Friday May 5, 2006

Gumball Rally: Day 6

The Oriental Hotel, Bangkok Thailand

2:54 AM

I’m now going on over twenty four hours awake and it’s been hectic.

I went to bed early on Wednesday night (before 8:00 PM) and popped up at 2:30 AM… It’s now 2:55 AM on Friday morning and I have yet to sleep. When we left the Amanpuri Resort this morning we left our vacation and relaxing times behind. It’s been full bore ever since.

We picked our cars up at the airport around 7:30 Thursday morning and hit the road out of Phuket to Bangkok. Rooftop was at the wheel the first half of the day and was moving fast down two lane highways passing cars at top speed. For a long time we were running behind two Lamborghinis and at one point Rooftop made a double pass on them in the JEEP. They soon overtook us again but they were pissed they had to do it. Rooftop gave them a “shaka” out the window as they passed and we all had a good laugh at that.

Our car was a real “meat locker” today as beyond our usual crew (Hawk, Rooftop, Ryan Young and myself) we had photographer Rich Van Emery rolling with us. Things were tight in the back seat wear I rode most of the day and the driving got pretty intense so we were all entirely focused on the road except Hawk who seems to be able to e-mail, text message and IM at any speed across any terrain without a care in the world.

Sometime in the late morning we came across a Lamborghini that had wrecked. The car was going 150 when it got sideways, went off the road, split a tree in two and landed 100 feet or so away. Somehow no one was hurt but the car was wrecked.

Our checkpoint for the day was at a bat cave in a rainforest. We ended up staying there a long time, checking out the cave and filming a few skating sequences. We were there so long filming that we were the very last car to leave and get back on the road. When we left the bat cave Rich took the wheel for a bit but I relieved him a bit down the road and handled the rest of the drive myself. I went over six hours straight and over three hundred miles.

But our adventure was just beginning. We got word that the clutch in Bam’s Lamborghini had went out and that him and Dunn were stranded somewhere in Bangkok. The traffic was so bad that they couldn’t maneuver through it with only a few higher gears available to them. So they pushed the car to the side of the road and ended up hooking up with some locals who didn’t speak a word of english but with whom Bam and Dunn drank beers and ate crickets with (for real) for hours at a road side stand waiting for us to find them.

And it truly took us hours upon hours to find them. We drove in circles on the outskirts of Bangkok using our sketchy at best satellite navigation, phone calls to the tech support people for the navigation company in France as well as e-mails and text messages from friends in the states tracking us on-line. Hawk basically ran all of the communications and navigation and I did the driving. Somehow, someway we eventually found them.

We got back on the road and guided them into the airport by hiring a cab to show us the way. Bam parked his Lamborghini in some random parking spot in the cargo area of the airport… seemed like a sketchy move and may just prove to be, we’ll see what happens tomorrow morning. At this point the JEEP was out of gas and apparently gas stations shut down early in the night in Bangkok and don’t open again until 5:00 AM. So, we had to run on reserves and I’m assuming fumes for the next half hour to the hotel. Bam and Dunn rode in our car, Rooftop hopped into a cab and Hawk got into an additional production vehicle that came to help us out and we arrived at the hotel at 2:00 AM. Crazy. It’s now 3:50 AM… I took a break for a while from writing this to eat some Pad Thai… my first meal of the day. Sleep comes soon but I won’t get much.

We are up early tomorrow, go straight to the airport where the cars get back on Russian cargo planes and the Gumballers get back on a hired commercial jet to get us to Salt Lake City.

My next post will be delivered on American soil.

— Mike V.

Wednesday May 3, 2006

Gumball Rally: Day 4 & 5

Amanpuri Resort, Phuket, Thailand

4:47 PM

Damn man, being on the Gumball Rally does not suck when you’re day off happens to be at the Amanpuri Resort in Phuket, Thailand. But before we get to that let me recount the past 48 hours.

After writing my last blog entry in Budapest I took a bath, ate dinner via room service and went to sleep. We were up at 5:30 the next morning and in the cars and on the road for Belgrade by 7:00 AM.

Leaving Budapest was a nightmare. We were stuck in the worst traffic for nearly an hour and a half just trying to get out of the city. The traffic was so bad we had time for Rooftop to get out of the car and film a line on his bike while we just sat there watching. As soon as we were on the highway though Tony opened her up and we were running.

At a certain point along the way the road became a two lane highway which made for some intense driving. We’re talking high speed passing between 110 and 120MPH. Tony was gunning it the whole way.

Just outside of Belgrade one of the other cars in the rally (a Rolls Royce valued at 1.5 million dollars) spun out and wrecked slowing everybody behind him down, we were one of the first cars on the scene and were delayed further due to the accident.

Driving into Belgrade we were forewarned to skip the checkpoint in downtown. Apparently Bam and Dunn had pulled in and started a riot. People crushed in to try to see them, touch them and greet them. Reports were over 10,000 people were there to see the cars roll through. We saw our fair share of folks all along the highway and on the the road to the airport. The last thing we needed was to get stuck motionless for 45 minutes with people crushing in trying to get a piece of Tony. Not with a plane to catch. Whatever the case, the rally coming to Serbia seemed to be a big deal.

In the early evening all the cars arrived at the Belgrade airport. The cars were loaded onto 3 russian cargo planes while the Gumballers all boarded a commercial jet hired to get us all to Phuket. It was a packed flight and we were on it for over 11 hours as the plane had to stop to refuel in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates half way through.

Needless to say it was a party in the sky. People were drinking hard and getting pretty loose. None of our posse participated. I tried to sleep through most of it until some idiot started bombarding me and Rooftop with random food items… lettuce, bread and an open salt packet. I had salt all over me. Damn, I guess I do have a bad temper (yes, I’m admitting it) because as soon as the salt hit me I saw red and wanted to strangle somebody. Seems silly and it is but when you’re just sitting there minding your own business and someone decides to mess with you like that you can loose perspective real quick. I had a few harsh threatening words for the guy which only sent him spinning into a rage, challenging me to a fight and what not and I almost let him drag me into it. Yea, that would have been real cool… me annihilating some random rich ass Euro gear head on an airplane. I chose to pass on the opportunity and put my headphones back on and tried to zone it out. Ten minutes later the guy was passed out in the back of the plane and woke up in Phuket with his own puke all over him. What a goon. He didn’t need me to kick his ass, he handled that one himself, perspective regained.

We arrived in Phuket this morning around 10:00 AM or so and made our way over here to the resort. This place is incredible. Tony, Bam, Dunn, Rooftop and I are all sharing a Villa here at the resort. We have three different housing units, a common dining area, entertainment area and our own pool. As soon as we got here we got right into our swim trunks and into the pool. We ate lunch pool side and then I went down for a swim in the Andaman Sea. After that I hung out in the pool with Dunn and Rooftop where we proceeded to crack ourselves up for upwards to an hour and a half. We were in the water so long that Dunn’s hands pruned up so bad they looked like mush… this only made us laugh harder.

Tonight will be mellow; dinner and a beach party for the Gumballers. The rally picks up again tomorrow morning around 7:00 AM or so and then we’re back at it.

— Mike V.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Gumball Rally: Day 2 and 3…

Four Seasons Hotel, Budapest, Hungary

4:57 PM

Just got into the hotel…

We left London around 5:00 PM yesterday (the 30th) and made an immediate pit stop for gas. We searched London endlessly for a gas station before getting a police escort to one. The whole process took much longer than we hoped for and delayed our trip out of the city greatly. After we eventually filled up, Tony was at the wheel and we rolled from London to the Channel Tunnel. At the tunnel we had a long (almost four hour wait) due to some customs issues with the French… We actually had to hand-make a front license plate for our car using athletic tape and a sharpie in order to be let through into France. Well, actually Rooftop made it — thanks Mike. We then boarded the train in our JEEP SRT-8 and took the 40 minute ride to France. From there we finally hit the road.

Between stopping for gas and getting held up at the tunnel it took us almost 8 hours to get to our first check point, the Chateau De Beloeil in Belgium. We met up with Bam and Dunn there who had been lost for nearly four hours outside of Brussels (wrong way boys). I took the wheel in Belgium and ran it all the way here to Hungary… about 15 hours straight, 893 miles of driving. — It felt good to do the miles.

Notes from the road:

Our car, the JEEP SRT-8 consists of myself, Rooftop, Hawk and our trusty cameraman, Ryan Young. Bam and Ryan Dunn (our partners in crime) are running in Bam’s Lamborghini.

Tony Hawk is quite possibly the worst human trash compactor I’ve ever witnessed. This guy put more junk food in his body than anyone I’ve ever done miles with. Over the course of the trip he ate several bags of gummies and chocolates as well as chocolate bars, potato chips, an Egg McMuffin, several cokes, truck stop coffee, energy drinks and other numerous junk food items. He put them away like they were nothing and couldn’t wait for the next stop of the car to do it all over again. And this from one of the greatest athletes to ever grace the planet… amazing.

We stopped to skate a natural cement half-pipe under a bridge somewhere in Belgium I think… It was about ten feet off the ground at it’s lowest point and only about 4 or 5 feet wide. Bam, Tony and myself all climbed up on it and attempted to ride it. I say attempted because none of us could get anything going on it. It was about 4 AM… it was freezing cold and everyone was already a bit wired yet weary from the road. However, Mike Escimilia (Rooftop) climbed up on it and got busy on it on his bike, at least compared to us. Only skate stop of this leg of the trip and absolutely no usable footage… bummer.

The fastest I had ever driven in a car previous to last night / this morning was 120 MPH. As a passenger I eclipsed that early in Belgium when Tony got the SRT up to 140. Later when I took over the driving duties I hit 120 easily and then pushed her all the way up to 150 MPH. For several hours after hitting 150 our cruising speed through most of Germany was between 100 and 120 MPH. After a while 120 MPH felt like 65.

We were stopped many times by the authorities along the way for various reasons but avoided any tickets until we got to our second checkpoint in Vienna, Austria. After parking the car to get breakfast the cops milling around in the parking lot walked up to me, asked me for my license and then hit me with a $500.00 speeding ticket. They said that they had me on radar coming into the Vienna area a half an hour before and that I was clocked doing 90 KPH (kilometers per hour) in a 75 KPH zone… which is nothing. Seemed a bit fishy to me but I paid it without any protest and we got back on our way.

Bam and Dunn were pulled over repeatedly… I don’t know how many total tickets they got but they definitely caught the attention of the authorities in every country we rolled through. It was a fun trip rolling through Europe with those guys. We ran with them all of the way from Belgium to Vienna but after Vienna they pulled ahead and we ran the last leg on our own.

That’s it for now… I’m in desperate need of a shower and sleep. I’ll check in again next chance I get.

— Mike V.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Gumball Rally: Day 1

Traflager Hotel, London

Just after mid-night here in London. I left Los Angeles on Friday evening and have been on the move ever since. Got into London today just after noon. Checked into the hotel here. Registered for the Rally… Hooked up with Hawk, Bam, Dunn and Rooftop. Had a mellow skate session with Hawk at the Playstation Park here in London. Went to the premiere of a movie about the 2004 Gumball Rally tonight. Grabbed dinner with Hawk and Rooftop. Got back to the hotel… loud music, cigarette smoke and party scene. Hit the stairs up to the 6th floor and am about to shut her down for the night. — Man, it feels good to be out here. This is going to be a fun ride and I’m psyched for it. I just can’t wait to hit the road and start getting some miles or should I say kilometers under my belt. I’m rolling with Hawk and Rooftop in a JEEP Grand Cherokee SRT-8. This thing kicks off tomorrow late afternoon / early evening. Until then it’s just killing time. For now, sleep.

-Mike V

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