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Peking-to-Paris Rally relived for Rotarians

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Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliot speaks to Sunnyside Noon Rotarians on Monday about the recent Peking to Paris Rally he participated in with a friend from Moxee.

Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliot was the featured guest speaker at Monday's Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club meeting but county politics was the furthest thing from his mind.

Instead, Elliot detailed his recent adventure traveling from Peking to Paris in 37 days.

Known as the Peking to Paris Rally, Elliot told the Rotarians the trip he took this past September was only the fourth time the rally has been run. It started in 1907, was run again in 1997, once more for its 100th anniversary in 2007 and again in 2010.

Elliot first heard about the rally from a guy in Naches and then decided to enter the event with his friend, Leslie Roy of Moxee. The two bought an old 1935 Ford Phaeton, restored it and then shipped the vehicle to Peking for the start of the rally on Sept. 10.

Elliot and Roy spent 37 days traveling through 11 countries. The trip started at the Great Wall of China.

"It's hard to appreciate the Great Wall without seeing it," Elliot told the Rotarians. "It boggles the mind to think of the monumental effort that went into constructing that."

Elliot said the group averaged 10 hours of traveling time each day. When they would stop, either for a break or to perform some repairs, Elliot said locals would materialize out of nowhere to check out the old assortment of vehicles.

Elliot said the organizers of the rally preferred vehicles be from a year before World War II, but some cars were from the 1950s and 1960s. Still, he said, 90 percent of them were pre-WWII.

Borders weren't a problem, but they were time consuming.

"It's quite a process to leave a country," Elliot said. "Once you leave you go through a sort of no-man's land and then start the process to enter the next country."

Elliot said the procedure usually took between three and five hours to complete.

Mongolia was an adventure, as there were hardly any paved roads. Most roads, Elliot said, were just tracks through the desert.

Elliot and Roy broke down somewhere in Mongolia due to transmission problems. The two got their vehicle fixed but it then broke down again, forcing them to send the car back to the United States.

In Mongolia the two picked up another vehicle at a bazaar and were able to finish the trip with the nearly 200 other rally participants.

The rally took Elliot through Kazahkstan and a few of the other 'Stans' before arriving in Iran. He described the Persian country as friendly and said he never felt ill at ease.

"Iran is developing quite a middle class," he said. "Sixty percent of the population is under 30."

From Iran the group drove through Turkey and into Greece. From Greece the rally entered Italy and finally France.

The trip was well worth it for Elliot, who said he wouldn't be opposed to participating in the next one, tentatively scheduled for 2013.

"I saw parts of the world I would have never seen otherwise," he added.

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