[10] Cross Country Bmw Making Today Talks

Alex Roy has a crazy dream: to beat the legendary Cannonball Run record by crossing the country in under 32 hours and 7 minutes. Floor it!

Photo: Brian Finke

And so the clock starts and the taillights flare, and they're off again, strapped down, fueled up, and bound on an outlaw enterprise with 2,795 miles of interstate and some 31,000 highway cops between them and the all-time speed record for crossing the American continent on four wheels.

The gear is all bought and loaded. Twenty packs of Nat Sherman Classic Light cigarettes, check. Breath mints, check. Glucose and guarana, Visine and riboflavin, Gatorade and Red Bull, mail-order porta-pissoir bags of quick-hardening gel, check.

Randolph highway patrol sunglasses, 20-gallon reserve fuel tank, Tasco 8 x 40 binoculars fitted with a Kenyon KS-2 gyro stabilizer, military spec Steiner 7 x 50 binoculars, Hummer H1-style bumper-mounted L-3 Raytheon NightDriver thermal camera and LCD dashboard screens, front-and-rear-mounted sensors for a Valentine One radar/laser detector, flush bumper-mount Blinder M40 laser jammers, redundant Garmin StreetPilot 2650 GPS units, preprogrammed Uniden police radio scanners, ceiling-mount Uniden CB radio with high-gain whip antenna. Check. Check. Check.

At the moment, the driver and copilot of this E39 BMW M5 are illegal in intent only as they obediently cow along the tip of Manhattan, funnel into the Holland Tunnel, and spill out into New Jersey along a six-lane mash-and-merge. The speedometer reads a cool 60 miles per hour; the clock reads 9:12 pm.

"Unacceptable," Alex Roy says. The 35-year-old driver is addressing both the numbers and himself. Then, after 20 sickening minutes in construction traffic, Roy says it to the darkened highway, pushing up over 110 mph while his copilot squints along the scabbed blacktop for the deer that might end their lives and the policemen who might kill their trip.

The quest itself — to cross from New York to Los Angeles with unthinkable brevity — is a drive, yes, in the same way that the moon shot was a flight. This is an engineered operation that has been financed, scenarioed, calculated, technologically outfitted, and (via digital video and triangulated time-stamped texting and GPS verification and support teams on both coasts) will be monitored and recorded (for proof, posterity, and a documentary film).

[#video: Media Courtesy Gravid Films

For nearly two years, Roy — a pale, shaved-headed, independently wealthy ectomorphic veteran of the Gumball 3000 road rally — has obsessed sleeplessly over every detail and thrown money at every possible electronic connivance. His mission is intended as a triumph of the mind over the base adrenal impulses of common speeders. His route is nothing like the careless line a spring-breaker might plot across a Rand McNally — it's a painstakingly GPS-mapped and Google Earth-practiced manifest desti-document, waypointed mile by mile for detours, construction, and speed traps.

White lines scroll through the windshield and mile markers tick past the tires as Roy flips a series of toggles on the center console, killing the brake lights (to prevent telltale flashes if he needs to slow for sudden radar), then flips a few more to illuminate the cockpit with night-vision-friendly red LEDs. The cockpit glows like a submarine at battle stations. Now Roy punches up the digital codes corresponding to the New Jersey State Police on the police scanner. The car fills with the coded squawk of emergency dispatchers, speeding motorcycles, and domestic quarrels.

"OK, scanner is live," Roy says. He hits another switch under the dash and a light goes green on his steering wheel display. It means that the vehicle is now traveling in a sort of force field of infrared light, a bubble that deforms the bandwidth of incoming police laser spotters. "Jammers are active," Roy says. "Now let's have the radar."


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