The Unreachable Star

     Loren and I arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel on the afternoon of April 9th after a sixteen-hour non-stop flight from LAX, California.  Thank you, Greg for the Business Class seats, on El Al, I am not sure Loren would have been able to walk if we’d flown economy.   Everything at the airport went smoothly and efficiently.  We caught a train right from the airport to the main station in Tel-Aviv and changed trains there for a train to Ashdod.  We stayed in an AirBnB in Ashdod.  By no means five star, but for us it was perfect.  It was very reasonably priced compared to local hotels and it was close to shops and bus transportation.  We had our own bedroom with our own bathroom and full use of the kitchen and washing machine.   

        We did not expect the ship with the Sand Ship Discovery to arrive in Ashdod until the 18th of April, so we had some time to do some sightseeing that we had missed doing thirty years ago when we were first in Israel.  I took a guided tour through the Old City of Jerusalem.  It gave me just the highlights of the city, enough so that I knew I wanted to return.   And then Loren and I took a day tour to Masada and the Dead Sea.  

 

        Due to a delay because of bad weather in Barcelona, the ship with the Sand Ship Discovery did not arrive in Ashdod until late on the afternoon of April 19th. 

      April 18th was the beginning of a three-day country wide holiday and combined with the Israeli sabbath or Shabbat of Friday and Saturday, not much, if anything happened in getting the Discovery through the maze of the Israeli port system.   Finally, by mid-day on April 25th we had all the paperwork completed and cleared for the Discovery and we were escorted out to where the Jeep sat on the dock by Gilad, our shipping agent representative.  We had our overnight bag packed and were ready to head south to Eilat and the Yitzhak Rabin border crossing.    

     Loren once told me, “some days things go like clockwork, other days like the clock was not even considered.”   This was one of those days when the clock was not even considered.  The Sand Ship Discovery would not start.  Her battery was low from other’s trying to start her and what appeared to be a totally flooded engine.  Disappointing to say the least.

     Social Media / Facebook was our only source for local help.  I had friended an Israeli Jeeper, Yaniv Golan, on Facebook back in the summer of 2017.  That night after Gilad drove us back to our AirBnB apartment I messaged Yaniv, saying we were in need of help.  Within minutes our phone rang and Yaniv said not to worry, all would be OK. 

     We also called Mike Merk and Laurence Upton that night and let them know we were with problems.  Mike said it sounded like the float in the carb had stuck, causing the engine to flood, maybe tapping on it would help.  But to be careful there could be gas in the engine’s oil.   

     Early the next morning Gilad picked up Loren and me up at our apartment and took us out to the dock where the Discovery sat.  When we arrived, we were a bit alarmed to see that there were about three men under the hood with various things apart, including the carb and the distributor cap off, not a sight we wanted to see.   A friend of Yaniv’s, Meir Swisa, also a Jeeper, was there, and since the trio under the hood had no luck in starting the Jeep, Meir stated everything would be fine, he would call a tow truck, owned by Udi Nam, also a Jeeper. 

   Udi took us and the Discovery to Udi Mizrachi’s garage.  Udi Mizrachi is a well-know Jeep mechanic, the best in the country we were told.  Udi’s garage is located in Rehovot, a town about 20 miles from Ashdod and once arriving there and off-loading the Discovery he checked the oil first thing and stated that it had gas in it from the engine being flooded.

     We left the Discovery at Udi’s garage and Udi the tow truck driver took us back to Ashdod and to our apartment.  When we asked what we owe, Udi says, “Nothing, it’s a Jeep thing.”  I could not believe this!  As a AAA member here in the USA, it would have cost us a hundred dollars or more!  I had a JEEP lanyard key chain around my neck, I took it off and gave it to Udi.  He later messaged us with this photo.    

     During the time the Discovery was being worked on we were put in contact with several other Jeep enthusiasts there in Israel; Meir Swisa, Ohad Golan, Israel Jeeps ; Itsik and Itay Alon who own the only Jeep Parts shop in the country, located in Tel Aviv Jeepland; Joy Biran who leads off-road trips into the deserts of Israel and Jordan; and Shay Kopito, a Jeep owner, who is employed by the Israeli government at the Yitzhak Rabin Border crossing.  Each and everyone of these gentlemen where unbelievably helpful to two complete strangers, all because we drove a JEEP.

     Meir invited us to his parents’ house for Shabbat dinner one Friday night.  What an honor it was to join Meir and his family for this traditional meal that starts the twenty-four-hour celebration commemorating the seventh day of Biblical creation, when the Torah says God stopped to rest and appreciate his creation.  

     Meir’s father sang the ritual blessings over the wine and challah (bread).  The meal consisted of several different courses and many, many dishes in each course. 

     After dinner the children had a couple of decks of cards and asked if I wanted to play War.  I held my own for a while, but I was eventually beaten.  Then I taught them how to play Slap Jack, what a fun time we all had!   

  After about five days, Udi, the mechanic, proclaimed the Discovery ready. The bill for all labor and parts was, we were told, “Your bill was settled.” Truly amazing! However, the repair of the Sand Ship Discovery was not without its problems; one day everything was working fine, then the next day, not so much, then all would be working fine again.

     With all of this uncertainty, combined with Loren’s health issues, he began to have second thoughts and concerns about the wisdom of us heading off on a 400-mile round trip through the Negev Desert of southern Israel in a vehicle he no longer had total confidence in – mechanically.

     We contacted Udi Naim, the tow truck driver to see if he would be available to haul the Discovery and take Loren and I south to the town of Eilat.  Unfortunately, he was not available to, as his wife had a hospital appointment in Tel Aviv and he needed to be there for her.  We were very disappointed we were not able to hire Udi, but we totally understand that family has to come first. 

    However, Udi contacted a friend and it was arranged for us to be taken down to Eilat, by Yoram and his tow truck.   Early on the morning of May 3rd, 2018 we arrived at Udi Naim’s house where the Sand Ship Discovery was waiting we found that he had washed the Discovery and filled her with gasoline ready for her historic trip.    

     We loaded the Discovery on the Yoram’s tow truck and all headed the 200 miles south to Eliat.

     We arrived at the Yitzhak Rabin border crossing at 1 p.m. and Mr. Shay Kopito was waiting for us.  He made the exit out of Israel as well as the re-entry several hours later very quick and efficient.  

     The crossing into Jordan was a bit more involved.  There were many little offices that had to be visited, numerous questions to be answered and considerable fees to be paid.  The reason for the rather high entry fee, $322.00 USD, was because we were not staying in the country for 48 hours or longer.  Totally understandable, Jordan wants to get the tourist dollars and if we are not visiting the tourist sites or staying in the country spending money, then the higher entry fee.

Golden Arches in the middle of the Negev Desert

TIME LINE FOR FINAL MILE:

We arrived at the Israeli Border - Yitzhak Rabin -  at 1 p.m.  Jeep Mile 80905.0.

1:25 p.m. at gate into Jordan Jeep Mile 80905.4

2:10 p.m. clear of Jordan customs Jeep Mile 80905.5

2:20 p.m. Airport Street, Jordan, where we were 30 years ago!  Jeep Mile 80907.3

2:45 p.m. clear of Jordan border on return trip Jeep Mile 80909.2

3:08 p.m.  clear of Israeli border on return trip 

3:20 p.m. loaded on flatbed headed back to Ashdod

 

     The time I give on the video of when we reached Airport Street, was incorrect, I mis-read my watch.  In addition, the Final Mile turned into just over two miles, but we still like the sound of Final Mile!   

     The exit out of Jordan and back into Israel was extremely quick and efficient as was the entry back into Israel.

IT'S DONE!  That Unreachable Star has been reached!

One AMERICAN MADE vehicle around the world on a north south course, all on land except for the natural water barrier of the South Atlantic Ocean.  Roads End Prudoe Bay, Alaska to Roads End Punta Arenas, Chile / Roads End Cape Agulhas, South Africa to Roads End Gamvik, Norway.  

     Because of the delays with getting the Jeep running and the trip to Eilat to complete the Final Mile we had to change our return flights to the U.S.A.  We were originally scheduled to fly out of Tel Aviv on the 30th of April and that was not going to happen.  The soonest we could get Business Class tickets was early on the morning of May 10th, this allowed us several days to do more sightseeing and to meet all the wonderful Jeepers in Israel who helped us. 

Isik and Itay Alon's Jeepland,

Tel Aviv, Israel 

Isik Alon with his fully restored Jeepster

Ohad Golan and his Jeep

Lunch with Ohad Golan and Itay Alon 

Yaniv Golan, the gentleman who I contacted on FB and got the ball rolling with the Israel Jeepers!  

     The Sand Ship Discovery arrived back in Galveston, Texas on June 26th.

      And she arrived in Richland, Washington, on July 10th, this was over five months from when she left.  Mike Merk and Laurence Upton met the truck and helped unload the Discovery.  Again, she was having problems starting and just like Mike had diagnosed long distance via phone back in April, the float had a tiny pin hole along the seam that caused it to fill with gas, especially after sitting for any length of time; thus, causing the engine to flood and not start.

Jill Merk gives the Sand Ship Discovery a much need bath after her long ordeal aboard ship and through the desert of Israel.  

Here is the link to the video posted on Youtube of the actual FINAL MILE

    We returned to Udi Naim’s house that evening to leave the Discovery parked there until he would tow her to the Port of Ashdod for shipping on May 6th.   

     Loren and I left Israel on El Al early on the morning of May 10th headed back to California. 

     Gilad, our shipping agent, took the following photo on May 17th, 2019 as the Sand Ship Discovery was driven aboard the ship in Ashdod.  Even on this day they had problems starting the Discovery.