motorcycles

Cannonball Run Roundup

Introduction - Friday, May 2, 2014

Day 1 - Saturday, May 3, 2014

Depart From:

Best Western Hacienda in San Diego, CA

Destination:

Hilton Garden Inn in Yuma, AZ

Baker's Thoughts

The morning of May 3 found me dressed in leather riding trousers, short raincoad and khaki shirt, while I had a special canteen made to hold a gallon of water to help me across the desert. At 9 a.m. Pacific time, I made my start before a battery of cameras and moving-picture machines. Thirty miles out from San Diego, in the Cottonwood Mountains, the sun came out in all its glory, together with a strong wind. I stopped for dinner at Mountain Springs, at the mouth of Devil's Canon. The dinner was served at a slab-boarded shanty, where I had a handout of sour-belly beans and a cup of coffee, for which I paid liberally.

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Gary's Thoughts

In Yuma, Arizona, now, relaxing after an adrenaline-surging first day. Not exhausting; just exciting. The anticipation peaked minutes before the ride began. Don Emde told us that there would be a five-minute warning before the 9 a.m. departure. As it turned out, 8:55 was approximately the same time that I began wrestling with my water bottle - spilling its contents and forgetting that I had, in fact, developed my basic motor skills half a century ago. Since I didn't want to be “that guy” when every rider but one (me) left San Diego for Manhattan, a few deep breaths found me centered and capable of fixing a water bottle. By 9 a.m. I was fired up, ready to go.

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Day 2 - Sunday, May 4, 2014

Depart From:

Hilton Garden Inn in Yuma, AZ

Destination:

Country Inn & Suites in Mesa, AZ

Baker's Thoughts

The next morning, May 4, a 6 a.m., I was ready to start my journey to Phoenix. Knowing there would be no "corner saloons" to stop off at, I made sure that my canteen was loaded right up to the cork. I rode to a station called Dome, there getting a post mark registration from the postmaster. Crossing the Gila River, from there I started over a road of deep washes, but outside of this there was fairly good going. Then I came into the Castle Dome Mountains and passed through this wonderful desert mountain range, which was nothing more than a series of mammoth flat-faced rocks, having the appearance of city skyscrapers, church spires or capitol domes, but without one sign of life, which could be seen from points of 80 to 100 miles.

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Gary's Thoughts

Writing from Mesa, Arizona, and starting to settle into the new groove of the ride - which is quite a different story from yesterday when I was all hopped up with nervous anticipation. Today the edge was off and the route was fairly well marked so riders didn't depart en masse, but often in smaller groups, sometimes solo, but all with great memories of how Yuma welcomed us with a picture-perfect picnic at the historic Territorial Prison, a must-see museum that sheds a light on what inmates endured here in the late 19th century. The conditions we faced (beer and BBQ and a cool breeze by the Colorado River) were worlds apart from what was generally described as a hellhole for the convicts.

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Day 3 - Monday, May 5, 2014

Depart From:

Country Inn & Suites in Mesa, AZ

Destination:

Best Western Socorro Hotel & Suites in Socorro, NM

Baker's Thoughts

On the morning of May 5 I told the boys that I was going to Springerville. Ariz., and that I was going to do it that day before sundown. Everyone gave me the laugh, because they knew I had some riding before me, having to ride from 250 feet below sea level to a rise of 9,647 feet above sea level—a ride through hot desert sands and right up through three inches of snow—a distance of 265 1/2 miles from Phoenix. I also had some very unkind comments made to me regarding the little "pop-gun" I was carrying, and Doc Boido stepped up to me, took the toy away and snapped a real "cannon" on my handlebars—a Smith & Wesson 38-caliber long, for which I was mighty glad afterward.

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Gary's Thoughts

A long day's ride of nearly 400 miles between Mesa, Arizona, and Socorro, New Mexico, was filled with a wide range of observations and experiences. They all begin just miles outside Mesa, but not all of them had to do with motorcycling. Usually when you ride long distances on a motorcycle, you tend to fill time with random mind games. For me, it's guessing how many seconds before I reach a distant object, singing every Beatles song by track order, or recalling every kid who attended elementary school with me. Today was different. I rode the Apache Trail which, in addition to having an alien landscape that could be used in a sci-fi film, presented me with the challenge of riding on dirt. Well, to be fair, it was a dirt road - but it the key word is dirt and so it demanded my attention.

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Day 4 - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Depart From:

Best Western Socorro Hotel & Suites in Socorro, NM

Destination:

Holiday Inn Trinidad in Trinidad, CO

Baker's Thoughts

On the morning of May 6, I started down the mountain, making sure that my brakes were limber and ready for work. I left Springerville with an early start, the next station I had in mind being Magdalena. From Magdalena I rode to Secur, New Mexico (now called Socorro), and from there started for Albuquerque. At this point I started on a desert stretch, which was exceedingly hard going, passing through 90 miles of alkali desert. Scattered here and there over this trail were the bleached bones of cattle and old-time prairie schooners, and to me it seemed like passing through the "Valley of Death," after seeing these, the monuments of pioneers who had started out like many others to make history.

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Gary's Thoughts

Despite a long day's ride on Monday from Mesa, Arizona, to Socorro, New Mexico, I was up at 5:30 a.m. sharp. Then I realized it was much too early, and was back in bed and asleep until 7. I was glad to be awake in time to attend the second presentation of the proclamation created by the mayor and city council of Socorro. As you'll see in the Day Three video recap, these folks were as good as gold and honored us with the proclamation. It turns out that the town's mayor pro tem (Gordy Hicks) is an avid rider and escorted our group to the county line - but only after presenting Don Emde with a handmade wooden bowl as a memento of our visit.

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Day 5 - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Depart From:

Holiday Inn Trinidad in Trinidad, CO

Destination:

Dodge House Hotel in Dodge City, KS

Baker's Thoughts

Delayed by a Swollen Stream. I left Santa Fe about 5:45 the next morning, with the intention of making another record day's ride and a little before 8 o'clock I had finished a ride of 86 miles. Eighty-six miles of mountain climbing, and then my road through these mountains brought me to a mountain stream on which I had not figured. It was so swollen that it looked to me as if my journey was at an end. There was no means of crossing at this point and I spent almost an entire day locating a safe point to ford the stream with the machine.

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Gary's Thoughts

Both Joe and Don advised everyone that punctuality was the key word of the day. Get an early start to avoid the high winds of western Kansas, they suggested, and you would enjoy a pure and refreshing motorcycle ride. I was with them 100 percent. Until I saw Model. This was a town, once, and it was here that a rusted sign frame that once held the company standard of a long-gone filling station caught my eye as both brakes brought me to a halt. As Robert Frost noted, "Way leads on to way and I may never pass this way again" and so I felt compelled to stop.

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Day 6 - Thursday, May 8, 2014

Depart From:

Dodge House Hotel in Dodge City, KS

Destination:

Best Western Premier KC Speedway Inn & Suites in Kansas City, KS

Baker's Thoughts

On the eighth day of May I left Watrous at 3 a.m. coming through Wagonmound. From Watrous to Wagonmound the going was fine, as this was all prairie land, and from Wagonmound to Springer, New Mexico, the roads were good. I then hit Raton. The going here was rough in spots, but I crossed through the Raton Pass to Trinidad and found this part of the going rougher, due to the severe storm I was trailing across the continent. This was most particularly due to washouts. I stopped and had dinner at Trinidad and then continued on to La Junta to get gasoline and oil. After getting another square meal and a little rest, I continued on good Kansas roads.

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Gary's Thoughts

It's hard to accept we're now more than halfway across America and halfway through this epic journey. The speed and scope of what we've seen and done hasn't settled in yet; it's a bit of sensory overload, actually. But I'd imagine a little later, say, when I'm in my 90s, I'll comprehend the magnitude of this ride. Due to the nature of my role as a rider/writer, my workday lasts a little longer and the side effect is that I don't always have the luxury of time to stop when the ride is done and hang out with the other riders and talk about motorcycles or life or families or shared interests.

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Day 7 - Friday, May 9, 2014

Depart From:

Best Western Premier KC Speedway Inn & Suites in Kansas City, KS

Destination:

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites in Greenville, IL

Baker's Thoughts

Welcomed at Dodge City. On the morning of May 9 I started out with the intention of making Kansas City that night. The roads were fine and I began to feel at home. I continued riding until within 40 miles of Dodge City, when I was brought to a sudden stop by picking up my first nail in the rear tire. Within the next 20 miles I picked up six nails and lost a lot of time repairing tubes. I continued five miles further and then the boys from Dodge City, about 25 in number, met me with a good Indian yell, and you can just bet I was pleased. I got into Dodge City O.K. and had dinner, and the boys fixed me up with gasoline and lubricating oil. They wanted me to stop over and look at their new racetrack, but they forgot I was out knocking minutes off a record. However, this track was on my way out of the city going east and I managed to get a good view of it.

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Gary's Thoughts

Everyone on this ride is on this ride for a reason and everyone on this ride deserves to be. Among this group are world champion racers and world-class motorcycle journalists and dealers and engineers and entrepreneurs. Members of this group share a level of excellence, I think, because everyone says 'yes' to new challenges and yes to opportunities (and, yes, the Cannon Ball Centennial Ride is both). I realized this during a conversation with Ken Freund. I had seen Ken and said hello in passing, but at Famous Dave's BBQ I learned more about him - about his membership in the Adventurers Club of Los Angeles, his network of famous friends, about an act of heroism that earned him a Medal of Valor, his work as a writer and master technician. By saying yes, Ken opened doors that led to a lifetime of accomplishment.

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Day 8 - Saturday, May 10, 2014

Depart From:

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites in Greenville, IL

Destination:

Indianapolis Marriott Downtown in Indianapolis, IN

Baker's Thoughts

On the morning of the 10th I got an early start and rode clean through to Kansas City on the Golden Belt route, a distance of 175 miles. I had a late lunch at Kansas City. From Kansas City to Lexington, Mo., all the roads were good and all along the Indian dealers had the boys out to meet me as I passed through the various towns. At Lexington, Mo., which was a distance of 293.7 miles, I put up for the night.

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Gary's Thoughts

The reception that we received Friday in Greenville which was followed by the potluck supper at the community center which coincided with the staging of the evening's classic car cruise-in all conspired to create a Mayberry-like atmosphere in this small American town. Then that that evening after the sun had set and the neon marquee of the Globe theatre had lit up, I was at the local Dairy Queen when Ron and Roland showed up.

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Day 9 - Sunday, May 11, 2014

Depart From:

Indianapolis Marriott Downtown in Indianapolis, IN

Destination:

Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Reynoldsburg, OH

Baker's Thoughts

In the early morning started for St. Louis, where the natives of Lexington thought I would arrive about midnight, but I fooled them. I was at Hurck's, the Indian agent in St. Louis, at 4:30 p.m. There I had my dinner, having covered a distance of 250 miles, and after stopping there 1 1/2 hours for something to eat, I continued on to Greenville, Ill., where I put up for the night—304.3 miles that day.

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Gary's Thoughts

There was really no better way to begin the day in Indianapolis than by riding as a group to Crown Hill Cemetery to pay tribute to the man who inspired this ride: Erwin 'Cannon Ball' Baker. I've said it before that, maybe 100 years from now, riders on the bicentennial ride will look at us as a group of supermen. But it's not 2114; it's 2014 and I assure you that everyone who departed San Diego to applause and cheers has racked up a majority of miles thinking of how they'd stack up against Baker.

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Day 10 - Monday, May 12, 2014

Depart From:

Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Reynoldsburg, OH

Destination:

Marriott Greensburg in Greensburg, PA

Baker's Thoughts

With thunder storms all around me, I was somewhat worried during the night, as I was getting near to the point where my friend Brant (the weather clerk at Phoenix) had predicted I would have a storm overtake me. I knew I never would get through even with a team of horses over the mudholes if I was caught in heavy rain, so bright and early on the morning of May 11 I mounted my machine and rode for dear life, not even stopping for breakfast. I rode for Casey, Ill., which was about 90 miles from Greenville, and the rain started to pour down on me and I found then that the roads were getting so slippery it was necessary for me to ride seven or eight miles on the railroad ties in order to reach a well-known gravel road, which led into Terre Haute. I entered Terre Haute, Ind., in torrents of rain.

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Gary's Thoughts

Well, it's hard to believe it's now the end of day ten and the ride today from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, near Columbus, to Greensburg, Pennsylvania. As we get closer to our end goal of New York City the memories are stacking up and it becomes more challenging just to tell you about one day when I want to tell you about everything we've see and done. But there's just not enough time for that so let me tell you that as I was rolling into New Concord, Ohio, to my right I saw a large sign marking the home of John and Annie Glenn. John Glenn, of course, was the third American in space and was the first American to orbit the earth - he made three orbits in February, 1962. One of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, this man exemplified bravery - especially when he kept his cool when ground control thought the heat shield on his capsule was loose and it was thought he'd die upon re-entering earth's atmosphere.

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Day 11 - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Depart From:

Marriott Greensburg in Greensburg, PA

Destination:

Courtyard by Marriott in Malvern, PA

Baker's Thoughts

The next day being May 13, I got some of this unlucky number wished on me. The boys in Columbus showed me through the city and finally led me to the end of the beautiful pavements they had there, and, as if chopped off by a knife, came the end of that good road. Before me lay roads that looked like newly-plowed fields, and I found on getting into them that it was mud almost knee deep. I had some real riding to do that day, my Indian acting more like a bucking bronco than a motorcycle.

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Gary's Thoughts

While I was going to college in Orlando, I was a cast member at Walt Disney World. I was a ferryboat pilot, a Jungle Cruise skipper, a steam train conductor, and an omnibus driver among other roles. While working inside the Magic Kingdom I remember evenings after the guests had cleared the park and I'd walk alone down Main Street USA. The music would still be playing, the store windows were aglow, and Cinderella Castle sparkled in a soft blue light. I was alone in the world's most popular theme park.

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Day 11½ - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Depart From:

Courtyard by Marriott - Malvern, PA

Destination:

Hilton Garden Inn - Newburgh, NY

Baker's Thoughts

On the morning of the 14th at 4 a.m., I started from Greensburg with the intention of making Philadelphia my next night's stop. The roads began to look better to me, and I soon made up my mind that I would not stop until I had reached New York. I reached Philadelphia about 6 o'clock in the evening, or, rather, Paoli, which is 30 miles west of Philadelphia. There George S. Maslen, the Indian dealer at Philadelphia, met me with a number of riders and he elected one of them to show me the way into New York City. After having supper at Paoli, we started for New York City, and it being a very dark night, we were lost two or three times, even with the rider who knew the roads. He showed me the way to Weehawken, N.J., where I took the ferry to New York City.

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Gary's Thoughts

At 10:10 a.m. on May 14, 2014, a group of riders rounded a corner and saw before them Point B of the Cannon Ball Centennial Ride. The New York City skyline, dominated by the profile of 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, was fully framed before them. As Don Emde and Joe Colombero had planned and as Erwin 'Cannon Ball' Baker had done, we had crossed mountains and deserts and plains; we had fought fatigue and thirst and aching muscles; we battled the wind and sun and the urge to rest in order to cross the United States and arrive in Manhattan in 11 ½ days. >We had accomplished all of this. But we could not find a parking spot. After covering roughly 3,400 miles that took us over every terrain, it turned out our biggest challenge was constricted to a few square blocks on the southern tip of Manhattan.

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