2016 Epilogue

Well, it’s been three days since arriving in Mukilteo, so time for some last comments and observations. First I’d like to thank the “officials/organizers” for providing the opportunity to take part in this year’s event: #3 maroy (Mark), #12 4n6iscool (Matt), #5 yanobobano (Liana).  I’d also like to thank Feb31st (Dave) for the FollowRide tracking program, complete with weather overlays.  It’s too bad he couldn’t actually ride due to self inflicted damage.  A big thanks again to Mark, and also his folks for letting me tag along and hauling the scooter and gear to, during, and from the event. I’d also like to thank all of the other competitors and their support crews for making this an enjoyable adventure. 

In no particular order:

There is a lot to see going across the country, but not enough time to relax and enjoy the sights when riding in a timed event. 

Redwing water resistant boots become water absorbent boots in heavy rain. 

By far the worst hotel was the Super 8 in Nevada Mo.

It’s hard to get good fresh fruit and veggies on the road (I’m spoiled by our local farmers market)

I learned how to make the comlimentary waffles for breakfast, but I don’t need one in the near future, or even distant future for that matter. 

Riding an old scooter uphill into the wind on an interstate with a posted speed limit of 80 is not at all enjoyable. 

It felt strange to drive a car again after 11 days riding a scooter. 

Modern Vespas have a more comfortable saddle than vintage ones. 

Riding into a slight wind toward large wind turbine arrays does not bode well. 

If you see a sign warning of dangerous cross winds, don’t be surprised if the adjacent windsock has been blown to smithereens. 

Cross country scooter riders are at least half a bubble off, but that’s great!

There wasn’t a need to buy into the need to re-jet with the altitude changes, at least with the way my Rally is set up. 

I packed too many clothes. 

I didn’t need to use any of my spare parts. 

It’s easy to become reliant on your GPS (Garmin in my case) and then it’s a scramble when it quits. 

It would be nice to have a weather radar display as part of the instrumentation. 

Cairo Il, a once bustling river port, was perhaps the worst case of urban decline I’ve seen. 

I’m thankful for all the farmers that still live in the small towns across America that produce our food. 

I don’t need to ride uphill into the wind anytime soon. 

Washington has more grain production than I had expected. 

It was nice to see old railroad right of way converted to bicycle trails in Nebraska. 

If you’re cold it’s harder to ride as quickly as you’d like, and more personal pit stops seem to be required. 

Dual sport and sport cruiser riders are the least friendly on the road returning greeting waves. 

Cannonball riders are willing to help their competitors resolve issues that might arise rather than have a “must win” attitude. Refreshing!

Cannonball support teams are great.   

There are a lot of straight roads in the center of the country. 

Even though the color scheme of the scooter and riding gear might indicate otherwise, I’m really not an Oakland Raiders fan. 

The internet connectivity and collaboration getting Absurd Ruse back up and running was impressive, as was his never say die attitude. 

The extent of the roadside and parking lot maintenance is impressive. 

4 of the 5 vintage Vespas finished, and three rode all the legs. 

The vintage Vespas had a side head to head competition for best daily time without handicap and I’m pleased to have “won” a couple of those. 

It was nice dropping out from the daily news events of the world, although we were keeping an eye on the weather, especially the first few days. 

Several insects were injured, some fatally, during the course of the event. 

I didn’t see any moose, darn it, but at least the turkeys I saw this year didn’t try to take me out. 

Bicycle touring in the Montana mountains didn’t look at all fun. 

Fuel economy is not as good at higher speeds compared to scooting around town (duh). 

The event took just over 8 liters of two stroke oil. 

Kevlar lined jeans with knee armor tend to cause blisters on the knee caps. 

Rain gear doesn’t do any good if you don’t put it on. 

The scooter didn’t seem to mind if there was ethanol in the fuel or not (but we’ll see how the fuel line and seal hold up). Some stations did offer ethanol free fuel, even in corn country. 

I would have liked to have taken more photos during the day, but the camera wasn’t that conducive to taking shots on the fly. Fortunately other bloggers had some nice scenery shots. 

Will the rally and Classic Rider be back in 2018?  Stay tuned. Thanks for reading. 

Just a few of the I nsects that were injured during the course of the Cannonball

Ah, fresh fruit at home. 

A more comfortable saddle (black is the fastest color for a modern Vespa btw)

Day 11

The 2016 Scooter Cannonball is now history. This a the finish line, but the scooters are not necessarily on their finishing order. 

Once again there seemed to be quite a bit of headwind when climbing. I elected to head west toward Pasco rather than follow the official route for fuel planning considerations. That added a little distance, but I’m not sure how much time. Riding along you can expect to encounter some wind when you see large arrays of wind powered electrical generators. Even if I wasn’t trying to catch Bill the third placed rider a photo or two probably wouldn’t have done justice to the expanse of the turbines. There was also an ominous warning sign about dangerous cross winds. It was fitting the wind sock was in tatters. Other than being cold, the climb over Stevens Pass was uneventful, as was the descent. Garmin worked for most of the day, but the route programmed into it included a short stretch along I-90, which would mean trying to maintain speed into the wind with a high posted speed limit. I elected to follow the ” official” course, avoiding the interstate, and let Garmin recalculate. That plan was sound, the execution not so much. After the first checkpoint in Lind, the instructions called for a left turn onto Lind-Warden Rd. I remembered the left turn was basically continuing straight on a Lind-something Road, and kept going straight on the Lind-Hatton Rd. Which started to head more southwest instead of west. Thank goodness the sun was out so I had a sense of direction. I stopped, checked the map and confirmed the desired road name with the instruction booklet. I went just a bit further and saw a road sign with Lind-Hatton so turned back to the turnoff. The real turn off was a few hundred yards past the one I took. I suspect that cost 15 minutes or so eliminating any hope for third place, D’oh!  It was nice to have a special welcoming committee from home meet me at the finish line. The plan is load up the trailer tonight, and catch a morning flight back home tomorrow. 

Ken, aka LostBoater, at checkpoint 1 with spark plug issues. 

The “cockpit”. The Garmin is on but you can’t see the finish icon that’s depicted on the screen. You can see the notes on the windscreen as well as the old fashioned paper map. The bag below the Garmin has my printed instructions, route booklet, water bottles, and assorted munchies. 

Final checkin at timing and scoring. 

Job done!

Day 10

One more day to go before the 2016 Scooter Cannonball is history. Today was more or less a routine day if the is such a thing. Once again my Garmin unit decided to take the day off for the most part. Thankfully it was an easy navigation day with only two highways, and two of the three checkpoints state borders. Starting out it was a bit on the cool side with some of the roadside signs showing temperatures in the mid to high 40s. The uniform of the day was the same as yesterday with the jacket liner and technical jacket under the riding jacket. I was still thoroughly chilled by the top of Lolo Pass (other riders said the same). The stretch of road over the pass was showing a single gas station so I had checked with a Google search to confirm it was there. The search said “no” so I made an unplanned stop in Lolo hoping that stop and my auxiliary can would provide enough range to the next stop in Idaho. As it was, the stop I was planning on was in fact there so the extra unplanned stop wasn’t necessary. I did run just a bit short on my last section, needing to use the can alongside the road about two miles before the hotel. While her I was able to ask a couple walking along a path if they knew where the Comfort Inn was.  They weren’t locals but looked it up on a smart phone and gave me the needed information. At the same time 4in6iscool rode by and confirmed the hotel was still up the road. I hope the Garmin works tomorrow since the routing is a lot more complex and the waypoints trickier to find.

Three of the four remaining “classic” Vespas in front of the hotel

Reporting times for the legs today. We also had to provide a photo of checkpoint 3, which was the Idaho/Washington border at the US2 bridge over the Snake River

Group dinner at the next door restaurant

Day 9

Day 9 is now recorded in the books, and I expect my points won’t be that great through no fault of the scooter. Instead, I’ll take credit for most of the reasons of a probable poor first leg, which was also the longest and had the most points available.   The ride started out with me missing the left turn to get on course just after leaving the hotel parking lot.  That meant driving down the street to an intersection for a U-turn to get back on course.  Then in Bozeman I made a left turn to keep on US 191 instead of going straight onto Montana 84. The good news is I caught the error fairly quickly, the bad news is waiting for the left turn arrow to get on route 84 took forever.  Due to the length of the first leg a fuel stop was needed. The card readers on the pumps at the Exxon station wouldn’t read my card so I had to go in to see the cashier twice, once to turn on the pump and again to pay. I also needed a pit stop for myself, adding to the time delay. I needed another pit stop at the third fuel stop which is not the normal flow of things, so to speak. The pit stops might be a result of the rather cool riding temperatures at the higher elevations. Signs in Bozeman were showing temperatures in the low 50s when I passed through town, and it didn’t seem to warm up until the last descent into Hamilton. Even though I was wearing my jacket liner and a thermal jacket under the riding jacket it was very tempting to put on the rain jacket as well.  There was quite a bit of wildlife sighted, with some riders reporting seeing a moose (I missed that one). In spite of the cool temperatures there were also quite a few bugs fling about. The mpg figures were down today with all of the climbing, coming in with a 40.7 mpg average for the day.   Our hotel for the evening is like an all inclusive resort with co-located convenience store and gas station. The wear and tear of the Cannonball continues to take its toll on the scoots, with some arriving on the sag trailers. The parking lot maintenance and repair is an ongoing process.  

Bill, the rider I’m chasing in the points standings doing a preventative belt change. 

The all inclusive motel

The daily bug strikes-the visor was clean at the start of the day

Checkpoint 3. This marks the site of a not very proud chapter of our history Big Hole National Battlefield

Day 8

Today was the high point of this edition of the Cannonball, topping out over 9400′ as we crossed the Big Horn Mountains between Sheridan and Lovell Wyoming. Even though I left the main jet unchanged the scooter ran well in the mountains, contributing to a good score for the day at the finish. The scenery was spectacular (sorry, no pics due to riding) but the temperatures dropped at the higher elevations. The 10% grade on the decent into Lovell was most welcome to get back to warmer temperatures. However, the dreaded wind picked up in the later portion of the ride.  That made for an unpleasant final hour plus riding uphill into the wind on Interstate 90. Vespa means “wasp” in Italian, and I was hoping my Vespa wasn’t going to be a splat on the traffic rolling along with a posted speed limit of 80 while I was lucky to hit 50. Three out of the remaining four vintage scooter riders had an enjoyable dinner, and we were happy to see Scooterista had made it in when we got back to the hotel. Tomorrow will be another climbing day although it’s “only” 284 miles vs. today’s 380.

vertical profile for day 9

I’ll also add a couple of shots showing some of the daily routine of a Cannonball rider since I had a personal support team (my sister and her husband) join me for a couple of day in Nebraska through South Dakota.

Supervising parking lot repairs

A picture of me taking a checkpoint verification picture

Refueling alongside the road because the built in tank didn’t provide the range to the next fuel stop

Day 7

To use one of the segments from Sesame Street, the word for today WIND!  The weather forecasters were calling for wind and they were right. Yesterday’s wind was mostly a tailwind, but today was stronger and had a lot of headwind component to it. The scooter was running well, but even going down a 6% grade it couldn’t reach the cruising speed s from yesterday. Trying to maintain a decent speed was a challenge as the cylinder head temperature would climb higher than I’m used to running. While it was still a relatively low number, I’m not all that sure the reading is accurate so didn’t want to damage the engine due to overheating.  Oh, and there was some decent hill climbing as well that required third gear.  Third gear would probably have been needed without the wind.  It’s supposed to be windy again tomorrow, and we’ll be climbing over 9000 feet.  I had considered changing to a smaller jet in the carburetor but decided to stay with the one currently installed, feeling that it’s safer to run a little rich than try for a bit more power. It’s also our longest day at 380 miles. I hope I can get in before it gets dark. 

Even if you’re not curious, I’ll post pics of the official route handbook for today.

Front page, also has my fuel consumption data (sorry for the blurred picture)

Route map, profile, and directions

Checkpoint 1

Checkpoints 2 & 3


My shot of checkpoint 2. Nice and clear weather, but you can’t see the wind, not that it would bother those guys.

Day 6

Over half way with six down and five to go. Today was another fast day, and what looked like a possible thunderstorm over the finish area around Valentine NE didn’t produce any rain, although there were some lightning strikes west of town after my arrival.  I’m also pleased to report sorting the issue with the inoperative speedometer. The problem turned out to be the spade connector for the AC electrical system had come loose from its terminal, so I crimped it slightly and put it back on. The Garmin also worked as advertised for the entire leg as an added bonus!

The high was forecast to be 99 today, so I got an early start in hopes of beating the heat. It was also forecast to be windy, which it was. Fortunately the wind was mostly from the south to southeast, so it was a tailwind. That allowed cruising at 60 mph in the 65 mph zones so hopefully I won’t loose too much time to the faster scooters. Tomorrow is forecast to have headwinds though, so that will mean slower speeds as we will also climbing in elevation.  Some of the legs between fuel stops will also test the range of the scooter, so I’m anticipating using my spare gas can a couple of times, or I might add a stop in Merriman NE which is before the first planned stop in Gordon. I’m no sure which is quicker, using the can if required, or a stop at a station. 

With the early arrival we had time to do a little touring of the local area and went to the Fort Niabrara wildlife refuge center. The welcome/information center was supposed to be open according to their pamphlets but was closed when we got there. We stopped at a drive in for some refreshment and they had a rather unusual menu selection, at least some items I don’t normally expect to see, as did the restaurant for lunch and dinner.

I’ve heard of soup and salad, but soup and pie?

Day 5

We are nearly 1/2 way done with the 2016 edition of the Scooter Cannonball, with 6 days remaining. Today was another day that favored the faster scooters with straight roads and high speed limits. There were several hours when the posted speed limit was higher than my self imposed top speed for my Vespa (60 mph).  

We’re not in Kansas any more…almost.

It was a decent day for riding, but became just a bit warm.  The road surfaces were mostly smooth, the traffic mostly light, and the wind mostly a tailwind. The only thing missing was some curves.  We did get several “Kansas Corners” though.   The Garmin worked OK for most of the ride, but I confused myself with notes on the printed backup and wound up adding some extra distance on leg 3 by not following Garmin’s route. I thought I was lower on fuel than I really was and elected to deviate from the plan to get to a nearby gas station. The speedometer and associated indicators did not work at all today.  I had hoped that o e electrical connection I did not trouble shoot yesterday would be the problem, but it was fine. 

A an extra bonus was getting to see my sister and her husband who came down from South Dakota to experience the Cannonball atmosphere first hand. A side bonus to that was bringing a priority mail package with my regular riding gloves, which I had cleave fly left at home.

Gloves I have been using (and dying my hands brown). The regular gloves are still in the envelope. 

I’ll have a personal support team for the next day and a half as they will tag along to Valentine, and the part way of day 7 before turning back east.  For some reason I doubt the dining choices will be as nice as we found in Lincoln. The local scooter club met up with the Cannonballers and we had a nice dining experience in the Haymarket section on downtown Lincoln. 

Day 4

Today was a day for the faster scooters, especially if the riders were willing to exceede the speed limit. We had several miles of 65 speed limits, and I’m pretty much limited to 60 max, and am conservative in exceeding the posted speed. The good news for the day was no rain!  However, I think moisture has worked its way into the electrical system for my speedometer instrument unit as it stopped working. Normally the only important instrument is the cylinder head temperature indicator because the Garmin displays the speed. Unfortunately the Garmin also was acting up today and went down as well. Thankfully it was a fairly easy route, although I took the long slow way through Osage Beach, further hampering the cause. I hope I con get the Garmin sorted, otherwise it will be a more challenging 7 days coming up. 

Now for som pics.

The arrival of  S O D  Each day one of the riders is “tasked” with a challenge. Guess which one was today’s rider. 

Tire change time, and other misc. maintenance.  I changed my rear tire today also, and tried to sort the speedo electrical issue. 

Lunch with some of the other early arriving riders. 

Not exactly staying in a 5 star hotel. I think I’ll keep my shoes on. 

Day 3 Recap

If you looked at the wake up call post you will know that the start was a bit later than normal. Everyone was watching various weather links to determine their start time. There was still a very light rain as I left, bet it looked good in the direction of travel.  Unfortunately the front that was supposed to pass through the finish moved a little faster tan forecast.

I also failed to get my rain gear on, so was just a bit soaked for the arrival at the hotel. It looks like there might be more rain tomorrow, ugh. Note to self: if it looks like rain, put on the gear rather than thinking a little shower will cool me off.  There was some navigational challenges again today as the detour for a closed road was also closed due to a wash out. Fortunately I was able to follow a local that was going in the same general direction I wanted to go, which was toward Paducah , but not on the interstate.  Fortunately most of the high water had receded before we rode through, but the was a lot of debris on and along side the roads.