The boys are off! After tireless days of preparation, last second procrastination and a hint of panic, we packed the car to the brim and left our little flat in Brixton to join the rest of the Mongol Rally pack for the Launch Party at Battersea Park. Dressed in our finest Robert Goulet getup – turtleneck, aviators and scotch glasses included – we intended to make a riveting first impression. We spent the Saturday before departure introducing ourselves to others and touring the vast display of eclectic crap cars. A fascinating lot of characters in truly shocking vehicles with little to no hope of making it to Mongolia, from a few young Brits in an ice cream truck older than they are, to a dude in a brand new red Ferrari, we saw it all. Not to mention, we suffered through the whole 90-degree London afternoon in our sweltering turtlenecks. But beauty is pain. Goulet!
We woke up Sunday morning and set sail, destination Mongolia! Of course, it took us two tries to get up the launch ramp, things fell off our unique attempt at a roof rack within 10 yards of the launch, and we got completely lost driving through downtown London on our way to the highway, but it’ll do. It was just about at that time that the Auto Goulet met its first enemy of the road: hills. Chugging its way up Everest on the outskirts of London, Auto Goulet transformed into the Little Engine that Could. From 70MPH From fourth gear, down to third, to second and 30MPH (I think I can, I think I can!), we just made it to the mountain’s apex – phew- and began to regain speed!
In a brief two hours, we arrived in Dover, our port out of the UK. So, we boarded the ferry and waved goodbye to our British buddies – so long, old chaps! Admittedly, we enjoyed our last taste of fine British cuisine on the ferry, crushing a plate of fish and chips and taking powernaps before, all of a sudden – oh my, we landed in Calais, France! Bonjour mainland Europe!
While riding through country #2, we determined we’d stay the night in Brussels, Belgium. But first, it was imperative we stop just once in France for a quick authentic French cafe in a quaint, charming little town near the Belgian border. While there, Brian learned from a local that he is a famous celebrity among French school children learning English who use the English text book, “Where is Brian?” Goulet!
The fun didn’t stop once we arrived in Belgium. In fact, pulling into the city at midnight on a Sunday, we were astounded to find a massive carnival complete with screaming children on rides and young lovebirds winning stuffed animals. But all attractions paled in comparison to the sight of our crazy little Auto Goulet – all passerbys did a doubletake when they got a glimpse at our digs – hey, watch it kid, hands off! Those stickers of our puppies are freshly applied! It was only once we checked in at our hostel did we learn it was the eve of a major Belgian holiday, King’s Day. Goulet! So, while the Belgians celebrated the longevity of the King, the Global Goulets toasted to the inception of our journey. If ya can’t beat ’em (in soccer), join ’em!
On Monday morning, we planned to take a quick stroll around the parade in the town center before embarking for Germany. Always intent on living as a local, we scarfed down some delicious Belgian waffles with Belgian chocolate and went on a hunt to find Delirium, the famous Belgian beerhouse. With our bellies bloated and our spirits soaring, we then walked the streets of Brussels and followed the growing sound of cheer until we stumbled upon a massive, joyous parade. A parade fit for a king indeed!
So engrossed in the gayity of Brussels, we completely lost track of time. It was suddenly 4 o’clock and we had a 6-hour drive ahead of us on our way to Wurzburg, Germany – whoops! No matter, we hopped into Old Reliable and flew out of Brussels as quickly as we came in. As badly as we wanted to continue partaking in this great city’s festivities, we could hear the faint whisper of Mongolia, still 9,750 miles away, calling, “come along Johnny, I’m waiting for you!”
Back on the road, we passed the time by giggling to some Louis C.K., cheering along Auto Goulet as he motored up some menacing slopes (read: minor inclines on the highway), and debating whether or not stuff would fly off our rickety roof rack. Within an hour of driving, the highway signs started changing, and so did our mocking accents – from the horsey, yet charming speech of the French, to the vulgar, 10-syllable words of German. That’s right, we were in Deutschland! This reality presented an alarming reality for us and our sturdy little Nissan Micra – we’d be driving alongside German-made racecars on the world famous Autobahn. So, there we were, rolling along at a cool 60 mph while sleek hunks of steel whizzed past at twice our speed. Terrifying, yet humbling.
After a minor little brush in with the local Wurzburg police (“Step out of ze kar, sir, and take out your Varning Triangle. Have you been drinking? Drugs? No? Okay, on your vay! Good luck in Mongolee!!), we arrived out our hotel in Wurzburg for the night, 4 hours later than originally planned. Having arranged to meet up with Eric’s friend from work Eddie, this made us feel a little bad – but not bad enough! Goulet!
We woke up on Tuesday morning and toured the lovely little city and even ran into another Mongol Rally team- an always exciting moment. By mid-afternoon, we took off on the Autobahn once more, this time on our way to the Czech Republic. Let the adventure continue!