Taking part in the BABE rally this year is a group of six Birmingham friends. They range in age from 24 to 39, and come from a variety of backgrounds, proving that this weeklong rally isn’t aimed at one specific type of person. Headed up by Jeremy Harper, who also once infamously counted to one million live on webcam for charity, the team also includes Todd, Karl, Ed, Landon and Rick (last names have been omitted to protect the oh-so-very-guilty). Harper had heard about the rally from his mechanic, and after reading more about it online, quickly decided to put a team together. It wasn’t hard, he says; in fact, they had to limit the number of people on the team in order to fit into a single car.
“We all know each other from going to The Barking Kudu in Lakeview,” Todd says. “Basically we all like to drink and have a good time, and that’s what this trip is all about. It didn’t take convincing.”
The group quickly settled on a team name — the North American Drinking Society (NADS) — and began the search for the perfect junker.
The cars for the event are hardly the stuff of dreams (pleasant ones, at least) — a 1973 AMC Matador, a 1984 Volvo 245 wagon, a 1978 Plymouth Volare. One of the most unique members of the traveling scrapheap is Team NADS’ 1980 short bus, found through Craigslist in Sumiton. In the spirit of all good cross-country rallies, the team has been spending weekends repairing and modifying the bus, to increase the odds that the bus will make it to New York and then back through Birmingham to New Orleans — and to make it in style.
“There were a few mechanical necessities that we had to take care of first — brake lines, belts, hoses, etc.,” Harper says. “We also had to get some tires for it, especially since one of them blew on the original ride home from Sumiton. But the real improvements are still occurring. We took out the back six seats and put benches in the back. That way we could put a stripper pole in the middle. Not saying we would ever do that, but at least the option is there. We also had to add a radio, a horn with 50 different sounds and a fully functional [beer] tap system.”
“A disco ball is going to have to be included as well,” Todd adds.
It’s a crazy and somewhat off-kilter bus that fits in nicely with a crazy and off-kilter event. It makes you wonder why six grown men would choose to spend a week of their lives trapped with each other, risking a broken-down rustbucket on the backroads of Virginia. Harper, who is well-known in circles for doing just about anything — the more insane and immature, the better the odds he’ll take you up on it — realizes that it’s not a guaranteed vacation. “I’m sure the actual trip itself will present its own challenges. Driving a 29-year-old short bus from New York to New Orleans is sure to unleash a few surprises. And our contingency plan for that is already on board. His name is Rick.” (Rick works construction and security, and could possibly scare the short bus into making a few more miles of road to a mechanic’s shop, should mechanical failures occur.)
“People are really good about helping other teams when things go wrong. If we can’t fix it, [we’ll] try to hitch rides with other teams,” Todd says. “Worst case, if riding with another team is not an option, we get a rental car, which disqualifies us from BABE Rally, and just continue to have fun all the way to Bourbon Street.”
Harper is characteristically optimistic about what the week will bring, though. “Since this is our first year, we really don’t know what to expect. We’ve gotten a skeleton of an itinerary that lays out the route, but that’s about it. My personal expectations are probably: wake up in the morning, drive around for a while, do something stupid and figure out how to throw some booze and debauchery in the mix,” he says. “Then wake up again and do it for four more days.”
More information can be found online at www.baberally.com. The team has kept a running blog of the (mis)adventures of getting the bus ready for the rally, and plan to continue with tales of debauchery and horror that can be read at www.teamNADS.com.
TAKING THE RALLY ON SAFARI
Day four of the BABE rally brings the surviving cars to the final checkpoint before the finish line in New Orleans: The Barking Kudu in Birmingham. Last year’s checkpoint was in Fort Payne, Ala., so Team NADS got in touch with the organizers to see if they would consider moving the day’s endpoint a few miles further southwest (one of the team members is a bartender at the Barking Kudu, and another one is an owner). In addition to allowing the team to spend one night at home with their own families and beds, it brings the rally to the place where the Team NADS members spend much of their free time.
Harper says that it’s something that locals should plan to attend. “People can expect to come find a parking lot full of smoking, leaky bangers that have taken a four-day beating, and are trying to limp in the next day to New Orleans. People will get to check out the bangers, and chat it up with the different team members about their experiences, and grow jealous that they were not on the rally with us all. There are several veteran teams, including a few teams that are from Europe. I wouldn’t miss it.”
The rally will make a local stop at the Barking Kudu (2929 Seventh Ave. South) on Thursday, June 4; all the surviving vehicles will be available for you to stare and laugh at starting around 6 p.m., with drink specials, and acoustic music on the patio starting at 10 p.m. Call (205) 328-1748 or go to www.thebarkingkudu.com.