Monday, July 31, 2006

Black Sea Convoy

Our intrepid Team's last report places them in convoy with several other teams on a southerly jaunt towards the Black Sea coast between Melitopol and Mariupol, in the general direction of Rostov-on-Don. Apparently, the clutch went out again, but was quickly fixed (such are the advantages of being in the middle of Lada-land).

UPDATE: I see that Melitopol and Mariupol are not on the Black Sea at all, but rather on the Sea of Azov. Apologies to all for the imprecision.

-- Cheburashka

Sunday, July 30, 2006

More Mechanical Mishaps

Latest report from the front:
Got in a convoy, car broke down again. Got towed at dawn, convoy moved on and now am awaiting repairs.

Triumph to despair to triumph again, all just another day's work for Team Newyorkistan, presumably somewhere east of Kiev.
-- Cheburashka

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Raise your hand if you've been to five countries in one day

Five countries in one day is, of course, old news for Paul and Audrey, who hauled ass through England, France, Belgium, Netherlands and part of Germany on 25 July. At the moment, we're in Kyiv, the capital of what is (in Paul's opinion) the most beautiful country in the world, Ukraine. It's verdant, cheap, and the people have been so good to us. Here's a few of the highlights of Ukraine:

-We got through the Ukraine border with almost no problem
-Shortly after arriving in L'viv - an absolutely beautiful, old city - we were greeted by Roman and Marta, a lovely couple who were more than happy to show us to Hotel George, where we stayed the night. (Roman and Marta, if you're reading this, be sure to email us!)
-We stayed at Hotel George, a grand old place suitable for a czar. Our room would have cost us like $500 a night back in New York.
-We saw the phrase "Space Inverters" spray painted on a garbage dump and agreed that, while Team Newyorkistan is a great name, Team Space Inverters is almost as good
-We went to a big, modern mall and saw ducks walk down a red carpet into the fountain and give a duck-show for the kids
-There are goats, cows, roosters, dogs, and various other animals all along (and sometimes in) the roads
-We stopped moving on a road shortly after leaving L'viv. This was scary because it was somewhat similar to the two times the clutch imploded and cost us a bundle to fix. However, the mitigating factors were a) no clutch smell and therefore no problem with the clutch b) locals who were able to get us moving again with little effort and c) any mechanic here can fix any problem on any Lada within like an hour. The part that cost us a small fortune to get replaced back in England was available at the corner store for a handful of hrvina (Ukrainian money)
-We went to the local auto repair shop and left the car for a couple of hours. The clutch was given a clean bill of health, but the mechanic did something so that the car is far less noisy than it had been...previously, it had been "can't hear the person next to you" loud...now it's loud but tolerably so.
-While the car was being looked at, Anton (who was called in by his father, the mechanic, for his good command of English so that we could tell them what was wrong with the car) and Sergei took us to a local eatery, where we had borscht and beer. It was delicious. Anton and Sergei were awesome and told us a bit of Zolochiv's history (Zolochiv, a city about 75 km outside of L'viv in western Ukraine) and gave us an insiders' look at everyday life in the most beautiful country in the world (Paul's opinion.)
-We got the roof rack welded on yesterday, which will enable carriage of extra fuel.
-I have to trim my moustache with scissors periodically.
-There are 24-hour flower and produce markets in larger towns and cities here, we've discovered.
-We bought two cassette tapes at a gas station - some kind of disco mix and "best of the 90s." One of the tapes had the song "Hands Up" on it, which I last heard circa 1990. I now fully realize how fruity that song truly is.
-We drove around Kyiv for like an hour looking for a place to use the Internet. We figured the large, modern mall would have Internet access. Not so. We drove around a bit more looking for the place that did have it, and trying to park (not easy.) We drove up and down curbs, over trolley tracks, and through roundabouts and half-roundabouts before we finally parked in a garage, where...
-WE FOUND OTHER RALLY CARS!!! There were three of them parked in the garage that we went into by chance. They were pointed out to us by Vladimir from Kazakhstan, the very helpful attendant. We now have to find the owners of those cars.
-Audrey and I are considering getting a tattoo (when we come back to NY of course) of "E40" - that's the road that runs from France to Kazakhstan. I will enjoy explaining, for the rest of my life, what the E40 is.
-I still need a suit/tuxedo for the End of Rally party in Ulaan Bataar. I know, I know, don't count your chickens...but I don't want to be there dressed like a schmuck (although Audrey says that I look neat and presentable in my handsome .travel shirt.)

Well then...let's find those other Rallyers so that we can convoy our way to UB!

-PH

Friday, July 28, 2006

Up and Running Again

The car was fixed with the help of some friendly locals, no doubt enthralled by the combination of Audrey's college Russian and Paul's magnetic charisma. The Team is staying over in Rivne, about halfway between Lviv and Kiev and hope to reach Kiev by midday Saturday.

-- Cheburashka

Trouble in Zolochiv

This terse but informative missive just arrived from Team Newyorkistan in the field.

our car broke down a few hours ago outside zolochiv - we're getting it repaired right now. some helpful folks are waiting upstairs.

more soon - will probably have to spend another night in lviv.


Zolochiv, as we all know, is about an hour east of Lviv.

-- Cheburashka

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lvivin' it Up

Latest dispatch confirms that our courageous quarter-of-an-octet crossed the Ukrainian border without incident and have successfully reached L'viv! Will they enjoy coffee and pastry at Cafe Veronika? Will they marvel at the splendor of the Armenian Cathedral? Only time will tell, but, per the old saying, when in L'viv, do as the Leopolitans do!

-- Cheburashka

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Empire State


Here's a lovely e-mail received by Team Newyorkistan from a Mongolian well-wisher who met them at the Hyde Park launch on Saturday, along with a photo showing the author and our daring duo representing the great state of New York (and its somewhat kooky but nevertheless beloved flag):


Date: Jul 24, 2006 10:30 PM
Subject: Happy journey

Dear Audrey and Paul,

Here is a Mongolian guy, 'Logoo' is writing from London. I would like to express my thank you for participating in this event. I am sending you the picture taken with you.

I wish the road leading you to my country would be full of fun and adventure

I am looking forward to hearing from you about your adventure.

Yours

Logoo


-- Cheburashka

Germany: The Land of Smells

From the mouths of babes, eh? Those were Paul's words as we made it through Germany last night. Beautiful countryside, made more beautiful by lots of manure. Similar in Poland we've found. But ok, to the point - after our rough start on the A2, we're back in this, in Wroclaw and heading to points east tomorrow. We were stopped briefly at the Polish border, but then again we really do look like a bunch of crackpots, and when you hear us coming, good lord it's awful. our car is incredibly loud and hot but amen thank you baby jesus there have not been any further troubles with it. We attempted to make it into Berlin last night but after about 14 hours of travelling - by taxi, ferry, and car, we threw in the towel, in a town called Holmstedt (I think?) and stayed at a lovely little family run hotel. Then we got right back in the car, and got mildly lost in Berlin, nearly hit someone outside of Wroclaw, and accumulated an unbelievable amount of water bottles in our car. We are hoping to get into Ukraine tomorrow - but after hearing that another team had a bribe demanded of them of thousands of USD - it may not happen as fast as we'd like. But then again, Paul and I keep good company and have lots of good books. and a tarp to set up if we need the shade. Wish us luck!

Rockin' on to Wroclaw

Latest word is that Paul and Audrey have left Berlin behind and are now in Poland, nearing Wroclaw, aka the Lower Silesian City Formerly Known As Breslau, which happens to be the ancestral hometown of Your Humble Narrator. It's unclear whether they will forgo a stop in Krakow in favor of Wroclaw.

Per SMS reports from the front, other teams are encountering some resistance at the Ukrainian border. What adventures await our fearless foursome-divided-by-two and their loyal Lada? Stay tuned, dear reader!

-- Cheburashka

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Autobahn

Credible intercepted communications indicate that Team Newyorkistan was on the Autobahn nearing Ha(n)nover at about 11pm CET. They expect to arrive in Berlin very late indeed, where they will be greeted with a salad course by their overwhelmingly, unspeakably generous host, Frank. Three cheers for Frank!


After getting a bit of shuteye at Frank's and attending to some business (does anyone know a good place in Berlin to buy jerry cans, a.k.a. gas cans, a.k.a. Reservebenzinkanister?), our intrepid teammates intend to make for Krakow, then L'viv. Say, wasn't there was a writeup of L'viv in last weekend's Travel section?

-- Cheburashka

The Lada Has Landed!

As of 2:30 pm local time (9:30 am in NY), an informant reports that Team NewYorkistan has landed on continental Europe. As you read this, they are speeding toward a planned stopover in Berlin, at the home of a friend of Audrey's boyfriend David. Further updates as events unfold.

LizardBreath

Monday, July 24, 2006

Coming Through In The Clutch

Sources tell me that the part for the Lada's clutch has arrived, and Team-Newyorkistan may be heading for the ferry as early as 10am GST. From there, it's an hour and a half to Calais, and another nine or so to Berlin -- Germany by Tuesday!!

LizardBreath

Sunday, July 23, 2006

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUDREY!!!

OK, so if you didn't know already, today is Audrey's birthday, and from what it sounds like, it was an interesting way to spend it. But I'm here to write about the days leading up to A's birthday. The day before the race, after a little mishap with the clutch, we helped Audrey and Paul pack and the documentary guys film some last minute shots. We were able to stuff six people and camera equiptment into a small room in the Abbeycourt Hotel, which has no air conditioning. It was fun anyway.

The next day, after a long stroll in Hyde Park, we finally found Team Newyorkitan's Lata. The car was fully packed and decked out with all the necessary decals, fake bullet holes included. We hung out with Audrey and Paul for a while , listening to lovely Mongolian folk music and then heard a speech from the Mongolian ambassador. It started to drizzle just after we finished writing little notes on the car to Audrey and Paul. And once it started to rain really hard, they called the first twenty cars to head off.

Good luck Audrey and Paul! We'll see you in a month!

Regina

How Not to Spend Your 28th Birthday

I gotta say though, it's really not so bad. It's not Prague, but Paul and I are making the most of things. Attempting to walk to places that are not meant to be walked to (shopping malls off interstates) or, while walking to aforementioned shopping malls, being asked for - and being able to give - directions to places (I've been asked twice today where to find different stores in Thurrock). Paul and I have a plan for tomorrow, which is to head directly to Dynes Recovery Service/Garage and wait for our car. We have nowhere else to go, and we think that indicating that our car is our current raison d'etre, we need it done NOW. God willing it will be done by tomorrow evening, and then we can head to Dover and then to the continent. If all works, our plot may have changed a bit, and we'll head to Berlin rather than Prague (thanks to David's kind efforts on our behalf).

But the reason this seems a little fun is that we're conducting the same sort of anthropological investigating here in England as we hoped to in more exotic locales. For instance, yesterday evening, as Chris (a mechanic from Dynes) was kindly driving us to our hotel (in his luxurious Saab) he told us about 'Essex Girls' - who apparently were ruining the reputation of this part of England. Bleached blondes in short skirts who'd "drop their knickers for any bloke in sight". See - who knew? If you came to England, Essex is where you'd find your Long Island Lolitas. Or used to.

With love from Essex,
Audrey

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I Was Not Wrong When I Said to Mayo That This Day Would Be Overwhelming

Not least of which is because the start of the rally - lining up in the ring road at Hyde Park, was absolutely everything we could have hoped for - there were people there we'd waited so long to meet, cars we couldn't believe were being driven to Mongolia and both decked out in unbelievable getups (witness the Mongol Blues - who were dressed up, full on, as Jake and Elwood, in the nasty humid heat) or the team who drove a *hearse* - or the monkeytank, to which I am of course partial. Lorraine and Nina stood a humongous stuffed monkey toy (6') on their roof rack. Monkey! Some cars seemed primed for disaster - I was told that Team Pink Panda blew three tires on the *way* to the rally meet this morning. Shite!

It was absolutely wonderful fun - we had family and friends there - Jane and Jackie, Dan, Marianne, Ada Marie, Regina and Matt, who helped us prep our car and cheer us on - it was everything we could have wanted. Totally exhilirating. Pictures to follow as soon as possible. When Tom announced that the first twenty cars would hit the start, we were in that group - Paul hopped into the driver's seat just as it started to rain for the first time this week, and we peeled off. Paul was astounding - with 10 minutes driving experience in England he maneouvered his way through London with grace, following the team in front of us who thankfully had Welsh flags high on their car. Never been so damn thankful of a (literal) flag in all my life.

Then - thankfully - we made it onto the A2 - homefree to Dover, woohoo - no more city driving and then - and then - and then - nada. The car, which, as we all know, ain't perfect, took its bow in the middle lane of 50mph traffic on the A2. Paul's calm, I'm calm. And so is the clutch, which is ignoring the revving engine entirely, and refuses to engage. In what felt like hours, we attempted to get the car into even 1st gear and off to the shoulder. Nothing. Then - miraculously - a rally team (Nick and Anthony? - can't remember their team name) pulled up behind us, got out of their car. Nick stopped the traffic on the lefthand lane while Anthony pushed the car to the shoulder. With traffic thundering by (the shoulder of a 6 lane highway is really loud, actually - who knew?) we called AA (notice a theme here?) and Nick and Anthony stayed with us until it was clear AA was coming. So there we were. Four other teams (including the Mongol Blues) stopped along the way - despite us trying to wave them off, telling them we were ok - to check on us. Dozens of other teams honked and waved at us on the shoulder. I won't bore you with the details of us waiting on the shoulder of the A2 for 5 hours waiting to be towed, you can imagine, I'm sure. What I can tell you now is that the mechanic drove us to a hotel, and now, here we are, 60 miles outside of Dover. We hit the garage again Monday morning, where we get repairs done and soldier on. We're keen to hear how others have fared today in their travel - please let us know if you hear anything. And if you want to get in touch with us, feel free to call - my cell phone number is (for the next few days) 011 44 7818 080 563.

Wish us luck, and feel free to point and laugh. Last one to Mongolia is....

Rocky Start

Reports from the front say that the NewYorkistan-mobile is down, twenty minutes after the start. Audrey and Paul are seeking out a mechanic, and will be back on track shortly. Further reports as information comes in.

Update: A mechanic has been located, and our fearless explorers are in for a relaxing couple of days hanging about England while the NewYorkistanmobile is being fixed.

LizardBreath

Friday, July 21, 2006

You know when you get a son stuck in your head,

and your realize that it has something to do with the current situation you find yourslf in? Then you understand why I have that old (Smiths? Morrissey?) song that goes 'panic on the streets of london' - paul and i just took our first drive in the lada.

audrey

guest editor jane here: Well the first drive for Audrey and Paul. Audrey drives, the hotel parking lot is understruction,and comes complete with polish and russina men in steel towed work boots and shorts. No shirts and the looks and the laughts to make our first day of Audrey driving into a true experience. So off we go, Audrey gets the car into first,we stall, we stall again. London taxies honk, drive by and stay thing in languages we don't speak so we are spared the anguish of knowing what they said about us. Finally thought we get moving, not bad. We are off the parking lot, Audrey keeps saying I can't believe I am learnig how to drive on London streets. The light changes several times before we make it across the intersection but by then Audrey is ready.. Now when its really hot and tough and the car doesn't want to run or shift gears or do anything a car shoud so Audrey is set...She whips the car into first, just enough gas and clutch and off we sail down the London streets. Audrey is singing Leonard Cohen songs we change lanes, we pass a truck we pull back into the hotel lot. Audrey is glowing, sweat is poring off her. She makes the comment we should have a dedorant company sponser us..more on pauls adventure driving later..jane

picture, thousand words, etc.

and this should be jane with one of our fabulous for-shore.com stickers on the car - woohoo! for all your jersey shore weed control needs!

and this should be a picture of jane and paul rolling up in the car to the hotel.

this is Paul and I at the Abbeycourt hotel. check it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm Not Talking to You. Ask Newyorkistan What We're Doing.

Is what Justin, of Team Ramrod, said tonight at dinner about reaching the point where you're so pissed off at your teammate you are no longer on speaking terms.* When inter-team relationships break down. Using a third party to communicate might prove effective, but I think that Jimmy Carter is off somewhere building houses or something.

And certainly, Paul and I have diametrically opposed elements of our personalities. Paul is a fly by the seat of his pants guy - someone willing to take risks and see how things turn out. I, on the other hand, am a ruthless planner - someone who needs to organized and to have anticipated and addressed problems before they arise. Will someone else please make the Oscar and Felix joke so I don't have to?

I have thought about this, and I anticipate the breakdown happening, but I've also thought about a way around it. I've told Paul many times, that I intend not to hold back, to tell him what I think, how I think the best way to operate will be, and he's super receptive to that. The kid can totally take a suggestion. And he himself is always coming up with great ideas. Let's just see if my idea works. I think it will.




*NB: there are absolutely no indications that Team Ramrod has reached that point yet.

I Want to Love You, PYT, Pretty Young Thing

Whatever. If I can't think of a title for a post, whatever's stuck in my head is going right up there. And today I treat you to pre-weird Michael Jackson. I hope all is well back in the States. At the moment, I can report that Paul and Jane are just outside London, winding their way from the M1 to Hyde Park. This by itself indicates that the car is drivable, although in the words of David Mayo, 'having seen their car, Newyorkistan are going to finish the first day with legs cramping, ears bleeding and blurry vision.' Says quite enough, doesn't it? I look forward to meeting the Mayos, and all else, tomorrow night at the party. Be there or be square...

Backseat Drivers' Club To The Rescue!

Or at least to the linkfinding. The Daily News' article on our intrepid duo is here.

I'll be posting text-messaged updates on Team NewYorkistan's progress through the course of the rally, if everything goes as planned.

LizardBreath

Kreplackistan, ho!

How can so many things be wrong with so short a statement? Whatever. I'm here to report to you that Paul Hanson and Jane Matthews have trekked up to Stoke on Trent to pick up our car. God willing. I really, truly believe that Jane is going to put the hurt on them if they string us along 10 minutes longer. Jackie and I are putting together the last minute car paperwork details, Prague hostel details, and most importantly pink tupperware details. We shall report back as events warrant.

In the meantime, we can tell you that if you've picked up a copy of today's Daily News, you'll find a great story written about us and the rally by Julian Kesner. Nice work Julian. It's also available online, but I haven't found the link. If our Backseat Driver blogger wants to post it here, please do so...

Additional details on press to come. Interesting stuff in the works from over here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

the cell phone spaz.

Travelling has turned me into *that guy*. That annoying, fumbling, totally unsuave individual who can't walk on the correct side of the sidewalk and more importantly, has not yet figured out how the hell to turn down that unbelievably annoying ringtone on his phone. Yep, that's me. But i'm fighting the good fight. Hoping to change that aspect of me pretty soon. It's been a full day of activity - we started the day with no insurance, no tax disc, and most importantly, no pink tent. At the end of the day, we have all three. Under the dictat of the fearless leader (that would be me) there is now a moratorium on all camping goods that are not pink. This is my way of punishing Paul for not having the car ready on time. Jane, Jackie and I purchased all pink (and/or childrens') goods at the Woolworths earlier this afternoon. Pink tupperware, pink garbage bags, etc. Also, for the Matthews' women who are out there, I can report to you that we have purchased from our new favorite store (Superdrug, with the 75p shampoo) all goods necessary to have a girls' weekend. Or at least, a girls' Wednesday night.

In other news, while I was waiting on line to buy the tax disc at the post office I noticed that they sell romance novels there. But more interestingly, the racial component of the romance novel seems rather strong, as evidenced by the titles that were for sale. For instance, there was "Having the Frenchman's Baby", which is at least better than "Having the Frenchmen's Baby", which would just be gross. There were others, too, such as "At the Greek Tycoon's Bidding", or the one at the discount rack, which just said "Screwing an Arab."

With love from London*
Audrey

* This offer does not apply to Greek tycoons, Texas oil barons, Russian oligarchs or the Sultan of Brunei. Taxes may apply. Void where prohibited.
**This offer applies with additional force to Jane Matthews. You might have thought, because she's your sister or your mom, that she rocks, but let me tell you, she's gone above and beyond for us. Seriously.

'We're all borderline retarded'

I'm reporting to you live from the lobby of the Abbey Court Hotel, where currently, Jane Ellen Matthews is putting her bill collecting strongarming phone skillz to use on Team Newyorkistan's behalf. We are, as you might suspect, in some hot water. Had to happen. It turns out that our car is *still* being repaired. Or, in fact, is still awaiting the front differential piece for the car. In Stoke on Trent. And it won't be ready, at the earliest, until tomorrow. Thursday. The day before the day before the rally. And you all know that face I make when I'm Not Pleased. So you can imagine the fun everyone is having. Also, today is the hottest day in London. ever. In its recorded history.* I'm waiting to hear back from the insurance company about coverage, and to head over to the post office to get a tax disc for the car. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
audrey

*But also, thanks to Jane, we are the only room in the hotel with a fan.

You learn something new every day

Well, yesterday I learned that Woolworth's still exists here in England...didn't it die out years ago? It's like some kind of living fossil. Well, fortunately, they have all kinds of stuff we need, everything from cheap cookware to a little pink tent just big enough for two people.

At the current time, we're chasing down insurance and the car, which is still under the care of mechanics in a little town closer to Wales than to where we are right now. This is AWESOME. More later.

PH

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

and if we were fat, we wouldn't make it in here

and with those words, Jane let it be known that our hotel room was *small*. But for real, small beats nonexistant like rock beats scissors. The four of us - Paul, Jackie, Jane and I are camped out at a hotel in Hyde Park, attempting to get things ready for the Saturday morning start of the Rally. Tomorrow will be long but hopefully we'll get a lot done - we need insurance for the car, a tax disc and have to pick up the car itself. From somewhere called Stoke on Trent. And finally, there is the purchase of the pink tent. From Woolworth's. There's clearly so much wrong with that, I don't even know where to start. But as it's been a long day of travelling and eating I probably ought to hit the sack. More soon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Holy Last Minute Preparation

Less than a week until the rally starts. there is much still to be done, but tonight I wanted to make sure to pass on the link to the NPR/Weekend All Things Considered interview. It was on the air today, and you can listen to it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5561410

Friday, July 14, 2006

Holy Schnike!

Why, at this moment, do I feel the need to quote Tommy Boy? Don't know. What I do know is that I feel violently caffeinated, despite not having had a whole lotta coffee today. All I know is, I'm feeling good. Wrapping up work, hoping I haven't forgotten too much stuff in the way of prep work, and generally being really excited about everything to come.

I had lunch today with an attorney I used to work with. She may be guest-blogging for us here at some point while we're on the road. Besides being a great lawyer and all-around helpful, she is bent on sending us off on the rally with one tool in particular. An axe. She's convinced we're going to need it. I truly hope that nowhere en route will I have to fell a tree, but hey, that's just the kind of cracked out story I hope to bring home with me from this trip.

Any additional (peaceful) uses you all can think of for this axe, including where we might store it without causing damage to ourselves or our car, will be much appreciated.

Audrey

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Route, More Specifically.

Paul -

Some notes on things from back home. We have not stopped preparing for the Rally, even though there are many social obligations and work requirements to attend to. Therefore, it was at 10:30 last night that John Lundin and I spread out the maps of Central Asia on the conference room table at work, and plotted a route through Central Asia. And the places that come before. But not the places that come after. Because we don't know whether we'll be taking the Tsangannuur border crossing from Russia into Mongolia, or driving north to Lake Baykal and then south into Mongolia through the Selenge Aimag (aimag = province in Mongolian). But, just to let you know where we're at, this is what John and I came up with:

ENGLAND
London
Dover

FRANCE
Calais

BELGIUM
yeah yeah yeah

GERMANY
why stop in germany?

CZECH REPUBLIC
Prague

POLAND
krakow

UKRAINE
lviv
kiev

RUSSIA
volgograd
astrakhan

KAZAKHSTAN
Altyrau
Qandyaghash
Embi
Shalqar
Qyzylorda
Shymkent

UZBEKISTAN
Tashkent
Jizzakh (I did not make that up)
Samarkand
Berkabad
Khudhzhand
Qoqand
Namangan
Uchqorghan

KYRGYZSTAN
Bishkek

KAZAKHSTAN
Almaty

and then north into Siberia - but where?! We'll let you know as soon as we do...

Thoughts about London

Audrey, here are a few advisories about London:

-> Press the button on the door when you want to get on or off the train. Unlike the LIRR, the doors don't all open, so if you don't press the button while it is lit, you'll stand there looking American and all the English people will laugh at you (politely, of course...but still, they will laugh.)

-> It is so flippin' expensive here, it isn't even funny. We've gotten by on not much money, thanks to the generous assistance of teams Mongolian Taxi Service and Operation Panda, as well as our own cleverness in finding the occasional bargain. (We're nothing if not clever.)

-> "Pound" used to mean something; namely, an avoirdupois pound of sterling silver; nowadays, it means a funny-looking coin made out of cheap metal that makes a dull thud when you drop it. We may be two nations divided by a common language, but we are united by increasingly worthless money, brought about by the wonders of central banks. (Note that this comment has no practical relevance to the Rally, it's just Paul's musings.)

Seeya soon, Audrey!

Hugs and kisses,

Paul

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

As English as the Queen

Here we are still in Peterborough, seeing the sights of a town where the twelfth century doesn't feel so distant. Today Jackie and I visited Peterborough Cathedral, an absolutely gigantic marvel located not far from where Tim of Operation Panda lives. Buried there is Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and a woman who was apparently loved by all. The whole thing is just so remarkably historic, I can't really put it across in a blog, a means of communication that is decidedly 21st century.

Also in Peterborough is a three-way bridge. I can't really describe that, either, so just search for a picture of it. The thing is trippy.

Exciting possibility: I have emailed the secretary of Baron Jeffrey Archer, a former Minister of Parliament and leader of the Conservative party; he has also put out a number of bestselling novels. Through the good offices of Baron Archer's son, William, there is a possibility of Team Newyorkistan meeting him; it would be an honor and a privilege to meet such a major figure of British politics, and I'm hoping to hear from them soon.

As for Audrey...well, she's getting here pretty soon. It will be great when she does; I'll finally get to see Audrey the World Traveler...who is nowhere to be found on the average day in the office.

Also, I'm trying to grow a beard, but it's pretty itchy, so I might abandon the whole thing. Perhaps instead I'll wear an eye-patch.

PH

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thought ya might like to know...

Well, Paul and Jackie are staying with Tim Norris of Operation Panda, up in Peterborough, a beautiful and positively medieval (in a good way) part of England. Today's activities included walking through an abbey that dates from the seventh century, marveling at one of the UK's largest cathedrals, and playing "Da Vinci Code," a very fun board game that is probably being sued for copyright infringement.

Well, the thing that I thought "ya might like to know" is about how Operation Panda, and probably quite a few others, found out about the Mongol Rally. Well, it was via Wikipedia; much like every other conceivable topic, the Rally has an article there, providing the gist of the event and a few links. Hmmmm...the Wikipedia article on the Mongol Rally. Who started that? (Hint: go to the "history" tab on the top of the article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_Rally - I'll give you a minute.)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, if you go back a couple of dozen edits to 15 August 2005, you will find that the article was created by some guy known as "PaulHanson" thank you very much.

Check out Operation Panda's site, www.operationpanda.co.uk . These guys seem to know what they're doing...their Panda is loaded up and just about ready to go. Over a few proper English pints today, we mused about how an imminent trip to Mongolia has become routine to all of us...good to know I'm not the only one. Tomorrow we're off to scavenge some extra parts for their chariot...it will be fun and educational.

-PH

***POSTSCRIPT*** They sell beer here in two-litre plastic bottles...which is effing ridiculous.

Hopefully it's less humid in Ulaanbataar

My desk right now seems to be evenly divided between objects relevant to my work, and those relevant to the rally. the stack of NY Jur is as high as the maps of Mongolia, which I received this morning (but have yet to open). There's also, in a bag marked "Islam Fashion", a hijab that my boyfriend bought me on Saturday. Apparently, he was strolling down Atlantic Avenue, on his way to visit friends, when he saw a store selling all manner of observant Muslim's womens fashions, and so stopped in, and asked for a run of the mill hijab. I will post pictures of me in my lovely new scarf as soon as I finish drafting this petition.

And there it is - attempting to finish up work on a variety of cases and still get all the last minute prep done for the rally. Yesterday was spent further practicing the art of driving a stick shift (with the most patient and helpful teacher ever - Ed Matthews) and tomorrow should see an early morning run to the Chinese consulate for an expedited visa.

I've been trying to use this little expedition to change the part of my personality that desperately wants to be prepared for every little contingency - to try to become a little more easygoing and fly by the seat of my pants. Maybe that will happen yet.

Friday, July 07, 2006

You Mayo may not be aware...

...that I am staying at the home of David Mayo (of Mongolian Taxi Service) in the borough of Surrey. That's right...England. Paul has landed. This is the real deal. A brief photo tour of my experiences so far:

Dave and Paul.

Stuff that Dave has in his garage, ready to be loaded into his car (note that the roof racks belong to Team Newyorkistan; after disavowing any liability, Virgin Atlantic reluctantly accepted them as checked luggage.)

Paul at the Staines train station, flashing the West-Side sign.

The proper English home at which Paul is staying.

So far, it's been quite a time - getting to see the English countryside is by itself worth the trip. Two teams - Newyorkistan and Mongolian Taxi Service - have been able to help each other out in major ways. With the combined brain-power of Dave and Paul, our chances of getting to Mongolia exceed 100% (how is that possible? Just take my word...it is.) He's a fine bloke, that Dave, and I consider it an honor to go on this journey with him as part of the Kamchatka Konvoy (note to everyone: Paul/Audrey, Dave/his dad Tony, and whomever else joins us in convoy, will be collectively known as the Kamchatka Konvoy.)

And finally, one more piece of information before I head off to bed in preparation for tomorrow (which will be the day on which we Get The Car!!) Seeing as how we will be setting up camp each night on this trip, it is only proper that each camp has a fitting name. Therefore, our camps are tentatively known as:

Camp Matthews
Camp David (for the many Davids involved here, but mostly for the ones surnamed Roofeh, who are two of the nicer guys you are ever likely to meet.)
Camp Frederick
Camp Lundin
Camp Dianne
Camp Rutherford
Camp Tweedy
Camp Marcus

...are you seeing a pattern? If you sponsored us, then (in addition to adorning our car) a spot halfway around the world will bear your name for all time! Those, of course, are only a few of the names we've designated...keep a lookout for further updates (as always.)

Much, much, much more to come.........

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

London Calling....

...and it's now after 1 a.m. on the Day Paul Flies To London. This is huge, folks. The Mongol Rally is imminent. Over the last few days, I have had the privilege of being surrounded by friends and family who have heaped upon me nothing but warm wishes and support. Oh, how I shall miss everyone. And oh, how my head is spinning. Well, anyway, a nice sendoff helps with the stress and anxiety.

The whole lot of you, you're the greatest.

Some readers of this fine blog may be asking, "what is Audrey going to do while Paul is gone?" Truth be told, I don't really even know. I do know, however, that she must have found something very funny.



The next time you all hear from me, I'll be in London.......

PH

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The people who make life worth living...

...are the people who came to Verlaine on Thursday night. You are all fantastic...and fun...and wacky, just like us. Entire families came to revel with the Team, as did several folks who heard about us via the enormous amount of publicity that we've been the subject of. With lots of people, lots of fine spirits, and lots of fun, the night was a major success. A complete list of Backseat Drivers' Club members/supporters is forthcoming; you will all be aptly recognized.

And, as I promised several of you, I promise that you will receive a middle-of-the-night call from Paul and Audrey. I further promise that you will be cursing the widespread and cheap availability of international telephone service.

So, Backseat Drivers, we want to hear from you...constantly. Send us emails. Tell us about whatever. We're going to be away from home for quite a while - we're going to need a bit of home sent to us electronically from all of you. You are all vitally important. You don't think the Backseat Drivers' Club is just a mark of prestige, do you? No! It's prestige, of course, but it's also the obligation to be a morale booster and a carrier of the wild enthusiasm that the Mongol Rally is flooding the land with.

And, finally...what is Paul doing at the moment? A better question would be, what is Paul's mother doing at the moment. The answer is: being diligent and finding out about the malaria pills that I will be taking for when we pass through Uzbek- and Kyrgyz- stans. Mom, you're awesome. She catches all that stuff, like prevention of deadly disease, that all too often falls through the cracks.

FOUR DAYS UNTIL PAUL LEAVES! Oh, boy....ooohhhh boy.

PH