We spent Day 25 sorting out all our gear, turning the Trackers over to the charitable organization, and touring around the city of Ulaanbataar, which is a surprisingly modern city especially when compared to the rest of the country. The people in the city weren’t quite like the friendly and warm nomadic people in the lesser-populated parts of the country, perhaps giving credence to the phrase, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” and foreshadowing what may easily come to the rest of Mongolia as it is swept into modernity. It was somewhat sad to say goodbye to the Trackers. Besides each of the other guys to an extent, they had really come to be the only source of constancy on the journey. For lunch today, we ate at a place called City Burger and I had the chicken sandwich and an ice cream cone. Yeah, yeah, I had a lapse in judgment and forgot that ice cream was…yup, goat. But more fascinating than my forgetfulness, was this — did you ever wonder how Wendy’s and McDonald’s and all can only offer white meat chicken products? What happens to all that dark meat? Well, I just found the answer. It ends up at City Burger in Mongolia. And let me say, the dark meat chicken sandwich may not catch on any time soon in the states. Today really was a good day and really gave us time to reflect together on the experience.
We flew out the morning of Day 26. Ken took a different flight from the rest of us so the team was officially disbanded in Ulaanbataar. For not knowing each other very well prior to this, we got along surprisingly well. As could be expected of grown, opinionated men, there were a few flare ups, but nothing terribly damaging. I think that having two vehicles, separate tents, and switching up hotel room arrangements helped to avoid overexposure that would have otherwise caused some bigger issues.
The remaining four of us flew to Beijing, where we had a long layover and where we soon found out our flight to LAX was delayed by two hours due to the typhoons that have been pounding China. Obama, Hungarian parking cops, Russian mafia, flat tires, typhoons…meh, whatever. True to the adventurists we’ve become, in hopes of finding a nice place to relax we took an elevator up to what turned out to be the First Class Lounge. When the elevator opened, there was a velvet rope across the entrance and none of us moved, we just stood there and stared at it, dumbfounded, probably because we were all so tired. But this played well to our advantage as it must have made us appear snooty enough to be First Class. One of the staff said, “Oh, you need help?” and, doing her job to make the First Class Elite feel elite, moved the rope and let us in. We obliged and found a quiet corner and spent the afternoon sleeping and enjoying the complimentary beverage and ice cream bar.
The delayed flight from China ended up causing us to miss our connecting flight in L.A. despite our sprinting from terminal to terminal again. Frustrated, we grabbed some In-n-Out Burger and stayed in the fine LAX La Quinta on Air China’s dime. We picked up the next flight that left early in the morning of Day 27.
I’m an absolute daydreamer. And I’ve been daydreaming about meeting my wife and family at the airport for about 25 days now. It was not a disappointing experience. I know that my absence was self-inflicted, but that didn’t make the reunion any less sweet. I am, unfortunately, someone that often needs to be reminded of good things by being removed from them. I missed my family intensely during this entire trip and now realize a little bit more deeply how fortunate I am to have what I have.
Besides the value of my family, I learned a lot as a result of this trip. How could I not? It is unfortunately rare that during the normal course of life I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “Today, you will see, learn or do something that could change your perpsective on life, and may very well change your life, forever.” I had that thought every single day of the Mongol Rally.
Maybe I’ll write another, reflective and unabashedly cheesy post at some point after I’ve had more time to think, but the one lesson I learned that I would share with you here and now is that if there’s something you really want to do, do it.
There were so many excuses (masquerading as reasons) not to do the Mongol Rally — time away from work, shirking family “responsibilities,” cost, danger, etc. But as I made the Rally a desire and conveyed that to the people around me, things fell into place that allowed it to happen. I’ve mentioned the noble response of my wife. And my desire was received in true adventurist spirit by my boss when he said, “We’ll make this happen. You have to do this.” The man has this amazing understanding of life, and I am extremely grateful to work with him. And the other issues worked out as well. It may not have been as clean as I’d hoped, meaning, things may not have worked out the exact way I envisioned, but things worked out and the end result was that I was able to have an experience that I will likely think about every day for a long time.
Finally, thanks for sharing this unbelieveable experience with me. I appreciate all of the emails and comments, even if they were completely inappropriate and missed their intended comedic target as they always do (Dan L.). I have now, literally, travelled around the world and I can say without hesitation that I am surrounded by some of the best people on this earth, and for that, thank you.
Now, let’s go rally.