Scenic Route Voices No.5 Title, slideshow of two men standing in front of garage door, car driving down the highway, and a car stationary.

Peking to Paris and an extraordinary opportunity

Welcome to the fifth edition of Scenic Route: Voices — a series spotlighting unique stories from the world of driving. This month, Kris Clewell shares a story of optimism, perseverance, and how waxing poetic about the Peking to Paris Rally led to an amazing scholarship that grants the recipient a once-in-a-lifetime rally experience complete with the keys to a refreshed ride. And see how the goodwill of others is helping to create pathways to expand access to rally driving for everyone.

Kris is a podcast host, writer, videographer, and grandpa car connoisseur and one of the minds behind Overcrest Productions.

Take the car

Words and photos by Kris Clewell, @overcrestproductions

Life can be boring, much of it caught in mundane day-to-day activities. Our daily experiences get filed away, congealing into an amalgamation of grey, tedious, nebulous memory. It’s unavoidable; humans just can’t record the minutiae of everyday existence. It is, however, important to hit the brakes from time to time, to give the mind something new. The best break from this monotony is exploration.
At Overcrest, we believe the ultimate tool for exploration is the car. And that the best road you’ve ever driven is the one you haven't driven yet — and no other mode of transport can take you to more places or expose you to new experiences quite like it. The goal of the Overcrest Rally is to harness the freedom that comes with exploring unseen and unknown destinations. Every year, hundreds gather in remote small towns across America to escape the minutiae of everyday life and embrace adventure.
Overhead shot of car with text reading “At Overcrest, we believe the ultimate tool for exploration is the car”

“At Overcrest, we believe
the ultimate tool for
exploration is the car.”

It was 2021. We had recently recorded a podcast episode where we nostalgically discussed the idea of rallying across Asia in the Peking to Paris Rally, but we lamented our inability to afford such an adventure. The next morning, we received a message from Eric Augustyn. He expressed his wish to support our participation in the rally. Eric had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and the prognosis was not promising. Facing an existential crisis, he was reaching out to make a difference.
After the call, we gathered to brainstorm, imagining the ideal car for the journey. An old VW Rabbit? A sturdy Mercedes diesel? Reliability, we figured, would be crucial in Mongolia. We pondered the logistics: Would we need spare transmissions? What if we broke down without a support team? Would we face life-threatening situations? The excitement was palpable. However, over the next few days, reality set in. The cost seemed prohibitive, and while Eric wasn’t deterred, we certainly were.
Slideshow of people gathered around a white car, the car driving down the road, mountains, and the car stationary.
Slideshow of people gathered around a white car, the car driving down the road, mountains, and the car stationary.
Slideshow of people gathered around a white car, the car driving down the road, mountains, and the car stationary.
The fundamental mission of Overcrest was always in our minds: to encourage as many people as possible to embrace our ethos of exploration, to take to the road, seek new experiences, and forge connections. While the trip promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we believed there were better ways to achieve our goal. So, we redirected a portion of the funds we would have spent on the Peking rally into creating the Utah Overcrest Rally. This first national-level event truly embodied the essence of Overcrest and left an indelible impression on everyone involved.
Over the years we’ve received countless messages about how the rally has changed people’s lives. A son who repaired a relationship with their father. People who discovered the value of exploration in how it helped their mental health. Stories both harrowing and touching. Much of the rally happens off the grid where people can unplug, decompress, and get in touch with someone they hadn’t met in a while. Themselves. We knew what exploring and driving did for us, but we were stunned by the impact that it had on everyone else
 Interior shot of two men driving a car
After Utah, we wondered how we could do something truly good with Eric’s generosity, and how Overcrest could inspire others to do good. We talked to Eric about starting a scholarship that would get people out to experience Overcrest. It would become The Eric Augustyn Free Ride Scholarship. Now cancer free, Eric jumped in without a second thought.
We set out to find a person — and a car — to bring together for the ultimate Overcrest experience: an all-expenses-paid trip to the rally in Eastern Oregon, complete with a fully restored car for an unforgettable adventure. Our approach was to make the experience application-only. No raffles or auctions. We poured over hundreds of applications, many of which were harrowing, inspirational, and heart-wrenching. One stood out: Israel (Izzy) Vega. We were genuinely inspired by Izzy’s tenacity, optimism, and perseverance through hard times, encompassing physical, mental, and financial challenges.
White car driving down the highway with text reading “A repeated sentiment resonated with us: 'I remained optimistic.'”

“We set out to find a person –
and a car... for the ultimate
Overcrest experience.”

To find and build a car, we needed help. Eric’s generosity was one thing, but building a car, finding parts, and the logistics of the Free Ride program started to grow rapidly. Khalil and Byron from Liechtbauwerkstatt, BMW experts in Costa Mesa, California, found us a 1991 BMW 325is as a place to start. It was rust free but needed work. FCP Euro donated a huge amount of parts, AC Solutions dialed in the climate control, H&R provided the suspension, and Scheel-Mann donated a set of seats. The car was meticulously restored by Leichtbau and delivered to Oregon, where Izzy and his brother Antonio drove it in the 2023 Overcrest Rally.
The question arose about what to do with the car once we were finished with it. Funded by charitable contributions and goodwill, we decided to auction it off on Bring a Trailer. The proceeds would benefit the 43 Institute, the late Ken Block’s foundation, dedicated to “creating paths of opportunity for the exceptionally driven who may lack the proper support system for growth and success.”
Read Izzy’s entire application here and find out more about the Free Ride Scholarship on the Overcrest website or Instagram.
White car on empty country dirt road