Newburgh to Milwaukee-Well Cannonball fans, it’s been quite an adventure for the 71 riders who started out on this transcontinental excursion. We’ve had wind and rain, a lot of tuff miles, breakdowns and excitement. As warned, our first three days have been long and difficult. Let’s try to get caught up:
The Grand Start was a great time at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh with an elaborate breakfast set up among the extensive museum display of all things motorcycle. A full crush of vintage fans came out to see the riders, wish them well on their journey, and enjoy the early morning energy and picture perfect weather. We dashed out of the parking lot and into the call of the open road. We were off!
Our day one was 210 warm and humid miles through the countryside of New York and on back roads into Pennsylvania. It was made up of great scenery along some seriously fun motorcycle roads. Sweep staff and riders got an instant opportunity to get to know each other as the breakdowns were immediate and passing riders took note of each other’s weaknesses. Some didn’t make it more than a few blocks from the museum before they were off the road and wrenching. The air of competition was thick as the men struggled to make the miles and by the time the pack rolled into Wellsborough, PA for the evening check in, they were ready for a little respite. All made it in safe. The evening mechanical camps of adjustments were mostly wrapped up before midnight.
Stage 2 was met with an eye on the sky since the weather was predicted to be particularly wretched. Wind, rain, lightening and hail were all forecast as riders in full rain gear struck out under a dark and threatening sky. No one escaped the wet riding unless they were trailered, and many were. Fortunately, however, the front moved quickly and the afternoon was dry, but the wind still caused some riders grief. As did the many magneto problems due to the wet weather. An issue that would continue to plague riders for days afterwards. Spirits were high and even though the sweep vehicles came in late and loaded to capacity, all were in safe by dark.
This was a bad day for Victor Boocock when his back tire blew and wadded up his fender. Rather than continue on, Victor decided to return home to California since “Seeing American from the back of a truck is not my idea of fun.” We’re sorry to see him go.
Other stories from our second day out included Eric Dunk being assisted after his primary chain snapped. A local couple stopped and helped Dunk by bringing him a chain, already sized and ready to slap into the primary. “We like to help,” the Good Samaritan shared. “Next time, we’ll be on the Cannonball ourselves!”
Ian Patton, #22 from England found himself being assisted by thoughtful locals who brought him out a chair so he could sit and wait for the sweep truck. Then they fed him refreshments; pizza is fine dining when hanging out in the back roads waiting for a lift.
We found a huge crowd of fans waiting at the hotel as we rolled into Sandusky. Riders were thrilled with the greeting and offered locals an opportunity to admire their machines, even allowing people to sit on their bikes and appreciate the history behind the dinosaurs. A booth where bagged meals were distributed to the weary warriors was in the parking lot and inside the hotel a mystery woman described to us as “Jessica in the purple pants,” bought 50 pizzas for the famished crews. The whole scene of people caring for the time travelers was heart warming.
We started Stage 3 knowing it would be an exceptionally challenging day due to the time constraints. There were 300-miles to cover and a date with the ferry that would not wait. We needed to get across Lake Michigan to arrive at the Harley-Davidson reception dinner and many of us were anxious to check out the displays since we’d never been to the famous museum. Therefore, there would be no time for tinkering with cantankerous machinery along the roadside. Broken bikes would have to be trailered and delivered with no delay. It made for a difficult ride for everyone. Less than half way through the route an oblivious driver made the notorious left turn in front of rider #40, Bill Buckingham which cast a pall over the entire group.
Being able to walk away from a crash is always a miracle, and Bill was one of those cases. He was transported to the local hospital to be checked but by evening he was holding court in the pit, with friends helping him put his broken bike back together. He rode the entire route on Monday. He was limping around offering to show us his massive bruises when we caught up with him. Considering they were all below the belt, we passed but having seen his crumpled bike as it was retrieved from the crash site, we were curious as to how he got it back together so quickly.
“Well, I had a friend who had picked up a basket case so he donated the front end, and we got a wheel. The handlebars are still crooked, though.” And the tank? We couldn’t imagine that it wasn’t leaking since it had a considerable crunch.
“Yeah that, well, a bunch of JB Weld and it’s good to go. It isn’t pretty but I’m running!! I’m gonna make it the whole way. You know, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my whole life. I am having a blast!”
And that, folks, is what this run is all about. Everyone coming together to help each other across these great States in the true-grit spirit of Cannonball Baker during the 1900s. We’re on our way…California or bust!