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A taxi ride to remember, from New York to Los Angeles

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Friends take taxi on cross-country trip
  • Two friends decide to take a taxi from New York City to Los Angeles
  • They persuade a cabbie to take the 3,000-mile trip for $5,000
  • In Omaha, the exhausted driver threatens to go home
  • Six days after they started, the three arrive in California

(CNN) -- Hailing a taxi in New York City is hard enough, what with fighting off other would-be passengers and getting the attention of a swerving, speeding cabbie.

Getting the taxi to drive you from New York to Los Angeles? Fugghetaboutit.

At least that's what the father of John Belitsky, a former taxi driver himself, said when he heard about his son's plan to pay a cab driver $5,000 to bring him and his friend Dan Wuebben from the East Coast to the West Coast in one trip.

Six days and 3,000 miles later, Belitsky put an exclamation point on the journey with an unadorned post on his Twitter page: DONE.

Writing that word might have been easy, but the trek wasn't -- at least for Mohammed Alam, the cab driver who left his crying family behind to endure several sleepless nights with a pair of strangers. But he made it, with a little help from his new friends.

One of them, Wuebben -- an English professor -- explained in a YouTube video that he didn't hesitate when Belitsky pushed what he "just thought ... was a cool idea."

"And so when (Belitsky) said I'm going to do this, are you going to do this with me, I kind of just said yes, knowing that John has a lot of ideas," Wuebben said. "I just like tagging along."

Belitsky, an investment banker, was motivated by a desire to pay tribute to his father. But he also admitted online to having Hollywood dreams.

"At the moment, the running concept is that we're going to take it to some movie people when we get there and see what happens," he said to a camera being held by Wuebben.

But they couldn't do it alone, not without a real, live New York City taxi driver behind the wheel. This was going to be hard, as Belitsky learned when he asked one such driver -- who rolled up his window, without bothering to answer.

After thinking they'd scored a ride with another cabbie (who agreed to do it, only to be rebuffed by his boss, according to Belitsky's Twitter post), the two friends found Alam at LaGuardia Airport, in the Queens borough of New York City on April 16.

The three went to Alam's home, so the driver could pack some bags and say goodbye to his tearful wife, child and parents. Convincing them that it made sense for him to go was the first, but hardly the last, major challenge for the Bangladeshi man.

"I said, 'No crying. I will be fine," Alam told CNN affiliate KUSA. "I'll come back very soon."

So off they went. Through Pennsylvania, into Ohio, then onto Chicago. Along the way, they recorded their observations on the ride in 140-character bursts on Twitter and using a camera they'd bought at a New Jersey Best Buy just before heading out.

By the time they got to Omaha, Nebraska -- Wuebben's hometown -- Alam was exhausted and ready to quit. He had driven nearly two days straight without significant rest, refusing to let Belitsky and Wuebben drive the cab because they were not properly licensed.

His family, back home in New York, still missed him and worried about him. Belitsky tried to persuade him to keep going.

"Alam is taking a timeout in my old bedroom, speaking to his wife, trying to get it together," Wuebben wrote on Twitter. "Everyone is very tired."

After a break, Alam changed his mind and the three hit the road again. They cruised through the Rocky Mountains and into Denver, and then a giddy Alam and Belitsky took in the view at the Grand Canyon.

By Friday, they'd finally arrived in southern California.

"I CAN SEE SMOG AND WE JUST HIT TRAFFIC!!! We are cruisin in HOV lane," Wuebben wrote on Twitter, as the cab rolled through Los Angeles.

Their mission complete, the two friends said they weren't sure if they would take the taxi back, across the country, to their jobs, their homes, their lives in New York. Alam didn't have much choice, though Belitsky insisted on Twitter that the cabbie "IS NOT driving by himself anywhere ... He will 100% have company."

For the two friends, the trip was an adventure, a dare and a chance to prove one of their father's wrong. For Alam, it was at times a nightmare but also a dream and the chance to make his mark.

"It's about the record. I want to be a part of the record," he told KUSA. "But, it's not money. I don't think about money, I told them."

While it started as his ideas, Belitsky wrote on Twitter that he believes the trip meant more to their new friend Alam than to anyone else.

"No one will ever understand how badly Alam wanted this," he said.