Travis is the Porsche engine guru of the sweep mechanics. He and the guys are constantly adjusting our points, cleaning our filters and distributor, and giving me hugs and words of encouragement. We just can't seem to keep Java running. Late into every night they are with Tony, trying to keep Java and us in the rally.
Java sputtered to a stop on day 8, in Mongolia between Murun and Uliastai. I put the OK sign up, but Mike and Georgia from Car 42 stopped anyway. We fiddled with a few things and Java started back up.
We went about 5 kilometers down the road and stopped again. I went to put the OK sign and my route book back on top of the car, when I realized that I had left it on top when we stopped before. It had fallen off somewhere in the last 5 kilometers!
Tony called for assistance and I headed out looking for my book. I walked about 15 minutes and a car of Mongolians drove up to offer me a ride. I shook my head and made the shape of my book with my hands. They carried on and so did I, on foot. But thankfully, a few minutes later, they returned with my route book in hand and offered to drive me back to Tony, which I accepted while thanking them profusely.
We later got stuck in mud and had to be towed out. At this point, it was 8:30 p.m., we were last on the route with 50 kilometers to go, and we were being followed in by an ERA red truck. The camp site was changed and I couldn't find the track. It was our first escort, and we made camp at 10 p.m.
On day 9, we started from Uliastai with a great navigation tip from Christine in Car 65. On my Garmin compass screen, there is a countdown to the next waypoint, making it much easier to determine the exact turns we need to take!
We were traveling at a better pace, and doing our best on time trials. Instead of going 1 kilometer off of a bridge, we went 8 kilometers and landed hard. There was lots of concerning banging sounds, so we stopped. Charbel and Walid of Car 61 to the rescue again!
We got off and running, but soon got stuck in the sand. Car 90 with Stephen and Bryon, the photographer, and the crew to the rescue! We missed our final time trial finish and lost gold, limping into camp with the engine stopping at random and our rear dragging. Kudos to our great friends Charbel, Walid, Bryon and Stephen, who all made sure we got to camp near Chjargas Lake.
It was day two without a shower for Tony, as he was spending late nights trying to figure out Java's issues.
Day 10: An absolutely beautiful day in Mongolia but the route to Olgiy almost took us out. Our engine failed multiple times, we had issues with our shock absorber, torsion bar, axle, etc. We had more ERA vehicles stopping to keep us limping along.
Tony had to get out and walk different paths to figure out which Java could make it through. We were towed through one river crossing and plowed through another, not knowing we were supposed to be towed through it too. Andy and Tony (the ERA sweep mechanics/wizards) were following us at this point, and they were were amazed; we cried with joy and excitement.
It was another long day on the road. We were hoping to reach camp by 9 p.m. and heard a honk... we werere leaking oil. Our sump plate bolt was sheered off by some rock, and the guys made a makeshift plate out of a competitor's Peking to Paris license plate.
At about 11 p.m., it was getting dark and we headed towards camp, only to have the engine quit 50 yards later. Fancy fuel systems were torn out and the original one was hooked up. It was freezing cold, windy, rainy, and hailing. The guys gave me hugs and put me into the warm vehicle.
At 2 a.m. and we headed out again. The dust was terrible, so they asked if we wanted to go in front. It was pitch black and I could barely see; I am weak at navigating on a good day and this sent me over the edge, so we followed in the dust. Further down the road, a guy came into the middle of the road on a steep grade and flagged us down to tell us our DC license plate was hanging off. We moved on after Tony removed the plate, heading downhill, and Java's engine stopped again. This time they thought we were out of fuel, so we were toward a couple kilometers to a fuel station and finally were good to go. We entered camp at 3 a.m. No dinner or showers.
We still wouldn't change this experience for anything in the world.