A 26,000-mile, 74-day record drive around world
After nearly 2 1/2 months on the road, two young Canadians, one a lawyer and the other an unemployed engineer, have circumnavigated the Earth by car and are ready for a parking spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Gary Sowerby and Ken Langley are not the first to make the 26,000-plus circuit of the globe in an automobile. But if they cross the finish line in Toronto as expected Nov. 19, they will have done it in a record 74 days. The previous record was 102 days.
To reach their goal the two persistent young men endured heat, cold, rain, snow, ice, and most of all, fatigue.
"That was the hardest thing of all," recalls Mr. Sowerby, who did all the driving. "Total fatigue hit me when we were in Spain and it lasted for about 20 minutes. I didn't even want to get back into the car.
In rounding the world, the pair hit 92 cities in 23 countries, flew over a war in the Middle East, and almost ran out of gas deep in the Australian desert. A good driving day was about 14 hours on the road.
They drove through all four seasons, including fall nine times. Timing was crucial. If they had gone earlier, they would have run into heavy traffic in North America and the monsoon season in India. If they had gone later, it would have been too hot in Australia, India, and Pakistan.
The actual distance they drove was 26,514 miles -- required in order to qualify for the record. Car and crew were flown across the Pacific from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia; from Perth to Bombay, India; from Karachi, Pakistan, to Athens; and from London to Houston. There were also ferry trips from Stockholm to Helsinki and across the English Channel.
"It was basically an operation in logistics," Langley explains.
Their car, a stock 1980-model Volvo station wagon fresh off the assembly line in Halifax, Nova Scotia, made the trip without a hitch. They had a belly plate attached beneath to protect the oil pan and used a rally dash inside.
The only damage to the vehicle on the entire trip was a broken headlight in Australia -- "a kangaroo got in the way," says Sowerby -- and a door that was kicked in by someone in Yugoslavia.
To pay for the junket, the two men set up a company and sold stock to 47 friends and neighbors. Then the Canadian government put up $50,000; and Volvo provided the vehicle, backup support, and cash.
Total bill for the round-the-world adventure: $300,000 (Canadian), including
"Why did we go? This is always the hardest question to answer," says Langley. "We started with a simple idea and then we realized we needed more money than we thought and the whole thing just grew and grew. We became fascinated in a bizarre sense with doing this thing, but I could never really figure out why we were doing it."
"The country that had the biggest impact on me was East Germany," Mr. Sowerby says. "There was no happiness in East Germany. I didn't feel that way in Czecholoslovakia and Hungary. I felt sad when I came out of East Germany."
The worst roads were in Australia, they say. Despite many very good roads Down Under, there also are a lot of dirt roads that are wide and straight, but they are like washboards. The worst driving conditions, however, were in India and Pakistan -- "for sure," they emphasize. The incredible congestion slowed them down. The roads, although paved, were rough and filled with trucks, people , and oxen.
But when they arrived in Pakistan a welcome banner stretched across the border, and, says Langley, "we cleared into Pakistan in five minutes. We had a police escort from town to town. It was terrific."
They had no border problems although they were only given a transit visa in East Germany, which meant they could not stop for the night. As a result, they drove 41 hours straight, with only a few rest stops.