Wednesday, January 31, 2007


It looks like Scott is uploading the pictures that Mike has put together (it´s amazing what you can do with photoshop these days!). As the pictures show, we´re having a great time. As an update, we´ve made it to San Sebastian, just inside Spain for the evening.
We had our first break down today!! Leak in the fuel line from the fuel intake to the gas tank. Diesel all over the place when we tried to fill the tank. Easily fixed by a very gracious and helpful mechanic that, by complete serendipity, happened to be across the street from the hotel where we stayed for the night. We also realized that one of the rear tires was flat during dinner and decided to wait until the morning to fix it.
We found a tire shop that dealt with large sized tires. Unfortunately, the American tire sizes are different than European ones (like that´s a surprise), so they don´t have any tires for us. We unloaded all the spares that we are carrying with us, and only one tire was decent enough to use as a replacement. One of the tires was already destroyed, and the other is being saved as a last minute back up.
We were back on the road by noon, and smooth sailing since then.
San Sebastian is a beautiful city. The people here have so far been much more enthusiastic and expressive when seeing the bus than the French were. We´re getting a lot of horn blowing, hand waving, and picture taking. What fun.
More news later. So far, so good.

Photos from the road

Photos from the road

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Leaving Carhaix

Had the absolutely best time over the last day. too much to tell right now. leaving for bordeux and then off to spain.
Loaded down with bikes, wheelchairs and other things destined for Senegal.
Our hosts here have been fantastique. The hospitality has been tremendous. Will write much more later. We are on Brittany TV right now.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pictures from the road...

Bill the security guy watches us set the bus up at Southampton airport. A nice guy and a great start to our trip!

Sushi in London!

Bus in Portsmouth

The vanguard portion of the team (those who flew out on Thursday night) made a stupendous discovery for the team. We've been spending a considerable amount of time discussing and wondering where we're going to park the bus when we arrive in cities through the European portion of our route. Most old cities are far too large and congested for us to deal with in old Thomas.
Somehow, someone realized that we could park the bus in the satelite parking area of the airport. Brilliant!! Airports are outside of town, have easy transportation options into the towns, and the parking lots are monitored and guarded.
So far, it's worked well in Southampton, and should be a viable option in the rest of Europe.

We finally made it back to the bus today in the early afternoon. We almost missed our stop, engrossed in our conversation and failing to notice the stop until it was too late. Lots of bag hauling and hustling, and we were on the shuttle to the bus.
The bus looked fine. No vandalism. No theft. No spontaneous combustion.
We installed the roof rack on the bus while we were in the parking lot. No time like the present to test out the structural integrity of the press board. It looks good, and so far the 3 spare tires are riding in style.

While we were working on the bus, the airport parking security van pulled up. The security people ambled over and started asking questions about the bus. Luckily for us, it turned out that the security person, Bill, was just interested in where the bus came from, where it was going, and what we were all about. He spent the better part of a half hour talking to us while the bus was put back together. Bill was able to help us out on the parking fee, too, which was incredibly appreciated. A great guy, and a stupendous way to officially start off the trip. We all take meeting Bill as a great omen for the rest of the trip. Thanks, Bill!

The bus drove great. No stalling or problems. Still getting our fair share of stares and attention from passing cars and pedestrians. Still haven't passed many cars, nor do I think that we will. More importantly, the music is pumping and the jams are flowing, thanks to our friend, Rod. I cannot imagine how much (more) unbearable this trip would be without tunes.

Beer Glasses by the pound

England has a lot of beer options. I find it amazing that most bars (or pubs) have a separate glass for each beer, with the beer's name. That's a lot of glassware.
London has been a LOT of fun, although way too expensive for our budget. And here, I thought New York was ridiculous.

A very special penitent yankish thank you goes out to Freddy for being a consummate host for half the team on Saturday night. We had a great time, and it was great for me to spend some time with an old friend. Thanks, Freddy!

Thanks to Bill and Desmond for taking the second half of the team out clubbing. I hear it was quite an experience.

We had a Notting Hill moment at Bill and Desmond's flat during the evening.
In the garden:
"Nobody says whoopsiedaisy. Only little girls with blond ringlets, and even then, not since the '70s."
Those private gardens are real, my friend.

Day 1 update

It's only been a day, and we're already at each other's throats. I have no idea how we're going to survive the next month crammed into a small space together without someone dying. London, with all of its amenities, luxurious settings, and understandable language has proven to be a monumental challenge. How are we going to survive in the desert?
Kidding of course. We've had a blast so far.
We're paying for internet access by the minute, so I'll proceed with lots of shorter, single subject posts. The synopsis is that we're in Portsmouth, ready to board the overnight ferry to St. Malo, in France. Things have been going surprisingly well, with lots of good omens and good fortune heading our way.
More details soon.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Insert something catchy here in French

Ok, so my first posting on the blog site after much prompting, encouragement and abuse from Jay.

So we have all now safely arrived in England with the exceptions of Jenna and Amanda who we look forward to picking up in Spain. After an inauspicious start to our journey, Mike and I had some miscommunication and ended up heading to the wrong airport. Needless to say we will not be the navigators on this journey as we just made our flight. We are now comfortably ensconced in some very plush accommodations in London thanks to our Friend Billy Pick. A pretty cushy start to this adventure.

Tomorrow we leave England and start our journey by ferry to France. The real fun begins then as we will be depending on our trusty bus Thomas to see us safely over the next 4500 or so miles to Banjul. I wanted to say a quick hello to our friends at the Potomac School in McLean, the Pine Crest School in Silver Spring and our friends at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, DC. You all contributed significantly to the success of this trip by providing wonderful bracelets, necklaces and pieces of art that will be given away to and inspire people we meet along the way. So to you and to everyone who has supported and encouraged us in this crazy adventure, thank you.

We are off to France this afternnon and the first leg nof our journey thru Europe. Au Voir

Friday, January 26, 2007

We made it, the bus is here, and only one person perished (but not a team member).

Happy to say, Kara, Scott, Mike and Eddy made it to London and picked up the bus. She's purring like a kitten and safely stowed at the Southampton airport until Sunday.

The day started out a in a surreal fashion. Scott and Kara made it into London (after alomst missing their flight from Cincinnati to London..Cincinnati? It's a long story..) and took a train from Gatwick to Southampton to meet Mike and Eddy at the docks. Our train, as it was pulling into Southampton station, stopped abruptly. After a pregnant pause, a distinctly English voice came over the intercom and said "We need guards to platform 5 quickly!". The train was shut down and all passengers aboard sort of stood around and waited to be let out of the doors - we had been on the train for two hours and the platform was RIGHT THERE! Police came through and informed us that someone had jumped in front of the train and was "badly injured". After some gasps and more waiting they let us off the train, being sure to route us well wide of the front of the train, and we assume, a grisly scene.

It turns out "Suicide Friday" is a regular feature of Southampton life and being Friday, well....there you go! Once off the train, Kara and I realized that while we were here, Eddy and Mike were somewhere behind us on train from Heathrow and all traffic was stopped. It as 1pm and we had to get the bus by 5pm, or we'd have to wait until Monday, throwing our whole schedule off. A grand start! Well, tragically ,it turned out that the prospective suicide candidate succeeded in his/her attempt, so the clean up was a bit quicker. Trains started rolling again, and Mike and Eddy showed up at 2pm. A quick trip to the docks, and low and behold, there was Thomas waiting to be picked up like a puppy at the pound. Some paperwork, and we were off. We decided to park him at a secure lot at the airport, since we wanted to hit London for a few days. Driving to the airport was our first experience of the "gawking factor" - everyone just stared, chuckled, and even gave us a few thumbs up as we navigated the A731.

So we are in London now, safe and sound, and will be meeting Jay tomorrow. Sunday morning we head back to Southampton and pick up the bus so we can make an 8pm ferry to St Malo, France. Never a dull moment with this crew!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

London weather

Going to be in the 40's and rainy/snowy for the next couple of days in the London area.
This is exactly how I want to start a trip across the desert.
Teammates, catch you on the flip side.

It's finally here! We're off to London!

Well the advance team of Scott, Kara, Mike and Eddy are off tonight to London. The big adventure finally starts. Jay will be arriving Saturday morning in London and we will all relax and have a day in London to enjoy before we board our ferry to France on Sunday night. From there, we are off to Carhaix, France to pick up bicycles to be transported to Senegal.

Thanks again to everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, who has supported our charities and the team in our epic adventure. This will be the trip of a lifetime and we all look forward to sharing it with you from the road, and when we get back.


Team Penitent Yanks

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The bus has Landed!

Thankfully, the bus was not on the MSC Napoli, and has made it to shore the old boring, normal way, by dock. No tiger-stripped curtains for those looters!!
3 more days, and counting.

Road Book, Deluxe

Not that anyone has the time to sift through 50+ pages of liner notes about the challenge, but...
The challenge organizers have put together a road book, detailing some of the things that can be expected along the route and identifying some of the obstacles to be avoided.
Might be an interesting perusal for you (if you're one of those people into reading travel books for fun). I imagine this is going to become our bible.
Here's a copy, for those interested few.

Monday, January 22, 2007

the Plan So Far

3 nights to go before some of us start the journey. You may be wondering what the plan looks like, to date, so here it is:
The first heat (is it gaggle of goofs?) leaves the DC area for London on Thursday night, arriving at both Gatwick and Heathrow on Friday morning. Once they get their bearings, it's a mad dash out to Southampton to pick up the bus. It's critical that we get the bus on Friday, before the processing company whatchamacallem close, since they stay closed all weekend and, without a bus, we'd be forced to spend the whole time holed up in some pub, hiding from the cold and wet. Assuming that the bus is recovered, and it starts, the group will head over to Plymouth (On a personal note, I'm a little confused about Portsmouth and Plymouth and their differences. This is a known mental short-circuit of mine, I have a hard time differentiating cities in the same general area that start with the same letter-- remember the whole Philly/Pitt fiasco many years ago? Or maybe it's just places that start with a "P"...).
Meanwhile, I'll be leaving DC for London the next day (Friday), arriving at Heathrow on Saturday morning (by way of Paris), where I will spend a few short hours with A (who happens, serendipitously, to be working in the London this week) before I make my way to Portsmouth (or is it Plymouth) to meet everyone else. Or I might stay in London for the night, and catch up with my old buddy, "El Freddy".
Either way, we'll be on the ferry to St. Malo on Sunday night, arriving in France on Monday morning. There's a whole bit planned where we're picking up some bikes that are going to school kids in Senegal from a charity in western France, but more on that later. I imagine there'll be pictures, too, at some point.
On Tuesday, we head down through Bordeaux, towards San Sebastian and Bilbao, where good food and that wacky museum build by Gehry await.
Later in the week, we pick up Jenna, Amanda, and anyone else who's coming along in Madrid and Seville. Not sure how that's going to work out. I guess that's part of the adventure, though, no?

Comment Box = Your Comment

There's a little area, down on the right hand side of the browser window, where we have all sorts of interesting information about the team and stuff. If you peruse those interesting tidbits, you'll notice that there's a comment box section. It's there for a reason, my friend. It's there because we want to hear from you.
Not to toot our own horns, at least not too loudly, but we'd like our loved ones, and our friends, to take an interest in what we're doing. We want people to take a voyeuristic interest in what we're doing, where we're going, and what we're thinking about. We want people to check in on us, and more than once. The thing is, we can't tell if you have stopped by if you don't leave us a little note, or comment, or thought, or suggestion. This is meant to be, however hackneyed and one-sided, to be a conversation of some sort. There's supposed to be some give and take.
So, if you love us, leave us a note. Tell us what you're thinking. If you hate us, do the same. If you just think we're plain crazy -- well, we knew that already.
Come on, it's starting to feel lonely in here.

Random SMS posts from other challengers

The PDC group have set up a way for team members to post SMS (text messages) to a group list, called the "SMS Field Reports". I doubt that we'll have a phone to use to post to this service, but you never know. If we did text to this service, you would be able to read our messages at, but we're not texting. At least, not that I know of.

Anyway, here are some random texts from the service (from other teams) to give you an idea what is going on:

· stayed in great campsite 27'27.70N 13'03.10W if you see red Dakar vehicle
in carpark on google earth. It belonged to someone else.

· Gaargh. No minibar. What is this; the 3rd world?

· drove wrong way today only realising when another team came towards us.
near laayoune on coast. expected tropical beach got windy cliffs
· nowhere appears to be safe from the relentless attention of the sand.
Camera lenses & teeth seem particular targets. And everything else.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Gambian Visas have been acquired

Ed called this morning to say that our Gambian Visas have been granted (conferred?). He talked to the consular agent at the embassy, who was interested in our trip and supposedly gave Ed a bunch of advice and tips on traveling in his native country. Too bad Ed never gets around to recording any of these experiences, huh?
Anyhoo - I think that was the last major pre flight hurdle to overcome. We now have all the visas that must be acquired before arrival (Mauritania and the Gambia). We have our passports (obviously). We have the shots, vaccines, pills and lotions to take us through any remote area of the world. We have our insurance (health and auto) for those areas that require insurance. We don't, funnily enough, have any paperwork to retrieve the bus from the shipping company. Huh. I wonder if that will matter? What would the normal paperwork be, anyway, a claim ticket? A valet receipt?
We have our prayer beads, our votive candles, our buddha statue and Ganesh figure, all ready to go (we're taking a shotgun approach to our prayers for assistance). What else? hmm. We have our plane tickets. Some of us even have return tickets (talk about self confidence!). We have maps. We even have a basic itinerary and sense of direction. To top it all off, we even have a hand-held GPS receiver now (thanks, Jeff and Joyce!). What more could we need?
Clearly, what we don't need right now is some clear thinking. This is no time for us to come to our senses and think logically, or realistically, on what we are about to do.
One more week to go, and all that's left is to get the bags packed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hey, You - Donate!

You. Yeah, you. Feel like donating to a good cause while you're browsing? Our charities could really use the support. All you have to do is go to our donation page and follow the directions. True, it's not one click easy, but it's really not all that hard, and doesn't take all that long.

Speaking of donations, we've heard rumors that some people are having trouble executing their transactions through the paypal site. If you do have a problem, or you just prefer to keep things non-virtual, you can always send us a check.
Checks should be made out to "Global Colors" and sent to Ed at:
Ed Fox
1727 Willard St. NW
Washington, DC 20009.

(I guess you could technically send him anything you fancy, now that you have his address.)

If you want something for your donation besides the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping out those in need and making the world a better place, keep in mind that Ed, and perhaps some of the rest of us, will be out at the Duplex diner on the early side of tonight, selling shirts. Come by and say hi!

Bike Business

I arrived home from work to the temporarily reassuring presence of a USPS Priority Mail envelope addressed with my very own handwriting sticking out of my very own mailbox..the last major possible glitch in the travel plans that I had envisioned. These things meant that my Mauritanian visa (and its’ delivery mechanism, my passport) made it back safely to Rhode Island for a brief stay before embarking on this epic little yellow bus adventure. This was reassuring for a number of reasons, but mostly because after confirming that it had been received and processed, I was starting to imagine all the red tape that would be necessary to locate the required travel documents somewhere between me and DC.

In an predictably excited inspection of my ever thickening passport, I looked at the latest official documents added to a formerly lonely Brazilian visa: the Gambia and Mauritania visas. I had glanced at the Gambian visa previously (for about the 10 minutes between receiving my passport and mailing it back out again), and was compelled to check again to make sure it was still there before admiring my latest acquisition. I am now the proud recipient of a Mauritanian business visa good for 3 months???? In a phone conversation with Eddie yesterday, he said the rest of the P Yanks received a one month tourist visa. Maybe it will go a long way towards explaining the 30+ bikes we are going to have strapped to the roof to be delivered in Senegal…and then again maybe not.

Outlook reminded me this morning at 7:30am in case I forgot that the PBC officially starts in about 14 days. If it’s in outlook, it must be so, right? One or two more shots from now (what’s a few more shots to add to the 11 I have already received this year?) and I will be able to bite anyone and not give them rabies…I mean pet strange dogs.

It’s really happening!!! It’s hard to believe at the moment that a mere 9 months ago the possibility of participation arose through a montage of random thoughts and experiences put together with a anxious hand clicking very decidedly on the submit button. It’s further more difficult to imagine that, 11 years ago, I vividly dreamt of a yellow school bus, a sailboat, and some unusual rocks…with no idea how it could all possibly fit together. I am not sure that I know now, but I can tell you with great certainty that I thought my days on a school bus were long, long, long gone by. I think I might be more logging more miles on the bus in Europe and Africa than I ever did throughout my entire childhood education. The paper on which the dream was recorded hints at accomplishment, anticipation, and joyous outcomes. Perhaps I cannot truly imagine how amazing and life-altering the whole experience will be...or perhaps I will become a business-woman dealing with unusual rocks and push-bikes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Added a Comment Box to the Blog

Maybe that's not big news where you come from, but I feel like a new daddy, so proud of my new creation.
Actually, I'm feeling our blog has become home to the Griswalds. We've gone way beyond gaudy. I'm getting flashbacks to the early days of the internet, when every "homepage" had a midi tune playing and a flashing banner. Whoo, boy.
The important thing is that we now have a way for random viewers to leave us little messages. Mom, I want to see a good luck missive from you, and soon.

We're gonna be on TV!!

Word on the street is that we're going to be on TV on Wednesday. Local tv station NBC4 sometime in the later half of the 5 o'clock news. Check it out, if you can. Ed will be at the Duplex Diner, watching the show and selling t-shirts later into the night. If you haven't snagged a shirt yet, this will be one of the last chances you'll have. Come down and watch the show with him!

Also, if someone has a DVR, let us know - we'd love to get a recording of the segment.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Two Weeks and Counting

Not to coopt Jay's post of yesterday, but I had been checking the blog intermittently over the past few weeks - sort of dismayed that there were no posts, but too busy to change that myself.

I think we all feel like we did a few weeks before the bus left. A little frazzled with the amount of things to do (shots, visas, gear, what-ifs, why nots?, how do you say "which road goes to Agadir" in French again?). I'm sure it will go just like it did in the fews days before we dropped our chariot off in Baltimore. We will prepare everything we can, then after that...we get on a plane and go! I think we have all comtemplated the delicate balance between being prepared to adequetely deal with the ultimate goal - which is getting the bus to Gambia, and not over preparing to kill the spirit of this crazy adventure.

Kara and I have an added layer to the process - making sure we have our ducks in a row in terms of camera gear. I just returned from a four day trip to Oregon to film for a local production company which afforded me the luxury of a test run of sorts of flying with my gear. 9/11+travelling with large cases full of electronic equipment = lots of red tape before boarding a plane. Things worked out pretty well though and we have a sense of what to expect in getting to London, and getting home from Dakar.

Now if I can just wrangle the rest of the team to do pre-trip interviews before the 25th....hint, hint...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back from the hiatus

Looks like we all took a break for the holidays there, but now we're all back in the saddle and raring to go.
The bus may be gone, but there are still a million things to do before we get ourselves on planes and take off for England. Aside from all the visas and vaccines, we still need to say good bye to all our friends and family -- a final bon voyage before we head out (event information forthcoming).
There's lots of communication going on with other people, as well. Ed's been working furiously to meet schools around the area and talk to kids about what we're doing. There are plans to turn the challenge into a virtual classroom, and let students follow our progress and experience our escapades on the route. He's also working with the folks who are coming up with a "vehicular mural" for the bus. He's so busy, in fact, that he doesn't even have time to post any updates of his activities on the blog.
On the education front, we (Ed, Scott and I) stopped by Ethan's elementary school this afternoon to talk to the fifth graders about the trip. Unfortunately, our efforts to both film the event and be official about our plans sent up all sorts of red flags with the school system (to be fair, the flags went up for rational reasons) and ended with a cancellation of our presentation/talk and the need to reschedule our meetings. I'm disappointed. Ed's disappointed, and I know that Ethan's disappointed. Hopefully, we'll be able to get something organized, sans filming, for next week.
So, lots to do, and darn little time to do it in. Stay tuned. Many more posts are on their way.