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March 17, 2022


It started with my youngest step-daughter buying me two shop stools for my 65th birthday. The problem was how to get the stools since she lives in Austin, Texas, about 1,000 miles away. She suggested we could get them the next time her mom and I “visit.” I like to drive, but even I thought a 2,000-mile round trip was excessive to pick up a set of stools for my shop.

But, the thought of a road trip got me thinking about a “bucket list” item that I have had since seeing the cult car-guy movie Gumball Rally. The movie attempts to humorously document the book written by Brock Yates, the former editor of Car & Driver, called Cannonball! In the book, Brock and his cronies, including Dan Gurney, race cross-country from New York City’s Red Ball Garage to the Santa Monica Pier.  

So I thought if we’re going to drive 2,000 miles, why not drive 2,500 miles and create our version of Cannonball. However, we would drive from the Santa Monica Pier to Lakeland’s “famous” Jones Garage, with a stop in Austin to pick up two shop stools. Plus, we would not be racing, just enjoying the open roads, and higher speed limits, in our western states.

The first challenge to this trip was convincing my wife that we should fly to California to drive to Austin and then back to Florida. 

My ace card, or cards was her two daughters. I promised we would spend the weekend in Austin with the youngest daughter and go to dinner in Jacksonville, Florida with her oldest daughter. It worked and she agreed to accompany me for a cross-country trip from Santa Monica to Saint Augustine.

We flew into L.A. about 10:00 pm, a few nights before the recent Super Bowl, which was poor planning. The airport was a zoo, and we had to wait 30 minutes for the hotel shuttle. 

My wife struck up a conversation with a young woman waiting on the same bus. The girl asked my wife for sightseeing suggestions. My wife shared that we weren’t from L.A., that we lived in Florida. The girl then asked what our plans were in L.A. My wife confused the girl when she shared that we had flown there just to drive back to Florida. 

We finally got to the hotel around 11:00 pm, I was worried about getting our rental car in the morning so I asked the bus driver about getting to Budget Rental Car. He frowned and shared that with Super Bowl fans in town, it could take two hours to return to LAX and then take the bus to Budget. Then he stated, “or you could walk there” and pointed down the alley. 

This was our first stroke of good luck on a long trip. We’re in L.A., the second-largest US city, and the rental office was just a block from the hotel!! 

The next bit of good luck was the rental car. I had reserved a full-sized car for the trip, but, as we all know, you never know what you’re going to get until you arrive at the rental desk. The woman clicked on her computer for a few minutes mouthed “that’s not available.”

I began to worry. Finally, she presented the paperwork and I asked what the car was. She shared it was a Chrysler 300. I thought OK, I can live with that. However, when I walked down the aisle, I couldn’t believe my luck. In the assigned spot, next to all of the boring cars, was an all-black Chrysler 300 S. It was beautiful and the perfect car for a long-distance road trip, with your significant other in tow. I loved the power, she loved the power seats!