Preliminary reports indicate that they enjoyed themselves on their circumnavigation, but are pleased to be back in the US. Total time spent talking with customs agents - 1 minute. Amazing.

Our other top story concerns the final voyage of Lucas Speedlimit's Micra. Before departing early Wednesday morning, Ian and Yvonne entrusted it to Patrick and Justin.
After a lunch at Dave's, one of his staff was wrangled into helping find a tow truck. After some negotiations with the traffic police, he flagged down their tow truck. It had a winch, which made getting the car up far easier than previous attempts on the smaller trucks.

Once up, it almost appeared to be a waveoff, since the police were demanding 100 bucks. Locals helped get the price down to 50000 tugrug. Here's the car being loaded.
Patrick got in to help direct the tow drivers find the place and off they went. Having no chance to follow along, I went and got in touch with Cory so we could meet up that night, and then spoke with the British embassy regarding the resolution of the accident. I also spoke some with rally Tom, and he is hoping to get the fine reduced to something less preposterous. Let's hope something good comes out of his efforts.

Here is the Nissan at Nairaamdal, where it will finish out its life.

It's official, the stamped car passport for Lucas Speedlimit.

9 people and the 3 cars all reached Ulan Bataar in the end. So it was promised, so it was done, albeit not necessarily according to plan. After the Micra had been deposited at the final dropoff, Ramrod spent the afternoon sharing stories with other ralliers, and then Cory and his wife swung by for a final get together. Huge thanks to them for what they did and for fielding the onslaught of calls from my frantic family.

Afterwards, P and J collected their bags and headed for the airport. Shared the flight to Seoul with Bonkers Bovine. Then the long flight to Los Angeles and the quicker jaunt up to Seattle brought the trip to a close.

Triumph, part two!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Speed Limit Rides Again!

After a five day struggle, the legal proceedings surrounding the car crash have all been resolved. Ian had to pay a 1000 pound fine, but otherwise is free of all obligation regarding the crash. He and Yvonne brought the news this morning around 4 AM, pounding on the hostel door and putting to rest all the anxieties we'd struggled with over the last few days. They headed for an airport about an hour later, so Patrick and I are the final remnants of the convoy in Ulan Bataar. Jemima did make it into town last night, and we intend to take her to her final resting place this afternoon.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Chiming in at 8,753 miles

Once again Justin has gotten the better part of the recent blog mileage, but I should put in a few words. First off, thanks to Terry and his family, Pennie and Ron, Margaret and her host mother and Megan, Chris Chris and Bo in Krakow, the Ukrainian Mechanic who fixed our carburetor on a sunday afternoon, the mechanic in Barnaul who fixed our spring for free, and the other mechanics in Barnaul who fixed our spring for $16, and the mechanics in Irkusk who fixed our spring for $20, and the friends and family back home who ran support for us in terms of calling embassies and sorting our cell phone and putting up text messages on the blog site after we lost the phone, plus showed us support throughout the journey. Thanks for power bars and shot blox, and vodka, instant coffee, afternoon tea, clothing that wicks, tires that hold air, thanks to the irridium satellite phone network. Thanks for duct tape and WD-40. Thanks to all the Tatiannas at the british embassy in the ukraine, and to Cory at the US embassy in Mongolia. Thanks to Ian ("Speedlimit"), Tom ("Tommy Gun"), Yvonne ("Ivan"/"Evie"), James ("Glynnie"), Ben ("Prockie"), Tim ("Tiny"), and Cyrus ("Cy") for sticking it out with us in the long haul -- you guys are the best. Thanks for the green stamp and all the other stamps along the way. Thanks for the girls who helped translate for us at the accident site, and to Anna who got to the police station quickly and translated all night long. And special thanks to the loved ones who kept us in our thoughts and showed up in ours along the road.

So we're finally here / and shit yeah, it's cool!, as Guided By Voices say. And shouldn't it be? We have come an awful long way, and seen a huge number of amazing things. When we saw camels in the headlights at 4am just over the Kazak border, and it suddenly hit that we had really GONE somewhere. There are loose ends still to wrap up, plane journeys home, and potential criminal cases still to be sorted out. Some of the difficulties have placed a shadow on the finish, but it's still a pretty amazing finish, if just for showers and real breakfast and places to be where you don't drive anywhere for a while.

As for now, we have time finally to reflect on it all and to try to recollect everything that has happened. We have a couple days to relax in UB before returning home, and we have friends and family and bets and apartments and jobs to return to. Personally, I cannot wait (except maybe the job bit, but that's life and I will take it with the rest). The trip itself will need some time to process in full, but I think the label of "the Awesomest Thing to Ever Happen to Anyone, Ever" fully applies.

Or something like that.

Ramrod to Return

The Team Ramrod Ulan Bataar-Seoul-Los Angeles-Seattle World Tour finishes up at 4:45 PM this Thursday in Seattle.

Triumph, comrades!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Patrick talks like an English person now

Last night we gathered at Dave's Place, planning to head out for dinner and then return for a last party. My chance to shower came later, and by the time I arrived, dinner had begun at Dave's. It was unfortunately too late by then for Cory to join us. Fatigue began to set in amongst some of the group, especially those leaving for the airport a few hours later. This essentially broke up the evening's events, so we gathered for a little while in the hotel to collect pictures.

After a trip like this, no one really knew how to say farewell. The brits have some advantage in that they see each other occasionally. Most of the convoy has now gone their own way, hopping aboard their flight to Moscow early this morning. Patrick and I will be around with Yvonne (who received a clean bill of health today) and Ian for a couple days. The events here now seem so distanced from the rally however. No real way to link the city experience with the constant driving of the last month. Most appropriate Kerouac quote in the comments section below.

Here's another selection of pictures, after much painfully slow internet time.


Proper rally-driving in Kazakhstan.

Farewell to the Mini.

Roadside party.

Signal mirror fashion accessory actually came in quite handy when the Micra clutch got hot and unhappy.

Heat destroys a well-travelled pair of boots.


Americans with Margaret's host mother. (P, J, Margaret, Tom, Joy, and Megan)

The convoy before leaving Margaret's. (L to R: Yvonne, Ian, James, Tom, Patrick, Cyrus, Tim, Justin, Ben)


All springs repaired, the holy spring features in this shot.

Siberian roadside fuel tank repair.

Above Lake Baikal


Farewell to Jemima, the other Micra.

So what did you do yesterday?

Oh, the usual. Went up into the hills outside Ulan Bataar and shot AK-47s with a group of mineral worker expats and the rally organizers.

Here's Mr. Rally himself, Tom, shooting a Dragunov sniper rifle.

When in as the Mongolians do and abandon all concerns for personal safety.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Team Ramrod 1, Mongol Rally 0

Ulan Bataar. Team Ramrod just drove 8739 miles in a 75 pound sterling Nissan Micra from London's Hyde Park to Dave's Place in Ulan Bataar.

Unfortunately, it is a difficult victory. Friday night Speed Limit was involved in a crash with a Mongolian driver who had been driving down the road in our lane. Ramrod managed to avoid him, but in the avoidance Speed Limit couldn't see the car and sideswiped it. Thus began a preposterous, confusing sojourn on the side of the road and later at a police station. American embassy was phenomenal! Very helpful, got my passport back, and brought us food on the side of the road. Special thanks to Cory, his wife and their compatriots. It really made our day that they came to see us out on the road. We struggled long and hard with the police, but it appears to be part of a legitimate process now, but unfortunately Ian and Yvonne are having to stay around to resolve the matter and we don't know what exactly will happen.

Morale is a bit low, despite the success, due to the uncertain outcome for Speed Limit. Things are picking up a bit as we realize what we've achieved, but it has been a difficult couple of days. We're trying to find flights out now, but hopefullly a second Mongol Rally party will convene tonight at Dave's Place since we nearly made the official one. Tom seems to think so, and he has been helpful in getting us support.

We're pressed for time since we have to go check in the cars soon, but it's so great to be on internet. I'll throw out a few tidbits from the last couple days, sure there will be more to add as our brains come back to life...

112 hours from Barnaul on Tuesday until we arrived in UB. Continuous push no stops except for the 32.5 hours associated with the accident. I apparently slept through a Speed Limit flat and the final departure of the Fiesta's exhaust one night. The two cars driving into UB were most excellently NASCAR.

The other driver from the accident infuriatingly helped the police measure skid marks - I was ready to bust out a slide rule and tell everyone what really happened. This was one of the times when tempers were harder to control due to the absolute farce concerning the 'crime' scene. But everyone did a great job getting our case across and getting what we needed.

On a related note-being forced to sleep on the side of a highway. Not being allowed to take Yvonne to a hospital even though the entire other family except the driver left the scene. (She is fine) Yes, we are filing complaints and hopefully there will be more embassy action on Monday.

We may have suffered a bad crash, but while waiting on the road that night, we saw what was unanimously determined to be the most amazing rainbow anyone had ever seen. Completely full in a pink sky in the east stretching above the pointy hills (Mongolian countryside is beautiful), while across the road to the west the sky was lit up in an amazing red-pink glow from the setting sun. Stunning. Everyone stopped what they were doing to see it.

Putting the damaged Micra (it doesn't roll anymore) on the back of a tow truck barely bigger than the car itself. A few planks, some brute strength and a pile of stupidity did the job quite nicely.

Super helpful bystanders at scene who took over the unofficial translation from the other local who wasn't particularly compelled to actually translate. Tim and I tried to fix their father's car but wasn't much we could do. Americans were great from the embassy. Cyrus's sat phone really paid off (and so we'll be paying him off).

Seeing the light of truth in people's eyes who believed the other driver's story and then finally listened to what we had to say. Then watching it be pushed away as a million people gave explanations as to why that couldn't be the truth.

Dumping worldly possessions on the side of the road in order to fit all the people in the cars. I maintained a spare radiator was worth three or four of our companions, but was outvoted, so everyone is in UB.

Mongolian ambassador in London called up Tom on his own accord to notify him of our situation when we were trying to figure out how to get hold of Tom. Another big morale booster to hear from Tom while waiting at the police station for hours and the translator he sent was incredible (and her driver really puts pedal to metal)

Justin discusses a feeling: We split off from the Fiesta containing the Speed Limit occupants at the police station last night. They were going to finish off their statements while we got out of town to avoid being dragged back into the affair before counsel with the embassy. It felt awful.

Tom and James getting their passports back at 4 in the morning and then the whole group being forced to have cigarettes with the cops when their ordeal was over. Hopefully, a sign of improvement in the situation.

Ran into Mission Mongolia in Ulan Bataar. Apparently, Anton made out like a bandit in his abandonment in Astana. PS: Bribing your way onto a plane is one experience we've so far avoided.

Strange feelings all around, but we did it. We drove to Mongolia. It'll take the cake if the other Micra gets towed to UB and all three cars go to rest with charity here.

Thanks to everyone who called on our behalf to get us some help on the Mongolian roadside.

NB: Probably not the end of the blog, as we'll update with pictures and more details to fill in some of the gaps, so keep checking if you're interested.

The metals kissed and the fuel turned lively and we are exactly where we want to be, as Patrick might say.

Sunset over Siberia

Bad roads. Amazing, colossal lightning flashes over the forested hills.