Note: The coast-to-coast Motorcycle Cannonball endurance run begins this week, and you can follow this historic ride across America right here. AMCA magazine editors Bill Wood and Larry Lawrence will be posting live updates from the road each evening (OK, sometimes early the next morning—the days can get pretty long!) right here on the AMCA website.
Below is a preview of this year's ride. Check back starting Thursday, Sept. 5, for more.
Let’s say someone planned to put together an exhibit of more than 100 historic motorcycles dating from 1911 to 1928 and bring it to a city near you beginning September 5.
You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?
Well, here’s the good news. Jason Sims, the AMCA member behind the Motorcycle Cannonball endurance run, has done exactly that. And he’s taking his antique-bike show on the road to 16 cities from coast to coast (literally) through much of the month of September.
But there’s one twist to the Cannonball that no other exhibition of classic machinery can claim. In this one, all the bikes are ridden between stops, covering more than 3,600 miles in a road show that’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen.
This year’s Cannonball, set for September 5-23, will take 107 riders—nearly all of them fellow members of the AMCA—from Portland, Maine, on the Atlantic coast, to Portland, Oregon, a major gateway to the Pacific, on a route that will consist almost entirely of two-lane back roads. Those riders will be challenging themselves and their old bikes to cover every mile within the time limit each day. And the winners in six different classes will be honored in an awards ceremony at the end.
But the important news for you is that you’ll be able to catch up with this historic ride at stops in 14 states across the northern U.S. Each day’s ride includes one or more planned stops at the final checkpoint, hosted lunches and/or pit stops. These vary from day to day, but we’ve assembled a list of all of them below, so you can plan your own road trip to catch up with the Cannonball as it passes near you.
The Cannonball runs every other year, and in 2016, it officially became known as the Race of the Century when riders set out from coast to coast on motorcycles made in 1916 or earlier. This year’s ride continues that Race of the Century tradition, with one category for bikes that are at least 100 years old, meaning they date from 1918 or earlier. In addition, there will be a second category for “newer” bikes—those that are merely 90 or older, dating from 1919 to 1928.
Riders will average about 250 miles per day, following a daily route that is kept secret until that morning. Although this isn’t a speed contest, riders must complete the route within a prescribed time limit, with penalty points assessed for miles missed or late arrival.
This year’s ride will include a total of six classes of bikes. In the Century category, for motorcycles made in 1918 or earlier, there are separate classes for single-cylinder, twin-cylinder or four-cylinder motorcycles. The 90-year-old category of bikes made between 1919 and 1928 also features classes for singles, twins and fours.
As this post was being written, the 107 entries were evenly split between the 100-year-old and 90-year-old classes, with 53 motorcycles from 1918 or earlier and 54 from 1919 through 1928. They include 49 Harley-Davidsons, 26 Indians, eight Excelsiors, eight Hendersons, four BMWs, three Triumphs, three Thors, three Nortons and one bike each from Reading Standard, Brough Superior Ariel and Neracar. A whopping 86 of those motorcycles are in the twin-cylinder classes, with nine fours and 12 singles.
The goal of the Cannonball is to earn a perfect score by accumulating 1 point for every mile covered within the time limit. If more than one rider in a class finishes with a perfect score, tiebreakers determine the winner, with the advantage going to the oldest motorcycle with the fewest cylinders.
That means we can already determine which rider will hold down first place in the overall standings when the Cannonball gets under way Friday, September 7, with a 10-mile Prologue stage to a photo op right on the Atlantic shore at Portland Head Lighthouse in Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Doug Feinsod, who has entered this year’s Cannonball on a 1909 Excelsior single, will be aboard the oldest single-cylinder bike in the field, so he will be listed at the top of the standings every day that he and his machine complete every mile.
But it’s a long way from Fort Williams Park to Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, just outside of Portland, Oregon. So if Doug’s Excelsior falters over the next 3,674 miles and 15 riding days, then the lead will pass to the next-oldest single, and so on until the overall championship is claimed by the top-ranked rider who arrives at the finish line with a perfect score of 3,674 points.
At the other end of the spectrum, 19 riders have entered on 1928 machines, the newest allowed under the rules. Those bikes are truly an entire generation ahead in technology and reliability, but it’s still an exceptional feat to get one all the way across the country without losing a single mile to mechanical failure. For those riders, and many others, the ultimate prize is a Perfect Mileage Award, presented to those who complete the entire Cannonball route.
The Cannonball truly is the ride of a lifetime for many participants. But then there are those for whom one ride of a lifetime isn’t quite enough. Take Frank Westfall, the returning 2016 overall champion, for example. He leads a very short list of riders who have participated in every one of the five Cannonball rides.
The others on that list are Doug Feinsod and Shinya Kimura. Shinya’s record really stands out, since he is the only entrant to have ridden the same motorcycle—a 1915 Indian twin—in every Cannonball.
Cris Sommer-Simmons also deserves a spot on that list of “five-timers.” She will be riding in her fourth Cannonball, but when she couldn’t ride in 2012, she volunteered to travel with the Cannonball as a member of the support crew. This year, she will be back aboard the 1915 Harley she has nicknamed Effie in honor of Effie Hotchkiss, the younger half of a mother-daughter team that became the first women to cross the country on a motorcycle the same year Cris’ Harley was built.
Cris will be joined by her husband, Doobie Brothers guitarist/singer Pat Simmons, who is riding in his third Cannonball aboard a ’28 Harley. The field also includes three other women: Andrea LaBarbara, aboard a 1913 Henderson; Jody Perewitz, on a ’28 Harley; and Kersten Heling, riding a ’22 Harley.
Jody and Kersten are great examples of the family nature of antique motorcycles. Jody is the daughter of custom-bike legend Dave Perewitz and a land-speed record holder in her own right. Kersten is a drag-racer and daughter of Doc Hopkins, who will be participating in his second Cannonball, riding a 1916 Harley.
And then there’s the husband-and-wife team of Gene Harper and Jan Carl, who will be using the Cannonball as a cross-country family adventure aboard a 1924 Indian Chief with a Princess sidecar attached. Gene and Jan are trying to become only the second couple in Cannonball history to complete the ride on a sidecar rig.
For a pure challenge, though, no one will be able to match Ben Pierce, who is seeking to complete the cross-country trip aboard a 1923 Neracar, a 250cc two-stroke machine that is good for about 35 mph on level ground. Ben may be new to the Cannonball, but the Neracar isn’t. It was ridden in the 2014 event by owner Bob Addis, who was inspired by the ride’s namesake, Erwin “Cannonball” Baker. In 1922, Baker completed one of his many cross-country rides aboard a Neracar, making it from coast-to-coast on less than $20.
The Grand Departure for this amazing collection of bikes and riders will take place Saturday, September 8. From Maine, they’ll travel through New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington before reaching Oregon on the way to their arrival in the Portland area on Sunday, September 23. The route will traverse the Finger Lakes Region of New York, then cut across the Great Lakes states and the Great Plains on the way to a spectacular summit of the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park. From there it’s all downhill to a final run through the Columbia River Gorge on the way to the finish.
This year’s route across the northern U.S. could result in significant weather extremes, with 90-degree temperatures possible in the Midwest and the potential for snow in the mountains. Riders will be on their bikes for 15 of the 16 days, with just a single rest day, Monday, September 17, in Sturgis, South Dakota.
As noted, nearly all of the Cannonball riders are AMCA members. But the Club is also literally going along for every mile as a major sponsor of the ride. The AMCA is partnering with Hagerty Insurance to accompany the Cannonball from coast to coast, setting up informational displays at stops along each day’s route.
AMCA Executive Director Keith Kizer will be the guy manning the Club’s booth, with the help of volunteers from AMCA Chapters. In addition to giving the Club plenty of exposure among motorcyclists (and non-riders) attracted by the passage of the Cannonball through their communities, the AMCA booth is also a great place for Club members to gather and compare notes on this amazing old-bike adventure.
Below is a list of the stops where you’ll be able to catch up with the Cannonball this year. But before we get to that, we need to pass along some safety tips:
All AMCA members, other motorcyclists and the general public are invited and encouraged to show up at any of these stops to witness this amazing event. But we need to ask you to confine your support to these official stops.
It may seem like fun to ride along with the Cannonball for an hour or a day, but from previous experience, we can tell you that’s a really bad idea. These old bikes don’t handle, accelerate or brake like modern machines, which is why the ride is laid out on lightly traveled back roads. If you and your friends create congestion by riding on the same roads as the Cannonballers, you take away the safety cushion these riders need.
So come out and cheer your fellow AMCA members when they stop in your part of the country. But then wish them well and let them ride off into the sunset without you.
2018 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run
9/5-9/6: 9/5-9/6: Cannonball Registration and Motorcycle Inspection: Marriott at Sable Oaks, South Portland, ME
9/7: Prologue (10 miles): 3 p.m. start at Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME; Photo Op at Portland Head Lighthouse, Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth, ME
9/8: Stage 1 (145 miles): 8 a.m. Breakfast at Big Moose Harley-Davidson, Portland, ME; 11:15 a.m. Lunch at Harley-Davidson Shop of Rochester, Rochester, NH; Finish at Best Western Plus, Keene, New Hampshire
9/9: Stage 2 (251 miles): 9:30 a.m. Pit Stop at Hemmings Motor News, Bennington, VT; Finish at DoubleTree Hotel, Binghamton, NY
9/10 Stage 3 (227 miles): 9:45 a.m. Pit Stop at Finger Lakes Harley-Davidson, Cayuta, NY; 12:20 p.m. Lunch at Arkport Cycles, Hornell, NY; Finish at Harley-Davidson of Jamestown, Jamestown, NY
9/11: Stage 4 (273 miles): Finish at Buffalo Wild Wings, Bowling Green, OH
9/12 Stage 5 (260 miles): 2:30 p.m. Lunch at Kersting's Cycle Center & Museum, Winamac, IN; Finish at Holiday Inn Express, Bourbonnais, IL
9/13: Stage 6 (229 miles): Noon Lunch at Workman Harley-Davidson, Rock Falls, IL; Finish at National Motorcycle Museum, Anamosa, IA
9/14 Stage 7 (274 miles): 11:30 a.m. Lunch at Harley-Davidson of Mason City, Mason City, IA; Finish at Indian Motorcycle Factory and Experience Center, Spirit Lake, IA
9/15 Stage 8 (314 miles): Finish at Steamboat Park, Pierre, SD
9/16: Stage 9 (294 miles): 9:30 a.m. Sightseeing at Badlands National Park, SD; 2 p.m. Sightseeing at Mount Rushmore National Park, SD; 4 p.m. Ceremonial Finish at Harley-Davidson Way, Sturgis, SD; Finish at Glencoe CampResort, Sturgis, SD
9/17: Rest Day, Sturgis, SD
9/18 Stage 10 (299 miles): Finish at Beartooth Harley-Davidson, Billings, MT
9/19 Stage 11 (248 miles): Finish at Big Sky Harley-Davidson, Great Falls, MT
9/20 Stage 12 (242 miles): 12:30 p.m. Lunch at Snowgoose Grille, Saint Mary, MT; 1:30 p.m. Sightseeing at Glacier National Park, MT; Finish at Red Lion Hotel, Kalispell, MT
9/21: Stage 13 (254 miles): Finish at Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson, Spokane Valley, WA
9/22 Stage 14 (303 miles): 12:30 p.m. Lunch at Rattlesnake Mountain Harley-Davidson, Kennewick, WA; Finish at Federal Street, The Dalles, OR
9/23 Stage 15 (51 miles): Grand Finish; 1:30 p.m. at Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, WACannonball Registration and Motorcycle Inspection: Marriott at Sable Oaks, South Portland, ME