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The Prologue: Getting in the Groove

By Marjorie Kleiman

September 7, 2023

The official start of the Cannonball kicked off this morning with “rider school,” led by Jason Sims, Motorcycle Cannonball Operations Director. The meeting kicked off with introductions of the Cannonball staff and all riders, followed by a review of rules, scoring, and penalties, as well as an explanation of the course instruction sheets used for each day’s navigation. A questions and answers session revealed more information, such as the class structure which was revised this year to simplify things. Motorcycles 100 years and older are categorized in Class 1 (600cc or less), Class 2 (601-1000cc), or Class 3 (over 1000cc). Motorcycles between 90 and 99 years old fall into Classes 4, 5, or 6 with the same engine size designations. A new class was introduced this year for motorcycles from 1934 through 1943, which follow Class 4, 5, and 6 start times, but have different handicaps. (Each registered bike is handicapped based on age of the bike, cc’s, and speed of transmission.) And we learned that the oldest motorcycle is a 1909 Indian with the newest a 1942 Harley-Davidson. Fun fact: Riders’ ages range from 23 years old to 81 years (we actually have TWO 81-year-olds in the competition!).

Jason also explained a few other changes for this year’s event, such as a little more time worked into the course to provide riders with more opportunities to stop and enjoy some of the cool locations along the route, take photos, and just relax a little more. And much emphasis was placed on safety as well as having fun, even with changes to times, location, and routes that may happen along the way due to factors such as weather and construction that are out of our control. As Jason puts it, we may occasionally need to “improvise, adapt and overcome.”

Shortly after the meeting, riders began to stage at the nearby Virginia Beach Fishing Pier where we were given permission to stage on the pier itself. This was quite a coup for us; vehicles are never allowed on the pier, so it provided a unique opportunity for both riders and spectators to enjoy the assembly of antique motorcycles along the 73-year-old 650-foot-long structure. Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer even came out to the pier to greet riders and wish us a safe journey!

After scores of photos and videos were taken, 77 riders departed for the 35-mile prologue which took them out to the beautiful Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge before returning to Virginia Beach’s 615 Bar & Grill where owner JR and staff generously treated riders, crew, and staff to a buffet dinner and a fun place to hang out. Although every rider was able to start today, three riders ended up on the trailer and one arrived late.

At day’s end, Jason commented, “It was a good first day—great to see the riders excited and anxious to finally get on the road. Like I said at rider school this morning, ‘The hardest part is actually getting to the starting line.’”

Riders depart from Neptune’s Park in Virginia Beach tomorrow morning for Stage 1, and will finish the first full day at the Greenville, North Carolina, Convention Center.