Yesterday’s 277-mile stage was the longest of the nine run to date. With most of the riders spending at least 10 hours in the saddle (and some much more) in temperatures as high as 95 degrees, it was a challenging day.
Arkansas’ sweeping turns and rolling green hills are now far behind. The day was all about covering ground on the flat, straight backroads of eastern Oklahoma. Joe Gardella (#48) was the first to finish on his 1914 Harley Twin after cruising at more than 50 mph most of the way. Incredibly, many of the sunburned, dehydrated and exhausted riders reported trouble-free runs, and all were thrilled to have passed the halfway point of this cross-country run from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to Santa Monica, California.
Race control reports 42 of 45 starters are still engaged, and 12 have a perfect points total. The less fortunate have lost points due to mechanical troubles, and a few are struggling just to put in some miles under their own power each day. John Szalay (#44), riding his 1911 Harley Single, is a perfect example of the latter. He’s had two connecting-rod failures since Kitty Hawk, and he is now running a rod pulled from a forklift in Mississippi. The lathe in his Ford van has come in really handy.
Shinya Kimura’s Indian Twin (#80) had some problems near the end of yesterday’s stage, but he’s very happy to have made it this far. The best part of the Cannonball for him is learning more about his bike from knowledgeable competitors, as well as giving and receiving parts when there is need. “We are competitive, but it’s like a family,” he said.
Everyone who made it last night to Lawton, Oklahoma, is being rewarded with a 292-mile leg to Clovis, New Mexico, today. Nobody ever said this was gonna be easy.