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  • Arthur Bacon

The Mongol Rally

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

(Letter to the editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine)

My girlfriend is a Yalie cum laude and a Fulbright scholar and I am, by the skin of my teeth, a graduate of “State”. She gets the Yale Alumni Magazine with articles about Keynesian economics, cancer cures and neuroscience while I get alumni bulletins with cheerleaders on the cover and some article about a professor who invented a sports drink. It ain’t fair.

But then along comes the Yale Alumni Magazine of Nov/Dec 2016, and finally I can gloat with schadenfreude. While she usually reads these alum mags with bulldog enthusiasm, she can’t even bring herself to open this one. 12 Yalies, who don’t have to worry about student loans, each paying an entry fee of $1,000 to drive five cars they just bought through southern Europe into central Asia as fast as they can along with thousands of other wealthy, yuppie nerds in the annual Mongol Rally? Really? You call that an adventure? You might as well call a weekend at Disneyland or Burning Man an adventure. The author unashamedly doesn’t even make it to Ulaanbaatar for the last party.

Although some money is raised for a variety of charities, the annual “Mongol Rally” is organized by a profit-making company called The League of Adventurists International. One of the basic “rules” of the rally is to drive the absolute crappiest car possible with no more than a 1.2 litre engine. But not the Yalies; they had to have a 2 liter SUV and four other cars with AC. Is that what you call Ivy League exceptionalism?

After a Le Mans style start in London, all the THOUSANDS of ralliers rendezvous in Prague for a big Pilsner party send-off (there are other camp-parties organized along the route). I’m sorry but anything that is super-organized, with aerial film coverage, with starting parties, ending parties, rescue parties. . .that, my friends, is NOT adventure. Oh my, they did have an adventure. They had to bribe a cop in Kazakhstan! Imagine that. A cop who usually makes a dollar a day and can’t even afford a bicycle sees a bunch of rich foreigners and puts the squeeze on them. Maybe when these dweebs get their jobs at Goldman Sachs and the World Bank when they grow up they will remember some of the poverty they saw as they tore across the horse-archer steppes in clouds of mechanical vainglory.

Thanks for making my plebeian state university alumni bulletins look a little less stupid.

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