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Two Toledo-made Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicons that left Paris in October bound for New York City are now locked up in a Siberian garage, with the trip halted before the vehicles could cross the Bering Strait.
The Jeeps' German-led drivers had pushed through 18,000 miles of a circuitous route across Europe and Asia but were forced to stop about 250 miles short of what they hoped would be an ice bridge to North America.
Repeated failures of special replacement rear axles and differentials cost the Extreme Events expedition valuable time and resources, forcing it to suspend operations.
The adventurers, however, maintain they are not quitting and will resume the trip from the same spot next winter.
In a message on the expedition's Web site, pny2009.com, expedition leader Matthias Jeschke laid out the reasons for suspending the historic trip.
"After due consideration and the check of all possible scenarios, we had to take the difficult decision to suspend the expedition for [approximately] 6 months," Mr. Jeschke wrote. "Snow masses, which are exceptional also for the [Siberian plains], strong gale-force storms and blizzards as well as [repairs of] the vehicles led to an uncatchable time difference in contrast to the necessary schedule, despite absolutely most effort of the whole team."
Mr. Jeschke has flown back to Germany and is spending time with his wife and two children, whom he hasn't seen in more than six months, expedition spokesman Jurgen Malieske said.
In addition to crossing Europe and the vast majority of Asia
towing trailers with massive outriggers to allow the Jeeps to traverse the 56 miles of the Bering Strait, the Jeeps carried their own fuel.
The team, which began with three Jeeps but was down to one when the trek was suspended, was to traverse ice on the Bering Strait to Wales, Alaska.
The brutal Siberian weather has meant temperatures regularly at 61 degrees below zero Fahrenheit - which was good for the expedition because it allowed the Jeeps to travel across the tundra without leaving ruts in the mud.
The six-month suspension will allow time for the vehicles to be repaired and outfitted with stronger rear axles and differentials. It will also allow the expedition's organizers to raise additional funds for the trip.
"We have time to rethink the technical issues, to rethink the route to reach Uelen [the last city before the expedition crosses the Strait]," Mr. Malieske told The Blade yesterday.
"Most importantly, the delay will allow us to stick with our major aims," which is to be carbon-neutral, use only renewable fuels, and be "traceless" as the expedition crosses the pristine frontiers of Siberia and Alaska.
Still, Mr. Malieske promised, the expedition will continue, and it will visit the place where its Jeeps were built.
"We will reach Toledo. Whatever it costs, we will reach it," Mr. Malieske said.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette