Part I - The Call
I didn't even get the phone call until mid-December. Jeff Hallas of Speedvision, the motorsports television network, left an apologetic message asking me if I would be so kind as to go to North Africa at the last minute to cover the Paris-Dakar Rally race for their network. I had done a lot of work for Speedvision, but this one still came as a shock. The 17-day race covered 7 countries and would require leaving home for all of January. My wife and I talked it over and decided that we could survive the month-long separation and that I should accept the job. Hectic preparations were made, visas were obtained for overseas travel and I brushed up on my French as quickly as possible. On January 2nd I flew to Paris and the great adventure began.
It took every last skymile I had to bump up to first class but I was glad I did. The overnight flight landed in Paris at 9 am and I still felt pretty good, all things considered. Meeting up with my photographer Scott Walker at Charles de Gaulle airport, we took a taxi to the Radisson Hotel, grabbed a couple hours sleep and got ready to see as much of Paris as the night would allow.
Christine Overstreet of Kia Motors USA met us at the metro station where we dined at the Le Jumont Verte café for a typically French meal. The steak was tough and undercooked; the dessert was incredible (welcome to France). As darkness fell our trio subwayed into town and found the line at the Eiffel Tower surprisingly short. 30 minutes later we were on top of Paris looking down, with the chill of a January wind keeping us awake and alert well past a normal person's bedtime. The Tower's millenium lights burned bright and the city's New Year's Eve celebration was still the talk of the town. I bought an Eiffel Tower keychain for my wife (she collects them) and crashed at the hotel dead tired. I needed the sleep, for the next day we were to fly to Africa.
CONTINUE Part II: Senegal and Beyond