What I learned:
The ride was much more important than the competition but almost everyone at the start wanted to compete for the win. (The Seattle SOD guys were filming a movie and on a very fine mission and not there to win). After day one, it narrowed down to maybe fifteen who were competing. By the end of day three that number was reduced to seven or eight.
SOD on a worthy cause
Seven riders arrived with well prepared scooters, ready to ride the way it takes to win. Those were Bigkart, Flyguy2, Classic Rider, Motovista, Cdwise, Absurd Ruse and me,
Bigkart had a 1986 Honda Helix with a nine gallon auxiliary tank. Bob had a fast scooter, was a fast rider, didn't have to stop and had a nice handicap. I am quite certain that he ended up with the fastest raw time too. Even though he made a few mistakes, I couldn't beat him. He and Duane, his support driver, were very nice guys who saw their scooter win relatively easily. But it took a great effort.
Bob on day one. I was teaching him how to ride a Cannonball.
Flyguy2, came on a brand new Yamaha Smax. It has a five point handicap advantage while being almost as fast as Vanessa (faster climbing hills and at altitude). And Walt rode it beautifully. I was close to him but he did better. I look forward to seeing Walt in Italy later this year. He is going to be a good friend in the future.
Classic Rider was on a vintage Vespa Rally 200. John's lack of speed and comfort made his effort a bit more impressive than the guys on newer, larger, faster, more dependable scooters. Every day he would soldier in to the finish. He scored better than me on many days.
Motovista was on a heavily modified Vespa GT. I thought he would be untouchable, but George had made a few mistakes that cost him speed. And speed helps on parts of the ride, but can't be used everywhere. Logistics hurt him too as the lack of organization at the start had him finishing after dark.
George and his monster machine
Cdwise had a fine scooter in the Aprilia Sport City 250, but couldn't overcome its huge handicap disadvantage. Cheryl rode well, also maybe the fastest raw time, but couldn't compete with the fast, lower handicap scooters.
Absurd Ruse, Gonzo, had a monster scooter that easily would have won if it had completed every day. He won every day he finished, by a big number, but reliability issues in the middle days kept him off the road. He won at least five days. Gonzo is a fine fellow, very friendly while being serious about his scooting. Can't beat that combination.
And me. I came with Vanessa, my 2007 Vespa GT. She had given me problems since I bought her last year, but was so sweet heading into the Cannonball that I knew she was the scooter to ride. She was almost trouble free on the ride, only a spark plug falling apart on day five cost me several minutes. She also had a coolant leak that I dealt with by checking coolant levels every night, topping off a few times. She was fast enough on the flats to deal with the others. Her climbing ability was not very good and riding into the wind took much speed away. I could have ridden a little harder, but I rode as hard as I could comfortably. It was exactly how I rode in 2014, but there a perfect day for me meant a win for the day. This year, while I had a few mistakes riding, notably the missed turn on day one that cost me 20 to 25 minutes, the route planning on day that cost as much as an hour, turning around because of high wind on the Mississippi River bridge on day three (I won that day anyway) and the spark plug problems on day five, I had seven perfect riding days. On those seven I made no wrong turns, had quick stops and rode as fast as I could. I didn't win any of them. Competition was very good at the top.
In spite of that, I was very pleased to end up third. It is where I belonged. I am almost sorry that John (Classic Rider) didn't get it as he had a much harder ride on his vintage.
The route was a good one. I love mountain riding and we had that several days. The best riding day may have been day four in Missouri, from Cape Girardeau to Nevada, MO. The hilly, twisty, smooth roads were so much fun. They kept me so busy that I wasn't able to get in many photos.
Dirt roads were a part of the original route, and a mainstay for Cannonball routes over the years. But none of them included a control point, so, when running in a competition, the top riders will always take the fastest route, so dirt roads were missed by everyone at the top. I don't like most of them anyway, but if we are to ride them, put a control point on them.
Beautiful dirt road photo by Cynthia
The hotels were mostly fine. The Super 8 in Nevada, MO was the worst, but I got a good night's sleep there so no problem.
Every day I left between 5:30 and 7:30 local time. All of the last five or six, I left right around 7:00, usually near the front of the leavers and usually among the first getting to the destination hotel. I got into Valentine, NE at 10:45AM. Just in time for breakfast with Cdwise after a 300 mile ride. The longest day was day two, over 7 hours. The shortest day was 4:30 with many around 5 hours. These distances are easy for me.
I met several new friends on the ride. I was most impressed with Scooterista, Cynthia, for riding her P200, Sloppy Joe, the entire distance. She was competitive for the first five or six days, then made the decision to complete the Cannonball at a more leisurely pace. She was always pleasant with a smile. I look forward to visiting again.
Cynthia and Sloppy Joe (Cynthia's photo)
hdvhw, Leigh, was a nice addition to the run as well. She rode her Vespa GTS 300 in the Maxi class. She followed me to a police stop in North Carolina. They were checking licenses, hoping to steal motorcycles from those who were ill prepared. Luckily we had the necessary permits and were set on out way.
This year I got to talk to Mike Smith more than last year. What a nice guy. His son Christopher rode with him and Chris was very cool too. svhess, Steve, was the same as Mike. Didn't talk much in 2014 but got to see him more this time. I enjoyed that.
Febail, Frank, turned out to be among my favorites too.
Liana and Wendell
I never had met jdracer, Juan, or Z50, Kevin before. I say this because they live in Gainesville, FL, just an hour from my house. They are such nice guys that I enjoyed riding with on several occasions, and seeing in the afternoons. Kevin is a magician, repairing a broken oil seal on Juan's Kymco after an unfortunate belt break. I would have been sunk.
Juan and Kevin arriving at the finish
Skwirly, Sean, rode a GTS 250. As is the case with these, he had electrical problems on the last half of the ride after sliding it through an intersection on day one. I was following him at 9000 feet when his scooter stopped running.
And of course my good friends Ken and Gary. It was a pleasure to spend two weeks with them.
What I truly learned was that, through scooting, you can make many friendships.
The 7 Bridges Scooter Club members at the start.