We knew this crazy fly and drive rally from Maryland to Florida was a bit tongue-in-cheek, since there’s no even way to compare a Smart car with a Remos airplane. What we didn’t expect though was the Smart car would take the early lead.
As it turns out, a flat tire slows down an airplane as much as it slows down a car.
We were so excited when the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association asked us to join a fly-and-drive rally from Maryland to Florida for the annual Sun ‘n Fun airshow. We wanted to get a head start in the Smart on Saturday morning leaving the Association’s headquarters in Frederick, Maryland. We managed to hit the road well before the other team even loaded its stuff into the Remos GX light sport aircraft. But we knew in the end they would beat us to our first overnight stop in Williamsburg, Virginia, so we decided to see the sights and make some stops along the way.
We made it all of an hour before our first stop at the National Air And Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center aviation museum at Washington-Dulles airport. It’s an amazing building filled with airplanes of all sorts from the tiniest ultralights to the space shuttle Enterprise.
Unfortunately we had to rush our way through and hit the road again. Shortly after getting back on the road, we found out the guys in the Remos, Twombly, an editor with Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Flight Training magazine and Chupnick of Motorweek, hadn’t even left Frederick yet. They had a blowout while taxiing to the runway and lost time getting it replaced.
It’s a totally random thing to have happen, but it meant that we might beat them to Williamsburg.
With some extra time banked, we thought we’d push our luck with another stop, this time at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico. Lots of great history of the Marine Corps from the Revolutionary War through today. Walking through the maze of exhibits, you not only see history, you can even feel a bit of it walking into a cold room displaying a winter battle in World War II and, a short time later, walking out the back of a helicopter into the heat of Vietnam.
Getting ready to leave Williamsburg, Virginia.
Despite our museum tours and driving the scenic back roads through Virginia, Alyssa Miller, director of the association’s e-media, and I easily beat Twombly and Chupnick to Williamsburg. We spent an amazing evening at the Wedmore Place Hotel, where our host — a serious car enthusiast — treated us to a conversation dominated by LeMans, Formula One and Ferraris.
The next morning we loaded up the ForTwo for another day on the road. After our unexpected win on Day One, we knew it would take more than a flat tire to help the Smart. So as we departed the winery in Williamsburg, we had already decided that it was going to be the longest day of the trip. Why not make it even longer?
Be careful what you wish for.
We knew to make the next checkpoint in Wilmington, North Carolina, on time we would have to drive almost straight through on the interstate. We didn’t like either the “drive straight through” part or the “interstate” part. The tiny Fortwo is much more enjoyable on smaller, windy back roads than it is getting blown around by passing semis on I-95. Plus, there’s nothing much to see along I-95 other than signs for South of the Border. So, instead, we drove just a few miles south and hopped on the ferry in historic Jamestown.
Feeling tough in the Smart car
Waiting in line with a bunch of Harley riders, we got some of the usual “toy car” comments, but one of them wanted to sit inside, and even he had to admit it’s roomier than it looks. Though it turns out his Harley was a little bit longer than the car.
Off of the ferry, some quick calculations made it clear we were not only going to be way behind the Remos, we were going to be rather late for Wilmington. And that’s pretty much where we gave up all hope of that checkpoint and instead decided to take full advantage of being tourists on the back roads of North Carolina. We turned left for Kitty Hawk to visit the site where the Wright Brothers first flew on December 17, 1903. We knew it would add a couple of hours, but what’s the difference between really late and really, really late?
What we didn’t anticipate was driving by the home base for the Grave Digger monster truck team. After a quick size check confirmed the Fortwo is bigger than a monster truck tire, and Miller taking the Smart for a lap around the Grave Digger demo course, we added a third “really” to our late schedule.
The Fortwo attempts to crush a bus monster style
We were told to skip the stop in Wilmington, the airplane was almost ready to leave and we were still around five hours away. Our next goal was to make Dillon, South Carolina, by a 7ish dinner time. No problem.
We made our visit to the First Flight Memorial short, an impressive task considering the aviation force was strong. We were back on the road, checking the iPhone for a time estimate and it was apparent dinner might be late. So, for the first time on the trip, we stayed focused, pointed the Fortwo down the highway, maintained the posted 70 mph and headed into a setting sun toward Dillon.
It was after 9 p.m., we were still on the road and we had stopped checking for estimated arrival times. Turns out, you can’t be a wandering tourist and participate in a rally at the same time. Who knew?
Monday, we switched vehicles and head south in the Remos. The drive was more fun than either of us expected, but we were excited to hop in the airplane and explore the next several hundred miles from the air.
The good news for the rest of the trip is that our increased speed and ability to travel in straight lines should limit our roadside distractions and give us the help we need to arrive at the St. Augustine, Florida, checkpoint on time and get back on schedule. Though, there are some nice looking seaside airports that might warrant a visit …
Photos: Jason Paur/Wired.com