By John Coyle
Despite the debauchery of the flight, Gumball Air arrived safely in Scotland.
And even amidst the persistent partying, I was able to catch some shuteye—probably because I’m acclimated to a fair degree of degeneracy, but I’ve spent most of this week tired enough that I could fall asleep if I were being set on fire.
The bruising final American leg honestly made me a little anxious about Europe, but I was optimistic—the glorious bagpipes from the tarmac echoing in my brain—when we set out to the storied city of Edinburgh, an uncharacteristically short two hour hop from the airport.
And Scotland delivered.
The land of Braveheart grew more achingly beautiful with every bend in the road, and while their accents were practically impenetrable to my American ears, the people were unfailingly kind. When a lovely bartender near the Scottish National Gallery told me she couldn’t serve me a shot of Maker’s Mark because it was before noon on a Sunday, she radiated sympathy.
When I arrived at the checkpoint in Edinburgh, my buddy Stinson Carter from Maxim told me he’d gotten a hold of an Abarth 595 Competizione from Fiat, and offered me a co-driver spot. My absence would leave an empty spot in the Lamborghini for a couple stints, and I figured the Team AnastasiaDate.com support crew would appreciate some seat time.
I caught up with Stinson while the Gumball grid was leaving the city, and the Team AnastasiaDate.com Gallardo was right on our tail. It took us some time to get to the M1, and since we didn’t have a GPS, there was a little anxiety about exactly where the hell we were, but once we got to the freeway, the drive was fantastic. The vistas in Scotland are nothing short of magnificent, and it was dizzying to think that 28 hours previous, I’d been driving through America on the way to New York.
The Gumball 3000 is an alternate reality as much as it’s a road rally. The lack of sleep—no one on the team had gotten more than two hours at a stretch since leaving Miami—time and geographical displacement, along with the general lunacy of driving 800 miles at a time is simply too much to process. Stopping for fuel begins to feel like a visit to another planet. Out there in the regular world, it’s Monday, just another date on the calendar to tick off on the countdown to the weekend, but from the vantage point inside the rally, that plane of existence is as blurry as a picket fence at 150 mph.
About halfway through the trip down to London, Stinson and I switched seats, and I got a chance to check out the Abarth. I’d never driven any of the force-fed Fiat variants, and it didn’t disappoint. Like any Italian car, the radio controls were completely nonsensical—to use the auxiliary, select CD—and I think the wicked engine note could be louder, but overall the whole package comes together beautifully. The weight of the steering is spectacular, and the brakes had a great feel.
Hopefully the 595 isn’t offered with a slushbox because opting for anything but the third pedal should be a criminal offense. The gearbox is a delight, and even though I have kind of big feet, heel-toeing was a joy. Fuel economy was dismal, but in the spirit of the rally I was going as fast—or a perhaps a little faster—as my passenger was comfortable with. It was a good time to pull the “Don’t Worry, I’m an Auto Writer. I Know What I’m Doing” card, so I did.
Of course, other Gumballers—including Team AnastasiaDate.com— still passed us like we were moving in reverse.
In comparison to Scotland, London was a twisted hell of unmarked streets, dimwitted barricade attendants, and appalling congestion that made me want to re-fight the Revolutionary War. To be fair, England’s capital attempted to apologize by serving booze measured to the milliliter and being frighteningly expensive.
After a bare-knuckle battle to get to the Gumball festivities at Piccadilly Circus, Stinson and I declared defeat and drove to the W to crash. The lobby was jammed with Gumballers, and I reunited with Margarita from Team AnastasiaDate.com upon arrival. At this point, I was delirious at the idea of a reliable Wi-Fi connection and the prospect of an hour or two of sleep—but it was not to be.
It turns out we were actually booked at another hotel, and in true London style, no taxis were available. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to tell an exhausted Russian model wearing heels that she’s going to have to walk 30 blocks, but I still have a sunburn from the glare Margarita gave me. Fortunately, I was able to grab a rickshaw and we managed to check in just before 3 a.m.
Stay tuned for more updates from Team AnastasiaDate.com.