Mystic Moose Racing Team

Two Sac adventurers are headed to the world’s wildest car rally

Photo by Matt Kramer

For information on Mystic Moose Racing, the Mongol Rally, the charities Hartman and Mather are supporting, along with info on the rest of their team and updates on their vehicle choice, visit

Unless you’re a flat-Earther, or Kanye West, you understand there’s a pretty good consensus on certain facts—one of which is that everything about the terrestrial surface is more or less explored. But in a mapped-out online world, is there room left for grand scale adventure? Andrew Hartman, 30, and Joshua Mather, 27, are two Sacramento residents who believe the answer is definitely yes. The pair—friends since college at Sac State—have combined their mechanical inclination and love for outdoor travel and set their sights on a motor-sports event—The Mongol Rally—that will span multiple continents. The rally launches in Prague, and travels to the Caspian Sea, through Bucharest Romania, Istanbul and Iran. Finally, their route will wind through multiple central Asian countries, then through Mongolia and finally land in Ulan Due, Russia. The epic trek will involve a car of a still to-be-determined model—rules mandate that the vehicle be powered by an engine no larger than 1,000 cc’s (a Honda Fit, for comparison, has 1,500 cc engine). Hartman and Mather’s team, Mystic Moose, will compete against 300 other teams from around the world along the route. Hartman and Mather will be the only full-time travelers in the team Mystic Moose vehicle, but family and friends will be joining them at various points along the route. The official launch date is set for July 16. Hartman and Mather’s goal is “to prove that adventure isn’t dead, to celebrate differences between cultures and to raise funds” in the form of $1,000 each for multiple charities including Cool Earth, End the Backlog and Harm Reduction Services.

How’d you get into this?

Hartman: We had both looked into this independently in the past and always entertained the idea of doing this—maybe seven or eight years ago. We were drinking beer one day—here actually [Sactown Union Brewery] and said, “Hey, have you heard of this crazy Mongol Rally thing? We went back and forth talking about it. It’s not something you can just drop everything and do—even though that’s kind of what we’re doing. If you have kids, you have a house, those kinds of commitments, you can’t be away for too long. The time was right to do it this year.”

There are some parts of the world on your route that aren’t exactly friendly to the United States—Tehran, Iran for instance. Do you have any safety concerns?

Mather: Yes and no. There’s only one person who has ever died doing Mongol Rally, and that was in a car accident, so that could happen to anyone anywhere. The political side of things definitely is a little bit of a worry, especially with the nuclear deal going on with Iran. But at the same time, from everyone we’ve talked to—Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan—the people are incredibly friendly. People [who have been there before] have ended up at weddings! It’s like, “Oh, you’re from somewhere not in Iran? You should join our wedding and have dinner with us!”

Hartman: Especially in terms of Iran. It seems that while the governments don’t like each other for sure, the people in Iran are amazingly hospitable and super friendly.

What places on the route are you most looking forward to seeing?

Hartman: Actually Tehran is up there close to number one—it’s a beautiful city—and Uzbekistan and that region of the old Silk Road. Seeing the artwork and everything that’s been standing there for 5,000 years.

Mather: Definitely Tehran, or Isfahan (Iran). Isfahan has the second largest city square in the world. I’m really excited to see that. The highway through Tajikistan is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, and the stars are supposed to be second to none.

This is for Mather—and I’m using your words from the website here—as a ginger, how are you planning to survive the desert?

Mather: (Laughs.) We’re gonna have five gallon cans—one of them is gonna be fuel and one of them is gonna be sunscreen. No—a lot of it is gonna be long sleeves. I love hiking and fishing and all that, spending time outdoors. So a lot of it is wearing long, lightweight clothing and then sunscreening nonstop. It sounds like a melanoma ad, but it’s important.

Hartman, your profile notes that you can be compared to the three-way love child of James Bond, Mr. Rogers and Inspector Gadget. Imagery aside, do you have a fictional character that inspires you?

Hartman: That was actually something that Josh wrote—it’s kind of a continual joke between us [due to Hartman’s resourcefulness when working on a car project]. But I think MacGyver. One of the things is that, when we’re out there, you can only prep so much. You might be out in the middle of Mongolia and hit a massive pothole that breaks an axle or something like that. So to rely on your own skills as much as prep is something that’s going to be really valuable.

Finally, have you had yak’s milk before?

Mather and Hartman: I have not.

Mather: Though I’m excited for yak’s milk, as well as the fermented kind.