Updates & News from Car 58
On Day 11, we crossed the border into Russia, heading for the Altai Republic and Aya. We cleared immigration and went to Customs, where they were searching the cars. Java's boot was open and our vehicle spill kit was on top, which included a quart-size clear baggy with green crystals.
There was lots of commotion, and the drug-sniffing dogs were all over us and in the car. The agents wanted Java emptied. We unloaded, feeling a little Breaking Bad, and didn't even want to make eye contact with each other.
Melvin from the car shipping company spotted this and headed over. He asked if he could put some of the crystals on our oil that had leaked out. That gave us all a big chuckle, and we were allowed to reload the car and head toward the Russian border... leaving the spill kit with the border agents.
We kept Java going long enough to cross the Russian border with no other fanfare and made it to a welder. I hid from the cold and mosquitos in Marti's car and had a cup of tea.
The scenery was beautiful, and reminded me of Switzerland: snow-capped mountains, evergreens, and rivers. We were riding very low, so drove cautiously. At about 4 p.m., we pulled over to clean our windshield. Travis and Jamie from the Endurance Rally Assocation crew pulled up to say they were going to follow us back; we were last again, they were concerned that our car was damaged, and they wanted us to head directly to the hotel. Unfortunately, we had already missed a shortcut.
Jamie handed me a handkerchief with the Superman logo on it. I was upset because I thought we were out of the rally. But the crew was proud of us for soldiering on under our own power, aka Java. He just won't (and wouldn't!) quit!
They followed us for a while, and honked to pull over. They wanted us to load all of our belongings into their truck so we didn't do permanent damage.
It turned out we weren't the only ones on the route; we found another broken down car, and the crew stopped to help them and sent us on. We were in steep mountains and Java was struggling. He finally just stopped, even though we knew the issue wasn't fuel.
Out came the satellite phone for help, but there was no signal. Tony did what he could and we started up again. We went a little way, and the ERA truck following the other car passed us by.
A few seconds later, Java stopped again. We thought they were leaving us, and started honking. Tony got out and started running after them. They were trying to get the other car to a shortcut they discovered.
At this point, we were joined by the police, who wanted us gone. Travis and Jamie ignored these jesters, and I showed the female police officer our map and the hotel we were headed to. The guys got us up and running, giving up on our duel fuel systems and going back to the original Porsche one. They told us to go and they would take the flack. We headed to the shortcut, which was a closed, overgrown road. We kept on the current road and flagged the police, who were still following us. They offered to escort us to the main highway with lights on, everything. It turned out, we were lost in Siberia (my fear!).
We finally were on our way, and stopped for gas and snacks. By this time, we had hardly eaten in three days, and Tony hadn't showered in four. My pants were slipping off, so Jamie gave me his universal belt. We finally arrived at the hotel and all the mechanics descended on our car, determined to keep Java running and us in the rally.
We provided lots of beer, vodka and food for our superheroes: Travis, Jamie, Andy, Tony, Owen, Jack, Bob, Gary, Allen and Dan.
In Yekaterinburg, I did my only sightseeing. Richard, Charbel and I walked to the site where the Czar and family was executed. We were cold but happy to get out and walk.
There was a lot of car drama on our rest day. Java made it two blocks from the hotel at 3:30 a.m., and then Walid towed it the rest of the way. Our good friend Travis got it running again at 8:55 a.m., 11 minutes before our start time!
We took it easy in preparation for our suspension to be repaired in Kazan. Even though, we had a couple of more than 600 kilometer days.
Tony was pulled over by the Russian police for not having his headlights on. He pulled a Tony: very exaggerated "I'm sorry!" and hands to his face and everything. They let us go.
Our arrival to Perm was greeted by huge crowds!
We went off route on the way to Kazan, following Bryon and Stephen, who somehow had NORAD in their car... thanks, guys. But finally, we reached Kazan and the parts we needed. Happy dance!
Kazan and the rest day on Day 20 marked the halfway point of the rally. As they wrote in the daily report that day, "Tony Connor had a shipment of Porsche suspension parts ready and waiting for him when he arrived so he spent the day at a Porsche specialist with a book of instructions in one hand and a spanner in the other."
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.
Sorry to drop off the face of the earth; this rally is a bigger beast than we imagined!
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.
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.
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.
What I've found on this road is that everyone is on their own rally and journey. Here's more of ours.
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.
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!
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?
Hello from China! After a crazy couple of days preparing, we are finally on the road.
Our car passed scrutineering, and we were told to watch our roof rack, as apparently they like to fly off the car. Who knew?
We initially got lost in the Chinese countryside, but made it successfully and on time to our first Peking to Paris checkpoint.
We even have a team: Three 356! We drove all day with Chalad and Walid, our new bffs.
Don't forget to follow our progress on the live tracker!
Our navigator with Java's half-marathon medal. Let's do this thing!
Competitors Bryon Fusini and Stephen Waudby are also headed to the rally, racing in their 1955 Lancia Aurelia B12. Follow our car (#58) and theirs (#90) here!
Peking to Paris, here we come!