I saw a headline the other day that the cross-country driving record (aka Cannonball Run) had been lowered yet again. I refused to click and read the story. I see enough irresponsible driving on a shockingly regular basis when I venture out from my coronavirus home shelter and I don’t need to read the names of idiots who seek momentary glorification for their stupid and dangerous stunts.
Once upon a time, traveling as quickly as possible across the country was important, and newsworthy.
Think Pony Express. But also think how the telegraph negated the need for such in-person travel.
Think Cannonball Baker and the early cross-country speed runs that validated the capabilities of early motorcycles and motorcars, but even more, such events demonstrated the need for better roads.
Think a young Army officer named Dwight Eisenhower and the military convoy he led from East Coast to West Coast, again demonstrating the sorry state of American roads should rapid defensive deployment be needed against foreign invaders.
Years later, as President, Eisenhower’s administration would establish the interstate highway system, the roads on which even today many people commute to their jobs, on which merchandise travels from factory to store, and on which — alas — some morons see how quickly they can drive from coast to coast.
I am not including among those idiots and morons the likes of Dan Gurney and Brock Yates and those participating in the original Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, even if it was the stunt that inspired the recent cross-country speed craze.
It was nearly 50 years ago that Gurney and Yates drove a Ferrari Daytona from the Red Ball Garage in New York City to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California, in less than 36 hours. Do the math and one of the world’s best racing drivers and the editor of what was the world’s best car magazine drove cross-country in one of the world’s best automobiles at an average of 81 miles per hour.
It made for a great story, inspired a Burt Reynolds’ movie, and that’s where it should have stopped.
Alas, along comes the coronavirus pandemic, people are working from home instead of commuter-clogging urban interstates, and the YouTube nation thinks it’s prime time for posting videos of themselves racing from coast to coast.
But even Car and Driver magazine, the automotive buff book once edited by Yates, recently proclaimed, “Cross-Country Cannonball Speed Records Are Dumb: Car and Driver popularized the New York to Los Angeles speed run in the ’70s. We’re here to tell you it’s no longer cool.”
Not only not cool, but downright stupid.
The magazine noted that the recent practice of loading a luxury sedan with a trunk full of gasoline and racing across the country for the payoff of “a few thousand new Instagram followers” is pointless.
Not only pointless, but stupid, irresponsible and dangerous.
Racing on a closed track with others who have accepted the risk is one thing, but racing of any roads open to unwitting civilian motorists — and their families — is another, and it is criminal.
Consider the conflagration should such a vehicle with its trunk full of fuel be involved in a crash. Consider the sheer waste of fossil fuel for such foolishness in the first place. Consider that racing coast to coast is pointless and foolhardy in the internet age.
And how could you do such a drive and not stop at Cadillac Ranch or the Grand Canyon?
Indeed, the only attention the perpetrators of such stunts deserve is time in a courtroom and months of community service.