"YO U M E E T T H E N I C E S T P E O P L E O N A N T I Q U E M O T O R C Y C L E S ”
Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run
Motorcycle Cannonball, Inc."...October of 1922, Erwin "Cannonball" Baker set out from Staten Island, NY, on a cross-country run to Los Angeles riding a stock 1923 Neracar motorbike. It had been delivered to him straight from the factory compliments of Messrs. Smith and Gordon only hours earlier in Perth Amboy, NJ. The only modification he made to it was the addition of a crossbar on the handlebars to stiffen them for what he knew would be "the rough stuff" that lay ahead on his journey. Cross-country runs were nothing new for the pioneer racer and adventurer at this point in his life, and he wasn't out to set any land-speed records with the little job or jigger, as he often referred to it. He wanted to see for himself and prove to others just how reliable and economical this scooter-type motorcycle could be and appeal to the masses in the process. There were never any doubts on his part as to whether or not he'd reach Los Angeles. In fact, he was dead sure he would make it. What he wanted to know was just how cheaply it could be done."
... Motorcycle Cannonball
The Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run started in 2009 by Lonnie Isam, Jr., who envisioned a coast-to-coast motorcycle run with a bunch of his buddies. Thinking that it would be a cool thing for he and his friends to ride coast-to-coast on their beloved antique motorcycles in celebration of the famous Cannonball Baker from this vision the Motorcycle Cannonball was born. It is not surprising that Lonnie, Jr. is the man behind the creation of the modern day Motorcycle Cannonball. Lonnie, Jr. grew up in a motorcycle family that is famous for promoting motorcycle events; it seems only nature that Lonnie, Jr. would create such an event as the Motorcycle Cannonball. Respecting the feats of the past, Lonnie and his friends would move forward creating something special. The Isam family resembles something of a "Motorcycle Destiny" with Lonnie Isam, Sr. building and wrenching with the biggest names in the motorcycle world. Lonnie, Sr is prominent in the world of motorcycling as evidence in John Parham's Anamosa’s National Motorcycle Museum where the J&P Cycles Express Bonneville Streamliner is on display. Scribed on the side is a list of names of prominent motorcycle “Gear heads” including John Parham and Lonnie Isam, Sr. Lonnie Isam, Sr., is a well-known expert in the history of antique motorcycles especially Harley drag racing. Starting in Houston with a shop called Competition Motorcycles, the Isam family moved to the Black Hills of South Dakota. His company now specializes in design and manufacture of correct reproduction parts for pre-1936 Harley Davidson. Based out of Sturgis, South Dakota, the Isam family has been into motorcycle restoration, building and racing for decades so it is only natural that something as grand as the Motorcycle Cannonball would have a direct connection to the Islam family. The Motorcycle Cannonball’s creator Lonnie, Jr. is held in reverence by those that respects him and his motorcycle background. Felicia Morgan says, "Lonnie is an expert of knowledge regarding the motorcycles in the Motorcycle Cannonball Run. "It is reputed that Lonnie not only knows every motorcycle in the Cannonball but their pedigrees as well.
Lonnie, Jr. is considered the "Rain Man" of the Cannonball.Lonnie, Jr. is the quiet man behind the entire event. He is the one that refuses to take center stage always allowing others to stand for acknowledgements. It was evident at the Farewell Banquet in Tacoma in 2014 when Paul D'Orleans, Master of Ceremonies wanted to honor Lonnie in appreciation for what he had created. Paul acknowledged Lonnie asking him to stand. Lonnie sitting in the back of the room stood momentarily waving his hand accepting the recognition. Lonnie, Jr. is so private that his Facebook does not have any pictures, posts or stories. Lonnie desires not to be the “Front Man.” No photos and limited conversation, Please! He would rather sit in the background enjoying his creation and what the Cannonball has become over the 7 years. The threesome, Lonnie Isam, Jr., Felicia Morgan and John Classen gathered together in 2009 creating the idea of the Motorcycle Cannonball. Route Master, John Classen is famous for his management of the Great Race has laid out every Cannonball Run route from the beginning. “I always feel there should be trumpets blaring by men in top hats when I say Route Master, “ says Felicia Morgan. In actuality the Motorcycle Cannonball Run, Inc. is a business that promotes a Coast-to-Coast motorcycle run. Major sponsors have stepped up to support the Motorcycle Cannonball, one of which is the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. Providing financial support and bringing a presence to the Motorcycle Cannonball was a natural for the AMCA as many of the riders and support team members are members. Currently there is discussion on how the AMCA may continue its' sponsorship in future Motorcycle Cannonball events. Thanks to Keith Kizer for his vision in bringing AMCA presence to the Motorcycle Cannonball. Since 2010 the Motorcycle Cannonball has been held every two years through 2016.
The first Cannonball Run started in Kitty Hawk, NC traveling to San Monica, Ca. in 2010. The motorcycles represented Pre-1916 machines. Brad Wilmarth riding a 1913 Excelsior and Katrina Boehm riding a 1911 JAP Single, which was described as basically being pushed across the USA including the finish line, won the 2010 Cannonball. “What shone in the 2010 Cannonball were the riders of Real old machines who finished with perfect (or very high) scores, meaning, they'd conquered the damn thing! Foremost among them, Brad Wilmarth (1913 Excelsior) and Katrina Boehm (1911 JAP single), deserve a special place in the Old Bike world. This wasn't a test of a perfect restoration, which granted can involve years of determined parts scrounging and self-education, and it wasn't about rarity or fascinating provenance; none of that mattered in fact. The Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Rally is the most important vintage motorcycle event on the planet. Free of glamour, free of exclusivity, free even of decent food or coffee, the Cannonball has emerged as the ultimate statement of one's commitment to keeping old bikes alive - 3956 miles of riding the hell out of them." "In 2012, the Cannonball started in Newburgh, NY traveling to San Francisco, Ca. The 2012 Cannonball was won a second time by Brad Wilmarth on a 1913 Excelsior. “The Motorcycle Cannonball was open to anyone with a pre-1930 motorcycle and the financial freedom to take several weeks off to prepare for and ride 3956 miles. From Newburgh, New York to San Francisco on pre-1930 machines; 3956 miles, 72 riders, 14 countries. Nineteen riders finished with a 'clean slate', having ridden every mile, while the rest suffered a variety of mechanical ills. Everyone agreed, though; it was epic.”The 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball started on the “World’s Most Famous Beach” in Daytona Beach, Florida. The motorcycles represented were Pre-1937 which included Harley EL, UL, VL, JD & J’s; Indians, BMW and British manufacturers. South African, Hans Courts riding a 1924 Indian came in 1st Overall with Norm Nelson riding a 1928 BMW R52 finishing in 2nd Place. For the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball, Lonnie has turned over operations and control to his good friend, Jason Sims, Director of Events. Lonnie was in Atlantic City for the start but left to go home for health reasons trusting Jason and the Cannonball team to take the 90 Cannonball'ers and their Support Teams massing approximately 350 people across America. A statement posted on the Motorcycle Cannonball describing the "Spirit of the Cannonball."
“With our inaugural event in 2010 a small band of riders proved that antique motorcycles could indeed be put to the ultimate test. A test that would pit rider and machine against the North American continent. Following in the tracks of our forefathers these brave riders followed a tradition that was over a century in the making. They made history. Now after three successful events, the Cannonball has become an American institution. Bringing in riders, and collectors from all over the world. Restorations have taken on a new meaning as skilled engine builders have had to reevaluate what it takes to put a 100-year-old motorcycle coast to coast. Aside from using their machines for the purposes they were originally intended for, riders are also learning the meaning of the word endurance. Mainly that it pertains to them as much as it does their motorcycle. Nearly 300 miles per day is not easy...”The Cannonball Run is a lot of things to a lot of people as evidenced by the remarks that made by participants.
"It's all about the bikes, not the business..." "the Cannonball gives him purpose..." "everyone is first class.."
"I worry all the time for the safety of our boys..."Since 2010 the Cannonball has grown tremendously. Not longer the "bunch of friends" it has become an "American Institution." At times it seems no one can get enough of the Cannonball, which has lead to some problems. Management of the Cannonball and the public has become problematic. With more interest growing, it is harder to manage the large group traveling across the country. Everyone wants to have a good time and riding with the Cannonball sounds like a great time but it brings its problems. Mixing modern disc-brake motorcycles that stop on a "dime" with antique motorcycles that barely stop is dangerous. Cannonball Riders and Support Team members are dedicated motorcyclists that know their machines through building, repairing and maintaining. They are very serious about the Motorcycle Cannonball. They know the capabilities and limitations of the equipment and spend a lot of money in preparation. The investment can run well into triple digits with the purchase of the machine, bringing the machine up to standards, financing the trip and their Support Teams across the country; it is not for the faint of heart or cash. Riding their machines is a difficult task, as many of these motorcycles were never intended to ride such a ride. When the general motorcycling public shows up in-route, it causes anxiety among the Road Crews. Mixing the modern bikes could result in accidents or worse. As it stands on the 2016 Cannonball there were several incidents when other motorists failed to yield causing accidents within the group. No one was seriously injured but in some cases the result was lost of property, a $100,000 piece of property. All the Cannonball motorcycles are insured per the requirement of Motorcycle Cannonball, but money is only part of the story. Lost of property usually means loss of a piece of history as the antique motorcycles get more rare, the availability of replacement parts is scarce. Motorcycle Cannonball Road Crews traveling in-route worry about the safety of the riders. Worst fears are someone will interfere causing a serious incident. The Cannonball organization wants everyone to have fun because it’s about motorcycles. The Official Route sheets are held close to the vest as the Motorcycle Cannonball discourages general public motorcyclist from mingling in the group for safety of the riders. Felicia Morgan, one of the original organizers is considered the "Den Mother" of the Cannonball. Currently her main responsibilities are Official Press/Photographer and Media Control but in the past she has served in any capacity necessary. Felicia is a motorcycle gypsy without any roots traveling year-round on her motorcycle. During the Cannonball Felicia parks her 2012 Harley Davidson Street Glide to ride on the back of Joe Sparrow's Honda Golden Wing. Joe Sparrow, known as "Wandering Sparrow" has ridden an incredible 500,000 miles on his Honda. Perched in the back seat, Felicia says, "…it provides that best position to take in-route pictures." In the past, Felicia has laid in ditches, sat in the middle of the road or any other place that she could find to get that "SHOT." To say that Felicia loves the Cannonball is an understatement, when she talks of how the Cannonball is changing, a small tear forms in her eye. Taking a moment to regain composure, she speaks with reverent of Lonnie, Jr. In Felicia's eyes Lonnie, Jr is the "Rain Man" of motorcycles all knowing, all about the motorcycles. She reminisces about the "Days of Old" but looks forward to Jason's vision of "Bringing the Fun Back to the Cannonball. She’s says it was never a simple task managing a large group across the country, but now it’s becoming even more difficult. She worries about the safety of the riders. She says that the Highway Patrols generally let us police our own group but as the group gets larger, but she worries what impact that could have on the Run. One could imagine the stress and difficulties of moving 350 individuals across the country day by day. The logistics can take a “…big piece out of you." After the Motorcycle Cannonball, Felicia is looking forward visiting her grandchildren who ask "...if it's normal that their grandmother rides a motorcycle everywhere!" The 2016 Cannonball was a grueling event. One hundred year old motorcycles are not easy to ride, maintain or repair while traveling 3306 miles. The 2016 Cannonball marks the first time that 100-year old motorcycles have completed the journey.
This will be a difficult ride, only the best machines should be considered for it. Much will have to be done to your machine if you decide to run the cannonball. No motorcycle built after 1916 can run for the prize. An original engine must power the machine. Many things could be changed on a machine, and updates made for safety sake, but the core of the machine must be 1916 or earlier.
It was billed as "The Race of the Century" and lived up to every expectation and more.So difficult was the task that some of the Class I machines that struggled on the Eastern Appalachian / Allegheny Mountains trailered their motorcycles choosing not furthering damage to their machines by climbing Wolf Creek Pass (11000-feet) in Colorado. Final numbers indicate 84 of the 90 motorcycles starting on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, New Jersey reached the final stop 3306 miles away in the Village of Carlsbad, California.
- Sixteen (16) scored Perfect Score (3306) completing the entire run riding every mile arriving on time without any points deductions.
- 74 of 90 motorcycles crossed the final Stating Line with 60 motorcycles reaching the Finish Line. Many of the 74 motorcycles that didn't run everyday did so they could to make it to the end.
- Team White Trash, Numo bragged about his Support Team leader, Doc as one of the most prepared men he ever known. Equipped with Ariel maps of evening stops identifying local grocery stores, Wal-Marts, Auto Part Stores and even liquor stores, Doc was prepared to support his team. That’s what the Cannonball Spirit is about supporting each other.
- Team #98, Doug Jones on the last night of the Cannonball let another Team borrow a needed magneto so they would be able to finish the Cannonball.
- Joe Gimpel, Jr. ever-present is continuously seen working with other Cannonball’ers using his expertise to repair motorcycles so they may continue on the Run.
- Mike Carson’s Team “Carson Classis Motors” representing a “rolling’ machine shop manned by mechanic experts provided countless assistance and support for competitors including straightening a motorcycle frame so a competitor could win Class III.
Winning the Cannonball is important but finishing is the Spirit.Winning the Cannonball is a lot of preparation and a lot of luck but in the long run finishing the Cannonball is the monumental achievement. It is the moment that is shared by all at the Finish Line. Some will ride across while other push or come across on the trailer; it's all the same. There are Class and Overall winners but everyone who are standing at the end is a WINNER! “The Motorcycle Cannonball Spirit” This "Spirit" was demonstrated by Dean’ Bordigioni when his Overall leading Class I 1914 Harley Davidson was penalized in the final days of the Run knocking him from 1st to 19th. Dean’s disappointment didn’t keep him from being with the "Spirit." Being a dedicated motorcyclist and gracious gentleman, he chose to ride to the finish with the cheers of his fellow competitors and the crowds. Dean Bordigioni is a truly the example of a Motorcycle Cannonball Champion. As the Cannonball’ers rode their machines into the village streets of Carlsbad, crowds of people were standing applauding and cheering with everyone feeling that they are witnessing something very special, a true moment of history. At Farewell Banquet the Director of Events, Jason Sims respectfully honored each individual's accomplishment by reading the names of every rider. Each of Class winners were recognized as well as the Overall winner.
- Class I – Dean Bordigioni # 49 1915 Harley Davidson
- Class II – Frank Westfall #2 1912 Henderson (Overall Winner)
- Class III – Steve DeCosa #13 1915 Harley Davidson
“The Lonnie Isam Jr Spirit of the Motorcycle Cannonball Award.”The award will be given at all future Motorcycle Cannonball Run will be "The Lonnie Isam, Jr. Spirit of the Motorcycle Cannonball Award" which embodies the spirit which the creator, Lonnie Isam Jr had always envisioned. This year's award come directly from Lonnie, Jr., who was unable to attend the Farewell Banquet. In special recognition of Dean Bordigioni's accomplishment, he was awarded the first “Spirit of the Cannonball Award.” As this year’s recipient, Dean Bordigioni was selected personally by Lonnie, Jr., who was home managing an ongoing serious health issue and following the Motorcycle Cannonball on social media. Based upon what he read, he felt that Dean's efforts and accomplishment deserved the recognition. This year's award given to Dean is a particularly special award as it is a “one-time only” award. It represents the only time that Lonnie, Jr. will personally chose the recipient and sign the award. In the Spirit of Cannonball Baker, Dean is the epitome of a tough gritty motorcyclist riding a barebones non-frill motorcycle across America best representing the Spirit of the Motorcycle Cannonball. At the end of the Banquet, there was a standing ovation for Lonnie, Jr. This demonstration of respect honors Lonnie's integrity as it will forever be at the heart of this event. It truly was a Race of the Century, a moment in history, congratulations to Jason Sims and his Motorcycle Cannonball organization for putting on a specular event. JOB WELL DONE! According to Jason, Motorcycle Cannonball plans to announce the next Run this coming Fall. He hints that it might be something different. Based upon the experience of the 2016 Cannonball, something different sounds very interesting as this Motorcycle Cannonball was truly a Race of the Century, one for the memories. I will look forward to see how this unfolds for Motorcycle Cannonball is 2018.
Representing the Antique Motorcycle Club of America
Sailing with fair winds on following seas... Captain Blood
Travels with Captain Blood & AIRHEAD "Betty"
Supporting Cast of Characters