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Archive for Sunday, September 20, 2009

Residents embark on overseas adventure

‘Team Flatlanders’ finish Mongol Rally

Andrew Schmidt, left, and Mike Gaus say goodbye just across the Mongolian border in late August to “The Enterprise,” their Citroen Saxo car they drove from Spain to Mongolia during the 2009 Mongol Rally. The Enterprise broke down after more than 13,000 grueling miles, but Schmidt and Gaus hitched a ride to their final destination, Ulan Bataar, the capitol of Mongolia.

Andrew Schmidt, left, and Mike Gaus say goodbye just across the Mongolian border in late August to “The Enterprise,” their Citroen Saxo car they drove from Spain to Mongolia during the 2009 Mongol Rally. The Enterprise broke down after more than 13,000 grueling miles, but Schmidt and Gaus hitched a ride to their final destination, Ulan Bataar, the capitol of Mongolia.

September 20, 2009

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Duo returns from Mongol rally

A Lawrence duo has returned after participating in the Mongol rally. The two men are members of Team Flatlanders. Enlarge video

When Lawrence residents Mike Gaus and Andrew Schmidt entered the 2009 Mongol Rally, they had one goal: the adventure of a lifetime.

And the 23-year-old longtime friends accomplished it.

They ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. They visited 24 countries in two months. They ate horse meat.

And they’re back in Lawrence after spending June, July and August preparing for the event and driving more than 13,000 miles from Spain to the capital of Mongolia.

The international rally requires participants to drive a small car — less than 1.2 liters, or smaller than a Mini-Cooper — from Europe to Mongolia without mapping assistance, such as GPS. The duo, named “Team Flatlanders” for their Kansas roots, kept readers updated throughout their journey by blogging about their experiences on LJWorld.com.

A sampling of the entries shows that things never went as planned on their once-in-a-lifetime journey.

June 30: Well, our car blew up. In the middle of the motor way. Steam spewing out of engine.

July 11: The bull running was absolutely intense. … I ran around the corner to find Andrew walking around in a daze in the middle of the street … blood was pouring down his face from a mean gash above his eye …

July 27: Into Albania for some of the craziest driving I’ve ever experienced. … There are no lanes, no rules, and traffic signals mean absolutely nothing.

July 31: But then at 6 a.m. the man woke us up saying, ‘The sun is up, you leave now.’

August 11: The fact that someone would steal our sleeping stuff.

But finding a way to solve problems was a valuable part of the experience.

“The difficult parts were the best parts of the trip,” Schmidt said.

The two said they simply relied on people they met along the way. And time and time again, the strange people from the exotic countries did everything they could to help Team Flatlanders.

“I feel like now I’m going to be much more willing to stop and help somebody. … Just the way people treat you when you’re in trouble elsewhere. It compelled me,” Schmidt said.

Along with the fun, Schmidt and Gaus had an opportunity to see some of the extreme poverty in the countries they traveled. They said those experiences helped them appreciate the value of the money they were required to raise for the rally. In addition to an initial $1,500 donation to the humanitarian aid organization Mercy Corps Mongolia, the money from the sale of their car will be donated to charity. Despite the dilapidated condition of their car — a 1999, “lovely” red Citroen Saxo — they said the need for cars in Mongolia is so great that the car may sell for up to $2,000.

More adventures to come

The long adventure has only fueled Gaus’ and Schmidt’s desire to see and experience other parts of the world. Gaus plans to travel to Thailand soon to teach scuba diving, and Schmidt is planning a similar rally adventure, but this time through Africa.

The grueling journey has also led Schmidt and Gaus to encourage others to take a chance on an extreme adventure.

The advice Schmidt gives to friends about going for that trip of a lifetime?

“You’re out of your mind if you don’t do it,” he said.

For more on the Team Flatlanders’ adventure, read their entries or visit the team's Web site.

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