You’re Driving What?

He said:

Tracey wanted to post this one, I’m intervening. Hey! I’m the performance guy, I’m the car guy, I’m the driver guy, I’m the guy who’s day job is cars – the fast ones no less…….

What the heck happened here? One minute Joe Figel  and I are talking about the Mongolian rally and I’m showing him the website. Oops, clicked the Rickshaw Run button instead – Hey that looks kinda’ groovy. Call Tracey: “Hey – Wanna go back to India and drive a tuk-tuk (the slang term) across India?”. “Sure!” 48 hours later and we’re paid up and going.

Hmmm, maybe better look into things a bit further. 7 Horsepower! What? My car has 500! What about top speed? 40 km/hr! What? My car can do 300! 149cc of screaming and barking engine? My blender has a bigger motor………There’s that “What were you thinking?” moment again.

So I guess we can scratch off the “I’m the performance guy, I’m the car guy, I’m the driver guy” It looks like it may be “I’m the guy on the side of the road shaking my head” instead.

The first time a kid passes us on a bicycle, I’m going to poke a stick into the spokes.

I guess I’ll let Tracey speak now, I’ll rant again later.


She said:

When the Rickshaw Run kicks off on April 6, we’ll once again be heading off on three wheels to explore our world – the very same three wheels pictured above.  That’s right, this time our trusty Ural sidecar rig is remaining at home and our transport is of a different sort – an auto rickshaw. 

These vehicles are totally different from anything else we have driven. Although the auto rickshaw is known for being difficult to steer and unsteady to drive, these are trials we’re accustomed to with our Ural. Both vehicles are also notoriously unreliable. Although we’ve never actually had any mechanical problems with our trusty Ural after taking it across 20 countries, this isn’t likely to be the case with the auto rickshaw. Daily breakdowns are expected. And the cushy padding and loads of legroom that we so desperately need? They won’t be found in this little three-seat contraption.

Built to tackle short jaunts at slow speeds, an auto rickshaw is not-at-all suited to driving the 3,000+ km we’re expecting to cover and certainly not-at-all suited to the speed that will be required for us to cover that distance in under two weeks.  These vehicles are also designed for city driving and were never meant to see the diverse and difficult terrain that we’ll face as we cross desert, jungle and mountains.

We are set for a grueling and uncomfortable journey across the Indian subcontinent.  But the sights, sounds and smells of the open air are certain to be worth it.  The lure of the open road is calling and we’re up for a challenge.

A huge thanks to Mark Cromwell at Color Club Design for the fabulous artwork on our auto rickshaw. You’ve made it look almost as frightened as I am!


The Fundraising Dilemma

Smiles & Miles consider ourselves privileged to be able to roam the world as we do. We are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, healthy sustenance, endless learning opportunities, and a chance to do work that we enjoy. We have the resources and time to do some truly amazing things, albeit with lots of work and several compromises along the way.

Over the years, we’ve seen individuals asking for money from others to pay the costs of their personal travel. One particular example featured a donation jar at the till of several local stores to fund an individual’s trip to South America – with no supporting information to state any reason why this person could not just save up and go. We can understand fundraising to assist individuals in taking advantage of unique opportunities which they have worked hard to earn but can’t manage financially.  ie. Scouts raising money to enable a trip to a faraway jamboree. What is confusing is that more and more we are seeing firsthand how some individuals are giving the impression of raising funds for a charity, when in reality they are spending the money raised (or some portion of it) to fund personal expenses. We understand that the fundraising itself incurs costs that need to be paid, but when a traveler undertakes a trip primarily for their own personal benefit, we’d prefer that they funded this in some other way, without blurring the view of where donors’ funds are actually going. These past experiences created a great deal of discomfort for us when we decided to participate in an adventure with a charity fundraising component. We do not want to leave anyone with the impression that we are raising money to fund our personal adventure.

We chose to take part in the Rickshaw Run because it seemed like a great opportunity to do something we’ve dreamed of – driving across India in an auto rickshaw.  What an amazing way to see a fascinating country! We’re pleased that The Adventurists have created this unique opportunity.  We’re also pleased that, like us, they quite like the world, adventuring in it, and giving something back. In fact, their efforts have contributed to raising over £5 million for charity.

Similarly, we’ve seen fellow travelers using the attention that they’ve drawn to their adventurous undertakings to cast attention on worthwhile causes. Some of them have raised significant funds which have been put to great use.  We applaud them.

Smiles & Miles contribute to our local and global communities in a number of ways and are in the fortunate position that we can afford to provide the minimum fundraising component for the Rickshaw Run without the need for fundraising from others.  But leaving it at that seemed like a missed opportunity.  And so . . . We’re taking advantage of the interest surrounding our upcoming adventure to draw some attention to a couple of causes that we support:

FreetheChildren_1230pxA Canadian charity and educational partner, working both domestically and internationally to empower and enable youth to be agents of change.



Cool Earth1230pxA UK charity working alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction.



We’re thrilled to report that our efforts to-date have raised over CDN$6,000 for these two worthwhile causes.  A huge thank you to our donors for your generosity and support. If you’re interested in joining in our efforts, please visit the links above to learn more about each charity and how you can contribute directly to them.

We are also pleased to let you know that our Rickshaw Run teammate, Richard Desilets, is using this opportunity to draw attention to his chosen cause, The Calgary Poppy Fund & Veterans Food Bank.

Calgary Poppy Fund

We encourage you to learn more about this organization and to contribute to their valuable efforts on Richard’s behalf.


With generosity of spirit,

Tracey & Miles

Introducing the Smiles & Miles Rickshaw Run Team

Long-time friends and members of the Hot Potato Auto Racing Team, the three of us normally travel together for racing events throughout North America. When we were looking for a new adventure, we briefly considered the Ice Run, but we’re from Canada and drive an Ural year-round, so that really seemed like just another day. The Rickshaw Run seemed like a fairly calm and relaxing change of pace, and a great way to draw some attention to our causes – Cool Earth, Free the Children and the Veterans Food Bank.


Miles (The Brains)

Instigator, inspirer, and ingenious mind.

Age:  kid-at-heart.

Early years:  playing bagpipes & racing a luge to the Olympics

Role on the Hot Potato Race Car Team:  Team Manager, Speedy Driver, Mechanic, Chef

Adventure Credentials:  Travelled around the world overland, drove an Ural sidecar rig through 20 countries & 3 continents, and took passage on a cargo ship across the Atlantic.

Normal mode of transport:  Very fast, frighteningly fast & blindingly fast.

Driving accidents:  Nothing that everyone hasn’t walked away from (unless you count the luge).

Most likely to be found … enjoying a gourmet meal I whip up on the side of the road.


Tracey (The Beauty 😉 

Detailed, delicate and derailed.

Age:  I’m neither a wine nor a cheese, so it doesn’t matter.

Most comfortable language:  Charades.

Early years:  Working my way through University as a fashion model. Yes, that was a long, long time ago.

Role on the Hot Potato Race Car Team:  Umbrella girl.

Adventure credentials: 25 years side-by-side with Miles…need I say more?

Most spontaneous adventure:  Flying half way around the world for a birthday weekend.

Normal mode of transport:  Karmann Ghia

Most likely to be found … sipping a mango lassi.



Richard (The Brawn)

Handy, hard- working, and hardly ever at home

Age:  Old enough to know better.

Family:  Father to Sarah, husband to Nancy. They’ll both be cheering on the team and following along from 11,000 km away. Sarah is counting the days until she’s old enough for a motorcycle license & her own Rickshaw Run.

Early years:  Milking cows (before the dawn of robots)

First time managing motorized handlebars: Seriously? At the age of 5, I was herding cows on a homemade scooter.

Role on the Hot Potato Race Car Team:  Transport driver, Paddock manager.

Adventure credentials:  No stranger to conflict zones, Richard has been part of several U.N. missions and maneuvered through some of the world’s toughest conditions.

Driving accidents: None… yet.

Bionic part: Hip

Most likely to be found … munching on something out of a crinkly cellophane bag.

Keep reading for more stories from these three adventurers as we head to India next week.

Tracey, Miles & Richard

New Look, New Stories

Over the last couple of months, the Smiles & Miles website has received a bit of a facelift in preparation for an upcoming surge of stories.  We’ve created a format that will allow us to continue to share our stories and lessons in a way that we hope will make them more accessible for our readers. Most notably, we’ve added separate pages for each of the countries where we’ve shared our journey and for the resources we’ve made available. There is still lots of construction going on behind the scenes and we welcome your feedback as we continue to make adjustments and additions.

Along with the new appearance, we’ve also added the final stories from our time in Bolivia:

Quinoa Confusion

Coca Capers 

Bolivian Bliss:  Pasteles & Saltenas

Heading to the Chilean Border – For Real This Time


After Note:  You can now follow the Smiles and Miles blog on Bloglovin.

The Free-Standing Jacket

Journal:  December 6, 2011    Uyuni, Bolivia

As light begins to seep into our room from a courtyard window, I can make out my motorcycle jacket in the corner of the room – just standing there.  Yes, standing.  It’s thoroughly coated with salt from yesterday’s drive across the Uyuni Salt Flats and is so crusty and stiff that it now holds my form even as I am lying on the opposite side of the room. A trip to a laundry will definitely be on the agenda for the day. We’ve spent the last three days tackling the challenging roads, and lack of roads, that we have faced here in Bolivia.  Driver, passenger and bike all require at least a day off from traveling. We wander through the local market stalls looking for breakfast and sample saltenas from two different vendors as well as a potato pancake stuffed with meat and eggs. While I catch up with family and friends at an internet café, Miles and our German companion, Stefan, do a thorough maintenance on their bikes, chipping away the salt that accumulated yesterday and preparing the bikes for what could be some more rough riding over the next few days. Uyuni is a much more touristy spot than anywhere else we’ve been in the last couple of months.  But the desire to please the foreign crowds has resulted in a wide assortment of restaurants – not just the usual chicken and potatoes. As I read the menus of various restaurants, my mouth is watering. Against their better judgment, Miles and Stefan concede to me and agree to an Italian dinner, recognizing that Bolivians aren’t really known for their expertise with pasta. We settle on the most reasonably priced location that has some variety.  After ordering, I wait two hours before enjoying my Roquefort Ravioli.  Not having had pasta or even cheese since leaving home, I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Miles and Stefan are not so lucky.  We suspect that their meals have been given to another table by mistake and they wait almost another hour before being served.

They are not impressed….

Total bill: B147 . . .

and we are still hungry….

We promptly head away from the tourist area and find a local ‘Pollo Asado’ place where we each enjoy a complete chicken dinner.

Total bill: B34 . . .

and we all feel very satisfied.

So much for my need for a change of pace.