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The Cannonball Run

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Podcast Transcript

In 1914, Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker crossed america on a bike in 11 and a half days. 

Fifty-seven years later, a author and editor for Automotive and Driver journal got down to honor his journey by driving from Manhattan to Los Angels. 

Ever since, individuals have been making an attempt to copy their journey in ever shorter instances. 

Be taught extra concerning the Cannonball Run and the extremely unlawful quest to drive throughout america on this episode of Every part All over the place Each day.

The US is a reasonably large nation. The gap because the crow flies from New York to Los Angeles is 3,944 kilometers or 2,451 miles.

For those who traveled by horse, that journey may take you the higher a part of a 12 months. For those who traveled by early steam locomotives, the journey from coast to coast would possibly take you a number of weeks. 

As soon as cars have been developed, the need for people to aim this crossing in a number of days grew to become irresistible. 

The primary documented try at making an attempt to set a transcontinental land document was by Erwin George “Cannon Ball” Baker. 

Baker was a manufacturing facility employee who went into Vaudeville after which into the brand new discipline of motor racing. He used his Indian Motorbike and set out from San Diego, California, for New York Metropolis.

In 1914, he accomplished the journey in 11 ½ days on a route that didn’t embody a single paved highway. 

To place this into perspective, simply 5 years later, the US Military set out on a motorized transcontinental journey on the nation’s first true coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Freeway. The Military group, which included a younger Dwight Eisenhower, took 58 days.

In 1933, Baker made the identical journey, this time on significantly better roads, with a 1932 Graham-Paige Blue Streak car. This time he made the journey in 53 hours and 5 minutes.

Baker later was very influential on this planet of auto racing and later was the primary commissioner for a racing group referred to as NASCAR.

Information for cost-to-coast journeys throughout america have been by no means formally stored, however as cars grew to become extra well-liked and accessible after WWII and with the event of the Interstate Freeway System, extra individuals started driving, and the car grew to become a central a part of the tradition. 

With that, there started extra efforts to manage driving. Velocity limits have been applied, single-class driver licenses have been imposed on most drivers, and the car business started focusing extra on consolation and security than uncooked energy. 

One man who stood in opposition to these developments was the Editor of Automotive and Driver Journal, Brock Yates. He felt that america interstate system ought to be regulated just like the German autobahn, and graduated drivers’ licenses ought to be issued primarily based on a driver’s talent and expertise. 

On Could 3, 1971, he set out with one among his writers, Steve Smith, and his son, Brock Jr., to drive throughout the nation to show his level. 

They started their journey on the Pink Ball Storage on East thirty first road in Manhattan. It’s actually only a parking ramp whose solely distinction is that it’s open 24 hours a day. 

From there, the staff drove their Dodge van they named Moon Trash II throughout america to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Seaside, California. 

They made the journey in 40 hours and 51 minutes. 

Simply six months later, they determined to do it once more. This time, nevertheless, they weren’t alone. As an alternative of simply driving throughout the nation by themselves, they determined to show it right into a race. 

Dubbed the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Sprint, the route was the identical as their first journey six months earlier: From the Pink Ball Storage in Manhattan to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Seaside. 

There was no specified route that anybody needed to take. 

This primary race was gained by Brock Yates and his new associate Dan Gurney. They shaved a full 5 hours off of the earlier 1971 try and accomplished it in 35 hours, 54 minutes. 

They did it in a Ferrari. 

This very unofficial and extremely unlawful race was held once more in 1972, 1975, and 1979. 

The 1979 occasion was the final official unofficial Cannonball Run. The priority was that the speeds have been getting too excessive, and an excessive amount of consideration was now being delivered to the race. 

The winner of the 1979 race gained with a time of 32 hours and 51 minutes, which was a brand new document. 

Yates drove within the 1979 race with the Hollywood stuntman turned director Hal Needham. Needham had lately directed the hit film Smokey and the Bandit with Burt Reynolds. 

Yates and Needham competed within the race with a transformed van that was painted to seem like an ambulance. 

If that sounds acquainted, it’s as a result of Needham and Yates took their expertise and wrote a screenplay, which resulted within the 1981 movie: The Cannonball Run, directed by Hal Needham, written by Brock Yates, and starring Burt Reynolds and a really giant supporting forged.

I assume that the overwhelming majority of you thought instantly of the film if you noticed the title of this episode. I’d additional guess that a lot of you won’t have even recognized that the film was primarily based on an precise race of the identical title. 

Whereas the Cannonball Run as an official unofficial occasion may need been over, the film solely elevated the curiosity in cross nation racing. 

There was a spate of comparable races within the subsequent few years, together with the US Categorical, the C2C Categorical, and the Lap Round America.

In 1983, a brand new document was set by drivers Doug Turner and David Diem, who drove the route in a purple Ferrari 308 GTE in 32 hours and seven minutes. 

After 1983, the thrill from the film wore off, and there weren’t actually any extra large races or enhancements within the document. Regardless of important enhancements in vehicles and expertise, the 1983 document stood for over 20 years. 

Nonetheless, within the twenty first century, a small group of fanatics started to take a brand new strategy to the cross-country document. 

Earlier than I get into these new document makes an attempt, I need to undergo precisely what goes into such a document try. 

The 1983 document of 32 hours and seven minutes requires a mean velocity of 90 miles per hour or 145 kilometers per hour. 

There may be nowhere in america the place that velocity is authorized. Meaning your first large concern is the police. 

To set a document, you want situations to be virtually good. This implies when you get pulled over even as soon as, that is likely to be sufficient to smash a document try. Given the speeds you is likely to be going, you would possibly even get arrested. 

Assuming you’ll be able to keep away from the police, you will have an environment friendly route. This implies not solely lowering your distance but in addition avoiding rush hours and development zones. For those who don’t plan forward, you could possibly hit a large development zone exterior of Kansas Metropolis the place you sit in a line of vehicles for hours. 

Additionally, as a result of the route begins in Manhattan, which is among the worst locations in America to drive a automobile, you will most likely need to begin round 2-3 within the morning to keep away from visitors. Likewise, it would be best to keep away from visitors if you arrive in Los Angeles, which might be simply as tough. 

Lastly, it’s essential handle the problem of gas. You need to scale back the variety of gas stops to as few as potential, and if you cease, you need to spend as little time refueling as potential. 

The primary severe try at breaking the 1983 document befell in 2006. 

Alex Roy and David Maher took a custom-made BMW M5 and got down to break the document. This wasn’t a part of a race with different vehicles, this was only a race in opposition to the clock. 

They broke the document with a time of 31 hours and 4 minutes. Their automobile was crammed with electronics to get updates on visitors situations and to keep away from the police. Their cowl story, in the event that they have been to have been pulled over, was that they have been storm chasers. 

They didn’t launch particulars of their document for over a 12 months when the statute of limitations for rushing expired in most states.  They hit a prime velocity of 157 miles per hour and even recruited spotter plane in some areas. 

That document was smashed in 2013 by the staff of Ed Bolian, Dave Black, and Dan Huang. They a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG from the begin to end in 28 hours, 50 minutes, taking greater than 2 hours off of the document. 

They averaged a velocity of 98 miles per hour and hit a peak velocity of 182 miles per hour or 290 kilometers per hour. 

That they had a complete of 67 gallons or 254 liters of gas capability with two further gas tanks constructed into the trunk. 

That document was then shattered on December 10, 2019, by a three-man staff of Arne Toman, Doug Tabutt, and Berkeley Chadwick. They drove a 2015 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG sedan and punched a time of 27 hours 25 minutes, once more taking one other hour and a half off the document. 

That they had a mean velocity of 103 miles per hour or 166 kilometers per hour and reached a prime velocity of 193 miles per hour. They solely spent a complete of twenty-two minutes on 4 gas stops. 

Their automobile was once more crammed with electronics, together with an infrared digicam to identify police vehicles from a distance, in addition to an additional giant gas tank.

When 2020 got here round, the pandemic provided a once-in-a-lifetime probability at document makes an attempt. The lockdowns resulted in a dramatic discount in vehicles on the highways in addition to police. 

In April 2020, an nameless staff who hasn’t launched their names, however did present corroborating GPS knowledge, clocked a brand new document time of 26 hours 38 minutes, once more knocking virtually one other hour off of the document. 

In simply the following month, the staff of Arne Toman, Doug Tabbutt, and spotter Dunadel Daryoush set a brand new document, which nonetheless stands, of 25 hours, 39 minutes. 

They did this in a modified 2016 Audi S6. They really modified the entrance of the automobile to make it seem like a Ford Taurus police automobile. The common velocity for the complete journey was 110 miles per hour, with a shifting velocity, not together with stops of 112 miles per hour. 

In June 2020, there was supposedly a solo run made in 25 hours and 55 minutes, however there it has been referred to as into query as there’s little in the way in which of supporting proof, and it was supposedly finished in a rental automobile. 

Additionally, in Could, the staff of Chris Clemens and Mark Spence drove a modified Mercedes SL500 to the Portofino Inn…. after which drove all the way in which again in 74 hours and 5 minutes. 

That double transcontinental document was damaged in April 2022 by a staff of Nik Krueger, Mark Spence, and Wesley Vigh, who did it in 65 hours and 28 minutes, knocking virtually 8 hours off the document. 

By this level, a lot of you is likely to be considering, “Gary, this isn’t simply unlawful that is harmful!”. To which I’d say, “Sure, you might be right. That is harmful, not simply to the drivers, however everybody else on the highway.”

Many individuals on this very small neighborhood assume that the interval of document makes an attempt may need ended.  It isn’t a perform of the automobile’s velocity, the gas tanks’ measurement, or the police avoiding electronics. 

There merely will most likely by no means be situations once more like there have been from March to Could 2020. If the document can’t be damaged, most individuals merely gained’t strive. 

One space of latest Cannonball Run document makes an attempt will most likely come from electrical autos. The most important distinction between an electrical try from a standard gas try can be recharging. You may put gasoline in a tank rapidly. Charging a battery, nevertheless, would take extra time. 

The present digital automobile document is 42 hours and 52 minutes, set in October 2021 by Ryan Levenson and Will Wooden, driving a 2021 Tesla Mannequin S Lengthy Vary. The one modification they made to the automobile was the tires.

I assume that somebody will modify an electrical automobile with an enormous further battery such that it will possibly go the complete distance with out charging, and that may shatter the present document, even when it have been to go the velocity restrict. 

My curiosity on this story really got here from planning I did for the same coast-to-coast document try. Nonetheless, for this try, it wasn’t driving from New York to Los Angeles.

It could be driving the 5,490 miles or 8,835 kilometers from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, to Key West, Floria. 

This is able to be a very totally different type of document. It isn’t nearly quick vehicles, as a lot of this journey would happen in distant areas, together with a number of hundred miles of the Dalton Freeway in Alaska, which is nothing however gravel. 

The present document mainly consists of going the velocity restrict the complete method.  

I don’t know if I’ll ever do that, but it surely has been enjoyable to consider and plan. 

The individuals who try Cannonball Run data are referred to as the ‘Fraternity of Lunatics.’ I can’t say I actually can argue with that description. They make investments hundreds of {dollars} into one thing the place official data aren’t even stored, and when you brag an excessive amount of about your accomplishments, you could possibly get arrested. 

Every part All over the place Each day is an Airwave Media Podcast. 

The manager producer is Darcy Adams.

The affiliate producers are Thor Thomsen and Peter Bennett.

At the moment’s evaluate comes from listener mccabe1965 over on Instagram. They write, 

Hello Gary.

After a lot looking by the huge sea of podcasts, I discovered Every part All over the place (EE), and I actually take pleasure in it. I’ve gone by making an attempt out a number of historical past podcasts, and except for yours, it was irritating. Many had hosts had an excessive amount of banter, goofing round, or their voices have been monotone and sounded just like the instructor from Ferris Bueller. Your voice kinda sounds just like the late Kasey Kasem. I’m in my automobile about 6 hours a day for work, and EE is at all times on. I began a few weeks in the past and am at present on ep 622.

I attempt to be a member of the completionist membership and await to earn the important thing to the Government Washroom. I couldn’t discover the place on EE’s webpage to present the star score. However now it’s a strong 5. And I’m looking with the assistance of Benedictine Monks and utilizing historic scrolls to seek out the fabled sixth star. Your subjects are nice, the data, the presentation…all of it are nice.


Thanks, Kevin! To seek out the sixth star, it’s essential go on a Nationwide Treasure-like search by the estates of George Washington and John Pershing. Solely they knew the key of the sixth star. I believe it is likely to be situated within the capstone of the Washington Monument or one thing. 

As for my voice, keep in mind when you go away a evaluate or ship in a long-distance dedication, you can also have it learn on the present. 

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