Monday, 30 September 2013

Reunited with our Jimnys!!

Hi everybody. I think you know that we arrived back in the UK on August 29th., after having seen the Jimnys safely tucked up in the container at our Shipping Agents at North Bergen near New York. We were all exhausted by the time we got home. As for myself it is taking a lot longer to get back to some sort of normality. It has been four weeks now and I am still struggling, so if I start talking about something that makes no sense at all have pity on me!

Where was I? Oh yes .... the vessel OOCL KUALA LUMPUR arrived on time at Southampton on Sunday, August 22nd. It discharged its cargo, which I hoped and prayed included our container. I contacted our Agent to get conformation to ask if our container was on the docks. They said it was but they didn’t know when it would be cleared, it looked like it might be Wednesday afternoon. I phoned Roland who would drive LC03 after it cleared customs, to tell him the news. I also phoned David Ellery, who would film us driving away from the customs compound, to tell him the same. Wednesday came and we were ready to go. We didn’t hear anything all morning and it dragged on into the afternoon. We were still waiting when I decided to call the Agent to ask what was happening. “Sorry, it won’t be today, may be tomorrow” was the reply. Here we go again I thought, Vancouver all over again. Thursday, once again we were all ready. We waited all day but no phone call. I phoned our Agent once more and was told that it will not be cleared today but the container was at the customs and would be cleared some time Friday afternoon. I felt terrible having to tell the guys that once again it wasn’t going to happen and it was delayed yet another day. We had no choice but to sit tight and accept the situation. Then late Thursday I get a phone call from the Agent asking if I could be at the customs at eleven clock tomorrow. I was already a bit unhinged and that phone call just about sent me bouncing around my little office head butting the wall. A few frantic phone calls to everyone involved and we were organised to go.

We arrived at the customs to find there was a further delay as nobody there knew that we wanted to collect the vehicles. Heaven help us. I won’t tell you what was going through my already damaged brain but luckily a man from the office came over to talk to us and took pity on me. He said that if we could wait for half an hour he would deal with the paperwork and we could take the Jimnys. Eventually our Jimnys were driven out of the compound and at long last we were reunited with our courageous little cars.

Having nursed these Jimnys all the way around the world I had formed a strong attachment to them and it was like meeting two old friends when we finally were given the keys and could drive them home.

If you would like to have a good look at two Suzuki Jimnys and all the equipment they carried around the world, come along to the Home Coming Reception to be held at the NOVOTEL, 1 West Quay Road Southampton SO15 1RA,  Saturday 26th October at 2.00pm. 

The entire team, crew and the home support team who made the journey possible will be there. We really look forward to meeting you and thanking you for your support throughout this remarkable challenge.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

It's busy behind the scenes

It might not seem so busy on the Blog, Facebook or Twitter at the moment, but behind the scenes it's still very active.  Les is writing articles that will appear in magazines over the next month or two. He's sifting through the hundreds of photos that were taken by everyone who took part and we're busily preparing for the homecoming celebrations.

Here's a selection of more unseen photos .....

Into Mongolia .... the dirt roads begin 13.5.13

Cross roads in the middle of the Mongolian Desert

The broken rear left lower shock absorber broke, we discuss a plan of action

We were lucky we found a man meticulous about his work. 
He welded the shock absorber bolt together while the bolt was in place. 
It took all the punishment of the Mongolian section and the rest of the trip.

A job well done, this man was a real gem.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Les sets the scene for the next month or two on the blog

Hi everybody.  My body and mental time clock has been trying to play catch-up ever since arriving back in the UK. I am still not back to normal, well at least that’s what I tell my wife Vi when she wants something attended to around the house.  However, I can usually keep Vi at bay, but Maureen is another matter.  She phoned me this morning, it was like being poked with a cattle prod.  I need you to write something for the blog and being to weak to argue I thought I had better get on with it.

Over the past months I have, through the Blog, given you some idea as to what has been happening as we have travelled around the world. What I wrote was in the main governed by what time I had left after dealing with everything else that I had to do at the end of the day and at some point falling asleep. But to be truthful what you have read about is but a small part of what we experienced, the people we come in contact with, the situations we got ourselves into for one reason or another, the highs and lows of the journey, and the physical risk to myself when driving alone for anything up to 10 or 12 hours a day, day after day, to make sure that we kept on schedule. Full credit to Keith Twyford, Roland Spencer, Graham Higgins, Mike Bailey, Glyn Maher, and Roger Winkworth, as the going was just as tough for them as it was for me.

I have always looked at the Ultimate Challenge as being a team effort; I could not have achieved what I did without the support of the guys that drove with me and the project would not have been so well organised if it hadn't been for the guys at home helping me with the build-up and departure. Also as we travelled by keeping the information flowing to enable Keith Rimmer to manage the Website, Maureen Wycherley to keep the Press interested and manage the Blog, Facebook and Twitter at the same time. 

The other and most important member of the team at home is of course my long suffering wife Vi. At one point I thought it might not happen. Vi doesn’t usually swear but I guess that she must have had a crash course on vocabulary update at the Open University, what she didn’t call me isn’t worth mentioning.  To say that we had a communication breakdown is an understatement. It got so bad that when she went to bed at night I would wait until she was asleep before I got in bed and then I would sleep with my eyes open in case she did something nasty to me during the night. I played the waiting game, she had no chance.  I applied the charm and within a few months I had her eating out of my hand. She helped me through the preparation period and right up to departure. Now I come to think of it, she was 'too' keen to see me go, I wonder why!!!! I guess that you have realised by now that I tend to elaborate when it comes to my lovely wife Vi, but in truth I love her to bits and missed her a lot and looked forward to phoning her as I was driving around the world.  That is, apart from the time when I bought the motor bike at a town called Sturgis without telling her. Boy did the poo hit the fan that day. It was ok though, I had two weeks before I got home, plenty of time to get back in her good book.

That’s enough about us for the moment, so where do we go from here? Well I promised you that I would write something every two weeks or so, focusing on what happened as we travelled. Now that I am back home I would like go back over the journey with you, but this time giving you more detail about what happened.  The highs and lows, the mistakes and what went wrong, the tension and fun time of the crew and so on. I promise to make it interesting and in addition to this I will be writing articles for magazines, working on the book and film covering the whole project, along with on-going fund raising, and anything else that comes along.

The next and most important item is the home coming reception for the vehicles and crew.  It will be held on 26th October 2.00pm at the Novotel, West Quay Road, Southampton, SO15 1RA. Refreshments provided. There will be a number of posh people attending but it will be nice if as many friends and supporters could join us for this very special occasion so put it in your diary. All the crew will be available to chat on the day but if you would like to ask me questions about the Ultimate Challenge or the journey just go to our website and use the Contact Form I'll attempt to answer as many questions as possible.

Until the next time keep upright and drive straight Les

Monday, 9 September 2013

Questions from one of our followers ...

We recently had an email from one of our followers, Dave Smith.  He had some questions for Les on the preparation of the Jimnys.  We thought it might be of interest to other followers and Jimny fans ....

From Dave ...
Hi there. Brilliant adventure and welll done to Les and co on a lasting the course!!! I've really enjoyed reading the blogs and listening to the adventure. Our family have 3 Jimnys and have covered in excess of 250,000 miles in them over the last 13 years! One question I do have - please could you tell me more about the modifications carried out to prep the Jimnys. What make and size are the tyres? Did the Jimnys only have a plus 2" suspension lift only or did they have castor corrected radius and trailing arms to compensate for the lift? Were longer shock absorbers used or standard ones? If longer, who supplied the springs and shocks as I'm interested in preping one of my vehicles for a simialr although shorther type of adventure. Did Les and co have any problems with the front wheels rubbing the inner arches with the bigger tyres fitted under articulation or cornering? Are there any modifications which they wish had been carried out looking back in hindsight? Hope you can hep with the above questions and well done - superb story. Many thanks, David Smith.

From Les ...
Hi Dave, nice to see that you have been following our progress as we have been travelling around the world. Just for the record, the journey was made into four Stages. Stages 1,3 and 4, I was accompanied by two friends. Stage 2 the cameraman and myself drove the vehicles as we had no takers for that part of the journey. I was the only one that drove the whole distance, and when I say that I paid the price I mean it. When we arrived at north Bergen just outside New York I was totally drained and shattered. I guess the other two guys were the same. The flight home and jet lag just about pushed me over the edge, it is taking some time to get myself back together.

That's enough about me, lets talk about the Jimnys. My decision to use the Jimnys was the right one, my task was to see if we could drive the low cost Jimnys around the world and bring the vehicles and the crew back safely. That I believe we have done. I am not sure that we could have achieved this with any other vehicle. The guys at Suzuki who designed the little off roader knew their stuff. Strong,100 percent reliable and comfortable to drive over long distances, the fuel consumption was around 30 mpg on average.

It all depends on what you intend to do but if I was contemplating doing the same journey again I wouldn't do so much preparation it is not necessary. To get the best from the power available from the engine you need to keep the weight down. We were too heavy, you don't need heavy steel bumpers and bull bars on the front, one spare wheel and 10 litres of fuel just in case. You can always up-grade the spec just in case, if you think it necessary. I will at some time be producing a general specification, but so you don't think about things you don't need this is what I will start to put together.

First, all you need is a standard Jimny. If you intend to travel the roads that we did then you will need to fit upgraded springs and shocks, but if you will not be running heavy you may not need them, so don't rush out and buy them. 
Having the rear left lower shock absorber repaired in Russia

The standard tyres will do if money is tight but it depends on what you want to do. Perhaps if you can let me know what your intentions are I can help you more. If I was going to do the same journey tomorrow I would use the standard Jimny but focus on crew support and comfort for the duration of the journey, I can tell you how I would do it but I would need to know what sort of journey you are proposing. Kind regards Les
From Les  ...

If anyone one else following The Ultimate Challenge has questions for Les don't hesitate to contact us through the website. If you happy to share your questions we'll publish them here on the blog.