Archive for Monday, June 8, 2009

Childhood friends plan ultimate road trip: Europe to Mongolia in a tiny, tiny car

2 men, 25 countries, 10,000 miles, 1 tiny car

Two Lawrence men, from left, Andrew Schmidt, and Mike Gaus, both 23, will participate in Mongol Rally 2009, an auto race from one of three points in Europe to Mongolia.

Two Lawrence men, from left, Andrew Schmidt, and Mike Gaus, both 23, will participate in Mongol Rally 2009, an auto race from one of three points in Europe to Mongolia.

June 8, 2009


Friends plot world-wide adventure

Two Lawrence men are taking the idea of the summer road trip to the extreme. Enlarge video

Past Event
Mongol Rally Fundraiser

with Tommy Ferrari and the Future Motor Machines / Brody Buster Band / Catalina / Wiseacres

  • When: Sunday, June 14, 2009, 7 p.m.
  • Where: The Granada, 1020 Mass., Lawrence
  • Cost: $8
  • More on this event....
Google Map

Team Flatlanders Mongol Rally 2009 itine­rary

View Team Flatlanders Mongol Rally 2009 itinerary in a larger map

Mongol Rally 2009

• A 10,000-mile automobile trip leaving from either London, Barcelona or Milan to Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia.

• The rally, in its fifth year, has more than 500 teams registered to depart July 17.

• Each team must pay an entrance fee of $1,300, plus raise $2,000 for charity.

• Teams are responsible for obtaining cars, which must have engines smaller than 1.2 liters, and modifying them for the trip. The cars are sold after the rally and the money is donated to charity.

• No GPS or other electronic mapping devices are allowed.

• Once the race begins, teams are on their own.

• For more information about the rally, visit the Team Flatlanders’ Web site .

After earning his degree from Kansas University in May, Lawrence native Andrew Schmidt wasn’t ready to join his fellow graduates in sending out résumés to potential employers.

Instead, going on the road with childhood friend Mike Gaus seemed like a reasonable idea. But Schmidt and Gaus, both 23, will be taking the idea of a summer road trip to the extreme next month by driving 10,000 miles through 25 countries as part of Mongol Rally 2009.

Schmidt and Gaus, known as “Team Flatlanders” in honor of their Kansas roots, will join more than 500 other teams in the international rally to Mongolia that is part adventure, part extreme sport and part charity fundraiser.

The goal is simple: Drive a car with an engine smaller than 1.2 liters -- smaller than a Mini Cooper -- from one of three sites in Europe to the Mongolian capital of Ulaan Baatar. The catch? Participants can’t use electronic mapping devices and they will receive no assistance from rally officials once the rally begins. The drive is roughly expected to take four to six weeks.

“It’s all on your own,” Schmidt said of their route, which is tentatively planned to run through Croatia, Turkey, Russia and Kazakhstan, among other countries. “(You’re) just supposed to ask people.”

The rally has dramatically grown in popularity since its inaugural event in 2004, which featured only six teams.

Preparations for the rally began months ago, as the team began holding “charity keggers” in Lawrence. Rally teams are required to raise at least $2,000 for one of several charities, and the car used in the event will be donated after the rally. Team Flatlanders selected Mercy Corps Mongolia, an organization that provides educational, economic and agricultural assistance to rural communities in Mongolia. The team will hold a final fundraiser June 14 at the Granada, 1020 Mass.

Aside from raising money for a good cause, the motivation for the trip is simply adventure, Gaus said.

“Putting myself completely into the unknown and seeing what happens. This is what gives me passion in life, what makes me want to see more,” said Gaus, who had until recently been working in Australia as a scuba instructor.

Schmidt, who first heard about the rally during a trip to Russia, had an easy time convincing Gaus to join him. Once he called Gaus and told him about the trip, Gaus changed his travel plans within a day and turned down two jobs to come along.

“I couldn’t pass it up — once in a lifetime chance,” Gaus said.

Team Flatlanders will begin the adventure June 16 by flying to Scotland, where they will buy and modify a car for the trip. They will then take a boat to mainland Europe, drive to Barcelona, and leave for Mongolia on July 19.

Video clips on the Internet from past Mongol Rallies show participants meeting new people, driving up seemingly impossible inclines, and improvising in various ways to get to the destination.

Gaus and Schmidt are aware of the risks, such as breaking down in an unfamiliar desert and traveling through politically unstable countries. The Mongol Rally Web site warns participants: “Your chance of dying can be very high, some past teams have been seriously injured.”

And of course, any risk is enough to worry their moms, who have lived across the street from each other for the past 10 years.

“I wish he wasn’t going. ... I’m pretty nervous about it,” said Mike’s mom, Gail. But she said that their family had traveled a lot through the years, and she knew Mike had a wanderer’s spirit.

Loreta Schmidt, Andrew’s mom, said she had concerns about the trip as well, but she’s confident the well-traveled duo will make it safely to Mongolia.

“I think they can do anything,” she said.

For her son, it was simply something he couldn’t pass up, despite the risks.

“It’s important to fill your bucket list early before you lose the opportunity. And I think this is one of those opportunities,” he said.


cobaltblue 8 years, 7 months ago

Pyacket, you said it best. My wife and I had "desert first" traveling all over the world and having the times of our life while we were still young and we don't regret a minute of it.

I say good luck and "way to go" to Andrew and Mike. Have a safe trip and write to your mothers!

mrf 8 years, 7 months ago

Are they going to stop at Borat's house? He's my favorite Kazakstani.

OwlHead 8 years, 7 months ago

I met a dude in the UK that did this trip. Quite an adventure that I would like to take on myself. The guys I met had their car smashed by an Eastern European trucker and had to pay the authorities to allow them to leave their crushed car on the side of the road. They ended up hitchhiking with another team. There were talks of vodka drinks during long pit stops on the side of the road. I wanna go.......................

Sigmund 8 years, 7 months ago

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Mary Darst 8 years, 7 months ago

I'm jealous...Never had the nerve to do a "real adventure".

flux 8 years, 7 months ago

Midnight Express..... Thats all I got to say!

Janet Lowther 8 years, 7 months ago

I wish I'd had the nerve to try a trip like this.

I did have a car which would have qualified for the trip, though. A green Fiat 128 with an eleven hundred-odd CC engine, and just driving it and keeping it going was a bit of an adventure. I hear Zastava still makes essentially the same car in Serbia, which is one of the cheapest new cars available. As reliable as the Fiat was (not!), I don't think I'd want to try this trip in one. . .

TongieMom 8 years, 7 months ago


I hope there's an updated story upon their return - this is the adventure of a lifetime for sure!


Sigmund 8 years, 7 months ago

TongieMom (Anonymous) says… "I hope there's an updated story upon their return - this is the adventure of a lifetime for sure!"

Honestly, if Dolph Jr. doesn't put these guys on the LJW payroll for the summer and publish their letters and photos once a week he is mormon (sp) and is missing a golden opportunity for yet another award winning series of articles.

ImTooOldForThis 8 years, 7 months ago

Hey Ive done this before in Asia. It was me and Gary Glitter in the summer of '03. We picked up sooooo many young hitchhikers and drank so much liquor...oh the fun days! Best thing about it was how easy it was to bribe local authorities!!! You have no idea how much fun we had!!!! Well, except for poor Gary...

Good luck lads, I hope you can stop over in Thailand!

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

Best photo in this paper that I can recall.

labmonkey 8 years, 7 months ago

I wish I had the b*lls to do what they are doing.

mcflycat 8 years, 7 months ago

The blls? Do you mean the blls to throw "charity" events to pay for a personal vacation? Tell you what, how about I save my money for my vacations, and donate to charities on my side of the globe. I can't help but think that this may be some kind of scam.

notjustastudent 8 years, 7 months ago

scam or not mcflycat, you obviously still don't have the balls. Let me know when you're throwing a charity fundraiser event for anything, I'll be the first one there... in the meantime, quit being so negative.

mcflycat 8 years, 7 months ago

Excellent! I am having a fundraiser for.. uh.. Children... uh, with Hunger, of the uh, Upper Mesopotamian Society. We aren't having any kind public event, but, you can make out checks to C.H.U.M.P.S.. Oh, and to be upfront and honest about it, before I give the money to C.H.U.M.P.S., I will be using the money to fund a trip to Paris.

blakec 8 years, 7 months ago

mcflycat, quit being a hater. These two fine young men will be ambassadors of Kansas to the world. Knowing these two wild and crazy guys, they will do a fine job.

mcflycat 8 years, 7 months ago

If trying to trick people into paying for your vacation makes you a wild and crazy guy, so be it. However, I'm sure tricking people into paying for a month of gallivanting across Europe and Asia does not make you a fine young man, or any sort of ambassador any Kansan I know would approve of.

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

Somebody's a little bitter that they didn't think of it first, I guess.

yeahwell 8 years, 7 months ago

hehe mcflycat must spend all day checking responses to his/her lj world posts. enough said.

best of luck guys! you will indeed, as you have in the past, be wonderful representatives of our fine state!

mcflycat 8 years, 7 months ago

I am bitter I didn't think of it first! I could have been throwing 'charity' events for years now! Imagine all the places I could of traveled to for free under the guise of charity! Geez, if I had that kind of 'charity' money I could of bought one of those wide collar, frilled, purple shirts too!

teamflatlanders 8 years, 7 months ago

The frilly purple shirt was $5 at Dotty Mays costume shop in KC and check out our website along with our affiliates to verify the international legitimacy of our charity connections. We are also willing to show every scrap of our charity donations paper trail if you still are a non-believer. I guess you feel like the LJW and NBC don't have to credentials to weed out scams from legitimate causes, so why do you support them as a member?

sandersen 8 years, 7 months ago

Bon voyage, young adventurers! Yon mcflycat suffers from "just-created-user id-for-this-story syndrome", which symptoms include unassuageable envy, angst, anger, etc, and requires the diseased to create waves of useless negativity and meaningless blather for no other reason than to attempt to provoke response to their definitive lack of creativity and originality of purpose.

I am quite sure you will not allow such an imbecile to in any way stymie your sense of purpose and strength of cause.

Continue your trek. Breathe in all your journey has to offer. See the world with open eyes, minds and hearts. Although we are not along for the jaunt, we support you with our thoughts and enthusiasm, and, secretly or not so secretly, wish we were with you in your travels and travails!

Milka 8 years, 7 months ago

Be safe guys. Cheers to beers in every language you can muster. I do not forsee you not returning, but I will be at the Granada for support. The road ahead of us all is rough, but making adventures of it to ward off the boredom is what it is all about! I hope you gain some much-needed tolerance and appreciation for human beings of every type. We will meet again in the future.

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