Imagine quitting your day job, rounding up some friends and taking a journey across the world – in a taxi.
That so-called dream became a reality for three friends from England: Paul Archer, 24, Leigh Purnell, 24 and Johno Ellison, 28 who now hold the Guinness World Record for the longest taxi journey in history, broken in August 2011 in Tibet.
“Now we’re just smashing it,” said Archer.
For about a week, the three lads visited South County after traveling to 42 countries, in a 19-year-old British taxi named “Hannah.”
Covering more than 30,000 miles so far, the expedition brought them to the mechanics restoration shop of “On the Road Again” on 16840 Joleen Way in Morgan Hill, which specializes in British autos and classic cars.
“Everything has broken at some point. Brakes, suspension, lights, electric. Except the engine because it’s Japanese, not English,” said Purnell.
Hannah, after suffering just three flat tires worldwide, was in need of some tender love and care to prepare for the American leg of the tour. Her name hails from the Ella Fitzgerald song “Hard, Heart Hannah.”
“It’s about a gal who likes to see men suffer, so we thought that was funny,” said Archer. “Evidence of that is true, our brakes just fell apart when we were on the freeway (from San Francisco to Morgan Hill).
The world-record challenge, that the team calls “It’s On the Meter,” has put them on the road for more than 375 days. They started their journey in London on Feb. 17, 2011.
“We started in Europe and of course took the longest route ever, because taxi drivers always take all the longest way around,” said Archer Thursday morning as his two friends added new bumper stickers to the now-sparkling clean yellow and black London Black Cab.
The three are friends from a university back home, and got the idea in the back of a taxi after a night out nearly four years ago. Right away, they started saving up and planning for the trip. They quit their jobs and began their epic journey that has brought them through Europe, Russia, Pakistan, India, China, Thailand and Australia, just to name a few.
“This is the first time we’ve driven a taxi around the world,” said Archer with a smile.
In Cambodia they started running out of money, they said. Just in time, a sponsor named GoTaxi – a phone application that helps you get a taxi from anywhere – called them and asked if they wanted to go around the entire world.
“So we thought, ‘Sweet, yeah. Why not?’” said Archer.
With no exact timeline, “Except Leigh’s girlfriend is getting mad,” said Ellis, laughing, they hope to be back home in England by summer, in time for the Olympic Games in London.
“A lot of people think we’re sort of rich, that we’re daddy’s boys. We worked before we left,” said Purnell.
Not only did they save up for three years, but they are raising funds for the British Red Cross, trying to raise up to 20,000 pounds or about $31,000. The three also stay in tents and sleeping bags, and the occasional couch.
“We have flat pack tents, they’re not very good for stopping like water or anything. But they work in dry conditions,” said Purnell.
In Morgan Hill, they’ve had the luxury of sleeping in the showroom of the On the Road Again shop, next to British MG classic cars.
“They’ve been great. We were sleeping in here, working till like crazy late. And we would just sleep next to the cars, it’d be these amazing MGs, and then we’d wake up and start working on our piece of crap,” said Ellis.
Ellis said in order to officially break the world record, they need to follow specifications including using a GPS tracker, not being the same place for more than two weeks, not taking the same route twice and having people sign their guestbook ledger as witnesses (including this reporter).
Their favorite part so far?
“Probably Tibet for me personally,” said Archer. It’s just unbelievably beautiful. Not too many people go there and there are a lot of really interesting things going on there.”
“Probably Finland. To see the Northern lights, and we saw Santa Claus,” said Ellis.
“I really liked Turkey. Because my perception of Turkey was that there were nothing really there. We went to the center of the place and it was stunning. It was absolutely amazing,” said Purnell.
After the three left Thursday morning, they headed to Santa Barbara, with plans to cross the border into Mexico, which will mark it as the 43rd country Hannah has seen.
And yes, people try to hail the cab all the time, especially in San Francisco.
“We usually just laugh and drive on,” said Archer.
The meter still runs, however; joining in on the longest-ever taxicab ride would cost a whopping $90,000.
And that doesn’t include tip.