In mid-August I got a text from my friend Franz Aliquo, asking if I was doing anything the next evening. I had some work to do, but he said that there was a seat open in his mini-van for Rental Car Rally, NYC to Paris! (…Maine). Rental Car Rally is his project along with his partner, Steve Bryant, that combines a road trip with a scavenger hunt across state lines. I missed last year’s rally to Montreal, so this year I made sure to move around all of my plans so I could attend!
We started in his apartment, where I helped pack. Rental Car Rally is described (by them, on their site) as Halloween on wheels. It is an overnight, backroads-mostly driving competition between crazily-festooned teams competing for cash prizes and a golden gas pump. It’s ballerhouse tits-out crazytown. This includes the fact that contestants are given boxes of horrors such as jars of peanut butter, ketchup, mustard, flour, eggs and fireworks. Upon which, someone at the apartment decided it would be a fantastic idea to strap fireworks to the eggs for maximum destruction (and the rule of they can’t be thrown at moving vehicles).
We soon walked to the starting line.
The idea of the rental car is that you’re going to be punishing a vehicle through travel, decoration, and the inevitable destruction by peanut butter, eggs and shaving cream. You don’t want to submit your own vehicle to this, so just rent one like a responsible adult.
There was a Dias de los Muertos car with LED candles attached to the hood.
Peanut Butter Jelly Time.
An English fox hunt.
Oh, right. You’re also supposed to be in full costume along with your car theme! Additionally, your team should consist of multiple people.
My photos are blurry and terrible because we started at midnight and the idea was to essentially drive for 18 hours straight, burning the least amount of gas, passing through all the checkpoints.
Our first stop was Kiryas Joel. It’s a Hasidic town in Orange County that strictly follows the Torah. The point was solely to find the sign and take a photo with it. We eventually took one with another team who eventually arrived (as we traveled with the creators, we did not need to hit every check point, so we skipped the first one, which was visiting the Gates of Hell, aka, where a lot of the Walking Dead was shot). The photo broke all the rules of the sign.
Following there, we went off to visit an abandoned all girls camp to disastrous results.
The trespassing was frowned upon by someone who was either a caretaker or just cranky neighbor who noticed our flashlights. Whoops. It was also the dead of night, so there wasn’t a chance of taking any long exposure photos while running from a shotgun waving old man.
For sunrise, we went to the ghost town of Pleasure Beach, Connecticut.
I’m on a beach!
Being on the beach at sunrise is kind of my favourite thing ever. It reminds me of an old expedition I went on years ago, where I dragged two friends with me to see the sun rise over Montauk in the middle of February. It was a blisteringly cold walk from the train station to the lighthouse, but when the sun broke the horizon, everything is just perfect.
Then began everyone’s most hated leg of the journey. Walking across a mile of seashell boneyard to get to the check point.
There were a lot of fucking dead things.
But the whole point was to reach this decaying theatre. It was almost fitting to walk across the corpses of a thousand sea creatures to get here. It was beautiful and so worth the journey.
Also while walk through, I found some cactuses randomly growing. I never even knew you could grow cactuses in the Northeast. Also, there were these berry/radishes that I thought looked neat but wasn’t allowed to eat. We were getting pretty hungry after all that walking.
So much walking.
When we all got back to our cars, they were entirely encrusted in egg, flour, peanut butter and shaving cream. We couldn’t see through any of the windows. I ended up sacrificing a pair of octopus socks to the cause so we could scrub the windshield clean. After googling up a nearby car wash, we crossed our fingers to not get a (second) ticket from the cops before we reached it. The man at the car wash exclaimed that “this is the worst case of egg I’ve ever seen.” Fantastic.
We had a quick breakfast & went to a lake where I could ride in a paddle boat and splash around in my bikini.
Also to creep everyone the fuck out with the Dead Ex Presidents team.
The delirium was really beginning to settle in, so we skipped to the last checkpoint (that we felt like going to), Madison Boulder. Madison Boulder is a big fucking rock. It’s the largest glacial erratic in the world.
Oh wait, let me give you some context.
It is a big. fucking. rock.
At this point, we were rather delirious. It was about 4pm, we had been driving since 12am and had not slept at that point. We had one guy doing all the driving and if we pushed ourselves, we could catch the tail end of the hot air ballooning festival.
Yes! It was the annual hot air balloon festival! There were so many gorgeous and brightly coloured balloons floating through the sky when we drove through Paris. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen in a while – and additionally, I’ve been crushing pretty hard on hot air balloons lately.
We got to the hotel and waited for everyone else to show up and check in for the final results. Since this was Official Business, I decided to wander off to the hot tub and relax. Hell yea. There was a party afterwards to award the winners of the rally.
We all filled up on delicious beers and regaled each other with tales of what happened along the way, comparing experiences and seeing who ran into the cops (everyone it seemed) and who got lost (many) and just how fucked their cars got (very). The winners received a golden gas pump. There was also a drinking contest where all three shots + the beer were consumed as quickly as possible. Fuck yea.
The next morning we walked through the sleepy town to try to catch the festival. It was… less exciting than we thought.
The carnival itself was pretty generic and dead. All the balloon rides required paying several hundreds of dollars and the only times were either starting at 7am or 5pm. Looks like we caught the return of the late balloons on our way in. Deciding that we had enough and that we still needed to get the fuck back home, we turned tail, grabbed some lobster rolls on our way out and hit the road.
After which, we slept forever. The End.
Rental Car Rally happens on both the East and West coasts of the US in the summertime. If you have a license (or know someone who does) and have a weekend to spare, I highly recommend it. And who knows, maybe next year I’ll see you on the road. Load up a van with sugary snacks and all the energy drinks you can carry and sign up! It is an amazing experience packed into a brutally (in every way) short amount of time.