The third day of the rally was going to be the worst. We had nearly 900 miles to travel, and our slow-moving follow car meant that most of the other cars would leave us lagging hours behind, limiting the exciting supercar scenery we would see. What actually happened though was that this final day became my favorite.
By the time the day was over I had new sunglasses, saw a Ferrari get crunched by a van , got stuck in an elevator, met some awesome famous people, met awesome people who weren’t so famous, and made some great new friends. I also spent some more time in the Lamborghini Gallardo and learned to play a Russian card game.
The day I was dreading the most turned out to be one of the most exciting. It just goes to show that anything is possible, especially when you are dealing with the insanity and excess that is the Gumball 3000 .
Starting the day in Atlanta was great for me. Being in the heart of the south, breakfast was well prepared and delicious. From bacon and eggs to home fries and grits, they had everything short of sausage gravy and I welcomed it after yesterday’s diet of gas-station edibles. Watching the two Russians inspect what I was so excited to call breakfast was also very entertaining. Being two women that carefully watch their figure and work out, they were unprepared for tables full of grease and meat. It was glorious.
After we stuffed our faces, we headed outside to pile into the van and I had my chance to chat with Tori Belleci of the MythBusters. As a not-so-closet geek, this was a great moment, and despite meeting so many cool people he was the only one that I took a photo with.
After chatting with Tori and packing all of our possessions into the back of the van, we piled back into the Sprinter and headed off on our nearly 900 mile journey to New York.
The trip was expected to be long and grueling, but it turned out to be longer, and more entertaining than expected. For starters, we have a large TV and an Xbox 360 system built into the car. While we had a hard time gaming on the thing, it played movies just fine. When we started digging through the various storage cubbies in the van, we stumbled across a DVD copy of the Hangover. That’s entertainment sorted for the next few hours then.
While the movie was entertaining, the long trip really gave us time to get to know each other better. One of my fellow journalists on the trip is a gentleman by the name of Stinson Carter. Stinson works for some of the biggest names in the business like Maxim, Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal. His assignment on this trip is to chronicle the experience of Gumball, and he has been doing interviews with teams and drivers. We spent time talking about cars, the world of excess that is the Gumball and some of the interesting people he has had the chance to talk with, including Mr. Gumball himself. Stinson is a mover and talker, and watching him work is incredible. But as you can see from my photo, he was far from the only one crammed into this can with me.
Situated directly behind me is the Managing Editor of Internet Brands Inc., John Coyle. While John is a big car guy, and most of our conversations revolved around the availability of black wheels on the new C7 Corvette, he also demonstrated a great passion about the automotive world in general. Seeming to possess a mostly jovial nature, he helped to keep spirits high during some of the longer rougher sections of the journey. He does spend a bit too much time buried in his laptop attempting to work though.
Then we have Caleb Garrett. A self-made man, Caleb is one of the most interesting and slightly eccentric personalities from the trip. He has a penchant for fast cars, questionable fashion and cancer causing substances, and he is known by many as simply "StuntMan." I have yet to meet a person with as much energy or enthusiasm for life as Caleb. When faced with time in a car with all of us, he suddenly decided to speak in a terrible Russian accent for what would be the entire trip. In the end, he had the entire van following in his lead. As a man who practices terrible accents in his spare time, I couldn’t be happier with this situation. Of course, the trip was not all fun and games. Just outside of DC we hit a rather tremendous bit of traffic, and we were now all stuck in a car that was barely moving. Caleb decided to begin a new rally called the Runball 3000. He was able to outpace our van for a while before he decided he was done hoofing it. You can see the video of this stunt below.
All in the trip was entertaining, but towards the end of our journey, the miles began to take their toll. We were hours behind schedule, and out of fear for missing the plane to Ibiza, Caleb left with the Lambo to rush to JFK airport, leaving us in the van far behind him. Then darkness of night crept ever closer and we began to feel weary. After nearly 16 hours on the road we had yet to reach New York, and we had all grown tired of our diets of Red Bull and gas-station food. The end was in sight, but we were having a hard time finding the energy to keep pushing. John decided to take over driving duties and we pushed farther through New Jersey into what would become the most entertaining spectacle of the trip.
As we approached Manhattan it dawned on us, that the girls had never seen the New York skyline. As the city glistened and sparkled as the building speared the sky. The two Russians had seen Moscow, but nothing prepared them for the enormity of New York. It was like watching two children stare in wonder at a great magician. The wide eyes and gaping mouths continued as we wound our way through the busy streets towards the W Downtown hotel in Manhattan, situated adjacent to the World Trade plaza.
When we finally reached the hotel, we assumed our journey had come to end, but were surprised to find quite a commotion around the entrance to the hotel that involved several police units. What was the cause of all the attention? Deadmau5 had a Mercedes Sprinter like ours following him that housed a film team. Upon arriving at the hotel, they clipped the front end of a Gumballer’s Ferrari F12 trying to park. The sound of crushing aluminum rang through the streets.
Fighting our way through the crowds we finally reached the hotel door and proceeded to check-in, which was on the 5th floor. As we made the stop on the fifth floor, the shudder of the elevator caused Margarita’s suitcase to fall over and hit the emergency stop button. No big deal, shut off the switch and open the door. At least, that is how it should have gone, but for some reason the door refused to open. So there I stood with Stinson, John, the two models and a pair of hotel employees, stuck in an elevator. Sounds like the beginning to a terrible joke, “three journalists and two models get stuck in an elevator.” One of the trapped hotel employees was a manager named Tamra, and she made a quick call to maintenance. We would be out in a few short moments.
Did you ever hear the one about “the best laid plans?”
We had been instructed to pry open the door slightly and tug on a metal release rod to open the doors. Victor, the other hotel employee, and I pried on the doors to get them to part a few inches, and Stinson reached in to unlatch the doors. It was going to be a five-minute process before we reached freedom, but the metal rod did nothing. What really happened is we accidentally pulled on the wrong rod, and actually got the door stuck. So we have 3 inches of freedom, and we can see the party happening on the other side of the elevator, but there we stood; frozen in our moment inside a tiny metal capsule suspended 50 feet above the Manhattan streets.
So then they called the New York Fire Department. Between the Deadmau5 crash and the NYFD coming to rescue my colleagues and I from an elevator, we had shut down around three blocks of downtown New York. I told you this was the most exciting part of the trip. After around 35 to 40 minutes, the fire department had opened the doors and we were greeted with cheers and laughs from the other members of Gumball who had gathered around.
After that fiasco, we were assigned rooms and it was decided that the first order of business would be to find food and booze. Considering it was now 3 a.m, all the hotel facilities had shut down, so we were left to fend to ourselves. I approached Victor who had already returned to work after the elevator incident and asked him where the best shady dive-bar was. He immediately pointed across the street to a dark building that had O’Hara’s written across the side. An Irish pub sounded perfect.
Like the rest of our journey though, we walked into the yell of “last call” and our spirits began to sink. The bartender looked at us and realized we were all slightly frazzled. He asked what happened to us, and we explained the day to him in quick succession. He laughed, and couldn’t believe that we were the elevator group. It seems everyone in town knew of our claustrophobic predicament. The atmosphere was great, the pub was mecca of sorts for members of police and fire departments; the walls were covered in badges of districts and precincts and fire halls across the country. I even found one from Knoxville.
Magically, last call lasted for longer than planned and the bar “accidentally” closed down more than an hour late. Most of the bar was interested in hearing our story, and we even had people asking to take our pictures. Suddenly we were true Gumballers.
It shows how everything in the world can be relative. This whole trip I could not believe I was in the company of these people and these cars. I could not believe I had become part of this cult-icon of an event. I felt outside the circle. Yet here I stood shaking hands and taking pictures with people as though I was a celebrity. To them I was. I am part of the Gumball 3000, I helped cause a multi-block shutdown in NYC, I had driven hundreds of miles in a single day with Lamborghinis and McLarens all to wind up in a poorly lit bar in the shadow of the new World Trade Center building.
I was unsure what to think of the excess and insanity that Gumball is known for. It seemed like people who were far too wealthy indulging in the act of ego-stroking among each other. Like so many things in this world though, the Gumball was what I made of it. It had become a trip of silliness, bonding and fun among me and my new friends. It was a test of my patience and stamina. In some small way it has helped define who I am as a person from this day forward.
We are all defined by our experiences, and I would like to think that the Gumball 3000 has helped define who I am for the better. I was hesitant about charging into the world with AnastasiaDate and their multi-colored Gallardo, but now that the journey is over I am not sure I would have done anything differently.