STURGIS, SD (Sept. 17, 2018) -- For the first time in the Cannonball Run this year, the riders and teams are stationary. It is a day of rest in Sturgis and for the first time on the run riders didn’t have to set their alarms for O-Dark 30 and their crews got to go to bed at a decent hour last night, with a full day to work on the bikes today.
Preparation for the second half of the Cannonball is perhaps even more critical for teams and riders at this juncture. The ones who are still running perfect scores are starting to feel the pressure, now knowing that they have a solid shot of a top finish. Some teams out of the running for the win are just hoping to reach the finish in Portland at this point and a few are getting down to precious spare parts remaining.
Here’s a look at two team on opposite ends of the spectrum. One team running strong so far basically using Monday to do routine maintenance, the other having experienced bike issues all along the way and now coming down to bottom of their parts bin. And in spite of the difference between the positions of those squads, they share a common goal of doing what they can to make it to the Pacific Coast.
A Feast for the Wolf Pack
Mark Hill and Tanner Whitton are part of a group of Henderson teams who call themselves the Wolf Pack. And so far it’s been a very good Cannonball for the team, which in addition to Mark and Tanner, includes Andrea Labarbara on a 1913 long frame, Frank Westfall on a 1915 Model E short frame, Loring Hill on a 1916 Model F, Dr. Chris O’Brien on a 1917 Model G, and Vernon Acres on a 1918 Model H big-bore. At the midway point in the run they have five of the top 10 riders in this year’s run.. Mark and Tanner are sharing riding duties on their 1917 Henderson Model G they call the Blue Ghost.
An interesting story within the team is Chris O’Brien’s 1917 Model G, which was built as a tribute to his great- great uncle Alan Bedell who in 1917 set a Transcontinental record aboard a the same year and model Henderson.
On Monday Mark and Tanner were working on not only the Blue Ghost, but pitching in and helping with the other Wolf Pack Hendersons as well. For the team it’s a good day. Things have been going smoothly and the agenda Monday was to do a thorough maintenance routine on the bikes.
“Fortunately for us we don’t have any major issues to contend with,” Mark said. “The bikes are behaving better than the riders have. Our regular maintenance regime includes oil, checking valves, a checklist of every nut and bolt. We check the steering head bearings, wheel bearings, we’ll inspect the tires to make sure nobody has picked up anything.
“This is a nice place to be because some of the other teams are torn up pretty bad and I’ve been in that spot before where your day off is really not a day off.”
Mark and Tanner usually each ride two days on and then off, since they are both wrenching on the team machines at night in addition to riding. It was Mark’s turn to ride on Sunday, but Tanner asked him if he could take the saddle since he’d never ridden the Badlands and the Black Hills. Mark happily agreed since he’s ridden them both before.
When asked why the team favors Henderson motorcycles, Mark shot back, “Is there anything else? These are the best motorcycles ever made!
“We’ve got the mountains and maybe some rain coming up,” Mark concluded. “And that should be an advantage for us, so we’re looking forward to it.
Rebuild Day for Joe Burch and Jesse Law
On the opposite end of the Cannonball Run experienced by the Wolf Pack, is the terrible luck experience by the riding team of Joe Burch and Jesse Law on their 1928 Harley-Davidson JDH. The guys are running in 72nd place out of the 107 entries. Rest day is anything but for their team, a broken rod yesterday made sure of that.
“It just made ping and then started rattling like crazy,” Joe explains. “It was blowing smoke everywhere, so I just pulled it over and shut it off.”
The JDH’s engine blew with about 100 miles to go in the nearly 300-mile stage. “There was no pushing to the finish,” Joe laughs.
Joe said the hope was he and his crew would have the bike rebuilt and back running by about 3:00 this afternoon. “I’ve got a massage scheduled, so we’ve got to get it finished,” he grins.
The problem for Joe and Jesse is they been chasing breakdowns all week prompting Joe to comment that his team is getting really good at getting the Harley’s engine in and out quickly. “They’re down to about two-and-a-half hours now.”
But there won’t be anymore rebuilds if Monday’s redo doesn’t hold - their supply of parts is fresh out.
We’re out of spares, so this will have to do it,” Joe says. “We’ve got to make it in with what we’ve got now.”
Those are just a few of the stories from the garages and canopies of “rest day” at Cannonball 2018. The run gets back underway on the road with Stage 10 tomorrow - destination Billings, Montana.
Tuesday, September 18 Stage 10 (299 miles)
7:00; 7:15; 7:30 AM MDT: Official Start Times for Classes I, II, III; Baymont
5:15; 5:20; 5:25 PM: Finish Times for Classes III, II, II; Beartooth Harley-Davidson, Billings, Montana
5:15 PM: Dinner, Beartooth Harley-Davidson
6:30 PM: Parc Fermé closes, Beartooth Harley-Davidson