Imagine a road trip in a tiny vehicle, mastering rugged terrain on unpaved roads, through countries that are still developing. North Ridgeville resident and architect Jason Mould, 34, will embark on such a trip this summer in the name of charity. Accompanying him will be his friend John Rowland, an information technology manager.
They will fly to Europe today (July 21) and return at the end of August.
The Mongol Rally, an annual event initiated in 2004 and organized by the League of Adventurists, is a 10,000-mile trek from Europe to Mongolia. It aims to raise funds for the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, an organization that has provided aid to the children of Mongolia since 1997.
The two former college roommates will make the long journey in a 2006 Fiat Panda. One of the stipulations of the rally is vehicles must have an engine capacity of less than 1.2 liters, Rowland said. He and Mould purchased the car from a man who lives about 50 miles outside of London. Rowland described the vehicle as a “micro-SUV with no pickup.”
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Mould said of the adventurous opportunity, adding he’ll get to see things he’s never seen before. “Plus, it’s 100 percent for charity.”
Those who participate in the Mongol Rally must raise 2,000 pounds, or approximately $3,200, Mould said, and the vehicle is donated to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation after the rally has been completed. According to Mould, he and some college friends had been tossing around the idea of doing the event for nearly a decade.
“This is the year we decided to try to make it work,” he said.
Many of Mould’s friends are married and have children by now, so they were unable to participate in the adventure, he said. Rowland is not married, but he noted his girlfriend, although supportive, questioned why he’s making the trip.
“My girlfriend wonders if this is something I actually want to do,” Rowland laughed. “And certainly my mother is worried, but I assured her I wouldn’t be going to any of the trickier places people who do this sometimes wind up going. My employer has been very supportive in allowing me to take a month and a half off to do something that has always been a dream of mine. People are probably a little puzzled, but mostly supportive.”
Mould said this would probably be the last time life would afford him the opportunity to participate in something like the Mongol Rally. His fiancé, Melissa Levesque, is concerned for his safety, but ultimately supports his desire to go.
“I’m really nervous and worried,” she admitted. “But it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him. I have all the faith in him, but I just get worried something’s going to happen. He’s going to send letters about what they’re doing. We’ll be video chatting and I can talk to him every day. It’ll be something we can tell our kids and families about.”
Mould hopes his background as an architect, as well as his experience with his family’s business, Don Mould’s Plantation, will help him on the trek.
“Growing up here, and at Don Mould’s Plantation, you learn to do a little bit of everything,” he said, pointing out he has no idea what to expect on the journey. “My buddy (John) is the planner, and I’m more of the fix-it guy.”
Rowland willingly handled the trip details.
“He was like, ‘Well, just go where you think it will be interesting,'” Rowland said. “I took that as, ‘Go where it’s interesting and where we won’t break an axle.’”
Rowland said he has visited China in the past, but this trip requires more preparation because each team must “get a car, insurance, visas, paperwork and figure out what route you’re taking.”
One of the most challenging things about the Mongol Rally is there are no support teams. Travelers have to deal with whatever obstacles they may encounter on their own.
“If you break down, you have to figure out how to keep going,” Mould said.
There is also no prize money for teams that complete the rally.
“Their goal is to raise money for charity, and ours is to help them while experiencing something we won’t get to do again,” he said, noting he and Rowland self funded the journey.
When it comes to traveling across unfamiliar territory, Mould said he is confident of his and Rowland’s abilities. Travelers have encountered some recent difficulties entering Kazakhstan, he added, and the duo will also spend a significant amount of time in Russia.
“I think that particular leg of the journey will be the most intimidating, only because it’s fairly unknown and there are not a lot of good roads,” Mould explained. “Getting through the European areas all the way to Romania shouldn’t be that bad – knock on wood.”