Christening our ride was the primary objective. “Rot” is German for “red”; “roto,” Spanish for “broken”. Being the terminally ill, red beauty she was, it took but 30 seconds of discussion to agree on calling her “Röta.” I suppose if we were seeking linguistic accuracy, the name should really have been “Röto,” but Röta is a lady and there’s no denying that. I hold the umlaut’s worth as self-evident.
We built her a roof rack, covered her in decals, then threw on some paint to make her shine. The night before race day, we celebrated her beauty with dancing, booze, beaches, and reckless shouting. The next morning, with eyes squinting from the morning light and dehydration, I admired Röta on the starting grid. She looked downright prettier than a Southern belle.
Teams scrambled to apply final coats of paint and install aftermarket horns. One man ran in circles trying to collect email addresses. I didn’t trust him. There was much paperwork and packing to get in order, so I bravely sat in the shade and drank water while my teammates prepped us for launch.
An hour later, and with a moderate amount of fanfare, we were off! It was beautiful! It was exciting! We threw water balloons and blew kisses! We drove 20 yards and the brakes gave out! We had no plans of stopping anyway! We were in over our heads!
12-hour days were the norm. We took turns, two- or three-hour shifts spent hunched over the steering wheel sucking down beer and looking like a madman from some Hunter S. Thompson fever dream. We rolled through jungles and navigated chaotic cities. Occasionally we would cool down at a beach, leaving our beautiful Röta to be swarmed by masses of smiling children. Every so often I would round a corner only to encounter a herd of water buffalo or a particularly lethargic monitor lizard.
The further I traveled from Bali and into the more Muslim populated areas, the more all-consuming the quest for booze became. It led me up the top of a mountain and into the decrepit heart of a deserted Chinatown. Once, it called me down the dark path of Arak, an often-homemade liquor that has claimed countless lives and left my hands numb and made my pupils do things I never thought possible.
Alcohol always produces new friendships – especially when you’re buying – and these friendships are always the best friendships, like the single-sideburned Master Alex and his crew of fishermen misfits who invited us into their seaside hut for mystery liquor and grilled fish. It’s a night I’ll never forget.
Even sober, Operation Transoceanic Friendship Building Brigade was a roaring success. There are untold hundreds of photographs of me surrounded by charming Muslim girls now floating around the internet. Their proclamations of, “Anda tampan!” still ring in my ears, drawing me back to paradise. Gadis, anda cantik!