The Rally Begins
14 July 2012; 20:42
Well, we made it from Goodwood to the White Cliffs of Dover and aboard the ferry to Calais. Right now, I’m enjoying a nice break from driving listening to a healthy dose of 80’s hair metal ballads waiting to enter France. We just put the first miles of the Mongol Rally behind us, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Our lap around Goodwod was surprisingly fun, as the drivers decided to push the limits of our little adventure wagons. I don’t think we got below 40mph on the whole circuit (although we probably only got above 55 once). The Wiz, as we’ve affectionately dubbed our ‘black and yellow’ Ignis, made an admirabe effort, but at the end of the day, none of the teams are driving the kind of vehicles that would impress even the most generous of motoring fans.
We met a number of interesting characters at the launch, including one man driving solo in a Smart; he seemed to be a bit of a world traveler, so I expect he’ll make it just fine, though I know I’d be terrified. Then again, I don’t have any experience in this sort of thing, so I’m just hoping to compensate in the form of teammates.
I suppose talking about the individual members of the the Arkansas Chuggabugs can’t be avoided forever. Chase and I have always known that we’d get along just fine, but we’ve also long since come to terms with the fact that we’re not the organizational geniuses that this kind of undertaking demands. I also had an understanding that Michael and Alyx were pretty high strung, but I figured I could get around that since we needed some practical attitudes to make it all happen. Unfortunately, I may have underestimated the Little Rock duo’s tendency to get stressed out and overestimated their planning abilities.
I always planned on Alyx being a bit of a pain; even in the early stages she seemed to be a little too committed to her assumptions of how the trip would go; for example, she all but refused to come to Birmingham until the last minute, when she decided it would be too expensive to stay in London and impractical to meet up at Goodwood. Add to that her inability to function under the tiniest amount of stress and you get the full, disfunctional picture of the girl. We intended to find a decent breakfast before going to the motor circuit this morning, but, after five minutes of driving without seeing anything, without any warning, she changed her mind and was desperate to get to the motor circuit as quickly as possible. She also has no tolerance for being lost; Chase and I love the process of finding our way around since it affords us unique opportunities to discover hidden destinations we’d never otherwise see, but, as soon as we’re off our known route, she insists on stopping for directions (which just doesn’t seem very adventurous to me).
Chase reassured me many times that Michael would be like us, easygoing and not too concerned with precision in the process, so long as the end result was satisfactory. Much to my dismay, he’s turned out to be as bad as Alyx in terms of stress and adventure. He’s more open to other interpretations of the trip, but his sole focus is making his documentary, sometimes at the expense of experiencing the Rally (and as often as not, at the expense of the entire team experiencing the Rally). I realize that filmmaking is his passion and primary reason for joining the team, but I can’t imagine missing the greatest adventure of my life to be behind a camera.
Honestly, I know that we couldn’t be here without Alyx and Michael, but their fighting (the type of which that only happens between roommates) is bordering on distracting, and I’m debating whether or not to bring it up the next time it happens; my main hesitation is that I know we’re all under a lot of stress and we’ll all have points when we aren’t the most friendly. I had mine this morning, and, like everyone else, I got over it quickly enough. Those two just seem to have that problem more frequently than any other people I associate with. Ultimately, I feel like it’s all part of the learning process, and, like the flat tires, border problems, and navigational issues we’re about to face, it’s just another part of the grand experience.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my shoulders, it’s time to talk of happier things.
Today was easily the best day we’ve had driving thus far; Chase had the good sense to book us on a late ferry, so, instead of taking the quicker route along the M20, we took the A27 along the southern coast and got some magical views; between the hills and sea, we’ll have some irreplacable photos. We only got lost once, in the small town of Pevensie, where we took the A359 going the wrong direction. We stopped at the first pub we passed to ask directions, and, after telling the gentleman our ultimate destination, we were treated a storm of well-wishes be him an his friends; as it turns out, he works in visa servicing, was well aware of the details of the Rally, and was thrilled to have a chance to meet and talk to a team in person. Our spirits bolstered, we ‘buggered on.’
I did the driving for the day, and I’m very glad I did. There were more than a couple handfuls of times when there were less than six inches of clearance on either side of our car as we were sandwiched between oncoming traffic and vehicles parked on the sidewalk. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I cannot overstate the ‘do what you need to’ nature of driving in England. Now that we’re heading into the rest of Europe (where they drive on the right and correct side of the road), Chase and Michael will take over a larger portion of the driving, and we’ll be able to teach Alyx the finer points of driving stick in the countryside.
Again, I’m pleased as pie with our progress and the current position of the Chuggabugs. We’ll drive tonight into the wee hours of the morning and sleep indoors wth Chase’s brother in Brussels, and then continue on to the Czech Republic tomorrow and Monday. I know I’ve complained a lot (probably too much) about many things, but I wouldn’t change a thing about our trip. Tomorrow holds even more excitement and adventure, and I cannot remember a brighter horizon as I continue on the Mongol Rally.