Join up with the Motorcycle Cannonball Run as Buzz Kanter of American Iron Magazine shares the latest from the 3300-mile trek across the great United States.
Cannonball At WTT! 3rd Leg — 208 Miles
I wish words could describe it. The day we’d all been waiting for over a year — The Motorcycle Cannonball at WTT!
With over 50 riders in the coast-to-coast event for motorcycles built before 1916 running strong toward Maggie Valley, we knew we’d be in for the event of a lifetime, but I’m not sure that anyone realized the magnitude of the day that lie before us.
8:00 a.m. — Not a cloud in the sky, and temperatures were perfect for riding. By the time I got the museum opened up, I’d already had over 30 phone calls from visitors wondering when the riders would be pulling in. My guess was as good as theirs….I knew the 208-mile day through the mountains would be challenging, and while a few of the pack had been arriving early during the first two days, it was more than probable that the mountains they were going to encounter on Stage 3 to Maggie Valley would become the "proving ground" for those crazy enough to test their 95-plus year old machines against the steep grades of Western NC. I spoke with Dale just before he departed from Concord, NC, and he let me know that all three machines on Team Wheels Through Time (three ’15 Harleys ridden by Dale, Wayne Stanfield, and David Kleptz) were running well. While he (and I) were confident about the capabilities of their machines, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy, and that some, if not many, might end up having some serious trouble once they hit the hills.
By 9:30a.m., the parking lot here at the museum was beginning to fill up, and we were all starting to realize that the event was going to be bigger than expected. Luckily, over the past week and a half, we had 20+ friends of the museum offer to volunteer for the day, and by the time it was all said and done, each would play a valuable role in making the day the best it could be. Throughout the morning, the crowd continued to grow, with folks pulling in from as far away as Canada, New Zealand, and Germany.
By 11:00 a.m., you could feel the adrenaline in the air, as eager onlookers awaited the latest news from riders on Stage 3. We got word from Dale around 11:30, while filling up with gas just before the lunch stop. Many of the bikes were running strong, and several of those who didn’t complete Stage 1 and/or Stage 2 had worked out many of the bugs and were back up and running down the road. Our good friend Tom McDonald was announcing the event, and kept fans and spectators updated as news came in about the riders.
With each passing hour, the thousands on hand grew more and more excited, as they knew they were about to experience something we may never see again. The energy was amazing. Folks kept pouring in throughout the day….a group of 20 bikes here, 15 more there, another 20 here….on and on it went. By 3p.m., cars and bikes were parking as far as a half mile away. The streets around the museum were filled with people, all waiting to see the first 95 year old bike cross the bridge to Wheels Through Time.
The first bike in was Buzz Kanters 1915 Harley-Davidson. Buzz, who is the publisher and editor-in-chief of American Iron Magazine, was met with roaring cheers for the crowd, and as he rolled up the red brick walkway in front of the museum, you could see the relief on his face. Buzz said the bike ran great, and took to the hills with relative ease. Second across the bridge was Wayne Stanfield, riding one of our ’15 Harleys, and within seconds of his arrival, Dale aboard his 1915 H-D and David Kleptz on a similar machine strolled across the bridge with smiles from ear to ear.
Dale was ecstatic to see the massive crowd in front of the museum, and got up on the podium to make a few announcements. By the time he was finished, several other riders passed through the crowd crossing the finish line with a feeling of true accomplishment.
By the time 5:30 rolled around, twenty-one Cannonball Riders rolled into Wheels Through Time, completing Stage 3 under their own power. I was pretty impressed with these numbers, since we knew the troubles the steep grades would impose on these primitive machines. Completing the 208-mile 3rd Leg alone was quite an accomplishment and a huge testament to nearly 100 year old equipment.
Throughout the day, the most impressive aspect was the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd. Granted, the riders deserve one heck of a pat on the back for having the grit to make such a run, but the fact that the energy of fans and spectators only seemed to increase throughout the day absolutely blew me away. I couldn’t think of any better welcome for the riders than a couple of thousand folks who, in one way or another, felt as if they were part of the run. I was told by riders that it was the best reception yet, and that seeing so many enthusiastic faces made it all that much more important to give it their all from here on out.
As the last rider crossed the bridge just after 5:30p.m., the crowd continue to flood in, congratulating riders, getting autographs and pictures, and sharing in the success of what may have been one of the most amazing days in recent motorcycle history.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Motorcycle Cannonball at WTT. The story gets even wilder from here!
This past Sunday, September 12, 2010, the first ever Motorcycle Cannonball Run roared into Maggie Valley, NC on its journey from Kitty Hawk, NC to Santa Monica, CA. Over 50 riders turned out for the 3300-mile trek across the United States, each aboard motorcycles produced before 1915. The sixteen day event plans to average approximately 230 miles per day, passing through twelve states.
The coast-to-coast endurance run kicked off in Kitty Hawk on Friday, September 10th, with riders eager to "get the show on the road". While some riders were still ironing out a few issues keeping them from making the start, and others experienced mechanical problems limiting their mileage, just over 20 Cannonball entrants completed the first two stages, having covered all 387 miles.
Stage three’s ride into Maggie Valley was expected to be one of the toughest days of the run, covering 208 miles through some of the steepest mountainous terrain that riders would see during the entire event. The route met every bit of those expectations, as several riders opted out of traversing the steep grades and took a "Did Not Finish" (DNF) for the day.
But despite the rugged terrain and primitive equipment, many of the riders pushed through the challenging 3rd stage, arriving in Maggie Valley to a crowd of over 3000 eager onlookers. Wheels Through Time’s own Dale Walksler, aboard his 1915 Harley-Davidson was one of the first riders in, completing all 208 miles from Concord, NC in just less than 8 hours with no mechanical trouble.
"This is certainly the ride of a lifetime, and its been a challenge for all of us to prepare these machines for such a long ride," said Walksler. "We’re only three days in, and I think the gravity of the immense task ahead of us is really starting to sink in."
By 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, the crowd of several thousand had gathered at the Wheels Through Time museum awaiting the 50-plus riders. Visitors from as far away as Canada, Germany, and New Zealand were in attendance, and as Cannonball entrants began to pull in after a long days rider, they were met with cheers from the enormous crowd that could be heard up to a mile away.
In total, 22 riders completed Stage 3 to Wheels Through Time, the earliest motorcycle being a 1913 Excelsior ridden by Brad Wilmarth of Petersburg, VA.
The Wheels Through Time museum experienced one of its busiest days ever during the Cannonball Stop, as visitors began flooding in as early as 9a.m., the majority of which were still present through the museum’s extended opening until 11:00 p.m.
"Today was an event that will certainly be remembered in the hearts and minds of the dozens of Cannonball entrants, as well as the over 3000 visitors who came out to support the riders in the race," said associate museum director, Matt Walksler. "The energy in the air was fantastic, and we’re thankful for all of those who helped make this day a once in a lifetime experience for so many of us!"
This coming Sunday, September 12, over 65 men and women from around the globe will visit the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC as part of the first ever Motorcycle Cannonball Run. Beginning in Kitty Hawk, NC, riders will compete on motorcycles built prior to 1916 in a coast-to-coast endurance race ending in Santa Monica, CA on September 26th.
The Motorcycle Cannonball Run, named after Erwin "Cannonball" Baker — a once-famous motorcycle and automobile racer who set over 140 endurance records from 1910 through the late-1930s — will depart the birthplace of aviation in North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday, September 10th, making its way across the great United States on a sixteen-day, 3,300-mile trek to the Pacific Ocean’s west coast in Southern California. Nearly 70 riders have signed up for the first-year event, in hopes of proving the durability and reliability of their nearly century-old equipment.
The run will cover approximately 200-230 miles per day, travelling mostly back roads and two-lane highways, as many of the machines on the run are over 100 years old and are unable to sustain speeds in excess of 35 or 40 miles per hour. Riders are scheduled to stop in Greenville, NC and Concord, NC for overnight stops on their way towards Maggie Valley.
Machines will begin descending into Maggie Valley around 3:00 p.m. on Sunday for a special tour of the Wheels Through Time Museum. Motorcycles competing in the event will be on display for visitors through the early evening, as well as dozens over other antique motorcycles that are accompanying the riders.
Wheels Through Time Museum curator and founder, Dale Walksler, will also be competing in the run aboard his 1915 Harley-Davidson, with teammate Wayne Stanfield of Tustin, CA. "We’ve done all we can to prepare each machine for the cross-country trek, but realize that its going to be an enormous challenge, regardless of how much effort has gone into getting these machines ready for the road," said Walksler.
While over 65 riders are competing in the event, it is expected that far fewer will finish. Riders must be aboard machines 95 years and older, which imposes serious threats and limitations, including primitive engine design, lack of spare parts, and out-dated brakes.
"There are very few that have ridden motorcycles for such a long distance," said Walksler. "And there are even fewer who’ve done it on a 95 year old machine. Completing this run will be a true test of endurance, stamina, and grit, but it will also take an experienced hand when it comes to the mechanics of a motorcycle this old!"
Wheels Through Time is open Thursday-Monday, from 9a.m.-5p.m. and will be holding demonstrations of many almost century-old motorcycles and automobiles throughout the weekend. The welcome ceremony for Cannonball Riders will be held at approximately 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, with museum hours extended until 7:00 p.m.
For more information on Sunday’s Motorcycle Cannonball Run arrival, visit the museum’s website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com or call (828) 926-6266.
Join us at Wheels Through Time for the museum’s third Veterans Salute of the season this Labor Day Weekend.
From Thursday-Monday, September 2-6, Wheels Through Time will be paying tribute to veterans and both active and retired service members by offering complimentary museum admission and an honorary two-year museum memberships to those who have served our country. The museum will also be giving away 500 free American flags throughout the weekend..
The museum’s first two "Veterans Salutes" were an outstanding success, as the museum hosted over 600 veterans and active service members over Memorial Day and July 4th Weekends.
Wheels Through Time, which houses over 320 All-American machines, each in running and operating condition, will be holding demonstrations and exhibitions of many of America’s rarest two- and four-wheeled vehicles throughout the weekend. Many rare and historic American military machines will be featured, including motorcycles used by American troops dating all the way back to 1917.
"We were honored and proud to open our doors to those who have fought, and continue to fight for American freedom and extend our deepest gratitude for the sacrifices they’ve made," said museum curator, Dale Walksler. "It is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for serving our great country."
Also on display at Wheels Through Time this weekend will be the museum’s two 1915 Harley-Davidson "Motorcycle Cannonball Run" entries. The first ever coast-to-coast endurance race for motorcycles made prior to 1916, the Motorcycle Cannonball will head from Kitty Hawk, NC to Santa Monica, CA beginning September 10th. Curator Dale Walksler has specially rebuilt two 1915 Harley-Davidson’s for the 3300-mile ride, each of which will be fired up regularly for visitors this weekend.
On September 12, over 65 Motorcycle Cannonball entrants, including Walksler and teammate Wayne Stanfield will head to Wheels Through Time as the Cannonball Run descends into Maggie Valley for an overnight stop. Riders are expected to begin arriving at approximately 4p.m., and each of the 1915 and earlier machines in the race will be on display for visitors to enjoy.
For more information on this weekend’s Veteran’s Salute at Wheels Through Time and the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, visit their website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com, or call (8280 926-6266.