Friday, July 13, 2012

Prologue, Part II : Planes, trains, and automobiles

Hello again, Rally fans!

In order to make up for weeks of lost communication, we have decided to bombard your email, RSS feeds, and lives in general with updates on the pointless minutia and excruciating details of our travels.

Last post found Nick, Byron, and Alex setting off for, and haphazardly arriving in, the UK. This post focuses on the rest of the team (Michael, Thomas, and Joyce) following in our bureaucratic footsteps and the adventure to the north to acquire our second car, the Perodua Kelisa (we've never heard of it either).

To that end, we dropped Nick off at Hethrow to meet up with our other three team members and guide them to the campsite. It was therefore up to Byron and Alex to navigate the north (no easy task) and guide both cars, without navigators, back to the campsite. This was easier said than done, however, as there are some rather striking differences between English and American road systems. After a crash course in what the snowboarding crowd might call "goofy" driving, these differences manifested as the M1 (equivalent to an interstate highway), was completely closed for several miles due to a routine car crash (the term "nanny state" comes to mind). As a result, Byron and Alex were stuck in a massive traffic jam and forced to take side roads (along with half of England) that piled two extra hours onto the four hour trip from Horsley to Leeds.

After getting to the owners (late, again), we got all of our paperwork (still need to pick up registration at the DVLA, and tax the car, more on that later) and inspected our Malaysian mystery vehicle. The car worked great, besides the stolen radio, tampered passenger door lock, and the broken 12V port.

As a matter of practicality, we asked the owner of the trade lot, Amanda Dyson, where to find a good local car parts shop (it seemed only natural that she might know). Not only did she recommend one, but she gave us a ride there and secured the car traders discount (about 25%) for us on a bunch of parts and things we'll need for the trip like air filters, oil filters, and fan belts, but also random odds and ends that various flavors of Euro-government deem necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle; this includes GB sticker (since the car is originally British), high visibility jackets (some countries require these WHILE DRIVING....?), spare bulb sets, and more. Practically the only thing not required by the EU is a kitchen sink (though Amanda did say she had to remove one from a car she sold earlier in the day, so maybe that's on the horizon). If you ever get the opportunity and are in the market for a quality vehicle at an unbeatable price, please look up Amanda at Trade Cars Cleckheaton. Shameless plugging for our new friends is now over!

With the cars in hand, we aimed due south and set to returning to our campsite. The Getz is a 4-cylinder 1.1L car with a 45 L (10 gal) fuel tank, but the Kelisa is only 3-cylinder, 1.0L with a 9 gallon tank (which was partly empty at the pickup). As a result, the Kelisa needed a refill partway back to the site. Unfortunately, just after filling up, the check engine light came on! We frantically dove off to the shoulder of the M1 and checked every bodily fluid of the Kelisa, but it seemed like everything was working properly. We decide to set off, with the Kelisa in the lead in case it need to stop again. This is where the day gets interesting.

While frantically watching the engine temperature and the dash, night fell and the rain started. And not just any rain; fog-generating, bone-soaking, wettest-summer-on-British-record rain. Then, as both cars pulled up behind a slow-moving lorry (18-wheeler), Alex decided to pass it (or “Steve” as we are calling it). Unfortunately, Byron got stuck behind the truck as other cars had the same idea. On the other side of the truck, Alex slowed down to let Byron catch up, but due to the rain (and a considerable amount of speed), Byron rocketed past Alex in the Getz without him seeing and the two cars (with absolutely no form of communication, mind you) were separated.

As far as we can tell, the next part of the story goes something like this: in a show of uncanny cerebral synchronicity reserved for conjoined twins with a mutual penchant in carnival guessing games, both Alex and Byron slowed down to let the other catch up, believing their wingman to be lagging. After several minutes of being passed by strangers, both sped up to reestablish visual contact only to find empty road and puddles for miles in front of them. Thanks to several speed camera-enforced miles and ever-increasing weather, rendezvous proved impossible. As the front-runner (and man with the directions, it should be added), Byron successfully found his way back to the campsite first. The rest of the team had arrived hours earlier, having taken a 120 pound (yes, 120 GBP) taxi ride from the airport and several hours at a local pub, seeing as the Getz held most of the gear. But, calamity! Alex wasn't there! Realizing that he must have pulled ahead, Byron valiantly returned to the turn in for the campground, which, in true British fashion, is nearly invisible and completely unsigned so it's easy to miss.

After about 10 minutes of waiting, Alex drove by with a half dozen angry locals 'queued' behind him. He wasn't dead! Byron gave chase, and guided him into the campsite. Luckily he was navigator when we were driving the night before, so he managed to find his way back unassisted, being the navigational ninja that he is.

With all members finally accounted for in Jolly Old England, we made some crucial introductions (yes, some of us hadn't actually met in person yet), outlined the next days tasks, and went promptly comatose in our respective dwellings; a tent pitched before the torrential rain for Michael and Thomas, and the cars for Nick, Joyce, Alex, and Byron. See you on the morrow for more exciting Mongol Rally action!

Miles driven since last update : 415
Total miles driven : 489
Places visited : London, Horsley, Leeds
Tickets : 0
Average fuel economy : 41.8 mpg
Curbs mounted due to lack of familiarity with left-hand driving : 2

PS : Sorry about the lack of pictures, but the stress of left-handed driving and lack of excess hands made it rather difficult to take any pictures on the trip. Consider this an IOU redeemable at the next post!

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