Mike had originally planned today as a rest/car preparation day, however finally the MG company caught on to what we are doing and invited the team to spend the morning at the ‘MG Experience’. Because that meant driving new MGs around a track at high speed, Mike immediately said yes and so went our rest day (I mean to say, we arrived tired, spent the day collecting the cars, then a day touring Bangkok in the heat – who needs a rest when you are awake at 4am everyday!).
So on to the bus at 7:30. We are getting quite friendly with the bus – it’s a 40 seater for the 16 of us so plenty of room to spread out – however after a 1.5 hour ride from the airport on Sunday, spending most of Monday going around in circles between the port authorities and the bond store (I am convinced we went through one intersection 7 times), 2.5 hours into Bangkok yesterday (and of course, 2.5 hours return) we hopped on for another 2 hours each way ride! Just wait until tomorrow’s post – we have been told it’s 3 hours each way!
Ros following the map in betsy
Arriving at the MG Experience we were royally welcomed by the team and admired the selections of MGs on display. As well as the 3, there is the 5 and 6, plus the SUV named GS.
Arriving at MG Experience
The objective of the MG Experience is to allow anyone the opportunity to hop in and drive a MG: what a great idea. Set in a paddock it has 4 sections: the acceleration (up to 100km) and brake test (about 50 mts), the swerve at speed section (drive towards cones at 60 and the instructor tells you when to drive around the obstacle while still accelerating) and the swerve with brake test (drive towards cones at 80km and the instructor tells you when to drive around the obstacle while braking hard) and finally drive through the curves.
We were given a history of the centre. It started 2 years ago on a parking lot that was only used on the weekend, hence on Monday the team laid out the 1,200 cones and then collected them in on Friday. Evidence of the way in which cones wander is amazing, all around Bangkok are remnant MG cones!
Track layout and the new site with Spirt House already there
We all were able to drive as many different cars as we wished, including the 2 different spec SUVs (one 1.5 lt turbo charged and the other 2 lt – I thought the tubo went best).
MG 6, MG 5, MG 3 and MG GS
We spent around 2 hours driving faster and faster, until we were informed it was now ‘race’ time: each of us to do a timed lap in the 3.
Well, John went first and found the car had great understeer and collected a cone. Bad luck. Ian topped the men and Pat the ladies (indeed faster than most of the men).
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Ros and John at the wheel. The pitt crew
The current site was set up a year ago and now runs as a customer experience centre, a driver training centre, plus a training centre for sales and service staff (one training room has a car in it).
A great day – quite tiring – followed by a big lunch. I think the kilos are mounting on already.
John had a few chores to do during the day. When packing the car I removed the face of the radio and both Ros and I have no idea where it went. Both were quite sure it was in the box under the seat, yes the box was there but no face. 25,000km without music was not an option, so in the morning I removed the faceless radio and visited a car radio shop and bought an updated version which meant I could use the same plug at the back and did not need to rewire – thank heavens my stupidity was matched by some intelligence in buying the same brand.
I also achieved another great dumbness: I purchased a hand held 2 way radio so when we have a guide car we can supply them a radio to communicate. As I packed I saw that it comes with a charger plug for in the car and hence did not pack the cradle. BUT guess what – the car charger plugs into the cradle, not the radio. A quick call to Steve in Sydney and I am hoping he can find the cradle and courier it to us in Vientiane.
A night out together at an up market restaurant with band and overlooking the bay bookended with a local pickup truck taxi ride. The price was a shock, after paying 200B each for the previous night’s dinner, this was 800B each. However 200B = AUD 8.00, so the expensive night with wine, beer and too much food was still only $36.00!
Mike is making sure the team is getting into the mindset of daily activities (I actually think he is like one of those instructors on ‘fattest person’ shows and is pushing us all to our limits so when we hit the road we think life is easy). We have our evening meeting at 6pm each night: the Sydney contingent was in trouble on Sunday night – our plane was delayed and so we didn’t get to the hotel until 8pm and were noted as being LATE!
Sunday night’s meeting was a signathon: we needed 9 documents in triplicate with the 2 copies certified as a true copy (lucky we have Peter, a QC along with his signing arm) and then Tuesday night’s meeting was another signathon: Ian (Clare: the Stans manager) and Tony (VISAMAN) were going to the Uzbekistan Embassy on Wednesday to get our visas and we needed to provide passports, money, pictures and signatures.
Well done Ian and Tony for getting our visas – only the Turkmenistan visa to go!
Its now Thursday as I write this – I have dropped out of today’s activities, a trip to the floating markets plus cultural experience – not that I didn’t want to be on the bus at 6am and spend 3 hours each way, but because I was worn out and starting to be anxious about packing the car, getting my new camera to work, making sure the maps were loaded on the GPS, putting the 1,200 pieces of paper in order, working out the dashcam, filling the spare fuel tanks, and getting my head into the right space. I am sure Ros will be able to relay the great day to me!
Tonight is the ‘night before we drive off’. Will we all be ready? Mike will outline the next day’s drive and I will update the team on travelling as a team: we are in this together and we will all get through as a tram (which by the way we are already working as a well oiled machine with everyone more than willing to go the extra mile with no one boiling over or anyone suffering a flat: sorry just had to get a few motoring terms into today’s blog).