When I left off, the finish never seemed so far away. We were sitting outside the Bluesmobile on the side of I-70 behind miles of parked semi trucks waiting for the interstate to be re-opened. Not what you want when the clock is ticking! If you are just joining us, get up to speed by reading part 1 & part 2.
Just like our 2015 run in The 2904, things were not going as planned. I was ready to give up when it hit me. I’m in the Cannonball, dressed as Elwood, in a Bluesmobile. How could I give up? When on earth could I ever have the chance to do a Transcontinental run with Cannonball Record Holder Ed Bolian? Surely I could not convince him to do this again!
A New Goal
After an agonizing 45 minutes, the road opened and we put the hammer down. I needed something to shoot for now that the Cannonball competition record was not going to happen. The new goal? Beating the fastest time ever made from the Redball to the Portofino. The time, 32:51 minutes, set by Dave Yarbrough and a Jaguar XJS in 1979. Brock Yates’ last Cannonball Run. Surely that would mean something.
The St. Louis Gateway Arch At Daybreak
We hit St. Louis at 7:15am and we saw the arch in the morning sunlight. It felt surreal to be witnessing what so many Cannonballers saw in the 70’s. All the fastest drivers back then made it to St. Louis at sun up. The start of another long day and another 1800 miles to go!
As it got later in the morning we started to realize how fun this was going to be without A/C. It was hot and miserable. Whose idea was it to wear suits anyways?
Adventures in Oklahoma
I was hoping we could continue to make up for lost time in Oklahoma. I had purchased an Oklahoma “Pike Pass” to avoid stopping to pay tolls in the turnpike and knowing it is a desolate state we should be in great shape. I decided to take a nap with Forrest driving and Ed in the passenger seat spotting for Police.
Mid-state in Oklahoma while I was sleeping, Forrest came up on a white Chevy Impala. He crept closer and closer unsure if it was a Police car. After pacing behind for some time he decided to pass as both Ed and Forrest agreed it did not seem like a State Trooper. Unfortunately, during the pass he got a little too aggressive on the throttle and the car downshifted into 2nd gear just as Ed realized it was the Conservation Police of Oklahoma.
Forrest backed off the throttle and gingerly completed his pass and tried maintain a reasonable, “don’t get pulled over”, speed. After being paced by the Cop for a short time the red and blue lights came on. Ed woke me up to share the great news…
The officer came to the passenger door where Ed treated him with his Southern Gentlemen style. The officer curiously asked where we were going in such a hurry. Ed explained we were “meeting some friends in California” and continued to engage the officer in idle conversation. This seemed to diffuse the officer who was probably trying to wrap his head around why we were driving a Bluesmobile dressed as the Blues Brothers in Oklahoma. The officer then told us to slow down and let us go on our way without a ticket.
Forrest eased the car back onto I-40 and held the speed limit with the Officer pacing us from 1000’ behind for quite a while. This seemed like it was going to go on for a while so I went back to sleep. The new goal of 32 hours and 51 minutes seemed to be slipping away. It was so hot and sticky and I was exhausted, it was the only thing I could do to avoid going crazy.
Fuel Pump Problem Emerges
When I woke up in the back seat from a quick nap, I heard the fuel pump making a slightly funny noise. I looked over Forrest’s shoulder at the fuel gauge and saw it was VERY low. I was worried about the possibility of running the factory tank too low and the possibility of debris from the 42 year old fuel tank getting into the pump. I instructed Forrest we had to get gas at the next possible station!
Dead Bluesmobile In New Mexico
After the fuel stop at the West end of Oklahoma Ed took over driving. We managed another 40 miles or so but the fuel pump did not sound happy. Finally the car just shut off and we coasted to the side of the road a couple miles into New Mexico.
At 6:16pm with the engine now off, I could hear just how bad the fuel pump sounded. It was clearly seizing up from debris. Looking at the map we were 140 miles from Albuquerque on a Sunday night. There was no hope of getting a replacement part. We messaged the C2C Express group chat to let them know the predicament. John Ficarra was overjoyed as this might mean they could take the win.
Could this be the end? Were we ever going to make it to the Portofino? Was our time going to be in days rather than hours? At this point I was just hoping we’d finish.
I immediately got on the phone with some friends back home. Larry suggested taking apart the fuel pump and trying to clean it out. Forrest changed his shirt and got on the ground to begin surgery when I had a revelation. “Hit it with a hammer!” I blurted out. With one gentle blow, the fuel pump came back to life and sounded good as new. Ed turned the key and the car came back to life. We were back in business!
I jumped into the shotgun seat, Forrest jumped in back and we hit the road again after the 15 minute breakdown. A quick message to the group that we were back in the road netted us a response from John Ficarra of “I can’t believe after a complete highway shutdown and a seized fuel pump you are still going to beat us…”
A Classic Cannonball Problem
As the sun was going down I got to witness how the famous Cannonball logo was born. As you head West into the sunset at high speed it prolongs the sunset, making it difficult to endure. This is where the logo comes from, the setting sun and the straight stretch of I-40 ahead.
At this point you’ve been driving at high speed for almost a full day. Exhausted thinking about another 600 miles and more night driving ahead, you press on down the straight I-40 into the huge setting sun. While it was another challenge, I again felt connected to those original Cannonball scofflaws of the 1970’s as we endured the same thing they had 40 years earlier.
We Join Another Cannonball Celebrity Guest
By the time we reached California we were spent! Thankfully we passed right through the Agricultural Checkpoint going into California. I mean what could 3 guys dressed in suits, in a 40 year old Police car, at 12:30 in the morning, possibly be up to?
I was behind the wheel and was going to bring us into Los Angeles. Knowing we would be tired and knowing how crazy it is to navigate all of the different highways leading into the Redondo Beach we had a plan. Waiting at the Barstow Tesla Supercharger Station was non other than Carl Resse, Cannonball Motorcylce Record Holder and at the time, Electric Vehicle Record Holder, to lead us in.
As we neared Barstow around 1:30am, Carl hit the highway in his red Tesla P85D and waited for us to catch him. He then led us on an exhilarating ride into LA. As we moved from highway to highway leading to the Portofino, I was so relieved to have an escort. We were getting tired so trying to navigate this on our own would’ve been difficult. It had to look kind of crazy for others on the road as a red Tesla followed by a Bluesmobile went flying by!
As we got off the highway the air was thick with fog. At 3:00 in the morning thankfully the streets were a ghost town. Carl led us on the quickest path he could on the surface streets leading into the Portofino Inn.
A Big Win And A New Cannonball Record!
At 3:17am on September 18th 2016, we arrived at the Portofino Inn on the Pacific Ocean. Our official time: 34 hours 17 minutes. Not only had we won the C2C Express by a landslide, Ed pointed out we had just set what had to be a Cannonball Run Record for a classic car!
Everything was stacked against us:
Speed limited to 102mph
1 ticket in PA
45 minute road closure
1 Ed negotiation out of a ticket in OK
1 roadside hammer fuel pump repair
1 goal that turned into another goal
that turned into just getting there
that turned into a win
that turned into a record.
My Thoughts On The C2C Express
I learned even more on my second Transcontinental journey. Once more, I was surprised at how fast you can drive safely and without disrupting anyone else on the road. We had, once again, made an extremely fast trip across the country and adversely affected no one. No close calls or endangering anyone or ourselves. When you have a team solely focused on driving, this is actually a very safe way to travel. Plus, there are MILES of open roads with no one in sight where you can easily travel 100+mph without danger.
I also learned how much testing the vehicle beforehand would’ve benefitted us. The driveshaft vibration and the lack of knowing the fuel range of the car put a damper on our time. Without those problems and the 45 minute shut-down of the interstate, we could’ve easily been in the 31 hour range.
Ed was a great navigator and co-driver. He gave instructions on where to pass, when to go faster and really helped the driver to just focus on just driving. This made me faster and much more effective as a driver. Also changing drivers every 200 miles kept everyone alert.
Over all it was an amazing experience and I met a lot of great people. Doing a Cannonball dressed as the Blues Brothers was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I mean, who can say they’ve done that?
Will I do it again? You’ll have to wait and see!
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