Cannonball Stage 16: Santa Monica
We finally rode into Santa Monica, ending Stage 16 and our long journey. The day was hot, like all the previous days. Near 100 degrees again, and sweat filled my old wool coat and my leather breeches. Hot oil spit from the motor and it covered and burned my leather boots. The bow tie didn’t help to cool me off, but it seemed fitting for the day. Fighting that hot clutch the whole time for stop light after stop light…
The motor seized at mile 10 that morning, followed by a somewhat adequate roadside repair using 1.5 quarts of oil poured into the motor and a gentle rocking motion on the rear wheel. There was NO WAY that I was getting on the chase truck to be deposited at the ocean finish. (oh yeah, I’m just a little bit stubborn) With the motor spinning again, I rode it carefully past the El Mirage dry lake. Another 105 miles still required out of this thing before I could park it and give it a full repair and rebuild at home. During stage 15 the day before, the motor had gained a new hole in the timing case as a screw went out. An ugly fix took care of that, again at 105 degrees in the middle of the Mohave desert. The heat felt deadly, and I chugged so much Gatorade that I almost barfed at every gas stop. Each repair was yet another setback, but all setbacks proved to be only temporary. And I would have pushed the bike that last mile or two onto the pier if I had to, sweating and cursing as much as needed.
As I fought the damn LA traffic and rode past the Getty Museum and up over Beverly Hills 90210, the miles eventually rolled up. Only 115 that day, the shortest of the entire 16 day trip. But each mile was a challenge.
Rolling down the hill past the joggers on Sunday morning, I finally felt the cool ocean air. Relief! Relief from the heat, relief for my sore ass on that hard seat, relief from the seemingly endless miles that we were pushed to do every day. There was a reason that no pre1916 rallies had ever been done this way before. It was damn hard. I have to admit, I didn’t feel sad at all that the event was over. I was ready to sleep in my own bed, ready to go to work to pay for this adventure, ready to play with my kids and finally drink some decent coffee. Ready to rebuild the Premier and sell it to its new owner…
I opened my coat and rode for about a mile down the hill with both hands off the bars, arms stretched out in a Jesus Christ pose. The cool air swirled around me, down the back of my neck and through my stained white shirt. I rode like that all the way down to Ocean Ave. Then a quick left turn and I saw all the other bikes and riders stopped at the park, a few blocks from the public masses who waited for us on the Pier. I was the first rider to leave the hotel that morning, with cameras blasting at sunrise, then last rider to arrive in the park with more cameras blasting my sweaty face. Several of the bikes were transported in on trucks that day, shortcutting to the park and bypassing all the traffic and the stop lights. But there were no hard feelings after all that we had been through.
One local rider gave us each some cold cans of Mexican beer. Then it was handshakes to all the riders and supporters and well-earned pats on the back for everyone. Of the 44 bikes that started the Cannonball, about 38 of them rode onto the Santa Monica Pier under their own power. A few came on the truck or on a sidecar, just a couple had already gone home. None of us had expected better than 50% success rate for the rally. What a pleasant surprise.
At the pier, everybody wanted a photo and a quote. All that I could come up with were these two:
“The Cannonball: A bunch of grown men who should have known better.”
and “Doing this is 100 times better than watching TV”
The press and our friends started asking about next year. But none of the riders talked about doing it again. Why would we? We had already done it.
photo by Sirisvati