Thursday, July 27, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
We witnessed a defenestration!
I found it interesting how similar the Czech republic was to Croatia. This is perhaps not surprising, but so much of the language was extremely close. My croatian numbers were functional, as were a number of other basic words and phrases that seem to have similar variations throughout eastern europe. I blanked on the word for water when trying to get a bottle from the pizza stand. I kept saying water and the lady didn't understand. I thought it was funny, because she then began naming all their beverages. When she said 'still water', I said yes. Somehow it had been learned as one word to her she couldn't pick up what I was saying. That or I was babbling incoherently. Poland is much more challenging, but there are still similarities. You could also found burek in Prague.
And most importantly I want to clarify that the geldwechseln/autobahnvignetten girl at the Czech border only warmed up to Parick when he started pulling crisp $20 bills out of his wallet.
We're in Krakow now, using the internet of Melody's friend Chris, who is very generously putting us up for the night.
Something bland for the road
Had a fun time in Prague last night. Ran into a couple of teams we'd met on the road and they helped us party well into the AM. Lumley Run, Obi12Gobi and Smith Monkey provided quite a bit of entertainment and we hopefully will run into them at some point. They're mostly headed south, so who knows when that might be. Prague really has a great vibe at night, it really is more beautiful than most places. I think the riverside bar in Duga Resa beats out the club we visited last night, but it's an entirely different scale in Prague. Dubrovnik has a more relaxed feel, not quite overrun in the same way, so if I was going somewhere to hang out for awhile, that'd be the place but I fear it will end up like Prague soon.
It was funny that the British guys thought it was weird to encounter a drunk american girl spilling her beverage everywhere. They clearly need to attend American colleges. And yes, the Americans we chatted with really had very little sense at all of where Mongolia was.
Learned about the fate of Newyorkistan last night outside the Cafe Dinitz where the party was (yes, there was a cuban band). Hope they get back to driving soon. Would be nice to meet up with them. We appeared to be the only american team in Prague, as we didn't see any people or cars that we knew, but maybe they were hiding. Time to hit the road for Poland.
Onstand summed up a lot of the feeling around here...
" It’s 110°F (43°C) in my office. I’m taking the air temperature with a meat thermometer. I’ll see you when I see you, unless Monday ends casket-style."
Team Ramrod visits Prague
A quick recap: The launch party is strange, full of nervous tension. Lots of beaurocracy. We get registered, leave to get more minutes for the mobile, and come back to hear the mongolian ambassador give a speech and listen to some mongolian music. Suddenly its time to go, and justin's in the bathroom. He comes sprinting out and we head out onto the streets of London maybe 6th or 8th in line amid much honking, cheering, music blaring, and confused stares from the locals (the record will show that the Nirvana song that goes "I miss the comfort in being sad" played us out). Then hit traffic for the next two hours, finally open highway, and finally board the 5:20 ferry out of Dover to Calais. We are probably one of the first teams to leave the UK (later we learn that our dear friends from Newyorkistan suffered a clutch failure on their Lada, and as of last night were still in the UK! We are cheering for them to catch up ASAP).
Oh yes, text messages. we aren't sure what's going on there. I think they just haven't figured out the text messages on the website yet.
Anyway, back to the trip -- it's raining heavily the first night and we can't find a hotel, so we spend the night in the Micra in a parking lot at a rest stop. As I am going to sleep I suddenly remember that Europeans have freaky sex orgies in these places!! Every passing footstep freaks me out for a bit, then I realize it doesn't really matter. Later we hear of another team's experience sleeping in a car park where there really was freaky sex orgies happening. Crazy!
Next morning, we wake up, hit the road, take a wrong turn in Liege and detour through Luxemborg, zoom pretty much straight through germany (pretty, good sandwhiches, people drive like dicks and I saw like three people almost kill themselves including the guy who hit a large scrap of tire in his VW at about 13,000 miles and hour, which blew his own as well, creating a giant clowd of blue smoke and lots of chaos on the autobahn for a bit). We are consigned to the slow lane at 70-90 miles per hour. The pretty lady at the czech border crossing is the only person anywhere near here who doesn't speak english like a native, and justin and I desperately try to remember high school german enough to get our vehicle pass tax sticker whatever (let the record show that Justin remembers far more german, but she liked me better).
And that's that so far! Just two days on the road and looking toward a third. Prague is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, and almost completely ruined by foreigners such as ourselves. Ten years ago this place would have been the bee's. As for us? Push on to Krakow where friends of friends have just gotten in touch. Cross your fingers for us that things continue to go so well!
Friday, July 21, 2006
The Godbeast of Zathar
We pay her homage, and she will watch over us.
Snapped this totally bodacious pic of Patrick just before the Godbeast laid waste to Oxford Street. She almost stepped on him! Wouldn't that have been bad?
Two concerns ahead of the rally tomorrow...
1. The sunscreen wore a hole through the plastic baggie it was in. This means the campsuds and bug spray can now fall out of that bag. We're really not sure what to do about this.
2. We lack a copy of Will Oldham's recording of "Southside of the World". I think we might see some fierce musical competition on the rally since this event is about style more than anything. Not just clothes and hair, but the complete image of the team. So I've blown it on this one. It also would have helped if we could have managed to get P's music into the pod. Nevertheless, I think our secret mix tapes will acquit us well. We also have a dark horse...Patrick will keep right on whaling long after the iPods lose their charge. There are no misspellings in the previous sentence, for those in the know.
Patrick tarted up the car tonight during the packing phase. I snapped some shots in the dark and have made a little composite. It would be nice to have daytime pics, but I don't think we'll be able to post those for awhile and the car will begin receiving abuse immediately. So here is a pristine, if dark, record for those of you who want to see your sticker. Thanks again for your sponsorship!
Mongolia, tremble tremble tremble.
I'm the luckiest guy, etc.
We picked up the Micra from the shop today, early (for us), which began a long day of last-minute preperation. This involved travelling (by car this time) to the bustling metropolis of Haverhill, where essentials such as fuel cans, tow rope, duct tape, canned meat, and toilet paper were purchased for the journey. As Justin and I are both working on sizeable holes in our key-carrying pockets we got the car keys copied so that we can both lose them at the same time. The Micra drives so well after coming out of the shop (thanks to acorn garage) ... the new tires and alignment, plus the considerably tighter shifting, put the finishing touches on what was already a near-perfect driving experience.
Then we returned home .... and ate possibly the most wonderful meal of our lives courtesy of Pennie and Ron. While it is indeed time for us to leave the nourishing embrace of Hall Farm House, I have to say I will miss it ... we have been treated so well, and if this trip provides nothing else it will have reunited me with the relatives on this side of the pond.
Quick Recap; met up with Newyorkistan last night for polish food, it was awesome! We had so much to talk about that it just came out in little spurts of rapid fire conversation. We of team Ramrod managed to eat burgers, drawing some stares, but it's just really what we wanted! Anyway, this deserves more but I gotta go to bed, so I summarize that it was awesome and this rally is going to be a ton of fun.
Then back to tonight, and packing the car. Nothing puts it all in perspective like trying to cram your spare radiator into the trunk alongside your 25 liter jugs of water. We put stickers on the car as well. Everything fits, we are geared and ready to go, and will leave Great Abington early early tommorow to meet up with the Rally at Hyde Park. Have yet to figure out the text messages but hopefully soon? Check the Team Ramrod page for details.
See you in Mongolia. This could be my last post! (Justin will probably add some photos though).
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I went shopping
We made the city just in time for the banks to close, but Patrick was still able to change some money for the trip. We bopped through Trafalgar Square, since Patrick had yet to see the fountains when they weren't blood-filled (it was an anti-war thing, apparently).
We then strolled down Jermyn street. I made no purchases, since a tailored summer suit probably wouldn't be finished until we'd returned to the states, and the shopkeepers had their shotguns at the ready should I attempt to enter in my ripped shorts and painted tennis shoes.
We did purchase a couple books in the multi-story bookseller on Jermyn, then went to H&M for shorts. I found none, but did get a few other items of minimal importance. We then went to meet up with Newyorkistan. It was after some delay, a stop at Bunker with umlaut over the u, and change of venue, that we were able to sit down at a polish restaurant with Newyorkistan and their entourage.
Before I get too far past Bunker, I'd like to pose a question. You are in a somewhat german-themed, underground pub. You look for the restrooms. You see a door marked 'Herr'. Do you enter?
I won't spoil the quiz, but once inside the restroom, I found sinks with no basins- only a countertop with perforations under the faucets. There were signs which indicated they were automatic taps, but you in fact had to turn them on yourself. It was a strange place. But! It had the only hand drier in England that moved enough air to actually dry your hands. Thank you, Bunker! (with an umlaut)
Back to Newyorkistan...P Han and Roofestan were quite nice. Both different and similar to our expectations, as you might expect. We had an entertaining dinner, and preliminary indications point toward the formation of a convoy. Said wagon train will feature two KEXP bumper stickers, interestingly.
For you blogaholics,here's their link:
And yes, mom, I took my malaria pills.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
A quick one while I'm away ....
We also visited camping supply stores, which yielded among other things the ever important twin 25 liter water cans (plastic, really), which gets me excited. We travel home each clutching one of the containers, as the two girls behind us chatter about how silly americans sound. They do a pretty good imitation. We try and think of clever interjections; one of us does, but is too chicken to use it.
IN ADDITION: we have spoken BY VOICE to one intrepid half Team Newyorkistan, disturbing her tax-disc-ery in the process. The Newyorkistanians, made famous now by their publicity-hogging NPR interview, share the dubious title of American Mongol Ralliers with us (and a few others). Tommorow -- we meet face to face! CAN YOU FEEL THE NOISE!?!?!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Camp Ramrod, Cambridge, UK
First, a recap; after nearly sleepless nights before travelling and nearly sleepless nights during the plane flight across the atlantic, the both of us landed safely in Heathrow airport. Immediately beset by confusion at the foreign culture surrounding us we sat down for a sandwich and felt better, proceeding to the infamous london underground to get into the city itself, and Charing Cross station. This would have been trivial except for the mountain of luggage we hauled behind us, and piled on top of ourselves in a comical heap while on the actual train. At Charing Cross we got in touch with Terry, the seller of the Micra, and then boarded a train to Ashford in Kent. Terry picked us up from the station in his fantastic Silvia and a swift jaunt through the countryside brought us quickly to the farm house.
Terry and his wife are friendly, as are their approx. 19 adorable children. The sun is shining and the micra looks great. Not as much can be said for the first frantic attempts for team ramrod of driving in England, as two lanes share the width of one and everything is backwards. One person drives, the other informs him of what he is doing that is likely to kill us and we adjust. Then we switch and come home. The Micra will do, and if that isn't enough the litter of tiny kittens at the farm house come out to wrestle with each other in the halls. We exchange registration info, pay the kindly family, and are on our way. It should be said that we had at this point been up for a long time and travelled a long time by car, airplane, train, and now are gearing up for two hours of highway driving through a foreign country, in a car that cost us 75 pounds. In fact the drive is not bad at all, except that the mere 5-10 miles over the speed limit I am comfortable with fails to satisfy the insane local drivers, Justin can't stay awake to provide directions, we get lost on the 50 million High Streets in the area, and the number we have for my Aunt is wrong. Ramdrod ultimately passes the first test of foreign navigation, however, and arrives safely in Great Abington none the worse for wear.
Since then, we have dropped by London, eaten Chinese food, enjoyed my relative's gracious hospitality, gotten insurance for the car and tax, and are currently poised for more adenture in local commerce and a trip to the DVLA for a registration document. Everything is coming up Ramrod, and we are in good shape to meet the crew in Hyde park four days hence.
Keep your comments coming, we appreciate the news of home!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
We took the train into London today and met up with Emily. After sitting in the park for awhile, we went to a restaurant in Chinatown for some incredibly good food. Crispy beef, black bean chicken, hot and sour soup, duck with pancakes and some of the best sweet and sour I've ever had, on pork ribs.
Other than not being able to walk on the grass at the 'college' (it has members and doesn't offer classes) and Emily being picture-happy, today played out quite well as an excuse for avoiding anything rally-related.
While stopped at a rest area during the search for High Street in Abington, we discovered a local restaurant chain here called KFC. They sell the most incredible item, called popcorn chicken, and there's nothing quite like it after 48 sleepless hours. Despite my encounter with this new cuisine, my experience with England's road system has perhaps ended my love affair with the country. The British fondness for the roundabout has made me question all claims made towards the advancement of civilization.
Before I'm deported for being overly critical of the road infrastructure, I'll post the first pic of the trip. This moment occurred around 600 miles west southwest of Ireland as dawn broke over the Atlantic and after the man in the row in front of us had finished watching Unforgiven on his laptop. Thank you, man. It really helped me manage the period halfway through Bringing Up baby into the first part of the time when there were no more good programs available on the entertainment system.
Our Text Messages
Provided we manage to get a cellphone and get the system sorted out.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Ramrod lands on Terra Firma
More later, for now I have not slept in so, so long .... tommorow, London!
PS Whomever wrote supportive messages in chalk on my walkway and sidewalk in the night, for us to find as we stumbled to the airport at 5am, who are you? We love you! Thanks so much!
Thursday, July 13, 2006
A single Chesterfield wrapped in a page of the Bible
Thanks to everyone for supporting Ramrod! Here is the evidence to support Patrick's claim regarding our fundraising status.
Thanks also to Susan's dad for providing us with tools and suggestions for appeasing the natives when things get out of hand.
Thanks to Susan for helping with everything packing related, as well as picking up our main dietary staples for the trip(Powerbars) and being patient while Caitlin and I reaffirmed the impossibility of conversation.
Speaking of, a huge thanks to Caitlin's old high school boyfriend, and all his love, desire and knowledge of pumping and things that have nothing to do with pumping. Man, your mix tapes are going to keep Patrick and I pumping all the way to Ulan Ude and beyond. Uh, so to speak. And thank you Sarah for managing your embarassment while Caitlin and I brazenly commented on the superior craftsmanship that went into you (yes, Caitlin has punched me), as well as being willing to suffer the porch while giggling buffoons overran your room.
Also a big thanks to the mix maestro, Jay, who still reigns supreme in the fast and lethal underground of the mix tape mailing ring. Here's to keeping your hands for many years to come! Jay also deserves another big thank you, for he has given us an irreplaceable strength on this journey through his recounting of his time under fire in the waning days of the Second World War. Mike, you should definitely record his experiences on tape while we're away.
Tomorrow's the big day. I'll borrow from the stranger (cf The Big Lebowski) to fire up the voyage of destiny...So we go, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands of time until...aw, look at me, I'm ramblin' again.
If we fail, do not pity us, we were weak. (scratches mustache) Catch ya further on down the trail.
UPDATE: (This is Patrick now) I would like to thank my sister for putting me onto this crazy venture, Angie and Zayce (I walked over to the cafe after work and said 'is this a good idea' and they said 'YES!' in unison) and everyone from Allegro who keeps me caffinated, Sascha's mad mix-tape-ery, also very much Mike for his support, Mel for taking care of my cat, the benefit show gang, everyone who donated, Terry for his car help, and Jen for her patience. You all rock!!
A long drive for someone with nothing to talk about....
Things are going well in terms of preparation, apart from STA's apparent misunderstanding of the term 'overnight' to mean 'more than three nights', and the bother of keeping my up-to-now neglected typhoid vaccine cold throughout a transcontinental flight and subsequent overland travel. I have a $25 pair of underwear now ('17 countries, 6 weeks, one pair of underwear' the package claimed in a frightening manner), though, so it should all be okay.
I imagine you will hear from us, gentle reader, sometime after we have arrive in the UK. Stay tuned for news of car registration/insurance/tax, cell phone purchase, and procurement of much needed supplies once we are there.
Oh, Team Ramrod is listed as the fourth highest contributer to the Christina Noble Childrens' Foundation on the Justgiving website. Pat on the back, everyone!
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Patrick bought a hat!
iTunes will not let you upload music from your iPod. That is so stupid. So stupid it has made my codriver love Mark Cuban, and this concerns me. But the internet tells me how to do this thing which cannot be done. So the iPod preparation continues. Now I just need a 2 day long cassette tape to make a backup of our music in case the pod is stolen by some rally organizer.
I stoop so low to reach so high. I should not write during lunch.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Make friends fast!
Join the Revolution.Pick up your iCCCPod today.
Because every former superpower loves jokes about its controversial past...from citizens its successful former enemy...
Patrick, remember how I said if we got in trouble, and were having difficulty explaining to the police what we were doing, that we could refer them to this blog so they could see we're just fun-loving tourists? I don't think we should do that anymore.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
So today I was doing a little vaccination procrastination, all rolling up on shots that won't give me protection until I'm overseas and everything. After learning that I have a 'condition' (injections stimulate my vagus nerve encouraging a drop in blood pressure - I can do nothing), I went to the pharmacy to pick up some meds. One of the boxes contained pills that, as I understood it, were condensed thai food.
I told the pharmacist how awesome that was, and that I love thai food and that will probably really hit the spot after a couple weeks of mystery cuisine. She then got up in my face and was like 'no, these will keep you from getting thai food' and I'm like 'the hell I won't be taking them then' and she's like 'the crap of heck you will' and then we kind of departed from peaceful means of determining that she was wrong.
I don't recall if she slapped me or if I tore up the brochure first, but I punched her monitor and she was fingernails and screaming about the most bizarre of side effects. In the end, Security made it very clear that there were other ways to take the pills. So I guess I'll be finishing the dose over the next week.
Anyone else have 'typhoid' on their to-do list? It's unsettling.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Barriers falling down....
- Our visas came in! We now have Russia (x2), Kazakhstan (x2), Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
- We raised enough charity cash
- We appear to have found a car! Thanks to Terry and the Japcar culture club for patiently working with us.
But most importantly....
- I have procured mirrored aviator shades
So it looks like we are pretty good to go. Now if only I didn't get dizzy and start to faint every time I think of the trip, it would be far easier to try and plan for the remaining details....
Sunday, July 02, 2006
The related note to this story, is that I just yupped out at REI in order to pick up additional supplies for the journey. I grabbed two Cultural Protection Barriers (each alarmingly holds two people), self-sterilizing tritium-fueled camping spoons, and the Hugo Boss signature model Lincoln Navigator, complete with mosquito-vaporizing, electrostatic generators; free-flow exhaust; 16 unit capacity bike rack; and integral Bribe-a-pult, capable of launching up to 5000$ in cash through the side of an armored-personnel carrier. Every time you hit the horn, it plays the Star-Spangled Banner (a Herb Alpert version, rather than the genre-defining Jimi version) and it has a button which launches 12 GI Joe action figures 200 feet in the air before they float down on American flag parachutes. In a nod to our Muslim destination countries, I did spring for the optional Gulf-Bling package, which includes Red Crescent spinner wheels and a Yasser Arafat bust for the hood ornament. This visit was expensive.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
As to the title of this post, I just came back from a little preparatory shopping. In addition to the basics like band-aids and Atomoexplosedrine ("Never Sleep Again!!"), I picked up a couple of exotic nutritional energy products. I figure after a week of not being able to ask for food, a shot of electrolytic slurry might be just the thing to reactivate our cell processes. The standout amongst these new items is something called 'energy beans'.
Apparently an attempt by a certain confectionary conglomerate to legitimize the consumption of sweets, I am suspicious as to both utility and flavor of these brightly colored athletic nuggets. Well, a little niacinimidic citrate suspended in carnauba wax probably can't hurt every now and then, I suppose. If you're interested in learning more, there is a tour of the factory available. Try calling 800-JB-BEANS.
I also screwed up while checking out, persistently rebuffing the attempts of the Russian-speaking checkout clerk to learn more about our journey. Some men will always be stupid, as the saying goes.