2,300 Miles of Dirt Every Day
Egypt, the ancient land of mummies, pyramids and lots of sand. It’s not what most people would consider paradise, but then again we aren’t most people—we are wheelers. And yes, Egypt is on the other side of the world from where we live, but if you had a chance to go wheel in the desert, dirt, and sand for three weeks, wouldn’t you?
If you know us for anything it has to be for our DED Tours, where David Freiburger from Hot Rod and I travel to a remote location and acquire then resurrect a near-dead flattie, and then drive it cross-country on an awesome road trip home. Along the journey we nearly die at least once, and also hit dirt every day—hence the moniker DED. We’ve been doing it for nearly two decades in a variety of patina’d jeeps and Jeeps. The first published was a two-day trip to the desert with a fragged-out flattie (“The Adventure,” May ’98). Over the years we continued with an unusual assortment of other rigs.
But this trip was a bit different—an Ultimate Desert DED, if you will. A wheeler in the U.K. had an idea of driving two stock 70-year-old jeeps 2,300 miles around the Western Desert in Egypt to commemorate the British Long Range Desert Group of World War II and then drive through the Great Sand Sea. That part had never been done before, and it was unknown if even we could accomplish it. Simple, right? The organization and logistics were formidable, but there wasn’t any reason not to, not even the political instability of the region. Our minds wandered back in time to the ’60s TV series The Rat Patrol, where two American jeeps battled the Nazis in North Africa. We remembered those jeeps flying over the dunes firing .50-caliber machine guns. Heck yeah, we were in!
The desert romp was hatched by expedition organizer Toby Savage, a photographer and explorer from the U.K., along with journalist John Carroll and expatriate colleague Sam Watson living in Egypt. Since they are all desert explorers, photographers, teachers, and writers, the idea was to retrace the routes of their countrymen fighting in WWII Africa, the famed Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). Now 70 years later, the three subjects of the realm wanted to retrace their steps, with refurbished, original WWII jeeps. Not museum-quality restored, mind you, but real-world rebuilt rigs worked over in a manner befitting the LRDG, who had to scrap and patch together whatever they could find to make their unit work.
Finding suitable participants was also a gamble, but Savage put the trip on a website (www.tobysavage.co.uk/lrdg) and got much attention—fortunately our tech editor, Fred Williams, found it as well. The idea was to find a total of eight people who could split the cost of the entire expedition, with a little left over for safety. Figured into the cost were the jeeps, refurbishment, transport to Africa from England and back, all accommodations, gas, food, supplies, and equipment while on the trip, along with the cost of the Egyptian Army accompanying us.
The adventure took two years to prep and nearly three weeks to complete. With countless marvelous mechanical issues, plenty of politics, roadblocks, soldiers, stress, and fun, it was a true desert DED of epic proportions. But an adventure this grand simply can’t be contained in just a few magazine pages. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, and check out www.4wheeloffroad.com for extra photos, links, and videos of a real wheeling adventure.