Only Bonneville is Bonneville. But where do you go if you have a hunger for speed but not the time, money, or character for Speed Week? Provided you're very stupid, here's ten places to speed on the cheap.
So you've made the decision to drive your car as fast as possible? Fantastic! But you haven't made the deep personal commitment necessary to prepare yourself and your vehicle to the performance standards, and more importantly the safety standards, of the Southern California Timing Association? Magnificent! And you can't be bothered to actually travel out to upper Utah, even if you hadn't already missed Speed Week this year? Stupendous! Now that we've established your bona fides, let's take a look at where you can top out that magnificent machine of yours. Keep in mind that this is going to be tough –- what you and your machine need is a big, long, flat stretch of a suitable surface, and only an idiot goes all-out on something like a public highway.
Well, hell, you're an idiot right? These things are everywhere, just begging to be used!
Pros: They're usually in fairly good repair, well-lit, and usually come with mile markers. Long straight stretches are plentiful. Equipped with built-in radar-equipped speed-certification service employing remarkably professional uniformed men and women who will provide documentation, certify your top-speed run before judges, and in the case of truly remarkable achievements, provide you with limited accommodations.
Cons: Audience on public highways can be remarkably unappreciative. Fines double in construction zones. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Congestion too much of a problem on the highway? Do what our much-storied forefathers used to do: find a long, straight piece of backroad and mash the gas on the ol' Probe!
Pros: Less vehicular congestion than the public highway. Lots better scenery on which to become a thin red smoking layer. Out here, the ambulances are often helicopters, and helicopter rides are badass.
Cons: What traffic there is tends to be more substantial and includes tractors, milk and cattle trucks, and pickups. You may also hit deer, cows, raccoons, and/or possums, all of which are smarter and more useful than you are. Road surface can be iffy and seems to narrow dramatically at upwards of 90 MPH. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: geograph.org
Abandoned Mall Parking Lot
Whoah, that back road was like a tightrope when the ol' Celica got up there, huh? Luckily, retail has collapsed-this is why you showed up to Lidz last week and it was all locked up-and malls nationwide are going out of business, leaving nice wide parking lots like little Bonnevilles all across decaying suburbia.
Pros: Big, flat, and wide. Rent-a-cops have all been laid off. Lit at night, sometimes. The kind of women you like still hang out here from force of habit.
Cons: Not as big, flat, and wide as you'd really like, plus there's this big building in the middle. Real cops now watch the lot extremely closely. Lights are on big solid metal poles. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: camdennewjersey.org
Urban Drainage Facility
Okay, now we're getting somewhere! A huge ditch, like the ones you're always driving your Cavalier into, but paved! It's like they knew you were coming.
Pros: Is in a lot of cool car movies, like the one you think you're in. Banked sides will keep you inside, probably. In cities like L. A., they're huge. Sound carries nicely.
Cons: Flash-flooding. Mud. Once you're in, getting out can involve snickering guys in wrecker trucks. There's usually a yard-wide rut down the middle. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: lashp.com
Luckily for you, it isn't just the malls that are going under! Industry is collapsing too, which sometimes leaves really hulking factories empty-except for you and your Stealth, that is!
Pros: Loading doors often wide open. Machinery has often been shipped to China, leaving floor empty. Driving in a big building is just wicked rad, dude-bro. Harder for the Man to see you, even with his helicopter.
Cons: Machinery has not always been shipped to China, or if it has, may have left large holes in factory floor. Your loud aftermarket exhaust may shatter skylights, showering you with plate glass. Crashing into rusty drums full of old chemicals not as cool as in Toxic Avenger movies. Harder for the Man to find you in his ambulance. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Now we're talking. Asking around will often point you and your Geo to a paved, quarter-mile strip that's as bankrupt financially as you are intellectually!
Pros: It's a real racetrack, just without the mechanical or medical support equipment or personnel or any recent maintenance. Therefore, you are a real racer, just without the training or experience or safety equipment or anything.
Cons: You could damage what might be a perfectly salvageable racetrack. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: Yellowbullet
Have you seen that one foreign show where they drive on an airstrip? With the loud guy with no chin, the short guy who's kinda pretty, the smart guy with bad long hair, the silent guy in the white suit and helmet? You can be the silent guy in the white suit and helmet! Except you talk too damn much and you think suits and helmets are for losers.
Pros: Runways are often even longer than dragstrips, and wider too. There's probably runways going more than one direction, which is good because you get bored easily.
Cons: It can be hard to find them. The surface is often quite poor. You could damage what might be a perfectly salvageable airstrip. They're often Federal property, which could get you into brand new flavors of trouble. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: freeman.com
It's looking like the highway was your best bet after all, but it had all those pesky people on it. Luckily, there are highways no one uses, like parts of Old Route 66, or the Pennsylvania Turnpike, pictured here. As long as you can get the old Impulse over the dirt berms that some tightass put up, this seems perfect, right?
Pros: It's a highway! But with no cops and no other drivers! Truly this is heaven on Earth.
Cons: It still has hikers and bicyclists. Also, they stopped keeping up the pavement when they abandoned it. And depending upon the right-of-way's current legal disposition, you will come across park rangers, who may wear funny Smokey Bear hats but often have terribly serious attitudes, plus sidearms. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: pahighways.com
Okay, maybe you're not thinking right. Think! You've heard the Salt Flats were a lake, once, right? So you need, like, a solid lake. Therefore, this winter, you and the Justy will take a fast drive off a short pier.
Pros: Wide open. Good visibility. Interesting traction and slip-angle dynamics. Speedo can maxed out when car doesn't seem to be moving, for some unknown reason. Law enforcement may harass you, but mysteriously, there's a point beyond which they won't pursue, allowing you to think you've outrun them for a few seconds.
Cons: You will feel stupid explaining how you ran over a fisherman. You may scare the fish. You have no way of judging ice thickness, density, or structural integrity. Being trapped under ice not as cool as Metallica song of the same name. You will get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Maybe what you need to do is find a dried-up lake or something that could be just as good as Bonneville! Or maybe, in the absurd progression of poor reasoning common to persistent idiots, you've managed to talk yourself into a substitute that will cost you just as many resources as be the real thing.
Pros: Huge, open, usually has a consistent surface.
Cons: Not that common. Often already in use. For instance, this one in Nevada is called Groom Lake and is used to test military aircraft. Frankly, if you're the kind of person who would actually do any of this stuff, we really hope you do wander onto Groom Lake and get exactly what you've got coming.
Look, we're all for speed, but if you want to go to flat-out, then make the commitment to go to a racetrack, or even Bonneville itself. By and large, driving flat out anywhere else is just a good way to get yourself and others killed.
Photo Credit: Militaryimages.net