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September 13, 2023

Good fortune has shone upon riders this past week with another day of near-perfect weather. This morning we were greeted by cool but sunny conditions as riders prepared to depart Cape Girardeau and head to Branson, Missouri.

Navigation was a lot easier today than it was on Tuesday, with less turns and lengthier stretches along several scenic highways. All the riders loved the route, which consisted of long, sweeping, banked curves through farmlands and forests along most of today’s 282 miles. Highway 160 was a great example of a perfect riding road for these very reasons—except for some road rehabilitation that funneled traffic into a single lane, causing several delays as groups of riders waited for pilot cars to lead them through the construction zone.

Gas station stops can also cause delays—not necessarily because the pumps are busy, but because it’s usually impossible to just “gas and go.” Other gas station customers are drawn to these unique antiques, and always have many questions to ask of riders. But this type of delay is often part of the charm of the Cannonball, as most riders enjoy sharing their passion with the rest of the world.

The ease of navigation on today’s route was much appreciated, because when a rider misses a turn from the course instructions, it is sometimes difficult to find one’s way back to the route. What can be even more of a challenge is that the rider must now constantly calculate, in their head (since GPS navigation is against the rules), the revised mile “markers” on the instruction sheet, for the remainder of the day.

A few of the day’s sightseeing highlights included riding along Bull Shoals Lake, cruising through Mark Twain National Forest, and crossing over Table Rock Dam just before riders arrived at the final checkpoint at our hotel. And speaking of the hotel, what a magnificent place of lodging! Chateau on the Lake in Branson is a favorite among both Cannonballers and Chasers, with spectacular views of Table Rock Lake.

There was no official event tonight, although many friends and spectators hung out in the pits (the hotel’s lower parking lot). And some of the riders took advantage of the more informal atmosphere. For instance, #60 John Bartman’s support staff cooked up a grill full of bratwursts. Now, that’s a solid crew, especially for John who, as many of us know, loves good food.

Once again, eight machines did not start today, but the number of riders with perfect scores has dropped to 44. And for the SIXTH day in a row, #99 Todd Cameron, #1 Dave Currier, and #109 Alex Trepanier came in, respectively, first, second, and third in points. There’s been a shift in points leaders in one of the classes, though. Class 2 is still led by #52 Stephen “Doc” Hopkins (1916 Harley-Davidson J), and Class 3 by #30 Keith Kardell (1923 Harley-Davidson JD). Class 4 is now led by #200 Andy Babister (1926 Rudge Special) due to #34 Ben Pierce’s 1926 Neracar, a fan favorite, losing compression and ending up on the sweep trailer.  #117 Shannon Heling (1924 Harley-Davidson J) still leads Class 5, #73 George Unruh (1924 Harley-Davidson JD) still leads Class 6, and #138 Mark Zenor (1938 Norton) holds onto the lead for Class 7.

Tomorrow we ride 270 miles to Augusta, Kansas, where Twisted Oz Motorcycle Museum hosts the entire group. Everyone is invited to meet the riders and view their bikes between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., as well as viewing the wonderful museum collection.