Just in case anyone thinks the profile for those who participated in the Motorcycle Cannonball was of a stodgy old guy with lot of money and too much time on his hands, let me correct you right now. Nothing could be further from reality. The colorful group of adventure seeking motorcyclists who lit out from North Carolina with a “California or Bust” attitude that beautiful September day was an assemblage of like minded vintage riders with big hearts and a bigger sense of community. The group loyalty and sense of family was a reoccurring theme throughout the event so it was no surprise when the story behind the Rev’s Revenge Racing crew surfaced. It was, however, not your run-of-the-mill yarn.
Early during the run an email communication came to the Cannonball crew from a woman asking for help in locating her son, one Stuart Munger, who was said to be part of the Motorcycle Cannonball. After a quick review of the roster, she was informed that there was no rider by that name registered and we wished her luck in locating her son. That note was followed by another from Mom explaining that no, her son was, indeed, traveling with part of the Cannonball entourage. That is, at least, his ashes were. It was quickly determined that we needed to hear the whole of this particular tale and out we went to find answers. Our inquiring minds were adequately intrigued.
A stroll through the parking lot provided the answers when a banner that lay across the hood of a pick up caught our eye. In bold print were the words “Rev’s Revenge Racing”, which was mentioned in the mother’s notes, and we knew we’d hit pay dirt. Of course, we should have bet money that the gregarious and vocal Mike Madden and his madcap cohorts would somehow be involved. We could have made big bucks with the wager.
As it turns out, Stuart Munger had planned to ride in the Cannonball along with his buddies, Steve Huntzinger (a childhood friend), David Bettencourt, Rick McMaken, the afore mentioned Madden and Dave Johnson who drove support. The crew had given themselves nicknames like Stork, Rickler, Redog, Goldtooth and Plummer Dave and had planned out the trip as a team. Unfortunately, the untimely death of their friend put a kink in their fuel lines when Stu keeled over of a massive heart attack. The group hadn’t even tightened a push rod on their bikes in preparation of the run, yet.
After respectfully mourning the loss of their larger-than-life friend, the team made ready for the Cannonball and discussed often how the Reverend Stu should be making the trip with them. The self-proclaimed minister of the “Church of Sin and Social Disease” should be appropriately memorialized in a fashion befitting his unreserved and zany life, they reasoned.
No one can ever remember Stuart as having held down a real job, but he had a vast knowledge of cars and motorcycles and was considered big in the speedway racing circuit in England, especially when he was involved in a scandalous affair after being caught in bed with the crew chief’s wife.
According to his friends, to know Stu was to love him, and once you met him, you’d never forget him, especially his unusual grasp, and twist, of the English language. He was famous for a 10-minute oration where he performed his interpretation of a Southern evangelist. The rhetoric he spewed was both spellbinding and hilarious, and he was known to launch into the persona at the slightest provocation. Stuart Munger was charismatic, to say the least.
The tales of Munger’s salty antics seem never-ending and the stories were accompanied by great knee slapping guffaws, cigar smoking, and a lot of beer swilling by his friends. From the casual observer’s chair, it appeared Stu made the most of his time here on earth by living out life on his own terms. He was a much loved and very respected man.
So it was with great joy and delight that arrangements were made for Stu’s ashes to be given to the group so he could ride along the 3,294-mile route with his closest buddies, and at the end of the ride his remains were returned to his family. Mostly. According to Steve, “Stu got bored riding in that jar and he escaped. I don’t blame him!” When asked if that meant the guys scattered Stu along the way, Mike Madden chuckled as he said, “Accidentally. There’s that little bit that’s in the bottom of Steve’s saddlebags, and a pinch that ended up on Carl Olsen bike, but otherwise he’s all there.” He added, “And Stu would absolutely approve.”
In the video below, Lonnie catches the Rev’s crew in action as they run their magic fingers over Cris Sommers-Simmons’ bike, Effie, at a gas station in Krebs, Oklahoma. David Bettencourt provided the parts to change out a broken pushrod and rocker. Everyone takes turns pitching in to get Cris and Effie back on the road and on towards California.