Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Part I, An Awkward Beginning

Waking up at 6:30 did not go as well as we had hoped. Everyone slept through their alarms until around 8:30, which forced us to blitz out of the hotel around 9:30 to get the Goodwood Racing Circuit by 10:00 for the Festival of Slow! We estimated that we would show up about an hour late, including extra time for traffic and getting lost.

However, it seems that an event as large and intentionally disorganized as the Mongol Rally has a way of spreading its mayhem to the surrounding area. About 15 miles from Goodwood, we were on track to be there at around 10:45, only 45 minutes after the start, but going quickly on the “right” side of the road (as the Brits claim) isn't our strong suit, so we had quite a line of cars developing behind us. In the spirit of diplomacy we decided to pull over to let everyone pass.

That didn't go well either.

No sooner had the folks in the Kelisa suggested a pull-over than we found what looked like a nice roadside dirt nook. As it turns out, it was actually a small cliff in disguise. The Getz bottomed out on the shoulder, lurching violently off the road at about 40mph and into the fresh mud (that provided very little stopping power) and sending Michael, Thomas, Alex, and the car sliding down the side of the road and into the bushes. With a steep slope, deep mud, and a woefully underpowered engine (at least for this job), we were stuck. Unharmed, but stuck. And more bad news came when we tried to dig the car out; the wheels weren't spinning when the engine revved. Alex, Nick, and Tom stayed with the Getz to continue the excavation and damage assessment while Byron, Joyce and Michael drove to the nearby town to find a tow truck.
A short while later we were found by a team of former Rally-goers on their way from Goodwood where they were seeing off some friends doing the Rally this year and, more importantly, their big, burly, V-8 Range Rover and 25-ton tow line. In no time flat we were pulled free and, to our relief and amazement, the Getz started right up and drove with no issues whatsoever, aside from a healthy layer of mud on the underside and wounded pride.

After that debacle we finally got to Goodwood at around 1:00 PM, along with a hurricane-esque rainstorm. This didn't prevent any of the planned antics for the event. In fact, it probably made some of them more fun. The rest of the teams had decked out their cars with spare tires, roof racks, tool chests, car wraps, roof horses, bathtubs and themselves with insane and wacky costumes (the most interesting we saw was a full-body red spandex suit with lobster-claw oven mitts...Lobsterman!). We didn't have the time to get that all ready, so our cars were pretty sparse. We made do with the time we had, getting the Mongol Rally stickers on, putting up the colors (in our case, a pirate flag and a CU flag), and mentally prepared for the slowest lap of the Goodwood racetrack... in the world, but possibly the most fun. The car horns were deafening, the antics absurd, and the entire experience wonderfully surreal.
We had a bit of bad news directly after the rally. After calling Spence, we found out that the registration did not arrive, meaning we'd have to wait at least until Monday to escape the rain-soaked island. Instead of heading East with the rest of the teams, we decided to head West towards Shaftesbury, where we would wait for the Perodua's registration. Along the way was Stonehenge. THE Stonehenge; a 5000 year old monument created, from what most historians can discern, for no reason whatsoever. It's was another surreal experience. In our heads we imagined it being in the middle of nowhere on a mighty mountain in the middle of a thunderstorm. In reality, it's in a little field along a highway and quite a few people see it every day on their commute. But that made our visit no less fantastic or interesting.
After steeping ourselves in mysterious historical goodness, we needed to find ourselves a place to stay for the night, as we had not anticipated having to stay for the weekend before we left. As luck had it, there happened to be a campsite nearby with space available. At the campsite happened to be the greatest reason for getting delayed in England; our new friend Tony. Turns out he did the rally last year in an enormous fire truck with a few of his friends, and his stories kept us entertained the entire night. While a lot of what he said made us worried for what was to come (border guards, thieves, bribes, AK47s...) his stories made us even more excited for the adventure to start. He did everything from getting in bar fights with the Russian military, to partying in Ulaanbaatar. His biggest take away from his journey was the people he encountered and their general attitude of helpfulness and kindness. He even went as far as to say that the Rally restored his faith in humanity. We had a great night getting some pizza and beer with Tony at a local pub.


  1. Can't say I didn't expect this kind of start to your race :P Make sure you stock up on guns and bribe money :) I'd also suggest bringing along some spare air filters, rope+pulleys springs, dampers (if they're not too pricey), and an emergency gas canister - if you guys haven't already stocked up on supplies... AND OMG DON'T FORGET THE DUCT TAPE!
    Good luck team(s),

  2. I have to say, my favorite part of this was the bit about "aggressively nursing goats"! Keep up the good work! Godspeed!

  3. Byron,
    Your 8th Great Grandmother was from Salisbury!! She was christened on August 1, 1630 in the cathedral (St. Edmunds) you saw. She emigrated to Massachusets in 1638 and died in 1688. Her line goes back to before 1517 in Salisbury, so your family has a deep relationship to that area!!