Adam Bird

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

Follow that Fire Engine!

Road Trip

Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean sails a freight ship carrying its usual load of shipping containers heading for Europe, or Valencia in Spain to be exact. Within one is an extra special shipment, a Fire Engine affectionately known as ‘Martha’, who is on her way back to London after an epic nine month global journey which has seen her circumnavigate the globe in the name of charity.

I first heard about Follow that Fire Engine towards the end of 2009 as the first Facebook event invitations got issued from a friend of a friend. James Morrow, or Jimbo as he was introduced to me by my good friend Stuart, ironically a fire fighter himself.

These event invitations were fundraisers for an expedition of people, who were raising money and awareness for their pending trip. An ambitious journey which would see them driving a fire engine around the world aiming to raise money for three charities close to the hearts of all of them, whilst attempting to break a Guinness Book Record in the process.

The challenge was initiated by crew leader, a man named Steve Moore in memory of his father, a fire fighter from Dorset who passed away in 2009 after a brave battle with lung cancer. The expedition is a fundraiser for three related charities; Macmillan Cancer Support, The Firefighters Charity and The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

An exceptional idea for three exceptional causes I am sure you’ll agree. But what makes Follow that Fire Engine stand out, if it doesn’t already for it’s poignant purpose, is that each of the crew that participated at any given point throughout the journey paid for it themselves. Shipping, fuel and living expenses paid for by money that they have personally invested ensuring that each and every penny raised goes to a good cause.

The aforementioned Jimbo, swapped his life as a golf tutor to be part of the crew, initially met up with the expedition for the second leg (Moscow to Beijing) before flying off and enjoying winter amidst the sunnier climes of Africa and South America as an independent traveller before reuniting with Martha and the crew for stages 7 and 8 (Grays Harbour to New York City).

Actually knowing someone that is personally involved in a project of this magnitude I felt obliged to watch, read and listen via the social networks and have since come to understand just what a monumental achievement that these guys are undertaking - and whilst I enjoyed reading about their travels across Europe and watched videos of them touring Asia and Australasia, it wasn’t until they ended their three week sail across the Pacific Ocean and hit the Western seaboard of continental USA that my feelings of admiration and respect became sprinkled with a light-hearted jealousy and squeeze of resentment!

For a long time, at the top of one of those never ending lists of things I need to get around to doing before I die is road-tripping across the USA. Flying into New York City, picking up a hire-car on one of those drop-off schemes and making my way to San Fransisco or Los Angeles on no particular schedule or eye on the clock - unlike these guys who have now done that, but in a reverse route and against a strict schedule.

America has an abundance of famed routes, along with Route 66, you have, just to name a few from many, the US Highway 1 and 101, or Pacific Coast Highway as it’s more commonly known,. There is also the Blue Ridge Parkway which winds through the Appalachians, the Mohawk Trail of New England and the iconic alien desert landscapes of Nevada and New Mexico, places that Jimbo has since claimed to be his particular highlight of the US route; a place where you are literally alone, man and machine amidst crumbling sandstone and a thousand ghosts of solitude.

There is something ideologically romantic about a quintessential road-trip wherever you are in the world, it probably stems from the excitement of childhood when you were taken to the seaside in the car with your parents and you’d catch the first glimpses of the sea. Hollywood has obviously helped and literature too, but mentally imagining globally famed and respective road-trips along the Great Ocean Road in Australia for example; the Italian Amalfi Coast Road or meandering through the Causeway Coast Drive in Ireland evokes scenic images of panoramic wonder which plays like a postcard out of the windows of your car, which morphs magically from your standard Ford Focus to a souped up soft-top with the roof down, wind in your hair, beneath deep blue skies and the soundtrack of a guitar rock-anthem blaring against the gentle wash of the nearby ocean.

And that is exactly what Martha and the Follow that Fire Engine crew have done on a day to day basis for the past nine months across 5 continents and 28 Countries racking up an awe inspiring 26,000 miles. But in watching as the tour reaches its conclusion it looks to me that, for each crew member that has taken part it’s not just the legacy of seeing the world in all it’s majesty that will be remembered. Camaraderie and companionship, teamwork and leadership and the music that will forever play as a soundtrack to their memories as they recall the light hearted moments, the tough times and those moments of shear oddity that will never be recreated or retold in the authenticity in which they happened - despite how often they look back through the immortalised medium of the internet.

Whatever you do, when you have a moment read through their blog, catch up with their video diary on You Tube or simply view the pictures on Facebook, nine months of stories such as coming to the rescue after a terrifying traffic accident on the Lithuanian border, which if you only read one article, make sure it’s that one, or playing nine holes of golf in Mongolia, endless rounds of cricket, including outside the White House in Washington DC, border crossing problems, shipping issues and having the destiny of the project held within the whimsical hands of a scrupulous customs officer.

As inspiring as the whole project may already be, for me personally there is nothing more inspiring than people who lead the way, showing that if you want to do something, do it. Feats of endurance, of human endeavour should be applauded, respected and celebrated - the reason for me writing this. I know nothing of Steve Moore other than what I have watched and read on the internet, but the world needs more people like him, encouraging others to believe in the greater good. Great people with great ideas saying “anything is possible” and having the balls to prove it.

Which is why I’ll be there, in Greenwich on 10th April to welcome Martha and the team home, with Stuart as he meets up with his returning friend Jimbo, listens to the stories and accounts of how during his time in America he managed to consume 56 burgers in an equal amount of days, whilst I stand along with the other mere mortals and applaud a special group of people and their one of kind leader in performing a spectacular job in the most life changing way possible.

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