After years of seeing stories of riders and their scooters in Modern Vespa, along with taking many long club rides with the 7 Bridges Scooter Club in Jacksonville, Florida, I decided that the 2014 Scooter Cannonball Run was simply too good to miss. This one involved riding from Hyder, Alaska to New Orleans in ten days.
I joined up with a fine team and support group, then took my favorite scooter, Rocket, a 2005 Vespa GT with more around 57,000 miles on it, to Tennessee to be transported to Prince George, BC, then ride the remaining 450 miles to the start in Hyder.
Meeting the riders, many of whom I had read about on the Scooter Cannonball Run and Modern Vespa websites turned out to be a thrill for me. I was an outsider as many were already good friends who had ridden in numerous runs already, but they welcomed me into the group.
Riding through the Rockies, from Hyder through Colorado was simply magical.
Every day was a small adventure. We turned off the paved roads to rough dirt and gravel roads along the way, making the little street machines and their riders a bit uncomfortable.
I started the ride, content to be as competitive as possible while riding a little faster than my usual style. When I found that I was placed near the top after day one, it added pressure, but also excitement.
I believe that almost everyone wanted to compete at the start. After day one it became apparent that only ten or so would have a chance to win. That number dwindled as the days progressed. Everyone had issues along the way. Broken parts sidelined several riders. Getting lost hurt other’s chances. Running out of gas slowed one or two of the riders.
I didn’t win, or even finish. But I had the time of my life.
So much fun that I had to enter again in 2016. This one started 40 miles from my home in Jacksonville. I stayed at home and rode to the start before dawn on July 5. I rode Vanessa this time. She is a 2005 Vespa GT that I had bought from a friend a year earlier. After much trouble getting her in fine running order, I tested her against the other two GTs and found that I was most confident with her ability to complete the run.
For this one, I wanted to finish.
We had a larger turnout than 2014, 35 where only 28 started in Hyder. This was largely because it was so difficult to get to Hyder.
The route was not as dramatic as five days in the Rocky Mountains, but still wonderful as we rode through the Appalachian Mountains on day two. Day three saw us riding through a huge, dangerous storm. I am certain that a tornado was nearby as I turned back on the US-51 bridge crossing the Mississippi River. The wind was blowing me into the oncoming truck traffic so I reversed course, waited five minutes and had an easy passage.
We rode past Mount Rushmore, but in a timed endurance event, couldn’t spend any time admiring the rock faces. In the mountains in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming, we climbed to 9700 feet. At the top I looked behind me only to see that Walt on his 155cc Yamaha Smax had caught me on the climb. I was going as fast as I could on my 198cc carbureted Vespa, but his fuel injected machine was better climbing at altitude. We hustled back down together. I stayed ahead, but couldn’t leave him until we hit the flats where my scooter was slightly faster.
We rode together again along the Clearwater River in Idaho where passing logging trucks was the order of the day. It required us taking some minor chances on the curving roads, but we made it to Walla Walla safely.
The finish in Mukilteo was both happy and sad as the adventure was over.
I had a good result and had a chance to ride with several old friends while making new ones. I find that the riders to all be wonderful people, many now among my best friends.
I highly recommend anyone who enjoys long scooter rides to give it a shot. The experience will stay with you forever.