Sunday, December 24, 2006

The bus is on her way to England!

Mike, Ed and Scott drove up to Dundalk port in Baltimore Friday morning to drop the bus off at the shipping company.

We drove up at 7:30AM and did some filming of the bus in action along the BW parkway. Outside of a few wrong turns in Baltimore and a few close calls while trying to pass the bus in Ed's Landrover/camera platform, we arrived at the port in a light drizzle with everyone in tact and the bus running smoothly. A weird rattle developed halfway through the trip, but it was quickly diagnosed as a loose air filter screw. She's a solid far.

We jumped in head first. Ed took the lead in navigating the bureaucracy of shipping a two-ton 1987 GMC shortbus painted with zebra stripes and the word "peace" in six languages (thanks to Mike's last minute efforts Thursday night!). First stop - a group of jaded desk jockeys where payment and processing began. Mike and I waited outside until Ed arrived back with a smile on his face. So far so good. This is going to be easy!

I decided to film some shots of the bus pulling in through the gate, driving past rows and rows of Nissan Sentras and John Deere tractors. I can only assume the Nissans were inbound, and the tractors were heading out, but who knows where anything is made in these days of globalization. Second stop, an office with a bunch of salty looking dockworkers hanging out under the stairs to keep their cigarettes dry on a union break. Again, we wait....Ed returns again, still smiling. While he was in the office awaiting our next directive, a fight broke out amongst the workers inside. One old weathered dockworker said it was pretty normal for this time of year, they all get very punchy around the holidays. Punchy indeed!

While Mike and I waited, I rolled film on dock b-roll - ships, cranes, big machines moving even bigger machines. At some point a guy came over and told me that this is a Homeland Security protected area and that if any of the authorities saw me, they would take the tape. End of filming....

We embarked on the last part of the process - actually parking the bus in the spot where it will sit in until someone loads her onto the freighter next week. This was the part of the process we worried about - measuring, and more importantly, inspecting the bus. We were lead around a corner and lo and behold, there was an armada of school buses all waiting to be shipped out! Did we just run across a treasure trove of unknown PDC team vehicles all going to England for the start of the challenge? Was our idea of doing this trip in a school bus not as original as we thought? Nope. Apparently school buses are bought from all over the country and shipped out for service across the globe. The interesting part was that these buses were all labeled and heading out to "The Bin Laden Group, Saudi Arabia". Hmmm...well on one hand, it definitely piqued our interest as to what the story with that was. On the other, it allayed our fears about the chances of a freaky looking shortbus making it through customs!

This scene was too much to resist. Ed and I "decided" that we should get his car and drive over to pick Mike up. The inspector lady took a break from measuring and puffing on her Marlboro ultra light to give us a lift back to Ed's car. We got in the car and I immediately got the camera out and cracked the tinted passenger side window. How could I not film? A ton of buses all going to the Bin Laden family business along with our girl? Too interesting. We did a little covert filming - just enough to tell the story and pulled up next to our bus. Our inspector was all done! No interest in what was inside. It could've been loaded from top to bottom with C-4 or cocaine, but I guess that is England's problem. Just measurements of the exterior dimensions and it was over! She made it through the process with everything on board!

We left the port feeling good. A large chunk of the work involved in our adventure was over. Weekends of working on the bus came to this moment where we had to let her go. Whatever preparations that we should've/could've done are irrelevent now. And we felt a little wistful as well. Working on the bus was a fun, team-building experience. We all became master carpenters (not), got to know each other a little better, and the Penitent Yanks team dynamics started to fall into place.

The next time we see the bus we will be embarking on the real part of our adventure. This is going to fun! A trip-tych with 4,000 miles to check off...

Happy Holidays to everyone that has supported the team thus far, family, friends, and fellow PDC'ers! Thank you all so much for your love and support!

Team Penitent Yanks

Friday, December 22, 2006

Picture Badge Added

I've added a picture badge to the site from Flick. A picture badge is that thing on the right side of the blog that has images moving around within the frame. It's pointed to a photo album of pictures from the 'bye bye bus' event.
I believe that it's fairly self-evident that I can't take pictures very well, so if you have any pictures that you want to share, send them to me, and I'll add them to the blog. Regardless, I'll keep adding pictures of yanks stuff to the album over time.
Happy holidays.

Bus Final Preparations

The last 2 days have been hectic. The boys have been fiercely slaving away, trying to get the bus ready for the big ship off to the mother land. The roof rack has been put away, spare parts have been loaded on the bus, and the stereo system has been installed (wired anyway), thanks to Rod, who might as well be a member of the team, for all the help and assistance he's provided. We never did get any work done on the engine, but we have sound, which might be just as important as good hoses and belts, come to think of it.
I've heard (no pun intended) that the sound system is awesome, and there's plenty of power to blow the socks off of any nomads we might pass in the desert while listening to the tunes. Now the problem's going to be figuring out who gets to pick the music. I have a sneaking suspicion that there's limited overlap in our team's tastes. Showtunes or Galactic? Christmas music or Metallica? Cher or the Funky Meters? Oh well, at least we won't run out of things to talk about.

We got some cup holders installed near the driver, too, thank god. I was getting tired of trying to drive and hold a cup of coffee between my legs at the same time. This is going to be a life-saver (assuming we're moving).

Today started early - the guys drove the bus up to Baltimore in the early morning. Here's a picture of Scott filming the bus moving.

Duplex Diner Night

The big 'bye bye bus' event was a success, thanks to all our friends, family and fellows who showed up to wish the bus well. Thanks again to the Duplex Diner for hosting our party. I hope everyone had half as much fun as we did.

Pictures are forthcoming, and I have no idea why I'm the only person who ever posts this stuff on the blog (hint, hint).

Pictures from a previous event

More pictures from the Daschle fund raiser. These are the only images, and the only time, that the whole team was together in one place. Mike wanted these reposted, and doesn't know how to do it himself.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Pictures of the bus!

The bus, in all it's glory. It's kind of hard to see in the picture, but we've got a zebra print roof rack. Talk about styling...

Our official Challenge Numbers.

Our challenge numbers, on the roof of the bus.

The wheels of this bus not only go round, they also mesmerize.

Scott, hard at work.

Remnants from the bus event. For the christening, we decided to spray the bus, rather than breaking the bottle and running the risk of causing permanent damage to our delicate beast.

T-Shirts Available!

We've got t-shirts made, and they look awesome!
Design looks like the images posted here.
We're asking for a $20 donation in return for one of these puppies. Contact us at if you're interested.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wanted: Dartboard

Anyone have an old dartboard they aren't using that they want to donate to the cause?
We need some way to pass the time when the bus breaks down. Since we're going to be traveling with a bunch of Brits, maybe we'll make some gas money along the way with some friend games of cricket.
I knew there was a reason we were bringing Scott along...
FYI, This is the first, and by no means last, wanted post. We even have a label for these things. Check it out, and see how you, too, can help. We're not only raising money for charities, we're also helping you clean out the garage!

Another Sponsor Added to the Site

the Duplex Diner has been added to the sponsor page. Looking forward to seeing everyone there on Wednesday night. Last chance to sign the bus!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Now everyone will know who we are and where we came from.

Numbers on the bus.

Putting locks and handles on the door.

Painting the top of the bus.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

T-Shirt Design

Hot off the presses, here's the latest version of the t-shirts that the great folks at Fox Screen Printing are making for us.
We'll be selling these to raise funds for our charities. If you're interested in getting one, they'll be available at the Bus Bye Bye Event, or you can contact Ed about getting yours (

Front Image:

Back Image:

Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sponsor added to site

Added Fox Screen Printing to the Sponsors page of the website.
Thanks for the shirts!

Another Team discovered

Another web-site of a team in the Plymouth-Banjul challenge

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

updated web-site

Kara and Scott have now been officialy added to the team. They're now on the website.

Blog Update/Funny Picture

OK, I couldn't help myself. I saw this picture and in some twisted way saw it as a metaphor for our trip. Big question is - who will be the cat? I vote Jay...

Anyway, our blog is garnering more and more attention, which as a team, we only hope will translate into more money being raised for our charities, Global Colors and the ADA (that has nothing to do with dentists - see sidebar for links). We have had hits from all over Europe, Canada, South America, and of course the US and the numbers go up every day. So good working getting the word out!

Also, we as collective semi-luddites when it comes to the complexities of all things Internet, are trying to figure out exactly what kind equipment/card/account we need to give our Macbook the ability to be internet connected via satellite during the trip. It is crucial to the outreach aspect of our trip, and while we have been busy readying the bus, we need to start working that technlogy out. Any pointers/advice would be great - THANKS!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Polariod Pictures

I contacted someone in Polaroid's media department today about getting some polaroid film donated for the trip. Both Ed and I (and I assume Mike) had singular, and similar, experiences with our respective polaroids on our trips into remote areas.
When I was traveling down the amazon (lo these many years ago), people would constantly ask us to take their picture with the polaroid and give it to them as keepsakes. I don't know how the news traveled, but travel it did. People would show up whenever we were at dock, sometimes bringing their entire families in tow, to have a picture taken. I realized, talking to some of them, that they'd never seen themselves in a photo before, and many of them had no family photos.
It would be great if we could take pictures of people in some of the more remote areas where we're traveling. I know that some cultures have issues with picture taking, so we'll have to be somewhat careful and get a person's approval.
There's something magical about the way a photograph slowly materializes on the film, too. It's so much fun to watch people's expressions change as the image develops.
Here's hoping that the company comes through for us.

Bus Name...

How about Sandy?

Or better yet, we make naming the bus part of the fundraiser. Come up with 4-5 names and let our donors pick. Or let everyone put a name in, and we pick one. Winner gets a free order of curly fries.

And then maybe Jay can create a piechart powerpoint presentation to unveil the winner? OK, the last comment was a was the curly fries thing...but they do taste good!

May be a repeat...

But, for all those who may be checking out the blog for the first time, here is a video ( put together by another team ( that explains the basic premise of the challenge. If you search "Plymouth-Banjul" on Google Video or YouTube you can find more...Jay can you do that thing you do to make these links instead of URLs?

Also, word is we will have a final fundraiser/send off for the bus before she departs for England next Wednesday, December 20th at the 18th&U Diner. More details to follow...

Bon Voyage Bus Event

We're having a farewell to the bus/charity fundraising event next week. This will be the last time most people will have a chance to see the bus before it boards the boat and makes its slow and circuitous way to the starting line (and eventual finish line). Come by and check out our little engine that could, sign your name, buy a tshirt, and give to our charities! Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell everyone you were there.

Where: Duplex Diner, 2004 18th St.

When: Wednesday, December 20th, from 7:30 to 10 pm.

Who: The penitent yanks and you, and lots of other pretty people. Trust me, they'll be there.

Why: Because you love us, and we love you. Because you're just dying to see what this talk has been about. So you can personally laugh in all of our faces after your first hand appraisal of our conveyance. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because you've been dreaming of joining us on our adventure, and you want to make sure you can fit snugly lying down on the benches.

How: One foot in front of the other, baby. Slow and steady.

Donations: Yes, this is a fundraising event. We welcome and appreciate any donation you can give to our charities. We will have a donation box and/or table. We will take cash, checks, or any other liquid form of payment. There will be a way to accept credit cards on pledge forms, too.
Note that charitable donation tax receipts will only be available for sizeable donations and if specifically requested.

Bus: The bus will (hopefully) be parked outside of the diner during the event. You will have the opportunity to add your signature to the interior of the bus, take pictures with the old dame, or pretend that you're driving while someone takes your picture, just like the fair.
Contrary to all rumors, there will be no hot rodding in the bus up and down 18th street. There will also be no joy riding in the bus (at least not until later).

Diner: The Duplex Diner has been gracious enough to host this event and let all of our friends congregate in a single place for a fun filled evening. This is a regular service night for them, with the same great food and drink menu*. Tip the hard working people well for putting up with us.
* This means the only free drinks are the ones you're buying me.

RSVP: No official RSVP. Just show up, if you can. If you can't, then you're just SOL, aren't you? We'll probably have one more official function before we leave for our trip, sometime in mid to late January (the people farewell party), if that will work better for you.

Good morning all,I have been visiting the PBC website, and a few things come to mind that we will need to deal with:

1. Personal Information Sheets
The suggestion is to have about 15 copies each as we might not get them back, and they are helpful at the borders. Apparently, you will need to fill out your occupation in French. Kara?
If not, Note: lumberjack might comeup as homicidal ax-wielding (tree) killer...don't you just love the literal translation?

2. Insurance for the bus
I had gotten a reasonable quote from Geico early in the summer, but seeing as I am not the registered owner, I don't believe that it applies any more, and it wasn't for a bus. Ed, have you investigated this? The insurance should be good for Europe AND Morocco, but not Mauri, Senegal, or the Gambia. 6 months was cheaper than 1 month if I remember correctly.

On the PBC website, there is something called 'Green Card Insurance', but this may be what it is called in the UK. "Green card insurance IS required for Europe, this also is validin Morocco, if you do not have a green card there is an insuranceman at the Moroccan border (15-20 quid)."

"Carnets are NOT required. Carnets are outlandishly (expensive And I) 'm not even sure you would need one even to drive as far as RSA, though itwould be a bummer to be turned back at the Ethiopian border. So anybody going that far usually has one." [quote from PBD website]

3. Vehicle log book.The V45 (log book) in the name of one of the drivers IS required. And,the recommendation in the PBC road book is to have a spare copy (that looks just like the original) in case it is confiscated...I mean accidentally misplaced. I don't know what a V45 log book is, but we need to get one. It couldbe this/something like this:

I should have pumps, belts, and rims in hand Thursday evening....that Ed's just great..they're all great....but WHY are there so many Eds in my life these days?

Air conditioning, anyone?

So, we are beginning to make some serious headway in the parts department, largely (solely) courtesy of the helping hand and enthusiasm of one Ed Leandres. Ed, parts man extraordinaire, and currently camera shy, will be furnishing us with a fuel pump, a water pump, has located rims for Thomas(ina...aren't cars, and boats, supposed to be female?), and has been just amazing in his willingness to both educate me and assist the motley Penitent Yanks. He has focused his knowledge, skills, and efforts on determining just which things are critical for our journey in the motor vehicle department, and has taken the reins. I cannot thank him enough for his efforts, enthusiasm, and assistance at crunch time.

Considering that the only time Thomasina and I have bonded and had some alone time together has been to escape the wicked pen, or electronic recording device, of the menacing DC meter maids, I don't know the answer to the question he has posed: do we have air conditioning? Not that I believe we will need it, especially not in the Pyrenes....I think that at that point the wish will be that global warming were a little more blantantly obvious to the extent that nay-saying politicos couldn't conjure up a single speech writer to compose something about how the evidence is murky at best. But I digress. Do we have air conditioning?

I am attempting to gather all the accessories that will make Thomasina beautiful inside, under the hood where it counts, accessorize her in a suitable material buffer between frame and earth (or sand...she's a woman, she must love shoes, right?) and then make the journey to DC ASAP for her imminent departure....maybe even this weekend. After starting my Moroccan Arabic indoctrination last night, I have come to the conclusion that learning to repair a bus between now and February might just be a little bit easier than learning to tell someone in Moroccan Arabic that the bus is broken...kidding....kind of.

Positive news from my training session last night: The verb 'to have' is the same. Once I figure out the word for problem, and air conditioning, I will have two tools that may be indispensible: "I have air conditioning" and "I have a problem." I will try to forget how to say the things that the "Making Out in Arabic" book taught me last week, honest...although some of that stuff might really come in handy. Eddie...I think it best you never see this book , as you bartering skills would be infinitely enhanced, and your kung-fu would be too powerful for me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Its not work unless you are showing some crack.

Another Team on the Challenge

These guys look like they're going to have some fun...

Its a roof rack!!

Bench building, part III

So, we're pretty much done with the construction aspect of the bus. The benches are built. They're mounted, as much as they ever will be, into the bus. Hasps and hinges have been added. The one thing we're waiting for is the cushion material to go along the top of the benches, which should arrive later this week (we still need something to cover the cushioning, but we'll figure that out).
We made fast work of a jimmied together roof rack system. Bolted some 2x4s onto the roof and added some left over art shipping crates as holders. It'll look somewhat bizarre, I'm sure, but it's definitely functional at the moment. The team's actually getting pretty good at putting wood stuff together into a cohesive unit that looks like what it's supposed to be.
Thanks again to Logan for supplying all the things we couldn't scrounge for ourselves. We'd be in trouble if it weren't for those 8" bolts. And special kudos go to Scott and Kara for hosting all the work at their place this week.
I'm giving myself a pat on the back, too, for the anti-rain and pro-warmth dance that I did on Friday night. I think our experience this weekend would be drastically different if it had been 20 degrees colder (or 20 degrees, period). There are some benefits to global warming, I guess (and is that joke ever going to get old?).
What's left? Work on the engine, for the most part. The most important aspect of the bus, and the one we've spent the least time doing anything about, besides worrying. Our little bus Thomas is going to go to the PepBoys clinic sometime today or tomorrow and have the radiator checked out again. We're hoping that someone there will figure out how to get the heat working again (needed for the first third of the trip).
Ed's friend, Rod, has donated some stereo speakers (for the yet to be acquired stereo) and some extra spot lights. These will all come in very handy. Thanks, Rod!
There's a ton of things that we would like done to the bus before we leave, but nothing's really standing out as necessary at this time. We're hoping to find someone, or some company, to donate some time, expertise, garage space, or parts to do any of the following:
-fix the radiator
-get the heat working (mentioned above).
-check out the oil fiter and diesel filter.
-replace the air filter.
-replace the hoses and belts.
-look over the brakes and give us a status.
-get locks on the emergency doors.
-Need some new tires!
-More importantly, we need to figure out how we're going to change the tires while we're on the road. We're not really sure what we're going to do about this right now, the assumption being that standard jacks aren't going to lift the rust bucket enough for a change.
-Speaking of rust bucket, we're looking for a chemical process that de-oxidates(is that a word?) the rust and turns it back to good old-fashioned and functional steel. There's some worry that a decent karate chop would go right through the suspension and the undercarriage, which doesn't bode well for the pounding we'll get driving off road across Africa.
Jenna's found someone to donate a bunch of spare parts, which will come in supremely handy on the trip, should we need spare parts. Now all we'll need is someone who can fix whatever's broken... I'm expecting her to provide an update on that front shortly.
So, things are looking up for the little bus that could. Maybe it's not clear skies and smooth sailing, but it's definitely better than it was. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Lastly, we were able to turn off the warning sounds when the rear doors are open and the engine's on. Maybe not a huge thing, but something that will help us keep our sanity during the trip.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bench Building, Part 2

We spent the day finishing up the benches and catching up.
Here are some pictures of the now experienced carpenters, making measurements and knocking some wood together. I pity the fools who will be riding in the back.

"Hey, from up here, it looks great! I think we're done. It's miller time!"

The more screws, the better. (Notice the how straight and plumb the lines are.)

Every project needs its supervisors.
"So this is where I think we should write, 'If found, please return to...'"

"What are we doing, again? Benches? We don't need no stinking benches."

The view in the morning.

The view in the afternoon.

The other side.
There's a top on this now. Really. It looks great.

"No, you missed my point. I think we should bolt some deck chairs up here, and be done with the whole thing. No. Right here! On the roof. What do you mean, dangerous. This is going to be great! Oh, come on. Just keep your mouth closed, you'll be fine."

Found in the digital camera. It may not be the three proverbial monkeys, but this triptych is trying to say something.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I also think...

We should post everything three times too. That will keep them coming back time and time again...

Jay, you need to teach me how to do that link thing too so the kids will stay interested. Maybe some dancing babies too?

Just when you thought you were cool...

I had been thinking that our blog was pretty hip and happening, and we'd joined the ranks of hipster kids, blogging their little hearts out while sipping lattes in cafes all over town. We've got posts. We've got sidebar links to other stuff. We've even got images in some of our posts and a frigging entry that I made from my phone! What more could there be?
Then, I did was the kids do these days, and linked through to the blog site Scott mentions in his post, By the way, Scott: you're supposed to "link" the link. Cross-pollination's the name of the game in this brave new world. Like candy to a wee one, linking makes 'em all happy and bouncy. Not only that, but, as a society, we're steadily progressing towards utter sloth and nobody wants to type in a URL when they could just as easily click on a link. Now you know.
Whatever. The point is that I was wrong. Dead wrong. There's all sorts of newer and cooler stuff that we should have on our blog. Like flikr picture murals with moving pictures. And more counters. And slideshows in our blog entries. I hear you can even get movies to play within your blog or something.
Where did all this stuff come from? How did I get so behind the times? I remember the old days (yes, I'm riffing off the blog that I linked to) when you had to create a web page from scratch if you were interested in posting your personal thoughts on the internet. You had to write stuff up in a text file, save it, find your favorite site, steal their html code (god, remember how much fun tables were?), plop your text into the appropriate tags, and then upload the whole file onto your geocities space. That was work, let me tell you. Links would fail. Indexes had to be manually updated. And you had to keep loading those creepy midi songs onto your site to keep people interested. What was that, a whole 2 years ago?
Again, whatever. The real point is that we've got to get cracking if we want to impress anyone with our accomplishments. We need more pizzazz and flair. More bright shiny things. Drive 4000 miles in a rust bucket? Sure, that might be interesting to mom and dad back home, but post some pictures of Mr. Missing-Some-Teeth Ed, with his head in the engine and his pants hanging down, and we'll get everyone's attention.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We know who you are...

Just a note for everyone on this unseasonable warm December morning (fingers crossed that this will hold out for another weekend of dazzling carpentry and bus upgrades). A friend and expert blogger, Arjewtino, (, otherwise known as a "blogspert", got us set up with a sitemeter. Not only will this measure the amount of traffic our blog is getting, but tell us where the hits are coming from.

As of this morning (two days into using the sitemeter) most of our hits are from obvious areas (Providence - Jenna, LA - Barton, and DC - the rest of us), but we've had a hit from Vienna and Chile....interesting...I can only assume these are other teams checking in on the site, or random worldly sadists who want to see what happens when a bunch of mechanically uninclined people try to drive a school bus through the Sahara.

I will report occasionally on the traffic, if for anything, to know that people are actually looking at the blog.

We we will also be linked to within the week. They are a Washington area blog reporting website. They see our posts and will post anything they see of interest for all the other area blogs. Thanks to them! It's a fascinating world of cross-referenced digital information out there I tell you!

So if anyone is reading this, via DCBlogs, or otherwise, thanks and please consider donating to the project - no matter how small - whether financially, or with expertise/service/sage advice/spreading the word - while this trip is going to be a lot of fun, ultimately the goal is to raise as much money as possible for a host of worthy causes...not to mention making sure our bus makes it all the way to the Gambia so it can be donated as well.

Press on!

Donor Page

A donor page has been added to the site. Ask one of our represntatives about getting your name up on the page!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thanks, Chad

It just dawned on me that we failed to thank Chad for bringing us lunch last Saturday when we were all working on the bus. Thanks, dude. Great timing - food was sorely needed.
Do you deliver to the sahara?

Track me

Did anyone else read this post on the yahoo group? I'm going to try and set up something for us to place our waypoints (do we have any yet?)
I'll keep you posted on developments.
PS - what's the copyright issues with posting from a post? The vienna-banjul guys have set up something pretty cool.
Does anyone know how to link to a you tube video from a web-site?

Hi,because I wanted to be able to display a map on our team website( which shows we currentlyare, I've implemented an email -> google map service (sms works to ifyou read on).I figured that maybe others want to put a google map ( with their route progess on their homepage as well,so I've created a little website for all of you. (pronounced like trackme @)It's not finished yet, but it already works. You can currently addand edit waypoints over the website (which is a little cumbersome)and you can add waypoints by sending an email to a special address,which generates for you (read more about that at can also easily put the google map with your route on your ownhomepage by just copy and pasting the provided html code (it's a oneliner) on your map page at you may wonder how you should send emails from the desert (myphone actually does that, but yours might not)?Daniel Lakey from iroll told me about an sms2email gateway with a UKphone number, which you can use to add waypoints with a descriptionyour google map (if just tested it) send an sms to +447747782320 in the following format:secretaddress@... label;latitude;longitude;description textan example would be:secretaddress@... Banjul;13.459;-16.600;Let's party in Banjul!(replace secretaddress with the address generates for you)lg philipp (Team MKL:Graz)ps: please give me feedback if everything works for you - I hackedthis together during 3 nights, so there might be some bugs ;-)

Future Language Faux-Pauxs

Slightly worried about the need to understand and communicate Moroccan Arabic, I hit the local bookstore with a vengeance last night. Expecting to find everything I needed in the blink of an eye, and knowing exactly what that was, to my dismay there were no books on my desired subject matter. How could that be....I have been sleeping, eating, drinking, and worrying about Morocco for months....Especially considering that Ed has mentioned several times that if the opportunity presents itself for the bartering of any Penitent Yanks goods for bus parts or service, that I would be first on the chopping block!! Isn't Moroccan Arabic at the top of everyone's list of languages to study? That's why there were no books available...yeah, that's it.

All of my research has assured me that Moroccan Arabic is very different from say, the nice, sweet words I learned from (to borrow a phrase from Ed) 'the Mistake' I made for a few years too many. I have been reaquainting myself with the modern standard Arabic after a mental boycott, and vowed that I will (re)-learn Arabic script, because if there are any signs in the middle of the desert, I am fairly certain that they will not have the latinate equivalent directly beneath the Arabic word.

Not swayed by my disappointment and the delay (I did witness part of the bus construction process last weekend), I went over and had the store order me up some audio. Needing a place to let my eggnog latte cool down, I picked up an interesting little pocket-sized book that I wish I had had years ago. Although in Modern Standard Arabic, it contained many useful phrases for life, and the giggling and gasping and 'om my Gods' I was emitting was on the verge/over the verge of annoying the heck out of my fellow patrons who were quietly enjoying some sort of visual entertainment. There were various insults, phrases that which came with surgeon-general like warnings about what might happen if they were used, and how certain phrases, though clearly effective insults, would leave the listener likely forced to retort with the equivalent of "and you kiss your mother with that mouth?"

Much centered on how to use the f* word, with varying degrees of severity, intensity and emotion. One warning which I wish I had known is that apparently calling someone a liar is close to a mortal sin, and the f word is much better. No wonder things didn't work out.

If we only had this book in Moroccan Arabic, I am certain that the team would be able to talk there way into and out of any trouble that may come our way, and I most assuredly would not be bartered for a fuel pump. I am heading to the junkyard this weekend, just in case.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Still trying to make some gas money.

Making some gas money, ed finds his calling.

Driving conditions

We're gonna cross this without any heat?

Christmas in December

As Scott recently noted, things are starting to come together. One would question how well things are coming together, if one were an observer of our carpentry skills, but they are coming together, nonetheless.
Our sponsors and support groups have been tremendous over the last few weeks and days. We had our first shopping excursion at Logan hardware on Saturday morning, before the building fiasco. It's a little surpising how many people it can take to fill a shopping cart from a shopping list, and how much uncertainty and blissful ignorance on all things technical can be held by such a large group of would be world travelers. Personally, I sort of felt like a teenager getting ready for the first school dance. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the self conciousness in front of the camera. When's that going to go away, I wonder.

Anyway - shopping trip number one is done. There's going to be at least one more shopping spree at Logan, and I don't think any of us can thank those guys enough for all their support and help.

Today, Mike sent out the specs on the roof rack to his family. Any support structure that we can get is going to be monumentally helpful.

Still lots of work to be done. We need some mechanical help and would love to find a mechanic/garage sponsor to help us out with last minute engine/mechanical tweaking and repairs. It would be nice to get the heat working before we embark across the pyrenees, let alone the atlas moutains. I think our first flat is going to be an adventure.


Self-admittedly, blogs are not something I've given too much consideration to at this point in my life. I think I have even made fun of a friend or two for having one. On the other hand, I won't be getting on here everyday and posting about the mundane details of my life, so I still recuse myself from being a part of the -what is it - blogoland? blogomunity? This is actually a great way to keep everyone informed as to what is going on with the project!

Anyway, as Kara and I are late joiners to the effort, I think it is just hitting us that this is happening. We are both excited and ready to jump in head first. This weekend the team spent a good part of two days framing out benches for the back of the bus. Amanda and Jenna took the reigns in the design department and after much discussion about how to build these, we just started cutting wood and screwing it together. How many PBC'ers does is take to screw in a screw? Apparently at least six...

None of us are 100% convinced that these structures are capable of holding human beings, but once we attach them to the bus and add some plywood we should be good to go. They only need to be functional for the duration of the trip, as we imagine whoever ends up with the bus will not want them, and possibly even get a chuckle out of their dubious construction...

It was great working as a team for the first time in getting something done to the bus, spirits are high. There's still a lot left to do, as Ed has talked to the shipping company and the bus will need to head out to sea on the 3rd or 4th of January.

I see many cold afternoons working on the bus in our near future...but as Ed noted, we will do what we can to prepare the bus before she leaves for England then it's in the automotive gods hands...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tried out the email function of blogger. How cool is that?

Here's a picture of Amanda. I don't know where she is, or why I took the pic. Oh, wait. I think that's at Dan and Jenni's place on Friday.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Fund Raiser

We held our first, and perhaps only, fund raiser on Thursday night. It was a great night - a night full of friends, family, fun and filanthropy. We raised a ton of money for our charities (thank you very much to everyone who gave) and got a bunch of people to sign the bus (what a great idea, huh?).
The Daschles opened their home to us for the event. It was an incredibly kind and generous thing for them to do. They are wonderful people, full of warmth and kindness.

Surprisingly, this event was also the first time the whole team was together in one place, and the first time we all met, face to face. Here's a picture to commemorate the event.

The group, from left to right: Barton Brooks, Tom Daschle, Mike Weber, Linda Daschle, Eddie Fox, Jenna Cragan, Kara Suter, Amanda Greene, Jay Greene and Scott DeGraw.

It was great to see everyone who came out. Thanks again.

Other shots from the evening:
Here's a picture of me coming out of our vehicle of honor.

Here's a picture of Ed, talking to Emily (a PDC veteran) and Nick (one of the other challenge-takers? seekers? competitors? on our heat, and a member of one of the other US teams).

Friday, December 01, 2006


Apparently, we haven't done the best job of communicating basic information about our efforts in the challenge to all those family members and friends who have taken an interest in this adventure. It became clear during the fundraiser that there are a number of common questions that have not been adequately answered on our web-site or during our conversations with people.
This, then, will be where we resolve all the questions that are most frequently asked:

How did you come up with this idea/hear about the challenge?
The story goes something like this: Ed came by our house many moons ago, sometime in late winter, or early spring, excited about an article he had read in Outside magazine. We talked. We enthused. We started scheming and dreaming, trying to come up with a plausible way that we could get into the next event. Hours late, and with Amanda's green light on the project, we were committed to going (and just plain committed). No discussion of any practicalities was ever broached.
A few weeks later, Jenna came to visit (remember St. Patty's day?). Details are a bit sketchy on the specifics but, in what can only be presumed to be booze addled thinking, Jenna opted to join us on the trip, and transform the deluded duo into a twisted trio of a team.
Soon afterwards, Ed roped Mike into the mix, and our full complement was formed. Still no definite plans on how or what to do, and nothing more than a vague sense that an application was due to the officials.
Barton came later, starting as a potential source for grass roots charities, and quickly becoming part of the team. Most recently, Scott and Kara, tired of hearing about the great plans and the wonderful adventure that was about to be had, threw their hats into the race and promised to lend their back to any pushing and sand shoveling that might arise in the future.
And, thus, a team was born.

Where did the bus come from/How did you get the bus?
The original idea for the bus was Amanda's idea, proposed mostly in jest during one of the late night team brain storming sessions. And it stuck. We all loved the idea of having this giant moving party machine that could be used to add people to the adventure, with plenty of room for all our various equipment and fellow travelers. No one really thought about the costs associated with larger vehicles. Not yet, at least.

As for getting the bus, that's a longer story. The short version on the short bus: Bid on eBay for a bus in Buffalo, NY. First bid, just for fun and to get the team started on vehicle acquisition process. Bid wins. Ed, Jay, Amanda and Ethan fly to Buffalo (visit Niagara Falls). Drive bus home (with an unplanned pit stop near Rush, NY). Much learning, the old school type that's hard and painful, is learned.

What are you raising money for, or, Why should I give you money to have this much fun?
We are raising money for 2 grass roots charities operating in and near the Gambia. All proceeds that we raise go toward the charities. We believe that these are very worthy causes, so please donate whatever and however you can. The bus isn't going to win any speed competitions, and we're sure that we'll lag all the other teams in the non-race (wink, wink), but we'd like to come out in the lead as total raisers of fun. That would be something to crow about.
We, the team members, are financing all the "fun" stuff associated with the challenge from our own pockets, or through the very generous donations of our sponsors (see sidebar for a list or our website). The repairs, the upgrades to the bus, the travel, food, lodging, gas (yikes!), and shipping.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's a giant puddle of water between DC and Plymouth. How are you getting the bus over to England?
As you may know already, several of us are avid sailors. We're going to make the bus water-tight, throw some canvas up on her roof, and follow the trade winds across the pond. That's what all that sailing in the Bay(s) was preparing us for.
Actually, we're shipping the bus. It's surprisingly easy, straightforward, and cheaper than you would think. I guess globalization isn't all bad.

I know one/some/all of you, and you couldn't find the carburetor if your life depended on it, let alone fix it. Who's the mechanic of the bunch?
We don't have one. Yes. Yes, we know.

This sounds like more fun than popping zits. Can I come too?
Are you a mechanic?

It has been our intention from the beginning to make this an open invitation to all of our friends and family to join us on part or all of the route. Amanda's coming for part of the trip, for example. We've all been very surprised, to tell you the truth, on the number of people who are actively considering or who have committed (see team description above) to coming on the trip. Space is getting crowded, granted, but we still haven't deviated from our thoughts on people joining us. Yet. There's some finite number of people who can conceivably be on the bus at one point. We haven't hit that number yet, but it's fast approaching. If you're serious about joining us for part of the trip, you best speak up now.

When are you leaving? What's the timetable/dates?
The exact date of departure is still up for debate. The fourth heat of the challenge officially leaves from Plymouth on the second of February, but we're thinking about leaving early and spending more time in Spain than is slated by the challenge. We don't get over to that side of the Atlantic all that often, and most of us have never been to Spain.
In general, this is what we're expecting:
-Bus leaves US sometime in early/mid January.
-1/25 Team members start arriving in England.
-2/1 to 2/2 The bus, with team, is seen barrelling around sharp corners in Southern Spain.
-2/23 The bus is auctioned off to a very lucky new owner.
Everything else is up in the air for the moment.

Updated Blog

I've upgraded to the new blog software version. New functionality lets us change the way things look and feel on the blog site. Damn skippy cool!

Now we're playing with fire!

Weird stuff on the blog.

We lost the image of the bus. Not sure what happened there. I'll try to fix that later. I was hoping that I could figure out some way to extend some of the links, too, but that doesn't seem to have worked. Optimally, I'll figure out how to use the labels at some point to organize this thing.
Ah, where does the time go? And how does one put titles on this thing?