Some people like to travel in planes, some in trains, some by car, and some by foot. It’s really about getting from point A to point B……or is it? For some it’s much more than that. They prefer the fabled Cannonball Run! You might know the popular 1981 action/comedy movie by that name. Or maybe you’ve had a more personal experience with the run.
I heard about the revival of the Cannonball Run during the pandemic because it surprised many people that it was being run even in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic the record was broken multiple times, taking advantage of a reduction in both road users and law enforcement presence. I became fascinated by the story and the people involved in the adventure. I do enjoy the open road and driving, and I do like to run, but I still doubt whether I’m well-suited to join any Cannonball Run team!
Cannonball Run History
Cannonball Run’s history is about more than setting cross-country records. It’s about man and machine and our insatiable appetite to conquer the open road and the love of “the drive”. The Cannonball Run began as an unofficial, unsanctioned automobile race run five times in the 1970s from New York City and Darien, Connecticut, on the East Coast of the United States to the Portofino Inn in the Los Angeles suburb of Redondo Beach, California.
Vehicles are customized for a single purpose: to complete the Cannonball Run. The run is thought to be one of the great underground feats in American car culture. The goal is to do it faster than anyone in history. It’s unofficial, unsanctioned, and spectacularly illegal, which is maybe why the Cannonball had been a staple of automotive lore for almost a half century.
Cannonball Run Rules
The rules are simple: Drivers start in Manhattan, at the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street, and finish at the Portofino, a hotel in Redondo Beach, California. That’s 2800 miles. What happens in between is up to them. Not surprisingly, the race requires stamina, creativity, and a disregard for traffic laws.
Can Cannonball Run Records Still Be Broken?
It was thought that the record couldn’t be broken. Why? Two main reasons: too many cars on the road, and every innovation in engineering and technology was already in place during previous runs. It seemed the Cannonball Run had run its course and new records were no longer possible, however………….
The arrival of the coronavirus and the lockdown emptied America’s roads. Traffic is the most unpredictable variable in any Cannonball Run. During COVID it became a nonissue. The roads were clear. As Americans hunkered down, a group of Cannonball obsessives spotted a moment of rare opportunity. It seemed the record was there for the taking.
Learn more about what happened during the pandemic, the conditions for record breaking runs, this human interest story, where the name cannon ball came from, the history of its comings and goings as an event, and that it can even be done in a rental car!
As the article reminds us, “The romance of the American road trip is rooted in a simple, time-honored notion: Only by driving—ideally slow, meandering driving—can we fully appreciate the vastness of this country. Fly overhead and you’ll reach your destination more quickly, but you’ll also miss everything in between. The Cannonball Run flips that idea on its head, inviting us to see that even when experienced on four wheels, the country can be made to seem quite small, conquerable even—something you can wrap your arms around.”
Of course though, the Cannonball Run flips all that romance of the American road trip on its head. It’s designed to avoid spontaneity!
What Compels People To Do The Run?
Cannonballers call themselves a “fraternity of lunatics” and see the race as a last chance to be part of a legacy of exploration and adventure. “What compels these people to get in these cars and drive like madmen and then get out at the end and be like, ‘That was cool’?” asked Travis Bell, a longtime Cannonballer. It’s a good question. Maybe because so few have done it and there aren’t a lot of ‘no one else has done its’ left in the world.”
If you’ve had any experience with the Cannonball Run, let us know. Always great to hear from insiders!
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