I love the smell of gasoline in the morning!! I really do.. With vintage machines dripping petrol, engine oil and chain lube just the way they were design to 100 years ago. It was a hot humid morning in Newburgh the start of the Cannonball Run, a 17 days event that crosses the United States from New York to California. The motorcycles entered for event points cannot be newer then 1929. The event was tailored after in 1913 when EG Baker road his 7 HP Harley from NY to California in just 11 days. He got the nick name of cannonball. Back then it would take the average automobile travelers 2-3 weeks if it was attempted at all. The Lincoln Highway was built about the same time in 1913 it spanned coast-to-coast starting from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The first officially recorded length of the entire Lincoln Highway in 1913 was 3,389 miles. To pave the highway from cost to cost was thought of in 1912 by Carl Fisher that built the Indianapolis Speedway and paved it with brick. He received funding by Frank Seiberling owner of Goodyear and Henery Joy, owner of Packard Motor Company. They named it after Abraham Lincoln. The highway was expanded and completed in 1915.
While I was in the pits looking at all the wonderful vintage bikes I was listening to the different dialects of the riders, Northern & Southern America, Germany, Italy, Swedish and Asian. The riders had a catered breakfast meeting in the Motorcyclepadia Museum starting at 7:00am. You could buy advanced tickets and have breakfast with the riders. The start of the race was at 9:00am in the parking lot of the museum. Route 32 that runs in front of the museum was block off to traffic by local authorities. About 200 plus patrons lined the parking lot and into the street cheering on the riders as they rolled across the starting line. This is a sanctioned event and it abides by all speed limits and is a timed. The riders are sent out about a minute apart and they have to check in at their check points at an exact specific time. The rider with the best times or points wins.
I spoke with an event rider and he said that the chase trucks they each have privately cannot follow them on there route and cannot be in communication with the riders. The rider can only link up with the chase truck at the check point. If you go on the web site http://www.motorcyclecannonball.com/ there are many rules they have to follow in each class right down to the tires they use. Basically the bikes have to be almost original in every way to race for points. I was speaking to a gentleman that did not race this year but had a 1920’s Harley out for display. I was amazed to find the bike was a resto mod of shorts. He went into to detail how the internal engine was totally rebuilt by a race machine shop from the crank, piston to the gears. The cruise RPM was built into the crank so at 3,000rpm’s at 65 mph the bike would run perfectly smooth. He went into explaining many internal parts like the flywheel were removed. If you were to look at the outside of this motorcycle you could not tell because all the outside parts, cylinder crankcase was all original even down to the bettina on the cylinders. When this bike was started it had a modern exhaust note and sounded just awesome it truly sounded like a cross between an old and modern Harley that had been modified.
I fun day was had for sure parked next to the Wall of Death surrounded by hundreds of fellow riders. Spectators also showed up with some real nice modern and vintage bikes. What put a smile to my face was after the riders had left looking down on the pavement you could see where each bike was parked marking their territory, even when the bikes were gone they left a little history behind. When the racers left I toured the Motorcyclepedia museum one more time to make it my 4th visit, always new displays or things I missed from the last trip. I found not all the bikes started the race. When I made it down to the basement of the museum a rider was parked next to the workshop area and his team was working on the bike. A stuck exhaust valve was the problem.
Seeing these old machines made me think about all the modern bikes today, like the 2012 triumph I rode in on we owe their heritage and very humble motorcycle beginnings to these rough rides of the past.
May blue skies always rise up to meet your handlebars and grey skies left behind in your mirrors