The Cannonball Rally is a ride across the United States for vintage motorcycles. This year, the rally is open to bikes built in 1936 or older. There are some 120 entries and the route goes from Daytona Beach, FL to Tacoma, WA, a distance of more than 3,900 miles.
The rally comes across Colorado. On Saturday, September 13, the riders stayed in Burlington, CO on the eastern plains. On Sunday they stop for lunch in Colorado Springs and then continue to Golden, CO for dinner. On Monday they continue west over the Rocky Mountains stopping in Leadville before ending the day in Grand Junction.
On Sunday I rode Grover, Rochelle’s 1973 BMW R75/5, and she rode Elmo, her 2002 F650GS down to Colorado Springs. We met another BMW rider, Sawyer and his friend Ashley, on a green 1972 R75/5 toaster tank bike. We took a nice ride over the Palmer divide on our way to the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum (aka, Pikes Peak Harley Davidson). We arrived when the first rally riders were scheduled to arrive only to find about 20 rally bikes were already there.
There are six BMW bikes in the ride along with a lot of Harley’s, and some more exotic bikes such as Henderson, Moto Guzzi, Sokol, India, Brough Superior, Neracar, Moto Frera, and Sunbeam. I chuckled at one point as a rider put a pan under their parked bike to collect the oil leaking from the engine. Several bikes arrived in a swirl of blue smoke as oil was blowing on the headers. The oldest bikes are 1916-1917, so nearly 100 years old. It is impressive to see these bikes and their riders do a cross-country rally on iron that old.
We had to head back early due to another commitment, so we weren’t able to ride with the Rally riders on their way to Golden.
Here are the pictures I took at the Sunday lunch stop.
Back in 2007, Rochelle and I started on the “Pass Bagger 50” award sponsored by the BMW Motorcycle Club of Colorado . To earn the award requires you to ride your motorcycle over 50 passes in the state of Colorado. We started working on this in 2007 and both of us completed in the fall of this year.
That got your attention, didn’t it. I suspect the visual of me getting nude on Halloween (or any time) sorta catches in your throat, don’t it?
Well, there were two getting nude on Halloween items today. The first was an article in the Saturday Wall Street Journal about Boulder’s Naked Pumpkin Run, and the Police Chief ‘s decision to halt it this year.
Image By Wall Street Journal – Naked Pumpkin Runner Costume
Seems the Chief believes this kind of event, which attracted about 150 hardy souls last year, threatens the law in the city of Boulder. A local lawyer summed up the reaction from those who for the past 10 years put this in the “just a Boulder thing” category, “It kind of reminds me of what’s happening in Tehran”. Even for me, who lives near by, but hasn’t actually applied for citizenship in the Peoples Republic of Boulder, the Police Chief’s action strikes a discordant note. Boulder was known as a city of free spirits, all things Bohemian, and a certain “let it all hang out” attitude, if you will. What happened?
I told my wife that I’ve felt the change in the Boulder culture over the years. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but the immigrant population from the west coast that invaded in the 1980s and 90s, increased the BMW car population by 1000%, drove housing prices to astronomical levels, and brought a certain “Its all about me” mind set. I think they also brought a certain “fear and loathing” of all things different from their ideas of “normal”. Fear destroys a sense of humor and the ability to just shrug your shoulders and move on when confronted by “not my thing” behavior. As the DA put it, “A lot of times, ‘he says with a sigh’, these people are just being idiots.” (I think he is a native, and that was a legal shoulder shrug of dismissal). The local head of the Boulder ACLU office said, “…(the naked pumpkin run) seems somewhat quixotic, but our Bill of Rights does not judge the content of free expression.”
So, if the Chief, or one of the 40 officers and two SWAT teams he has assigned to be on patrol near the traditional 4 block site of the run at 11:00 pm, arrests a Naked Pumpkin runner, they will end up being registered as a sex offender. Does it strike anyone else that’s an excessive reaction to stupid college student tricks? Convincing evidence of being a moron maybe, but not something that requires being a registered sex offender.
Now, the second “going naked” event on Halloween involved me riding naked from my house to BMW of Denver on the Grey Ghost, my 1975 R75/6. I mean I did have my bright yellow Big Bird Aerostich riding suit on, (I believe in ATGATT- All The Gear, All The Time) so it wasn’t a Lady Godiva (or Sir Godiva in my case) sorta ride. In fact, I had all my clothes on underneath my riding suit as well. It wasn’t me who was naked, you see, it was the Grey Ghost. I was taking it to get the steering head and frame straightened as part of the restoration project, so no faring, no front fender, no bags, no luggage rack, the Ghost was totally naked. (Do the statutes for registered sex offenders extend to motocycles?)
Silver Ghost – 1975 BMW R75/6 Buck Naked
I haven’t ridden the Ghost naked since I put a fairing on it the first winter I rode it in Denver. Prior to the Ghost, I always rode naked. Putting the faring on it was a bit frightening. I wasn’t used to looking down and not seeing the front wheel and the street flowing by. It was spooky. But, riding around in Denver all winter, it was a lot warmer and I got used to the “barn door dashboard” in front of me.
As I wheeled it out into the driveway to take some pictures, it looked very small and vulnerable, almost scooter like. As I rode up the hill heading out to the main drag and ultimately the 20 mile ride on Interstate highways to the dealer, I noticed the differences.
First, there is nothing between my eye balls and the road in front. No barrier other than the shield on the full face helmet I’m wearing. I can’t see anything that is motorcycle. I can hear it and feel it, but visually, it isn’t there. I flash back to the teenager feelings of riding naked. You get the sensation that you are flying 3 feet off the ground on a magic carpet which does your bidding. It’s kind of a giddy feeling.
The next thing I notice is the sound. The wind is whistling around the face shield and the exhaust note is more muffled. The valve sounds are playing percussion to the piccolo notes of the wind. Cool. A full symphony of sound.
I also feel the force of my speed. You don’t get any wind with a faring between you and the air, but riding a naked bike, you not only sense your speed by the sound of the exhaust, the twist of your right wrist and the increased rush of the scenery going by, you feel the increassed force of an unseen hand pushing on your chest, arms and head, the force of your speed.
And then there’s the water. It snowed, a lot, two days ago. We got about 24 inches. Today it’s in the 40’s and the snow is melting everywhere creating little rivers, puddles and occasional ponds in the road. As I cross these, I can feel the watery mist coming in through the vents around the face shield and on my neck. The face shield gets coated in mist and mud. I remember I have a rubber wiper on the left thumb of my glove which I rarely use. It’s purpose is now very clear. It’s an essential component for seeing on a naked bike even on a sunny day like today.
As I get up on the interstate and accelerate, the rhythmic booming of the exhaust mixes with wood wind notes of the face shield. It’s a different sound and a more intense sense of velocity than I get with a fairing. Now at 75 MPH the sense of flying as a bird does takes over. I can swoop and dive like any bird, if only in two dimensions. It’s very liberating. It’s like the dreams we have where we suddenly realize we can fly. We swoop and dive, in and out, over towns, down streets, with total freedom. The grey ghost , unseen but felt and heard, lets me fly above the freeway. What a gas.
Running down the street at 11:00 pm, in the dark, with a pumpkin on your head buck naked is … not my cup of tea. But, flying on top of the buck naked Grey Ghost at 11:00 am doing 75 MPH down the freeway dodging water puddles and ponds is. To each their own bit of Bohemia revelry. Live and let live.
Well, my wife and I have been pursuing a quest — to ride over 50 passes in Colorado on our motorcycles. Why? Well, for the same reason anyone does anything challenging — its “fun”, and not everyone does it.