July 8, 2021
The Cross Country Chase is more than halfway to the finish line! Today, after riding north from last night’s hosting city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, riders began the ascent up Mount Magazine, which at an altitude of 2,753 feet, is the highest point in the state. Eight miles of twisty roads and switchbacks took riders to the first checkpoint at an overlook in Mount Magazine State Park that revealed breathtaking views below.
Unlike the previous day when the checkpoint was 232 miles into the route, today’s checkpoint was only 84 miles from the morning’s start. Unfortunately, seven riders completely missed the checkpoint, and as a result, scores were dramatically affected. Missing a checkpoint causes the rider to lose two mileage points plus incurring a 50-point penalty. And these riders are guaranteed a zero score for quiz that day. Two of the top six point holders saw their scores drop way down just for missing the checkpoint, but recovery is still possible with Stages 4 and 5 yet to be completed.
A short hero story: #41 Berry Wardlaw, who experienced a valve spring problem, stayed up two nights straight just to insure he could make the Stage 3 start. Although Berry and his dog Molly rode all the miles today, he missed the checkpoint so his score was still way down in the rankings. As a side note, Molly is the first canine rider in either the Chase or the Cannonball, so regardless of Berry’s final score, he’s still making history!
Another hero (or madman, depending on one’s perspective) was #30 John Stoner, who didn’t make it to the Peel Ferry until late afternoon yesterday. John kept riding long after the other competitors checked in at Hot Springs for the night (he says he has a really good headlight), arriving at the Arlington Hotel at 1:00 a.m. so he could be there for the Stage 3 start. That said, his breakdown and resulting delays dropped his score from 5th place in Stage 1 to 70th in Stage 2.
Rider #1 Todd Cameron increased his lead two points, leaving second-place competitor #2 Mike Spagnola seven points behind. #64 Dave Currier, who was second in points in Stage 2, dropped to 56th place due to the missed Stage 3 checkpoint. And six motorcycles got a free ride on the sweep trailer.
Today’s events continued to reveal the support that riders provide to each other through machine malfunctions, demonstrated by the group efforts in top-end rebuilds, bent wheels and hubs, primary chain and belt replacements, and all sorts of repairs necessitated by some extreme riding conditions, but there’s yet another aspect to the story. For some reason, several of today’s breakdowns occurred near the very end of Stage 3, one being #6 Steve Klein. The rear tire on Steve’s 1946 Harley-Davidson FL dropped to completely flat at a gas station just a few miles from the hotel. A motorist who observed the situation handed Steve a card for a local independent motorcycle shop. Steve called the owner who immediately showed up with a pickup truck and trailer. He just happened to have the correct tube for Steve’s antique bike in his shop, and with Steve’s tutelage on how to get the rim and tire off, got the tube in, balanced the tire, and voila, ready to roll! When Steve asked what the charge was, the owner only wanted to learn how to start the bike. Steve was 48 minutes late to the final checkpoint, but will be able to start on time for Stage 4. You know the old saying, “It takes a village… ”