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Cannonball Stage 16: Santa Monica

September 30, 2010

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

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Abbott permalink
    September 30, 2010 8:34 pm

    This is my last public email. As I promised on the 10th, I have emailed you every day (at least) so that you wouldn’t feel neglected. I escorted you on the last stage, met your wife Kim and two children, stopped for you on the highway and didn’t leave ’till you said to. And why? Envy. I envied you every mile and every day you rode. When I said I wish I had an older bike, you said ride your Velo. When I saw the hardships you riders put up with, I said, I would do that in a heartbeat. And I would. Too late now. It’s been done. And by some tougher and some not so tougher than me. So what did you all have that set you apart from us lesser mortals? Not better bikes (“It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it”). Not more money…well, maybe some of you. No, it’s Passion. Passion is what separates the real from the imitation. And it’s not just that you’ve got it, it’s what you do with it. And you’ve done well. And I’m proud to know you for it.

    Congratulations and very well done Cannonballer!

    Your friend, Jim A.

    • Pete Young permalink*
      September 30, 2010 8:43 pm

      awww, thanks Jim! Your emails have been really nice to read during the rally, and it was great to see you for the last couple of stages. I wouldn’t say that I have more passion than you do. I’m just stubborn, and not very smart, that’s all. 🙂 A reasonable man or an intelligent man would have probably stopped after the 1st motor rebuild. Now that I’m at home, oh boy it feels good to be off the bike! I’m anxious to get into my shop and work on my lathe.

  2. Paul Venne permalink
    September 30, 2010 9:25 pm

    Arizona has the most butterfly species of any state. I might go there on my 1916 Excelsior since I already went cross country and back on my1970 Yamaha DT1 enduro back in 1976.
    Thanks for the great site and effort. “More than 3 score and 10 by reason of strength.” Bible. Thanks again, Paul

  3. Paul Venne permalink
    September 30, 2010 9:29 pm

    I’m wondering if you had to do it again and you could use any bike, what would it be? Would you use clinchers, front brake etc. What class too? I wonder. Who had the most comfortable ride??? Thanks, Paul

    • Pete Young permalink*
      September 30, 2010 10:21 pm

      If I were able to start over, I’d probably pick the same bike. I often do things the hard way. 1915 Harley Davidsons are more comfortable, have twice the horsepower or more, can easily cruise at the speed limit or higher and have much less stress on their motor and their cycle parts. Riding one of those I could have slept in an hour each morning and gotten to the hotel an hour earlier each afternoon.

      But I enjoy doing things my own way. If I were do it over though, I just might skip the entire event and do the run by myself. Setting my own daily mileage and route and my own schedule would make the cross country run much more fun. Having time to stop and see the Grand Canyon, the antique shops or the museums, ice cream stores, etc would be really fun. But I guess that wouldn’t be “doing it the hard way”… 😉

  4. Matt permalink
    October 1, 2010 12:14 am

    I’m just blown away by what you’ve accomplished. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following your progress via this blog since you started the preparation and through the run (even on my phone while on vacation – how sad is that?!). The pictures, the problems, the solutions and the final success have made for a great read.
    Thanks for taking the time to document your journey.

  5. October 1, 2010 2:35 pm

    Hey Pete, thanks for sharing your story before you started this epic adventure. Furthermore, I have to say thanks for this tremendous follow up to your ‘ride of a lifetime’. Very brave.
    Bests, Greg

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