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Two Oklahoma brothers set out from London in a tiny car for charity with one goal in mind: reach Mongolia


Jenny Coon Peterson September 30th, 2010

Oklahomans Andrew and Cody Bass crossed the finish line in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on a flatbed truck.

Oklahomans Andrew and Cody Bass crossed the finish line in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on a flatbed truck.

Travel on the mind
The Mongol Rally


It wasn't the way they'd envisioned completing the seventh annual Mongol Rally when they'd set off from London in a 1-liter Nissan Micra more than a month earlier, but it was still an accomplishment: 12 countries, 10,000 miles, all for charity.

Travel on the mind
Brothers Andrew, 27, and Cody, 25, credit their parents with their longtime love of other cultures.

Cody recalls a summer when he was about 8. They couldn't afford a vacation, so their mom did what she could to expose them to places around the world.

"She 'took' us to a different country every week," he said. "She'd find a recipe for, like, a Scottish dish and make it, and then it'd be the same week that there'd be a bagpipe exposition in a park. She 'took' us to Jamaica, Scotland, France and all these other places."

It was those lessons instilled by their mom that partly inspired Andrew to embark on a southward-bound bicycle trip two years ago.

"It really was a lot about the way our mom was about other cultures and food," he said. "Bicycling was a great way to travel because you can eat as much as you want."

Andrew, a mechanical engineer, took a two-year leave of absence, bought his first bike since childhood and set off on a pan-American cycling trip that took him from Vancouver to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America.

"I'd never ridden a bicycle uphill before," Andrew said. "I was definitely wondering what I'd gotten myself into. I just wanted to ... see a lot of diversity."

It took 19 months to complete the journey " six of which were spent in Mexico, plus another two volunteering in Guatemala " but it was on the road that he learned about another overland journey: the Mongol Rally.

Andrew called his little brother with the idea, and it didn't take much convincing to sign up. They were the first Oklahoma team ever to enter.

The Mongol Rally
There are just a few rules to the Mongol Rally: The car must have no more than a 1.2-liter engine, and participants must raise $1,500 for charity.

For American participants, that charity is Mercy Corps, an Oregon-based nonprofit that works with children and families in Mongolia.

"Since Mongolia's typically nomadic, they try to introduce ways of schooling so they can still keep this nomadic lifestyle," Cody said of Mercy Corps. "They basically need two schools " one for winter and one for summer."

Cody also liked that Mercy Corps strives to keep their work " and their workers " local. "The people who work for them are actually from the place where they're working."

Andrew and Cody named their team Steppe On It! (in reference to Mongolia's terrain) and started raising money for Mercy Corps. They set a goal of $2,000, and as of Sept. 27, they had raised $1,777.

With their Nissan Micra and plenty of road maps, Andrew and Cody took off from London on July 24. Although they met up with other drivers in the Czech Republic for a party, it was mostly just them and the road for 10,000 miles.

"We saw potholes that our entire car could fit into," Andrew said.

The eastward adventure took them through northern Europe, Russia and Kazakhstan before reaching Mongolia.

Both brothers specifically mentioned their love of Kazakhstan, although that's where their Micra's axle broke for the first time.

"Kazakhstan was an incredible country," Cody said. "There were incredibly kind people everywhere."

Andrew recalled one occasion in particular: "A family invited us into their house and gave us tea and watermelon and this bread they had just made us in the oven," he said. "That's the kind of experience you get when you travel between the tourist towns."

The welded axle helped them limp the rest of the way through Kazakhstan and into Mongolia " a place that Andrew said you "feel like you're in the middle of nowhere" " but it broke for the final time just 120 miles outside the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar.

"The only thing holding the back right wheel on was the brake line," Cody said.

But it didn't really matter, as they crossed the finish line on Sept. 7 in a flatbed truck, exactly two years to the day that Andrew had taken his leave of absence.

"There's that quote," Andrew said, "'The world is a book, and if you don't travel, you've only read one page.'"

A dozen countries later, it's safe to say Andrew and Cody have read quite a few pages.

 
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