The vehicle of choice, a flatbed tow truck, awaited. The Anna-Maciej-Ben trio saddled up and left Poznan for the small town of Szczecinek. The road was long and full of terrors (of nightly driving), but we arrived in one piece. After spending the night, in the early morning, it was time to get ready to kick off the Outpost for real. The monstrous engine of Maciej's BMW Custom Drift Edition roared into life and slowly ascended the ramp onto the flatbed truck. Wheels tied down, ramp collected, time to hit the road to the nearby Wilcze Laski ex-military airfield, where the fun would start ...
... by taking mops and sweeping what probably used to be airplane parking. The place has seen lots and lots of drifting action, however. The tarmac was full of tire marks and parts of tires that just could not take the heat and committed suicide by kaboom. All that had to go, so we could recreate it anew. And go it did. In a couple of hours, the place looked presentable. Just in time, as the first participants' trucks started rolling in. While we were putting up our tent, we could hear several highly-tuned engines thunder down the ramps of their trucks and go for a nice, slow, warm-up ride to greet other groups. Sure, there were only some 50 meters between groups, but if you had such a car, you would want to spend as much time in there as possible as well — believe me.
More and more people arrived, and Maciej, too, was slowly beginning to get ready, as his crew arrived. Piles and piles of tires started appearing out of cargo vans, drift cars' rear ends started lifting, as the looking-good tires were replaced with drift versions, and the juicy pre-event tension in the air was getting so strong one could almost taste it.
On the other side of the airfield, however, there was a whole 'nother gathering taking place. While one certainly cannot not-love the drift cars' respective stables, this was a motorsport event that featured the extremes — a destruction derby with old beaters which, at first look, barely stuck in one piece, let hear some sexy sounds from under their hood, though, and cars with several hundred horsepower above the magical 500 HP mark, which were all pretty, shiny, and ready to compete in a quarter-mile drag race. They were also joined by a selection of motorcycles sporting several CBR1000RRs and Hayabusas. Now I am not crazy about automotive machinery, but this airfield was something to behold even for me!
But let us return to the drift track. Screeching tires, burnouts, donuts, being there felt like being in a real-life The Fast and the Furious movie. Tents were up, cars were ready, accesses for non-authorized personnel were blocked, and it was time to start doing some warm-up runs on the actual track, because why wait until tomorrows event when you can burn some rubber today already.
And so came the first opportunity for yours truly to sit in a racing seat and go for a spin with Master Chmurski himself. After having experienced this, let me say that I am never buying a car with more than 200 HP because I would likely go broke on buying tires. The sound is addictive, the smell is addictive, and the feeling of sliding through corners at over 100 km/h is absolutely ecstatic.
The day turned to the evening. Some were still tinkering with cars, others started up grills and a bonfire, and a third group prepared a screening of the day's highlights. Eating, chatting, driving to the town to pick up another X-Teamer, Kuba S., who was going to participate in the destruction derby together with his brother, and who kindly provided us with copious quantities of his very own black tea mix, which will soon hit the shelves commercially — after having tasted it, I must say, keep an eye out for it! It is totally worth every cent.
After a few hours of sleep, the big day was here. It is hard to put all the feelings into words, as if you have never experienced drifting in a car with over 300 HP with a seasoned driver, there is really nothing that can compare. Being the event organizer, Maciej, unfortunately, had less time to actually drift than he would have liked, but he still got some nice runs in. It truly is incredible, what these guys can make their cars do, and even more incredible how well they know them. Telling different engines models apart by ear and diagnosing potential problems simply by the color of the exhaust smoke or the sound the engine makes is, after all, not something one sees done every day.
The other side of the Airfield was in full swing as well. Kuba and his brother finished the first round of the destruction derby and, after fixing a flat tire, they took part in another, driving extremely well for first-timers. On the drag strip, millions of highly-controlled explosions pushed cars to speeds from which only brake-parachutes could bring them back.
Above both events, happily-buzzing drones were recording every minute of the action. Big, slow ones, and small, practically teleporting ones alike.
However, all good things must come to an end, and as the 4th hour past noon came, it was time to send people home. Some last runs were had, some last drone flights were done, and the "camp" slowly began disappearing. After making sure everything was taken care of, we again loaded Maciej's baby onto the back of the truck and left for Poznan.
The first day in Poznan was dedicated to nursing our wounds — having spent 2 whole days in the direct sun without any sunscreen, Maciej suffered some heavy-duty burns, and even I, with my built-in sun-resistance, felt slight discomfort, a feat which has thus far only been achieved by the Cambodian sun, and now, apparently, the Polish one.
And what better to make one feel better than an epic piece of steak? We went to a rock café, where they served steak on a hot lava stone, so it was done exactly as much as you wanted it done. Needless to say, it was divine, and the addition of Pyra z Gzikiem along with other condiments just made it so much better. On Ben's scale of Steak Awesomeness, I would give it 5/7 steaks — would definitely eat again!
But a good meal deserves a good dessert, so we went to a neighboring tea house, where they served us some great hot tea and hot-cold ice cream fried in corn flakes. If you have never had that, go out, find it, eat it. It is absolutely delicious! Not to even mention the violin busker that was playing just a couple of meters away with the precision of a true virtuoso.
The next day was dedicated to Fit-Quest. A 25-kilometer bike ride through Poznan presented many of its highlights, and they are certainly breathtaking. Biking along the river, enjoying the Citadel Park, visiting a food truck with the best Zapiekanki ever, and concluding the day with pool and foosball together with Michal K. another of our teammates residing in big P. Good day? You betcha!
Now, I could go into intricate detail about day to day activities, but keeping in mind that time is money, I shall save you some of those hard-earned Złoty and cover the big things.
And what could possibly be bigger than the absolutely enormous Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, which holds the titles of "largest castle in the world by land area", the "world's largest brick castle", a Polish national historic monument, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To say that the structure was imposing would be a major understatement. It covers an area of 143,591 square meters (~1,545,601 square feet), and every square centimeter thereof is absolutely worth seeing.
The visit was made even better by the semi-smart self-guided tour "whatchamacallit", which took us through the castle and provided tons of information on the history of the place and details of specific rooms, corridors, buildings, gardens; all to a nice contemporary music track in the background.
Walking up to the castle walls immediately makes one feel tiny, but entering the inner courtyard just drives this feeling deeper. One cannot not-be impressed by the design and architectural genius of the place. Entering the main reception hall, it is not just the size that makes one stand in awe, however, but also the pragmatism. The Grand Master's seat, for example, is placed closest to the fireplace, with a back to the wall and a great view of both, the main and side doors — no surprises for the boss there. Moreover, his private chambers being above the hall, he even had a "peep-hole", through which he could always see what was happening in the main hall.
Both the main hall and his personal bedroom had heating, of course, but there was only one other person in the whole castle apart from the grandmaster, who had a personal place of... "contemplative retreat". I am talking about a toilet, of course, and that other person was neither the 2nd in command nor the highest priest or some other prominent figure. It was the castle head cook. Cannot have the guy that prepares your steak be unhappy!
There were so so many more things there that left a lasting impression on me, and this description would go on forever if I tried describing everything, so let me just say that, if you are ever in Europe (not even necessarily in Poland, anywhere in Europe is close enough), visit. This. Castle. It is totally worth it!
The Odyssey to Poznan
And you will know that you have angered the gods when the night is bright as day, when it is raining sideways, and when trees think they are dominos. ~~ Some Prophet, probably
We expected that we would hit the storm on the way back. We even knew that it would be a big storm — the weather radar had shown us that it was a storm literally bigger than the whole of Slovenia. However, we did not expect to fall straight into some end-of-days apocalyptic storyline.
Lightning strikes were so regular that they kept the landscape almost continuously illuminated. It is a nice sight, but when you are sitting in the only and tallest metal thing in a very flat area with Thor, Jupiter, and Zeus apparently having a darts game with you being the bullseye, that gets you kind of antsy to get someplace less conductive... Which would have worked out fine, if the wind had not decided that visibility is for the weak... Fog lights, normal lights, constant lightning, and we still saw up to two meters in front of the hood in the clearest moments, as it was not even pouring rain but rather emptying the celestial bucket all at once onto us, because "smite this area in particular."
And then it got worse...
We drove past some traffic signs that fell victim to physics. We squeezed past a truck that unsuccessfully tried to pretend it is a sailboat. But a giant of a tree, using a long-distance power line as decoration, lying across the road was simply too much. After inspecting the situation, it turned out that there was an ambulance — fortunately not on an emergency call — on the other side, trapped between this and yet another tree. I guess we got off easy.
Since being sandwiched between two sets of trees with a Goliath of a forest piece blocking our way forward did not seem like a good idea — after all, the Goliath might have friends, and we did not fancy finding out what it feels like to be converted into pancakes — we decided to go back and around, hopefully finding a tree-free detour.
And we did... In theory. In practice, if there had been a single tree at the side of the road before the storm, now, there was a single tree on the road instead. Being stuck again, we reflected on our options, when a truck pulled up, and some rugged-looking locals jumped out and volunteered to help us get through.
What I learned from the next hour or so is twofold. First, there is always someone with a chainsaw within three minutes of a fallen tree in Poland. Second, Poles just DGAF. If the chainsaw does not work, strap the tree to the truck and step on it.
Unfortunately, while we managed to get past three trees, the fourth proved impossible. The line the truck was using to try and pull the tree off the road snapped, and it was then decided that we will just go back to the main road and wait for the local fire department to come and sort the situation out.
Upon our return to the main road, it turns out that in these couple of hours we had spent "in the wild", the FD managed to clear a lane of the road, so traffic could slowly pass. And so we did. But before returning home, having spent 10 instead of 4 hours on the road, there was just one last stop we had to do — Maciej and Ben go to KFC (2017).
Meeting the Gang
After the exciting trip back to Poznan, it was time for some R&R. On Sunday evening, Mr. and Mrs. Chmurski and yours truly met up with a bunch of local X-Teamers — Peter Kaleta, Michal Nawrot, Michal Kawalec, Krzysztof Kotlarski — and their significant others, at a steak house. Having devoured ungodly quantities of excellent meat, we nomadded over to a place with pool and foosball, where we defied the odds of hitting simple shots and missing hard shots.
I have met some of them before, some of them I have met for the first time, but it still strikes me as incredible how natural hanging out like this turned out to be. Considering we generally only ever talk on slack or perhaps while gaming together, this felt, at least to me, much closer to hanging out with friends than "just" co-workers.
And on that note, I shall conclude this already too-wall-of-text-y piece of writing. Thank you for having me in Poland and for great company, and a special thanks to Maciej, Anna, their kitten, and their couch, for putting up with me all this time and for showing me that the good stereotypes about Poland — e.g. the epicness of pierogi, be it with meat or strawberries — hold as true as ever.
So, all I can say is that I am looking forward to the next outpost and the next opportunity to hang with fellow X-Teamers again.
Hasta la Republica Dominicana, amigos!