Have you ever seen a snail race? Change the scale of the track so that it crosses the entire continental United States and replace the snails with people on riding lawn mowers and you’ve basically got The Great Grass Race, which is presently on its way out of New Mexico.
The race, which launched from Los Angeles on July 9, follows a simple (horrifying?) premise: six teams of two compete to make the 3,000-mile journey to New York City with just a lawnmower, a trailer, and their own people skills. They’re not allowed to bring money, food, or gas, and must instead receive those as donations or ask for those things in exchange for services such as mowing lawns or performing other tasks they’re skilled at such as cooking or playing music.
The race (experiment?) was created by Denis Oliver of Neuville-les-Dames, France, for his streaming channel Menace Vision. (Get it? Denis … Menace. *Heavy sigh.*) Episodes of the show are being edited and broadcast for free on the website as the race happens. In theory, it’ll take them about three months to reach the finish line, where each team will receive $12,000. The winners, based on points earned in challenges they complete along the way, could win up to $100,000.
The lawnmowers, Craftsman T110s, have a top speed of 5.5 mph. At least through the Southwest, the racers are following historic Route 66 (much of which Interstate 40 parallels or overlays). By our math, with the pedal to the metal so to speak, it will have taken them at least 69 hours to get from one side of New Mexico to the other. In related news, we’re never going to complain about the drive to Albuquerque ever again. According to The Albuquerque Journal, on July 23rd, the teams were leaving the Laguna Pueblo, about 46.5 miles west of the city.
Part of the mission of the race is to bring people on the arbitrarily-assigned teams, as well as random strangers, together — a bold choice for something filming in the middle of a quarantine and in the wake of national social unrest.
“I wanted a show that everyone could relate to while also forcing people, including strangers, to work together toward a common objective,” Oliver told the Journal. “This long lawn mower ride to New York is a metaphor for our longing to bridge the tremendous distance we feel between each other right now.”