By Matt Neznanski
Keegan Warrington and Tate Koenig have a fundamental personal strategy for making it across 10,000 miles - mainly through western African deserts and hotly contested territory: Smile.
The two Oregon State University sophomores plan to start a drive on Dec. 13 that will take them from London to Cameroon on the adventure of a lifetime.
"We're going to be going through borders and - in some places - it's really up to the guards to decide whether we can pass or not. It's all about going in there with a smile," Warrington said.
"And maybe give them a pack of cigarettes or something," Koenig said.
The two intend to make the trip as part of Africa Rally, a race to finish put on by The Adventurists, a U.K. company founded to pair adventure travel with charitable fundraising. Just 87 teams are registered, of which only four are from the United States.
Warrington and Koenig are raising money for The Rain Forest Foundation, Ape Action Africa and Send a Cow. In addition, the students created their own nonprofit, COW (Citizen of the World) to inspire other students to see themselves in a broader context.
"When you get yourself outside of your comfort zone and start thinking about things from a new perspective, that's when you really grow," Warrington said.
The Africa Rally has just a few simple rules: All teams must raise at least 1,000 British pounds for charity, which as of Monday was the equivalent of $1,639 in U.S. currency. Each team is completely on its own, and no vehicle is allowed with larger than a 1.0-liter engine.
But no four-wheel-drive vehicles imported to the U.S. are that small, so Warrington and Koenig tracked down a 1986 Suzuki Samurai with a 1.3-liter motor and paid the British equivalent of $491.88 for the extra displacement. The rig took a little work to be Sahara-worthy, however.
"I grew up on a farm so I've been jimmy-rigging stuff for a while," Koenig said. "I feel pretty comfortable; I know our car inside and out."
Koenig said that some Willamette Valley businesses donated parts and engine work to the race effort, and local businesses have helped with financial support as well. They're hoping that and some extra alternators, water pumps, a spare drive line, wire, a brazing torch and random nuts and bolts will get them to the finish line in four to six weeks.
"We'll be going through some sections where every mile we'll be speaking a different language," Warrington said. "With hand gestures and pointing, you can really get where you're going. And you can even kind of play dumb and just smile if you do something you're not supposed to."
Matt Neznanski can be reached at 758-9518 or email@example.com