Jon Szalay is one of those guys who seems to have been born just a few decades too late. His business as an antiques restorer keeps him firmly focused on the past. And when it comes to motorcycles, most of the projects he works on are bikes from the era before 1915.
So when he heard about the Motorcycle Cannonball ride, he had to be part of it.
“This is a pretty amazing thing that Lonnie (Isam Jr) is doing,” he says. “Pre-1916 guys are pretty rare birds, and to spend two weeks crossing the country with 67 of them is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Maybe we can spend our time talking about how screwed up we all are.”
For Bill Campbell, this year’s Motorcycle Cannonball ride offers the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong goal.
“I’ve always wanted to take a motorcycle from coast to coast,” says Campbell. “In high school, they asked us to write about the job we wanted to do, and I wrote, ‘Ride across the country on a motorcycle.’
Unfortunately, that dream had to be put on hold as Campbell got out of school and started to earn a living as a construction worker. Since then, the closest he’s come to achieving his dream came when he hauled his motorcycle to South Dakota for Sturgis Bike Week.
Motorcycle Cannonball Rider No. 89, Cristine Sommer-Simmons, seems to have the world on a string, albeit a very long and busy string. Successful author, journalist, antique motorcycle buff, life-long rider, wife of rock and roller Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers, and mother of three children, Ms. Sommer-Simmons is one of just two women in an otherwise all-male field of participants in this historic transcontinental motorcycle endurance challenge.
Cris is bringing her Cannonball steed – a 1915 Harley-Davidson Twin three-speed – to the mainland from the Sommer-Simmons home on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. The bike has been in her husband’s collection for many years but, prior to prepping it for the Cannonball, it hadn’t been started in long time.
Cris and Pat began work on the bike back in November 2009. She says she picked #89 for her Cannonball entry number because that's the year she and husband Pat – who she calls her number one supporter – met. Cris says Pat “has been a great inspiration to me” and says her celebrity rocker husband “may drop in and ride along with my support team, but he is on tour with his band about to release a new Doobie Brothers CD, so it's a busy time for him too.”
Mike Vils is Motorcycle Cannonball rider number 13. He will be riding his 1913 Excelsior. To put another candle on the cross-country ride celebration, Mike will observe his birthday on September 13 during the Cannonball. Mike considers himself fortunate indeed and views the event as the ride of a lifetime.
As the Sergeant-at-arms of the So Cal based TrailBlazers Motorcycle Club, Vils is deeply immersed in the motorcycle culture and takes his membership in the social club very seriously. The club has met annually since 1940 and, with such famous alumni as William H. Davidson, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Bud Ekins, and the notorious Cannonball Baker himself, this pioneer motorcycle club is steeped in history and splashed with bigger-than-life personalities. (Go to www.trailblazersmc.com for complete information about the club).
Written by Felicia Morgan-photoghraphs courtesy of Mark Shubin
Friday, 21 May 2010 16:48
Jeff Decker is rider No. 21 in the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball and he will be astride a 1914 Harley-Davidson. But that’s only part of his story. Decker is also an internationally known artist who’s bronze-cast sculptures depicting the synergy of man and modern machines--particularly historic motorcycles--is well known in both the motorcycling community and the world of fine art.
Across the board, Jeff has a reputation as a man of his word that is honest to his craft. As both a rider and an artist, it is from this dual perspective that Decker signed up to participate in the Motorcycle Cannonball. And it is from these perspectives as well that he has agreed to sculpt the award to be presented to the one rider from the single cylinder speed class who garners the most points in this amazing trans-continental endurance ride.