A New Cannonball Record

Less than 26 hours from New York to Redondo Beach, and he did it solo. That would be averaging over a hundred miles an hour, I think.

That’s the sort of thing I might have tried when I was younger and stupider. I did do a 24-hour drive thirty years ago, but not cross country. I started out in Reno, drove up into northern California, decided to go up and see Crater Lake in Oregon (which I’d never done), then came back down I-5. By the time I got to the Bay area, I decided there was no need to stop for hotel, since it was only another five hours to LA.

[Monday-morning update]

Seeing lots of stories in comments, so here’s one more, my funnest non-stop. I was about to graduate, and driving out to California in late August to do some job hunting. On US 40 in Colorado, somewhere near Steamboat, I saw a young woman hitchhiking. I of course picked her up, to prevent someone less…scrupulous than me from doing so (of course, I didn’t consider the possibility that she was herself a serial killer). It turned out that she was headed to San Francisco to see her boyfriend who was sick in the hospital.

I had been planning to stop in Salt Lake for the night, but she was in a hurry to get there, and knew how to drive a stick, so she drove through the night across Utah and Nevada while I slept. At daybreak we were in Hawthorne (Nevada, not California), and headed from there over Tioga Pass into Yosemite. We stopped by an alpine lake in the high country and had a picnic lunch, then headed down into Yosemite Valley, then down through Gold Country, across the San Joaquin and into the city. When we got there, she found a pay phone, and it turned out he was out of the hospital. I dropped her off in a parking lot where he was waiting for her, bid her farewell, and headed down to Mountain View, where there was a thriving spacer community based at Ames.

19 thoughts on “A New Cannonball Record”

  1. This… is astounding. I mean, he did this in a *rental* car, which he modded, drilled holes in, etc.

    So, the rental company may not have noticed the new holes, etc, when he returned it – but they very well might now.

    Then, there’s the little issue of laws being broken, etc.

    I’ve always considered the cannonball run a fool’s errand, but this one seems worse than most. It’s just icing on the cake that this guy has done it before, too.

      1. Him. As for me, caffeine noticeably improves my focus and reaction time so I have learned not to drive long distances without plenty of it.

  2. Back in 1980 I found that I could drive I-15 from Monida Pass to San Diego in 19 hours.

    A couple of years later determined that the best way to cross Nebraska on I-80 was at night, because the rest areas were about an hour apart. Pull into one and snooze for a while, then drive to the next one and repeat. Suddenly at dawn you find yourself in Pine Bluff, Wyoming and it’s no longer flat. (Nebraska’s sole purpose is to keep Wyoming and Iowa 8 hours apart.)

  3. My personal endurance record of 1220 miles solo non-stop (other than for gas and bio breaks) from Massachusetts to Illinois in a little over 22 hours. I was in my 20s and caught myself asleep at the wheel twice between Columbus and Dayton OH on I70. After that experience I decided not to do that again. Lots of caffeine (coca cola I wasn’t a coffee drinker back then) at the truck stops along the way.

    1. The issue for me (forgot to mention) was the day of departure I had put in a full day at work and had started the trip with the rest of the commuters at 4:30 that afternoon. My plan had been to overnight in a motel but by the time I reached Cleveland I was wide awake and didn’t want to drive around searching for a motel room at 1am. So decided to press on…

      1. That reminds me of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic. He had spent a full day of preparation the day prior to takeoff, and intended to get a good night’s sleep. But he was so wound up, he couldn’t sleep – and wasn’t helped any by well-wishers knocking on his door to offer encouragement and advice.

        So he took off the next morning having been awake for over 21 hours, then flew 33 1/2 hours by himself.

        I’m told that he slept soundly the next night.

    2. I had a similar experience the first time I drove my first car, a 1969 Jeep CJ-6, from home in Missouri to college at Florida Institute of Technology.

      It was exactly 1,100.0 miles from the parking space at home to the parking lot at my dorm. I did that in 20 hours 30 minutes on the nose, including gas stops.

      The Jeep’s gas tank was under the driver’s seat, and the fill port was within easy reach. I had the rag top doors off because the weather was pleasant, so I didn’t have to get out of the vehicle to pump gas.
      And back then (1973), you could pump, then pay. The attendants would come out and get your money. Gas was still about $0.38 a gallon ($2.19 today, so $0.30 in today’s money more per gallon back then!), so my 10 gallon tank took no more than $3.80 to fill. And I never once got out of the vehicle, the entire trip.

      Driving on a steep down-slope through the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee in the middle of the night (speed limit 75 mph), I abruptly woke up to find myself closing with horrifying speed on the rear end of a semi. With less than three car lengths left, I managed to swerve around him on the left. Fortunately, we were the only two vehicles on that wide, lovely highway, because I didn’t have time to even glance in my rear view mirror.

      The adrenaline rush lasted right up to Valdosta, GA, after which I was merely wide awake. I never repeated that stunt. Waking a quarter of a second later, and I would never have pulled any more stunts of any kind.

  4. My longest more-or-less continuous drive was March of ’86, 1300 miles or so, Mission Hill in Boston to Sullivan Missouri just past St Louis. Moving to Tucson to work for L5 Society, in my pumpkin-orange ’78 Fiesta packed solid with my stuff, NO clue about efficient cross-country driving, and still in the age of double-nickle too, so no great time. Finished packing and started driving already pretty toasty late afternoon Friday March 14, stopped for a few hours outside NYC to bum dinner and some travel money from a sibling, catnapped whenever I started uncontrollably nodding off across Pennsylvania – I recall a blurry conversation with the PA highway patrol about, there’s a rest area two miles ahead, DON’T just pull over at the side of the highway – crossed Ohio Indiana and Illinois the next day, reached the Mississippi that night. Had never driven cross-country before, short on cash, and didn’t know how to pace myself, so just kept driving with occasional catnaps till I was ready to drop, then pulled over at a likely-looking motel. In East St Louis, on a Saturday night. Happenin’ party in that parking lot! Scared me enough about leaving all my worldly goods out there to give me enough adrenalin to carry on through St Louis to the first rural motel with a “vacant” sign lit I could spot from I-44 on the far side. Don’t remember a lot about the last fifty miles, or about the motel, beyond that it was in Sullivan Missouri.

    Made it to Amarillo Sunday, then Tucson Monday. Some minor miracles involved, looking back at how poorly that car dealt with a 30 mph headwind through much of New Mexico, and how much wheel-wrestling and lane-line guessing it took to stay on the road passing trucks in a post-sundown slush-snow squall (!) in southern Arizona.

    Reported in to work at 1060 E Elm Tuesday morning…

    Driven to the east coast and back dozens of times since, but never quite as much adventure as that first time.

    The best time I’ve ever made on a longish drive was Mojave to Phoenix, 440 miles, in just under six hours once. No outlandish high speeds, just as usual pressed as much over the limit as traffic allowed, and traffic was kind that day. Topped out in the 90’s between Indio and Barstow, hit no major snags elsewhere, and pulled into my driveway in Phoenix a few minutes shy of six hours on what was usually a 6 1/2 or 7 hour drive.

  5. I’ve done Orlando to Houston in one day, but that’s just under a 1,000 miles. But I bet that cannonball guy didn’t do it with a wife and two daughters in the car.

    1. Yeah, but did you have a dog in a kennel with his own little plexiglass wind screen up on the roof and have to stop at a self-service car wash when your dog, um, had an “accident”?

  6. Done a 1000 miles in a day more than once. Solo. Piloting a Dodge 1-ton pulling a 6.5 ton trailer.

    Kingsport, TN to Sioux City IA and LaCrosse, WI to Butte or Billings MT. Can’t remember which one right now. The first one I passed by four NFL stadiums along the route.

    1. I’ve driven 900 mile single days a few times, but I learned the hard way it wrecks me for the next day. (Day tripped to Mojave for the winning flight of the X-Prize back in ’04 – slept most of the next day.) Used to be able to do three 800 miles days in a row, but these days it’s more like 700-750 sustained. Not as young as I used to be.

  7. I was raised with “drive from home to destination” vacations, so I think nothing of driving 1000 miles straight through from Texas to Colorado.

    My wife has a rather different opinion.

    1. Western highways are different. Far less crowded, generally a lot straighter with a lot fewer interchanges and intersections to deal with. And, oh yeah, higher speed limits since 55 was put out of our misery.

      Boston to the Outer Banks, 650 miles, was an exhausting all-day drive through the entire Boswash corridor. A bit easier once you were finally south of DC – till then it was like driving in a pinball machine.

      Phoenix to Denver in a day, 850 miles, was far easier.

      1. Last time I did it, moving back to CA from FL, I noticed that I-10 in west TX is an autobahn. Eighty speed limit, with average speed of ninety, and good lane discipline.

        1. I-20 in west Texas also, 80 limit 90 average, though I can’t say I noted particularly good lane discipline. But a great road to make good time on. I usually cross Texas both faster and slower on I-40 – only a 75 limit, but less than 200 miles of Texas between New Mexico and Oklahoma there.

          Only time I was ever on I-20 there was a sad occasion, Aleta Jackson’s funeral in Midland a few years ago. I also got drawn in to XCOR matters again on that trip, a futile effort to mediate a bitter internal feud. No luck, too far advanced, and also soon fatal, alas.

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