The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 October 2007

You can get there from here

And the guy who can get there the fastest might be Alex Roy, who in October 2006, with co-driver Dave Maher, managed to get from New York City to Santa Monica in 31 hours, 4 minutes, or about the time you spent stuck in traffic last week.

Roy has a book out, and I've been reading a piece in Wired (November '07) on the technical aspects of the run. For one thing, he scienced out every last detail in advance. The crossing of Oklahoma on I-44/I-40 westbound, a distance of 356 miles, needed to be completed in 3:57, which is a shade over 90 mph. Can you even do that on Oklahoma Interstates? Being the sort of person who crawls along back roads whenever possible, I decided I could not rely on my own experience, and therefore I consulted a local hotshoe. Said she, if you don't do anything visibly stupid, you could probably cruise at 90 or so. And sure enough, among Roy's spreadsheets, I find a list, ordered by state, of speed limit, amount by which you must exceed said limit before they can charge you with "reckless driving," and what he considers "safe cruise" speeds. Most places, it's 80 or 85; only in Oklahoma and in California (where 40/15 runs mostly through the desert, natch) does Roy consider 90 to be "safe." Inasmuch as he had to average about 90 for the entire trip, despite fuel stops and toll plazas, you have to figure that he exceeded those figures here and there. "And it won't work if he has to come through here at rush hour," the hotshoe noted. Sure enough: Roy's schedule calls for entering the state at half past eleven in the morning and being gone by 2:30.

Over the 2795-mile trip Roy used 151 gallons of gas, which means that his BMW M5 was getting around 18.5 mpg, not too shabby for a V10 going at speeds not envisioned by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is de rigueur at moments like this to remind you that this sort of thing is highly illegal, possibly even dangerous, and you should not try this yourself, especially if you're not as capable a driver as Alex Roy, which very likely you're not. And Jalopnik's Ray Wert points out that times, and traffic patterns, have changed since the days of the Cannonball:

The roads and highways of the nation were largely unpopulated at night and during most of the non-commuting day in the 70's when the first attempts at the "record" occurred. But as the population has expanded and the suburbs have simultaneously sprawled, roads are now populated at all times of the day and night. Regardless of whether that's a good thing — it's a fact.

Indeed it is. On the other hand, having observed at uncomfortably-close range within the past twenty-four hours the phenomenon of some asshat in an Explorer actually stopping at the end of the onramp, desultorily crawling up to sixty, and then exiting after 0.8 mile — the ignorant sumbitch could have made it faster had he gotten on the service road and stayed there — I'm willing to take my chances with a whole fleet of Alex Roys: at least they know how to get the hell out of the way.

Posted at 8:27 PM to Driver's Seat , Entirely Too Cool


A speed of 90 isn't TOO unreasonable. There are stretches of I-35 (like near Davis) and I-40 (Checotah to Henryetta and Muskogee Turnpike to Vian) where 85 won't even draw the HyPo's attention.

I would recommend against it in the construction zones, those are HIGH-DOLLAR FINES for speeding, especially THAT much.

Posted by: Dan B at 1:49 AM on 21 October 2007

"... roads are now populated at all times of the day and night."

That may be the case, but my lovely bride, who's done quite a bit of traveling over the last few years, would say that the quality of drivers is much better at night.

And oh, you idiot drivers, the ramps are for you to accelerate to highway speed before you get on and decelerate when you get off. Don't use the highway to do either as it causes an unnecessarily high pucker factor for drivers behind you.

Posted by: Greg Hlatky at 8:38 AM on 21 October 2007