Smokey and the Bandit’s Route

On January 15, 2012 · 13 Comments

Ah, the 1970’s, that cultural hangover when Disco ruled a world of polyester, when a sea of avocado and harvest gold shag carpeting stretched from coast-to-coast, when the CB radio craze allowed wannabe truckers to exclaim "ten four good buddy." A purely escapist movie dropped perfectly into that time and place, delivered with a black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am muscle car and an 18 Wheeler. Smokey and the Bandit, released in 1977, involved little more than a 28 hour round-trip police chase condensed into 96 minutes.

The Internet Movie Database was invented for readers who simply must know more, or YouTube for the more visually-oriented amongst us:

Got all that? Right. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and his sidekicks (Jerry Reed and Sally Field) have to pick up and deliver a truckload of monstrously awful beer to some rich guy with more money than sense, all the while being chased by a policeman or "smokey" in CB slang (Jackie Gleason). I know it’s crazy. Can anyone today imagine going this far out of their way for Coors? Talk about the triumph of marketing and advertising! Coors wasn’t available outside of a few western U.S. states at the time. Its lack of geographic ubiquity created quite a mystique during an era when domestic brewing limped towards its horrible nadir. Imagine a terrible time when people actually bootleged Coors beer because they perceived it to be the best thing available. Try not to shudder when you consider those dark days. Nonetheless it made a great premise for a pedal-to-the-metal action and smash-up flick.

It wasn’t my intention to focus a series of 12MC articles on roadtrip movies. I’ll reference a title on a page and suddenly it gets a bunch of hits from the outside world. I feel it’s almost a public service for me to provide further elaboration. Last time this led to my Thelma and Louise Route Map. This time my description of De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren as a possible premise for a high-class remake of Smokey and the Bandit leads me to address that topic as well.

View Larger Map

This article didn’t require the same level of thought or analysis that I discovered with Thelma and Louise, where geography served as an integral interwoven plot element. For Smokey and the Bandit, it’s all drive from Georgia to Texas, pick up beer in Texarkana, return to Atlanta within 28 hours and collect $80,000. It also has a happy ending. I’m not denigrating the movie — far from it — mindless fun and endless vehicle crashes fill an entertainment void. I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of mindless movies, this one included. I’m simply pointing out that the plot isn’t saddled with a lot of complexity.

The producers didn’t seem too concerned with feasibility, accuracy or complications because little of that mattered to the intended audience. It didn’t even matter that Bowie County, TX, where Texarkana is located, was completely dry during the 1970’s (it is considered "partially wet" today). Imagine if the movie strove for accuracy and the Bandit got all the way to Texarkana only to discover that he couldn’t purchase any beer. Now, that would have been funny.

The Bandit Run

View Larger Map

The movie invokes a certain nostalgic stirring amongst its loyal fans because of its feel-good nature. This resulted in The Bandit Run in 2007, a commemoration of the movie’s 30th anniversary. The Bandit Run reenacted the historic route from Texas to Georgia albeit at much slower speeds and spread over several days. Imagine the sight of dozens of classic Firebirds rolling through the southeastern states.

It’s an annual event now although the route seems to stray rather regularly from the original. I didn’t search exhaustively for every incarnation although I found several and they seemed to involve a classic car show in Braselton, GA (northeast of Atlanta) either as a starting or ending point. This is the location of Road Atlanta:

… recognized as one the world’s best road courses…. The facility is utilized for a wide variety of events, including professional and amateur sports car and motorcycle races, racing and driving schools, corporate programs and testing for motorsports teams.

I like the way that Google Maps marks portions of the track as part of the regular road network!

The Bandit Run will return to a Texarkana to Atlanta (well, Braselton) route in 2012. However it will swing a little further south than Burt Reynolds would have gone, stopping overnight in Lafayette, LA, Biloxi, MS, and Birmingham, AL, along the way. It sounds like a good time.

Smokey and the Bandit 2012

Geo-geeks can stop reading now. This part is reserved for the beer geeks (and I know there are a few of us in the 12MC audience).

Warning Massachusetts 500 Feet
Several annual vintages from my personal stash

I figure it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to remake Smokey and the Bandit because that seems to be the prevailing pattern in modern Hollywood. Apparently nobody has the ability to develop an original idea that will make any money anymore. That got me wondering about a brewery to serve as the underlying the premise. Obviously Coors won’t work anymore. We need a brewery that’s sufficiently coveted but large enough to take a tractor-trailer load from its inventory and not feel a pinch within its regular distribution area.

I’ve already mentioned Westvleteren as a European possibility although on second thought I think they’re probably too small. New Belgium in Fort Collins, CO might be a possibility. They’re based in Colorado like Coors and they’ve created quite a hoopla in beer circles as they slowly migrate their distribution towards the east. I think they may come closest to replicating the original idea. I’d prefer Alaskan (my visits) which now reaches all the way to Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, the Bandit would be in a world of hurt when he discovered that Juneau is landlocked and the chase had to move onto a ferry. Going in the opposite direction, east-to-west, maybe Dogfish Head (my visits) would be an option? It seems like something tailor-made for Sam Calagione and the publicity machine in Milton, Delaware.

Any other suggestions? I might turn them into a future article if we get enough good ones.

On January 15, 2012 · 13 Comments

13 Responses to “Smokey and the Bandit’s Route”

  1. Greg says:

    Maybe a Lebron James acting vehicle: King James, fed up with the constant bashing he receives from us Clevelanders, decides to drive up to the Great Lakes Brewing Company and steal their inventory of Quitness (an extremely bitter IPA which puns the old Cavs “Witness” billboards and which debuted a few days after Lebron took his talents to South Beach). I’m not sure why he’d need to dive it back to Florida, but massive plot holes are no obstacle to the movie industry.

  2. KCJeff says:

    If the trip begins in the south, it might be appropriate to head to Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewery and grab a truckload of Single-Wide and Double-Wide IPA. Great tasting beer with cool vintage trailer graphics. They would have to take I-70 east thru St. Louis and drop off a case at that “other” Missouri brewery to show them what great beer tastes like.
    As a child in the early 70’s I remember that anyone that went to Colorado had to bring back a few flats of Coor’s in their trunk. Just watch out for those Kansas Smokeys coming back. You could subsidize part of your vacation just by selling it to your neighbors.

  3. Dave says:

    Shiner Bock from central Texas, or Abita from southeast Louisiana are potential candidates, but their distribution is probably wider now than I think it is. (I’m in Houston which is the happy overlap between the two.) If either of those are unavailable in Florida, it provides a plot device, and the logical I-10 route involves several long viaducts over swamps, and a tunnel (in Mobile) with a sharp turn–thinking ahead for crash locations. πŸ™‚

  4. January First-of-May says:

    Funny how (according to the current map at least – no idea what it looked like back then) they had to take a serious detour to actually get to Texarkana πŸ™‚
    As I haven’t watched the actual film: were they supposed to go to Texarkana specifically? If not, their best chance was to get to just continue straight on west to Waskom, Texas, and thence (assuming current dryness laws) by either US-80 or I-20 (more likely the latter, but they are concurrent in Waskom and don’t diverge much in the next 40 miles) to Longview (which is still closer than Texarkana).
    PS: Now that I think of it, that IS the obvious route – just keep going at I-20 straight west from Atlanta and buy beer at the first Texan place they allow it (most likely Longview).
    PPS: And talking of oddities, I know that’s completely off-topic, but I really liked the weird border at Davis Bend, Mississippi. You know, the only place at the Mississippi River which has Louisiana at the “east” (left) side and Mississippi on the “west” (right) side – and also quite historically important (hint: name).

    • Rhodent says:

      The movie is on YouTube, and the challenge does specifically mention going to Texarkana. But realistically there’s no way Big Enos could have known whether Bandit had gone there as opposed to anywhere else in Texas.

      I’m not sure what actual legalities are involved in what they were supposed to do. They were supposed to buy the beer in Texas and then transport it. Assuming the beer was properly paid for including taxes, and the beer was for personal use and not resale, it might be perfectly legal to transport the beer from Texas to Georgia. That would be regulated at the state level, and I don’t know the individual laws in the three states (MS, AL, and GA) that they’d have been bringing the beer into. Of course, in the movie they actually wind up stealing the beer (the place they go to buy it is closed, so they just help themselves and leave a note to send the bill to Big Enos), which sort of clinches the illegality of what they’re doing. πŸ™‚

  5. You missed the obvious West-Coast beer: Pliny the Elder. Very limited distribution even on the West Coast, with the only other spot in the world it’s available in Philadelphia, I believe, due to a friend of the brewer living there and taking care of it in his stead, from what I understand. Routinely makes the top of the BA and RB “best in the world lists.” Our modern-day Burt Reynolds could be on the hunt for a couple of cases of super-fresh Pliny with the need to bring it back to Georgia within a quick turnaround to preserve as much hop quality as possible.

    Or, if we were to allow kegs into the equation, Burt could be after the even-rarer Pliny the Younger, only available on draft, so rare and highly coveted that hour-long lines form outside bars that are even RUMORED to be selling half-pours of the stuff. A bit nuts, even from a self-described beer nerd as myself, but that’s one of those things.

    Other possibilities? Three Floyds Dark Lord, Surly Darkness, Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout… the list goes on and on.

  6. Greg says:

    Not related, but as of now, Google Maps is showing boundaries for cities, counties, ZIP codes, states, and countries.

    • Greg says:

      (But sub-state areas are only shown when searched for specifically, only on map/terrain views, and only when not zoomed in real close.)

      • That’s exactly what I saw a few weeks ago. I wonder if this means they’re still experimenting with it, or if it’s rolled out for real this time?

        • Greg says:

          I guess only time will tell. A really cool effect of the highlighted borders they show is that claves are highlighted. Even small ones are easy to see, such as when one searches Columbus, OH.

  7. Lee S says:

    In the new version, The Bandit can drive to New Glarus, WI for Totally Naked. New Glarus is only distributed in Wisconsin, and Burt Reynolds posed for Cosmo back in the day…

  8. TB says:

    The movie is filled with inconsistencies. At one point in Arkansas, they talk about heading toward Fayetteville, a town waaaayyy up in the northwestern corner, pretty much as far in the opposite direction one could take to get from Texarkana to Atlanta.

    There’s also mention made of Deeson County, the jurisdiction of the sheriff who “sounded taller on the radio,” according to Buford Justice. There is no Deeson County in Arkansas, not even a Deason County.

    But that said, whenever a car is weaving through the interstate lanes at 40 MPH, I tell that driver to go back to Deeson County anyway.

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