July 5, 2021
After a weekend of arrivals, registrations, tech inspections, and practice routes, riders were raring to get started on the first leg of the Chase. Monday’s ride was considered the prologue to the Chase, with a total distance of only 35 miles laid out on the route sheets. By noon, each of the 78 participants had registered in time for the riders’ meeting, where Jason reviewed safety rules and logistics and recognized Chase sponsors, as well as describing the Chase and Cannonball involvement in All Kids Bike, an organization on a mission to teach every child in America to ride a bicycle. After Vicki Roberts-Sanfelipo presented medical information and Course Master John Classen described today’s route as well as check-in procedures, riders headed to the Red Star Boat Launch for the official start of the event.
This first stop at the boat launch afforded sweeping views of the Mississippi River and the stunning cable-stayed Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, both of which provided a stunning backdrop for Michael Lichter’s traditional panoramic photograph of the Chase riders. Upon completion of the photo, Jason waved the flag for the official start. Classes I, II, and III departed, in rapid succession, within 10 minutes of each other, bound for the first checkpoint of the day.
Riders were directed to the visitor center at Trail of Tears State Park in Jackson, Missouri. The park was named to commemorate the tragic, forced displacement of approximately 60,000 Native Americans by the U.S. government. Riders pulling into the visitor center parking lot caused some confusion and consternation of one of the park rangers, but State Park Ranger Mayfield’s curiosity and admiration of the vintage motorcycles and their riders overcame any reticence he may have had.
The loop back to the host hotel took riders through some beautiful countryside, with the ride itself uneventful except for the unfortunate breakdown of Rider #40 Vivian “Gypsy” Charros’ 1954 FL. Sadly, Gypsy and her Panhead became the event’s first guests on the sweep truck. Except for Gypsy, every one of the other 77 riders made it back to the hotel with full points awarded.
Nighttime saw just a few bike repairs in the parking lot, as the 35-mile ride, although conducted in 90-degree temperatures and extremely high humidity, didn’t seem to terribly stress most of the antique machine. We’re happy to report that Gypsy’s bike problem has been resolved, and she should be ready to start with the rest of the riders Tuesday morning. What caused the bike to die and not have any spark? One of her teammates, Berry Wardlaw, provided this highly technical description: “One thing caused something and made another thing happen” a.k.a. “a little Murphy stocking stuffer.” Let’s hope everyone gets through the rest of the week with no further gifts from Murphy.