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Fortunately the officer chose to take Dan's crack as an attempt at humor and let us go. Although he had spared us the agony of being dragged off to a justice of the peace, which would have consumed perhaps an hour, the incident had used up at least 10 minutes. "That does it, we've probably lost for sure." I said dejectedly as we pulled back on the Interstate. "What really kills me about a deal like that is the whole absurd logic of high-speed pursuit. If we are being unsafe at 120 mph, isn't he at least doubling the hazard by driving even faster than we are just to catch us?"
"It's simple enough," said Gurney. "Those guys are just like you and me; they like to drive automobiles fast. Imagine having a license to go fiat out anytime you wanted."
A smile spread across Gurney's face. "The cop was wondering how fast this thing would go. Let's find out." The Ferrari began to gain speed, whisking easily to 150 mph. The car felt smooth and steady. There was not much wind noise, considering the velocity. "There's 170!" said Gurney. The needle pushed its way around the big dial, then stabilized at 172 mph. Gurney laughed. "This son-of-a-bitch really goes," he said in amazement. "And it's rock steady." He took his left hand off the wheel and we powered along toward Los Angeles, the Ferrari rushing through the desert morning at 172 mph.
"You think we ought to turn back and answer the cop's question?" I asked. But our amusement from the 172-mph run was only temporary. As we slipped back to a more normal cruising speed, we both decided that the delay from the ticket had ended our chances of winning the Cannonball. We stopped for gasoline in Indio, Calif., where our general discouragement led to more torpor and lost time. Once on the road again, with the end in sight, we managed to perk up, drawing on our final reservoirs of energy. "Listen, at least we ought to try to make the trip in under 36 hours. If we can do that we can't shame ourselves too badly," said Gurney.
We were back in it again, running hard. To reach our goal we had a little more than two hours to run about 130 miles—practically all of it over heavily patrolled Los Angeles freeways. "You watch out the back for the Highway Patrol, and I'll run as fast as I can," said Dan. I turned in my seat, scanning the off-ramps and the passing traffic for the familiar black and white California Highway Patrol cruisers. Gurney drove through the building traffic with incredible smoothness, seldom braking and never making severe lane changes. We took the Riverside Freeway to the Newport, up the Garden Grove to the San Diego. Traffic was heavy, but we still had a chance. We turned off at the Western Avenue exit and bustled through three miles of heavy urban congestion, heading for Redondo Beach and the Portofino Inn. The masts and spars of the Redondo Beach Marina appeared and Dan accelerated the Ferrari the last few yards into the inn's parking lot. I was out of the car before it stopped moving and sprinted into the lobby, where a pair of mildly shocked bellhops looked up to see this unshaven, grubby form rush up to the desk. The clerk punched our ticket. We'd made it.
Our elapsed time was 35 hours and 54 minutes. What's more, no one else had arrived. We were the first car to finish. Unless Moon Trash or the Bruerton brothers bettered our time, we were the winner. Groggy and filthy, we staggered upstairs to a room to shower and shave. Suddenly we felt great. The tiredness drained out of our bones as the impact of what we'd managed became clear. We'd crossed the nation, a matter of nearly 2,900 miles, in less than a day and a half.
With the Pacific Ocean puffing a soft breeze in the balcony window, Dan ran a comb through his hair and turned serious. "You know," he said, "the best thing about this whole deal is the fact that we came the entire distance without bothering anybody. Nobody else even knew we were on the road."
"Except that cop," I mused.
"I don't count him. I'm talking about the average guys out there with their families. We did it all without them having the slightest idea of what was going on. As long as you can do something without endangering anybody or inconveniencing them, how can you say that something like the Cannonball Baker is wrong?"
Leaving that question unanswered, we went back to the lobby to find that the PRDA had arrived. As I had expected, they had been forced to make a fuel stop in Albuquerque. They also had engaged in a 200-mile duel with the Cadillac, running with it from Needles, Calif. to a point where they had sneaked away on a shortcut in Los Angeles. Their time was 36 hours and 47 minutes and they hadn't been bothered by the police. Nine minutes later the Cadillac thundered in. They'd been stopped in Needles, giving them a grand total of five speeding tickets for the journey. How had they gone so quickly? By running the car flat out between stops, they reported. The Cadillac had survived the trip without difficulty, save for consuming a quart of oil and evidencing some prematurely worn tires. They only faced one more problem: the owner wasn't expecting delivery of his car for four more days.