Team America

Donations, stuffed animals, and their recipients.

I'm finally putting up some of the pictures of the stuffed animals and their recipients. There are also a few amusing photos of Jeff and I.



Drive across Mongolia in 4 minutes

Here is our first video and is just a fraction of all the captured from our adventure.

It took two of us 11 days in a 1.2L Fiat Panda to get from the Russian border to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, but you can do it in 4 minutes thanks to the dashboard cam that recorded it all. Experience the roadlessness, the bandits, the breakdowns, the yaks, and the camels, without ever having to figure out how to steer and shift a right-driving mini-car through some of the remotest land on the planet.

Check it out and see it out the windshield just like we did.


has it really been that long?

wow! i'm quite behind on posting something since our return.

As some of you may know we are back and we successfully made it to the finish line. We left Goodwood Circuit on July 23, roughly 3:45pm (BST). We arrived at the finish line on Sept 11, at 1:12pm (ULAT). It took us 51 days. The car odometer reported us travelling 9642 miles, a few miles short of the 10,000 miles, but we probably have exceeded it if we had not taken a ferry across the Caspian Sea.

Anyways the point of this post is to claim how much raw video that we have. We had about 1TB of raw video and jpegs of the time lapse from Czech Republic to the finish line. Yesterday I just converted all the jpegs into movies which is looking to be about 200 minutes long. It's good to have taken a break and it's exciting to look at the stuff we have. I'm looking forward to show some of it in the near future.

I do have a few stories cooking that I never posted either. Hopefully I can include those when we post some videos.

see you soon!


who needs street signs?

There was not one sign for Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border crossing. I'm not even sure how we found it. Luckily we knew earlier enough that we overshot the border. So turned around and drove back to ask some guys waiting for a bus on the side of the road. They pointed to take a left at a seemingly strange junction to us. The turnoff didn't even have a single sign for it. At this point what choice do we have but try it. So we took it and followed the river for about 30 minutes when suddenly we see a queue of rigs waiting at a tall building. This is usually a good sign that we've found the right place.

The signage has been getting pretty non-existent as of late. When we hit Bishkek, Uzbekistan and to see roads marked with street signs again. Wow what a miracle! We are amazed to be able to find a hotel in under hour.

Though without street signs one would be surprised at how good we've become to finding our destination. Usually we enter a city and wander around and get our bearings and then we triangulate with our known bearings, asking locals for directions and somehow manage to get to our hotel for a good night of sleep.


ferry across caspian sea

The ferry was surprisingly easy to board. Though we did have to deal with some turkmenistan visa madness. The guys at immigration said we weren't on the list, and the paperwork we had from visa machine was also apparently worthless(a message in russian say we have just been approved and we don't have the LOI). We took a taxi to turkmenistan embassy in baku, and spoke to some girl over the intercom[because letting us into the gates was apparently too much trouble] to tell us that she can't help us, and that this russian message from visa machine was meaningless. So we emailed and called visa machine people but heard nothing on the timetable we required. We had nothing else to do except go back and doubled check that we weren't on the list. So 3 hours later we are back to look at the turkmenistan list again and we were on it! so we drove the Timmy(our Fiat panda) on the Dagestan ferry, took off for Turkmenbashi at about 5:30pm.

The room that we had on the Dagestan was special. Two nasty bunks and a bathroom that didn't have light, and also the toilet was broken. Full speed ahead for 13 hours and the boat engines stopped at about 8am. When we looked out the land was still pretty far away. We proceeded to sit there in the middle of Caspian Sea until about 2pm where the ferry looked like we were heading to port. We moved again for maybe an hour but then stopped again and sat there. Around 4pm the "maid" took our bedding sheets. We were thinking that she probably knew we were moving and that we would be at the port soon. We stayed up until about 2am, and finally gave in to sleep. The boat didn't move until 8am the next day, so we were sitting on the nasty bunks without sheets for 14 hours. wtf?

The entire time there wasn't any clear communication of what was going on. I had a rough idea from Brian at Baatar Hero who did it in 2010 who said they did roughly the same thing, except at 10pm they were docked and off the boat at midnight. They were luckier than us. The girl from visa machine mentioned in her email that it took her 75 hours to cross. I'm happy to say that I don't think I'll ever want to do that again.


russia visa doom

Just realized today that our russia visa ends on sept 3. "Problem." in russian accent

now we are on a scramble of which path to take, and either extending our russia visa, or changing our route and getting another visa from kazahstan. (or perhaps choosing our alternative and screwing ourselves and require to do both)

we have just arrived into Uzbekistan and of course as timing would have it all embassies are closed. So we cannot visit the capital here and get situated, we will have to choose our path and hope for the best on the other side.

Since I originally wrote this message, we have decided to bail on any extension of russia visa as it's overly complicated, and too much of a time suckage. In exchange this means we have to bomb through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in order to be safely out of russia. Sadly we had to skip on Lake Issyk-Kol. I'm greatly sadden by this.

I did reach the bottom of it though, somewhere in the visa paper madness. Russia switched over to a new system and I failed to copy the right dates for russia. It should have been aug 15-sept 15, when aug 5-sept 3 are the ones on our passport. Lame mistake for missed opportunity to see some crazy scenery.


finding hotel in new city

when asking for directions to a hotel, we always end up meeting new people. I believe now that we are at #6 or 7 where people try to explain how to get to a hotel, but because of the language barrier simply give up and say follow me in my car. this has worked out very well as many times it's dark out and we have no map that can actually help us.

[in Navoiy, Uzbekistan on aug 19] Today, the guy began to draw a map and by the fifth intersection without any street names, said follow me. As we began to follow him a road was closed off(not clear why but it looked like police). So our awesome helper takes us down all these crazy streets to show up at a hotel.

if that was what he was drawing on the map it would have been impossible to find it.

Here are a picture of two that were drawn for us, and all of them were actually good. Go Uzbekistan for your map drawing skills!


backlog of our adventure

We've been off the grid for some time. Here are a bunch of queued blog messages.


still alive

wow I don't even know where to begin. It's been a while since our last update, and unlikely this one to be a long one. We are in turkmenistan now in turkmenibat and tomorrow we are heading back to uzibekistan where hopefully internet is more normal.

Let me just quickly say the ferry across the caspian sea was not a luxury cruise. It took about 14 hours to cross, but we sat out in the sea without much communication from onboard of what was going on. End to end it was 36 hours of a bunk bed in a room, without a/c, without a working toilet nor working light. We did get in a lot of iphone games, and a few movies that jeff had on his laptop.

Turkmenistan has been a warm welcome of meeting and staying with aslun at his house in a village somewhere between turkmenbashi and ashgabat. Crazy marble buildings in ashgabat, tons of desert terrain, and the heat has been on since azerebaijan (40-44C / 104-111F).

We met up with team geekout today and visited merk ruins. A funny duo that have luckily shown up at the same hotel as us tonight. So i'm sure there is more to come.

We have lots of pictures and maybe we'll be lucky to get a video up or two.

Anyways the internet across turkmenistan seems to close at 8pm, so this will be my last work for tonight, hopefully we can get some wifi tomorrow.

until then see ya.

Filed under: We can do it! 1 Comment

The adventure begins…

Our first adventure began in Lille, France.

As we departed from Goodwood Circuit, it was just Jeff and I at the helm. Driving on the wrong side, in our Fiat Panda, Timmy, with the steering wheel on the wrong side. We talked to other ralliers the day of launch and met some the night before as well. I know that we will cross paths with them again, but at this point we were on our own.

Our first waypoint is the chunnel, about 2.5 hours northeast from the race track. We take a quick 10 minute break at a beach along the way and make plans to get to a city and have dinner before the chunnel train. Before you know it, we are just pulling into the chunnel entrance right before our departure time. The only thing available for dinner is burger king in the waiting area. A perfect summary of our departure from UK.

They announce that the next train is ours. With our dinner in hand, we walk back to the car and drive onto long train in single file line. Once aboard, block the rear tire, button down the hatches, and off we go. The ride is quick and comfortable, and 30 minutes later out we pop into France.

Our planned destination of Lille, France. We reached it at 9pm or so and we enter the city without a map. It's not that we don't have a map it's just that the resolution of our maps are fine for getting city to city, but once you enter the city you are pretty much on your own. So we blindly start wandered the city in search of a place to stay and eventually stopped in front of some sort of outside venue that has finished. There are some people hanging out outside and look like they potentially know the city. With my french skills I approach the first people I see and ask where I can find a hotel. Neither of the girls knows, but she goes to her car and acquires what looks to be some sort of tour book for Lille. They recognize the name of one of the hotels and say this one is good. They are super helpful and call up the hotel for us and verify that there is room available and how much it costs. we were set, now we just had to drive to the hotel.

During this time Jeff was approached by another guy asking what we were doing, having seen our loaded and stickered car. His english was good and eventually all three of them offered to have us follow them in their car through the pebble laid road to central Lille to the hotel. We waved our thank you and good byes, and off to our first night of sleep.