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Sunday , October 21 2018
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The Motoring Life: A Very Deplorable Dustball

This year’s Dustball 777 was planned to traverse a very exclusive number of teams from San Antonio to Bossier City, and finish in the diverse city of New Orleans.

Only 12 people were attending this particular event, boasting vehicles such as trio of Nissan GTRs, one Porsche 911, one 1971 Chevelle and a pair of returning Dustballers that decided to fly in from Minnesota and rent the biggest engined rental they could muster (which turned out to be a Lincoln).

Driver Meeting: Wed, Nov. 9th – 8:30pm – San Antonio, TX
20161110_082422The driver meeting was merely a formality and more of a group of friends that wanted to go out together one night, as all but one team were either veterans or returning Dustballers.

Many other Dustballers that live in the San Antonio area decided to come out and show support and visit with the teams during the evening get together. After a short evening, most of us decided to call it a night and head to bed.

Of course being the organizer for this event and sole staff member in attendance, I had plenty of things still to do, finally calling it a night after 2:30am.

Day One: Thurs, Nov. 10th – 8:00am – San Antonio, TX to Bossier City, LA
My alarm went off at 6:00am, and the initial grogginess made me question my whereabouts. After realizing where I was, I jumped out of 20161110_141948bed and prepared for the day. In the back of my mind I was thinking that I had better get it together if this is how the first morning is already going.

I packed my things and went down to the car to prepare for the day. Grabbed a quick bite, go juice and slapped the stickers on the partially-clean 911. Arriving at the start, I was only a few minutes early but started to wonder if I gave the correct start time/location as several arrived slightly late.

The route eventually lead us to some amazing roads just East of Austin, TX that were not only empty, but chocked full of tight turns, twists and healthy elevation changes that made even the driver gulp a few times.

After the first fuel stop I started noticing Trump/Pence stickers appearing on the cars, and eventually a full sized “Make America Great Again” Trump flag proudly waving from the back of one of the GTRs at speed. Being less than 36 hours since Hillary Clinton conceded the presidency, it was very fresh in the minds of all those around us, in all of the towns we drove through.

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Everyone on Earth knows how incredibly crazy the past year has been, regarding the presidential elections here in the US. And just how controversial it has been.

Compared to that number of people, only a handful truly understand the comic relief of slapping offensive stickers on the backs of other rally vehicles.

This tradition is very prominent and strong within the Dustball Rally, thus nobody removes the stickers that their vehicles are graced with, as sort of a challenge of survival. Realizing that the tradition is only really known by a handful of people, some of us began researching20161110_134116 certain counties to see if they were recently won by “red” or “blue.”

Being such a currently divided country, and the violence that has been so widespread towards those that support Trump – we were actually scared of vandalism – but kept strong to tradition and left the stickers on.

In areas where “red” was won, spectators of the amazing vehicles decked out in Trump décor were cheering us on and making jokes about the election all in the same moments.

Being as we drove mostly through “red” counties, there wasn’t very much negative feedback (from what we could tell, anyway).

IMG_0408We stopped for lunch in one small town in Texas, occupying one of the largest tables in the place.

Shortly after our arrival, about 12 law enforcement officers based in the area arrived and sat at the large table right next to us. We are all very aware that they noticed the cars outside, and felt confident that we wouldn’t be harassed because a. We were only eating lunch and, b. Our cars boasted Trump stickers, and Trump is a large supporter of Law enforcement at all levels.

This same mentality actually won us a free police escort in Louisiana the next day – after we thanked the officer for her service to the 20161111_133546community, and understanding that it is truly not the as glamorous as Will Smith and Martin Lawrence (as well as other countless celebrities) make it look.

She explained that she got home at 4am from a night shift working a case, but still had to report back to duty at 8am for her shift the next day. We appreciated her service to her community.

Our overnight stay was very welcomed, at the Horseshoe in Bossier City. We were welcomed with a deafening fountain, excited valets and huge rooms.

After a short rest, we met downstairs for dinner and drinks together, and talked about the wild day as well as politics, other cars and whatever happened to the Chevelle team.

Day Two: Fri, Nov. 12, 8ish am – Bossier City, LA to New Orleans, LA (via Mississippi)
After an entire evening of all the teams trying to IMG_0409convince me to bend the rules and start at 8:30am, I was admittedly confused as to whether the issue was set in stone or not.

Didn’t really matter, as the sleep deprivation had caught up to me (as well as a fireball shot that somebody slipped in the night before) and I admittedly woke up late, showing up at the meeting spot 20 minutes after the posted time.

It was clarified that I was wrong, to this day I am still unsure as to whether everyone else was actually on time or not. At any rate, I distributed the packets and we were off on the adventure that Day 2 would hold.

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The winding roads were blamed for a few co-drivers that made extra use of plastic bags that were found in the cars.

Years ago we provided actual barf bags for some of the routes, but did not believe this particular day warranted it.

It was definitely a combination of the drive with the previous night’s shenanigans. Without a doubt, the roads were phenomenal containing plenty of tight turns, wide high-speed sweepers and long open straights.

Every single car was put through the paces as Dustball does without fail during every rally. My red calipers were now black with hints of red, and visible scrub marks began to appear on tires.

20161111_141614 As we neared New Orleans, Trump stickers began disappearing from the cars. At this point the game wasn’t as important as avoiding real property or actual physical harm.

The guys in the rented Lincoln said they had purchased the insurance and forged on the longest with Trump stickers displayed.

I think the thought of bodily injury lead to their decision to pull them off, as we traversed deeper into the dark blue areas that New Orleans had been recorded as, during the very recent election.

At this point, the rally was nearly over and not alcohol, but food was on everyone’s minds. One of the sponsors in attendance arranged for a 20161111_215803dinner in a private room with a balcony over looking the market.

20161111_213234In the bar downstairs, a group of Japanese filmmakers were shooting a film about their visit to New Orleans as a parade marched by outside
for a newlywed couple.

We were definitely in a different place.

As the night pressed on, each person had an idea of where to go and we all followed, one-by-one to share the same experience together.

Despite the small group, it was an event that tied us all just a little closer together, and we all cannot wait to see each other again on the next Dustball.

Join the Dustball Family!20161112_013817
We will see each other again, with many other Dustball family members at our next reunion next April in El Paso, right before we embark on a breathtaking journey together to Las Vegas, NV. Join us, and become a part of the family.

 

 

The Motoring Life: A Series of Fortunate Events – Part 1

The series I am developing as the weeks go have to do with why I haven’t been writing anything over the past few months — Dustball Rally 2000. Over the next several weeks I will be talking about the madness that entailed our main event this year, and much of the media that was made from it. This year’s main event ran 2000 miles from Las Vegas, NV to Vancouver, BC (yep — that’s Canada). Starting with our final pre-drive:

Day 1 – Vegas Baby!!

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Being a route that we had been working on for over a year, we were excited to finally drive it all in one complete week – to test for times, make adjustments and verify gimmick locations. All of Dustball Rally’s routes are pre-driven for absolute rally worthiness, as this is what it is known for.

We flew into Las Vegas, NV on a Saturday, to give us some time to get situated for the big drive.

We’ve flown in several times, but only one other accession had we taken the shuttle to the rental car terminal.

Many don’t understand, but the driver prefers if you allow him to load and unload the baggage, and you simply and carefully enter and exit yourself. This actually makes things much faster, especially when overpacked bags leave many travelers struggling to lift their bulging bags on and off the bus. We listened, and tipped $5 for his kindness.

Having previously made a reservation for a Mercedes with SIXT, I was pretty excited to get into it and really see what it could do. So excited that I got online and started reading about their company, including reviews.

Online reviews can be taken many different ways, but I prefer to heed warnings if the reviews are 50% good and 50% “stay away.” A couple of the reviews were pretty specific about low oil levels and cars stalling in the middle of Death Valley.

Then it popped into my head, wait a minute – that’s where we are going – and it’s averaging 120 out there.

Needless to say, we opted for Enterprise, as they had a deal that worked:DSC00197

  • Full Size Sedan – (Brand new) Dodge Charger
  • One way – Las Vegas to Seattle
  • Eight days
  • $372.10

You cannot beat that kind of a deal with a stick!

Big Hints: Always make several reservations months in advance, to make sure you get something, as we’ve been left in the cold before. A friend of mine reserved a single vehicle at La Guardia and when he showed up, nothing was available. He had to spend $547 on an Uber to the next town over for a wedding.

Also – always, always, always check again every day from five days up until the day you pick up your rental. You never know when a rental agency might need to move a car to a different city, and have a smoking deal available.

This was actually our first time renting with Enterprise, and the experience was nothing short of speedy and convenient.

Coming into the rental complex, we set our baggage aside expecting a wait, even though no customers were seen at the counter. I walked up, and before getting to the counter they asked for my last name. By the time I reached the counter they sent me upstairs to pick out my car.

Upstairs, there was another booth and upon entry an associate opened the next door for us and walked us to the selections available, literally not having stopped walking the whole time, until we reached the car we wanted, he even loaded our bags for us.

Having reserved with our Southwest card, we opted out of insurance as it is one of the many benefits of ownership.

We opted for the full tank prepay, so that we wouldn’t be struggling to find a fueling station nearby the airport, to insure a completely full tank. If you ever rent a car in Miami, the nearest filling stations to the airport charge upwards of $7.99/gal when the rest of the town is under $3.00.

We didn’t want that to happen again, and it worked out, as the fuel charge was 2.20/gal and prices in Seattle were $2.95.

exterior-view

Before we knew it, we were in the car and on our way heading to our favorite hotel in Las Vegas, The Palms Place Hotel and Resort.

This is a non-casino hotel although it has access to the Palms Hotel and Casino via “sky tube.” After having stayed in at least 8 different strip located hotel/casinos, staying off-strip is highly preferred. We do this for many reasons:

  • Reduced bachelorette parties
  • Far less smoke
  • Literally zero traffic to park, compared to the strip
  • Straightforward entry with little to no wait
  • Reduced bachelorette parties
  • Every room is a full suite.
  • When we go to the strip for a show, the cabbies know the shortcuts
  • Reduced bachelorette parties
  • Walking the strip is out of the question – do you realize it is seven miles long?
  • After a long night of hanging out, you take a cab to the front door and walk 100 feet into the elevator to your room.
  • You do not have to navigate a 500-yard smoke-filled obstacle course of slot machines, card tables, vagrants and bachelorette parties to get to what may or may not be the correct bank of elevators, and cram into one with 37 drunks, one of which may have vomited on himself or defecated in his trousers.

Many people don’t realize this, but I have to divulge: casino hotels are designed such that you never have to leave.

I don’t miss staying on the strip at all. Palms Place, Cabs and Uber make my Vegas stays far more enjoyable and less irritating.

Palms Place was initially built as condominiums, and when the real estate bubble popped, the units that could not be sold were converted into hotel rooms, complete with kitchenettes! Being located approximately one mile west of the strip, the room rates are hard to beat (because everybody wants to stay on the strip). Between all the above and great rates, everybody wins.

Also, the cars parked in front of Palms Place are always far more impressive than any other hotel in Vegas, that I have ever seen. This is truly a gem.

Our first night in Vegas is spent preparing for the drive, and admittedly getting a healthy amount of architectural work done because let’s be honest, it pays better than the labor of love we call Dustball Rally.

After getting through the important work-related stuff, I begin to review the route that is getting us through the next four days. I’ve got to say, this is probably the best route that a Dustball 2000 has ever seen, consecutively killing it with a complete variety of mind-blowing roads every single day.

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I feel just as giddy as a homeless person that found a paper bag full of money, and cannot wait to share our discoveries with the 90+ Dustballers registered for this event.

I finish programming our GPS with the final route selections and layout all the gear to be mounted in the car for tracking and recording our trip. No, I’m not giving away how we do it, remember those trade secrets – developing the perfect Dustball route requires….let’s just say a lot.

The following day we spend hours visiting several potential meeting venues for our team introductions and safety briefing. Most may expect us to be meeting at some fancy on-strip location, but we are known for doing the unexpected.  We finalize a deal with Count’s Vamp’d Rock Bar and Grill. Count’s Vamp’d is far off the strip, but is one of the most incredible concert venues that we have ever been in.

What’s better? The amazing professionalism of the staff and their willingness to help make our event one of the greatest possible. Next timep1140549224-3 we start from Vegas – you bet we will be meeting here again.

With the stress of finalizing a meeting place off our minds, we relax and enjoy some additional preparation time in our room, scouring lists for anything that may have been overlooked or forgotten.

With everything ready to go, we pack for the morning and go to sleep early.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – The Valley of Death!

 

The Motoring Life: El Paso to Durango to Denver

When planning a Dustball Rally, it takes a little more than a few clicks on google map as some might think. I know some other rally organizers that pick their destinations with a blindfold, darts and a paper map.

This sounds pretty exciting, and we are often tempted to do the same, but for certain events – such as the Dustball 1000 –  we make much more calculated moves. Largely because it always starts from El Paso — where Dustball originated.

Generally speaking, after 11 years of hosting drives and literally driving every road in the Southwest, we have a good idea of what we want to accomplish for each Dustball 1000 far in advance. It is simply a matter of how to do it — which probably confuses most readers — but remember that there are many trade secrets that Dusball uses, and others would love to know.

So it is now obvious that we won’t tell you everything, but dozens of factors are calculated when selecting destination and designing the perfect routes. We literally monitor all variable conditions, for advance years, so that we know what to expect in certain parts of the US. For the Dustball 1000 this year, the biggest factor was snow. Our old enemy…

Now I will tell a little story about the daily adventure that 50 people witnessed from April 26 – May 1, 2016:

Wednesday, April 26 – 7:30pm – Driver meeting:

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Teams from all over the US begin to trickle in, only three from El Paso, the remaining 20 from as far as Calgary, Boston and Orange County. We start the introductions, in which teams stand before one another and tell a little about themselves.

The number of new teams is unusually high, so the look of confusion on their faces is priceless — especially when a veteran team stands and looks around during his introduction, looks around and says “there are so many new teams, you all have no idea what you’ve gotten yourselves into.”

Other veteran teams laughed while the new teams looked around nervously, wondering what he meant.

Thursday, April 27 – 8:00am – Launch:

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Several cars were already lined up in the parking lot of the former Edge of Texas steakhouse, and other trickled in.

One team arrived without stickers on — the vehicle he planned to bring was getting a wrap installed with the stickers, but was incomplete in time. Fortunately we had spares and several people jumped in to help apply them quickly — as Dustballers always do for each other.

After a quick safety briefing and thanks to all the sponsors, we begin to hand out packets and the teams were off. The first stretch of highway was US-54, right through New Mexico, and the pack quickly began to divide as teams started searching for the gimmicks along the route.

This rally was for fun, so the gimmicks were not made to be very difficult but instead easy to find, to assure so many new teams that they were on course.

The route eventually lead everyone into Madrid, NM — well known as the town that ‘Wild Hogs’ was shot in. The lunch break here had teams  trying to figure out where they would end up for the night.

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After lunch, teams continued to some of the more scenic areas, crossing into Colorado and quickly navigating their way to the overnight stay.

Teams eventually found themselves in the small town of Durango, CO for the night.

Many got together for dinner that night, and went out for drinks and camaraderie together afterward.

The next morning was a late start, with the briefing beginning at 9am.

Due to a massive super cell in north Texas, moisture was being deposited into the atmosphere and by the time it reached the great Rocky Mountains, it turned into snow which subsequently fell upon every prime planned route for day two of the Dustball 1000.

Luckily, we had several more options and backup plans to get us into Denver one way or another.

We did lack some needed data regarding one route, but a navigator from one of the teams lived in the area and assured us that it would be a clear path to a better maintained route to the finish line.

Up until departure, teams cleaned pranks form their vehicles, pranked other vehicles and one even did a brake job.

Once we all hit the road and diverted onto the fun route, encountering rain, snow flurries and more. But once it opened up, what a fun time it was for the rest of the day.

After arriving in Denver, teams had just enough time to get cleaned up, grab a bite to eat and head down to the finish line celebration to meet and bond with the other teams, which are now all a part of the Dustball Family.

For more information on Dustball, visit us on the web at www.dustballrally.com and like ‘n follow us on InstaFacewitter.