Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The End Point!

I'm 90% sure this is it -- Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. It's a sizable town with an airport, at least.

UPDATE: and Almatay?
UPDATE: and Samarkand?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Give give give!

Donate to the Christina Noble Children's Foundation for Team Ramrod
Donate to Send a Cow for Team Ramrod

NOTE: Please do NOT use the "PAY ON COMPLETION" option at the justgiving site; trust us that our team intends to do everything in our power to complete this journey, but it is possible that events beyond our control could prevent us from finishing. If worse comes to worse and China decides to turn Kazakhstan (and us with it) into a giant glass lake MAD-style, we would like to think that the poor children of Africa could still get their cow. We are trying to figure out how to get that option removed from the websites, but until then please use the "SPONSOR US NOW" option.

Team Ramrod has taken steps to legitimize itself by securing two methods of contributing to the charitable sponsorship of our little drive. To participate in the rally, we must raise a minimum of 1,000 pounds for the approved charities; 25% of this amount must go to Send a Cow, a charity that provides livestock, training, and advice to poor African farmers. 75% of this amount must go to a charity that benefits Mongolia itself; we have chosen The Christina Noble Children's Foundation, a charity devoted to improving the lot of children primarily in Vietnam and Mongolia.

So, to ensure the donations are spread evenly, we ask you, the reader, to now think of a number from 1-4. Think hard, get it in your head, make sure you have it set and firm in there.

Great! Now, if the number you are thinking of is 3, Please Donate to Send a Cow. If you were thinking of a 1, 2, or 4, please Please donate to The Christina Noble Children's Foundation.

This division is necessary because, even if we raise one million dollars for one of the charities, we still have to make sure we get at least the minimum donation for the other one else we don't get to go.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Team Ramrod tours Central Asia

Dear Patrick,

Many greetings from the eastside of the mighty Lake Washington. In response to your queries, I am well other than my eyes bear the strain of staring at a computer for the better part of today. I wish to send my deepest thanks for your gracious hospitality this evening past. Your welcome of myself and my lady companion echoed quite brilliantly the deep fraternal undercurrents whispering throughout the subject of our viewing, Red. Similarly, I applaud your efforts to engage in discussion with other participants on the right daft adventure unfolding before us. Surely the spirit of camaraderie you endeavor to cultivate shall make its value apparent at a later and more needful time.

All due compliment aside, I must unshutter the dark windows of reserve which have thus far disallowed open discourse on a most important subject. I suppose you took the first step via electronic mail earlier today, but I must say the manner of your delivery, with its spirit bordering on the blaise, and the limited scope of your suggestion disconcerted me.

Although I possess the battered nylon string acoustic guitar of which you spoke and it serves no purpose now but to patiently await the time when it meets destruction for a higher cause, I hardly imagine it solving our current musical needs. Bear as it might, six strings, and change their pitch one may by wrapping a set of fingers around the telegraph pole masquerading as its neck, it is a guitar in name only. I simply cannot imagine undertaking this journey without a proper instrument, all ruggedness aside. Furthermore, I declare our mighty cause to 'Make the World England' truly underserved by a few preposterous flamenco stylings on a fruitbox tarted up with nail polish and fretwire.

Despite the ominous shadow I cast upon the issue, I remain positive. A possible solution may be found by increasing our ranks to three, by inviting along the Epiphone. It is a masterpiece of low-cost engineering: eminently playable, strikingly finished and imbued with a dark spirit of a depth sufficient to partner with the vast unknown expanses of Central Asia. I can testify both to its steadfastness and pleasurable tone.

An acoustic guitar however, in its very nature is wedded to fragility. So I have considered bringing along the newest thoroughbred in the stable, the Stratocaster. Although lacking a soundbox, this sleek beauty carries with it a legendary reputation for near indestructability, a fact to which Buddy Guy will testify when pressed. Like a windburned Eleanor of Acquitaine, if she emergeth she may be the worse for wear but unvanquished in her essence. Also, the strat aptly bears the name Natasha, or perhaps too aptly for I harbor fears of the treatment she will experience being passed amongst the many and varied hands out on the road.

An electric guitar may also be amplified, and while this poses some difficulty far from the reaches of civilization, I have a few ideas. I believe a Nissan Micra bears appropriate dimensions such that the backseat may be removed and replaced with an array of speakers, four each of 10" and 12". These could be connected to a couple of cathode tube amplification units for a magnificent, continent-deafening sound machine capable of travelling over 31 kilometers in an hour. I shall be sketching schematics later this evening.

A most important point not yet raised concerns the ratio of guitars to drivers, which currently is at 1:2. I propose this be raised to something more sensible, such as 1:1 or possibly even 5:2. Possessing no possible escape from the other's personality, it follows accordingly that we might sharpen our skills in the duet in the time provided us. I can picture no finer delight than a brandy-drowned rendition of His Majesty the Hedgehog delivered full-volume at half past midnight in some sleeping village on the arse end of 71 degrees East.

I view myself as a fair chap, believing in a balanced division of labor. Since this task of finding suitable instrumentation in sufficient quantity could very well be an extended and nebulous effort, I volunteer for the good of the team to see to its completion. While you handle visas, insurance, vehicle registration and the like, I shall roll up my sleeves and visit the various guitar merchants and traders about and suffer their fork-tongued practices that we might find suitable accompaniment. I confess, this issue weighs upon me moreso than any other, save what finery shall comprise our costumes on this expedition. It shall be good to throw these horses overboard and raise our mainsails in more favorable winds.

Most Sincerely,
Rod Farva


Well, Team Ramrod is officially registered for the rally. The funny thing is that my boss at work will, about twice a year or so, will check in with my plans just because he seems to think I'm going to run off on a whim to join some commune in Alaska or something (and nothing could be farther from the truth, Mr. Jones). So I'm actually filling out the form to register and send payment to the rally organization when he pops his head in my office to see if I have any major plans, long absenses, or changes of lifestyle in the works. But since I had decided not to mention this to my work until the registration process was officially complete (some might say that was backwards, but whatever) and while I'm having this conversation I still haven't seen a confirmation yet, I just sort of shrugged and said I would let him know as soon as I knew of anything, but "no, nothing doing right now, sir." And now I have to find out how to say, "well, there is this one thing this summer . . . ."

But we are in the rally! And for now our primary difficulties become financial and logistical. I guess we don't really get to the fun bit until we hit terra firma in the UK.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

It's 10:35 PM in Tashkent right now

Patrick claims we can now post with individual identities, so this is a test. Personally I find his Ayn Randian fantasies of individuality distasteful, but I will attempt to suffer them quietly from here on out. Ayn RAND seems like a weird hybrid parody that someone like me would have explored to the disdain and detriment of all other humans on earth. Whatever. Patrick claims we're going to get into this rally thing, but the mighty voice of cash has yet to speak, so I remain skeptical. Also, an intriguing comment was left on his last post. We shall have to explore this further.

An interesting rally theme idea has presented itself...?
"Oh hell yes dogg right we gonna make the metals kiss and the fuel turn lively"

Over and out.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

We Missed it! We Made it!

So forgive the post-less window, but there's been a lot of ups and downs here at Ramrod headquarters recently surrounding the status of the team Ramrod's entry into the Mongol Rally. Currently, it appears that the two of us are on to participate this summer!

The story begins a couple of weekends ago, when the registration process was supposed to go live . . . and then takes a break while the registration was delayed, and then delayed again. Teams everywhere were on pins and needles, as the whole idea isn't going to really seem real until you get registered and pay your money and such. But after a couple of cries of 'wolf!' teams received news last weekend that the registration was going to open midday last Monday, UK time - or in the middle of Sunday night, PST. Due to previous registrations being non-events and on assurances that places would be held until late for USA entrants yours truly chose to sleep through the night . . . .

. . . and arrived to work Monday morning to a closed registration page, with the 'oversubscribed' message on the login page. BUT! Although this sounded dire, there was a somewhat cryptic, 'send us an email and we will work it out' message as well. So, I sent the email, and began to wonder what to do if it didn't work out.

Anway, long story short is apparently we sent the email in time and that Justin and I, it would seem, are travelling out of London this summer!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wat ho, Barryheads!

I suppose I should chip in here and make my presence known. I am not Patrick, so dedicated readers of this 'blog' should be able to sort out who I am. He really did a fine job with our background explanation though. I didn't think he'd remember all of that, but he pretty much nailed it. Hell, he even put it in ways I never thought about.

So driving across 8000 miles of Asia completely unfamiliar to me is something that has basically been impossible to get my head around, which I guess is as good a reason as any to do it. That and the password to this blog, which might be 80% of why I signed on to such a ludicrous venture. In times of confusion like this, I find it usually best to turn to the man who seems to know something about everything, who always puts it like it is, but without having to drag you down about it. Yep, Bruce Springsteen. Here's what he had to say:

"I remember the drummer in my first band coming over to my house with his Marine uniform on, saying that he was going and that he didn't know where it was."

Thanks, Bruce. I'm going to Mongolia.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A more formal introduction

This journal is intended as a place where those who are interested can follow Team Ramrod as they prepare for the Mongol Rally, which as formerly mentioned is an 8,000 long group road trip from London to Ulan Batuur, Mongolia. Although it is possible to go through Russia for the majority of the trip, our route will most likely take us through the central asian republics of the likes of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan before a final jaunt through Russia into Mongolia for the final cross-country trek to the ending point. Registration for the rally opens this upcoming Sunday, March 19, and team Ramrod intends to use this opportunity to join the ranks.

There are a number of obvious questions to be asked at this point, most of which can be answered best by a quick visit to the Mongol Rally Website. This journal will cover more team-specific issues in addition to detailing the process we go through to make this event happen.

First, introductions! Most Mongol Rally teams are made up of two people; team Ramrod is Justin Wood and Patrick Tewson (author of this post).

Justin Wood is a filmmaker, musician, and engineer who currently works at Microsoft. He met Patrick, a beer- and caffine-swilling electrical engineering student and musican-to-be at the University of Washington, when he came upon Patrick surrounded by angry ninjas who were determined to steal the Tibetan book of the dead, entrusted to a younger Patrick by the Llamas of that nation as a last-ditch effort to save the text from the occupying Chinese army. Quickly realising the severity of the situation, Justin unleashed a hellish wave of musical fury from the electric guitar he happened to carry with him at all times, chasing the ninjas away and inspiring Patrick to what would become a life-long fascination with electric instruments of all kinds, and saving the book of the dead in the process. The two became fast friends and Justin learned of many things from the young intellectual Patrick, including of the wonders of Maclaren engineering and motorsports in general. Since that fateful day the two have gone on to make films, play videogames, woo women, form bands, graduate college and drive to California.

Patrick currently works as a software engineer at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory, and plays in I like Danger?, and indie folk band, in addition to occasionally peddling his tunes under the moniker American Meat Institute.

Justin has a spacecraft in his living room, no kidding. He has previously competed as an engineer and driver as part of the UW's Society of Automotive Engineering race car team.

Future information regarding the intended route of the team, Patrick's progress in learning Russian, progress with visas, registration status, and other preparations will be detailed in posts to come. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

In the beginning. . .

There was a vision. And two gentlement living in Seattle saw this vision, and were inspired to take an adventure, and see the world.

This blog details the step by step process of pursuing that improbable task. Taking the name 'RamRod' in refernece to the beloved movie Supertroopers, these two brave pioneers set out to achieve a dream - to drive a car with less than one liter of engine displacement from London to Ulan Baatur, Mongolia, in the summer of 2006.