The RoShamBusiness is the first company in the history of the world1We assume. Also, if you are unfamiliar with The RoShamBusiness, the company that makes things literally, we recommend reading our introductory blog post and/or checking out our homepage. to sell a sandwich composed of two slices of bread that have been to perfectly opposite sides of the world. The RoShamBamwich is a unique product. But that doesn’t mean it was our idea.
I first stumbled across the earth sandwich concept in Ken Jennings’ book Maphead in late 2012. He traces it back to internet humorist Ze Frank, who mentioned the idea on his blog in 2006. There are a lot of weird topics in Maphead, though.2Geocaching, geography bees, Florida as America’s phallus, etc. The idea of an earth sandwich just sat somewhere in the back of my brain.
Then in March 2013, I was out in Joshua Tree with a few friends when we stumbled upon the idea of the RoShamBamwich.3Let the record officially state that Joey Ricci invented the words “RoShamBizzers,” and “RoShamBamwich.” In joking around, we thought a RoShamBamwich could be any sandwich that was infuriating to both make and eat.
At some point after I’d started actually making the RoShamBizzers in May 2013, I realized a RoShamBamwich could be Ze Frank’s earth sandwich, but as a product. A sandwich with everything. That’s when I started researching antipodes.
The antipodes of a point on Earth’s surface is its exact inverse point on Earth’s other side. As a kid in a sandbox, you commonly cite your intentions to “dig a hole to China,” but unless you are in Argentina, such intentions are misinformed. Anywhere in the continental United States, for example, a hole straight through the middle of the earth would land you in the southern Indian Ocean.4Fun fact: the most recent search area for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is directly antipodal to Wisconsin.
Ze Frank created a handy little tool on his website to help people visualize antipodal points. It’s broken now, so with help from the awesome people at MapBox, I created another one below.
One thing you’ll notice when researching antipodal locations is that remarkably few of them are both on land. The pickings are slim. It would have been nice to travel to two major cities, but the most antipodal major cities are Shanghai and Buenos Aires (pictured here), and even those are roughly 200 miles off. I still looked at Argentina/China (as well as Brazil/Philippines, Peru/Cambodia, and Colombia/Indonesia), but I eventually settled on New Zealand/Spain.5For reasons including travel cost, ease of inter-country transportation, and overlap with already-planned travel to be mentioned in next paragraph.
In October 2013, Adrian, my roommate and RoShamBusiness conspirator, mentioned that his sister was studying abroad in Madrid until December, and that he was thinking of visiting her on his way home to Australia. I would obviously be assigned the New Zealand leg. We began to conspire even further.
Brief digressionary question: Even though you’ve settled on two antipodal countries, how do you choose an exact location? After all, there are technically an infinite number of pairs of points that would fit the bill. Deciding between a location and another location ten feet to the right can seem arbitrary. We wanted the sandwich to have meaning, so we tried not to pick just any old patch of land.
My first strategy to finding the right patch of land was, even within the scope of an admittedly unusual project, pretty unusual. I thought it would be handy to stay at two houses/hotels that were close to antipodal places,6WiFi so I got in touch with a friend at Airbnb who routed me to Matt Weisinger, one of Airbnb’s data scientists. Thanks to Matt’s genius, I figured out that the two most antipodal Airbnbs were, in fact, in Spain and New Zealand, and that they were only about 200 feet from perfectly aligned.7Pretty crazy, right? No wonder Airbnb is worth 19 trillion dollars.
I immediately set out to reserve both, but it proved too good to be true. The slow-to-respond but still very genial New Zealand half of the Airbnb equation told me that in the middle of New Zealand’s busy summer holiday, he couldn’t justify a one-day rental. He wanted at least a week.8Note to anyone reading this from Airbnb: I am still on board with this idea if you are.
So, Adrian and I went back to the drawing board. Said drawing board, however, got messy in a hurry. Surprise, surprise: It’s very difficult to synchronize travel plans on opposite sides of the world. Given our long list of criteria for the locations91) proximity to Madrid 2) proximity to Auckland 3) specific travel windows 4) availability of transport 5) availability of lodging 6) desirability of location 7) public accessibility, it took us awhile to agree on logistics. Eventually we got our shit together, and final times/locations were chosen: On December 22nd, I would be in Kuaotunu, New Zealand at 7:00PM local time and Adrian would be in Rincon de la Victoria, Spain at 7:00AM. Exact map of our chosen locations below.
Meanwhile, the bread.
I really wanted to do it with edible bread.10Even going so far as to contact Don Stull, CEO of MicroZap Inc, a Texas microwave technology company that claims its product can keep bread mold at bay for up to six months. Someday it will happen. For this first version, though, I needed to make some tasty-looking fake bread. This was surprisingly non-difficult. Huge shout out to all the fake bread makers out there on the internet, particularly Anna Warren of Fake ‘N Bake. Really carrying humanity forward. Thanks as well to Juan at Bob’s Foam Factory in Fremont, CA. Given the sole descriptor of, “something that feels like bread,” you really pointed me in the right direction. Plus look at those Yelp reviews. Bob’s turn down for what.
On December 12th, 2013, carrying six slices of newly-minted fake bread, Adrian set off for Spain. The next day my girlfriend Danielle and I flew to New Zealand with six counter-slices of our own. We backpacked through Abel Tasman National Park during the week before The Sandwiching, and I was so nervous someone would steal the slices11An extra-irrational fear given the slices’ incredible uselessness pre-Sandwiching. that I slept with them most nights.
On the day of The Sandwiching, we flew from Nelson to Auckland, and then rented a car for the drive to Kuaotunu. Kuaotunu is on the Coromandel Peninsula, about three hours east of Auckland and home to things like this and this. We got to the exact spot around 6:00PM (about an hour early), so we had time to put the bread slices into pretty much every imaginable configuration.
Meanwhile, Adrian and his sister were doing exactly the same thing in exactly the opposite place, cartographically speaking. They got the short end of the stick and had to sandwich-build in the dark.12Given the sun’s inability to shine simultaneously on total antipodes, one of us had to do it.
My favorite thing about the exact sandwich-making moment was the realization that a) we were as far away from Adrian and his sister as it’s possible for two earth-bound people to be, and b) within the three dimensional plane of outer space, each pair of us was standing upside-down relative to the other.
Sandwiches made, it took about two months to get both sets of slices back together. Adrian delivered his half by hand upon his glorious return to America.
For the Kickstarter13Coming in July, we’ve updated the design of The RoShamBamwich, but all of the key features remain. You’ll still be free to put whatever you want on it. Just know that whatever you do end up putting on the sandwich will have already been on it before.