Bucket list item from GBXM 1.03
How often do we come across some dullard attempting to show his complete lack of interest in something by saying “I could care less,” oblivious to the fact he’s suggesting the exact opposite of what he really means? Fortunately, there are still people out there aware of how, in text-based environments like online discussion forums, spelling and grammar are the foundations upon which our online reputations are often built, and are willing to call them on their illiteracy.
It bears repeating then, the correct statement is “I couldn’t care less.” The idea is to communicate how, on the scale of how much – or little – you could care about something, it is impossible for you to care any less than you do at that moment in time. Those who say they could care less are actually implying they care about whatever it is more than other things.
Since 2009, I’ve been reaching out to complete strangers online, hoping our shared interest in cars – and my explaining I’d like to tell the whole world why they’re so newsworthy – will be sufficient to get us talking so I can put together an interview telling the whole world why they’re so newsworthy. “Hi. I’m Brian. I run a magazine. And I want to tell the world why you’re awesome.” You can imagine how frustrating it can be when some people either never respond or walk away mid-interview without so much as saying goodbye.
Three plus years in, I no longer obsess about such things. I’m trying to do people a favor. If they aren’t interested, that’s their loss. I try to remain optimistic, telling myself they probably didn’t get my message or are just too busy “with The IRL” (in real life), but whatever. If they want to be in this magazine, they’ll be in this magazine. If not, their loss, frankly. I no longer lose any sleep over it.
I COULD *ONLY* CARE LESS
Back to caring less. In 99.999% of situations, saying “I could care less” is a sign of ignorance. Today, I want to suggest it might also be used as a platform for something which is very, very important. Take the Shitbox Rally, for example. After hearing about this event and doing a little research into it, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s possible I might ONLY be able to care less about it. As in, there is a distinct possibility that, as far as automotive events go, it’s hard for me imagine myself caring more about any other event.
Okay. As far as introductions go, this one made more sense in my head than it’s making now as I’m reading back over it, but stay with me, Goose. What I’m trying to say is, Shitbox Rally is a bucket list item for me. I have to – HAVE TO – do this before I die.
It’s an unparalleled automotive adventure with purpose. Where others seem to tack on a charitable angle as an afterthought, Shitbox Rally was purpose-built to make a difference in the lives of others.
Which is why, when I made my interview request through the contact form on the Shitbox Rally website, I suddenly felt the anxiety I felt back in my rookie year as a publisher. When you approach your heroes, there’s a lot of pressure to find the right balance between expressing how much you genuinely care (getting the interview) and coming across like some kind of batshit crazy stalker-type (getting ignored). I typed up this elaborate introduction and interview request. I wanted to show how Gearbox Magazine exists to encourage automotive enthusiasts to see how much they matter and how they can adapt the skills they use building high performance machines to building high performance lives, and how Shitbox Rally is the embodiment of all that and more. I clicked submit and sweated it out.
THE MAN BEHIND SHITBOX RALLY
Three days later, I alt+tabbed over to my personal inbox at work and saw I had an unread email from Hannah at Shitbox Rally. She thanked me for my enquiry and looped in James Freeman, founder and head honcho. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I’ve heard it feels pretty good to learn a magazine wants to interview you. Let me tell you, from the other side, it feels pretty good to learn someone thinks highly enough of your magazine to be interviewed!
James lives in Adelaide, South Australia, and runs Shitbox Rally for a living. “To give a bit more background here,” he began, “my previous work experience was running media businesses, either my own in London or as the Marketing Director and/or Chief Operating Officer of a company in Dubai. Whilst doing some consulting when back in Australia, I started the rally, and after the first year I knew I needed to dedicate myself to it full time to ensure it could grow and succeed in the way it now has. So, I put my normal career on hold, took a deep breath and moved across to the rally full time.” You might say he has a fairly cool job – running a rally and raising a lot of money for cancer research.
A LIFE-CHANGING ADVENTURE FOR PEOPLE WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR
Shitbox Rally was created for a number of reasons, James told me. “The first being that both of my parents died from cancer within 12 months of each other. I wanted to do something big to help raise funds for cancer research. I then wanted to add a road trip element, as I wanted to see more of Australia and I had a lot of friends that had never travelled into the outback, and lastly, there had to be a challenge aspect. What was the catalyst which finally inspired someone to take those first steps? Taking both of your parents to get chemotherapy treatment together.”
James spends an incredible amount of time and energy organizing this event each year. “The only people that really understand what is involved are the people that work with me. For example, the route for the rally is always different, so we have to speak with new people every year.” Having friends here in the States who organize stage rallies, I know how hard they have to work just to get the same roads approved as the year before. I can’t imagine starting over from square one every year.
James went on, “Also, the places and roads that we travel to and through are so incredibly remote that sorting out food, drink, toilets, showers etc is a massive job in itself and then we have to organise all of the fuel!”
Whoa! I asked if that meant he coordinates catering along the way and has a fuel truck following along or something, suspecting smaller, bush fuel stations might not be ready to serve 200+ cars in a single day. He replied, “Yes, I organise where we are staying, all the food, drink, toilets, showers, fuel etc. This is one part of a huge overall process to ensure everything comes together, and is safe and easy for everyone to take part. I have a lot of help from a team of people to bring it together each year. With the fuel, we don’t have a fuel truck as the teams are spread out over a very long way so a fuel truck won’t work, but I do organise fuel at each stop over and speak with all of the remote fuel stations to ensure they have enough fuel for us when we come through.”
SHITBOX: WHAT, WHY & HOW
James told me “‘Shitbox’ is an Australian term for a really crappy car. Where the rally is concerned we have a max value permitted for the car of $1,000 and this includes any work teams may want to do on the cars before the rally. They cannot buy a car for $1,000 and then spend another $5,000 doing it up. It is $1000 total otherwise it’s cheating!”
Every team entering Shitbox Rally raises a minimum of $4,000 for Cancer Council http://www.cancer.org.au/, the leading non-governmental cancer prevention organization of Australia. Their mission is to fund cancer research, to prevent and control cancer, and to provide information and support for people with cancer. Between 2010 and 2012, Shitbox Rally raised AUD$1.7M for Cancer Council. Their goal in 2013 alone is an additional AUD$1.3M. That’s automotive shenanigans we can believe in!
Having raised $4000 (often more) for Cancer Council, teams get their shitboxes to the starting line. The 2013 route starts in Aldelaide, and runs deep into the center of the continent on the way to Perth. For those not entirely familiar with Australia, the former is toward the middle of the country on the southern coast, the latter on western coast. It’s a total of close to 2,500 miles one-way.
Australia is about as far as you can get from my desk here in Phoenix, Arizona. The more I looked at the 2013 Shitbox Rally route – which practically covers ⅔ of Australia – I began to realize something. Australia is huge. It’s almost as difficult for all those Ozzie teams to get to the starting line as it would be for me. What if my friends and I live in Brisbane and want to run the event in 2013. Do we drive our shitbox 1,200 miles (2,000km) to the starting line? “Yep,” he said. “Alternatively, you can put your car on a truck and fly down. We have a different route each year with the 2011 rally starting in Brisbane so there is always a route for everyone, but saying that, for the 2013 rally we have people coming from Brisbane.”
To put those distances in perspective for my fellow Americans, the above Brisbane > Adelaide > Perth example would be like buying a shitbox in Seattle and driving it to LA, before joining 200 of your new best friends to caravan to Houston – by way of Kansas City. That’s an epic road trip any way you cut it.
Okay, suppose you drive your $1,000 shitbox 1,000 miles to the starting line, then 2,500 miles through the rally to the far end of the continent. Then what? What happens when we finish in Perth, 2,700 miles (4,300km) along the most direct route from home? Do we drive all the way back? James told me, “If you want to. It is up to you. At the end of the rally, we hold an auction and sell the cars off to raise more money, but also to get rid of what was an asset, but at the end of the rally is suddenly a liability if you want to jump on a plane and fly home.”
I asked James about some of the more exciting challenges overcome by past Shitbox Rally teams en route and how they overcame. “We find that 9% of the cars that start die along the way and the rest of them need a lot of help to get them to the finish line. We have some great bush mechanic skills at work. To give an example, we have once taken a fuel pump from a 2 litre car that had died due to hydraulic lock after the driver went through a river too fast and transferred it into a 4L car. This might sound simple enough, but if I might paint a picture, we were on one of the most remote dirt roads in Australia, the sun was setting, we were 3+ hours from camp and we just had about 10 people and no workshop, so we needed to move quickly.”
“The only way to get the fuel pump from the donor car was from the fuel tank with no access from the top, so 7 guys rolled the donor car onto its side, cut the exhaust pipe off with a battery powered angle grinder, pulled the fuel tank off, grabbed the pump and swapped it into a car with an engine twice the size with the hope it would work – and it did. That car ended up driving all the way to the final destination!”
PUT SHITBOX RALLY ON YOUR BUCKET LIST
James told me they’ve had people enter the rally from the US, Brussels, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the UK. When I asked him why people enter this event for the first time, and why they keep coming back. He said, “Because the ridiculousness of it appeals to people. Because it is easy to be a part of. And because you do not need to have mechanical knowledge to do it. Lastly, because whilst we take safety seriously, we do not take ourselves or the rally seriously. It is not a race, it is a challenge, and we all work together as a big community to get people across the line. Why do they enter it after that? Because it changes your life; it adds so much to it. People that do the rally are a part of a big group of people that have experienced something incredible together and the stories are endless.”
SHITBOX RALLY IS ON MY BUCKET LIST
I think I speak for all of us as gearheads when I say there’s just something about road trips that speak to us. It’s the sense of personal freedom inherent in miles of open road. It’s the getting back to basics as the minutiae of everyday life fades in the rearview mirror. It’s the feeling of brotherhood as we undertake an adventure together with good friends.
Shitbox Rally is all that and more. It’s bigger than all of us. It’s a road trip of epic proportions; covering thousands of miles in clapped out, unloved vehicles; traveling through parts of Australia so remote, even most Australians will never see them; and knowing you’re part of a community effort that just raised more than a million dollars to fight cancer.
That’s why it’s officially on my bucket list – the list of things I feel I have to do before I kick the bucket. It’s why I want to spend two months’ take-home pay on airfare, sit in tiny, coach seats for upwards of 36 hours to the other side of the planet, and buy a piece of shit car to drive nearly half that distance across the Outback.
I want to experience the freedom of the open road in far away lands, reconnected with the simple pleasure of a simple machine over thousands of miles; to look the horizon in the eye with the sense of purpose that only comes from knowing you’re actively making a difference in the world.
I highly recommend having a look around the Shitbox Rally website, liking them on the old Friendface, and/or giving them your ear on Twitter.