We have less than two hours to get back to our hotel, fully unload our car, and drive the LRC back through the busy traffic to the custom's office. We race outside to hail a cab. Just seconds later, a car screeches to a halt and tells us to get in. Traffic is piling up and we're in such a hurry, that we do so before agreeing on a price.
In the car, we realize the guy seems really shifty. There is no meter, and he wants 10,000 tögrög (about $7 USD) for a three kilometer ride, when a fair price would be less than half of that. We veto his offer, but he seems unwilling to haggle. Then, when we politely tell him to stop after less than a block of driving, he refuses.
Next, we realize there are no handles on the inside of the door! What the hell? We can't get out! The jerk notices me ogling the lack of door handles, and snickers, derisively saying "MONGOLIA!". After a bit of sleuthing, I notice a small string attached to the place where the handle should be. It's curled up and barely noticeable.
Tyler doesn't have a string. So, he spends a few seconds staring into the holes where his handle should be, calculating. Then, fishing around in the door panel, he finds what he is looking for: a small metal bar. Using a tactic we mastered in Tunisia to combat swindling taxi drivers, he pops the door open while we're moving. This predictably freaks the guy out, and he slams on the brakes.
The driver has no time to protest before Tyler jumps out, leaving his door open. Meanwhile, I give my string a quick tug, and leap out to join him, throwing the door shut behind me. Then, we jog away together. When we glance back, he is slamming Tyler's door in a huff.
We end up speed-walking back to the hotel. We have to get all of our stuff out of the car, but there's no time to assemble our bicycles, and we don't want to haul our sandy mess in fifty trips up to the room. We can't leave anything in our "secure" parking lot, or it will surely be taken. Since arriving in Ulaan Bataar, our team has experienced a multitude of thefts.
Erika had her purse lifted at the Irish Pub, a police officer nicked a pair of car stands from the Saxo's roof rack, Gem's purse was pick-pocketed (with her hotel room key in it, and the hotel owner didn't have a spare, so they had to sleep in the hallway), and finally, someone broke into the Saxo by slashing the rear window which had been covered with duct tape, absconding with everything inside.
We're not taking any chances with our belongings, even if our hotel has a security guard. So, as we walk, we decide that I'll stay with the stuff in the car park and try to get some journaling done. Tyler will drive our LRC back to the office and deal with the rest of the paperwork.
We still haven't had breakfast or lunch, so I stop to buy some provisions while Tyler runs back to begin unloading. After the slowest "fast food" ever (a college-aged guy was involved chatting up the teenagers in line before me…) I run to the hotel carrying to-go bags of sustenance. Our chicken "wraps" are limp and pathetic, but they're food, I suppose.
In the parking lot, we're a whirlwind of activity, scouring every nook and cranny, every pocket and compartment. We get everything out, and stack it in a big pile, all under the protective gaze of the hotel's security guard:
With the final unloading complete, our LRC looks sad and lonely. Suddenly, we are both overcome by maudlin thoughts, like we're abandoning a dear, dear friend. It's just a car, I know, but it has ferried us safely through a small mountain of adventures these past three months. We're pretty attached to the hearty little machine.
We found it in Berlin, just a little red car in a garage full of other cars.
We crammed our bicycles into it after more than a year of slowly cycling around Europe.
And embarked on the road trip of a lifetime.
Since then, our LRC has confidently taken us through nine countries:
Together we've seen cows, and reindeer, and camels:
We've visited the Arctic Circle:
Crossed the Gobi desert:
Lots of sand:
…and rocks aplenty:
Our little Toyota has done it all without so much as a single flat tire. What a tank!
We leave our car with a heartfelt note for Mongolia. To whom it may concern, please take good care of our LRC.
Tyler turns the key one last time, and the exhaust-less engine roars to life, eager to go, as always.
Thus, the end of our road-trip has arrived, and with it, the beginning of something new. Goodbye, LRC, you will be missed!