Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Sound of Thunder

Wikipedia defines the Butterfly Effect as “…a metaphor that encapsulates the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory; namely a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere... The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location.”

Half the Sky Foundation could be described as a butterfly that began one day by flapping its wings in Berkeley and changed life for hundreds of thousands of children halfway around the world in China. The seminal moment began when Jenny Bowen looked out her kitchen window at her adopted daughter and decided that there must be a way of bringing loving care to all orphaned children. Half the Sky’s work has reached an inflection point that will not only improve the lives of children in China’s welfare institutions, it will also provide the world with a proven set of tools for orphans everywhere. Our cause, raising $250,000 USD for Half the Sky’s programs, began with a flutter of inspiration that grew wings and changed the world. Take a moment to become part of the change and contribute to our cause. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Drinking and Driving

Inquiring minds want to know what the official Red Thread cocktail is? This is the subject of some debate since drinking and driving, under any circumstances, but especially on the Rally, is rightfully frowned upon, if not downright illegal. But any team undertaking such an adventure needs a cocktail if only because those back home need to hoist one in the team’s honor at major milestones along the way. The drink therefore should taste good, have broad appeal, and be concocted easily from readily available ingredients. Beer is a solid choice, but we’re going for as wide an audience as we can muster, so let’s not stop there. Vodka seems like a logical staring point for any trip crossing Russia – but red is a risky color for cocktails. Red implies sweet. Perhaps too many Maraschino cherries as a child inevitably created that association for me. There’s red Grenadine, but that’s like Maraschino cherries, Campari, too bitter? Sangria, too risky? Where is Doctor Tiki when you need him? Enough procrastination, here’s a shot (ha-bloody-ha) that meets none of the criteria:

The Red Thread
1 oz. Vodka (whatever’s available)
1 oz. Limoncello
2 oz. Pomegranate juice (unsweetened)
2 oz. Champagne

Mix the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Rub the rim of a chilled martini glass with orange zest, add the contents of the shaker, then pour on the Champagne and garnish with a small slice of orange.

Send in your suggestions and we’ll update our post with the best suggestions, once the coffee’s brewed...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Clothing and Cross-Dressing

There are great road trips and great road trip movies, but probably the one film that comes closest to the ambitions of the Mongol Rally is The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. A lively story of three drag queens making their way across Australia’s outback in search of fame and fortune. Perhaps the most iconic scene is Guy Pearce lip-synching to Violetta’s aria “Sempre Libera” from La Traviata in a silver sequin jumpsuit and trailing banner. Not only does this scene make you want to sing along, but for anyone planning to drive for weeks over vast expanses of nothingness it makes you pause and consider what clothing essentials are actually needed for the trip. While I’m not suggesting that a full cross-dressing wardrobe is necessarily the way to go (we simply won’t have the space in our micro-car that they had in Priscilla), thought must be given beyond fleece and woolly socks. Sartorial splendor isn’t expected – practical minimalism is. Like the old army joke about the soldiers marching for weeks across the Sahara and the captain tells the men that he has some good news, everyone will be getting a change of underwear…Hodges, you change with Smythe, Smythe you change with Perkins, etc., we have low expectations. Yet we have read of rallyists taking detours to local weddings and would like to be prepared for every eventuality. The challenge is over packing is the norm when car camping. That’s why you take a car – so you don’t have to think about how much excess crap you’re stuffing away and never going to use. One way of limiting baggage bloat is to agree on a single grab-all of a given size while still ensuring there’s enough room for the inevitable souvenirs collected along the way (and since the car is staying in Mongolia we will still be limited to what we can carry on the airplane). Layering seems to be the order of the day. Experienced advice tells us we’ll have to prepare for every kind weather, from blazing heat to snowstorms. Out go the 16” platforms and in come one pair of hiking shoes with sufficient traction to pull a car out of the mire. Sunscreen not Wo-Man and eye drops not eye liner. This will be tough duty…

Friday, December 17, 2010

Relentless Commerce

The next big step now the website is up and functioning is to get people on board and donating. This means you. We need two things, first and foremost are donations for the The Cause - Half the Sky Foundation. Click on The Cause button above for more details on how to contribute. The other thing we need is support for the expenses of the trip itself. If you own a car company and are willing to give us an automobile the displacement and size of a Nissan Micra we'll be committed to relentlessly plugging your product on our site and through our social media connections. Russia is a big developing market and we're going to drive through a great deal of it. It's an opportunity to support a great cause and promote your products at the same time. We are also considering a cache of Red Thread products including mugs and shirts and the like. More to come.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dude, Where's the Car?

Having visited Mongolia last year we were impressed by the number of tiny Hyundai's and their ability to ford any stream and cross any mountain. There appears to be a lesson that was learned by Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor in their "Long Way Round" trip. That is, if it's too big and too bulky to be moved by human power, it's not the right vehicle for the journey. Their large BMW R1150GS motorbikes were terrific on the highway, but when the asphalt petered out the heavy machines proved incredibly challenging and had to be manhandled over potholes and mud puddles. By comparison their cinematographer, Claudio von Planta's 350cc IZh Planeta 5, ran circles around them over the rough terrain. The Adventurists goal of limiting the size of the vehicle is as much to foster adventure as it is a practical limitation. 

Our goal, therefore, is to find something reliable enough to make it, small enough to meet the rules, and popular enough to be readily available on the secondhand market.