We're On Our Own Journey Again!

We made it to San Martino di Castrozza, and Tony's fear of heights has gotten the better of him. I don't have the driving skills to take on the Alps and their switchbacks. 

Tony, Java and I are now looking for a way around the Alps. It is not a short or easy sojourn. Our plan is to rejoin the rally in Lausanne or the entry to France. 

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this, and, as always, we'll find our way!


Lucy and Ethel... without Ethel!

Our good friend Jocelyn called the route book incident perfectly, so I thought I would provide a few more stories from our Peking to Paris adventure.

Bathroom situations, or, as Marti refers to it, "A bit of a wee"

So... I've learned to carry my own toilet paper. Apparently it's not a thing in China, Mongolia and Russia, and I should have been doing tons of squats before I left. I had a few too many teetering moments where I thought, "If I fall in, I'm not sure Tony will rescue me out of this 6 foot hole." The outhouse hygiene was so bad at one stop I had to ask Walid to stand guard while I went on the back side. 

On our second day in Mongolia the fuel stop actually had a bathroom inside the building. Of course there was a window facing the road, but at this point I didn't care. I went to exit the bathroom and found I was locked in! There was another rally competitor on the other side and he was trying to help, but no luck. Thank goodness for the window... Up on the ledge and out I climbed.

Never thought I would say this, but... I'm dreaming of the I-95 rest stops.

Never thought I would say this, but... I'm dreaming of the I-95 rest stops.

Black Lung

Only Tony! Once again, we were aiming for max lateness and I missed the turn into the hotel and went right to the parking lot... only to find out that the MTC (main time control) was in the lobby of the hotel. The shuttle buses to take us had just left, and we had to wait for the next.

At this point, we had 12 minutes to beat maximum lateness and keep the gold, and I am not calm, cool OR collected.

The next shuttle arrived. We load up, and it took off... only to get stopped in traffic. Tony told the driver to let him out in the middle of the road, and he will run as only Tony will do. 

Tony arrived with 3 minutes to spare and got us checked in. I arrived shortly after to find him barely breathing; apparently he inhaled most of the Gobi desert on that day's drive!


Not exactly my strong suit. I was a damsel in distress going into the campsites on many occasion.

As noted earlier, we were last into camp on most nights. That is not to say there weren't other late arrivals with many car issues too, of course! Tony would head with the car to the ER area and I would set up our tent.

Now, I am the girl who had to YouTube "how to set up a tent" on the night before our car was shipped. Nigel and Richard had to come to my rescue on the first two occasions. (If you know me, you know I've had other issues with setting up cabanas on beaches and having the whole beach watching and laughing at the hilarity.)

On our second camping night, we actually arrived during daylight. That said, it stayed light until 9, then 10, then 11 p.m. 

I was off to the shower with my microfiber towel and ready for the experience. There were not hooks in the tent showers, they don't have roofs, and they are a foot off the ground. I was prepared, though; I had my waterproof bag with clothes, shampoo, etc. I put my shoes just outside the shower (because of course I had forgotten my flip flops in the tent that I brought for this EXACT thing). I hung my pants over the top and began my shower. There was warm water but it was windy, so it was quite chilly.

I finish my shower and reached into my bag for my towel... only to realize I left it on the bench! I called out to see if there is anyone who could help, and the woman in the next shower went out to grab it for me, even though she was half-dressed herself. Rescued once again. Survivalist, I am not!

We keep laughing at ourselves, so we're doing great!

XO, Jill, Tony and Java

PS: We're almost to the finish line; follow our progress on the live tracker!

Paris or Bust!

Hello from the road! We are currently in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Next we head to head into Italy to San Martino di Castrozzo.

Java is great, and Tony and I are still having the time of our lives. We're having to cut a few of the more difficult time trials to ensure a Paris arrival. The Slovenian mountains seem as high as the Alps!

Here is a video of part of a time trial today. This was a 12.25 kilometer climb on gravel. Java rocked!

And look who we found! U.S. Army, on maneuvers in Slovenia.

Much love,

Days 21 and 22: Along the Volga River and on Our First Race Track!

Right now, we're on the road in Hungary on the way to Budapest. Click here to read ERA's daily reports, and below find our latest recap from Days 21 and 22 in Russia.

In Kazan, we had a lively 50th birthday celebration for Nigel, and then we were off to Nizhny Novgorod. 


It was a beautiful sunny morning crossing the Volga River, which is the longest in Europe. We got 58 kilometers from the hotel and BAM... the clutch cable broke.

On the side of the road again, Sweeps Jack and Allen saw us and thought, "What now!!!"

Two hours later, Jamie and Travis have us back on the road.

Day 22: Gentlemen, start your engines! At 7:30 a.m. we were called to our first race track for three time trials.

Tony was so excited and I was terrified. I kept saying, "Slow down!" although we were only going 49 kph (or, in American, 30 mph!). I was convinced we would tip over, or I would make us take a wrong turn... which is impossible on a race track. 

Then we hit the road, driving the M7 motorway to Zavidovo. We had another two time trials on the Nami track and on a hill climb. I calmed down a little.

And, we survived our first pontoon bridge!

Much love, 

Mongolia Moved the Impossible for Tony, Jill and Java

Sorry to drop off the face of the earth; this rally is a bigger beast than we imagined!

We were told in Beijing that the roof rack would be a problem. They were right!

We were told in Beijing that the roof rack would be a problem. They were right!

All of our fears have come to pass. Crazy bridges, water crossings, rocks, ruts, gullies, mud, washboard roads for miles, Tony driving on the rails for 8, 10, 12 hours a day (due to our low clearance), sand, dirt, dirt, and more dirt. All of that, but on steroids. Bigger and badder than we imagined.

Doing laundry at the campsite, China-style.

Doing laundry at the campsite, China-style.

Sometimes we were so stressed and anxious that I forgot to take pics of some of our great successes. But Tony, Java and I will always have those memories.

Our first sunset in the Gobi Desert. Driving into camp in the dark was one of Jill's fears, but we did it... many times.

Our first sunset in the Gobi Desert. Driving into camp in the dark was one of Jill's fears, but we did it... many times.

Mongolia is absolutely beautiful and I would return in a heartbeat... in a 4x4! That said, I wouldn't have traded doing this race in our car, Java, for anything.

Gave up on our tent; Tony and Nomad Tours to the rescue! 

Gave up on our tent; Tony and Nomad Tours to the rescue! 

What I've found on this road is that everyone is on their own rally and journey. Here's more of ours.

Finishing a time control (TC) racing section. This is when beating maximum lateness became our goal! 

Finishing a time control (TC) racing section. This is when beating maximum lateness became our goal! 

The landscape is unreal. Everything is so clear. 

The landscape is unreal. Everything is so clear. 

In the next week, we will be sharing many more updates from our time in Mongolia and Russia. You can also see daily reports on all of the cars remaining via the Endurance Rally Association team here

Much love, 

Stopping for Repairs Before Six Days of Desert Driving

Currently we are in Mongolia, near Khyargas Lake and approaching the Russian border.

Earlier last week, when we stopped in Ulaan Baatar, Java needed tons of small repairs. The suspension needed tightening, the front brakes were sticking, the oil was changed, there was grease all over the front components, and we tightened all the bolts and nuts on the car and engine. Not to mention cleaning up the car and fixing our broken roof rack.

ERA to the rescue! One of the ERA mechanics saw the rack and said we could land a helicopter on it! We hope he is right.

Some bumps hurt more then others. Damage to the skid plate was sustained on a big hit into a small ditch. That hit also moved our bumper higher on the right. We have been told to look ahead ALL the time! Tony took his eyes off the road to look at a bird and BAM.

Our rack is fixed and our spare tire is back on it. Our plan is to test the rack in the desert for one day and see if it holds, and then place a tire without a wheel on it and see how it does. If it fails, we will be doing the race down one spare. 

The Endurance Rally Association website has a daily report, which you can read here. We and Java made it into the Day 6 update, and it's definitely the photo OF the race! Java is airborne! 

As usual, don't forget to check the live tracker to see where we are and where we've driven since the start of the race! 

Taking It One Waypoint at a Time in China and Mongolia

We are heading towards the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar and the first rest day before we head back out into the middle of nowhere. It's beautiful, but also very stressful.

Java is dusty and muddy, but still running strong! Earlier this week our roof rack broke, and we were last into camp in the desert. Luckily, it was repaired quickly.

Our next start was stalled by a flock of sheep. So much for making our time trial on time!

We are making great friends. Matt Bryson, who has won the last two Peking to Paris rallies, has been our navigation guru. Marty and Kristine, too. We know having their help will make all the difference in the world! 

Onward we go... which road to choose?

Empty Nesters' Au Revoir

Celebrating our 10th anniversary, the Empty Nesters book club threw me a surprise send off on a beautiful, rain-free evening. Barbara and Lark hosted us with cocktails on the garden terrace, followed by a sumptuous Italian dinner by Susan Gage.

My wonderful friends presented me with a glamorous Ferragamo silk scarf ("think Grace Kelly!") that actually looks like it was made with our rally car in mind. There will be many pictures of this scarf in the countries along our route!

Celia gave me Tula skincare products to make sure I keep up my beauty regime, Jeanne gave me a diary for all our memories, and Missy, the world's best photographer, will do a special portrait of Java #58, Tony, and me upon our return. 

Cheers to these amazing women whom are the dearest of friends: Celia, Lark, Ginny, Barbara, Jeanne, Missy, Sandy, Blythe, Katherine, Corine and Elizabeth. I promise to represent The Empty Nesters with dignity, grace, and a little speed!


A Champagne Send-Off for Peking to Paris 2016

Our neighbors, Gin and Jack Bell, hosted a send-off dinner on for us on Sunday night. Of course, the evening began with a champagne toast by Jack, followed up with lots of hearty good lucks, you're crazy's, "I'm purchasing life insurance on you two," and even, "I wish I were doing it also!"

In addition to our hosts, our wonderful neighbors and friends, the Bentons, Lamberts, Magruders and Nelsons, provided a feast unlike any we will be having along our journey. Not surprisingly, the evening was filled with a lot of car and navigation talk (there are a few car guys and adventure travelers in the bunch).

As the evening was coming to a close, we ended with updates—not about our children, but about all of our dogs, cats and a new DC obsession: bald eagle cam observations.

We can't wait to share stories of the rally and host everyone at our house upon our return!