The Motorcycle Cannonball is an endurance run that many see as man/woman vs machine. It was started by Lonnie Isam, Jr. in 2010. He wanted to go riding with his friends on their antique motorcycles, and that dream took him on an adventure of a lifetime! Often, antique motorcycles are stuck in museums collecting dust, having not run for years. The conversation was that earlier pioneers had made long voyages on these bikes in the early 1900’s so there should be no reason that it couldn’t be done now. For goodness sake, we even have paved roads today and in the days when those motorcycles were manufactured, they rode long distances on dirt roads.
The Motorcycle Cannonball takes an excursion every other year (this year will be the 7th). Eighty to 100 riders from all over the world come together to ride these ancient machines. The motorcycle must be at least 90 years old. The riders have a general idea of the locations that they will get to each day, however, the route is not known until the morning they leave. Unable to use any type of GPS (this will disqualify you), the riders are given a paper chart with turn-by-turn instructions. Each rider is allowed to have a support crew, who can help the rider before they check in for the day and after. Once the rider goes across the starting line each morning, the rider is on their own. If the bike breaks down the rider has the opportunity to try to fix it but cannot get help from their support crew. The support crew has to take a different route than the riders to get to the ending destination. The competitor can get help from other riders, and any good Samaritan or mechanic they happen upon along the route. The kicker is that you have an allotted amount of time to get from the beginning of the route to the end. There is also a “sweeper” van for motorcycles that are not able to be fixed quickly. When the van arrives, the competitor needs to load the bike and take a ride in the van to get back to the end of the day destination to work on the bike with their team. Points are issued for the number of miles each rider was able to make each day so the pressure is on to keep the bike running and making all of the miles each day.
Typically, there is a stop at the end of the day to allow motorcycle enthusiasts to come and view the motorcycles. Often, the antique fans come back to the hotels that the riders are staying at in order to watch the teams wrench on the bikes and swap war stories from the day. There is always something to fix at the end of the day, some days you have to pull the whole motorcycle apart and spend all night wrenching; just to get up in the morning and ride again. Through this you meet the most wonderful people and the camaraderie is a beautiful thing to experience.
My stepdad, Mike Butts, got me into riding motorcycles. He grew up riding, so by the time I was 16 I learned how to drive dirt bikes and ride off road. At 20, I got my motorcycle license, took a basic safety course and started gaining confidence on local streets. As a family we would go to Colorado to ride dirt bikes in the mountains and saw some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen, along with some of the most rugged terrain. I also learned that off road riding really helps you learn how to ride better and safer on the street. Mike decided to try out the Motorcycle Cannonball in 2018, I joined as a support crew. It was the best decision. It was thrilling, and I learned so much about motorcycles. When Mike was signing up for 2020 (later postponed to 2021) he suggested I sign up, without hesitation I was in!
During my time on the Cannonball, I learned about Accident Scene Management (ASM). As a nurse it piqued my interest when I learned that the staff was all trained in motorcycle trauma response. They even had a nurse who is the founder of the organization ride along to help competitors stay on the course and stay healthy. As l was riding that beautiful 1929 101 Indian Scout I was in an accident. I suffered an open compound fracture of my tibia and fibula after a U-Haul truck slammed on their brakes in front of me. I found out first-hand how important Accident Scene Management is, especially with motorcycles. Luckily, I had trained professionals at the scene with me, including my step-dad and our course medic, Vicki Sanfelipo. I was moved out of harm’s way, my leg was stabilized, and bleeding was controlled quickly. Being a bedside RN and also having a love for motorcycles, you learn quickly the importance of surrounding yourself with quick thinking, educated people in cases of emergencies. I decided to become an ASM instructor so I can educate others and also be helpful while I am riding my motorcycle, on the Cannonball, or if I come across an accident. I can help save a life before EMS arrives. I encourage all riders to become trained. If you are looking for a class or an instructor, CLICK HERE. Heck, I love to travel, just give me an excuse! Follow my Cannonball Adventure this year HERE. We will be gathering in Virginia Beach for the start on September 6th and will end in Oceanside CA September 24th.
#110 – Brianna Meisinger