Common Tread

Los Angeles to New York in 39 hours or less

Mar 01, 2016

It’s 3 a.m. and you find yourself pounding a cocktail of Red Bull and coffee in a lonely desert cafe. You have 100 miles left to ride before your clock runs out, but your brain is playing tricks on you while begging for rest. If you have ever participated in an Iron Butt run, you have an idea of the personal hell which occurs at the witching hour.

These long-distance runs require riders to tackle a set amount of miles in a limited amount of time. In the end, you get a pin and a piece of paper announcing to the world that you might just be as crazy as you look. Carl Reese was after something more than a pin. He was off to set a Guinness World Record.

The Iron Butt Association encourages riders to play by the rules of the road and obey local traffic laws. These are the same rules that Carl Reese threw out the window when he crossed the continental United States in a record-breaking time of 38 hours and 49 minutes on a BMW K 1600 GT last August.

What has become known as the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, or Cannonball Run, for short, is a unofficial race from Los Angeles to New York City named after Erwin "Cannonball" Baker, who first completed the journey in 1914 in 11 days on an Indian motorcycle. Most recently, in 2013 Ed Bolian set the automobile record by crossing the country in 28 hours and 50 minutes. His heavily modified Mercedes CL55 AMG averaged 98 mph and hit a top speed of 158 mph during his journey. He had a second driver and a support passenger in the car to aid him in his effort.

It’s this fact that makes Reese’s run even more impressive. While Ed may have bested Carl by just under 10 hours, there is a considerable difference between one guy on a motorcycle and three guys in a car.

Reese’s record breaking 2,829-mile journey shattered the previous motorcycle record of 42 hours set by George Egloff in 1983. I was born in 1983 and I turn 33 years old this month. That is a hell of a long time for a record to stand unchallenged. This video serves as a trailer for what is to be a full-length feature documenting the efforts that went into the making of this record-breaking run. 

For those of you who want to set your sights on taking Carl Reese’s place on the top of the heap, consider his pedigree. This is not Carl’s first rodeo. He has set multiple records for completing the Cannonball Run, including fastest time in an electric vehicle with the semi-autonomous Tesla Model S P85D less than two months after tackling the motorcycle run with the BMW.

I once did an unofficial run of 1,071 miles in 23 hours from Denver to Truckee, Calif., on my Triumph Bonneville. Our own Kate Johnston set a record for being the first woman to complete the Iron Butt Association’s Ultimate Coast to Coast to Coast Insanity ride. I am sure plenty of you out there have your own glorious tales of mileage grandeur. Some are probably larger fish than others. However, nobody else can claim the particular bragging rights Carl Reese has claimed. 

I’d would recommend for anyone set on dethroning Mr. Reese to tackle a few solid Iron Butt runs before setting off across the country at 100 mph. Godspeed to anyone who tries.