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December 25th, 1999 - West Branch, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska : Day 72

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Nick snaps a "big-head-Nick" pic of Doug and Jeff with their new Turkish friends. We stayed up late that night, partying with the gang from the Blue Moon Internet Cafe in Zara, Turkey. Nick had to turn file sharing off on his laptop to keep these clever hackers from copying his files!    

Christmas day December 25, 1999

This is Todd Borgie. Today is Saturday and we traveled from West Branch, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska.

We are a living testament to the idea that things just work out. The phrase here in Iowa is, "If you build it, they will come". We set out with a goal and now are approaching the finish line. We have gone this distance.

We have almost completed our around the world journey and fortunately we're spending the holidays with two out of five team member's families. Just two days ago we were contemplating splitting up in order to get home for New Years, now we are half way across the country setting up to reach our final destination by New Years, with the Land Rovers.

We woke up after a short sleep at my sister's house in West Branch, Iowa. My brother-in-low, Cory, had just finished making a dinning room table, his Christmas gift for Kristin, and we certainly put it to use. The morning was filled with coffee, calls to family and loved ones, sweet rolls and biscuits and gravy ala Cory.

For me, this was the best it could be, as there are not many people that I would rather spend Christmas with. Everyone enjoyed waking up in a real house, with a dog and a Christmas tree. This seemed to be in great contrast to waking up in the Rovers or in hotels, which we had grown accustomed.

Our morning was thoroughly enjoyable, yet we all needed to leave and Kristin and Cory had to leave as well to visit their family in Sheffield, Iowa. It was time to make tracks towards Nick's sisters in Omaha. The days drive was not very long so we took our time in the morning. We finally peeled ourselves out of the house and into the Rovers at about 10:00am. The only road that we would travel on today would be interstate 80, the same one that would eventually take us to our home.

As we departed, we got a daylight view of West branch. With the snow-covered rooftops and streets, it seemed to us, like we were driving in a wintertime postcard. It truly felt like Christmas time driving through this quiet suburban Iowa neighborhood. But, probably to any on lookers it would look surreal, two Safari vehicles driving through a quaint snowscape.

Out on the open road, Chanda took control of the radio and tuned into to some delightful seasonal serenades. We sang along as we were both feeling the spirit of the season. I was driving as Chanda prepared stockings for her niece and nephews, and Nick lay quietly in back trying to recover from whatever he had picked up. I admired her thoughtfulness, as I thought about what I would be doing if I were at home.

We drove through the snow swept rolling hills of Iowa in the bright sunlight. As we neared Des Moines my four cups of coffee started petitioning for parole. I tried to motion towards Hercules to hit the rest stop, but they were either not paying attention, or didn't feel the need as strongly as I did. I wasn't going to last much longer, and took more drastic measures to make my wishes known at the next site of a rest stop. They heeded the desperate call, and as soon as the vehicles stopped four anxious people quickly made there way towards the nearest euphemism.

As I walked back to the Rovers I noticed Hercules had two Christmas stocking hanging from the interior roof boxes. I was totally impressed with Chanda's thoughtfulness. When I turned to get into Alaska, I noticed two more; I was amazed, as I am sure a huge grin raced across my face. I don't think I have ever been so surprised in my whole life! I saw her stuffing these Christmas socks and had just assumed they were for the kids. They were cool too as each sock featured a map of the London Tube system, obviously something she picked up across the pond. She didn't say anything different, as I probably didn't ask, I just assumed.

This was a touch of Christmas that I will never forget. Chanda captured the essence of the day, in what seemed to be simple gesture. It was magic! Despite the pre-occupations and stress of the trip, she transcended the day. She gave us gifts without expecting anything in return. She gave us so much more than a simple gift; she gave us something to aspire to. The most beautiful and precious things in life are these simple statements. It is not the gifts per se, but the colors that are shown in the giving!

We made it the rest of the way to Omaha without too much trouble. We were greeted by Nick's sister and her family upon hitting the driveway. She graciously took us in. I helped make the mash potatoes and we all sat down for a wonderful Christmas dinner. Unfortunately, we were all pretty haggard, Nick especially. Unbeknownst to us, his flu symptoms had worsened into pneumonia. Maybe it had something to do with driving the past two days with a broken heater. Sue called a friend who was a doctor and after dinner Doug, Chanda, and Nick drove to the Doctor's home. It was extremely nice of him to see Nick like this on Christmas day. A strong antibiotic was prescribed and luckily they were able to find a pharmacy to fill the prescription. Nick immediately started his medication and went to sleep. He later reported that the medication dehydrated his body so fast it felt like he was turning to stone. Meanwhile, Doug was quickly coming down with a flu of some sort himself. I began to wonder if we picked up a rare disease from Asia, the Middle East, or Europe. Did we bring it back with us? Are we patient zero for a new flu epidemic? Doug had hallucinations and the shakes so bad he was shivering uncontrollably despite being in a warm basement guestroom. Eventually he put on his down jacket, climbed into his down sleeping bag and fetalized. The next morning he too was in pretty bad shape.

Tomorrow we'll try and get an early start for destination Wyoming. This is Todd Borgie On behalf of this tired crew, goodnight.