OK, that’s 10 miles down, 3,664 to go.
The 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball endurance run officially kicked off today here in Portland, Maine, with a 10-mile Prologue stage, designed to serve as a quick shakedown for the bikes and an opportunity to get photos right along the Atlantic shore before heading across the country.
And if you’re keeping score at home, that means we’ve covered a solid two-tenths of 1 percent of the entire coast-to-coast route that will end September 23 in that other Portland—the one in Oregon.
With only 10 miles to cover, it seemed like an easy day for everyone involved. After all, this would have constituted a short Friday afternoon cruise even in the early 1900s, when these bikes were built.
But no. Somehow, seven of the 107 motorcycles entered in the ride suffered mechanical problems. Two were on the disabled list even before we started, so they were loaded on the sweep truck to be hauled to Bug Light Park here in South Portland for the official photograph. And five others broke down either on the way there or on the way back to the headquarters hotel.
First days in the Cannonball are traditionally tough as old motorcycles get their first serious road test. And part of the reason for adding the Prologue to the schedule was to sort out those problems while everyone was close to their support teams.
Here’s hoping that strategy worked. Because seven bike breakdowns in 10 miles works out to about 100 in the 145 miles we need to cover tomorrow on the way to Keene, New Hampshire.
First class: One of the bikes that failed to make today’s start had an immediate impact on the first-day Cannonball standings. Wayne Ruhe had entered on a 1912 Excelsior single that would have been near the top of the list tonight if it had finished the day.
Why? Because of the Cannonball scoring system. When more than one rider earns the maximum number of points for completing every mile within the daily time limit, the system ranks those bikes based on their age and the class in which they compete.
And since there’s only one older Class I (single-cylinder, single-speed) bike entered this year, Wayne essentially started the day in second place, right behind Chris Tribbey on his 1911 Excelsior single. But when Wayne’s machine failed to make the start this afternoon, it dropped all the way to 104th place, behind every bike with a perfect 10 points.
There are now just five Class I bikes in contention for the overall Cannonball championship. Can one of them claim the victory this year? It’s never happened in any of the previous four Cannonballs, but we’ll be watching them closely this year to see if any of those Class I riders can make history
Dedication: Today ended with the Cannonball opening banquet, where Jason Sims, who now runs the event, noted that this is the first Cannonball to be held without the ride’s founder, Lonnie Isam Jr., who died last year after a lengthy battle with cancer.
It was an emotional moment when Jason showed a video clip from 2014 in which Lonnie described how he was inspired by Victor Boocock, who set off on a cross-country ride aboard his 1914 Indian. That adventure, Lonnie, noted, got him thinking about hosting a long-distance old-bike ride with friends, perhaps supporting themselves out of a rental truck. Then, when he announced the first Cannonball in 2010, he quickly had 80 entries and had to expand his vision of what the ride might be.
Lonnie will always be the father of the Cannonball, the man who made it happen through his vision, his financial commitment and his hard work. And when Jason said, “I know he will be going along with us this year,” the crowd of riders and support-crew members rose to their feet in tribute.
That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, we get on the road for real. If you’re in the area, here’s where you can catch up with the Cannonball on its first full day of competition:
8:00 AM: Hosted breakfast, Big Moose Harley-Davidson, Portland, Maine
9:30; 9:45; 10:00 AM: Official Start Times for Classes I, II, III, Big Moose Harley-Davidson, Portland, Maine
11:15 AM: Hosted Lunch, Harley-Davidson Shop of Rochester, Rochester, New Hampshire
4:00; 4:15; 4:30 PM: Finish Times for Classes III, II, I; Best Western Plus, Keene, New Hampshire