I am currently sitting in a car barreling down the highway across Arkansas that is heading towards Texarakana. Once we get there, we have four challenges to complete tonight and another few tomorrow before heading to Austin to see which team takes home the trophy in this Cannonball Run meets Midnight Madness adventure.
Monday finally came around after weeks of anticipation. The day that the journey to SXSW would begin for the members of Team NYC. In order to give each team equal footing for the competition ahead, certain teams started a day or two early to get to a starting point that would give us the ability to travel in time with the other teams. Unlike our future instructions, we were simply told to go to Roanoke, Va. We tried playing with the OnStar and onboard wifi unit, but had issues with OnStar that kept us talking to them most of the day, but thankfully we were able to work them all out by the following day.
During our travel, we were able to reach out to people in Roanoke and set up a tweetup with locals like Jill, Ariel and Ben. They met us at the The Blues BBQ Co., where we had drinks and some amazing BBQ while receiving our message about the following morning. After dinner, we headed up to see the largest neon star in the U.S. Since we had gotten to Virginia a tad late, we were able to see it and the overlooking view of Roanoke and the surrounding cities. One more trip to the Texas Tavern for a little more food before turning in for the night, knowing we’d be heading out between 5 and 6 am to get to Knoxville, Tn by 11am.
A quick pit stop at Bojangles for breakfast on our way got us moving quickly towards Knoxville. We received a clue enroute stating “You May be the Nard dog,” which had us speculating about The Office references until we noticed the capital M and used OnStar to find Maynard Elementary School, where we helped out with Miss Marshall’s kindergarten class. While the kids were at lunch, we learned about the school, class and how Adopt-a-Classroom helped her class until the kids returned from lunch. Once they entered the classroom, we helped make paper sunflowers and joined in some of their math lessons.
Once we left those great kids, we had our first challenge, to create something to store momentos from our adventures. We opted for a school themed scrapbook concept. We hit the local dollar store for creative supplies and a supermarket to purchase an old school marble covered notebook. Foam letters, glitter and other flair were applied liberally and a video filmed showing off our creation and sharing some information we learned from Miss Marshall. The single notebook we made was almost 10% of her annual supply budget for her classroom of 22 children.
A trip to the venerable Chick-Fil-A to grab some lunch was next on our agenda before driving to Nashville. My first chance behind the wheel took us across Tennessee and receipt of our second challenge. We needed to create a momento of one of our stops. Although it was the only “official” stop we’d made, the impact of meeting those kids made such an impression on us, we made a storybook in our scrapbook representing the five senses and how we used them in relation to meeting the kids.
As we prepared to go to dinner at Drifters for some delicious BBQ, the third challenge came in, to create something using toiletries and things found around the hotel. We brainstormed ideas and drifted towards recreating movie scenes. As Trey not only predicted our meals with expert precision, we found the perfect movie – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Once full of meat, we returned to Patrice’s hotel room to cast the lotion, shampoo and conditioner in our cinematic masterpiece, followed by a longer night of sleep.
The later night of filming balanced out with the slightly later wake up time for our third day. We were able to catch some breakfast in the hotel and meet a few of the other teams who resided there the previous night as well. We needed to be in Memphis, Tn. by 2:30pm, so we decided we could leave early and check out Memphis before we needed to the fifth challenge, which we received as we were leaving the hotel. We needed to prepare a 30 minute presentation to teachers based on our knowledge. As we pontificated and decided to talk about privacy on the Internet, fate intervened.
I was behind the wheel and making good time to Memphis when I looked down at the console on the Equinox and it showed a low tire pressure warning on the back left tire. I watched on the control panel as 27 psi changed to 25 to 23. We were less than a mile from the next exit and luckily there was a gas station across from it. We pulled in with 10 psi left in the tire and hopped out of the car is time to here it hissing out the air down to complete flatness.
With 45 minutes to wait for a tow truck, thanks to OnStar, we hunted for materials for our fifth challenge, to capture the best bow tie we could before we reached Memphis. As Patrice and Rob found bow tie pasta, the tow truck came to take us to the local Chevy dealership. A hefty man named Bear drove us to Alexander Chevrolet and told us about Kentucky and Tennessee.
Once we got to Alexander Chevrolet, we spent time talking to the kind and helpful staff, who let us wander the showroom a little bit and build our bowtie out of bowties on the hood of a really nice 2011 Chevy Camaro. Since they wouldn’t let us trade the Equinox for the Camaro, we left as soon as they patched up the hole in the tire from a piece of metal that embedded itself in our tire at some point.
On the way to Memphis, I drove as fast as I could, but there was just no way that we were going to make it there in time to meet with the teacher we were supposed to meet with. The organizers gave us the opportunity to find a random person and teach them instead. We quickly reached out to our networks and found Corey, who met us at Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ, since Corey said it was the best BBQ in Memphis. Rather than teach him about internet safety, we felt that competitive eating would be a more interesting lesson to Corey, plus it would coincide with eating lunch and Rob’s commissionership of the League of Amateur Eaters.
After bidding good-bye to our latest new friend, it was time to get on the road and head to Texarkana, AR. We received a text with the sixth challenge, then received an email with the evening’s remaining challenges. We opted to skip ahead to a simpler seventh challenge, where limericks about Arkansas were composed and recorded in the car.
Once we reached the hotel, it was a quick jaunt to IHOP for a dinner of breakfasts before returning to the hotel to film challenge number 6 in the parking lot, composed of the a 10 point inspection, and a communal working of creating that video and challenge number 9, a top 5 list. Working late into the night to get our videos up.
As of this writing, two days are done with the final day to go. 3 challenges, 375 miles and 6.5 hours of driving to go before the final event in Austin, where the champion team will be announced. And Rob, Patrice and I couldn’t be more excited to see how it all shakes out.