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September 10, 2023

Cannonball riders and crew woke up to a dark and very overcast morning, with the roads wet from rain that fell sometime during the night. Based on the weather forecast, we expected another soggy day, but eventually the fog and mist rose to the top of the mountains and the sun made a welcome appearance in the afternoon.

This morning’s route took riders along curvy backroads with gradual ascents and descents, through rural towns and lightly traveled byways. Some highlights of the morning included the ride through Chimney Rock State Park and around Lake Lure in the Blue Ridge Foothills. Our mid-day stop took place at Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, where a huge crowd awaited the rolling antiques. Fortunately, the spectators were patient because a road closure by law enforcement held up most of the riders for more than an hour due to some sort of “suspicious activity.” The number of people that turned up for the Cannonball welcome exceeded crowd size from our previous stop there, and riders greatly appreciated the support. The museum staff provided riders, staff and crew with a delicious lunch, access to the museum shop and equipment for repairs, and free entry to the world-class  museum, opened over 20 years ago by the late Dale Walksler and now run by his son Matt.

The afternoon took us along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while, and the route included 13 tunnels, which can be challenging because many of these ancient machines have very weak headlamps, necessitating auxiliary lights at both front and rear. Even more difficult were the changes in elevation that became more pronounced—from 500 feet to almost 5,500 feet—with long, steep ascents that challenged both engines and brakes. Riders were forewarned that today would be among the most difficult days, and sure enough, the 261-mile course took most competitors about 10 hours, not counting the mid-day break.

Today saw 11 Did Not Starts (DNS), two riders that are out of the entire competition, and seven Do Not Finishes (DNF). But only two motorcycles ended up on the sweep trailer, plus a few in crew trailers. The number of riders with perfect scores also dropped again, from  yesterday’s 58 to 51. For the third day in a row, #99 Todd Cameron, #1 Dave Currier, and #109 Alex Trepanier held onto their first, second, and third-place finishes, all in Stage 1. The top finishers in the rest of the classes were: Class 2 – #52 Stephen “Doc”  Hopkins (1916 Harley-Davidson J), Class 3 – #30 Keith Kardell (1923 Harley-Davidson JD), Class 4 – #34 Ben Pierce (1926 Neracar C), Class 5 – #117 Shannon Heling (1924 Harley-Davidson J), Class 6 – #73 George Unruh (1924 Harley-Davidson JD), Class 7 – #138 Mark Zenor (1938 Norton).

Tomorrow, competitors leave from Maryville, Tennessee, to ride 270 miles to Appleton Harley-Davidson in Clarksville, Tennessee. We cross the time zone to Central Time and gain an hour, which both riders and crew will appreciate as many are already showing signs of sleep deprivation due to late nights in the pits, getting bikes ready to roll the next day.