Day 3 Wake Up Call

The wake up call was a bit earlier than expected this morning, and resulted in a weather delay for the departure.


Day 2

Where to start?  The scoot and rider are safely in, but it wasn’t pretty. Actually the scenery was pretty, but unfortunately I was busy riding and didn’t take the time for photos

First off: memo to the Tennessee Highway Department.  If you are going to close a state highway between point A (Pikeview) and point B (Spencer) post the detour route like the rest of the world would do. Those of you following the progress on follow might have noticed my track getting just a little off track after the third checkpoint in Pikeview.

Memo to self: Don’t blindly take an offer to “follow us”, even if it is from the organizer without checking your old school map first, especially if they are on bigger, faster scoots.

The route was closed just outside the checkpoint (circled X with yellow and blue highlight for fuel stop and checkpoint).  Some riders were able to use their smart phones and find a small road that bypassed the closure. We wound up going NE on the US route to Crossville. I saw that it crossed US 70 as we rode through and thought I remembered it would be part of the route later on and asked if we should tour there. They said no, and we wound up at I-40 which was 84 miles from the hotel exit. I tried it but Vespa means wasp in Italian and I didn’t want to wind up squashed on some semi so jumped off at the next exit. After studying the map I elected to return to Crossville and pick up US-70 westbound. Unfortunately I got on US-70N west bound, which headed back toward I-40. That is also what Garmin wanted since I had put the hotel in as a destination. After some scenic wandering about I finally got back to the real 70 west and continued on to the hotel. All told the last leg took 3 hours and 20 minutes. That was just long enough to get caught in a downpour about 5 miles from the hotel. Others got caught in that one, or the follow on one if they weren’t in yet.

Wet Helix riders upon arrival

One of their helmets drip-drying in the lobby.

I haven’t checked the weather for tomorrow yet, but one of the pictured rides found these messages on his phone after getting in.

Sorry about the resolution, but those green, yellow, red symbols are not good.

Enough complaining.  Parts of the ride were quite enjoyable with some nice twisty roads. I was able to ride the famous “Tail of the Dragon” out of Deals Gap. It was an enjoyable ride because there was no traffic in front of me, and helped with my time for the leg as those that chose the optional Cherohalla Skyway route had fog and road construction.

A photo of me taking my checkpoint photo at checkpoint 2 just prior to the riding “tail”

Today the Cannonball started taking its toll on the machine. One of the Hondas had to replace a drive belt and two of the vintage Vespas ran into problems.

The ModernVespa forum has an updated OfficialCannonball thread with more pictures, comments, etc. here:  Offficial Cannonball Thread

Day 1

Day 1 is in the books. Apparently my spot tracking was in cahoots with my Garmin so those interested couldn’t follow the extra adventures I was sent on. Spot had me in Fernandia Beach the entire day, but I actually started at 7:11 am and finished at 2:28 pm. It was hot, the highest temperature reported on a roadside sign was 96.  I think the humidity was the same.  That made the rain storm we rose through at the end feel pretty good. 

The Garmin tried to take me to a non-existent gas station off the main highway (US-1) and while I was stopped trying to get that sorted, the local constable waved me over and inquired if I was having problems with my Garmin. I said “yes sir, I’m looking for the nearest gas station”. He said get back on HW-1 and there would be a big station on either side of the road. Whew, I thought a ticket might have been on the way. As it turns out, that time wasted, when added to the other misadventure cost me the vintage Vespa first place for the day.   That little excursion included an alleged forest service road that was a couple of wheel ruts through the weed goin through the trees. Even if the Spot had been working I doubt it would have reported at that time due to the obstruction of the overhead branches. Fortunately it did eventually lead back to regular gravel roads, and ultimately the highway into Anderson. 

Fuel economy averaged 44.4 mpg for the day, about what I expected. I did need to replace both the tail light bulb and brake light bulb, so will look for new repairs tomorrow afternoon. Oh, I’ll try to make sure the tracking works. 

Check in pic at the finish line (Cali time)

An earlier arrival-we take pics of the time and check point to verify our leg time report

Final Countdown

The official riders meeting and checkin is complete and the scoots are gathered for the start. As a bonus we will should be able to watch the local fireworks from our balcony before hitting the hay. 

In addition to the overall competition it looks like there just might be some sub-class completions as well, vintage Vespasian (like mine), Honda Helixes (what is the plural of Helix?), and Yamaha Zumas

A small number of the scoots.

Some of the riders at the official meeting.

The Helix herd.

The Zumas.

Leisure Time

We had a little spare time enforce the riders meeting so did some sight seeing.

The Spanish Moss looks similar to that at home, but the other vegetation is different.

If this was California they would have closed the entire beach.

This s not a sea turtle.

Fort Clinch, used by both the CSA and USA but never saw combat.

Pre-Start Arrival

We made it to the start line, perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the event. There was just a little navigational drama with a roundabout driving to the hotel, but it only added a few minutes to the drive. Why can’t local agencies in the U.S. properly design and sign roundabouts like they do internationally?

There was also a minor panic when we checked in and the package I had sent with my helmet and riding gear was not in the storage area.  Thankfully the staff had placed it in the room ahead of our checking, whew.

Our hotel room is nice, with a deck providing a good view to the west and north, the general direction the Cannonball will be taking in a couple of days.

I know we are in the right hotel since the are scooters parked in the lot.  Notice the aux tank and removal of the trim panel to provide quicker access to the drive train, and possible better cooling. 

Speaking of cooling, the flight crew announced the weather on arrival as 90 degrees, with about the same humidity. I’m used to the temperature, but not the humidity. At the moment the temperature is pleasant because a thunderstorm had passed through, cooling things off. If I get a choice though, I’ll take heat and humidity over lightning (and that rain phenomenon) while riding down the road. 

Scooter Prep

So, how does one prepare a 42 year old scooter for an extended cross country trip?  For the most part I’m working under the assumption of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.   I did change the oil, checked and lubed the cables, and put in a new spark plug


The old plug had been in the engine since 2012. I am carrying a spare just in case. Other spares are a complete set of cables, a spare clutch, stator, an extra tire and tube, and CDI ignition. I also have spare light bulbs, woodruff keys, and misc. hardware. Hopefully none of it will be needed!

Final Countdown

The clock is ticking and time is flying by-only two days before heading down to LAX to catch the early morning flights to Jacksonville on July 3.  Hopefully I’ll find the scoot and gear already there and in good shape.  FedEx advised my helmet and riding gear were delivered to the hotel on Monday, and it sounds like the scoot is close behind the Honda Helix contingent as the motor towards the start.  I’m impressed they are riding to the start, but some of the weather they’ve encountered is a little daunting to say the least.

I hope we don’t run into any of that between July 5-15!

I haven’t quite finished with the route planning, with the major task still to go designing my “flight plan” for each day.  This will be a back up for the AAA paper maps and the Garmin Nuvi 1450.  The organizers will be providing an official packet with the route and instructions, but I found in 2012 the print was too small to read while riding.  I also need to put together a daily “checklist” on what is planned for each day, to include replacing the batteries in my Spot unit used for tracking

and the carburetor jets as the average daily altitude changes.  So far it looks like there will be two changes to smaller main jets, and then two day back to the starting, sea level jetting.  The rear tire will also need to be changed at some point, but that should be some time after the first 2000 miles, based on how it looks.  Of course the pre-planning will be at the whim of actual events.  I might find the scoot just won’t run after gaining a few thousand feet from where the jets are set for, like day 2


or day 8, which will be the highest the scooter has been to my knowledge


Day 8 could also present some wildlife challenges as there is the rumor bears might impact some of the riders on this leg.


Unlike just hopping in your car and driving somewhere, there is a lot of logistics required to make it to the start (and back from the finish).  Obviously you need to get the scooter and rider to the start, and with a vintage two stroke motor it’s also necessary to have enough two stroke oil for the trip.  Even though the engine design dates for simpler times, I prefer to use a modern synthetic oil rather than relying on lawnmower, chainsaw, weedeater, or other garden variety hardware or gas station oils.  My oil of choice is Motul 710, and I’ve shipped three 4 liter jugs (and a little extra) along with the scooter.2t oilMy vintage parts and supply dealer of choice is ScooterWest in San Diego (the hosts for the 2012 finish)  Along with the oil are some spare parts  and specialty tools “just in case” but there are some possible failures I’m ready to accept as a sign that finishing this year is not meant to be.  I am taking more spares and supplies, including an extra spare tire and tube, than in 2012, but of course the route is longer this year.

Getting the scooter to Amelia Island FL is a two leg process this year.  Leg one could be titled “Do you Know the Way to San Jose (and a bit beyond)?” since I trucked it up to the Bay area to join the NORCAL folks headed by veteran Cannonballer maroy #3.  His folks will be deliver the scoots to Florida.1st leg

(loaded in the pickup, ready to leave home for the Bay area)

2nd leg copy

(loaded in the cross-country trailer-I hope “first in” reflects the finish position)

The scooter is nearly in full Cannonball trim, only missing the rider, daily food/liquid/route/admin bag, and electronics.  The bag on the rear rack contains rain gear, not that those of us from California will know what it is.  The gas can is self explanatory.  All of the spare gear and tools are on the shelf above the blue straps.

Other items that I elected to ship via FedEx to the start line hotel  included my riding gear and helmet.  Since I’m flying to the start line, and the second leg of the flight is on a regional jet, trying to pack and carry those bulky items would have been more chancy that I would like (they might “gate check” the gear to the cargo hold if I tried to carry it on, or would need to change planes in Houston if I checked it in Los Angeles).  Those items went out yesterday (Friday).

Some of the other riders are riding to the event and are already on the road.  That is an option I had considered, but I’m not sure the scoot and/or rider would be up for two cross county rides in succession.  I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in Florida, and reuniting with the scooter and gear.