71 & 72 Ford Escorts
1936 Ford Cabriolet
1938 Chevy Fangio Coupe
1957 Chevy Bel Air
Endurance Rally Race Tracker
(click on the above link, and scroll down to select car #36 or #91)
Day Thirty Six
July 17th 2016 - Final Day
Sunday afternoon our teams finally reached the end of their adventure in Paris. We were among many other families, friends, and supporters, in the square at the Place Vendome. Arriving at 10:30 to stake out our spot, we were able to position ourselves front and center near the finish line. Interestingly enough, this was an instance where Gaye's wheelchair confinement made our lives easier. We found ourselves able to navigate just a couple feet away from where the cars would roll through.
All the teams left Reims in the morning and proceeded to a holding area outside Paris. They were then sent to the city center in groups of ten. There was increased security felt by both the drivers and the spectators. Heavily armed police were herding people within the square to designated areas and even more were keeping a watchful eye along the drivers' route in. We waited in the hot sun for over 3 hours before the first cars started to make their way to the Place Vendome. The square started to fill with spectators from all over the world, awaiting their team's arrival. We knew our cars would be a ways back but we stayed up close so we would be ready. As each vehicle pulled across the line, everyone was cheering, snapping photos, and waiting for their loved ones to make their stop. People were waving flags, holding congratulation signs and some even had custom team shirts to support their car. It was very chaotic, exciting and suspenseful as we waited to see our husbands. Jeff, Chris, Tim and Willie said that it seemed like a lifetime, slowly inching their way through the city to get to their journey's end.
We watched car after car come through the finish line archway and saw the drivers expressing mixed emotions of relief, exhaustion, and elation. Many of the teams were given Champagne and not only took the opportunity to swig it right from the bottle, but shook it and sprayed it into the crowd. This ended up being the downside to our front and center spot. In fact, Gaye was determined to not have to explain to her orthopedic surgeon why her cast got wet from excessive "bubbly." I found myself moving in front in order to block her cast and ended up smelling like a champagne bath by the time Chris arrived. Each car drove and sometimes crawled through the finish, making the customary stop, before being directed to parking areas around the square. Many beaten cars had trouble restarting their engines, attempting to move out of the way for the next car. It was very telling of the trials and tribulations that they had endured.
After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally saw a glimpse of our cars in the line up. Tim and Willie in car #36 were the first to pull through the finish, with huge smiles. Peggy was standing on the driver's side holding up a wonderful sign reading, "Congratulations Tim and Willie YOU DID IT!", with a picture of the car on the back. Gaye was on the other side to welcome Willie, and I, of course, was taking pictures.
Several cars later, we saw the striking blue Chevy in our sights. Both Jeff and Chris were smiling from ear to ear, as they drove through the finish banner. It was clear from the hugs and kisses that they were not only relieved to be done, but happy to see us waiting to greet them. They proceeded to park in the square and then we all headed back to the hotel to celebrate their achievement.
The guys spent the next several hours before the dinner, relaxing, toasting the completion of the rally, and recalling stories of their trip. Then the guys got cleaned up, put on their tuxedos, and we all went to the closing awards dinner. Running a little behind the rest of us, Willie missed pre-dinner drinks and photo ops. However, we still managed to get a picture of the handsome devil.
Staying consistent with the "Endurance Rally" theme, we then spent the rest of the night at the "Endurance Dinner", lasting 5 1/2 hours. It was wonderful, just very long. After cocktail hour everyone transferred into The Salon Opera, a historically listed monument, and the most renowned ballroom in Paris. Kicking off the program, the organizers presented two videos of footage that were shot by a videographer, some of which was clearly captured by a drone. It is difficult to describe the incredible imagery seen up on the big screen. Scanning the room, you could see the participants' faces - filled with disbelief and awe of the pristine beauty that they had witnessed over the past 36 days. You could "feel" the sense of achievement, and watching this helped to elucidate just how life changing the experience actually was.
Throughout dinner, you could see how the videos prompted more memories from their journey. The awards ceremony followed, with our teams both receiving silver medal glass trophies for their respective class. Jeff and Chris also received the Concours d'Elegance award for the classics division, which means "Best Car." It was apparent by how everyone cheered each other on, that friendships and fondness for one another had developed along the way.
Just as we are having trouble finishing this story, one can only imagine how the participants must feel going back to their everyday lives. The good news is they have lifelong memories to share with family and friends - and some to just keep for themselves. One thing for sure is they are changed by the experience.
We would like to thank everyone who donated to our causes. We were able to raise $4250 for
(a non-profit dedicated to Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness, Research and Support). It is not too late to make a contribution - the link will remin on the website until the end of July.
Not so final note: We have more stories to tell, and plan to do a "Behind the scenes" update from time-to-time. Chris took miles of GoPro video throughout the 36 days, and once that has been cut into a video of Car 91's Peking to Paris Motorcar Challenge experience, we will provide a link to our website subscribers.
, if you haven't already.
In the meantime, for those of you on Facebook,
here is one of the photo compilations that was shown at the dinner
Day Thirty Five
July 16th 2016 - Update
Lausanne to Reims
Due to heightened security concerns in France, the time trials were canceled for today, and it was recommended that the cars stick to highways from Lausanne to Reims. Oddly enough, several teams opted to drive the original route, including our car #36. This is not entirely surprising, as Tim is a stickler for the rules and Willie was feeling confident in his navigational abilities. Eleven hours later, they finally arrived in Reims. Willie may have overestimated his skills with the route book?
On the other hand, Chris and Jeff arrived so early that they set up camp in a café on the square to wait for the Rally organizers to open up the finish sign in. The guys relaxed and enjoyed a wonderful lunch and a great bottle of French wine. It seems to me that they had the right idea of sticking to the highways instead of struggling throughout the day - following the original route.
The '38 Chevy was still battling a radiator leak today. At one point Tim had to go grab water from a lake to top it off. Their chosen route had one gas station along the way, only accepting credit cards. For some reason Tim and Willie's cards were declined, leaving them in quite the predicament. Fortunately, they found a local resident who was willing to put the gas on his credit card in exchange for cash. Thank goodness!
Tonight there was a Rally party for everyone. It is the last official night where the competitors will be just among each other. Jeff, Chris, Tim and Willie broke off and grabbed a nice dinner in the Reims busy square. Tomorrow night there will be a black tie dinner to celebrate the finish of the 2016 Peking to Paris Endurance Rally. In attendance there will be many friends, families and loved ones. We heard that they show a preliminary video of the Rally. Our driver, Chris Pike has also been gathering Go Pro footage throughout the rally, which we will be compiling into a video and posting on our website.
It is only 180 km from Reims to Paris. The teams will have set departure times, driving to a holding area right outside the city. The cars will be released in intervals of ten to head for the finish at the Vendome Square. Tim and Willie in car #36 will depart Reims at 9:30 am. Jeff and Chris in car #91 will pull out at 10:20.
We are thankful to see our drivers complete this Rally safe and sound. What an accomplishment, way to go guys!
Day Thirty Four
July 15th 2016 - Update
St Moritz to Lausanne
There were two time trials today for Tim and Willie, who followed the Rally route. However, many of the teams opted to follow Chris and Jeff's lead, taking the highways to Lausanne. Whichever way you decided to go, the drive was beautiful but treacherous.
For some inexplicable reason, Jeff and Chris decided to go to McDonalds for lunch. Later in Lausanne, many of the drivers congregated for dinner and drinks. It seems that everyone is ready to get to Paris! Over dinner there was much hilarity as Tim recounted his medical visit for an advanced case of jock itch. He said he ran out of powder and had been treating it with Old Spice shaving lotion. The doctor listened intently and said he should shower more. One of the guys asked if Willie was sniffing out the alcohol at night. Another commented that explains why the '38 Chevy always smells like Old Spice when they go by. Tim has now been nicknamed "Big Sweaty Balls."
Tomorrow's drive into Reims will be coordinated to allow the cars to stay together, due to increased security concerns in France.
Day Thirty Three
July 14th 2016 - Update
San Martino di Castrozza to St Moritz
The Italy - Swiss border was the plate for the day, along with five time trials. Six tests had been scheduled but the rally organizers canceled the last test, due to bad weather conditions. Many of the cars bypassed the route altogether and went via highways directly to St. Moritz. Chris and Jeff were not alone in their decision. They spent their day working on the car all day, changing brake shoes and pads.
Tim and Willie have been sticking to the time trials and route book. Their car is running well and they have been chipping away at their ranking. Currently they are placed at 23rd overall and 11th in class. Aside from some marital difficulties due to Willie's stress related drinking, they have been getting on well.
They were greeted by a warm reception of waving rally fans upon their arrival in St Moritz, including Jeff and Chris.
Day Thirty Two
July 13th 2016 - Update
Ljubljana to San Martino di Castrozza
Ciao Italia! The '57 Chevy smoked the first time trial of the day,
. The extreme descent of the mountain pass, proved to be too much of a challenge for the fragile drum brakes. The brake linings melted, causing so much smoke, they thought they were on fire. Fortunately they were not. After a consultation with the RPS mechanic, Simon, they were advised to stay on the highways and go straight to St. Moritz. Surprisingly, the guys decided to take the adult and conservative approach and follow Simon's advice.
Chris and Jeff just want to get to Paris. The mechanics' consensus is that the brakes are okay, but not reliable on steep descents. They will decide tomorrow whether they will go on the main highways to Lausanne, or just drive on to Reims and wait for the others to catch up. Organizers say there are about 20 rally cars waiting in Reims, so they can do the final drive to Paris on Sunday.
The '38 Chevy was able to complete all six time trials today, but not without challenges. Tim said today was extremely tough. The route book took them through endless mountain passes and winding descending roads. They ended up driving through such heavy rain and fog, that they could hardly see two feet in front of them. By the time they reached San Martino di Castrozza, Tim was so stressed that he needed a massage to help relieve his aching arms and legs. We also heard that Willie was so tense that he had three martinis and a bottle of wine at dinner. Even for Willie that is a lot.
The highlight of the day for Jeff and Chris was they stopped in Austria on the way to Switzerland and enjoyed a delicious Wiener schnitzel lunch. Once they were back on the road, it was a slow ride in. In fact, it started snowing about 20km outside of St. Moritz. With no defroster, not so great windshield wipers, and questionable brakes - they crawled in driving about 5 mph. When they finally arrived at the hotel, they gave a huge sigh of relief and hit the bar. The forecast for tomorrow is for more snow, so that should make things interesting for the rest of the tired cars.
Day Thirty One
July 12th 2016 - Update
Maribor - Ljubljana
Today was sweltering hot with temperatures reaching 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The guys were feeling the heat driving 373 km to Ljubljana. The ERA had planned five time trials and one circuit test throughout the day. The route took them through the mountains of Slovenia and each time trial was a stretch of closed off mountain roads where they started and finished. Knowing there would be no oncoming traffic, cars drove as fast as they could on one car wide lanes. Most of the tests were quite difficult, with one that was held at a track. This was a favorite by many, because when they finished that trial there was a nice lunch available where they could watch the other cars complete their tests.
Our cars seemed to have a good day, however this could not be said for everyone. There were lots of crashes and car '91 was almost tagged by a tractor while at a full stop. Chris mentioned that they were driving down the highway, when Jeff faded away for a moment and slammed on the brakes to make a turn - demonstrating that their brake repairs were working like a charm. For two of the Bentleys, it was not such a good day. One came upon a hairpin curve, slammed on the brakes and crashed into something. The second one ended up rolling down a hill. The crash required an ambulance for the injured driver. Fortunately his co-driver was unhurt. This all happened during the last trial of the day, so they ended up cancelling that test for the unfinished cars and asked the drivers to find their way to the finish.
There was an incident with the Italians while they were being diverted. Jeff said that the cars were lined up waiting on the emergency vehicles and Chris was out of the car looking to see what was going on. After quite some time, the drivers were alerted of the situation and were asked to turn around. There were some impatient drivers in front of them, who tried to immediately whip around and push their way past our guys and the other vehicles. Chris told them to back off and wait their turn. The angry Italian team gestured rudely, shouting "Vaffanculo!"
Tomorrow they are on to Italy and will have another six time trials.
July 11th 2016 - Update
Budapest to Maribor
Four weeks, 11,500 km down, and Paris is in sight with only 2300 km to go. Today was the hottest day yet and the guys were feeling pretty worn out. In the first time trial today, Tim and Willie lost their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gears - leaving them stuck in 4th. They were able to nurse the car to Maribor, by riding the brake and clutch the remaining 200 km. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Well it was until they reached the small city of Maribor and had to maintain that speed without stopping. Tim skillfully zig-zagged through the streets, ran red lights, jumped curbs, drove on sidewalks; all the while, pedestrians running and jumping for cover. He didn't come to a full stop until he reached the hotel. Jeff and Chris were able to complete the time trials and make it to Maribor without any hiccups or wreaking any havoc.
Tonight they spend the night in the old city of Maribor, the second largest in Slovenia. With the long night of car repairs, they had no time to explore or enjoy a relaxing dinner. However, Tim managed to find time for a photo op with some adoring fans.
Chris and Jeff only had to contend with broken brake lights on the '57, so their repairs were minor. On the other hand, the '38 would require a full team effort to figure out how they would replace the gearbox. Tim thought that this was the end of the road. Luckily, another team had ordered an extra transmission and offered it up to our guys. Tim and Willie's prayers to the rally gods paid off and hopefully it will be smooth sailing the next six days of hard driving.
Tomorrow will be a relatively short, but mountainous run, from Maribor to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana
Day Twenty Nine
July 10th 2016 - Update
Budapest - Rest day
The guys woke up early to a beautiful sunny day. It certainly would have made for great sightseeing weather for all that Budapest has to offer. Instead it turned out to be a long hot "repair" day, with little time for rest. This is the last break going into the final stretch to Paris, so our teams took the opportunity to spend 13 hours tuning up the cars.
The day began at 6:00 am for Chris, Jeff, and Tim; catching a taxi to the car park area a few kilometers away. They started off by cleaning up the '38 Chevy, adjusting the brakes and tuning up the suspension. The '57 Chevy needed much more work. They started by tuning it up, changing the front shocks, replacing and adjusting the brake lines and realigning the wheels. Jeff then took it out for a 2-hour test drive around the city. Fingers crossed, all is fixed.
The highlight of the day was at Pampas Argentin Steakhouse where they enjoyed an immensely satisfying meal, spectacular wine and great company. Jeff, Chris, Tim and Willie were finally able to relax and unwind.
Tomorrow they will start their final week by heading off to Maribor, Slovenia. It is hard to believe they have been on this journey for four weeks already. This week is the finishing tract and sure to be exciting. Rumor has it that both the rally-organized hotels for tomorrow night have been flooded by a freak storm, so things could be interesting.
Day Twenty Eight
July 9th 2016 - Update
Kosice to Budapest
Today our cars drove 380 km from Kosice, Slovakia to Budapest, Hungary. The day was sunny as they passed through magnificent countryside, with sunflowers lining the fields in full bloom. In contrast, the time routes were heavily wooded, narrow, with broken tracks. While driving through the forest, the trees were so dense it was as dark as night, yet only 2:00 in the afternoon.
There were four fast time tests, two in each country. Tim and Willie passed a few cars during the trials, putting them in a strong position of 24th overall and 11th in class. Jeff and Chris completed the tests, but were careful to keep steady, as they are still battling with the master brake cylinder pulling the car to the left. Tomorrow's rest day will be timely, and they will make use of the opportunity to fix the brake issue and front right shock. In the meantime, they are holding their place at 31st overall and 3rd in class.
It sounds like there were many breakdowns again. I suspect we will be seeing more of this as the rally nears the end. We heard another Ford escort had a car fire today. There were a lot of teams struggling with navigational issues, including our '38 Chevy. You can see Willie's confusion, trying to explain to Tim where it went awry.
Tim mentioned that people were cheering and waving as the cars arrived. There were a lot of children in the group excited to see the cars, so he flashed his lights and honked the horn for them. The kids really seemed to get a kick out of that. Jeff and Chris, not so much.
The hotel that the rally drivers are staying at was about two kilometers from the parking lot, and there is only one shuttle to get (Tim's exaggerated estimate of 300 people) from the cars to the hotel. A time to have patience...
It was a beautiful night in Budapest, and the guys decided to pass on the rally buffet, and instead ventured out to satisfy their hamburger craving at Jack's burger. While it was mediocre, they guys claimed it was the best they have had since they left the States.
If you are interested in opening your own Jack's Burger franchise, below is language directly from their website:
JACK'S FRANCHISE: Tremendous opportunities - sure success! Everyone can open Jack's burger business who are dedicated enough to feel the strict observance of the network and the quality requirements at all times maintain and acquire the franchise rights and the development of commercial space has enough of pumpkin.
Day Twenty Seven
July 8th 2016 - Update
Rzeszow to Kosice
This morning started much earlier for Chris and Jeff than they had hoped. The fire alarm went off at 2:00 am requiring everyone to be evacuated from the hotel. Unfortunately when they finally returned to their rooms 30 minutes later, neither could get back to sleep. Today the guys kicked off the European Cup leg of the rally, driving right through from Poland to Slovakia. The guys are happy to be in the EU with no more tedious border crossings.
There were four time trials today, two in Poland this morning and two in Slovakia this afternoon. The police cleared the routes for all the test runs, so they were the only ones on the roads. They drove 320 kilometers through beautiful countryside that reminded Tim of growing up near the North Georgia mountains.
The competition is heating up as the Australian Mustang overshot a bend and rolled 15 meters down a bank into a forest. Fortunately everyone is okay but the car may be out. Also, one of the British Ford Escorts rolled on the stage, hit a tree and caught fire. Both the Escort and Mustang were in the top ten from the start of the rally.
Both our cars ran well today. The '38 Chevy still has a leaky radiator, but oddly enough adding the pepper is controlling it. Chris changed the tire on the '57 Chevy and hopes this will hold until Budapest. The last session of the afternoon finished in Kosice where there was another great welcome in the old market square. The streets were lined with lots of people at the finish line.
Each of our teams stayed at different hotels. Tim and Willie had the hotel buffet dinner, while Jeff and Chris ate at their hotel's restaurant. We hear the buffet consisted of boiled chicken chunks, white gravy, steamed cauliflower, broccoli, and pasta with nothing to put on it. We were thinking that they definitely picked the short end of the stick, until we heard about the hotel restaurant offerings. Let's just say that "Angry Pasta", "Undesirable Cut of Beef", and "Buffalo Mozzarella made with Buffalo Milk" left something to be desired all on its own.
Tomorrow the guys head to Budapest and then will have their last rest day before Paris.
Day Twenty Six
July 7th 2016 - Update
Brest to Rzeszow
A dreary day ushered our guys out of Brest early this morning. They were all too happy to wake up early and depart the dreadful hotel. The day was set to be a transitional day with much ground to cover and a border crossing to contend with.
The border was right outside of town, where they arrived to find a dedicated queue for the rally cars. The ERA had their own local staff on hand to guide the process and when they were asked to be patient, our drivers knew it would be a long haul. So they were "5 hours" patient, as they surrendered to paperwork and car checks going out of Belarus and again going into Poland. Fortunately, this gave Willie another chance to nap.
Finally through the tedious border crossing process, the reality sunk in that they still had another 330 kilometers to go. Skirting the southeast corner of Poland was a long and tedious drive on many narrow roads, small towns, and villages. It seemed quite cold and rainy for the middle of the summer.
Upon arriving in Rzeszow, Jeff greeted them with arms full of engine parts and boxes of muesli bars. He noted how the three drivers looked a little more haggard than when he left them in China. Chris, Tim and Willie had many funny stories to catch Jeff up on, so they found a bar nearby and settled in. After hearing ad nauseam about the marginal buffet offerings, Jeff surprised them with a tasty dinner at a place he had staked out earlier that day.
Tomorrow will be an early start to work on their cars before departing to another border crossing from Poland into Slovakia. For the first time in 23 days, Chris will not be getting behind the wheel.
Day Twenty Five
July 6th 2016 - Update
Minsk to Brest
Car '91 said thank you and goodbye to Charles Cook this morning. He flew back to the UK to pick up his own car in hopes of rejoining the rally in Budapest. His exemplary navigational skills through Russia allowed Chris to focus on the driving. Today, Chris was both driver and navigator and will be so tomorrow. Jeff is in Poland waiting to rejoin his teammate in Rzeszow and Chris will certainly be thrilled to hold only one of those roles.
It was a beautiful day in Belarus, driving through picturesque farmlands and small villages. The police closed the roads for the rally drivers to pass through, eliminating traffic. Both cars performed well in the time trials until Tim cracked his fuel tank. They drained it down and plan to operate on the secondary. Fortunately, they will not need the back up tank in the land of gas stations.
Tim was so tired after driving all day and then dealing with his leaking fuel tank, he just wanted to eat dinner and go to bed. A persistent Belarusian hassled him in the parking lot, wanting to see the engine of the '38. Chris related how Tim lost his patience with the annoying fellow and sought out the local police to deal with the matter. Hopefully his car is there in the morning.
Pulling up to their "1-star hotel" in Brest, the guys decided this was their worst hotel yet. They wandered around aimlessly in the dark hallways looking for their rooms, as the hallways had no lights. They reported that the carpeting is about 50 years old and the sheets are like burlap. This left them longing for their clean sleeping bags left behind in Mongolia.
The guys proclaimed they were unable to face another rally buffet, so adjourned to the bar for some pub food and a beer. As they retired to their rooms for the night, they passed through the lobby to see them setting up the breakfast buffet for the morning. Oh well.
The guys will get a break tomorrow with a later start time. There will be a short drive time with 315 km but they expect a longer border crossing from Belarus to Poland. Goodbye Charles, hello Jeff!
Day Twenty Four
July 5th 2016 - Update
Smolensk to Minsk
Three countries down, eight more to go. The guys were thankful to leave Russia after 13 long days driving across the immense country. It was a very long day, with over 14 hours on the road, and 600 kilometers covered. The upside was that the border crossing was simple; all they had to do was drive politely through the border while obeying their traffic and speed laws. Unlike the lenient Russian police, the drivers were warned that Belarus authorities would not be so tolerant.
All the drivers regrouped a few kilometers down the road for the actual start of the day. The cars were lined up along a dirt road where they were sent off at intervals. The guys noticed quite a change between Russia and Belarus. The roads were good and well kept, the country villages were as poor as in Russia but they seemed to be well kept. The houses and gardens looked nice and overall, everything looked much cleaner. The rest of the morning, they passed through villages, again full of people taking photographs and waving to the drivers. At lunch, all the cars parked in a town square, where they received a warm welcome and people milled around, admiring the cars.
The afternoon was busy with four time trials that took place in local forests. Each of the trials was closed off with a standing start and stop, on gravel and sand roads. They were all about 10 kilometers. Tim and Willie tore it up, while Chris and Charles completed them conservatively.
When they finally came out of the woods at 5:30 pm, the cars all headed to Minsk. This was another 150 km drive but on good roads. When arriving in Minsk our drivers were surprised at how big and modern Minsk was. It was interesting because it looked prosperous and modern but in-between the lines you could still see a lot of poverty.
Both cars held up well. In fact, Tim happened to be telling someone about his problem with the radiator and that he had not been able to track down the leak. The person suggested that Tim add pepper. Tim went back to the restaurant and collected packets of pepper and added it to the radiator and lo and behold, the pepper seemed to correct the problem - or at least slowed the leak!
They were happy to be staying at a Renaissance Hotel where they had AC, a bar and a comfortable bed. Tomorrow when they go to Brest, the hotel may be quite different. Charles will be leaving Chris in the morning to head back to the UK to get his rally car and hopes to meet back up with everyone in Budapest. Tomorrow will leave one more night in Belarus, then off to Poland where Jeff will be re-joining Chris.
Day Twenty Three
July 4th 2016 - Update
Zavidovo to Smolensk
Our drivers had an early start in order to work on their cars before hitting the road. After yesterday's clutch issues, Chris was frustrated to wake up to a flat tire on the '57. Fortunately he had time to get it sorted out, but could not help wonder what the day would hold. Aside from having to top off the water to the radiator of the '38 every couple hours, Tim was in good shape.
The morning started out clear and hot but the forecast called for heavy thunderstorms. After the start, they drove about 85 km to the first stop - the Moscow Grand Prix circuit. It was a nice track where the drivers were asked to complete three full speed laps. Then back to the main road and some side roads on the way to an afternoon time control. The skies quickly became dark and they found themselves in the middle of heavy rain, thunderstorms, and lightning. The drive became even longer, however it did help to cool things off.
When arriving to the time control, they were informed that the planned off-road time trial section had been canceled because of washed-out roads. The navigators got new route instructions with the next stop now at the Smolensk Ring. Much different than the Moscow Grand Prix, this was a small and very well kept racing circuit. Again, they were asked to drive three laps at full speed. It was a quick in and out, then back to the main road to Smolensk.
One of the oldest Russian cities on record, Smolensk was destroyed several times throughout its long history because it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. This last night in Russia, the rally organizers had the teams spread throughout this historic city in four different hotels. Fortunately both our teams ended up at the same hotel and were able to grab dinner together. Chris was looking forward to a real meal after the Kit Kat and pretzels he had for dinner the night before.
According to the guys, after thirteen long days of crossing Russia, they are ready to move on from the sketchy Russian hotels and are looking forward to crossing the border into Belarus tomorrow. From what we know there are 97 cars still on the road, which means about ten have dropped out.
Day Twenty Two
July 3rd 2016 - Update
Nizhny Novgorod to Zavidovo
It was another long and hot day in Russia, driving 610 kilometers and with many special competitions. First was an early departure from the hotel with a 36 km run to a local racing and testing circuit, the NRing. The circuit was the place where the rally clock started for the day so the guys arrived early to receive the changes to the route book.
The 38' performed well in the first challenge racing around the tarmac. However, the '57 had a frozen release bearing and blew the clutch. Chris and Charles spent the next 4 hours at the race shop attached to the track working to get this fixed. This set them back markedly for the day, in more ways than one.
While two of our drivers were left behind, Tim and Willie and the rest of the rally cars were directed immediately thereafter to a small test circuit with some very narrow and rusty barriers on the outside. Upon their arrival for the next two tests an enormous thunderstorm exploded and rain pelted down on them while they were doing the trials.
Much of the rest of the day was spent driving through beautiful scenery, and unfortunately some significant traffic, as they drew closer to the newly built resort area of Zavidovo. It is located near a river and some lakes and appears to be a locale where young affluent Russian families stay for their holidays. It is a shame that our teams arrived so late and they did not get to enjoy the nice spot. Chris and Charles ended up rolling in after midnight, so with a 5:00 am car repair the next morning, it will be just enough time for a little nap.
Tomorrow is another long day with a circuit test on the Moscow circuit. While not far from Moscow, they we will not be stopping there. Instead they will make their way to Smolensk, which will be their last night in Russia.
Day Twenty One
July 2nd 2016 - Update
Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod
It was a bit of a monotonous day with a lot of kilometers to cover and not much competition. Saturdays are busy days in Russia with many cars and trucks on the main roads, which made for interesting driving. The guys were expecting some trials but instead just had passage controls and one time control. The morning started very sunny and warm then became quite humid as the day went on. This was a big change from the cold and rain they experienced last week.
Fortunately the '38 Chevy ran well, even with the radiator still leaking. Tim has not been able to track down the leak, so he just added water every couple of hours. The engine mount that was welded yesterday held up well. Chris mentioned that the '57 did not feel like it was running as smoothly as in previous days so he would be up early to have it checked out before leaving tomorrow.
Upon their arrival in Nizhny Novgorod the drivers were treated to a tour of Victory Park, an open-air museum on the shores of the Volga River. The stadium was filled with a collection of Russian and Soviet weaponry, fighter jets and armored cars. There was an enormous crowd gathered to welcome the teams, and they were treated to some food and beverages.
They finished the day at the hotel where once again the parking lot was full of spectators milling around the cars. Much like the last few days, the guys commented on the oddness of their surroundings. There was an Irish restaurant that served sushi and a steak restaurant that did not have steak. The hotel had a strip club in it, and there was a massive statue of Lenin standing outside the entrance that overlooked the Volga River.
Tomorrow will be an early start, as they have to begin the rally at the Novgorod ring, approximately 40km outside the city. They will do a few fast laps on the circuit before moving on to their route. Then another long day to Zavidovo...
July 1st 2016 - Update
R&R Day - Kazan
For those out there who are thinking that R&R stands for rest and relaxation, you are mistaken. On this day it stands for rest and repair. It turns out that Tim and Willie did not arrive last night until after 11:00 pm, limping into Kazan at 20mph. Fortunately, the sweeper team followed behind to ensure they arrived safe and sound.
Chris and Tim were not the only drivers to hit the ground running this morning. They knew that the previous day's course had taken its toll on many of the rally cars, so garages around the city would be busy. The shop that was helping with the '38 Chevy did not have a new engine mount available, but they were able to make the existing mount work by welding and grounding it off to make it fit. They also repaired the radiator, plugs, and other odds and ends, to assure the car would be all set for tomorrow. Mission accomplished!
In the meantime, Chris managed to get the '57 Chevy sorted out with new tires, a wheel alignment, and a complete check over. Conveniently, their hotel and conference complex houses an underground garage and car cleaning service. Chris took the opportunity to get a thorough power shower and vacuum. Washing off the layers of dried mud must have taken some time. Both cars are ready to battle another day.
The hotel and conference center is described as a scene right out of Las Vegas. There are scads of stores attached, and even though Tim and Chris can't read Russian, they're pretty sure that they saw signs for a strip club and possibly a brothel.
Once again there were tons of tourists walking through the parking lot, admiring, asking questions, and taking picture of the cars. The guys said that the Russian people are tremendously friendly. The drivers are very humbled by the excitement that surrounds them and by being treated like rock stars.
The day ended with our appreciative drivers treating today's mechanics to a nice dinner. Tomorrow will be an early start heading off to Nizhny Novgorod. Rumor has it that from here forward, there will be daily time trials. Wishing our drivers a restful night's sleep.
June 30th 2016 - Update
Perm to Kazan
Overall, this was a long 680-kilometer "dirty day"! The roads were rough, muddy, and wet, which challenged our drivers throughout the 12-hour trek from Perm to Kazan. The '38 Chevy encountered some mechanical difficulties making for an even longer day - how much we are not exactly sure.
Today the drivers completed three time trials on dirt and mud tracks. Later in the afternoon, Chris and Charles came upon Tim and Willie who were having some mechanical issues. After following them for some time, they needed to gas up and make their way to the last test. Knowing there were rally mechanics not far behind, they left them with some water for their radiator.
The fourth test was on asphalt at the Kazan Ring, an actual Formula 1 racing facility where motorcycles would be competing later that evening. Balancing speed and safety were key to completing this trial successfully. Chris mentioned that practicing on Jeff's driving simulator came in handy as preparation and at one point he had Charles holding on with both hands. He drove well but said that he did not want to damage the car by pushing too hard; he would leave that one to Jeff.
As we already know the Russian police have taken a liking to the '38 Chevy Coupe. It seems that the '57 Chevy Bel Air is also a favorite car in the rally. The Russians like to call it the "Elvis Presley" car, frequently giving our drivers the thumbs up. While fueling up at a truck stop earlier, one of the fans requested to take a picture of his dog with the car. However the owner ended up having to join him for the photo because he kept growling at Chris. It was unclear if the dog did not like our driver or if he wanted him to share his "beef jerky".
The brutal conditions today left cars breaking down throughout the course. Chris seemed to think that Tim had broken another engine mount. An engine mount is the part that holds the engine to the body or to the sub-frame of the car. When there was no sign of Tim and Willie at dinner, Chris tracked down some of the mechanics and found out that the '38 also had a shot distributor. The one thing we know for sure is that tomorrow will not be a rest day but a "repair" day.
June 29th 2016 - Update
Yekaterinburg to Perm
The day began in Asia, and ended in Europe! A real milestone in the rally.
But the weather did not cooperate; rainy and cold conditions made the miles pass more slowly. There were no time trials, so it was just a matter of putting the miles on the cars, 485 kilometers to be exact. The roads varied from very good and smooth to very rough with potholes and winter damage. Crossing through the Urai Mountains was scenic with a striking contrast of the very green landscape to the grey cloudy skies.
Towards the end of the day, in the town of Chusovoy, the cars were guided to a small stadium where thousands of people crowded the stands; everyone was joking how the whole town must have taken the day off! The cars drove around the stadium as a loud announcer introduced each rally car and its drivers. After endless applause and cheering from the stands, each car was directed over a high ramp where they exited the stadium. The warm welcome helped dispel the chill of the day.
Tim is concerned about regulations published for the rally not being followed - Chris and Tim are all about the rules! The rules stipulate that each day, plastic tarps are to be placed under every car, to protect the pavement from any leakages. Those who are not doing this are supposed to be penalized, but that is not happening. Tim is bringing up this, and other rule violations, with the race organizers. Their concern is that rules should be applied consistently, with the stated rules being followed by all drivers.
Crossing the Ural Mountains into Europe marks the beginning of the second half of the journey. Tomorrow will be another long 650 km plus day with time trials and a speed section at the Kazan racetrack. The following day in Kazan will serve as another rest day and allow our teams to regroup and perform more lasting repairs to the cars.
On what was a long and grey day, both teams are steadily moving up:
Tim and Willie are 18/7
Chris and Charles are 22/1
June 28th 2016 - Update
Tyumen to Yekaterinburg
After two long days of driving in the rain, the guys were happy to finally have a pleasant ride through the countryside. The first trial of the day was canceled due to washed out roads. Instead they each had to drive an old rally cross circuit, where they were timed to complete 2 individual high-speed laps. Both Bodacious teams performed well.
The rest of the day was basically a direct run to Yekaterinburg with some diversions on back roads. Chris said that Charles is doing a great job navigating for car 91. However car 36 diverted off course a few times due to directional difficulties. For the second day in a row, Tim was delayed after being pulled over by the Russian police. The officer waved his stick directing him to the side of the road where once again there was a request for a picture with the car. We still have no photo evidence to show that this was the cause for their delay.
There was a three car head-on collision about 30 minutes prior to the rally cars passing. Chris said it was a bad accident that reminded him of the "crash cam videos" that Jeff had shared with him in advance of their trip. While the cars were demolished, everyone walked away unharmed.
Upon arriving in Yekaterinburg Chris found a problem with the front left tire. The wheel alignment was way off, there were loose wheel lug bolts, and they had to take the brakes apart. They will be making do with their spares, until they can buy two new tires.
Tomorrow there will be a longer run with some time trials to Perm.
June 27th 2016 - Update
Omsk to Tyumen
"Okay, rally teams, rise and shine, and don't forget your rain booties, because it's pouring out there today". It sure felt like "Groundhog Day" for the guys, driving another 670 kilometers in dreadful conditions. Both Tim and Chris said that today was long and tough, but still a good day. They have crossed into a different time zone - gaining an hour, and translating into sixty extra minutes of sleep. Yeah!
Upon leaving this morning, rumors were circulating that the Russian police were not too happy about some of the cars disobeying the rules of the road; speeding, overtaking other cars on solid lane roads, etc. It was just Tim's luck when he noticed lights and sirens behind him waving the car to pull over. Had he spoken too soon about the Russian people being so friendly? No, he was correct and the police officer had pulled him over to ask if he could get a picture with the car. I think Tim was so surprised he forgot to take advantage of the photo-op for us back here at home.
Tim's wife Peggy asked him again to take pictures, and he said...
• I don't keep my phone in my pocket while I'm driving, so I'd have to stop, get my phone, and take pictures.
• It's very hard to think about taking pictures all the time.
• It takes time to get Willie to pose for the pictures.
• And, okay, I'll try to take some pictures.
End result - still no pictures, not even of the Russian police officer in front of the '38.
Tomorrow should be an easier day with only 384 kilometers to Yekaterinburg. There is more rain in the forecast, but judging from the appearance of some of the cars, that might help to clean them up a bit.
June 26th 2016 - Update
Novosibirsk to Omsk
Today was the longest day yet, driving 680 kilometers. It rained so hard that many of the roads had flooded over, leaving the rally organizers with the decision to cancel the time trials and adjust the course to stick to the highway. Chris and Charles were lucky to find out early in the day that the trial was cancelled, allowing them to hightail it straight through to Omsk.
Tim commented on how friendly the Russians have been. Yesterday, after spending 13 hours at the radiator shop, one of the mechanic's wives brought Tim some black bread and jam. This time he thought it was better to not decline the offer. While the radiator is fixed in the '38, now they are dealing with other issues. The car is leaking oil from the crankcase. A few days back when they lost the cap, Tim stuffed a rag in it to stop any leaking. The rag is now saturated, so they will have to find another solution to stop the leak.
Tim reported that when they were in Novosibirsk, parts of the town reminded him of Chicago's Rush Street, with the men wearing gold chains, and the women in short skirts and very high heels. Memories of home - and the reminder that people are the same the world over.
Omsk is an industrial Siberian city, not the Riviera. Both the Irtysh and Ob Rivers offer river port facilities for passengers and freight, with barges transporting industrial product through the city and beyond. Omsk is also an important railway hub, serving as the junction point for the northern and southern branches of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Charles and Chris are getting along well, though there is both real and comedic tension between other drivers and navigators. One guy asked Chris if he had a gun. Laughing, Chris asked, "To shoot yourself?" The guy replied, "No to shoot my navigator." Things aren't probably that serious, but as they reach the mid-way point, with the endurance concept of the rally becoming abundantly clear, it's good to be able to laugh!
The cars continue to attract an audience, and the '57 Chevy is a crowd pleaser. Chris went down to check on the car after dinner, and some teenagers were checking out the cars. One asked if he could sit in the Chevy; Chris waved him on, and watched as the kid posed as his pals took his picture.
An hour earlier start tomorrow will allow for another 600-km+ day, and the ongoing time change means opportunity for additional sleep. Let's hope they can take advantage of it!
June 25th 2016 - Update
Novosibirsk - Rest Day
Much like the last layover, the guys knew they would be spending their time performing maintenance on the cars instead of sleeping. The commotion around their arrival the night before extended throughout the next day. The cars were lined up on display around the city center and children wanted autographs, pictures with the drivers and to sit in the cars. There was one incident when Chris was sitting in the '57 Chevy and a very big Russian fellow opened the door and sat in the passenger seat beside him. For what seemed to be about 5 minutes, he excitedly began chattering, laughing and high fiving Chris, who had no idea what he was saying and just nodded his head smiling. Finally, the friendly fan grabbed Chris's hand with both of his, eagerly shaking it and exited the car.
Tim seemed to be battling some stomach discomfort. Upon further investigation, Chris found out that he had been drinking the tap water since they entered Russia. He pointed out that he would be better off just drinking the vodka like Willie and that even the Russians don't drink the tap water. Adding to the to do list-- stock up on bottled water.
While both cars have held up exceptionally well, they did require some maintenance and repair. Tim ended up spending all day and into the night at the radiator shop, while they removed, repaired and replaced the radiator back in the '38. Chris spent all day tuning up the '57 and replacing spark plugs and adjusting brakes. Willie caught up on his rest and carried on "holding court" back at the hotel.
Overall, the teams are holding tight in the competition. In the '38, Tim and Willie are 20th overall and 9th in their class. Keeping the '57 in play for Jeff's return--Chris and Charles are 25th overall and 1st in their class.
It is another early start in the morning for a long trek across Siberia. There is supposed to be three time trials tomorrow, so our teams will be taking advantage of a good night's rest.
June 24th 2016 - Update
Aya to Novosibirsk
It was another long day for the guys, driving almost 600 kilometers. It helped that much the day was spent on somewhat decent highways. For good measure, the rally organizers threw in about 150 kilometers of dirt roads and forest. Both teams performed well in the time trial and are looking forward to a rest/maintenance day tomorrow.
Reflecting on the previous day, Tim mentioned how the welder had brought his wife and 2 kids along on the trailer with his welding equipment. Kindly, the wife set up a folding lawn chair for Tim to sit in. It was not long after declining her offer of cucumber soup, that she stunned him by sticking a spoonful in his mouth anyway! Funny, I can imagine Tim's wife Peggy doing the same thing to stifle Tim's endless joking.
In preparation for the trip, Jeff had brought along enough beef jerky to last them through the rally. According to our grateful drivers, this has come in quite handy.
Coincidentally, when they were crossing the border into Russia, the drug-sniffing dogs were alerted while inspecting the cars. The handler laughed when he saw the beef jerky, wagging his finger at the dog-Nyet, Nyet!
There was quite an impressive welcome as the rally paraded through Novosibirsk to the city square. People were very friendly, greeting the teams and admiring the cars. There were lots of pictures taken and autographs signed. After all the hoopla, the guys were happy to find their hotel, grab some dinner, and hit the hay.
June 23rd 2016 - Update
Altai Republic to Aya
In order to cover the many kilometers scheduled for the day, the organizers decided on a very early start of 7:00am. This was the last chilly morning that the guys would unzip their tents to the morning sun. Some of the teams were slow moving after the celebration the night before. There was a festival to celebrate the Rally coming through the town. Parents took pictures of their children with the cars and many of the drivers were even asked for autographs. Dancing and singing carried on into the night.
It was a scenic day, winding the mountain roads down into the valley. Much like Mongolia, wild horses, sheep and cows seem to run free range. The guys passed about 30 herds of cows, some blocking the middle of the road. You sure don't see that in Chicago.
Tim and Willie nailed the three time trials, finishing strong. This was despite the fact that the clutch on the '38 was popping out of gear and they were forced to nurse it throughout the day. Upon arriving in the tourist destination of Aya for the night, they jacked up the car and found a broken motor mount. Two Rally mechanics worked alongside some Russian mechanics to weld it back together.
Chris was set back for the day after suffering a punctured tire. The welding of the cracked suspension mount the night before did not exactly hold and both leaf springs broke. Once again, he spent the evening working with mechanics welding it in place.
Everyone was happy to leave camping behind and looking forward to sleeping in a hotel. It did not matter that there was no air conditioning or fans. Hot showers and real beds could not come soon enough for Chris and Willie. However, our unofficial "diplomat" Tim decided to wander around looking for a place to grab a beer. Surely there will be stories to follow.
Tomorrow is another long day with some off-road sections, and then they'll have a day of rest.
What a great adventure!
June 22nd 2016 - Update
Olgiy to Altai Republic
Waking to the freezing cold should have been a clear sign of another tough day to come. Before leaving camp, Chris had the opportunity to pass on some news. A nice chap named Charles will tag on with him, until Jeff can re-join the competition. This is very timely, as they are back to using the route book and this would be quite challenging for a solo driver. Unfortunately, Charles is available because his car rolled the previous day.
Tim described the Mongolian roads as brutal and today was no different. Two more cars rolled and were crushed. Twelve vehicles were loaded on trucks and towed, and our guys have been running on little sleep. They have been repairing their cars until 1:00 am for the last 4 nights. While crossing the border, Willie did have the opportunity to catch up on his sleep while waiting for 7 hours to clear customs.
Once in Russia, they set up camp near Kosh Agach, a small community with a population of approximately 20,000 people. It was apparently something to see, rally cars spread throughout town in workshop facilities and makeshift shacks. The locals worked side by side with rally teams into the night, trying to repair the damage from the past 8 days, driving across Mongolia. Both our cars were in need of some serious TLC. The '38 radiator was still leaking, the carburetor was fouling plugs and the transmission was acting up. While inspecting the '57, Chris found a cracked suspension mount and had to head to a welder in town for assistance. There definitely is a reason they call this an "Endurance Rally."
Most importantly, our teams are safe, holding their own and still having a great time.
Days Nine & Ten
June 20th & 21st 2016 - Update
Uliastai to Chjargas Lake & Chjargas Lake to Olgiy
Cellular reception in the mountains of Mongolia has been nonexistent for the last few days. However, our charmed Chris managed to plan ahead by writing up a text, hoping for the rare occasion of securing a cellular signal. Lucky for us, a bar appeared. Both cars had a good day on the 20th, despite awakening to the pouring rain. The '57 Chevy was in good shape considering the rugged terrain. On the other hand, Tim and Willie did have a clutch and radiator issue with the '38. It was a late night for the three amigos, pitching in and fixing the car for the next morning. It really is not a big surprise that the car was damaged; after all, Tim and Willie had kindly pulled two cars out of the sand earlier that day. Later in the evening, a band of drunken Mongolians showed up at the campsite causing trouble. Our own Mongolian Nomads (that help the rally participants set up camp) took matters into their own hands, and schooled the young locals, leaving them to cower away with fewer teeth than they had started with.
It was a bittersweet morning for the guys leaving the picturesque lake, curious where the day ahead would take them. Our teams were feeling good early on, starting the day with what appeared to be an effortless trek. Unlike previous days of driving without seeing another soul, the checkpoints took them through villages where locals lined the streets waving and cheering them on. However, don't be fooled into thinking that the guys got off easy. As the afternoon progressed, many cars incurred significant damages, several cars even rolling. Late in the day, Tim and Willie pulled off the road believing they had blown the engine. Fortunately for them, a couple neighborly Russians stopped and towed them the last 50 kilometers into camp. Tim is now unofficially handling all Russian diplomatic affairs.
This will be the last night of camping in scenic Mongolia as the rally takes them across the border into the beautiful mountains of Altai Russia. Both cars and drivers appear to be holding up well. Hopefully cellular service will improve so we can hear more stories of their incredible adventure.
Days Seven & Eight
June 18th & 19th 2016 - Update
Bulgan to Murun & Murun to Uliastai
Without cellular reception in Murun yesterday, they had to wait until they reached Uliastai today to check in. In the middle of nowhere, Chris could not believe there was service, but lucky for us there was. The organizers brought petrol trucks to the camp so the cars could fill up for the next day. While sitting in line behind 20 other cars, Chris managed to get a call off to update us on the last 48 hours. Hungry and tired, he chomped on some beef jerky. His forward thinking teammate Jeff had brought plenty along for the trip. Hopefully Chris will not eat it all before Jeff's return. The guys were happy to hear that Jeff and Gaye departed China and arrived back in Chicago safe and sound.
Saturday was smooth sailing, both teams driving well in the time trials. The long stretches of highway and gravel dirt roads left the guys tired, hungry, wanting to pitch their tents, and ready to grab some shuteye. Of course none of this would happen until they spent all evening carrying out the necessary maintenance on their cars. Chris mentioned that many of the vehicles were banged up and Tim was a little grumpy after battling carburetor issues on the '38.
One might think that tent camping in the desert does not make for ideal sleeping conditions, but this could not be further from the truth. Our wearied drivers all slept like logs, refreshed and ready for a full day of driving ahead of them. Little did they know, just how long the day ahead would be. The Saturday rain left such challenging road conditions that the time trials were cancelled for the day. It was a tough nine hours of straight driving through washed out roads, overflowing rivers and rugged gravel.
Tim pushed hard throughout the day, hoping to make it to camp early. He put his foot down and successfully arrived 2nd in for the day. After a long day of being tossed around on the brutal roads, many drivers found themselves piecing their battered cars back together. Chris had to pull gravel from the '57 clutch. He also found that one of the fog lights had fallen off, likely rattling loose from the harsh conditions.
After three days of rain, dust, mud, dirt and gravel, even a cold shower felt good. Little did they know that if they waited until morning they could have just stood outside in the pouring rain. It seem that more of the same is in store for our drivers as they make their way to Chjargas Lake.
June 17th 2016 - Update
Ulaan Baatar to Bulgan
What a difference a day makes... While the guys found themselves working most of their "rest" day yesterday, they certainly did make the most of their last night of slumber in a real bed. I think I heard that they slept somewhere in the vicinity of 15 hours, or maybe that was just Tim.
All the cars congregated in the city square this morning, awaiting the start. The crowds and reporters milled around, admiring the cars, and talking to the drivers. You could feel the underlying excitement to hit the open road again. It appears the challenging desert terrain has our guys hooked.
Chris called at the end of the race claiming to be tearing up the track or something along those lines, as he passed Tim and Willie to get to the petrol station ahead of them. Turns out he still ended up waiting in a line of cars before they all set out to camp under the stars. It seems that both cars prevailed the rough desert roads. Aside from a loose exhaust, car 91 held up well. However, Tim said that it was a tough day for the '38. At one point yesterday, they stopped for an hour to work on the car, and then last night they were up until 11:00 working on it some more. He also said that the leaf springs slipped again, so they will really have to watch that.
They all agreed that the scenery was spectacular and really enjoyed the day. Not seeing anyone for miles is not for everyone, but clearly works for our teams and we know it definitely works for our solo driver of car 91. They've seen numerous horses, cows, and sheep; at one point they had to wait about 20 minutes for the animals to get out of the road.
The day ended up being a great day for both our teams, each team doing well in the time trials. From what I understand, the time trails are a set course that has been laid out where you go as fast as you can and as slow as you dare. The challenge is finding the right speed to maneuver the extremely bumpy tracks, rocks and dry riverbeds. You can see by the picture of the red Ford Capri, that rolling your car is definitely "not how to do it." Both cars are holding their place in the rally with #36 holding position 26th overall, 13th in class and #91 holding position 27th overall, 1st in class. Way to go guys!
June 16th 2016 - Update
Rest Day - Ulaan Baatar
Today was a "work on your car/rest day". Chris and Tim spent about 7 hours on the cars today. Tim was quite surprised when he thought he was only jacking up the 38 to check for loose stuff and to grease it, but found one of the rear leaf springs screwed up. Half the leaves had slipped sideways about 30 degrees. It's a wonder they didn't shred one of the tires. They used two pry bars and a sledgehammer to knock them back in line. They are not sure when it happened because the car felt fine driving. They will have to watch for that in the future after any hard hits. Tim also found the 38 radiator leaking. He put some "Leak Stop" in it and will hope for the best. The gauge panel also came loose from the dash but he found some bigger screws and he doesn't think it will come loose again. The oil filler cap on the 38 has disappeared so Tim cleverly decided to tape a shop rag over the hole until he can find a new cap.
The 57 Chevy appears to be holding up well aside from the flat tire. They found one missing bolt on the port side exhaust manifold and have replaced it. There were also a couple of loose bolts on the front fenders, but that's about all. Navigating by himself, Chris has zip tied the Garmin to the Go Pro holder so it can be closer to him on the driver side of the car. He says the 57 just cruises across the desert and is handling the terrain well. Chris did manage to find a replacement tire in Ulaan Bataar, however he did have a bit of trouble because it is a 15" rim and most of the tires at the stores are for 16" rims. Tim spoke with Simon from RPS about experimenting with a lift kit to see if they could get 16" rims to fit. Simon thought that maybe a lift kit of about 1.5", max 2", might work, but he wouldn't want to go any higher than that. Not a big deal. It might just have been the store Chris was at. Usually 15" tires are readily available. We could always stage some tires in future rallies. That's what the Escort guys did because they have 13" rims.
So the guys are off tomorrow morning at 0630 for six more days of camping. They think it is time to slow down a bit and save the cars. They hear that the terrain is going to be even rougher. Internet service may be sketchy for the next week but we will try to get more information from the teams to keep the updates coming. The "Three Amigos" are sending good Karma to Gaye and looking forward to meeting Jeff back in Russia.
Good-bye beds, hello sleeping bags!
June 15th 2016 - Update
Undurshireet to Ulaan Baatar
The guys survived their first night of camping in Mongolia. However, restless Willie kept waking Chris up throughout the night, pacing around. It could not have been too bad because Tim slept right through, tired from a full day of driving. Tim did awake to a broken zipper on his sleeping bag leaving him stuck, struggling to free himself. It did make for some funny banter this morning.
At the beginning of the first time trial, one of the cars lost their spare wheel and both Bodacious cars left the course in pursuit. Once apprehended, they strapped it to the top of the Fangio Coupe and returned it to its appreciative owner. Aren't they good guys...
Mid way through the day, Tim and Willie circled back after they saw Chris blow a tire on the 57 Chevy. They were able to get him up and running quickly, but Chris will be spending his "rest" day tomorrow in search of a new tire in Ulaan Bataar.
Because of very rough off-road terrain, many of the cars experienced damages, turning everyone's "rest" day into a Mongolian mechanic meet and greet.
June 14th 2016 - Update
Erenhot to Undurshireet
Good bye China and Jeff, hello Mongolia... Border crossing leaving China into Mongolia was a chaotic 4.5 hour process, but both our teams made it through and there is no turning back now.
Jeff ended up having to leave the rally in Erenhot to head back to Beijing to see his wife, who suffered a traumatic ankle break. While Jeff is getting Gaye back to the US for surgery, Chris will be driving car 91 solo - even more of an endurance challenge! Jeff plans to rejoin the rally in Nizhy Novgorod.
Driving through the desert, the guys were pleasantly surprised by more herds of wild horses, sheep and camels. The day of driving went well for our cars, however lots of teams suffered damages with their first taste of the desert.
Everyone was quite tired at the end of the day and ready for their first night of desert camping. Apparently it was pretty comical watching everyone set up their campsites with air mattresses and tents blowing everywhere. They definitely were ready for a much-deserved cocktail while they watched the sunset, admiring the beauty of their surroundings.
June 13th 2016 - Update
Datong to Erenhot
The guys left the hotel this morning after a nice shower and bed, knowing by nightfall they would be right into the heart of Inner Mongolia and looking forward to a night of tents and warm sleeping bags. The weather was much cooler than it was yesterday and it ended up raining on and off all day in what is supposed to be the driest parts of the world.
The 1957 Chevy seems to be getting lots of attention from the locals; even the panda's like it. Jeff and Chris in car #91 had a smooth and uneventful day as they navigated through the countryside, expressways and narrow country roads. The excitement for the day was when they almost hit a herd of wild horses running across the highway. Other than that it was a full day of driving and avoiding sheep and horses.
Aside from occasionally getting lost, Tim and Willie in car #36 had a great day. However they did end up with a bad tank of gas and burnt out all their spark plugs. As always, Tim was all over it and they are ready to roll.
Hoping they have network coverage there in the Gobi Desert so we can hear how they survived their first night of camping.
June 12th 2016 - Update
And they're off!
The Peking to Paris rally cars left the ShangriLa Hotel in Beijing at various times very early Sunday morning, heading to the Great Wall. Last minute adjustments were made in the parking area at Juyong Guan gate, then cars began lining up by their assigned numbers. At 8 a.m., the first car started, followed every 30 seconds by the next. As the early numbered cars roared down the road, those assigned later numbers continued to answer questions of onlookers as their cars posed for pictures.
Car #91 started at 8:47 - through the start gate, clearing the checkpoint, then down the road, to drive 388 kilometers to Datong. A checkpoint found them at the Hanging Temple and the Huayan Monastery as they climbed the 3,500 or so elevation to tonight's stop. Jeff reported in that the brakes were still challenging them, and that the brake lights weren't working, but that all else was well and they were working things through.
Arrival in Datong Sunday evening meant time working on the brakes. Chris was able to rewire the brake lights to get them working, and they adjusted the brakes. Tomorrow will tell if the adjustment made things better, as they head off on Day 2 - to Erenhot, located on the Sino-Mongolian border in the Gobi Desert.
Car #36 started at 8:27 - they had a great first day, despite finding themselves enjoying the off-route Chinese countryside-meandering a little from the tulip book directions. Electrical problems meant that once they finished in Datong, they had to spend some time securing and replacing the alternator. All is good and they are set to go for Day 2, wondering if this will mean any additional scenic detours! On to Erenhot!
June 11th 2016 - Update
Another prep day! Car #91 was unpacked and then carefully repacked, with both Jeff and Chris taking note of where all of the critical gear was going. Since gear ranges from a tire iron to toilet paper to beef jerky to sleeping bags, that was no small feat!
Chris spent time rigging up the dashboard camera to be able to record scenes from the rally, and Jeff made sure the iPod was connecting to the speakers. The stopwatches were mounted, and Nigel from GaugePilot ran them through the workings of the new rally computer.
After a morning of standing in the hot Beijing sunshine, the car was checked by the rally scrutineers. Their job is to ensure the car is following the rules laid out for it, all parts were working, and that the team is carrying the necessary safety and first-aid equipment. Everything checked out, so both teams moved in to the air-conditioned hotel for lunch and cool drinks.
Tulip books (the book of driving instruction, broken down into each day's drive by each turn on the route to be followed) were handed out, along with name badges which will be worn daily and used to identify drivers as cars move through rally checkpoints. Then the rally briefing began at 3 p.m., with a general overview of what the rally holds, reminders on rules and safety, and encouragement for the challenge ahead.
So an early night for all; Chris and Jeff plan to pull out in car #91 Sunday morning at 6:15, to join the conga line of cars heading to the Great Wall for the start. And that will be the update for tomorrow!
June 10th 2016 - Update
The teams obtained their Chinese driver's licenses today, and headed to the warehouse to pick up their cars. Chris and Jeff found the '57 Chevy packed not only full of their own gear, but also various parts from other competitors' cars - with so much room in the car, RPS decided to make the most of it as a shipping container!
Unfortunately, once Chris and Jeff started driving, it became quickly apparent there was something wrong with the brakes. Upon braking, the car pulled sharply to the left. Clearly they couldn't drive the car on the entire rally like this.
Once at the Hotel Shangrai-La, which is serving as base camp in Beijing, the mechanics were called in. All afternoon, under the broiling sun, Chris and Jeff worked with Martin from RPS to resolve the brake issue. Brake shoes were replaced, adjustments made, test drives taken-- with no resolution. Others were called in, and eventually, around 10 p.m., word was carried that the problem seems to be solved. Test driving in the morning will prove that one way or the other.
So a quick dinner, and off to some rest. Tomorrow is scrutineering and ensuring all paperwork is in order, then packing the cars.