Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Daniel from Seville. Daniel Wonders, “What is a Cannonball run?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Daniel!

Have you ever been on a road trip? Maybe your family piled into the car and set off with the windows down and miles of highway ahead of you. How far did your adventure take you? Some road trips might last only hours, while others go on for days. In the U.S., many people dream of driving all the way from sea to shining sea.

How would you like to drive from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast of the U.S.? What might you see along the way? Would you visit national parks? How about the Grand Canyon? There are so many amazing sights to see!

It may be hard to believe, but some people have made this coast-to-coast trip without stopping to visit any attractions. Instead, they drove as quickly as they could over America’s highways to reach their destination. This tradition began in 1971 with the very first Cannonball Run.  

What is a Cannonball Run? It all started when the U.S. was considering a nationwide speed limit in 1971. This would have made it illegal to drive over 55 miles per hour (m.p.h.) anywhere in the country. Many people were against the idea, and some wanted to prove it wasn’t necessary. They set out to drive across the nation at a high speed and arrive safe and sound.

Journalist Brock Yates and three others set out from New York City in a Dodge van. They arrived in Los Angeles 40 hours and 51 minutes later. They had driven an average of 70 m.p.h. across the U.S. After this first Cannonball Run, Yates decided to turn it into a regular coast-to-coast race.

The race’s official name was the “Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.” It was named after Erwin G. “Cannon Ball” Baker, a race car driver who drove across the U.S. 140 times.

However, it became widely known as just the “Cannonball Run.” This was due in large part to a 1981 movie about the race. Starring Burt Reynolds and Farrah Fawcett, “The Cannonball Run” was a comedy. Many characters in the film were inspired by real Cannonballers, as the racers came to be called. 

After Yates’s first Cannonball Run, the race was held in 1972, 1975, and 1979. The official starting point was the Red Ball Garage in New York City. The finish line was the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California. The winners of the last official Cannonball Run were Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough. They made the drive in 32 hours and 51 minutes.

Why is there no official Cannonball Run today? Racing on public roads is now illegal in the U.S. Additionally, driving at the average speeds reached by many Cannonballers would break most posted speed limits

However, many car and driving enthusiasts take part in the Cannonball Run Rally each year. The official route goes through miles of beautiful scenery. It also informs drivers of great places to visit along the way. This rally is not a race, but is a great way to see much of what America has to offer.

Have you ever driven from coast to coast in any country? It may sound like a long trip, but many say it’s worth it! After all, you never know what you might find along the way.

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, C3.D2.Geo.3, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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