The Digital Adventures

Chapter 2B

Music: On the Road Again by Willy Neslon and Country Roads by John Denver

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Needed Resources and Logistics


My proposed route would abandon the tourist shortcut through Greece and Turkey. Instead, we would drive across all of North Africa from Tangier to Cairo, through the Sinai Peninsula into the Middle East and India, all the way to Singapore. Then, instead of shipping to California as previous expeditions had done, we would continue our drive. We would cross Indonesia, hopefully as far as Bali, next ship to Australia and drive across it, then ship to Panama and from there back to New York through Central America. Our non-repetitive mileage would be approximately 24,000 miles, a new, clear, and unbreakable record. Optimistically, we decided to call ourselves the Trans World Record Expedition.

The opportunity to set a record particularly pleased Al, who, as an editor, was friendly with most of the major public relations agencies and was certain they’d be willing to help us if we had a good peg-as he told me they say on Madison Avenue-to hang the trip on. An attempt to set a record for the longest auto journey around the world was ideal. All I could do was hope that he was right and cross fingers, for we still needed a new car and a ton of equipment and thousands of dollars to make the trip.

The biggest problem was an automobile. I had an old Jeep in Spain but there was only a slim chance that it would make it around the world without breaking down. Nor could we rely on any standard automobile or truck. Because of the extremely rough terrain we planned to cross, we had to have a rugged four-wheel drive vehicle. From experience, I preferred the Toyota Land Cruiser. As it turned out, Al had worked on several projects with Chief Samuelson, Toyota’s public relations man, and was certain he’d lend us a receptive ear if anyone would. Al wrote Samuelson and offered to test one of his Land Cruisers on the world’s roughest roads, on the world’s longest auto trip, and to furnish him with performance reports and pictures that he could use in his publicity and advertising campaigns.

Samuelson bought our idea. It fitted perfectly with Toyota’s slogan that the Land Cruiser could “Go Anywhere.” Not only did his client agree to give us a new Land Cruiser and complete spare parts, but they also promised to ship us several thousand dollars’ worth of color movie film to record the trip.

In the meantime, I had approached Carl Dretzke, an old friend and president of Trade Wind Campers, a large camper-trailer manufacturer in Manawa, Wisconsin. A camper-trailer is a big box on wheels hauled behind a car. It can carry and store a thousand pounds of gear, and can be opened up in five minutes into a canvas house that sleeps about six. When I told Dretzke that we planned to circle the globe with a camper, something no one had ever done, he immediately agreed to give us one. I flew to the Trade Winds factory, where, with half of Manawa (pop. 1037) in attendance, Dretzke presented me with his biggest model right off the assembly line; then Manawa’s mayor, George Jensen, gave me a three-foot long, gold-painted plywood key to the city (which came in handy on a cold night in the Himalayas).

Once we had our car and trailer set, the rest of the sponsors came quickly. After writing 300 letters, making 500 phone calls, and planting several articles in industry trade papers, Al had 25 sponsors, all of whom gave us equipment we needed and publicity fees which ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Nearly all our requirements were filled: the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company offered to equip our Land Cruiser with a set of high-flotation tires especially designed for use in mud, snow, and on rough roads. The Thermos Division of King-Seeley loaded us up with picnic chests, gasoline stoves, lanterns, vacuum bottles and two fast-erecting Poptents. The Creslan Division of American Cyanamid agreed to outfit us with raincoats, jackets, sport shirts, knit shirts, insulated underwear, regular underwear, socks, gloves and trousers. Sandy Teller, the PR man for The Hat Corporation of America, insisted we take cowboy hats and tropical hats, safari hats and rain hats, cold weather hats and desert hats, even a top hat. The PR man for Thom McAn gave us 44 pairs of shoes, “everything but the brake shoes,” he joked.

Elgin weighed in with a dozen wrist watches, two auto clocks and a shortwave radio. Union Carbide supplied four cartons of Eveready batteries, seven flashlights and lanterns, eight cases of Glad Wrap, and 100 aerosol cans of everything from shave cream to dog repellent to an insultingly large supply of deodorant. The Ben Pearson Company sent five hunting bows and 100 arrows, plus quivers, repair kits, and a big straw target. Johnson’s Wax sent twenty cases of insect repellent, insecticide, disinfectant, car wax, and shoe polish.

Sea and Ski provided sunglasses and suntan oils; Lampette sent portable high-intensity lamps that worked from the auto cigarette lighter socket; Dow Chemical filled our Land Cruiser’s radiator with antifreeze and desert coolant; Dow-Corning gave special chemicals to keep the car engine dry and functioning in the monsoon climates; Globe Rubber furnished Boor mats and mudguards; and Macmillan Ring-Free Oil undercoated the car and agreed to supply us with motor oil, grease, and conditioners around the world; Niagara Company sent a portable automobile massager that could relax the driver or keep him awake, and Honeywell added three Pentax cameras. And there was more: a complete set of pots and pans, a year’s supply of paper cups and plates, four Scotchply fishing rods, six Zebco reels, an assortment of tapes from recording to electrical, and even cigarette lighters that worked from solar energy.

We had sponsors for almost everything we needed, although a few companies turned us down. The toilet tissue manufacturers, for example, rejected our proposal after they received Al’s form letter which offered to take pictures and movies of their products being used in a variety of exotic locations.

In the end, we had more than $10,000 worth of equipment and supplies, and $15 ,000 in cash from 25 sponsors, all in exchange for publicity rights to our names, pictures, and testimonials.

Several companies, declining sponsorship, still sent samples of their products. Upjohn, figuring that likely we wouldn’t be eating too well, sent three thousand vitamin pills. Johnson & Johnson, knowing we’d be doing some hard traveling, sent a first aid pouch and a snake- bite kit, and a note expressing the hope that we didn’t have to use either. Allied Chemical showed both its charity and pessimism with a set of inflatable splints. And Travelers Insurance Company, after rejecting our application for a policy, sent us a half dozen of their famous red umbrellas.

Between the corporate givings and misgivings, we were fully equipped and bankrolled. In fact, I’m sure that few private expeditions in history have been so completely outfitted.

After carefully studying the seasons and weather conditions along our route, I determined that we should sail before the end of March. I booked us on the Queen Elizabeth, which sailed for Cherbourg on March 24th. That left us less than a month to prepare.

While Al worked with the sponsors, I attended to the dozens of details necessary for getting a trans-world expedition on the road. On the front of the Land Cruiser, I installed a powerful Ramsey winch, in case we had to haul ourselves out of a ditch or up a cliff. I put locks on the hood and gas tank to prevent pilferage, and welded a ball hitch to the rear of the vehicle for connecting the camper. Bill Mitchell of Toyota helped me install Warn Hubs on the front wheels, special devices which would enable us to disengage the front axle on smooth roads to conserve gasoline. I then drove the Land Cruiser to Washington to break it in, and there attended to two important matters. At the American Automobile Association, after putting up a $2,000 bond, I was issued a carnet du passage, a document without which international automobile travel is almost impossible; it guarantees to foreign countries that the owner of the automobile entering that country will not attempt to sell that car there in violation of their import taxes. The other matter was Burma, the big question mark on our trip. Since its takeover by General Ne Win, Burma had severed her connections with the rest of the world, but so quietly that few are aware of it-the few who try to get in. She has forbidden travel and thwarted tourists, and she has not allowed anyone to drive across her in years. I applied for permission at the Burmese Embassy and was told they would process my request and give me an answer in New Delhi.

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