My Cannonball adventure

My Cannonball adventure
Meet "Effie" our 1915 Harley-Davidson Twin 3 speed

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 13. I Love Effie

Day 13 was a beautiful ride into AZ. My bike ran great. The weather was nice... this is what it's all about! Arrived safely into Flagstaff. Off this morning to Laughlin, NV. Route 66 here we come!

Rough start as we left and hour and a half late due to some chain adjustments issues. (Gotta be safe!)

Special thanks to my crew, who were out helping others all day too. After the lunch stop Effie spit out a pushrod! The rocker arm was so worn out, it broke right off. My team went right to work... it took a village to fix her so i could get back on the road. Thanks Laura, Athena, Pat and Buzz Kanter too. (They picked him up when his bike died after 25 miles)

Off to Laughlin this morning

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 12 Alburqueque MN to Gallup, NM

Today was a mixture of ups and downs. Truly. Got off to a nice start. My brother Mark drove down from Boulder and rented a bike for the day so he could ride along for a bit. How cool is that? Too bad it started raining as soon as we got out of the morning traffic.

As we rode along, the road turned into a postcard. Beautiful orange colored Mesas filled the landscape. We rode for quite a while on old Route 66. What a great ride! I love seeing the old motel signs and old gas pumps. Fun stuff. It made me wonder what it would have been like to drive this road when it was in it's heyday. I'm sure I did when I was a kid. Very cool part of the country and history of being "On the Road".

As the skies ahead of us darkened with rain clouds, the group I was riding with pulled over and donned rain gear. I was glad they did a few miles later as it started raining steadily. Normally I just get wet... but glad I had my Harley rain suit, as it rained ALL day.

My bike was running weird, mainly from the elevation... we are up around 6,000 feet. It was running very lean too. Starved for air up here!

We stopped for lunch as it continued to rain. And rain... and rain. I got separated from my group after lunch. We were told that the route we were supposed to take had a road washed out and they gave us directions for a new route to Gallup. Apparently, we were to jump back on Highway 40... WOW. 70 mph trsffic in the pouring rain! At the next gas stop I hooked up with my old riding buddy Jim Petty from SC. Jim had had some major engine repairs and had missed a few days of riding, so that's why I rode with the CA guys the past few days. Jim is such a cool guy. Very nice. We gassed up and went inside to look for some clear glasses. All we both had on were sunglasses, which aren't great in the rain... we needed to see better! While buying the glasses, I asked the women behind the counter if she thought the rain would let up. She said it would probably rain all day. I told Jim I thought I would just go for it. I was dry under my rain suit, but my feet and hands were wet and I was getting cold. (It was a COLD rain too!) He agreed, though there were at least 10 other riders hunkered down waiting out the rain. we didn't see any reason to stand there and freeze, so off we Jim and I went. We got on Highway 40 and of course there was road construction... plus lots of cars and semi trucks zipping by at 70 mph. Our friend Artist Scott Jacobs had been riding along with one of the sweeper "Side car Dudes" all day. They got behind us with their flashers on so people would see us better. I;m not sure why Jim was riding on the shoulder ( I was taught NOT to... can cause flat tires, due to all the junk that gathers on the side of the road. ) I was in the right lane plugging along at 40 mph... when I see Jim start to wobble and slide sideways. Looked a lot like I flat tire that I had the other day. To his credit, he held on to her and got his bike safely to the side of the road. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the Side Car Dude had pulled over to help him. I wasn't sure what to do... Should I pull over too? I only had a second to make a decision... then, I looked in my mirror and saw a truck behind me.. I guess I should just keep going. I couldn't help him change it and if I stopped I would never be able to get up enough steam to merge back into this traffic. I kept going and in a few miles the sidecar guy with Scott in the sidecar pulled in behind me and followed me the 25 miles left into Gallup and to the hotel.

I was a happy girl to make it! Yeah... a hot bath and a little laundry. Worked on the bike for tomorrow. My wonderful husband Pat adjusted my push rods again... the girls adjusted my chains and topped off my oil and gas. Ready for tomorrow's ride to Flagstaff!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 10... Lawton, Ok to Clovis, NM

The LONGEST day of the Cannonball! Effie ran great most of the day. The first 20 miles or so were on this REALLY bumpy road. It was not very well traveled. I could see grass growing up between the ruts and cracks. Ugh... I guess this is what it must have been like to ride 95 years ago. Wait! It was worse. I don't think many roads were even paved back then. It was bouncy. Sure gave my seat and Airhawk pad a workout today!

We rode across northern Texas. String crosswinds and head winds cut down on my uphill power and gas mileage. Even ran out of gas twice. Thank goodness for the extra gallon in my saddlebags! Carb ran weird for a bit. Glad I rode with Steve Huntzinger today. (He's the mechanic who rebuilt Effie for this ride) He helped me and adjusted the carb today. I guess we are going up in elevation. No wonder I lost power a few times today. Hope we can make her run good for tomorrow's ride to Albuquerque.

290 more miles done today! I even get to wash my hair! Hopefully I can get more than 5 or 6 hours sleep tonight.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 9 Flat Tire!

Fort Smith, AR to Lawton, OK... Day 9. A pretty darn good day. I think I'm in the groove. The way my day goes depends on how my bike runs. So... I had a pretty good day. That is, up until I got 258 miles under my belt. Only 12 more to the hotel when I got a flat tire on the rear of my bike! No biggies, but I had to get trucked to the hotel and we were up until 12:30 putting on a new tire and tube. Hope it goes good...

I also had to borrow some push rods and a rocker arm from my friend Dave. The ones on my bike are really old ( like 95 years!) and pretty worn out. Other riders have been great about loaning psrts to each other. I returned the favor yesterday when Dave needed a mag and I had a spare. I know... now I won't have one for myself if mine goes out. But, that's the spirit of the Cannonball. Lots of us help each other. One big traveling motorcycle circus!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 7 ... in Arkansas

Day 7... Lulu, MS to Hot Springs, AR. Great morning. Ready to roll. I'm riding alone except for Mongo one of the "Side Car Dudes" who trails us to make sure we aren't left out stranded in case of problems. My riding partner Jim Petty, from SC broke down again yesterday and limped in around midnight. He's still trying to fix his valve this morning and it looks like I'm alone today.

Bike seems to be running better than yesterday, as my crew adjusted my valves last night. Too much play in the pushrods again. Athena and Laura work so hard every evening getting Effie ready for the next morning. Plus, they have been running sweep in my van, helping other riders with mechanical issues. These are not motorcycles you can just run for a few hundred miles and park them like new bikes and ride again and again. They go over the chains, check tire pressures, fill oil and gas for the next morning's scheduled take off. Every nut and bolt must be checked to make sure it hasn't losened during the bumpy ride. There is very little suspension on these!

We must check in and show our numbers every morning 15 minutes before our set starting time. This morning I checked in at 8:30 and was on my bike heading out at 8:45.

Right after I left the hotel I crossed over the Mississippi River and headed in Arkansas. The bike was running good and it was still cool enough to feel good before the heat of the day set in.

About 15 minutes later, the bike started losing power. I looked down at the exposed rockers and noticed the rear rockers weren't moving. Oh, oh... running on one cylinder. I pull over and Mongo pulls in a few minutes behind me. We let her cool down and notice the rear push rod seems lose. Soon, my crew pulls in behind us and we take out the tools and see if we can tighten it up. The threads on the pushrod are old and worn, the rod looks a little bent. Hmmm.... a few other sweepers pull in and we try a few things, but can't get her tight. Oh well.... that's it for me for today. Not a horrible breakdown, just a pushrod, which we can probably find from someone who has a spare later tonight. I'm disappointed as we load the bike in van. It's 99 degrees and the air conditioning actually felt pretty darn good after sitting on the side of the road trying to fix the bike. Though I missed out on some miles today. I can get her going and ride again. Not too tough of a repair. We have a day off here in Hot Springs tomorrow. We will have all our bikes on display in the Convention Center here tomorrow all day. It's also laundry day tomorrow!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stage 6- seperated!

I need to try and do this every night, even though my crew is down working on my bike on the hotel parking lot. I feel guilty if I'm not helping, but am soooo tired when I get from riding. I guess it's the heat mostly for me, but this is grueling. These bikes are not easy to ride. Plus, the suspension is really not there.

Toast left us today. She's a big part of my crew... been filming since Day one in Kitty Hawk. But, she has a real life and a real job, so she had to leave us today. We hope she can drop in and join is before we hit Santa Monica. We miss her so!

My hubby Pat is here to help too.. He's enjoying hanging out with all his fellow crazy antique motorcycle crazy's! He also knows a lot about old bikes and can help out with the bike.

My riding buddy Jim and I left Alabama a 9:00 this morning. I knew it was going to be a hot one and it was. My bike was running a little rough, so I was playing with my carburator. I looked back and Jim had pulled over. Oh boy. I waited on the side of the road for quite a few minutes when a guy on a Honda pulled up next to me. He said Jim was fixing something on his bike and would be along soon. The sun was blazing and I was melting. Scrolling forward, I saw from my directions that there was a little park a few miles up ahead. There was even a bathroom there! I asked the guy if he would go back and tell Jim I would wait for him there. He was so nice... he even helped me put my bike up on the stand. Long story short. My crew was running as a sweeper to check on broken bikes. They had reached Jim and texted me that he wasn't running. I waited a while longer and then they told me he was STILL working on it. I felt bad, but I couldn't wait any longer. If he got picked up by the van I would be riding alone anyway the rest of the 120 some miles left. I took off, ending up 30 miles later in Tupelo, MS at the hosted lunch spot just in time to say thanks to the people who waited to meet us. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and let my bike cool down for a little while. One of the sweeper sidecar "Dudes" as we call them, Mondo said he would ride behind me to make sure I made it ok. We have several of these guys who will tail the last of the bikes in each day to make sure we are all accounted for at the end of the day. So... we rode and we rode and we rode, making to the hotel in Lulu, in plenty of time. Last I had heard Jim would NOT put his bike on the trailer. His crew had gone out to follow him in. I hopoe he made it ok.

Gotta get out to help mt crew and Kiss Effie good night. She's getting her chains adjusted and all fluids filled up for the mornign take off to Hot Springs. Arkansas.


Stage 6

A foot note to last night's post. My legs are sooo bruised from my kicker. My left leg got hit by the pedal while I was kicking on the right side of the bike... (Which, for some weight balance issue is easier for me to kick start it on that side) My right ankle is sore from kicking when the pedal fell through on the stroke.. also, called "ratchetting" I suppose.

Och. I can barely walk, I hope I can kick tomorrow. My legs and thighs am full of bruises. But.. I am having the time of my life!

I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stage 5

Stage 5 was a tough one for a lot of us. After the steep hills of NC,a lot of the riders thought we were in for an easier ride. My friend Matt Olsen has been working on his Sears motorcycle pretty much non-stop every night. Well... Matt finally got to ride on this 204 mile ride from Chattanooga, TN to Tuscumbia, AL. There was a 3 mile stretch of curves that was too much for the suspension on Matts bike. He was thrown over the handlebars and ended up with a broken arm. We will miss your smiling face out here Matt. It's like we alre already this one big "Cannonball Family", crossing the country like a traveling carnival. Setting up shop in our hotel parking lots to service our beloved machines every night. A family, we help each other and encourage each other after every days ride. I'm so proud to call these people my "family". So proud of Matt for hanging in there like he did. That's heart.


I've sort of unofficially "teamed" up with Jim Petty, from SC, who rides a 1915 Indian. We seem to have started riding together for a few days and seem to ride the same speed, etc.. Nice guy. Stayed with me when I had problems with my bike climbing hills. I've also stayed with him the past few days when he's had some issues too. This morning about 8 miles outside of Chattanooga, he rode up next to me holding the handle for his spark advance. I should have known the would be the start of some problems for him that day too. While going up the BIG 9% grade hill, Jim was flagged down right at the crest by a rode worked. He stopped and of course, could not hold the bike up at that angle. He tumbled over and picked the bike up by himself. I don't think many people could do THAT! About 20 miles into town Jim's exhaust pipe came out of the head on the rear cylinder. After letting the bike cool for a few minutes, we tried to get it to rethread, but we ended up wiring in together until we got to the hotel. Stuff like that is hapenning to most of us. How could it not..? These motorcycles are at least 95 years old!

Off to sleep...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 3

My bike is running much better, but I choose to opt out of the second 100 miles through the steepest part of the Blue Ridge mountains today. (a option offered without penalty)

A few more carb adjustments and we'll see how she feels tomorrow. Much more power in the hills today. We're getting to know each other better, my Effie and I.

My crew, Laura, Athena and Toast are a God send. Could not this without them.

My Airhawk seat is soooo comfy. I was hoping it would be and haven't had a sore butt like everyone suggested. 483 miles so far...
Off to bed. Will try and blog more tomorrow night.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day One

Sorry I haven't posted... too tired. All is well... Here is a detail of day one written by my dear friend Laura Klock. She and Athena, Toast and Lindsey have been great!

I promise to put more photos and a Day two up date tomorrow.

Ninety five years ago a young woman named Effie Hotchkiss decided she wanted to travel coast to coast. And what better way to do that than on a motorcycle? She purchased a 1915, 3 Speed V-Twin Harley-Davidson with some money she had inherited and was ready to go. That is until her mother, Avis, told her she couldn’t make that trip alone. There were still cowboys and Indians, and paved roads were a luxury, besides the fact that a woman on a motorcycle in those days was sure to draw much conversation and attention. So the deal was made between mother and daughter that Effie would buy a sidecar, and Avis would make the trip with her.

They set out to travel from Brooklyn, New York to the World’s Fair in San Francisco, California. It took them about 2 months, and by the time they were done, Effie had dipped her toes into the water of the ocean on the east coast and the west. The story’s been told that she carried water from one ocean with her and dumped it into the other ocean when she arrived. We know for sure that Effie and Avis made history. Their story is an inspiration to women, and men, even today. Effie lived by the moto that “anything is possible if you put your mind to it.” She inspires me.

This morning, September 10, 2010, 95 years after the trip that Effie and Avis made across the country, I report with amazing pride that I am witnessing history repeat itself. This morning at sunrise, we gathered on the shore of the Atlantic ocean in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to collect water in a jar that will travel in the saddlebag of a 1915, 3 Speed V-Twin Harley Davidson as my dear friend Cris Sommer Simmons carries it across the country. I, along with Athena Ransom and Toast Boyd are on Cris’ crew. Cris has named her 1915 Harley Effie in honor of Effie Hotchkiss, a woman that inspires us. She is riding in a coast to coast endurance run called the Motorcycle Cannonball (, and the plan is to empty that jar of water from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific in Santa Monica, California just 16 days from now. And in true Effie style, Cris and us as crew have become a topic of conversation. Cris is the only American woman entered in the Cannonball, and we are the only all woman crew participating. Our common bond besides our love of motorcycles old and new is that we are all Motor Maids (

Athena, Toast and I arrived in Kitty Hawk on Wednesday night to Cris and her daughter Lynsey doting over Effie - tightening bolts, making last minute adjustments, and preparing mentally for the challenge that lies ahead. It was so awesome to see Cris light up when we, her crew for this journey, arrived. She immediately found the courage to give Effie a kick and ride her around a bit. I watched in awe and encouraged and cheered for her. It felt pretty surreal to think about what we were about to embark on….

Yesterday was spent getting the chase van ready, making sure we had a fire extinguisher, spark plugs, tape, wire, tools, gas, oil…all the essentials necessary loaded into Effie’s saddlebags. As I walked through the parking lot I was truly amazed by the variety of bikes I was seeing! Some I’d never even heard of such as the Militaire. This thing is amazing with the strangest front axle I’ve ever seen. And considering it was designed in the early 1900’s, it’s pretty amazing when the owner shows that it’s rigged up with reverse of all things. Indians, Flying Merkels, Excelsiors, Sears, and of course Harley-Davidsons all 1916 models or older, all being prepped to attempt something that hasn’t been attempted as a group like this ever before. Getting ready to travel just about 3,300 miles, coast to coast! I saw some familiar faces such as Dale Walksler, Buzz Kanter, Jeff Decker, David Uhl, Matt Olson, Carl Olson and many more. And of course the world known motorcycle photographer Michael Lichter. Micheal is actually attempting a Guiness Book of World Records feat by riding the entire Cannonball Run backwards on a seat that Carl Olson build for him on the back of his bike! Additional Motor Maids showed up such as the infamous Gloria Struck, her daughter Lori and granddaughter Kathy, along with Terry and Deb…and you can bet we made some noise at our “all girl” table with a few MOTOR MAIDS ROCK chants during the banquet last night.

It’s all really been a blur. This morning after collecting the ocean water (and some sand in my name badge), we witnessed a history making event. All of the entered bikes (44 of them) rode to the Wright Brothers Monument, and were lined up by Michael Lichter for a panoramic photo. And then they took off for day one of the endurance run from the monument. If something like that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, then you may want to pause a moment and just try to understand the depth of the history that is being repeated, and made. It hits you in a place that’s deep inside. I looked around me and just couldn’t believe why I am blessed with experiences like this, and knowing that I have to share the story. Maybe it will happen again in my lifetime, maybe not, but I know that I am surely going to cherish every single second.

The support vehicles aren’t allowed to travel with our rider, so we headed out behind the bikes toward the next stop which for today was 162 miles away in Greenville, North Carolina. We parked the van, set up the easy-up and waited for Cris to roll in. This morning when she left I felt like I was sending my baby off to kindergarten and waiting for her to ride in was like waiting to hear how that first day of school went. Athena and I were pacing the parking lot! Toast is along filming this history making event and she found a lot of humor in our reactions.

About an hour later, Cris pulled in! She made it through the first day! She had some challenges and told us she “rode it ugly”. But the first day, the first time, is always when we learn the most right? We sent her off to bed and went to work. We are settling into what our tasks will be for the next 15 days of this journey. I’ve become an expert in the roll charts, refilling gas, oil and the saddlebags with the necessities, and Athena had the honor and privilege tonight of working beside Steve Huntsinger and Dale Walksler as they walked us through some adjustments that were needed for Effie that we understood but hadn’t done before. So, we wrenched on Effie, and talked to her sweet, because her job tomorrow is to carry our friend and Motor Maid sister safely to the next stop. Tomorrow’s ride is 225 miles.

To Effie Hotchkiss, there were no hard and fast rules about how life ought to be lived, particularly according to how social circles of the day dictated the mannerisms of a well-conducted lifestyle. The motorcycle was the perfect invincible companion to match the tenacity and free spirit of Effie and Avis Hotchkiss. I’m so proud of those pioneer women that went before us. I’m excited that we are bringing attention to an important piece of history, inspiring women of today, and well into the future. Someday maybe our grand kids will read about Cris Sommer Simmons who rode a 1915 Harley Davidson named Effie from coast to coast, 95 years after the maiden voyage, and her all woman crew and feel inspired to do the same! Isn’t that what it’s all about? Honoring the past while we ride into the future. Motor Maids ROCK!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We're here!

Arrived safely into Kitty Hawk yesterday. It feels like a long way from Hawaii and California, where we started driving the van on Aug. 28th. The van ran great! Loved my AirHawk seats in the van. Shame lsss plug, YES.. but these seat covers made for a very nice ride. Can't wait to try the one on my bike!

Pretty exciting night last night watching my fellow riders and their crews pull in. Some interesting bikes and the people... well, they are always interesting! Met the couple from Germany who are riding. Very nice people. They may have issues with gas, since they have very small gas tanks, but they don't seem too worried about it.

Effie got her photos taken by Mike Lichter in his studio here in the hotel too. She smiled pretty! I found my camera last night and will take lots of photos today.

Gonna fire her up today and take her for a little spin.

Thanks again to all my sponsors and everyone who has been sending me good luck messages. I'll need it!

Monday, September 6, 2010

I arrive in Kitty Hawk tomorrow!

My daughter Lindsey and I left the Antique Motorcycle Meet in Davenport, Iowa yesterday morning. We had a great time hanging out with lots of our motorcycle friends while I signed my books at the GT Motors booth. We set Effie in front of our booth and she was the star for sure! Everyone loved seeing her.

I met a few of my fellow Cannonball riders, who were also on their way to NC. That was cool... I think we're all a bit nervous. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Also met Mike Wolfe from the show, "American Pickers", who was there picking like the rest of us. Nice guy. I was surprised he knew who I was. He said he bought my book and really liked it. Cool. Nice guy. We chatted for a bit and had a few laughs about his show. (Which I watch all the time!)

Got some help putting Effie back in the van before we took off from my old buddies Slider and Charlie Gilmore with their friend Doc. Thanks Guys! You got those straps nice and tight on her.

We stayed at my brother Rick's house last night in Lexington, KY. Great to see him and Sarah.

We took off towards Kitty Hawk early this afternoon and decided NOT to try and make the 668 miles in one day. I've been driving for days and need to rest up a bit for the ride. We stopped in Lexington, VA tonight and got a hotel. No accident that we decided on Lexington. It was an easy name to remember and about halfway. So.... 300 miles more tomorrow and we will actually be in Kitty Hawk! Wheww! 9 months later...

Can't wait to see all my fellow Cannonball friends and make some new ones.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Put the stickers on the van party!

My sweet brother Mark, (who should be reading this blog) had a bunch of friends over for a send off party for 'Team Effie". They also helped me put my sponsor decals on my van. I was pretty stressed about this, I'll admit it. But, it went great and only took a few hours!
Thanks again to all those who helped, Especially Mark, John and Eddie. You guys Rock!