Bun B is a busy man. A quick search of this publication finds him supporting the local music scene, doing his duties as an associate professor at Rice University, rallying over social issues and even receiving an official proclamation from the mayor of Houston. He is active in the local food-truck scene, is an expert user of social media and now hosts his own television spot.
But as much as he loves his city and its people, sports teams, music and food...sometimes a guy just has to get away. Reboot. Refresh. For the past two years, Bun has used the Gumball 3000 road rally as his retreat.
Gumball 3000 began back in 1999 when British entrepreneur Maximillion Cooper organized a road trip from London to Italy and back with a group of about 50 friends. The event is a rally, not a race...although keeping the speeds under the legal limit is somewhat difficult when you combine supercars with people who can afford to pay multiple speeding tickets or bail in case of arrest.
The appeal of such an event is obvious. Who wouldn't want to drive around in fast cars with movie stars and millionaires, partying at every stop, experiencing adventure along the way, living life in the spirit of Steve McQueen, or Lightning McQueen, or even Bo "Bandit" Darville?
This year, the rally began at New York City's Times Square on May 25, with pit stops at Niagara Falls, the Indy 500 and the Grand Canyon along the route. The Gumballers and their high-end supercars, ranging from hot-rod muscle to flashy Italian exotics, rolled into each city in front of mobs of fans, then partied early into the morning hours, for seven days and nights, for 3,000 miles.
Among Bun's fellow Gumballers were DJ Drama, the rapper Eve, Los Angeles photographer Estevan Oriol and legendary graffiti artist/graphic designer Futura 2000 (with his son, 13th Witness, and daughter, Tabatha).
I caught up with Bun in Las Vegas, the next-to-last stop before finishing the rally on Hollywood Boulevard. I flew in a day early, scoring a deal on a room at The Aria at City Center. I did the normal tourist stuff: Ate at a buffet, lounged around the pool and took in a show.
I followed Bun's progress on Instagram (username: TrillOG) and on Twitter (username: @BunBTrillOG). Team DeLaRon skipped the stop at the Grand Canyon, opting to start their Vegas party before the others arrived. After I picked up my official Gumball 3000 media wristband, I received a text from Bun with the particulars of that night's afterparty.
I arrived at the party a bit early, unsure of what to expect. What I quickly learned was that the Gumballers and their friends are an extraordinarily amicable set of people. They didn't know who I was, yet I was treated like one of their own.
I didn't immediately let them know that I was from Houston or that Bun had invited me to the festivities, but once I did, every one of them expressed their complete adoration for the Houston rapper. They recalled how he always made sure everyone was safe and taken care of, and were impressed with how, even in the smallest of rural gas stations and restaurants, Bun would stop and sign an autograph or take a photo with his fans.
That night's party (and Gumball 3000 as a whole) can only be described with one word: Epic. But not "epic" in the sense of "that burrito was epic" or "that parking spot I just got at Starbucks was epic," but "epic" in the way the adjective is supposed to be used, to define impressive greatness.
Yet it wasn't the private suite the size of a small apartment complex, or the open bar, or any other of the physical attributes that elevated this event to epic-ness. Bun summed it up best:
Pictures can't really tell you what it's like. It's not about expensive cars and parties. It's about the people you meet and the bonds you build on the road. I'm proud to be a Gumballer.
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Join us tomorrow when we follow Bun and the Gumballers to Los Angeles as they drive to the finish line on Hollywood Boulevard.