It isn't every day an automobile dealership who specializes in Porsche, Maserati and Jaguar challenges you to a race. Nor is it every day that same dealer seeks to give you the advantage: air travel. When Aristocrat Motors approached the Kansas City Aviation Department, operator of Kansas City International Airport (MCI), and proposed a race from downtown Kansas City to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, I was all ears.
The race will begin at 9:30am on Monday, September 26 at One Kansas City Place, the tallest building in Missouri. The finish line is underneath the Gateway Arch, a driving distance of 249 miles. Aristocrat's Kristopher Nielsen will be driving a snappy 2011 Porsche Panamera 4. My first leg of the race will be a scheduled KCATA bus from downtown to Kansas City International Airport. I'll have some time to burn while I wait to depart on Southwest's noon nonstop flight to St. Louis, one of five daily nonstop Southwest flights between the two cities. Upon arrival in St. Louis, I'll grab a cab and make my way to the arch. If both of our travels are smooth it should be a very close finish.
As a former airline employee (Network Planning at AirTran Airways) I've seen firsthand the decline in passenger demand for short haul markets over the last ten years. Some airline passengers have come to believe the "hassle" of the flying experience offsets the many advantages of air travel when their destination is less than 500 miles away. I'm of the belief that these perceived hassles are unfounded and that air travel remains the superior option. Despite the several hundred flights I've made I find myself regularly awestruck but the sheer miracle of powered flight.
As much as the upcoming race is about who arrives under the arch first (me), I hope this event reminds travelers just how convenient and incredible air travel really is. While my counterpart is forced to give his attention to dealing with traffic, navigation, and obeying the speed limit, I'll be focused on completing a few work projects, replying to email, having lunch and maybe getting a shoe shine. Of course I also plan to feverishly tweet updates of my progress using the #RaceAcrossMO hashtag and will likely have time for a game or two of Words with Friends.
To keep the driver honest, Kansas City-based Garmin will be placing several of their newest tracking devices inside the Porsche to provide real-time updates of the vehicle's exact location and speed. Kris will also have a passenger tweeting updates using the #RaceAcrossMO hashtag.