On Tuesday, Wadmalaw Island couple Sarah and Don McLester shipped their school bus across the Atlantic Ocean to England. Their mission: a 10,000-mile road trip across Europe and Asia to raise money for a Mongolian orphanage and rainforest preservation, and of course the thrill of an adventure.
The McLesters are only part of Team Dixie Chickens. They organized a group of 16 to participate in The Adventurists’ 2013 Mongol Rally. The Adventurists is a U.K.-based company that aims to “make the world less boring” while also raising money for charity.
Dixie Chickens members include people from all over the world and of various ages. Many of them are Adventurist veterans. Two of the team members are documenting the trip for Italian Vanity Fair.
The McLesters themselves are Adventurist veterans but aren’t full-time travelers. Sarah McLester is a financial planner and Don McLester is a network engineer. Team Dixie Chickens participated in the 2012 Mototaxi Junket in Peru to raise money for Practical Action, a nonprofit that uses technology to combat poverty.
Sarah McLester said they yearn to do these trips with other adventurous people because “you meet people who don’t think you’re crazy,” she said of the people who gasp when they tell them their plan.
“I like meeting the people there. You’re away from the tourist areas. You’re out there with the people the way they live,” Don McLester said.
He said he always knew he wanted to circumnavigate the globe, but he never imagined doing it in a bright yellow school bus. Sarah does not like to sail long distances, so the rally was the perfect fit.
The couple have been married for 20 years and named their group Team Dixie Chickens after their wedding song, “Dixie Chicken” by rock band Little Feat.
The McLesters traveled to Mongolia in 2008, where they first visited the Lotus Children’s Center in Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaan Baatar and fell in love with the country.
“It’s a special place,” Don McLester said as he reminisced on the country’s beauty and people.
Team Dixie Chickens raised money for their charities by hosting a fundraiser at Seanachai Social Club on Johns Island in April, where donors paid $15 to put their handprint on the bus. Vapor Apparel donated eco-friendly T-shirts with the team’s logo that also are being sold to raise money for the charities.
The McLesters acquired the bus last October from a tour business in Lenoir, N.C., and personalized it for their group.
Team Dixie Chickens is set to arrive at Dover Castle in England on July 1. The road trip starts July 13 with a ferry ride from England to France, and they are set to cross the finish line in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia by Aug. 16. They will spend a week there at the orphanage. Their trip will continue another 2,500 miles to Vladivostok, Russia, by early September, then a ferry ride to Japan to ship the bus to Washington. They will cross three deserts, five mountain ranges and 14 countries. The group will continue to circumnavigate the globe in 2014 with a cross-country drive back to Charleston in May 2014.
To follow Team Dixie Chickens on its travels around the world, go to teamdixie chickens.com.