Professor Timothy Shea of UMass Dartmouth's Charlton College of Business hasn't had a 'real' vacation in years. But instead of luxuriating on a sunny beach, he joined his adventure-loving friend UMass Lowell Professor David Lewis on a daring trek across Africa. Not only did they explore a portion of the exotic continent, the duo also came away from the jaunt as African Beetle Safari Marathon champions.
Shea and Lewis, the lone U.S. entry, topped seven other teams representing South Africa, United Kingdom and Australia. The 7,000 kilometer race using air-cooled 1960's-era Beetle Volkswagens over two and a half weeks started and ended in Durban on the east coast of Kwazula-Natal in South Africa and took them through Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia.
Their winning time was 16 days, six hours and 28 minutes, approximately five hours ahead of the second place finishers.
"It was an adventure and a great way to see a new part of the world," Shea said, now back on campus after the July excursion.
Shea noted that the light-hearted contest offered a unique way to see Africa that is far removed from any kind of package tour.
"The fact that there were these groups riding in 40-year-old raggedy Beetles that couldn't go over 50 miles per hour sums up the experience," Shea said. "It was fun to meet people, sit around a camp site and swap stories at night and travel at a good pace."
After a rough start--the car broke down 10 minutes into the race--the duo recovered quickly enough to eventually leave the other Beetles in the dust, so to speak.
Shea recommends the experience to anyone looking for adventure or something unusual to do. The race inspired him to investigate similar events offered around the world. He is thinking about entering a rickshaw marathon in India, for example. A rickshaw is a small, seven horse power, three-wheeled vehicle with a top speed of around 30 m.p.h.
A Swansea resident, Shea is an associate professor in the Decision and Information Systems Department. He previously served on the UMass Lowell faculty.
Now in its sixth year, the Africa Beetle Marathon was inspired by the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon. The challenge is for each team to complete the designated route within the specified time frame (under 18 days) while obeying the laws and regulations of every country along the route. More information can be found at www.beetleafrica.com