Bloomfield man to ride lawn mower from California to New York

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BLOOMFIELD, NJ — John Zack of Bloomfield has never mowed a lawn before, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a cast member on “The Great Grass Race,” a reality game show that kicked off on July 10 and will air on the streaming site Menace Vision. Zack and his teammate will spend the next three months riding a lawn mower from Los Angeles to New York, only allowed to use their phones for maps. They’ll have to figure out how to get gas and money along the way.

“It’s something that seemed so crazy that I wanted to be a part of it,” Zack said in a phone interview with the Independent Press on July 9.

He and his partner will have to trade lawn-mowing services to people across the country for money, gas or a place to stay for a night. Lawn mowers aren’t permitted on major roads or highways, so they’ll be riding along back roads and through smaller towns.

The show is the brainchild of Denis Oliver, who was inspired by the David Lynch–directed movie “The Straight Story.” The 1999 movie is about a World War II veteran who travels across Iowa and Wisconsin by lawn mower to visit his dying brother. Oliver thought it was a good idea for a TV show, but on a much larger scale.

“It’s a way to show the community that in spite of the virus, we can still be together,” Oliver said in a phone interview on July 10.

A small camera crew will follow each team — there are six — on its 5.5-miles-per-hour lawn mower. The first team to get to New York will win a cash prize.

Zack’s main reason for wanting to be on the show is to say he did it. It’s also giving him a chance to see parts of the country that he hasn’t seen. Aside from a family trip to Las Vegas and a couple others to Florida, Zack hasn’t gotten a chance to travel much.

“I’ve been on the East Coast my whole life,” he said. “I was born in Allentown, Pa., and we moved to Bloomfield when I was 12. When we go through Oklahoma, part of me is hoping we see a storm. Not like in ‘Twister,’ but seeing a storm would be great.”

Zack got a job at Blockbuster after he graduated from Bloomfield High School and worked his way up into management. When the company closed, he became a general manager for Modell’s Sporting Goods. 

“I’ve only ever done retail,” Zack said. “So this is something completely different. Some of my friends and family were like, ‘Are you crazy?’ But maybe we can help people out who need it along the way.”