¥Front seat of the race bus,...

...a huge greyhound-style bus of the normal, road-going variety, rather beat-looking, emblazoned with the name of a rental agency and stuffed to the gills with fit-looking men and women, most clowning around to relieve pre-race nerves. Hans Tholstrup is driving, going very fast on rutted and sand-pocketed road, turning around to talk to myself and Pat Ward, a very experienced American ultra-marathoner who has competed in the Race Across AMerica (RAAM) five times.

You drive this bus with great skill, I suggest.

Not bad for someone who has never driven a bus before, Hans agrees

But what about the time you jumped the double-decker London bus over 25 Harley Davidsons?

Oh, yes, well, aside from thatÉ

Hans had done this stunt to upstage Evel Kneival, who was coming to Australia to jump a Harley Davidson over 24 London Buses.

Tell us about that.

The ramp was maybe six or seven feet high, with a curve like a water-ski jump. At first they built it four feet high and I just shook my head and told them to try again. Dick Smith, editor of Australian National Geographic came along as a passenger. He wasn't strapped in at all, but just hung on to a pole on the upper platform deck.

What kind of protection did you have?

I had a couple of straps holding me to the seat, which was just the regular bus driver's seat, and a round lifesaver from a boat between me and the steering wheel. A Landrover pushed us up to 65 miles per hour and peeled off. There was no engine in the bus. We came down too much on the nose, and almost went end over end. The bus folded a bit in the middle, and all the tires blew, but we settled down and rolled away.

The bus lurched as Hans gunned the motor to drift at frightening speed through a sandy corner.

Keep the power on in the sand, that's what you got to do, piped up Pat Ward. That's what I do on my new KX500 motor cross bike. Gives you more traction. Hans is a great bus driver. We've ridden all the way out from Sydney. You missed out, man. 3,500 miles. Bus broke down a few times, but hey. What the hell. It's the Australian Bus Challenge, right?. If we break down in the Outback we'll hunt 'roos. Roast 'em on a bonfire. You bring a gun? I brought a gun. Gotta have one out here. Ain't that right, Hans? Aww, I'm just foolin' with ya. It's the Australian way. Contagious. Gotta exagerate everything. Throw in a few lies. All in the spirit of fun.

How did you go in RAAM this year, Pat? Pat had just finished RAAM a month earlier.

Oh, not too good. Vehicle broke down. I had problems. I overtrained. Too many thousand mile weeks. I didn't come here to win, I just want to be the first person to do two continents in three months. I haven't even ridden my bike yet. Except around the parking lot in the airport to see if it worked. Beer and television, that's my training program. Yup. I'm a bad motha. Lookout.

Overlander Road House
Front Seat of the Race Bus
The Prologue
Rolling Train Terrain
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7