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Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/16/23 4:47 a.m.

So there I was:  Sitting in the driver’s seat of a 30-year old Toyota, with two Slovakian passengers I’ve never met, about to start a 10,000km rallye down the west coast of Africa, and…  is…  is the truck in front of us throwing Bananas at the crowd???

These are my memories of the 2022 Budapest to Bamako Rallye, "the world's last great adventure".

 

 

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/16/23 4:59 a.m.

For those unfamiliar, the Budapest to Bamako (B2B, for short) is a charity rallye that would send drivers on a 14-day trip that originated in Budapest.  The final destination used to be in Bamako, Mali but the destination changed due to terrorism concerns.  We now travel from Budapest to Freetown, Sierra Leone:



Teams can enter in one of four categories:

Racing:  Self explanatory.  You're given coordinates, and you're timed.

4x4 Touring:  You get the same coordinates as the racing teams, but there are no timing requirements or checkpoints.

Touring:  You're givin the end destination, and can usually take roads to get there (non 4wd class)

Spirit:  You've purchased an ambulance or something similar and will donate it at the end.  Entry is free, but you must participate in media events, etc.

Our team (Team "Stab and Steer") is entered in the 4x4 touring.  Strategies for preparation vary widely and teams are challenged with making a vehicle that can traverse thousands of kilometers on European M-ways, AND survive the African dirt stages.  Aside from life threatening emergencies, there is no support for team vehicles.  If you break and fall behind, you're on your own and left only to the kindness of locals or other teams.

If you and your vehicle survive, you cross the finish line in Africa and get nothing.  There are no sponsors, there is no trophy money, and no one will ever know you were there.

Finishers usually sell or donate their vehicles in Africa.  As our team truck is employed in other endeavors (and I'm kinda sentimentally attached to it), I'll be driving a return trip back north to Hungary on my own.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/16/23 5:02 a.m.

So, is it safe?

Straight from the B2B page, absolutely not:

 

Looking back, it's almost comical how many of these we actually ran into (or came dangerously close to running into)...  No spoilers though.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/16/23 5:06 a.m.

 

Now how the heck did I get talked into this???

To answer that, we have to go back.  WAY back.  Because the Budapest to Bamako Rally has been on my bucket list for many MANY years.  In fact, when I moved away from Hungary the first time my only regret was not participating in the rallye when I was close enough to do so.

So when Mrs. Hungary asked what I wanted for a 40th birthday adventure, there was no hesitation when I answered “Entry in the B2B 2022 Rallye”.   

Her only stipulation:  I don’t go at it alone (and that’s a story in itself).

The “strangers” in the vehicle aren’t really that “strange” by now.  The three of us have ever been in the same room together, but we’ve had a couple zoom meetings, and the family and I have even met Katka (the female passenger) at a bar in Bratislava once…  This all came about when my second attempt at creating a GRM team fell through (I should say “friends who also happen to be GRM members).  I saw a post on the B2B facebook page from someone who had a team member looking for a vehicle.  Having no teammates myself, I answered the ad.  It turned out to be a Slovakian woman (Misha) looking for a seat for her fiancé (Lukas), a Slovakian living in Cyprus.

Done!  I’m no longer alone!

Katka came about later.  Misha asked if we had one more seat as they were at max capacity in their Skoda 120.  We discussed and decided that 4-girls in one car was too much and of course we could take one of theirs.

And just like that, there were three of us.

So there we were...  Three strangers in a truck that should have rusted away centuries ago, stuck with a team name that no one understands but no one changes, about to spend the next 10,000kms together doing something that none of us have ever done.

No time to dwell on it now though, announcer is calling us to the podium! 

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/16/23 5:14 a.m.

Prologue:  T – minus 2 days:

It’s Monday and the entire house is a mess, work has been insane, and I’ve been frantically working on the truck in my free time.  The windows stopped rolling up on my last drive into Ukraine and I’m frantically wiring up some e-bay purchased relays that have just arrived.

Also, in the fit of a last-minute decision, I’ve decided to weld up a roof bar and attach some KC Daylighters that have been gathering dust in my garage.  Of course, that requires wiring as well.

Everything is happening last minute.

Attempting to make good use of any trips through town, I buy last minute items like WD40 and brake clean as I see them.  I have no idea how many cans are rolling around on the floor but you can hear them rattle and clang every time I hit a bump or turn too fast.

Stickers need to also be fitted.  Some are required but I had some printed up for fun.  In order to do that though, I first need to wash the darn truck!  It’s been sitting under a plum tree during all these months of preparations and that hasn’t done anyone a single bit of good.

Of course, there are the domestic preparations as well.  Mrs. Hungary needs a complete list of login info for my work stuff and our banking stuff to make sure she’s 100% self-sufficient.  I’ll be gone for a month, and there will be no waiting until I get back to do anything! 

Sat phone minutes need to be added to a sim card I bought what feels like YEARS ago.  Shoot, it almost WAS a year ago!  The original preparations for this run were made last December when the rallye was supposed to depart last January.  Then it was delayed until March to group up with the second running of the B2B this year (a rallye first).  And both were delayed until now (October 2022) because the ferries to Morocco never returned to service…

Oof.  Hopefully nothing’s expired with this thing…

On the business side of the house, I’m logging into our team’s B2B account like a mad man to make sure we didn’t miss anything.  In doing so, we’re able to make a last minute appt to get maps loaded to our tablet device (in true last-minute fashion Lukas had to ship the tablet to Misha who will hand it to Katka and I in Budapest the night prior.  Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get maps until Morocco).

Even the notes I’m reading to write this right now were written while pizza is on order (no time to cook!).  The kids are doing homework, and fellow forum member “VikkiDp” and I are ordering supplies for a package destined for her neighbor.  Batteries are charging in just about every available outlet in the house (head lamps, cameras, phones, navigation, truck battery, etc).

Most of the week prior to this was spent gathering school supplies.  The Rally is sponsoring a school in Sierra Leone and our team wanted to do our part to contribute.

The truck is mostly packed, but definitely not organized.  I've removed the driver's side rear passenger seat to help create a little more cargo space.  Katka will arrive at our house on Wednesday, but Lukas was delayed.  He'll meet us in Budapest on the day of the departure ceremony. 

This whole thing feels a lot like running in place, and getting nothing but further behind...

 

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr PowerDork
1/16/23 6:50 a.m.

Moar!

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/16/23 6:59 a.m.

wvumtnbkr said:

Moar!

 

As you wish laugh


Prologue:  T-minus 1 day:

There I was:  4am in my driveway, putting duct tape on the underside of my sun-roof...

Seriously though, it's 4am on Tuesday morning now and I'm scrolling FB for a much needed brain break while coffee is brewin.  I just swapped all the devices on their respective chargers, and the satellite phone is outside and laying on a DODGE Charger trying to pick up a GPS fix (it works).  I was able to buy credits for the phone (which translates to minutes) but they've yet to be added so I can't make calls.  I'm hoping this will help somehow.  Anyhoo, on the B2B page I can already see that there are two teams broken down.  One is a motorcyclist who is suffering a clutch failure in Belgium (this is "Jack", we've been chatting and he wants to ride north after the rally.  We plan to travel together).  The other is team "Lost Zebra" from Hungary.  They're in a Suzuki 4wd of some variety and are having fueling issues.  They suspect it's a fuel pump.

With coffee made, I'm out the door.  In the truck I'm re-arranging cargo in the back area.  I'm trying to keep free and easy access to "needed items" (daily things like food, recovery equipment, and gas cans) and stowing things we probably wont need (a small box of spares, our donation items, and prescription meds).  And of course, I've gotta duct tape that sun roof...

See the KC lights on the light bar I made work GREAT!  But they sit so far back that the spread beam COMPLETELY illuminates the cabin via the sun roof when I fire them up.  I'm glad I found out about it now.  I thought I'd get fancy and slab a piece of cardboard up there, but really I don't have time for that crap.  I'm just going to slab on the tape and call it good.  It works (well enough).

All this is being done via headlamp now, as the truck is sitting outside the gate and in my driveway (right next to the neighbors house, and I dont want to wake them up).  So far, so good.

Mrs. Hungary is up at 5:30 but we're both too exhausted to chat.  We swap cars in parking spots, do some banking stuff...  The typical prep.

Speaking of prep, I've only had 2-days to drive this beast to work and the darn thing felt a bit down on power yesterday.  Furthermore the idle speed was a bit low, and I think I can smell the EVAP system.  On today's drive to work, I'm sure of it.  I can definitely smell the evap system...  I pop the hood at the office parking lot with the engine still running, and it was a good thing I did!  The charcoal cannister is dry, but I can see a nasty fuel leak on the pressure side of the fuel rail.  Can't fix it here, so I shut it down and to a quick mental check of my schedule today.

First up, the evening will be too busy for car work.  Mrs. Hungary will be late to work (she works in the evening) because of the eldest's school schedule and I can't cut out early.  But I DO have a haircut appointment (the last one for a MONTH) scheduled for my lunch break, and figure I can slap a hose clamp on the line then.  It works perfectly

 

Double clamped for good measure.

When I got back to the office (smelling like fuel, but with freshly cut hair) I ran into my coworker whose wife printed the stickers I ordered!  (Just in time, eh?!)

 

Work ended at 3:15, and after that started the school run, then kids kung fu, and all was looking good.  Back home and in the driveway there were no more drips coming from the fuel leak.  Time for dinner, homework, and bed.

I had some luck with the sat phone throughout the day.  It turns out I had missed an e-mail from the SIM card company, and needed to register my serial and phone number with them.  Once done, the minutes were topped up and I was able to place a test call from outside the building.

Funny note:  I stepped away from the phone for 2-seconds to top up my coffee cup while it acquired another GPS fix outside (it doesn't work at all indoors) and when I got back I found that one of the managers had picked up the phone and sent a company wide e-mail looking for the owner...  Fun times.

Anyhoo, it's late evening before we know it and time for bed again.  Tomorrow we meet Katka at 10am and head out to Budapest.  Fingers crossed.
 

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/16/23 8:35 a.m.

Is this story too trucky to make it into the magazine?

dyintorace
dyintorace PowerDork
1/16/23 9:22 a.m.

Following!!

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane UltraDork
1/16/23 10:30 a.m.
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

Is this story too trucky to make it into the magazine?

NO!    PUT IT IN!

 

Sorry, I don't have any actual power, but, ya know, figured it helped :)

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/17/23 2:01 a.m.
WonkoTheSane said:
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) said:

Is this story too trucky to make it into the magazine?

NO!    PUT IT IN!

 

Sorry, I don't have any actual power, but, ya know, figured it helped :)

Nah.  Not this run, but the next one.   GRM can send a proper photographer and a professional writer and the three of us can run the 2026 Rallye (2024 is already sold out).  THAT'll be a better story wink

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/17/23 3:02 a.m.

Prologue:  B-Day (Budapest Day)

So there I was:  back at the hotel after dark, looking at the driveway gate...  Tablet in my hand.  Now where in the heck is the WALKING entrance to this darn place? 

Our journey officially starts today and I'm up again by 4am.  This has become so routine at this point that I don't even have to set an alarm.  For nearly a month now I've been waking up at 4am to frantically fix, pack, and plan for every possible scenario and now my body just fires right up and does it in auto-pilot.

Instead of wrenching in the driveway again, I start the truck and head out to a local dirt road while it's still dark.  I wanted to get the KC lights adjusted and pointed in a direction that will be useful to us.  I also want to get my SWR meter out and tune our CB antenna away from buildings, power lines, and the like.  Both take a bit longer than I was expecting.

The lights were easy enough.  I brought the appropriate sized wrench with me and point the middle two lights straight ahead, and then I point the outboard two out at a slight angle to create a super wide field of view.  My hope is that having the ability to see slightly out in either direction would be beneficial if we find ourselves out and off-road at night.

 

 

The CB goes easy enough, and I get the SWR down to 1.2 on channel 1 and 1.8 on channel 40.  I'll call that a win, but the darn thing still needs a load of squelch to keep it quiet. 




 

No time to worry about that now, I gotta get back to the house.

Back in my driveway by 6am (kids wake up at 6:15) and it’s the morning routine followed by the school run.  Once the kids are dropped off, I’m back at the house for more packing, cleaning, and of course more stickers.

 

 

 

 

Katka arrives a little before noon and we work on packing her stuff.  One of the items she wants to bring is a window washing squeegie (the kind you see at gas stations).  I'm thinking we wont need it (see aforementioned comment about them being at gas stations) but it doesn't take up any room, it weighs nothing, and it stores easily between the rear seat roll-bar and the roof.  Screw it, if in doubt we throw it in.  The idea is that she’ll leave her car at our place and anything we decide not to take can be handed over to Mrs. Hungary when we’re all in Budapest (Mrs. Hungary will arrive the night before we start so she and the boys can see us off) and brought back for safe keeping.  Katka’s also had a few stickers printed as well and we spend some time with Mrs. Hungary adding them to the truck.

 

 

We also had a phone conversation last night where Katka delivered some pretty scary news.  Although she originally took her driver’s test with a manual transmission, she informs me that it’s been 14 years since she’s driven anything but an automatic.  Of course the 4-Runner is a stick.

To help lean forward on the issue, she signed up for a day course with a local driving school that was supposed to help her re-learn how to start, stop, and shift (and it didn’t go well).

Instead of helping her with re-learning the nuances of "the manual transmission", she says they spent the majority of their time slapping her hands when she put them in the wrong position on the steering wheel and generally making her feel absolutely uncomfortable with her ability to drive at all…

To fix this, I know of a series of dirt roads where we can go to drive without interruption to get her back and used to things.  It’ll also give us a chance to go through and teach her how to engage the 4-wheel drive (manual locking hubs and all).

It’s not what anyone would call “intense” but there are a few challenging sections that we go through where wheel placement becomes very important.  After a few steep declines with some pretty bad washed out sections she quips "Ok, that was a little scary, but I really don't think we'll see anything like that in Africa"

To which I agree.  Africa should be flat and dry, right?  And honestly, aside from driving a little faster than I’m generally comfortable with, she does a great job and soon we’re out the other side (and much muddier for the effort).


 

Back on pavement (and back in 2wd), we’ve been in contact with Team Lost Zebra and learn that they’ve left the garage and are now broken down on the side of a Hungarian road we might be traveling down.  Katka and I discuss and agree that we should swing by and see them on our way to Budapest (just for moral support, really), but of course we get to joking and chatting about general nothingness on the drive and the two of us completely spaced it when it came time.

Ah well.  Sorry Zebra.

The two of us have rooms at the same small hotel on the outskirts of Budapest and we get checked in around 5pm.  We’ll drop bags and catch a taxi downtown to get some dinner.  Katka is in touch with Misha on FB and we’ll meet her and Linda to get the tablet.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that Misha is the ring-leader of an all-girl Skoda team.  They’re driving an old Skoda 120 that was prepared by the race organizers and have been entered in the Touring category at no cost.  They’ll be filmed as part of a documentary throughout all of this and have a camera guy traveling with them.  Unfortunately they’re down to two drivers (Misha and Linda), and both were required to come to Budapest earlier in the day to take part in the pre-race press conference.  Their team name is "Team Slow-Vakia".

Anyhoo.

Katka and I catch a cab downtown and hit up a restaurant that highlights the fact that they serve a lot of meat.  We snag some beers and think we'll go through our binder of info (maps, notes we’ve taken, inventories, everything) while we wait for our food, but before we can really discuss much Misha and Linda surprised us and take the table next to us (hey!).  Soon afterward “Team India” arrives as well, and now we’ve got a pretty good group going!

Together Katka and I learn that "Team India" was part of the press conference with Team Slow-Vakia (along with many others).  The two teams got along great and Team India has a Hindustan Ambassador entered in the rally.  They seem like a really great group of guys.  Jokesters that are very easy going (I immediately decide that I like them).  "What is that???"  They ask (quite loudly) while pointing at our binder.

"Our notes" we both yell back.

"Throw those away!  You don't need them!" The three of them exclaim, laughing among each other.

Misha and Linda mentioned that they didn’t bring the tablet with them, but the night is young and we all decide our three teams will hang out together and get the tablet after some more drinks .  The race organizer has team Slow-Vakia set up in an apartment he owns downtown and we’ll swing by there on our way home to get said tablet. 

While we eat, we discuss vehicles and learn that Team Slow-Vakia is having issues with their car.  Apparently it's an absolute bear to drive and is stalling at stoplights.  Andrew Szabo (the race organizer) arrives at the restaurant moments later to discuss exactly this.  He's taken the liberty of bringing the car to a mechanic for an inspection and he's explaining to Misha and Linda that the car is fine.  "It's just an old car, it doesn't drive like a new car, you've got to feel it, listen to it.".

I don't think it did much to put the team at ease, but they're still in the run.

After dinner, it was off to a bar for more drinks.  Naturally it was a good night, and things got fuzzy (I think I buzzed the driveway buzzer to get let in the walking gate at the hotel), but it was good times.  We had the tablet in our possession and tomorrow we all had appointments with the race organizers to download the maps.

Good times.

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/17/23 3:43 a.m.

Quick note about these pictures:

 

In the top photo, you'll notice an orange bucket.  In the bottom, you see Mrs. Hungary carrying pipe insulation and she's smiling like she knows something you don't (and that's because she does).

Planning ahead, this is our "poop bucket"!  The idea is simple:

Inside the bucket is a roll of compostable trash bags.  Those are the liners for the bucket. 

The pipe insulation goes around the rim for you to sit on. 

There's a shovel in the truck. 

You get the idea...

This whole setup was a bit of a last-minute brainstorm session between Katka and I.  More to follow.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/17/23 4:39 a.m.

Prolouge:  M-Day (Map day)

So there I was... Second cup of coffee, third hour at the table.  4-credit cards and two paypal accounts later and I still cant figure out this damn app...

 

This isn't the official start of the journey, but it is a requirement and we do have an appointed time that we need to meet the race organizers.

I'm up early again, and still at the hotel.  Breakfast starts at 7:30 and it's European style with coffee.  I immediately start work on downloading the app that's required for us to be able to use the maps that we're going to receive today at noon.  I think it was called "OBX" (but have since deleted it from my phone).  There's a payment required, and the website will 100% not work for me at all...  I've brought 2-bank cards with me, 2-credit cards, and have 2-paypal accounts and the app will absolutely NOT let me pay with a single one of them.  I start messaging Lukas to see if he knows something I don't.

He doesn't.

We try multiple google play accounts, we try everything over again, we even try putting money on a google play account and purchasing the app with that.  Same thing.

This whole time (hours, at this point), Mrs. Hungary has been in near-constant communication with me as I'm not bringing my work phone with me on the trip, and that's the one that receives all the two-factor authentication codes.  Every time I try a different payment method, she's hot on the spot and instantly sends me the pin.  Katka's joined in the foray at this point, and nothing she tries works either.

Out of ideas that we can work at the breakfast table,  Katka and I decide that the next best course of action is to head out on foot and find a convenience store where we can purchase a google play gift card.

Well this is off to a good start!

After retiring back to our rooms to freshen up, we head out of the hotel and use google maps to  point us in the right direction.  Unfortunately, none of the stores we hit up have what we're looking for (figures).  We did notice a Shell fuel station near the hotel, so we double back and head that way to try there instead.

nope...

Out of ideas, and now with our phones nearly out of batteries, we plug in a powerbank that Katka brought with and try to use my phone to find the next best spot to search.  While I'm doing that, she mobile hot-spots with her phone, connects the tablet, and gives the app a try to see if anything's changed.  Immediately, she notices that something is different.

Whereas before, the app was nearly unresponsive when you clicked the links on the payment page, now it seems to be working perfectly!  I pull out one of my bank cards and we give it a try.  It works!!! 

 

With only 2-hours to spare, we are FINALLY able to pay and install the map app.  Just for giggles we stop by a car stereo shop we saw between us at the hotel parking lot.  We were joking that it'd be funny if we had a horn that made a funny noise (like instead of "beep beep" it said "mooooooo", or similar).  I figured we could bodge something up on short notice, but unfortunately the store we found was a super-high-end stereo joint and not a cheap gag kind of place.  Ah well.

Back at the hotel, and speaking of car stereos, we still had a few small things we needed to take care of now that the team was coming together.  With the three of us, comes a multitude of playlists.  And we need to check to make sure that they all work with the equipment on hand.  The truck has a new Pioneer head installed, but even still it isn't working with one of Katka's USB sticks...

 

 

This is a bit of a problem as I have exactly FIVE playlists downloaded to my phone and NONE are very long... 

1) Texas (Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and other folks I picked up from Austin's music scene)

2) Not Texas, but not bad (Waylon, and the outlaws)

3) Butt Rock (a collection of 80's hair bands)

4) Metal (which is more just "radio rock":  Halestorm, old Metallica, SOAD, Avenged Sevenfold, etc)

and finally

5) Honkey Tonk (which I mistakenly thought was a playlist I had put together under a similar name, but got someones something else instead.  I mean seriously, just because there's a song that says "honkey tonk" in the title or lyrics, it does not mean it goes on the darn playlist!!!)

Also:  Can I just stop for a moment here, and state officially that "if you start a journey like this without a healthy "Funk" playlist, then you are 100% ill-prepared for the trip"?  I mean it was 100% on my dang to-do list, and high up there too, but darn if I didn't procrastinate until it was too late...

anyhoo.  It turns out it was just a bad connection, Katka got the USB to work and pretty soon we were treated to an audio book of some unmown variety being read in Slovakian.  Her music of choice is mostly electronica, she's got some Metallica and SOAD type rock, and of course, Christmas music.

Good times.

With 45-minutes to play with before we need to leave for our map appointment, we decide to re-pack the back of the truck a bit.  Despite days of trying things, it's very much a "rough draft" and as such, some ideas work and some don't.

For instance, I have a big black rectangle tool box that I use for track days.  This idea works as it can double as a camp table AND and organized storage device.  However, in it I just have a bunch of camp and cook stuff.  We decide that "camp" and "cook" should be separate and put all our food and "cook stuff" in the box.  Camp stuff will go elsewhere.

This went on until pretty soon we had everything out of the truck.  Which would have been fine, but now it was time to skedaddle over to the airport for our appointment.  Back in everything goes!

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/17/23 7:20 a.m.

Prologue:  M-Day (Map Day) Continued:

 



We get to the GPS coordinates super early.  Our hotel was 1km away, and that wasn't by accident.  See, this is what happens when you put a Project Manager (Katka) and an Engineer (me) in a vehicle together.  I'm a complete wimp and will dial in all sorts of fat when it comes to limitations/deadlines, and Katka apparently has the same faults.  So what do we do to kill time?  You guessed it.  Unpack everything and re-organize stuff!

 

 

Katka is a backpacker and recently worked as a tour guide in Iceland.  I'm more of a "drive everything in" type of camper from the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.  So when we're doing this, we're looking at things from two VERY different standpoints but eventually we get a good system going between us and progress is being made.  Even still, there are moments like when she saw me putting a ratchet strap over and through the fuel cans:

Katka:  "Those are going to be packed in pretty tight, I don't think they're going anywhere..."

Me:  "oh no.  I'm strapping them down in case we go wheels up.  I don't want that much weight flying around and hitting us in the head or something"

Katka (who had not yet considered the possibility that we might go tumbling down a sand dune):  ...

(Sometime in the middle of all of this, we did remember to drop off our tablet at the table as required)

When we started, we were the only vehicle dumping their crap in the parking lot and trying to sort our stuff out.  When we finished 2.5 hours later we looked around and saw that every single person in the parking lot was now doing the same thing.  It's nice to know we're not the only people completely unprepared for this wink

Ok, so we're packed and we got our maps loaded.  With this last successful re-organization we now have a LOT of stuff that we're going to throw out of the vehicle (which Mrs. Hungary will happily take back to the house when she visits later in the evening).  Better yet, everything is really secured in its place in the vehicle.  Nothing rolls or moves around when we drive to Decathlon to buy more crap.

It was decided during our last packing session that we needed two things:  Some sort of organizer or bin to set up in the back of the truck to help organize things a little further, and some sort of shade.   We ended up picking up a soft-sided 3-compartment fabric bin (mostly because we set it up to check it out, and couldn't figure out how to fold the thing back in its holder) and while we originally were planning on raiding the fishing section for something useful, we eventually decided on "tent poles, a rope, and a blanket that Katka had brought with us" for a shade.  While there we also picked up all the fuel they had for her jet boil.

This is a pretty good example of our two different philosophies:  I had originally packed a 2-burner camp stove with more than plenty of fuel, and a set of camp foldable pots and pans to go with.  I even had  spatula, a ladle, and a kitchen knife...   "Bill, seriously", she would eventually say.  "How often are you planning on making Gulyas?". 

She was right, and there was no arguing it.  Her jet boil did everything we needed, took up a lot less space, and yeah.  We were all going to be eating a bunch of pre-packaged, freeze dried stuff that we just had to add boiled water to.  Unfortunately the cans of fuel for the two devices were not compatible (hence the shopping).

While there, we also ran into Team India! 

They reported that they didn't have a single piece of camp gear.  They were there to buy clothes, tents, and sleeping bags.  The whole works!  Good luck guys, we're off to Ikea!

At Ikea (right next door) we really only needed one thing:  A cushion for Katka to sit on so she could see over the steering wheel.

Yup, the during her training drive the day prior she was straining her neck trying to look over the hood of the truck.  If she was going to any driving in Africa, she'd need something to get her butt higher in the air.  We settled on a thick-ish grey cushion with little tie things we thought might be used to hold it in place if need be.

When we get back to the hotel, another team has joined us!  An SUV with Hungarian plates.  #207.  but I don't think we ever got around to getting to know each other.

Back in the room, it's my task now to take the app we recently installed on the tablet and a GPX file from the B2B site and get the two to be friendly with each other.  The maps are working in the App and I can see most of north and west Africa, but the GPX file is supposed to be loading our waypoints and all I get is an error message...

 

Seriously, it's after 6pm by this point.  We've had a long day, we got a lot done, and we don't need these maps until we get to Morocco.  I'm not messing with this any more.  Besides, someone is bound to pop up on the facebook page with the same issue.  I'll get the solution then.  Mrs. Hungary calls.  She still stuck in traffic and is estimated to be 30 minutes out.  When she gets here the family and I will go out and have dinner together, toss the camp scraps that we're not taking with us into her car, and basically have a nice calm family TV night together before the big day...

Gzwg
Gzwg New Reader
1/17/23 8:06 a.m.

Great read, thanks!

newold_m (Forum Supporter)
newold_m (Forum Supporter) Reader
1/17/23 8:25 a.m.

Yeah, amazing story...! Can't wait for future installments...

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/19/23 6:45 a.m.

Thanks guys, hope I can keep this up laugh

 

Day 1:  There I was... T-minus hours, still in the hotel room.  Kids screaming about Spider man.  It's 8am.

 

 

Up and showered by 5:30am, and I toss my dirty laundry in Mrs. Hungary's suitcase.  I am now officially living out of my backpack. 

I get on my laptop and set up the last of the last minute items.  Things like out of office replies, last minute e-mails, and some social media maintenance.  Breakfast is at 7:30, and the whole family heads down for a bite.

Back in the hotel room afterwards, I sit down with the kids to watch a movie.  The eldest picks "Spider Man".  The youngest Hungarling starts screaming an hour in because that's when he decided that he wanted to pick the movie.  Business as usual, really.

At 8:50 we head downstairs and more tears are shed because the Hungarlings can't decide who gets which swing...

 

Katka eventually comes down, and Lukas arrives and meets us in the parking lot.  We add his bags and camping gear to the pile in the back of the truck and spend some time touring the vehicle (this is the first time he's seen it).

Of course, we pose for our first team photo!!!

This is it.  This is the first time we've all been in the same geographical location as each other.  Katka remembers that Lukas went to the same High School she did, but he doesn't remember anything about her.  I've never seen Lukas before, and we spend a lot of time chatting about who's going to sit where.  Katka doesn't want to drive a stick through the city, Lukas doesn't want his first time driving the vehicle to be in front of a crowd (thinking ahead to the televised start event), so I hop in the drivers seat.  It's 10:30 and we're off!

When we get back to the GPS location, we're hardly the first there.  It is one BIG car show!

I mentioned earlier that there were COVID delays?  I also mentioned that this was the first year they were going to do two-runs?  Well, because of all the delays both runs got combined into ONE... BIG... RUN.  There are over 300 cars participating in this years event.  Easily over TWICE the number they usually send...

 

There are vehicles of all shapes and sizes.  Vastly different levels of preparation.  There are a couple other 4-Runners too, but we're happy to note that we're the only first gen cheeky

I catch a few people checking out the truck.  This guy really liked the sticker we made for the back:

 

 

 

 


The person in that Pugeot had a "Stop the War in Ukraine" sticker, and I made sure to mention my appreciation for it.  In return, he offered me one.  I accepted.

See, Katka is very worried about the back window of the truck that we have to roll down to open the tailgate.  We can't really see it very well from inside with all the camp gear.  She was looking for an  easy way to tell whether it was rolled up or not, and this might be just the ticket.  I hand her the sticker and she runs back to the truck to stick it on.

I remembered that I had printed about 200 or so "Dnipro Express" stickers and had left them in Mrs. Hungary's car so I got her keys and ran back to the Saab to get them.  When I got back, I gave one to the Peugeot driver and stashed the rest in the truck for giggles.

 

^Future runner.

There's a bit of entertainment happening up by the stage.  Local dance groups (think like teenagers/cheerleaders-ish) but we're not really interested.  It's 11:30 and getting close to time now, so we take one more team photo and say our goodbyes.

 

 

By 11:55, we're told by security that the family needs to leave, so we say our goodbyes again.  At 12:11 sharp, we finally hear the announcement:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!"

Unexpected and anticlimactic, we have a good laugh at the announcers expense in the truck.  There are still several rows of vehicles ahead of us, so we're taking the time to lean forward on where we go from here.  Katka's found a "musical road" nearby and wants to hit it on our way out of the country.  It's only an hour and a half off our path, so we dial it in.  The plan for now is

Budapest -> Musical Road -> Genoa, Italy.  11-hours in total.

Still waiting, I eat a pastry and sip on some water while we watch the podium from the vehicle.  We decide we need some egress practice before we're on camera so that's what we do.  Doors open, Katka hops out and pops the seat forward, Lukas hops out, we all wave, and back in.  Repeat.

Team Slow-Vakia is having issues and their car hasn't moved.  We can see a man under the hood and working frantically, but have no idea what's going on (something about the brakes, and a big fluid leak...).  The start ceremony continues despite their absence, and about the time we got to the vehicles that were two rows in front of us, their Skoda fires to life and they're over the podium.  Lukas gets on his phone to find out what happened.

Pretty soon it's our turn to line up for the start ceremony!

Now everyone has their way of doing their thing on the podium.  Some people have costumes (there is a costume contest going on), some people do silly things like pretend to push the car...  We talk about it a bit and think "wouldn't it be funny if we got out, and then I jumped back in and drove off while Lukas and Katka chased the vehicle?"

As if on cue, the landcruiser on stage stops, the crew jumps out, the driver hops back in, and they all act surprised while he pretends to drive off.

Dang!

 

Closer now and the shenanigans are still going.

We're under 5-vehicles from it being our turn and all stare in amazement as the crew from a very "banana" decorated Landrover Discovery throws bananas into the crowd...

holy crap...

Of course, not everyone is looking at the stage so not everyone is expecting a banana to come flying out of the air, and I think I see at least one spectator take one to the side of the head.  F'king Team Flying Bananas, man....

I mean, no one is hurt, but who throws a Banana?  Everyone back in, and we inch forward again.  Pretty soon it's our turn to step out on stage:

 

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/19/23 7:13 a.m.

Day 1  (Continued)

I've been looking but I still can't see my family.  I point in the general direction of the crowd and raise my arm to wave.  I can hear the announcer "Team Stab... and Steer?"

Co-announcer "Well I hope they do more steering than stabbing"

(I knew we should have changed the name...)

We drive off and I'm still looking for one last glance at Mrs. Hungary and the boys and I see them right at the exit!  I swerve way left and reach out the window in time to catch a high-five from the youngest on my way out the gate.  He loves it.

That's it, guys!  The run has begun!

Kinda weird that there's not this big shot of adrenaline, or roar of excitement or something to mark the moment, but still...  We are now officially on our way!

Kms tick off and we learn that Team Slow-Vakia only made it over the podium to immediately roll into a garage for repair.  We hit the musical road, and honestly I goofed it up a bit.
 



The truck is so loud, and the baloon-ish tires absorb so much of the noise that it's really hard to hear.  Plus it's REALLY strange how far right you have to track to keep your tires on the grooves.  In the end, it was a big letdown for Katka.  I do offer to re-run it, but she declines and we're Genoa bound

 

Our ETA for Genoa is 1am so we swap spots and now Lukas is driving.  Katka is on her phone looking for a hotel somewhere closer.  And now we're passing other teams on the M-way at a cool 120(kph).  Much horn honking, light flashing, and waving follows.

In addition to a hotel for the night, we're also in need of ferry tickets.  Ferry strategy is a big part of the B2B and we had originally decided we would cross in Gibraltar to Tangier where the African portion of the race starts.  It's an estimated 36-hour drive.

At our last team meet, Lukas brought up a good point:  "Do we really want to start the hardest part of our drive at an energy deficit?"

We mathed it out.  Driving with fuel costs to Gibraltar, and taking a 2-day ferry from Genoa were almost the same.  Why not sit on a boat and drink beer for 2-days before we rough it in Africa?  The race organizers strongly recommended against purchasing tickets in advance, but we've been keeping track of prices ever since.  Right now, they jumped up 50%...  We begin to talk.  Does this change things?

We decide to stick with the race organizers on this one.  This may be a case of a website of unknown integrity price gouging and we dont want to react out of fear.  Furthermore, we're in a tall vehicle (with the roof lights) and we don't even see an option to select for our truck.  We don't want to risk buying the wrong ticket.   If we cant get the ferry in Genoa to Tangier, then we can always drive the 36 hours to Gibraltar and take control of our own destiny.  Continue as planned.

 

In the back seat, it's my job to buy vignettes on the fly.  Hungary and Slovenia both require a road tax sticker to drive on the m-ways and I'm on their respective websites.  On the FB page, someone from Flying Bananas has set up a Whatsapp group for the B2B participants.  We all sign up, and it turns out to be a great way to share info.

easy money...

Except it isn't. 

Katka has been at it this whole time and there are no hotels that advertise "safe parking" available in Genoa.  And with an ETA of 01:30, she's being told again and again that we can't make the reservation because no one will be there to check us in...

dang.

We're chatting with the Mud-Dogs who we met at our last fuel stop, and they're talking about driving to Barcelona without stop and catching the ferry there.  We discuss and decide we don't like it.  More time on the road in Europe is more risk of theft.

Again, we decide to stay on course but again we're not finding any cheap hotels between here and Genoa...  Eventually Katka finds a place in Verona that's 109 euros a night and has 3-beds with secure parking but the online registration doesn't work.  She calls and scores big!  We give an 11am ETA, and the lady on the other end speaks english and says she'll be there.

And that's exactly what happens.  Before midnight, we're all enjoying a refreshing beverage in a small Italian bed and breakfast (Villa Verona Bike, if you're in the area.  Strongly recommend)

 

 

Katka asks:  "Is there anything to do or see in Verona?"

I've had the pleasure of visiting before and loved it.  It's a nice place but I tell her the main attraction is a statue of Juliette (of the Romeo and Juliette variety) and people think it's good luck to touch her boob.  We look and it'd add an hour to our trip, so we dismiss the idea. 

We finish the beer, and it's lights out.

 

Gzwg
Gzwg New Reader
1/19/23 7:19 a.m.
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) said:

The angle of that pic makes it look so much like a Toy car laugh

Was the Firefighter Mercedes driven by an austrian Team, or just bought here? I can't make out the City name.

Ah, more to read..

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltimaDork
1/19/23 7:20 a.m.

I've been waiting for this thread!  Excited to be along for the recap.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/19/23 7:39 a.m.
Gzwg said:
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) said:

The angle of that pic makes it look so much like a Toy car laugh

Was the Firefighter Mercedes driven by an austrian Team, or just bought here? I can't make out the City name.

Ah, more to read..

It was just purchased there.  It's a team from the UK, and they've swapped out the original one-point-nothing liter gas engine with a Bosch diesel that puts out just over 120hp.  Top speed for that thing was like 80kph.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/19/23 7:40 a.m.

In reply to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :

Thanks man!  I'll be honest, it's a bit nostalgic going back over these notes.  I've just edited the above with the youtube video from the musical road.  I did so much worse than I remembered  cheeky

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
1/19/23 7:45 a.m.

Awesome read so far!

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
1/20/23 6:13 a.m.

Day 2.  Still in the European Super Marathon.

So there I was... On a boat for the next two days, truck stuck in the hold...

 

We went to sleep the night before around 2am, and we're up this morning by 6:30.  Again, this hotel is super nice and we feel like we're the only people there.  We shower, etc and find our breakfast waiting for us right outside our room in a little kitchen area.  The host has everything prepared for us, and is a super nice person.

We all get to chatting and find out that we're not the only people here, and sometime during the course of our conversation (in total absence of thought) I pull on my wristband and it ends up SUPER tight...

 

This is a problem as there is no way to loosen it.  Furthermore I cant just cut it off because it's required for the rallye.  Every day (starting in Tangier, Morocco) a person from our team needs to scan in at a device mounted in the window of one of the organizers vehicles.  This lets people following our team know that we made it to camp that day, but also gives us a marque sign to inform us of any info we may need from the organizers.  All no problem though, as I was able to pull the claws back with my swiss army knife and get it loosened.  Still, I'm going to have to be careful.  It's amazing how uncomfortable this thing gets.

We're off shortly after breakfast and see the turnoff to town if we still wanted to go touch Juliette's boob for good luck.  We decide against it (again), and are soon on the highway...

... and RIGHT into a gigantic traffic jam  (see?  we shoulda touched that boob!)

 

 

Nothin to do now, but stretch our legs.  We're here for over an hour, but luckily the Estonian team is right behind us so we have someone to hang out with.

On the Facebook chat, we can see that there's another team about half a kilometer ahead partying it up.  They've got their table and chairs unpacked and are having drinks.  Good times.

When traffic finally clears, we find ourselves in a convoy with the Estonian team and a team that's tackling the adventure in an UAZ.

Misha calls Lukas, and reports they've abandoned the Skoda in favor of a Mitsubishi Pajero, and they're just a few hours behind us (now, how in the hell???).  India calls and reports that the ferries are full, there are exactly ZERO online tickets available.

Here we go again...

Ok, no change in the plan.  We're still driving to Genoa.  If we cant get tickets then we'll drive all night across Europe and sort things out then.  Besides, we're still swapping positions with Team "Mud Dogs" and we know they're headed to Barcelona.  That must mean we're on track as far as time goes.  Nothing for it now but to hit the Italian switchbacks as we drop elevation and head down to the coast.

 

When we get to Genoa, we're somehow able to find our way to the docks.  We're sitting in line but things look messy.  Since traffic isn't moving, we shut the truck down and Lukas heads out to see if he can get any info.  Are we in the right line?  Where do we buy tickets?

This is my view for the foreseeable future:

 

Shortly after Lukas leaves, a man speaking Arabic stops by to ask me if this is the ferry to Tangier.  Now I don't speak Arabic, but I can pick out the occasional word.  It's enough for me to understand his question, and give a shrug when I respond "inshallah, habibi" (it is if god is willing, man).  He heads up to ask some of the other vehicles.

When he comes back by, I ask if we're good.  He confirms, and just like that Katka thinks I understand Arabic.

It's nice to know that we're in the right line, but Lukas comes back and says he has to backtrack on foot to get our tickets.  Shortly after he leaves, traffic starts moving and we pull over to the side of the road to wait for him.

 

News comes in on Facebook messenger that Jack (a BMW rider from the UK) got his motorcycle clutch fixed.  He's out of Belgium now and headed south towards Gibralter and ran RIGHT into some electrical problems.  His bike is cutting out intermittently. "Looks like I'll need to start making friends and quick!" he says.  "See you in Tangier!"

Watching traffic we see other participants driving by, along with various other overlanders, and people who look like they're on a different rally...

Lukas also hits up on messenger and says he needs our documents (passport, and vehicle stuff), we have to head back up to the main building for our tickets.  In the truck we go, and a U-turn we make.

When we get there he explains that he originally asked for a ticket and the counter-person said "no dice man.  Ferry is full!"

Lukas goes on to tell us that he broke out his Italian and told the man "listen, the car is nackered, it's barely running, we got to get it to Morocco, and we wont make it through Spain..."

Well it worked.  We were immediately booked into a 3-person cabin for 899 euro (as opposed to the over 1200 euro we were seeing online).

While on the pier I tried to use an ATM to pull out some Euro.  I wanted at least 500 in cash to have on hand, and Hungary doesn't use the Euro yet so I was waiting until now.  Unfortunately the ATM didn't like my card, and I was being pulled into a small grocery store with the other two.

I looked at my banking app while in there, and noticed I was using the wrong card.  Oops!  No problem though because after we were done shopping I'd just hit the machine again and all would be good.

The shop is a Co-op, which has a little of everything, and we are shopping like drunken college students.  Liquor, chips, beer....  And somehow we ran into Misha and Linda!  (seriously, how did these two catch up with us???).  They're in high spirits, and reprot that their new Pajero is working GREAT!  More on that later because the announcement comes over the intercom "yo, if you're goin then you better get your butts to your vehicles!"

Crap!  I shoulda touched that dang boob!

We pay super quick by throwing everything on my card.  I give the ATM one last sorrowful glance before we all run by.  Looks like I wont be getting my 500 euro today (shoulda touched the boob).

Boarding isn't any easier, and nothing is organized.  We move forward to have our truck ticketed, and then back for passport control.  Move forward to get to the loading area, and then back to have our tickets checked back at the building...  This disorganization can only mean one thing, we must be getting close to Africa.

There she is in all her glory.  Misha and Linda's new Pajero.  We get the story as we're doing all our passport control stuff.  The mechanic they took their Skoda too said the car was absolutely knackered.  He reported seeing garden hose being used for some of the fluid lines, and all sorts of similar bodgery.  He said there was no way he felt he could make the car safe enough to feel ok about them taking it with them to Africa.

BUT he was a huge fan of the rallye and had a Pajero he had been trying to sell with no luck.  It's nothing special, but maybe if they sold it in Africa then they could just send the money back up to him.

Either way, a major win for team Slow-Vakia

 

These guys, on the other hand, were from Papa, Hungary!  Same place I'm from!

They were having troubles communicating and weren't being let on the boat.  The italian guards stuck with it as long as they could but eventually gave up when they realized it was going nowhere.  I stepped up to help out.

The driver showed me his ticket and I was able to talk to the guards in English.  It was explained that all his tickets were for "people" and he was missing one for his vehicle.  Much searching followed, but I had to run as it was our turn to drive up.  I later posted a message on the FB page asking if anyone knew whether or not they made it on the boat.

Speaking of "on the boat", there we were!

 

 

Misha and Linda are one floor up and have a nice suite with a BIG bed.  We all hang out for a drink or 12.

 

One of their camera men is with them though, and we dont know whether or not the rest of their camera crew made it onboard the vessel.  If they didn't, could camera man  sleep with me and Lukas while we put all the girls in one room?  The answer was "yes" but it didn't pan out.  The camera crew made it, and they had their own room.

Easy money

 

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