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A vintage-car race from the Great Wall of China to the Place Vendome. What could possibly go wrong?
Jill Kirkpatrick and Tony Connor have been wedded blissfully for 20 years and they agree that one truism of their happy marriage is that they avoid driving together. So when Kirkpatrick "offhanded and flippantly" mentioned to her husband that they ought to consider competing in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, a vintage-car race that would take them from the Great Wall of China to the Place Vendome in Paris, Connor said he just about fell out of his chair.
"He loves cars and I love adventure travel," Kirkpatrick said. Then Connor finished her sentence saying, "And the mother of all rallies is what she decided to do."
So the couple left Washington in June 2016 and spent 36 days covering 13,680km across the Eurasian continent, fording rivers, rumbling over washboard dirt roads, circumnavigating mountain passes in the Swiss Alps and tent camping in the Mongolian grassland. What's more, the prize for winning the rally is simply a shot of pride and a bottle of champagne.
If you want to drive the Peking to Paris rally, you'll have to wait until 2019, but the association sponsors vintage-car endurance races several times a year: The next is the Baltic Classic in May, a two-week rally that starts in Copenhagen and ends in Berlin.
To enter, participants pay a registration fee to the race organiser, the Endurance Rally Association, which covers much of the cost of the trip, including lodgings and most of the fuel. Connor, who works in finance, said that he was able to arrange taking the time off for the trip with the help of his team back in the office. The overall cost, not including preparing a car and shipping it to the start point, is in the five figures.
The month-long journey - the sixth such rally so far - tested Connor and Kirkpatrick to their limits and beyond. They averaged one meal a day and three-to-four hours of sleep a night. And because of an agreement they made beforehand, they finished without a single argument about Kirkpatrick's directions or Connor's driving.
That alone was a feat, they agreed, considering that the rally is an epic trial of human and mechanical capacity even under ordinary circumstances. Then there's the fact that Connor and Kirkpatrick drove the entire race in a Porsche.
"This rally will move 'impossible' for you," Connor said. Kirkpatrick chimed in: "It was the hardest thing I've ever chosen to do in my life."
The rally dates to 1907 and is a race specifically for cars made before 1975. The 2016 rally included a parade of classics such as a 1917 American LaFrance speedster, a 1930 Ford Model A and a 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II.